During the first five months of 2000, I didn't write regular Tales. During that time, I lost two dear old cats.

Tigerlily had survived breast cancer, only to fall victim to lymphoma. She was a tough old thing, feisty to the end. She grew thinner and thinner. Eventually, it became hard to get her to eat. I had her put to sleep in Feb.

I worried how Owl would take it. Though she wasn't especially nice to him, she was nonetheless the only companion he had for the first four or so years of his life, and the only cat he had known before coming to the Horde.

Near as I can tell, the loss didn't affect him much. Perhaps the past couple of years, where he come to know other cats and learned to explore the outside world, made up for losing his old companion.

Meanwhile, Hubble was going downhill. He developed a serious problem with his intestines which required lots of pills twice a day to make his bowels work. This would have been fine, until the regimen began to lose effectiveness, coupled with the onset of kidney failure. I put Hubble to sleep in March.

Zorro, Tigerlily and Hubble are buried to the side of the house, outside the bedroom window, near the cherry tree. We marked their graves with river stones and chunks of quartz.

Sat, 17 Jun 2000
As has been noted in the past, Artemis likes to scry in water. This is her medium for seeing into the future, the past, near and far, and realms beyond.

Lately, she's been more enthusiastic than usual with her scrying. I would come down to the office and find the large, metal waterbowl had been scooted 4 or 5 feet, the bowl nearly empty and the rest of the water all over the floor. Fortunately, in that part of the office it's a concrete floor.

But still, I figured this was aggravating for the rest of the moggies. So I hedged the waterbowl into place with a couple of bricks.

That worked for about a week. This morning, I discovered Artemis had somehow gotten the bowl through a gap in the bricks and resumed her old methods of scrying.

I've replaced the bricks. We'll see how long it takes for her to move them again.

Cats with thumbs. WATCH OUT!

Wed, 21 Jun 2000
The water bowl has stayed put so far, though I noticed one of the bricks was moved slightly. Artemis is nothing, if not determined.

After taking a break from his killing spree for about a week, Unicom is back in form. I had two sets of gopher guts and miscellaneous parts to clean up this morning. He's been totally inert all day, probably a combination of heat and being stuffed full of gopher.

A long time ago, in previous Tales of the Horde, I wrote about Owl's odd habit of making a "salaam" -- stretching his two front legs out together and waving his paws up and down.

I've now seen him do it a lot more times and I think I've finally figured out what he's really doing. He's certainly not "salaaming" to me. He does it when he's up on something and wants to jump down. It seems to be a preparation for the jump, the way a diver might go through a few false starts before making a dive. He waves his paws, then makes the jump.

He is one very funny cat.

Thu, 22 Jun 2000
It's pretty funny trying to play with Uni. We have a feather toy that Nefreet goes crazy over. But if we dangle that in front of Uni, he yawns at us. We get the stare that says, "What the hell do you take me for? I eat gophers for breakfast. I'm not playing with some damn silly toy."

But after he hits the catnip, he gets crazed. Then he'll chase *anything*. He's such a catnip junkie, I've had to build a wire cage around the pot of catnip on the back deck, or there'd be none left.

Owl's a catnip junkie, too. I catch both Owl and Unicom forcing their heads through the grid of the wire to get at the catnip.

Sun, 25 Jun 2000
My dear fluffballs, Tribble and Theseus, went outside, rolled in the grasses until they had collected as much detritus as their fur could hold, then delivered all of it to my desk.

Which is why I keep a cat comb next to my mouse.

Sun, 25 Jun 2000
Poor Nefreet. She came nose to nose with a really *big* lizard, but she was inside the dining room and the lizard was on the outside of the glass, no more than two inches away from her. She pawed at the glass. The lizard kept flicking its tongue at the glass. I don't think it could see inside.

Randy finally went outside and "escorted" the lizard (sent it scooting) to a safer place, before one of the other cats happened upon it. Nefreet chased it along the length of the glass doors, then stood up like meercat as it disappeared.

Mon, 26 Jun 2000
The lizard made a return visit, sort of.

Early this evening, Randy opened the kitchen cupboard under the sink, and there was the same kind of lizard, nearly as big. It was dopey from being cold, so Randy easily caught him and put him outside.

Tue, 27 Jun 2000
Either the gophers have caught onto Unicom's hunting patterns, or he's not trying as hard in this heat. The killing machine hasn't had the same level of results lately. But this morning I found a pile of guts and a snout waiting for me. Once again I sing, hooray, hooray, for linoleum.

Nefreet's been carrying on in an absurd fashion. She sits at the glass doors chattering away at nothing. We look and look. Not a bird or lizard in sight, yet there she sits chattering. If we open the door, she either looks at us without budging or dashes across the deck as though pursing something...and finding nothing. We figure she's hallucinating. But then it's well known that cats see things we don't.

A favorite fun game for Artemis, now that I've foiled her water bowl-soccer, is attacking the broom when I sweep the floor. She can spread out those giant front paws and sink them into the bristles with impunity. This works fine unless the broom starts to chase her, then she beats a hasty retreat until it's safe to come out and attack it again.

Achilles pulls out such masses of his fur, I'm amazed he hasn't given himself bald spots like Owl. I'm forever finding big clumps of across my desk and around the floor. It's easy to know that it's his fur because he has a "smoke" coat -- the fur is black at the tips and white at the roots. This is what contributes to Achilles looking ratty and unkempt so much of the time. Instead of being a solid black and white tuxedo like Zorro was or Knobby is, Achilles has the white undercoat showing through

He's pretty spry for an old cat, though. Get out a piece of string, and he reverts to a kitten on the spot.

Mon, 03 Jul 2000
Well, maybe they're not exactly frolicking. Having stupid spats, yes. I had to break up Nefreet and Theseus from going at it. You'd think with all the terrain they have, there'd be plenty of room to avoid one another. But nooooooo...

I found a poor dead bat lying in the driveway, covered with the yellowjackets to which I'm lethally allergic. We sprayed off the wasps, but couldn't figure out what got the bat. I'm wondering if Unicom caught it. We enjoy watching the bats frolic at night in the light at the corner of the house by the patio. They dance up to the corner over and over again, then back into the night, zipping through the oak tree, back and forth, back and forth.

Achilles gifted me with half the yard. If Microsoft could see the things that are probably dwelling under the keys of my keyboard...

