3 FEB. 99: ZORRO, 11 March 85 - 3 Feb. 99
He was born in my bedroom. His mother, Bast, was a stray we'd taken in shortly before moving to Wrightwood in the San Gabriel mountains. We moved in the middle of winter, in the cold and snow, and that's just when Bast decided to go into heat.

She was some sort of black Siamese, but with a smoky coat -- black hair with white roots. Bast was a very smart cat with definite ideas about things.

She rarely purred, but early on the morning of March 11th, she woke me in bed with her face right in mine, purring up a storm. After a few groggy seconds, I realized what it meant. I'd already prepared a birthing box for her -- a large cardboard box with an opening cut in one side, towels inside. I followed Bast as she ran downstairs and told me in no uncertain terms that she wanted the box upstairs and in the bedroom. I carried it up and sat outside the opening while she curled up inside.

After a while, when nothing happened, I decided to venture downstairs to make some toast. Bast followed me down and scolded me until I returned to my post guarding the box. And I remained there the rest of the morning as she gave birth to three black & white tuxedo boy-kittens and one calico girl-kitten. Two of the boys had Bast's smoky coat and irregular tuxedo markings.

But Zorro was the perfect, quintessential tuxedo with a pure black and white coat. He was always elegant, always dressed for dinner, his manners impeccable. If he begged, he did it with patient reserve. Sometimes he would sit at one of the unused chairs of the dinner table, a guest waiting to be served. But he would never demand or be rude.

He was named Zorro because at the time, Peter (my late husband) and I were working for family that owned the rights to the character of Zorro. They'd hired us to create a newspaper adventure comic strip of Zorro. We had spent a lot of time researching old California for this project, so the literary Zorro was very big in our lives. Our Zorro lived up to the name with style.

One of the kittens was given away. We kept Zorro, Achilles and Ginger. Ginger eventually disappeared. Achilles is still with me--old, but feisty.

When they were younger, Zorro and Achilles fought for dominance. After one encounter, Zorro returned with a puncture wound through the top of his right eyelid and into the eye, possibly from the tip of a Joshua Tree spine. It was a terrible mess. Amazingly, the eye healed with no trouble, but Zorro was never able to fully open that eyelid again. It left him with a permanent droopy lid that created a rakish "wink" that added to Zorro's debonair appearance. It was a delightful counterpoint to his otherwise earnest, somber face.

From early on, Zorro was the Lord of the Manor, the undisputed alpha male of the ever-changing Moggy Horde. He never had to do much to hold his position. He would occasionally deliver a whap or two, but he mostly used the power of the Evil Eye. More times than I can count, I watched him come up to a cat, simply stand or sit there and give The Eye. Just a stare, nothing more, but that was all it took. The other cat would move away as though jolted. This power never left him. Right up to the very end, I watched Tribble and other cats lower their heads in submission, waiting for Zorro to grace them with a lick and let them go with his lordly permission.

When we lived in Wrightwood, CA, I saw Zorro do the Dance of Death with a rattlesnake -- circling the coiled snake, darting in and out in a heart-stopping performance. We shot the snake, but I'm sure Zorro could have taken him. He was an excellent hunter. Once he brought home a jackrabbit as large as himself.

When Peter would go out on the deck with the rifle to shoot jays off the fruit trees, Zorro would instantly be right at his feet, primed and ready, knowing what the rifle meant. At the sound of the shot, Zorro would race down to the orchard and fetch the downed bird.

He was the most dog-like cat I've ever had. He always answered to his name. He'd go on walks for miles with us, trotting at our heels.

He was calm, good-natured, friendly, wonderful with people. He liked everyone and everyone loved him.

He had a charmed life, until the end. Several years back, it looked as though he had developed intestinal cancer. He had gotten thinner and thinner and the vet felt lumps in his abdomen. She did surgery and found that something had punctured his stomach valve. He was slowly starving to death because he couldn't get food down. She repaired it and he recovered beautifully.

Then about a year ago, he developed diabetes. It was mild, responded well to a single shot of insulin once a day, and again he made a superb recover.

But finally I noticed he was again not doing well, and something in his throat was bothering him. This turned out to be the huge tumor on his larynx, discovered too late. A specialist in Sacramento tried to operate, but found it was too far advanced and nothing could be done.

That was about three weeks ago. He was given 2-4 weeks and did pretty well, considering. He was still able to eat, though he was terribly underweight. In the end, I called for the vet because the tumor was affecting his breathing, and was frequently causing him to have a gagging reaction. He'd put his paws up to his mouth, trying to get out the foreign object. His quality of life was declining. He was still, as always, a happy, affectionate cat, but I wanted him to go before the discomfort turning to suffering.

On his final day, I stayed home to be with him. He had chicken from my lunch and a taste of gopher (courtesy of Sly, who caught it). He walked in the sunshine and smelled the wind, then napped at my side.

The vet was kind enough to come all the way to my house, with her assistant. She had made the first exam and diagnosis, and had referred me to the specialist. She had become very fond of Zorro. Randy came home from work early so he could be with me. I held Zorro in my lap as they gave the shots and he slipped away peacefully. I cried. The vet cried. Randy cried.

