Tales of the
Moggy Horde
cat face
How I learned
To Stop Worrying
And Love Bast

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cat line drawing
Poor Uni isn't doing very well on the new regimen. Every morning, he comes down here by my office and starts eating grass like a lawnmower. We found one place where he threw up, but if he's eating that much grass, he has to be throwing up on a daily basis.

Then this morning, before he was given any pills or Glucosamine or anything, he got about two feet from the door and threw up an enormous pile of undigested food on the back deck. Then he went off to eat grass. Overall, he seems to be having a bad stomach problem with one of the medications, while not improving noticeably in his joints. His limp was very bad.

I called the vet and discussed what's going on. She thinks the most likely culprit is the Glucosamine. He's off that for now while we watch to see whether or not his stomach calms down.

Other than that, Uni seems to be a happy boy and in good spirits. He's still loving and playful, which isn't bad for a cat that must be having a significant amount of joint pain.

I was sitting at my computer, minding my own business, trying to work when I was startled by a loud KRASH! KAWHAM! BAM! BAM! THUD!

My office is more than just an office. It's office, library, storage shelves and workbench area where tools and other hardware paraphernalia lives. Because of the cats (and the abundance of cat hair), I keep lots of small odds and ends inside plastic containers.

As near as I can tell, Blue and Puck were farting around on the top of the adjacent shelves and Blue either fell or was forced into an unplanned jump, landed badly and send one of the containers plummeting to the floor at high speed where the contents rather exploded out of it. What a mess.

Worse yet, there were TEN THOUSAND PUSHPINS amongst the debris, now scattered far and wide on the floor with curious cats prancing over. I had visions of dainty cat paws stepping on pushpins while I'm on hands and knees rapidly picking them up.

Afterwards, Puck came around and did his absolute best to play Sweet Innocent Pussycat.

Right at noon, Tribble trotted inside with lunch -- a large, very live gopher. This drove me to quickly vacate the office and head up to the house for my own non-squealing, non-kicking lunch. Of course, I still have to pick up the gopher head when I came back down to the office after lunch. It's a good thing that years of living with cats have given me an iron stomach.

We got to observe a moment between Puck and Nefreet when they both got onto a ledge outside the kitchen window. We watched closely in case things turned into a fight. Nefreet had her "imp from hell" look on at first, until she heard us laughing at her. They both went through a routine of sort-of staring, then looking away as though the other didn't exist. Puck gave a big yawn. I wonder if that's the cat equivalent of "Ho hum, you bore me." or "See my fangs? Don't mess with me." After a few minutes of this, Puck decided to go elsewhere.

Tosca came very close to being Tossed Cat this afternoon. I didn't let the horde out this morning because it was raining and I had to head into town for a few hours. I didn't want to worry about them being outside while I was gone.

Naturally, the Horde doesn't like those days when they have to be cooped up. When I got home and went down to the office, Tosca made a break for it and came up against the side of my foot. She was given a slightly airborne lift back inside. Not enough to harm her, of course. I've developed a number of cat-blocking techniques. She was tossed just enough to get the point across. No door rushing allowed.

Uni seems to be feeling better on his regimen of Prednisone and baby aspirin. He still tends to eat some grass, but not like he was before. He had a wild playful stint with a piece of string tonight, entirely on his own. And yet he's still limping quite badly. It could be that his elbow is too messed up with calcium deposits to get rid of the limp, but we're managing to lessen the pain. I sure wish he could tolerate the glucosamine.

Nefreet and Unicom decided to have an altercation at 3 a.m. That was an interruption we really could have done with out. Nefreet is such a jealous little piece of work.

I was foolishly hoping that Nefreet might manage to get along with Puck. Have a fresh start, that sort of thing. No such luck. I let her out today, knowing Puck was right outside. They sniffed noses. For a second, it looked promising, then Puck whacked her. I intervened before it could get worse. I'm afraid Nefreet is destined never to have a feline friend in this life.

Puck also needs to stop being a mischief-maker. He got bored this afternoon, so he started harassing Tosca again.

Querida's been quite affectionate lately. She's never been a lap cat, but recently she's been climbing into my lap. Then she just sits there, purring loudly, not even bothering to lie down. She's an odd old girl.

When Tribble wants attention, he wants it *now*. I gave him a small bit of petting, but it wasn't enough. When I knelt down to give Puck some attention, Tribble simply leapt up and stood on my back. Nor was he inclined to move.

"What do you think you're doing, Tribble?"

Purrr, purrr, purrr...