Artemis viciously attacked the broom as I swept up this morning. This time she did more than merely grab it with the Patented Polydactyl Thumbs of Terror, she also gave the bristles a thorough chewing up.

Owl's been pulling out his hair again, so he got doused with bitter apple spray. He really loves that. I have to use the Vulcan Nerve Pinch to keep him in place. If he sees me even pick up the bottle, he's outta there.

Unicom and Nefreet had their weekly anti-allergen bath/rubdowns yesterday. Oddly enough, Nefreet suffers this with no resistance at all. Uni gets very annoyed, but doesn't actually resist. Though yesterday he did treat me to a full range of hisses, growls and pissed-off mrrowls.

Wed, 05 Jul 2000
When I came down to the office, Diva showed up with a raw patch of skin over her left eye. She got into some kind of fight or scrape. I gave it the peroxide/Neosporin treatment, but it's not serious.

Seems like every time I heard a conflict going on in the studio, Blue is somehow involved or causing it. I really need to get him sent off to his new home.

The moggies are outside for their daily romp, except old Achilles, curled up in my lap as usual, and Tosca in her favorite place, curled up on top of my printer (plastic slipcovers are my friend).

Sun, 09 Jul 2000
Some of you may remember from tales of the Horde going back a couple of years, before Randy moved in and the whole batch lived in the house, that I was having trouble with a Phantom Pisser leaving puddles on my kitchen counter and stovetop.

I know Hubble was responsible for some of it. But now it turns out that Nefreet is also a culprit. In the past year, she's peed on the counter and on the stovetop, which really messes up the aluminum or whatever metal that is.

This morning, I came into the kitchen to discover she had struck again. I'd left a newly-laundered, folded towel on the counter, with my dayrunner on top of it. She peed on the counter and towel. The towel soaked it up which was in contact with the leather of my dayrunner. She also got an envelope and some papers that were there. I rubbed her nose in it and gave her a yelling and whap on the head.

I don't know what her problem is. I cleaned her box last night before going to bed, so she has no excuse.

I took great satisfaction in giving her the anti-allergen bath afterwards.

Mon, 10 Jul 2000
Sly was a good boy. He caught a nice big gopher.

Uni, meanwhile, hasn't bothered to catch one for a couple of weeks.

We must be careful what we ask for. We must also remember that cats understand English all too well. Randy and I both teased Unicom yesterday about his lack of spree-killing activity.

He couldn't back down from an insult like that. Which meant that this morning I had the delightful chore of cleaning up a set of gopher guts and snout, and the headless body of a very small baby rabbit.

Thu, 13 Jul 2000

Unicom's new motto: "Once you've had a baby rabbit, you can never go back to plain old gophers."

Randy opened the door to the back hall and said he almost threw up. Poor thing. I guess it takes years of living with cats to become inured to it.

I had the delightful after-breakfast chore of cleaning up guts, a hind leg and tail from another baby rabbit.

This was compounded by discovered that one of the cats found the single most difficult and inconvenient place to clean up to leave a nice large deposit of vomit.

Remind me why I have so many cats again? Oh, right. Because I'm world's biggest sucker.

Sat, 15 Jul 2000
It's funny as hell to watch Diva react when Randy comes into my office. She ADORES Randy. She gets onto the highest spot she can find and lets out this long, protracted wail-yowl of a greeting to make absolutely sure he stops to give her attention. Her tail shakes like she has palsy (or as though she were going to spray which, thank Bast, she does not). She talks and talks, and then she rubs his head with her head and grabs his hair with her paws.

Randy loves it.

She got so excited today, she half fell off her perch.

I was also amused earlier by watching Owl go through is "high-dive" routine again, doing the salaam before jumping off a high cabinet. I have *never* seen another cat do that.

Mon, 17 Jul 2000
It was a one-gopher night for Unicom. He had the rear legs and guts carefully laid out as though he'd been doing an anatomy lesson.

The moggies are asleep in contented piles all around me -- on desk, on top of boxes, on top of printer, on filing cabinet, on floor under desk, on top of shelves, and so on.

Tue, 25 Jul 2000
Naturally, the Horde was overjoyed to have me back, especially since it meant GOING OUTSIDE AGAIN!!!

They're heaped about me tonight. Everybody wants attention.

And wouldn't you know it, Sassy has a nasty abscess brewing on her left cheek. This one doesn't look as though it will open on its own, so I'm forcing amoxicillin down her throat twice a day. We'll see what happens. I may have to haul her to the vet.

Tue, 25 Jul 2000
Sassy is up on her highest perch and refuses to come down, lest I grab her and shove another amoxi into her, which is what I urgently need to do, as well as having another look at the cheek. I think she's scratched a patch of fur off it, so I might get a better exam of the actual wound.

For those who don't know, Sassy used to be the clinic pet at my vet's. She had way too much energy to be cooped up in a place like that, so she was acting out by tearing open expensive bags of cat food on display, and climbing the outside of the cages to steal food from the inmates. They were at their wits' end with her. I'd been giving Sassy pats and attention for years, every time I came in. On this one occasion, I had an empty cat carrier at my feet with the door open. Sassy casually strolled in. I casually closed the door behind her and told them if they really had to do something about her, I'd take her with me. They accepted with great relief.

But the thing is, y'see, whilst she lived at the vet's, she was their demo-cat. They would grab her any time they had some poor schmoo who didn't know how to give a pill to a cat and use her to demonstrate how to do it. She's had more than her share of placebos shoved down her throat.

Meaning she's sure as hell not happy about having me do it. Plus she's quite an expert at spitting them out again. It took me three tries to get the amoxi into her last night.

Looks like I'll have to resort to a stepladder and drag her off her perch, willing or not. What's a few more scratch scars to the zillions I already have.

The arrival of a FedEx person knocking at the office door created a cat-grenade as moggies fled in panic. Including Sassy.

Which meant she delivered herself into my clutches a few minutes later. The wound on her cheek is larger and worse than I thought, unless it's the result of the abscess opening during the night, then sealing over again. I cleaned and cleaned it with peroxide. Sassy did NOT like that at all. I wasn't able to open anything, but the swelling has gone down a lot, so I think it's under control.

I then wrestled a pill into her and was rewarded with a couple of claw punctures in my right hand. Ah, the joys...

It's so blasted hot, the entire batch of cats that went outside came right back in and voted to stay inside. Unicom has been comatose under my car the whole day.