My eldest, my firstborn, my unique and wonderful Zorro is buried near a cherry tree, within sight of my bedroom window. I will miss him terribly.

6 MARCH 99:
It's been a juicy gopher season. Unicom's doing an excellent job of hunting down gophers, and so have some of the other mogs.

Diva brought a big one into the office to tenderize and eat. I told Randy it reminded me that it was time for lunch. He said, "You're a sick woman. You've been hanging around with cats too long. You're truly one of them. I would have lost any interest in lunch." What can I say? It's all true.

A couple of days later, Tribble brought in another big gopher. The timing on this was incredible. I was on the phone to my father's wife, Marge. They'd just gotten back from a week's vacation in Cancun and she was telling me a hysterically funny story. She went into the guest bedroom, where they'd left the luggage, and started to unpack when she discovered they'd brought back a hitchhiker -- the Mystery Rodent of Cancun. It was somewhat long-haired, very dark, almost eyeless, but definitely a rodent of some kind.

She freaked, understandably, and was relating the circus that followed getting county people out to catch the Mystery Rodent. But just as she begins telling me this, I hear "Squeak! Squeak!" and look up to see the gopher going to its demise. I told Marge I had a live sound track for the story. We were laughing so hard we could barely talk.

The Mystery Rodent was caught and taken to a local vet, but no one here could identify what it was. Possibly some kind of a mole. I told her it's a shame I'm so far away. A couple of my cats would have take care of that in no time.

The rest of the Horde is doing fine. For a cat that used to be confined to an apartment, Owl has mastered the cat door with consummate ease and really loves his jaunts outside.

Miss Lily has actually touched noses with Artemis without hissing. A miracle!

Nefreet had a touch of laryngitis for a few days which left her with a squeaky voice and under the weather. I was about to take her to the vet, but it seems to have passed and she's back to her usual sweet psycho self.

7 MARCH 99:
The cats kept Randy and I company while doing yardwork. They love to investigate new piles of stuff. Theseus perches on top of the woodpile as though on his throne.

Nefreet and Unicom raced up trees and bounced around in the grass chasing wind mice -- invisible critters (except to cats) that are stirred up by the wind.

Hubble came around a whined that he wasn't getting enough attention.

13 MARCH 99:
Owl has developed an annoying habit. Being a cunning and devious Siamese who has developed a taste for being outside, he's taken to lurking just inside the door. Then, when he knows I'm off-guard, or coming inside with something in my hands (like the water bowl I just emptied), he shoots out the door like a rocket. At best, if I make a grab I might feel his tail slipping through my fingers. He's fast, strong and slippery as an eel.

And he times this exactly when I'm trying to make sure all the cats are inside so I can leave for the day. Since I don't feel comfortable leaving him outside until evening, I'm forced to wait around long enough for Owl to decide he's had his prowl and will condescend to come back in. Using the food lure generally works, if he's in the vicinity of the door, but being coy.

Unicom has been a champion gopher killer lately. Randy and I have learned the hard way to look carefully for piles of gopher guts in the back hallway, usually right outside the door to the kitchen.

Nefreet, in keeping with her dainty size, showed up with a cute little grey mouse in her mouth. Later, I found the mouse's butt and tail in the driveway. Guess the butt wasn't enough of a delicacy.

17 MARCH 99:
I missed an important event. On March 11th, Achilles turned 15! He's doing very well for an older cat. His health seems good. His coat is looking better now that I try to keep it brushed more often. He's my most devoted lap potato.

I don't know a birth date for most of my cats. Maybe I should make March 11 the default. Querida must be 14 now. If Tigerlily was 14 when I got her, she must also be 15 or so now. Hubble must be 11 or 12. The Horde is aging.

Unicom's gopher rampage continues. I had a pile of guts to clean up this morning. Get those gophers!

Nefreet has been in the snottiest mood lately. She gets extremely pissed off if she's settled in my lap and I need to get up. So she bites. Fortunately, she doesn't break the skin, but it can still hurt. She gets her ears boxed for that.

Hah, Owl tried to make one of his bolts past me yesterday, but I was ready for him. His face ran into my hand instead. He's been showing some aggression of late, mainly picking on Nefreet. I had to chastise him severely a couple of times.

27 MARCH 99:
It's a fine, cool day and Tribble had a mouse hors d'oeuvre. I came upon him when only the tail and a foot were left.

Various cats took turns playing King of the Woodpile, which simply involves getting on top of the pyramidal stack and striking a noble pose.

Poor Owl is under the weather. Like me, he has a bad cold and has been having severe sneezing fits. Now he's trying to sleep it off. I think he caught it from Querida, who was sneezing for days.

Poor Miss Lily may have to undergo another surgery. When she first arrived here, nearly two years ago (wow!), I found lumps on her right breast which I had removed. It proved to localized breast cancer, but the vet told me to watch carefully for new lumps.