And y'know what? I let him stay there, until he decided to jump onto the desk. No, cats don't run my life, no sirree.

Puck decided to have another bout of Catch The Cursor. He gave it about two full minutes this time, before deciding it wasn't worth the frustration.

He moved on to hang over the edge of the desk and bat at something. I was concentrating on the screen, so I didn't pay attention at first. A tiny corner of the back of my mind, however, was going, "Aw, he's batting at something. How cute. Wait...what's there? Oh, the power cords and phone cords and...uh oh."

But the "uh oh" part arrived a split-second too late. In the instant I turned that way, the phone went crashing onto the floor and began madly beeping its home base in what could only be the cordless phone equivalent of S.O.S. Puck, of course, fled the scene.

We got home late at night after being gone on a business trip for a couple of days. Unicom was desperate to go outside, but we didn't dare let him out then as all we wanted to do was crawl into bed and collapse.

To make up for it, Randy let Uni and Nefreet out first thing this morning. In not time at all, Uni trotted onto the deck with a large gopher in his mouth. We praised him highly. He wanted to bring it inside, of course. We said no, of course. He had his gopher breakfast and has refused to come inside all day. He's been a happy boy, sleeping in the sun with a belly full of rodent.

The other moggies were equally happy to get outside again, so I let them stay out a bit later in the afternoon than usual.

Randy was rubbing Nefreet's belly when he felt something odd. We did a close inspection and finally found a rather nasty bite wound just below her left front leg. It starts as a bite, then elongates to a tear as though the tooth caught in the skin.

We then had the fun of tending to it, which required shaving the fur away from the bite, cleaning it, and putting on some anti-biotic. Nefreet was a pretty good girl for most of it, but she didn't like the hydrogen peroxide part at all.

It's not bad enough for a trip to the vet, but we'll have to keep cleaning and checking it for another few days.

Now we're wondering who she got into such a serious fight with to get bitten on her belly.

Randy and I huffed up the hill from our late afternoon walk yesterday to find a new gopher hole perilously close to some flowers and bushes we're trying to save from the pernicious monsters. We have gophers like the sky has stars. We brought Unicom over to the hole and entreated him to catch the gopher. He wandered off looking bored.

But by Bast, an hour later when I came up from my office, there was a headless gopher lying at the bottom of the back stairs, laid out like a gift. All Hail Unicom! The Mighty Gopher Slayer!

To which I must add, All Hail Tribble! The Other Mighty Gopher Slayer! He just brought a big gopher into my office where he tossed it around like a basketball for a while. Now he's into the crunching part. I'm trying to pretend I can't hear it. Crunch. Crunch.

Tribble is on a roll. He caught another gopher and chowed it down.

I had a chat with my vet. Querida is badly congested and has been for months. She has something akin to a chronic cold. Poor girl is blowing bubbles out her nose and having trouble breathing. I was hoping getting the thyroid under control and having her teeth taken care of would help her improve, but no such luck. So she is now on Prednisone to see if we can get the inflammation to clear up.

I also chatted with her about Uni and how bad is left elbow is. We're increasing his Prednisone, too, since he's such a big cat. But there really isn't much else she can do. Randy did some net research and discovered that UC Davis has a department that will do arthroscopy on small animals. We're going to investigate the possibilities, at least, though I suspect it's beyond what we can afford at the moment. Not to mention being about a 3 hour drive from here.

Nefreet's bite wound is healing up just fine. No problems there.

Owl is showing some improvement, with most of the fur growing in on his back. I have to be more disciplined about giving him two anti-histamines a day, though. When I got slack and only gave him one, he began denuding himself again. He's too smart for the pill-inside-the-treat trick (which continues to work great for Querida and Tribble). Owl quickly learned to eat everything but the pill. Now it's a matter of insert pill down throat, then give treat. He likes the treats enough that this is working fairly well.

The double dose of Prednisone turned Uni into a Creature of the Night. He just wanted to be outside and hunt. None of this hanging around with the humans for petting nonsense. When I stepped outside to go to my office, our hill was enshrouded in mist so thick, I could see it streaming right past me. Uni must have used it to his advantage, though we didn't know that until we found gopher guts on the back deck this morning.

Puck spent half the day on the roof of my office. He went zooming up a big oak tree and from there onto the roof, then wouldn't come down. I've only finally managed to get him inside a couple of hours after the time I usually would.

I tried taking photos of the cats as they hung around outside the office with me. Puck kept shaking his wet paws from the branch of the tree and raining droplets of water down onto my face as I tried to take shots of him. None of my cats want to cooperate with the camera. They either run off, or want to be right next to me. Owl glued himself to my legs, which made it impossible to get shots of him. I wanted to get shots of Diva racing around, but she's so blasted fast, I never could get off a shot in time.