Sat, 29 Jul 2000
Sassy has figured out that staying up in the high places doesn't work anymore and has resorted to finding leetle tiny hiding spots elsewhere. But she's healing up just fine now, so I think I can lay off the amoxi.

Next I have to get Diva to the vet. Every year she develops some sort of allergy and scratches all the hair and skin off the bottom of her chin. Time for another cortisone shot.

Tue, 01 Aug 2000
Poor old Owl is sick, so he's going off to the vet this afternoon. He either has a nasty upper respiratory infection, or he's got something up his nose or down his throat. This is the cat who once managed to snort a 7 inch long piece of grass up his nose, so who knows?

Sassy's healed up just fine, but Diva's chin is barren and raw. I've been squirting Dermacool on it, a topical anesthetic I got at the vet's to see if she'll leave it alone and let it heal.

Wed, 02 Aug 2000
I'm glad I got Owl to the vet because he is quite a sick boy. His temp was up to 104 and he wheezed and snurffled like an old bellows. He's down to a featherweight 15 1/4 lbs., a pound lighter than last time he was there.

I left him to have some fluids and for the vet to start him on some Baytril, an anti-biotic, while I went off to do errands in the 100 degree heat, including buying a specific over-the-counter human decongestant for Owl.

I had quite the time getting this decongestant into him last night. Randy has taken this stuff and warned me it's horribly bitter. It took several tries. I attempted to use the pilling device that worked so well on the late great Hubble, but unlike Hubble, Owl simply clamps his mouth shut and refuses to let me slip the piller into the side or anywhere else. I had to use the old-fashioned method: pry open mouth and stick it down throat.

Then this morning, I had to get 2 Baytril and 1 decongestant into him, but he was a very good boy. I managed to get all pills into him, but the bitter one made him foam profusely. I gave him a couple of treats afterwards to make up. To my great relief, he actually took them rather than running off to hide. He even came up to me for some attention later on.

I almost didn't get him to the vet. When I left the office, he was eating and quite relaxed. I went up to the house, changed, got ready to leave and went back to down to fetch Owl. He had disappeared.

How do they know? I swear cats are telepathic. I searched every one of his regular spots, then began searching everywhere else. I got so desperate, I called Randy to come help me. I finally found Owl lurking behind some of the sheets of cardboard I use to protect the lower shelves of the bookcases from the spraying fiends in the Horde. I had a claw hole in my left arm from carrying him up the hill to put him into the carrier.

But he seems to be feeling much better already. I just hope my catsitter won't have too much trouble pilling him while I'm gone. If she can *find* him.

It's so hot around here, the moggies have taken a pass on being outside, except Sassy, who has so much bouncy energy even the heat doesn't keep her still for long.

Thu, 03 Aug 2000
I have decided that getting the decongestant into Owl is not worth the bloodletting and scar tissue. Especially when it's my blood that's being let and my tissue that's being scarred. He is damn strong and lightning fast with those wicked claws of his. He nailed me good last night on my right middle knuckle (which hurts like hell) and again this morning on the right hand.

But he's getting better, thank Bast. Randy thinks I should invest in elbow-high leather gloves. Like whatever a falconer would wear for protection. Good idea.

Sun, 12 Aug 2000
The moggies were glad to have me home.

Randy made the mistake of informing Unicom that he was on the way to pick me up, so Uni left a welcome home gift scattered across the back hallway -- a nice big gopher, well tenderized, drawn and quartered. Naturally, I got to clean it up because Randy's stomach isn't strong enough.

The mogs wreaked some havoc in the office, revenge for being locked up for a week. They'd knocked over numerous objects, including knocking my phone off the desk. Good thing it was the type that didn't leave the phone line out of commission.

I found Owl perched on top of scattered cans of food, looking as though he was just about to figure out how to open the pop-top lids. He had a serious attack of neuroses while I was gone, and has once again denuded patches off his back and hindquarters. Sigh...just when it was growing back so nicely. He got doused with bitter apple as a reward.

Diva showed her happiness by racing around the tops of the shelves making bizarre rowling sounds.

Nefreet showed her happiness by biting me. All is normal.

Wed, 16 Aug 2000
We had a funny role reversal today. Randy caught a gopher for Unicom.

Randy was watering the grapevines and fruit trees, which we've surrounded with deer fencing. Uni loves to go inside the enclosure and hang out. There were a lot of new gopher holes where the miserable rodents had been tormenting the vines. So Randy stuck the hose into one of the holes just outside the fencing.

Lo! He flushes out a gopher from another hole nearby. Uni catches sight of this and begins running around inside the fence. In his excitement, he forgets where to find the small open area for getting out of the fencing.

The gopher runs around, making for another of his 10,000 holes. Randy blocks the way with his foot and the furious gopher sinks his teeth into Randy's sock (just the sock, fortunately). Randy tries to shake the gopher off while Uni keeps running around looking for the way out.

Randy shakes off the gopher, which dashes for a hole, but Randy stomps down and pins it by the tail just before it can vanish underground. Uni finally locates the exit and races over. Randy grabs the gopher by the tail, lifts his foot and tosses the gopher to Unicom. There's a stand-off of a few seconds between the outraged gopher and the Gopher Slayer.

Guess I don't need to tell you who won.

Thu, 17 Aug 2000
Blast it, Owl is sneezing and snurffling again. I've put a call into the vet to see if I can get a new set of meds for him without having to traumatize him with another trip in the carrier.

Kate is curled up on my printer, snoring in soprano.

Fri, 18 Aug 2000
I talked to the vet and picked up some more Baytril for Owl this afternoon. If he doesn't improve in a couple of days, I'll have to haul him in. Then we start looking for things up his nose.

Owl was NOT happy about taking the damn pills tonight. I tried the vet's suggestion of grinding them up and mixing them into some canned food. Nope. Owl would have nothing to do with it.

To keep the blood-letting and scarification to a minimum, I finally had to wrap him in a towel. I was told these pills are flavored and shouldn't bother him, but I'm guessing this silly Siamese now associates them with the horrible decongestant (which I only gave him a few times and never again) because he immediately ran off and foamed extravagantly at the mouth.

I did manage to coax him into eating a couple of treats afterwards, but he was plenty suspicious of the first one.