This morning, I found a single smallish lump in her left armpit area. I'll have to take her in immediately, as that might be a lymph node. There are two complications for her: a) She's getting quite old. Jo guessed Tigerlily to be about 14 when she was sent to me, so she must be about 16 now; and b) She's underweight. She's never gained so much as an ounce and has remained very skinny. Both these things make it risky to put her under for surgery. But otherwise, she seems quite healthy and feisty. We'll see what the vet has to say.

29 MARCH 99:
Miss Lily is a very lucky cat. I hauled her to the vet this morning. She was very good about coming to me and going into the carrier. She hardly ever makes a noise at home, except when she spits a few obscenities at another cat. She must have stored up a year's worth of meow's and used all of them on the drive there.
To her credit, Tigerlily was well behaved (downright cowed, in fact). And the lump turned out to be a completely harmless cyst. No surgery required, no problems. I was expecting $300 plus worth of bills and got off with a $25.00 visit. And the vet clipped all of Lily's nails as a bonus.

So the old girl is hanging tough and doing well. I had to leave at the vet's for the day while I went to work and picked her up at 6. Lily didn't talk nearly as much on the way back, nor did she bother anybody when I let her out of the carrier. I think she was too happy to be back to pick on anyone. {g}

Owl was feeling wretched along with me over the weekend. I know he's feeling bad when he won't even go outside. I coaxed him to the door and *tried* to get him to go out and wouldn't. He did nothing but sneeze and sleep, poor baby. He seems slightly better this morning, but if I don't see definite improvement soon, he's the next one off to the vet.

Nefreet loves it when I use my laptop because I use it in the house and sit on the sofa. She likes to walk on the touchpad and wreak havoc. At the moment, she's curled up next to me where she can tickle me with her whiskers and get her chin scratched.

31 MARCH 99:
Owl became a magician today. Other magicians have their Hat Tricks, but Owl has his amazing Nose Trick.

I knew I had to get him to the vet when I realized his cold wasn't getting better and he was obviously feeling worse. He didn't want to do anything except lie hunched up under a chair. He didn't seem to be eating and would have violent sneezing fits.

He was very good about going into the carrier (probably didn't feel well enough to give me trouble). He gave me a few yowls when I started driving. It's the first time I've ever heard him use a regular voice. He doesn't come close to an Authentic Siamese Voice. Even his yowl wasn't that loud. But he was well behaved the whole time.

He weighed in at 15 lbs., so I think he may have lost a pound over the last year or so. The technician checked him over and he was in good shape. I hadn't realized before that Owl's left front fang has the tip chipped off and a bit of a crack in it. I wonder how that happened?

Then the vet arrived. She's so damned good. It took her about 2 minutes to spot that Owl had a piece of grass in his nose. She told the tech to hold him, as he wouldn't like this, but none of us were prepared for what happened.

She pulled out a blade of grass 7 inches long! That sucker just kept coming and coming, along with some blood and pus. Owl sneezed violently once it came out. No wonder he'd been sneezing. He was trying to get that blasted thing out! The vet, the tech and I stood there gaping and laughing in disbelief.

Do not ask me how this silly cat got a 7 inch piece of grass impaled in his nasal passages. Even the vet said that was a first for a cat. And it was causing a nasty infection, hence why he was feeling so lousy. She said cats lose interest in eating, too, when their noses are messed up.

He had drops down his amazing trick nose and I have anti-biotics for him. He's looking much better tonight, brighter and more with it. He was eating when I locked up the office for the night.

Next up to the vet may be Hubble, who's having continuous and unpleasant rear end problems. sigh...

Unicom the Gopher Slayer continues his killing streak of about one gopher a day. Or rather, a night. Uni must have discovered the gopher schedule. Almost like clockwork, between 9:30 and 10 pm, we find the new pile of gopher guts. Which I get the privilege to clean up.

Nefreet been in a nasty mood lately. She's been temperamental and snotty. IOW, a typical tortie.

I'm thinking of renaming Theseus. He's too silly and loveable and fluffy to live up to his name. I'm thinking of renaming him after a cat owned by Norman Lindsey, a famous Australian artist who drew wonderful pictures of cats (not to mention some marvelous erotica and illustrations for a famous children's story, "The Magic Pudding"). Lindsey had one big fat cat in particular who he used for lots of illustrations. The cat was named Fuzzbuzz. I think Theseus would make a great Fuzzbuzz. {g}

1 APRIL 99:
Owl is a much, much happier cat today. I was able to give him both his pills today with no trouble. He was an angel. Mind you, it's usually not that hard to get the first couple of pills into any cat. But once they catch on...that's when the real challenge begins.

Hubble is the next one due for the vet. His rear end is just too nasty to live with. And it looks as though I'll have to buy vials of flea killer stuff for all the cats. For the second time, Randy has left my office with a string of flea bites. I'm puzzled, as I haven't seen any sign of fleas on the cats and I haven't had a single bite myself. Fleas love me, so I'm generally a mass of bites if there are fleas around. But I'd rather spend the money than take a chance of letting fleas get out of control.