Tribble's running around bouncing off the walls again, except he missed one of his bounces. Instead of landing on the cat bridge, he rebounded down onto a cardboard box. Fortunately, he's made of rubber and never seems to hurt himself. You'd never know he was a 15 year old cat.

The Master of the Mist was out on the hunt again last night. The mist that enshrouded us created an eerie stillness in which I could hear the pitter, pitter, pitter of water drops falling from the trees. Perhaps the stillness helps Unicom find the gophers. At any rate, in short order, he nabbed two of them. His fur was wet with mist, but he didn't care. It was gopher-slaying time.

Of course, I had the great fun of cleaning up the organs and snouts from the back deck this morning.

Every Sunday, Unicom and Nefreet get their rubdown with the anti-allergy liquid, the one thing that allows them to live in the house with Randy.

And every week, without exception, a few hours later Nefreet responds by leaving us a big, disgusting hairball. This has come to be known as "The Sunday Surprise". We've been waiting for The Sunday Surprise all afternoon. She finally delivered while we were having dinner.

Such is the perversity of cats.

You know you're in trouble when cats invade your dreams.

I dreamt I was in a large cityscape, following an endless line of hundreds of cats. The cats were following one after another single-file, winding through block after block of city streets. I had Owl, Artemis and Tribble with me, along with possibly one or two other of my cats. Somehow I knew that the purpose of this was to find water. This procession continued until I finally realized that the orange cat at the head of the line had no idea where it was going or how to find water.

I went inside a store (rather like a drugstore or large convenience store) where I got several bowls, filled them with water and put them out for all the cats. The people working the checkouts were friendly, so they didn't mind letting me do this. Then I set out catching my own cats and putting them into carriers so they wouldn't run off and get lost.

Even in my dreams, I'm herding cats.

I made the mistake of playing "catch the mousie" with Nefreet and not being a fast enough mouse. She was lying on a large sofa pillow, so I stuck my hand underneath it and made scratching noises. This is a game Randy and I often play with her. She loves going after the "mouse". Except this time she was too damn fast and I now have a long, painful slice on the entire side of my palm from the second knuckle of my thumb downwards. Yowtch!

Feline foils bid to make honest cat of him
29 January 2003

Be warned – a feline is scouring Spotswood's streets and taking whatever it fancies.

Dandelion (3), the kleptomaniac cat, first started collecting when he was a year old and in two years has stolen more than 700 items, according to his owner Sara Peacock.

"I own a cat burglar, he goes into peoples' homes and steals things," Miss Peacock said. "It's an anxiety thing. He wants to please me by bringing me home presents."

Read the rest of this hysterically funny story.

Just before we left for our business trip, I let the Horde outside briefly to enjoy the day before being locked up for the next couple of days. Puck got on top of my old car and was looking at something with quietly alarmed intent. I went over to investigate. From that point, there's a steep hillside down to the road, then another piece of hill across the way that is part of my property. On that other piece of hill, I saw a large, tawny, feline shape stalk over the crest and out of view. It's a shame I didn't have my glasses on. I wasn't quite able to make out enough details to determine whether it was a cougar or a really big bobcat. Give the general impression of size, I'm guessing it was a cougar.

The cats were fairly spooked. Most of them ran back inside the office to hang around me.

When I got back from the trip, the cats greeted us in their unique ways, but Knobby chose the most innovative. He threw up all over my tabletop scanner. This is why every piece of office equipment I have is covered by sturdy plastic, except when in immediate use.

Sunday was bath day and Nefreet left us not one, not two, but THREE Sunday Surprises.

For four days in a row, Puck tried out a new tactic to avoid being brought into the office after lunch along with the rest of the cats. His tactic was going up a tree, a different tree each day. Naturally, he couldn't be coaxed down. I had to wait two to three hours before I could get him inside. The last time he did this, I was outside calling him and looking for him and saw him race full-speed up the hill toward me, then go straight up the tree I standing by. But I tricked him. I got tall-guy Randy to come outside while Puck was on one of the lower branches. Randy was just able to reach Puck and pluck him out of the tree. I notice Puck didn't try the tree tactic today.

A friend sent me a delightful link. It's a homemade musical video about A Boy and His Cat. Be warned, if you have a slow connection like I do, it will take a looooong time to load. However, the funniest part for me was Puck's reaction. He went crazy trying to get at the cat inside the monitor. He knew there was a cat in there and was determined to whack it. He finally had to give up, though.