Fri, 18 Aug 2000
Cats have endless talents. Like selective shedding. White hairs onto black clothes. Black hairs onto white clothes. Red hair onto green clothes.

Sat, 19 Aug 2000
0wl is clearly feeling better. I don't hear the sneezing and he's brighter-looking, feeling perkier. He wanted to rush outside with the other mogs this morning, for the first time in about a week.

Instead, I grabbed him and did the Evil Deed. I wrapped him in the towel because my little finger still hurts like hell from the claw he stuck into it yesterday. I actually got the two pills down his throat with a minimal amount of foaming and growling. Then I let him outside as a reward.

As has been said many times before by frustrated cat-slaves, "If they would just understand we're trying to *help* them..."

Sigh...Blue just came in with half the yard on his back.

Owl came back inside and came over to say hello. Now *that's* progress.

Tribble is pulling his favorite trick of lying right behind my chair, so I'll roll over him when I move back. And he never moves. He just lies there and looks at me like a silly rabbit.

Mon, 20 Aug 2000
Progress! Owl is 100% better. No more sneezing. Breathing is clear. He's back to his usual energy levels, etc.

This morning I tried a new tactic. Instead of trying to pill him on my desk, I nabbed him near the door, plopped the towel around him and had him backed up against my body. This removed his chance to wiggle out of the towel backwards and made it easier to tip his head up and get the pills down. It was remarkably easy and he didn't even foam up.

In fact, the better he feels, the easier it seems to get. Plus he's back to crawling into my lap a couple times a day. On one such occasion, I was wondering how many more days I had to give him pills, so I quietly reached over to have a look in the jar. At the merest tiny clikk of those pills, he erupted out of my lap, bounced over Querida (who was sleeping to the left of the keyboard) and made a superfast escape.

Querida, badly startled, leaped up and over the keyboard, bounced to the other edge of the desk, went to half-inflated fur and stood around looking for the culprit to wallop. Fortunately, no walloping ensued.

Randy and I sat on the steps of the front porch this morning, running interference between Unicom and Nefreet who were playing mind-games with one another. Achilles joined us and got playful, attacking leaves and rolling around. I went to grab a stick to play with him and in split-second -- SLASH!--he was way ahead of me. I now have a one-inch, but shallow gash on the pad of my right little finger. For a 16-year old cat, he is still FAST.

I retreated inside and fetched a nice safe cat toy that has feathers on the end of a very long cord. Achilles, Uni and Nefreet got to take turns savaging it.

Mon, 21 Aug 2000
I guess yesterday was a fluke. Owl took the first pill fairly well, but the second pill was a protracted struggle. Took me a good 7 or 8 tries, with a small amount of foaming afterwards. But he's already back seeking pat-pats, so I guess it's not bothering him all THAT much.

Unicom got lucky this morning. Every great once in a while, he gets a special treat and we let him inside the bedroom. If we wake up and see him sitting outside the glass doors looking forlorn, and it's right after he's had his anti-allergen bath, and Randy is a soft touch, we'll let him come in for ten minutes or so. He jumps straight onto the bed with us and instantly reverts to kittenhood. He kneads, drools buckets and purrs like an old engine while we give him lots of love.

We have to wash the blanket afterwards, as a precaution, which is one of the reasons it doesn't happen very often. That, and the no-cat-zone policy for the bedroom.

We worried about the chronic limp and certain amount of stiffness Uni is showing in his front quarters, so he gets a visit to the vet this week. I also think he has ear mites and picked up medicine to put in his ears once a week for four weeks. He hates that, poor boy.

Wed, 23 Aug 2000
Pilling the Owl went very easily yesterday. Today, he's hiding and I haven't been able to nab him yet. Only two more days to go...

Randy and I came home after dark yesterday and Unicom didn't come out to greet us as he usually does. Before Randy moved in, there was nothing unusual about this. Sometimes a whole day would go by when I wouldn't see Uni. But being greeted by his dear cat friend has become an important ritual for my guy.

We called and Uni didn't show up. So poor worried Randy is how in the night with a flashlight, calling for Uni, searching up the hill and down the hill. Me, I wouldn't worry unless he didn't show up for his late night treats before we went to bed, or by the next morning.

Uni did finally show up, after 15-20 minutes of torturing Randy.

My entire desktop is covered with cats: Tosca on the printer, Tribble to the left of the keyboard, Achilles across the back of the keyboard, and Artemis occupying the entire right side of the desk.

Unicom was duly hauled off to the vet. Randy wanted to come along, so he got to hear Uni make pathetic noises the whole way there.

Our big orange boy weighed in at 17 1/4 lbs., which the vet says is about 3 lbs. too much. He should be around 14. She agreed he has indications of arthritis or other kind of damage to his front shoulders, possibly from jumping down and landing too heavily because of his weight.

The unexpected discovery is that his two far back molars are both in pretty bad shape, bad enough that they're causing serious gum problems and probably an underlying chronic infection. We ended up leaving Uni there to have the teeth either thoroughly cleaned or, if they're really in too bad a shape, they'll be extracted. While he's under, the vet will also check his ears to see whether his problem is mites or something inside the ear.

Poor Uni! We had no idea he was having teeth problems. Sure didn't slow him down at chomping gophers.

Fri, 25 Aug 2000
Uni is home. We decided to forego our afternoon workout to get our cat out of hock. More like it put us into hock, $145 for having the two molars extracted. But as Randy said, "He's worth it."

He was a quiet cat on the way home. He's prowling around the front yard, settling back in. And I get to give him pills for the next week or so. Joy.

Only one day of pills left for Owl, thank Bast, though I think I've finally got my technique finessed. He was a breeze this morning.

Uni is doing well, but isn't quite back to his full chipper self. I think the surgery hit him harder than it would have in his younger days. He got some soft food last night, and still got his tartar-control treats, though he had a harder time chomping them. The reason the treats didn't help control his tartar is that half the time he simply swallows them instead of chewing. I got a pill into him fairly easily this morning, with a little help from Randy.

But Owl avoided me for hours. As soon as I walked toward him, no matter how soothing or casual I tried to be, he'd slink out of reach. Finally he cruised up to me while I sat at the computer and I was able to nab him. He growled immediately. I assured him these were the last of the pills, but he didn't care. Pills is pills.

He has also pulled another large patch of fur off his left side. He is the most mangy looking Siamese. While I had hold of him, I doused him with bitter apple spray. I think he'll be avoiding me for a while now.