Randy told me a hysterical story about Nefreet from yesterday, when we had all the snow. She was in front of the house, being terribly prissy about having to put her paws in the snow. She suddenly raced up to the front porch, revved around the porch building up speed, then shot across the snow like a rocket and didn't stop until she was halfway up a tree. But she landed in a pocket of snow in a fork of the tree, so the exercise in speed didn't do her much good.

2 APRIL 99:
I called the vet first thing and had to rush Hubble into town for a 9:30 appointment. When I went to get him, he was in the cat box trying to produce something and couldn't. I brushed him up a bit (he desperately needs a bath). He complained soundly for the first few minutes in the carrier.

He also complained vociferously when the vet examined his innerds. The poor baby was packed to the gills with rock-hard stools he couldn't get out. He's also lost a couple of pounds and a lot of muscle tone.

I had to leave him for the day so he could be knocked out and given what amounted to a jackhammer enema. {g} Yeah, I can grin. I wasn't the one getting it.

Brought him home at the end of the day. He's pretty well done in, but he did go straight for the food bowl. I guess that's a good sign. I was told he's going to have unpleasant side effects for the next few days (ewwww). I need to give him a Petromalt-type medicine on a regular basis, like every other day. Apparently, he ingests a lot of hair and grass that his system can't handle.

I didn't get off lightly on this bill. It's been an expensive vet week for me.

4 APRIL 99:
Hubble's a rather disgusting mess, as the vet warned. I have to put down protective paper where he likes to lie down and gingerly remove him from other places. I think in a couple of days, I'll take him to a pet groomer and let them deal with the aftermath. I have my limits.

Owl's back to his rambunctious self, rarin' to get outside and snort more grass. I'm amazed at how good he's been about taking the pills.

I'm a little worried about Nefreet, who seems to be having a problem with her throat. She may have a hairball problem. I'll try more doses of the petromalt and see if it finally helps, but after what happened to Zorro, I'm rather paranoid about potential problems.

Sassy's found a new favorite spot -- being a lump under the cover of the cat sofa. This involves a serious effort of burrowing since it's a large cover.

5 APRIL 99:
Owl had his last pill today. He's been so good about them, but I think that wouldn't have lasted much longer.

I put some petlax stuff on my finger, hoping against hope that Hubble would like it and lick it off. No such luck. Tribble, however, took one sniff and eagerly licked my finger clean. Naturally, he never has a problem. I had to force a glob of the petlax into Hubble's mouth. He wasn't happy with me about that.

Sassy perched on the edge of the water bowl and proceeded to bring water to her mouth with her paw. She's a character. But then, she's a tabby-tortie mix, so nothing should surprise me.

6 APRIL 99:
Hubble's doing much better, to my relief (and his, no doubt). It's fairly safe to have him in my lap now. {g}

Owl was a friendly boy today and kept jumping on top of my desk to say hello. It really pleases me that he does that.

Miss Lily was sleeping on my monitor and almost fell off.

Sassy played Lump again, but burrowed out from under to greet me when I came in.

10 APRIL 99:
Now that I'm working at home again, the Horde gets to spend more time outside romping. I noticed that even with the cat door left open, most of them seemed reluctant to use it to get inside. Then I realized Artemis has been playing Troll. She lurks inside, then dashes forward to swat at the cat that's coming in. She's such a snot.

Unicom wanted to hang around me outside, but had his nose totally out of joint because I had all the other cats hanging around me. I was trying to give him some attention, but he got all aggro and ended up with a 2 inch scratch on the arm. He's never learned to keep his claws sheathed, even in play.

Hubble seems to be doing great. He spends a lot of time in my lap where he does a splendid job of interfering with my typing, then bitches about it when I have to move him.

Owl's been curling up to sleep on a ledge to my left, and today he did something brand new. He gave my arm a head butt because he wanted his ear scritched.

Funny image -- Tigerlily was curled on top of my monitor in such a way that I couldn't see head, feet or tail. It looked as though the monitor was wearing a wig hat in calico colors.

When we had the heavy snowfall the other day, Querida and Theseus went bonkers. They went ploughing and leaping through the snowdrifts and batted around imaginary snow mice. I wanted a photo of Owl in the snow, but he wasn't cooperating. So I picked him up and tossed him into it. He gave me a disgusted look and dashed inside.

12 APRIL 99:
Wonder of wonders! Randy succeeded in petting Owl today. Not once, but twice. Owl spent the entire afternoon curled up in his new favorite spot to the left of me (he even gave me a couple of head butts again to get petted). Randy came down a couple of times and Owl let himself be petted, instead of running off as he would usually do.

Most of the cats are friendly to Randy now, even though he can only spend a few minutes in their presence before asthma kicks in. Both Nefreet and Unicom had to undergo their once-a-week rubdown. The price for having access to the house. {g} Uni hardly seems to notice, the big lug. Nefreet generally forgives me fairly quickly.
Querida and Owl had an altercation this afternoon. I think it was entirely an accident, but Querida's a bit tough on Owl. He jumped onto a cabinet where he sometimes likes to go, but Querida was already there. She chased his ass halfway around the office before I intervened.

Miss Lily lucked out. I brought down a bowl of chicken liver pate that was going off. Achilles and Theseus had a bit, but Tigerlily stuck her snoot in it for a good ten minutes before she had enough.

It wasn't easy, but I managed to clip Artemis' extra claw in back. Holding her still enough to do that is like wrestling with a big, furry walrus.

17 APRIL 99:
There has been much joy in moggyland, for the days have been warm and dry and the human slave has been around to cater to the whims of the Horde.

Apparently, the nice weather has brought the gophers back out. Tribble noshed one in my office during the day. Then a little while ago, we heard the telltale sounds from the back hallway. THUMP. THUMPA-THUMPA. THUMP. Gopher being tenderized. We took a quick peek and saw a truly huge gopher lying on its back, twitching its last.

This time I had the honor of cleaning up the snout as well as the guts. Uni is so good to me.

22 APRIL 99:
Poor old Hubble. I am a terrible, terrible mother. He's continuing to have a very nasty, matted up rear end, so I decided I'd better make more of an effort to clean him up. I was trying to cut away what I thought was fur and fecal matter. The next thing I know, Hubble yelps and is bleeding and I realize I've actually cut his skin instead of just fur. I can't tell you how rotten I feel.

The vet couldn't take him in today, but tomorrow he goes in to be cleaned up and examined. I hope I didn't damage him too badly. I'm leaving the rest of this up to the professionals.

Unicom is on another gopher-slaying rampage that led to some hilarity tonight. He chomped down one gopher outside in the afternoon. A little while ago, we heard those telltale sounds in the back hall. Uni had a very live gopher out there. Nefreet was making passes at it from under the kitchen door. Uni wasn't showing much serious interest in the creature.

A bit later, Randy went to check. Sure enough, Uni had gone outside and left the gopher trying to dig its way to freedom through the wall behind the water heater. We grabbed a cardboard box, some sticks and flashlight and proceeded to herd the gopher this way and that trying to get it into the box. It was hysterical. It would go anywhere but into the box. It ran down the hall where I kept blocking it with my boots, then darted behind the cat box. Finally, I put on a thick pair of work gloves and between us we herded it inside the box. We locked Uni inside and set the gopher free. After all that, we figured the little bugger deserved a second chance.

Owl was very sweet today. He curled up in that spot to the left of my computer and purred away. Sometimes he reaches out and rests a paw on my leg. Or he does a head-butt to get some ear scritchies. But when he's outside...forget it. Can't get within ten feet of him.

Randy happened to go outside shortly after I'd opened the office door and unleashed the beasts for their morning romp. He said it was a weird experience, to stand at the top of our long, steep driveway and see this entire HORDE of cats streaming toward him. {g} Too much like that allergy commercial for comfort!

6 MAY 99:
Last time I wrote about the Horde, I mentioned I'd taken a pair of scissors to Hubble's rear end while trying to clean him up and had stupidly managed to injure him. Well, I did worse than I thought. When I got him to the vet's and left him in their care, they informed me I had come perilously close to removing his scrotum and half his penis!

You can imagine how I felt. Like the worst kind of scum. They had to knock him out and stitch him together. They assured me he'd heal just fine, but I'm forbidden to ever get near another cat with a pair of scissors.

For a week or so, I had the fun of wrestling pills down his throat. He *hates* taking pills. It's one time I'm grateful he was declawed by his former people.

During the week and half he healed up, I kept watch as time after time he'd get into the catbox, squat, and produce nothing. Yesterday I took him in to have the stitches removed and left him overnight for observation. As I feared, he was blocked up again. Apparently age and maybe some additional disorder have basically made him unable to take a crap (isn't this fun to read about?).

They've given me new pills that I have to give him everyday indefinitely (oh, joy) and I have to get the lax-gel into him once a day. Sigh...poor old cat. He's lost so much weight from all this, and he's such a sweetheart.

Miss Lily, on the other paw, has the exact opposite problem, and I'll have to haul her in for treatment if it doesn't clear up.

We've had to rescue Nefreet from Unicom quite a lot lately. He loves to beat on her, but she doesn't help the situation. She takes swipes at him whenever she can get away with it, meaning when she has me standing nearby to run interference.

But she did her job as a cat the other night. We'd turned out the lights and headed for bed. Randy went back to the kitchen for something about five minutes later, and Nefreet had already nabbed a small mouse, which she was chowing down in the dining room. There was a tiny snout for me to clean up in the morning.

Gopher massacres continue apace. Unicom put on a dinner show for Randy tonight. There's a ledge right outside the kitchen window where Uni likes to nap, or where he sits to look inside and see what we're doing. Randy was washing dishes when Uni jumped onto the shelf with a mouth full of live gopher. He proceeded to show up for Randy by pretending to lose interest in it, re-catching it, mutilating it, etc. To Randy's enormous relief, once the gopher was finally dead, Unicom decided to take it elsewhere for eating.