I don't know what's gotten into Tosca and Artemis, but they've really been going at it this morning. I had to jump out of my chair and break them up several times. I would have just sprayed them, but water-spray bottles have a peculiar way of disappearing in this office.

Sat, 26 Aug 2000
Owl is torn between being wary of me and wanting to be petted. I figure a couple of days without being pilled will help. His big problem this morning was being chased back into the office with Querida in battle-mode, ready to whup his butt. I have no idea why she's decided to pick on him, and I guess his training under La Dominatrix Tigerlily keeps him from standing up to her.

Unicom still seems to be a bit "off". He was very good about taking his pill this morning, but is cooler in his affections that he was. I'm sure he'll get over it.

Yesterday, I heard the sound of something being tossed around behind my chair. I turned to see that Theseus has a poor little whipsnake. I gently picked it up. It was so inert, I couldn't tell whether it was faking death or was really dead.

I locked the cat door and took the snake to warm spot close to plenty of cover. It took at least five minutes of patiently watching before I saw it ripple muscles at the end of its tail. He had a few tooth marks on him, but didn't look seriously damaged. At length, he moved more of his body, then rather suddenly came to life and slithered into the cover. I hope he makes it.

Mon, 28 Aug 2000
Unicom has been extremely good about taking his pills, but today I had to give him a pill, followed by his rubdown bath with the anti-allergen liquid. By that time, he was not in the best of temper. He complained, growled, hissed. I even thought he might take a bite at me, something he never does. He's still not back to his old self, and something continues to bother him in his right ear.

Nefreet's psychic powers always kick in when I give Uni his bath on the hallway. I'm not sure what she hears that tips her off, but as soon as I step into the house with the dreaded wet sock on my hand, she goes into hiding. I had to pull her out from beneath the bottom stair to the loft.

Last night, the Horde had company. My stepson, Julian, and his lady, Laura, said hello to Nefreet, got a glimpse of Uni (who is shy of company), then came down to the office. Julian remembers Achilles from kittenhood and hadn't seen him in a long time.

Half the cats simply vanished -- Theseus, Tribble, Artemis, Blue, Kate, Knobby, Querida and Owl wanted no part of company.

The main welcoming committee consisted of Tosca and Diva (singing arias, as usual), Achilles, and Sly. Tosca and Diva are the Attention Sluts, and Sly will take any attention any old time.

Laura really wanted to have a good look at Owl, because she has his female counterpart at home, another big, apple-headed Siamese. Her family had a lot of Siamese, so she's partial to them. She confirmed that this hair-pulling thing is definitely a known Siamese neurosis.

Anyway, with four of us moving around the office, Owl was in hyperspeed Slink Mode, darting with sumo-ninja skill from one hiding place to another. Laura finally got a sort-of-look at him when he came to rest in the highest spot he could find, on top of boxes on a high storage shelf.

As if last night weren't tough enough, a little while ago I had to run outside and rescue him from Unicom. They were making the kind of wails that only demons from the 9th level of hell can make.

Wed, 30 Aug 2000
I think Unicom has turned a corner in his recovery. He had his last pill last night and shows all signs of being perkier and more energetic. Some of that might be due to cooler weather as well.

I was gone from 8 am to 7 pm, and just before I got home, Uni caught a gopher, which he dismembered and scattered in the back hall where I couldn't miss it.

Maybe he figured that last time I disappeared and was gone a long time, it was the gopher gift that brought me back. So he tried it and lo! it has worked a second time.

Owl, meanwhile, spent the day removing more fur from his sides. If he's developed a taste for bitter apple, I'm in big trouble. I may as well shave him.

Actually, I was feeling proud of myself for finding a less obnoxious way to get the bitter apple onto him (something I didn't have time to do yesterday, alas). Owl *hates* being squirted with the bottle. Instead, I saturated a cotton ball, then put it into a film canister which I can keep close by. When he gets into my lap and has relaxed, I can slip out the cotton ball and rub his skin with it. He doesn't like it, but it's way better than the squirt bottle.

Querida is being a happy old girl. She's lying to the left of me, purring and drooling all over my papers.

Thu, 31 Aug 2000
Unicom is definitely back to his bright, spunky self. We caught him lurking next to the trash bin about to pounce on Sly. Randy opened the window and boomed in his best voice-of-god, "Unicom! We see you." Uni jumped so hard he almost turned inside out.

One of the nightly rituals is giving treats to Unicom and Nefreet. They both love the hard, crunchy, tartar-control type, but since Uni had the teeth pulled, I bought some soft treats of the same brand. Uni's been tolerating them, but last night let us know the soft treats just don't cut it with a nice piece of projective spitting.

We decided that since he's eating dry food just fine, we can go back to the crunch treats. We tried the soft treats out on Nefreet instead. She mouthed it and spit it right out and looked up at us like "What are you trying to pull?" She's back to the regular treats. I'll foist the soft ones on the Horde in the office.

Owl is still being skittish of me. I get to pet him when I'm seated and he feels safe, but he's not letting me just walk up to him and pet him. Bast knows when I might grab him and force something down his throat again, or rub something wet on his back. Sigh...

I notice Owl is developing a salt&pepper muzzle. He seems a bit young for that at 7 years old.

Sat, 02 Sep 2000
ARGGH! I've got another damn Norway Rat in the engine of my new Subaru.

Randy stepped outside tonight to give Unicom some attention and heard the rat scrabbling around under the hood. He popped the hood and there it was, staring at him. He quickly called me out.

I slid a broom under the car and made lots of noise. This would drive the rat to the surface. Randy bonked it on the head with the flashlight, but that failed to even stun it. I came within inches (wearing heavy gloves) of grabbing it by the tail. After way too much of this rural comedy, it did a dive toward the right fender and disappeared. It's probably in the fender.

I sprinkled half a box of mothballs all around the engine and into the fenders, and we've left the hood up. I'd rather risk having the engine rained on that let the rat gnaw away those $200 wires again.

Unicom lurked nearby, responding lackadaisically to our urgent calls of, "Come get it, Uni, gopher! Big gopher! Get the gopher!"

Speaking of Uni, he made another trip to the vet late this afternoon. He continues to show signs of something in his ears bothering him. The vet was impressed by his size and heft, and thoroughly enjoyed Uni plopping over to expose his belly for rubbing.