Owl did the most amazing thing this afternoon. He was lying across the top of a cabinet with his front shoulders hanging over the edge. As I looked at him, he held his two front legs together straight out in the air in front of himself, paws touching, and "salaamed" at me about 6-7 times in a row! It was quite deliberate. He wasn't off-balance or anything of the sort. I really hope he'll deign to do it again one of these days.

12 MAY 99:
Even Unicom can't keep up with the abundance of rodents that have arrived with spring. He sure tries, though. He got a gopher and mouse in one night. He ate the mouse outside the kitchen window, for our entertainment.

Hubble has just made my life easier, for a change. I'm supposed to give him the laxative gel, but when I first offered it to him, he wouldn't have anything to do with it. Meaning I've had to force it into his mouth or smear gobs of it on his paws so he'll lick it off. Of course, he shakes his paws and gets gooey gel all over himself or whatever he's on.

But last night, I tried offering it to him on my finger and he eagerly licked it off. Thank Bast, he's finally developed a taste for it. I end up having to give some to Tribble who is crazy about it and shows up to beg for some.

I set up my new HP printer which is the big square type with a flat top and an indentation where the paper comes out. Owl has decided this is the perfect bed. I keep it covered with plastic, of course, but if I want to use it, I have to displace the large, happy Siamese heavyweight.

In another fine example of the Cat Grenade, Owl knocked over a picture frame on my desk with his tail and it startled him. He exploded across my desk, which caused Tigerlily to explode off the top of the monitor, which set off a few other cats to go racing off in various directions.

Oh, I had another first with Owl. He's two different cats, depending which side of the cat door he's on. Once he goes outside, he becomes The Untouchable. Finally, yesterday, he let me come up and pet him while he was outside! He still tends to run off in a panic most of the time, but he let me pet him again today while he was outside. This is definitely a good thing.

Nefreet's had a recurring problem with her throat. She'll suddenly lose her voice and her meow gets hoarse or squeaky. She keeps swallowing as though her throat hurts. I took her in yesterday. She's such a psycho-kitty, they had to trank her before they could scope her throat, so I had to leave her overnight.

Picked her up today with the news that she's perfectly fine, but may have some kind of allergy that inflames her throat a little. I paid a big chunk of change to find out she's healthy. Better than having a serious problem. We certainly missed her last night.

She's been attentive to a certain full-length (to the floor) window that looks onto the front porch. Night after night, we'd see her at that window, staring into the night. So tonight, Randy turned on the light and got down on the floor to see things from her view. And what should he see, but a large field mouse scurrying across the porch. He left Nefreet out and she went in search, but we can't tell whether she nabbed it.

13 MAY 99:
Nefreet got outside late in the afternoon, went under the front porch and staked out the mouse territory. We weren't able to find her and get her inside until much later in the evening.

I kept reading reports from other cat owners about how much fun laser pointers are as a cat toy. All these people had cats that would spend hilarious hours chasing the red dot around. So when I came across a great deal on a very nice laser pointer, I bought it and eagerly brought it home.

Randy and I tried it out on Nefreet first. She paid it NO ATTENTION AT ALL. She simply looked at us and clearly communicated, "Who are you trying to fool?"

Bitterly disappointed, we went outside into the night and tried it out on Unicom. He paid it NO ATTENTION AT ALL. It wasn't even a blip on his radar. I could hear him thinking, "Hey, I catch gophers. Take your silly red dot and stuff it."

In fact, the past few nights before going to bed, I've gotten Unicom to come inside by going to the door and calling out, "O Mighty Gopher Slayer". He trots right up.

30 MAY 99:
Two weeks of the Horde confined to the office left it in a state beyond description, or at least any description that should be shared in polite company. The word "mess" will serve as a gross understatement.

The Horde was overjoyed to be unleashed upon the world once again. Hubble's first act was to transform himself from a white cat into a brown cat. Tribble is determined not to be shut inside and refuses to answer me, so it looks like he'll be spending the night outside, the brat. Not that I can blame him. He's a furry boy and it's a lovely cool night with a bright full moon.

Hubble, being a fastidious and stubborn cat, apparently decided to stop using the cat boxes about a day after we left, probably because they were only being cleaned once a day and he dislikes a communal catbox at the best of times. I don't know for sure it was him, but it's a good guess. He picked one corner of the office and left a minefield of his rock-hard droppings. Plus a few scattered around other parts of the office for good measure. At least it means his medicine is working.

Speaking of which, it took me three tries to get his pill down this morning. He may not have front claws, but he knows how to box and is a World Class Champion Pill Spitter.

Sassy amused me by perching on the edge of the water bowl and drinking water she dipped up on her paw.

Owl amused Randy and I both by squeezing his entire Sumo Siamese body into the pot of catnip on the back deck, then flopping about like a besotted fool. The poor catnip had just started to make a comeback from almost total destruction over the past couple of weeks. It will only survive if I put some kind of sturdy wire cover over it, or find it a spot where cats can't roll on it.

Nefreet's been in a snotty mood all day, nipping and biting. I was cut off in the middle of a phone call when I almost stepped on her, staggered around trying to regain my balance during which she savaged my ankle. We've had to give her a couple whaps on the head for her behaviour. Which may be caused by the fact that I had to get up every few hours during the night and squirt her with a water bottle. Which was caused by the fact that she kept coming around and crying outside the bedroom door so that neither of us was getting a single moment's sleep.

Tosca gave me a long monologue this afternoon. I interpret it as lecturing me on the evils and inconvenience of going away for so long. Or she was complaining about my use of the Noisy Vacuum Monster. Like mother, like daughter, Diva then had to add her opinion.

1 JUNE 99:
Unicom is a bottomless pit. He had his dry food, a helping of canned food, some bits of lamb fat from our dinner, and he still went out and slew 3 large gophers during the night. I found one in the back hallway, one right behind my car and one in the driveway. But now he can be a gourmet and only eat the juicy center portion. He's leaving behind the whole butt and the head.

The Horde Cleaning Crew went to work on Uni's leftovers, and thus the driveway is kept clean with no effort on my part. Fine with me.

Nefreet spotted the mouse on the front porch again. We let her out, but I suspect it eluded her. It took me a good ten minutes to coax her out from under the front porch. Once she's on Mouse Patrol, she doesn't like to come inside.

The cats have been all over me for attention in the office. They definitely missed me.

11 JUNE-11 JULY 99:
Nefreet and Unicom had a batting match back and forth under the door to the back hallway. The "ball" in this batting match was a mouse. I forget who ended up with it, but either way, it didn't help the mouse.

After weeks and weeks of unrestrained Gopher Slaying, usually 1 and sometimes 2 or 3 a night, Unicom has suddenly gone off gophers. Either he finally got sick of them, or the gophers have developed really good avoidance skills.

To my delight, Sassy actually came and got into my lap of her own volition. That was a first.

Nefreet pulled a funny the other night -- she raced into Randy's office too fast and rammed into the foot of Randy's desk. He said she sat there looking at it for a second, then gave it a lightning barrage of whacks. Take that, desk!

We got home from several days out of town and I found Sassy with a cheek the size of a grapefruit. I don't know who got her, but she a doozy of an abscess. She got to spend a couple of days visiting her old friends at the clinic, who were all delighted to see her again. One of them said Sassy didn't want to be there at all, and just turned her back to them. But another woman said, pish tosh and that Sassy had been her old self.

She now has a shaved cheek and truncated whiskers on the one side, and was very impatient to get outside again (I had to keep her inside for a week until the drain was removed). Once she realized I had to give her pills twice a day, she took to lurking in her high, inaccessible perch.

Hubble's been on his medicine for a couple of months now. He gets a pill once a day. He's the worst blasted cat to get a pill into. He fights and squirms and has an outstanding ability to spit a pill out secretly. I've resorting to using a pilling device (a long plastic "plunger") and it has made life much easier. The good news is that he's put weight back on and is clearly doing much better.

Now for some sad news. I've been worried a about Tigerlily. She has always been a skinny cat, but she dropped about a pound and a half in the last month, has had diarrhea, and has been throwing up a lot. I quickly got her to the vet and it was what I feared. She has lymphoma. The lymphoma is squeezing shut a section of her intestines. She's now on Prednisone, which will alleviate this temporarily, anywhere from a few months to a year. She should put on some weight and do better for a while, but eventually the lymphoma will overcome the benefits of the Prednisone. The same symptoms will return and there will be nothing else I can do for her.

Right now, she's feeling much better. She nearly mauls me to shreds when I break out the chicken-flavored treats, so I have no trouble sneaking the pill into her. And she's getting canned food, which is easier for her to eat. Her time is limited, I'm afraid, but at least it will be happy.

To end on a lighter note, Owl remains a very happy boy. The other day, he actually tried to sneak up on some quail. He had no luck, of course, but it's fascinating to me that he shows these hunting skills after being an indoor cat. I wonder if it's purely instinctive, or whether he's been learning from watching the other cats. He's an awfully quick learner.

12 JULY 99:
I was surprised to find Knobby waiting for me outside this morning. I had no idea he'd been out all night, the slippery little bugger. He was definitely ready to go inside.

It's been so hot, the cats have hardly ventured outside. They go out when I open the cat door in the morning, but by afternoon, they're mostly inside the air conditioned office.

Tonight, we looked up from watching tv to find Nefreet chasing a mouse around the living room. She wasn't being serious about it, though, so it got away from her, back under the door to the back hall where it came from. Unicom either brought it in or found it there. Now we have no idea what's happened to it. You'd think one of our mousers could do its job. (shaking head in disgust)

13 JULY 99:
I owe Nefreet an apology. During the night, the mouse foolishly found its way back into the house where Nefreet dispatched it. We found the telltale pile of organs in the living room.

Lily has perked up considerably under the effects of Prednisone. I'm watching to see her put on some weight, though I know it will probably take a while.