The inside of his ears are in perfect condition. No signs of mites or anything else. He checked for yeast and bacteria. The best we can figure is that he has some kind of allergic condition that makes his ears itch. I have cortisone drops that have to go in his ears twice a day. Uni *hates* having drops put in his ears.

He's also on a diet. From now on, only 1/2 cup of food in the morning and 1/2 cup in the evening. We'll see if which result this produces: a thinner cat, or more dead gophers.

Now if he'd just catch that damned rat.

Mon, 04 Sep 2000
No more sign of Mr. Rat. I've been leaving the hood of the car open at night.

It turns out Unicom doesn't eat as much food as we thought. We're down to giving him 1/3 cup twice a day, and that seems to be about all he eats anyway. I don't see how he can be so overweight, unless gopher have tons of calories.

Querida had a bad limp yesterday, but it seems to have cleared up overnight.

Achilles had Owl cornered at the end of a high shelf. I had to bring over the stepladder and haul Owl down to safety. Owl could easily have trounced Achilles. Since Achilles has a temperament not unlike Tigerlily's, I can understand why he doesn't.

Mon, 04 Sep 2000
I have always wondered why on earth there is beef and lamb flavored cat food, but you never see mouse or gopher or bird flavored cat food. I mean, when was the last time you saw a cat bring down a cow?

Poor Zorro had a terrifying confrontation once, when we lived in Mariposa. We had neighbors down the road who had a ram and a few ewes and would let them wander. We could now and then find them grazing in our yard.

One day, as we stood in the door watching them mow our grass, Zorro decided to be brave. He went up to the ram, they touched noses, sniffed. Then the ram reared up as though to deliver a butt. Zorro raced over and sat between our feet all a-quiver going, "What IS that?"

Mon, 04 Sep 2000
No more sign of Mr. Rat. I've been leaving the hood of the car open at night.

It turns out Unicom doesn't eat as much food as we thought. We're down to giving him 1/3 cup twice a day, and that seems to be about all he eats anyway. I don't see how he can be so overweight, unless gopher have tons of calories.

Querida had a bad limp yesterday, but it seems to have cleared up overnight.

Achilles had Owl cornered at the end of a high shelf. I had to bring over the stepladder and haul Owl down to safety. Owl could easily have trounced Achilles. Since Achilles has a temperament not unlike Tigerlily's, I can understand why he doesn't.

Wed, 06 Sep 2000
Came out of my office to head up to the house for lunch, and what awaits me? Achilles...tearing apart a dove. I don't know who actually caught it. Theseus was lying nearby and he's a good bird-catcher, but Achilles might have gotten it himself. In his younger days, I've seen Achilles snatch a hummingbird in mid-flight.

I left shaking feathers out of his mouth. When I came downstairs after lunch, the yellowjackets had discovered the bird body. That's the big problem with any "components" the cats leave lying around -- it immediately attracts the damn wasps, to which I am so lethally allergic.

These wasps were so completely devoted to feeding, I was actually able to lift the bird by the tail, carry it away from the office and toss it way down the hill without a single wasp budging so much as flexing a wing.

We had to keep breaking up fights between Unicom and Nefreet today. They are so determined to do damage to one another.

Thu, 07 Sep 2000
Rather as I hoped, the restricted diet may well prompt Unicom into catching a few more gophers, as he seems to have slacked off recently. This morning there were remains scattered impressively across nearly the entire length of the back hallway. And I noticed that this time he ate everything but the snout and those internal organs/intestines he always leaves behind. None of this just eating a few bits of the tender middle part and leaving the rest behind. No, by Bast, this is a HUNGRY cat.

Sat, 09 Sep 2000
It's just been the usual cat frolics around the place lately. Unicom and Nefreet fighting. Owl slinking. Diva singing. That sort of thing.

I put on a CD by Dean Evenson, Desert Moon Song, which has coyotes yipping in the background of one cut. I had a couple of perturbed moggies trotting around the office, worrying about where those coyotes were.

Mon, 11 Sep 2000
Funny old Owl has been spending time working out a new hidey hole behind big sheets of foamcore insulation I have stacked against one of the garage doors. He comes out covered in little white bits of Styrofoam.

Querida is limping again, dammit. I may have to haul her to the vet.

Sassy cracked me up. She came bounding out of the grasses, uphill, going a million miles an hour as she is wont to do, suddenly realized way too late that she was about run over Unicom, and did this astounding arch into the air as though she had rockets in her four feet that had propelled her straight up and over him. It wasn't so much a jump as an instantaneous giant bounce.

Sat, 16 Sep 2000
The moggies were very happy to have us back. Unicom and Nefreet went out of their way to show how happy they were. The office mogs clambered all over me. I was pleased to see that Owl hadn't torn out large chunks of fur while we were gone.

My petsitter said Unicom had left a creature offering while we were gone. Today, I accidentally discovered that while my sitter had picked up the offering, she'd left it sitting in a plastic bag in the back hall. It was getting into the two-day old smell which made me very glad I found it when I did.

Mon, 18 Sep 2000
Fairly quiet around the Horde lately.

I did have to rescue Diva from Unicom yesterday. He had her up against the wall of the office and was whaling on her. Maybe he was in a pissy mood because I'd given him his allergen rub-down. But he can be rather a thug, I'm afraid.

I notice Sassy's rather nervous about going out there the past few days, too. In fact, most of the Horde seems content to spend more time inside recently. Maybe it's the return of the high 90 degree heat.

Wed, 20 Sep 2000
Damn that Unicom. He must have landed a nail in Diva's right cheek and now she has an abscess brewing. It's in the hard lump stage, so I started her on Amoxi last night in the hopes of heading it off.

I'll have to get a collar for Tosca or Diva before I leave town, in case my sitter needs to keep giving Diva pills. Even I have trouble telling the two of them apart, they're so identical, and I don't want her accidentally pilling the wrong cat. I used to have a collar on Tosca, but she kept getting out of it until I eventually lost track of it.

Fluffball Theseus suffered mightily from the heat. He camped out in the coolest shade he could find next to the house, but was still panting just lying there. He was happy to get back into the air conditioned office.

Thu, 21 Sep 2000
Tosca is now sporting a spiffy new red collar.

Diva took herself to a high perch, thinking to avoid the evening pill. She's in for a surprise. Cunning and devious human that I am, I have stepladder. Ahah! She's fallen into my other trap. I put new food out and she came down and I nabbed her.