Unicom pounced on a large toad while we watering the garden at dusk. He immediately abandoned it, upon realizing what it was, rather than something tasty and rodential.

5 NOV. 1999
It’s been a long time between moggy reports. There have been the usual cat follies. Here are some of the highlights.

We’ve been plagued badly by mice nesting in the engines of our cars. They pack up the air vents, chew up tubes, store large supplies of acorns and seeds, eat or nest in whatever’s in the glovebox, defecate and urinate all over the place. A major nuisance. We’ve had good luck with a large metal box mousetrap called the Ketch-all (bought it from Real Goods).

The one morning we checked the trap in the engine of Randy’s Subaru and found a very large packrat. It was way too big to get inside the trap, but it had stuck its head in just far enough to get nailed.

We extricated the rat and offered it to Unicom. We figured that was a fair exchange for the endless number of gophers he has brought to us.

Well, Unicom wasn’t as thrilled with the gift as we thought. I guess he only likes the ones he catches himself. I finally tossed the rat carcass down a steep hill. So naturally, Sly managed to find the thing and eat it.

Diva is also a good little huntress. She brought a gopher (newly deceased) into my office and spent the next fifteen minutes or so tossing it merrily around from one end of the room to the other, frequently having bouts of bat-the-gopher under my chair. At long last, old Achilles, who was napping on my desk, must have gotten fed up with this kid who didn’t know what to do with a gopher. He stretched casually, jumped onto the floor, grabbed the tenderized gopher and ate it. I could almost hear him saying to Diva, “Look, THIS is what you do with a gopher.”

Another time, I came out of my office and found Owl and Diva conspiring over something. They had a racer snake stretched out between them. Owl had his paw on the snake’s head and Diva was pinning down the tail. These are lovely, small snakes, black with white or yellow stripes down the length of their bodies, and quite harmless. So I gently rescued Mr. Snake and took him far away from Moggy Land.

That was pretty good of Owl, given his lack of experience as an outdoor cat. But he has taken it with great happiness. I’m finally able to come up to him and pet him when he’s outside, at least some of the time. Randy’s also made progress at being able to pet Owl on the rare occasions Randy visits my office (with his asthma and allergies, he can only last about 5 minutes in here).

Owl still has his passion for eating plastic bags. Though I’ve extremely careful not to leave bags where he can get at them, he managed to find one I had forgotten about. It was a bright royal blue bag. A day later, I found a bright royal blue “Owl pellet” in the cat box.

I caught Owl doing the “salaam” for a second time. This is where he lies in the sphinx pose, but with only his chest supported, his front legs straight out in front of him hanging in the air. Then he waves his paws up and down in what looks like a “salaam”. The first time, he did it in my direction. This time, he wasn’t facing me. I am totally mystified as to why he does this or to what he was salaaming this time around. It’s a funny sight, though.

Hubble takes pleasure in being the world’s dirtiest white cat. He delights in going outside, taking a dust bath, then coming inside to stand next to my keyboard and shake himself. A fine cloud of dust rises...and settles. On everything. I think he enjoys the strangled sounds I make as I leap to my feet to shake the dust off the keyboard. I spend hours trying to untangle his dreadlocks, but I fear it’s a losing battle.

He’s had a lot of trouble with his plumbing. He’s getting old and his intestines don’t want to work the way they’re supposed to. He’s getting three pills a day and seems to be doing very well on this regimen.

Tigerlily, meanwhile, was diagnosed with lymphoma. She’s on Prednisone, along with Immodium to cope with the side effects. She was painfully skinny, but has gained weight. Since she can no longer eat dry food, she’s getting soft food. This has helped a lot. I was told she has anywhere from a few months to a year left.

It’s a battle keeping Hubble’s nose out of her food so she can eat. Hubble is a cat the defines the word “stubborn”. I’ve never encountered anything, human or feline, that is as stubborn as this cat. The only solution that works is to give him a tiny portion in his own bowl so he’ll be distracted enough to let Tigerlily eat in peace.

Between the two of them, my desk looks like a pharmacy with all these prescription bottles. I give them pills mushed inside soft chicken-flavored treats. Miss Lily loves those. I have to be quick, or she reaches out and hooks me with a nail to make her point.

STUPID CAT TRICKS: Nefreet and Unicom continue their relentless feud. We often have to rush outside to rescue Nefreet from a fight (he’s twice her weight), but we know she starts at least half of them. She’s the most “butch” female cat I’ve had. Randy saw her spray five times in the garden yesterday.

At night, she’ll growl and hiss at Unicom through the windows. Last night, we looked up as Unicom was peering in a living room window. Nefreet was perched nearby growling at him. Suddenly, she launched herself at him in full fury...and went WHUMP!!! against the glass, then slide out of sight behind a table of potted plants. Randy and I were hysterical. She sauntered past a minute later, unhurt, pretending absolutely nothing ludicrous had taken place and what so damn funny anyway. We kept laughing about that all night. WHUMP!!!