Actually, she's been extremely good and easy to pill. It looks like I caught the abscess in time and it's shrinking.

Thu, 21 Sep 2000
I happened to look outside to see Achilles in the driveway, engaged in combat with a horde of yellowjackets. The yellowjackets were feeding on the remains of a mouse-type rodent. Achilles kept batting the carcass around until it was free of wasps, then quickly made off with it and ate it.

It's a miracle he wasn't stung. The wasps were left wandering chaotically over the empty spot going "what happened to our lunch?"

Fri, 22 Sep 2000
The cats are not thrilled about the cloud of drizzle-rain that has descended upon us. Most of the downstairs Horde went out briefly, said screw it and came back in to lie around.

Unicom hardly seems to notice it, but decided to curl up on the dryer for a nap.

Nefreet had much fun stalking around in it.

Tue, 26 Sep 2000
This was my lucky day as Cleaner Up After Cats.

Unicom left me gopher guts. I notice he's leaving very little behind these days, thanks to his new diet.

When I came into my office after lunch, I spotted a few feathers. I found the scene of the crime where there remained only a dove's head, one leg, the wings and a huge mess of feathers.

I wonder if the moggies appreciate how nicely I've fattened up the local doves with lots of free birdseed.

Thu, 02 Nov 2000
The neighbor's orange tom keeps showing up and Unicom keeps sporting new scratches, dings and dents. One night, as we were about to turn off the kitchen light, we saw the tom on the shelf right outside the kitchen window. We walked over to have a good look at him. He finally realized we were there and vaporized.

I mentioned it to my neighbor, but it sounds as though he can't really catch this particular cat. I'm borrowing a trap from my vet and will make an attempt to catch him myself, then get my neighbor to have him fixed.

The other morning, as I was getting dressed, I spotted something with a dark tail scurry under the bed. "Mouse," I cried. Randy brought Nefreet into the bedroom (where she isn't usually allowed) and we began pulling suitcases and things from under the bed. "Find the mouse," we kept telling Nefreet, who wandered around going "WHAT mouse?"

Sure enough, we flushed out a small lizard. Randy was less than happy because his asthma flared up from all the dust bunnies we stirred up. Nefreet was highly annoyed because we suddenly ejected her from the bedroom again, and no mouse to play with.

The lizard is now living under my mother's antique dresser. I caught a glimpse of him sunning himself yesterday, but he vanished in an eyeblink when I came in.

Mon, 06 Nov 2000
We got home from our short trip last night to discover that Unicom had been fighting with the stray cat again. He had a nasty bite mark on his right shoulder, bites or deep scratches on his belly, and his left ear is chewed on. I cleaned his injuries (he wasn't very happy about that) and we're keeping him inside at night until we catch that other troublemaker.

Guess our tough old boy is getting old. Or maybe he's trying to tell us, "You should see the *other* cat!"

I have the trap waiting for me at the vet's, so I'll pick that up tomorrow and see what luck we have.

Achilles was so happy to get outside this morning, he pranced around like a kitten. He raced over to a tree and hung off the trunk from his front claws. You wouldn't think he was 16 years old.

Thu, 09 Nov 2000
I put a new cat bed in my office, under a wing of my desk not far from where I sit. The cats are having a great time with it. Every time I look, there's a different moggy lying there. I looked once, it was Querida. Then Achilles. Then Theseus. Then Artemis. Owl checked it out, but it's a small size bed. It will be funny if he ever tries to curl up in it.

We're a little worried about Unicom. I've had the trap out for three nights with no luck. We've kept Uni locked inside at night, but he isn't rushing to get out. He's sleeping a lot, looking listless and unhappy, clearly not feeling well. Or maybe he's depressed over having a young cat beat him up. He's eating, but his appetite is down. Although I *did* find a lightly noshed-on gopher in the driveway. He probably caught it last night before we locked him in. He has numerous scabs and fight marks that are still healing. Our big worry is that he has an underlying infection or caught something nasty from the other cat. If he doesn't perk up in a day or so, we'll have to haul him off to the vet.

Sun, 12 Nov 2000
Randy took Unicom to the vet while I was out of town, and it's a good thing he did. Our poor moggy was in bad shape. He had massive infections with abscesses that had burrowed into his body, instead of forming the familiar sort of lump I would have recognized. They had reached a point where they had blown open holes in shoulder and chest. Not huge holes, again a departure from what I'm used to. But that's bad, because a small hole tends to scab over or seal up quickly, generating more internal infection.

He's on the usual Amoxicillin. We have an antiseptic liquid and a special "syringe" with which we have to flush out the wounds twice a day. The abscess on his shoulder formed three holes connected by cavities under the skin, so when I squirt the liquid into one hole, it shoots out the other two as well. Yuck.

Randy holds Uni while I do the fun part. Unfortunately, both times we had to do it today, the holes had sealed slightly, and had to be reopened with application of peroxide. I'm not sure who suffered more --Unicom or Randy.

Anyway, the poor old moggy is clearly feeling a lot better already. He got to run around outside during the day, though we're keeping him locked inside at night. He has large shaved patches around the injuries and it's getting very cold out there.

The vet commented that Uni was dishing out as much as he got, because his injuries were all on the front of his body. No rear end injuries from retreating. He was being a tough boy.

I'm getting a chuckle out of Owl and Artemis, who keep squeezing their oversized bulks into the small cat bed. They love it.

Wed, 15 Nov 2000
Unicom is coming along fine. He's not thrilled at having liquid injected into his war wounds, but he is such tolerant boy and takes it so well. Randy holds him while I do the dirty work. Afterwards, we both give him treats.

But now Uni has the intestinal problem so frequently associated with antibiotics, so I've been to the feed store (per my vet's instructions) and purchased a bloody expensive tube of acidophilus in gel form. I was told to use this because it's formulated specifically for small pets. He got a squirt of it this afternoon, which he did NOT like.

He's a much bouncier, happier cat than he was a few days ago, though. And he has his old appetite back.

Thu, 16 Nov 2000
Owl spent about 8 hours being a lap potato as I slaved at the computer. He looks rather like a potato, being brown, and curling up into an elongated potato shape. The difference being that most potatoes don't purr, leave hair on you, and weigh 17 lbs.

Achilles was sitting here staring me in the face, beaming the message that HE wanted to be in my lap. After five minutes of unrelenting feline telepathy, I heaved Owl off my lap so Achilles could move in.

Have I mentioned that Nefreet is a very odd cat? When we open cans, she runs in looking expectant. Randy finally suggested that whoever owned her first must have given her canned food and that's what she wants. So I finally gave in. I opened a can and put a dollop in her food bowl. She looked at it, looked up at me, and voiced a complaint. "What?" I said, "It's canned food. Eat it."

When I looked in her bowl later, she had carefully eaten the dry food all around the canned food, without touching the tiniest bit of the moist stuff. I gave it to Unicom. I suggested to Randy that maybe what they really fed her was caviar and she's shit out of luck.

Uni is doing well. He's healed up to the point where I decided to leave off with the syringe and flushing. He has his pill and a dose of acidophilus, which he seems to especially hate the taste of.

Fri, 17 Nov 2000
Tosca suddenly went berserk and began racing around the entire office at a 100 mph. When she does that, she makes these odd deep short sounds halfway between a meow and yowl.

This gets Diva going, and soon I have two insane black cats racing around.

Tue, 21 Nov 2000
The small cat bed continues to be popular. Owl looks grandiose in it, even though he overflows it somewhat.

Late this afternoon, I looked down there and saw the enormous fluffy bulk of Theseus...with the head of Achilles peering out from under Theseus' tail! Achilles was sleeping here and Theseus decided to simply pile on top of him. I guess Achilles, who can be grumpy, didn't mind having a silly fluff-blanket on him. But I was laughing to hard, Theseus became paranoid and ran off.

Hmmm, Theseus and Achilles sleeping together. How mythical.

Tue, 21 Nov 2000
I laid a piece of paper to the right of my keyboard, so I could refer to it while I worked on a layout for a business card.

So naturally, Tribble jumped onto the desk and sprawled over the piece of paper.

I slipped it out from under him and put it to my left.

A minute later, Tribble got up, walked around the keyboard and spread himself over the piece of paper again.

I slipped it out from under him and put it back on the right side.

He walked over there and plopped on it.

I figure this could go on FOREVER.

Wed, 22 Nov 2000
Sayeth a friend:
< No, no. You make a copy of the sheet and set one on *each* side of the keyboard. Even a cat can't be *visibly* in two places at once.

You think you can trick a cat that easily? No, my friend. They know which is the *real* piece of paper, the one you actually need to use and look at.

Sat, 25 Nov 2000
Going away for even a very short trip makes the moggies more appreciative. Nefreet showed her happiness when we got home by annihilating a rubber band and racing around the house. Unicom was spunky and happy. The office cats mobbed me.

This morning I heard an unfamiliar yowling outside the office and saw my cats reacting to Something Out There. I tiptoed outside and found the yellow tom lurking outside. He quickly trotted down the hillside and headed for home. It looks like I'll have to make yet another attempt to trap him before he and Uni get into another awful fight.

Sun, 10 Dec 2000
Tribble is such a weird cat. It's not weird that he likes to lie at my feet where he's sure to get his tailed rolled over and caught under the wheels of my office chair. That's perfectly normal cat behavior.

And it isn't weird that he never seems to learn from his, nor will he ever move of his own volition. This is also perfectly normal cat behavior.

What's weird is that he's doesn't utter a sound when my chair is sitting on his tail. I might feel a slight odd tugging at the chair, look down, and Tribble is struggling to free his tail, without so much as a meep. Any normal cat would be howling and squalling and giving me hell. Not Tribble. He's too mellow to be a cat.

Artemis is not mellow. Especially when I'm trying to clip her extra toenails before they grow around in a circle back into her feet. I can usually manage the "thumbs" on front without major anguish, but when I try to get the back claws, it's like wrestling a fat, heavy, hairy squid.

Mon, 11 Dec 2000
Poor old Tribble! He was sleeping on the right side of my desk and apparently forgot how close he was to the edge. He tossed around in his sleep and rolled himself right off the edge. He bounced off the top of my very tall, plastic wastebasket, then tumbled into the Rubbermaid box I use to cover my keyboard when I'm not using it. Cat and box hit the floor making a lot of noise, whereupon Querida leapt out of nowhere and attacked Tribble out of some bizarre "kill it!" instinctive reaction.

I quickly fended Querida off and scooped Tribble up, soothed him and made sure he wasn't hurt. I think he was pretty confused by the whole thing, but seems fine now.

Achilles chowed down on another gopher this afternoon. I had the pleasure of more snout and guts gathering. I sure would like to know whether the old boy is catching them himself or stealing them from another moggy.

Thu, 21 Dec 2000
After certain hikes, Randy and I would come home with the scent of some mystery plant on our shoes and it would drive Nefreet crazy. She'd sniff our shoes endlessly, roll around on them and generally carry on as though it were super-catnip. She likes catnip, but isn't the dedicated niphead that Unicom or Owl are.

I caught her carrying on in the same fashion outside, rolling upside on a steep hill, going berserk on top of a plant. It's a smallish plant, not a bush or shrub, that grows in clumps. I could only detect a faint, odd, but not unpleasant smell. Not a sage or mint. It's in its dead, dried up winter phase right now, so I can't really get a clue what it is. Whatever it is, it sends Nefreet to the moon.

Fri, 22 Dec 2000
Owl heaved himself into my lap to have a nice lie-down and some petting when Tosca decided that his tail was the coolest toy ever invented. She kept batting and attacking his tail while Owl ignored her with determination. But the more she went after his tail, the more he twitched it, and the more he twitched it, the more she went after it. This went on for a few minutes before Owl made some small complaints, then abruptly surged off my lap and bounced away in a huff.

The fur on his back was looking very nice, growing back in beautifully, so naturally when I came down this morning, he had denuded large sections of it again. Sigh...

Fri, 29 Dec 2000
On xmas day, we cooked duckling with orange sauce ('twas delicious) and we gave the giblets to Unicom. He enjoyed that and what he didn't finish off, I gave to the rest of the Horde, who also loved.

But that taste of organs must have awakened Uni's tastebuds. He served up his own xmas dinner in the form of a large, fat gopher, the first one he's caught in ages.

Fri, 29 Dec 2000
I guess Querida didn't like being left out of the gopher-hunting description. She has just dragged one into the office and is crunching away on it as I type. Krunch, krunch, munch.