With a nice, wet morning outside, most of the cats have stayed inside. This leads to mischief. Puck and Tosca decided to have words. Usually Puck is the aggressor, but this time for some reason it was Tosca who was determined to make trouble. I made her back off a couple of times, then I got fed up and carried her to the door where I deposited her outside. Let her burn off the energy somewhere else.

Lately, Puck has been cuddling up with other cats. I found Owl and Puck squeezed companionably together in one cat bed. Later, it was Sly and Puck side by side in the same cat bed.

Querida is amusing. She's now so fond of getting her pills mooshed up inside the soft treats, that she's taken to demanding her "breakfast" right after I get down there. She takes up a sitting position near my desk and quacks at me.

I thought there could never be anything more disgusting than a pile of cold gopher guts that have been rained on all night (Uni's leftovers from last night). I was wrong.

What is far more disgusting is Nefreet deciding to *eat* the wet gopher guts that have been lying in the rain all night. I was sufficiently grossed out to rush onto the back deck with a plastic bag and scoop up the guts before Ms. Gopher Lips could finish. Such a pleasant thing to do before breakfast.

Yesterday was rubdown day for the two house cats. This time, immediately after I gave Nefreet her bath, I also squirted a glob of anti-hairball gel down her throat. And so far, no Sunday Surprise! I will have to add this step to the routine.

Owl nearly gave me a heart attack. I went to give him his nightly pill and couldn't find him. He's such a big cat, that I rarely ever have trouble finding him, plus he has a set number of preferred spots where he usually resides. I was on the verge of panic when I finally found his huge bulk squeezed into an itty-bitty hidey-hole that is one of Querida's frequent sleeping spots. I'm amazed he could even fit in there, but I remember when he first arrived here and how effectively he could hide himself in the tiniest back corner of a bathroom cabinet. I've come to believe he is actually a shapeshifter who masquerades as a Siamese cat when it suits him.

We just back back from another short business trip. The moggies were all over me last night, taking turns in my lap. Puck took his turn, but Querida got most of the lap time.

Randy noticed this morning that Nefreet has a bite on her right ear. Luckily, it didn't go all the way through or leave a notch. She and Uni must have gotten into it while we were gone.

I was cleaning the cat boxes in the office when Puck ran in growling, then other cats ran in looking freaked out. I thought the cougar might have come back, so I went outside to investigate. Instead, I spotted a large, but very starved looking coyote. He had a bad limp. My guess is that he was injured and hasn't been able to hunt properly. Maybe he was on the lookout for some cat snacks. He took off when he heard me there.

Then Randy and I spent the next half hour coaxing Uni and Sly out of an oak tree, where they had wisely taken refuge. Actually, we mainly worried about getting Uni down because of his bad elbows. Randy got up on a ladder and carried Uni down from a low branch. Sly can manage fine by himself.

Theseus has just been playing gopher basketball. He brought in a nice little gopher snack which he had to toss around for a while first. Theseus' winter coat is now matted solid, beyond all hope of combing redemption. I think I may have to resort to cutting off the dreadlocks. He gets like this every winter. Then when it warms up, he gets his thinner summer coat and it's no problem.

Theseus developed a strange looking lump right at the corner of his mouth. He's had at least one of these before and I'm as baffled this time as I was last time. I kept an eye on it for over a week, then it finally opened and drained. I cleaned the blood and yucky stuff off his cheek. It's like a tiny cyst or abscess, except it doesn't look quite like those. Maybe he gets a bite there that gets infected. I can't quite figure it.

Thanks to the rain, I have damp cats coming in to press themselves against me for comfort. Their comfort, clearly, not mine.

It's gotten so that every day after lunch, I have to go in search of the Puckster to bring him inside. He refuses to get with the program of coming inside with the rest of the Horde. One day he was down the hill beyond my top barbed wire fence and I was wondering how to lure him back up when he heard people trotting on horseback down below. Puck turned and *raced* up to where I was, even though the horses were about a mile away.

Yesterday, rather than go searching, I decided to see whether Puck would eventually come to the office on his own. Then I got heavily involved in my work and forgot about him. It was very late into dusk when he finally came and "knocked" at the cat door (which was blocked). So much for that idea. I'll have to continue the locate&carry missions for now.

I have a wireless mouse.

I got the wireless mouse because I got tired of the cats playing with the long cord on the regular mouse and pulling it onto the floor. The Logitech wire mouse is wonderful. It works great and solved the problem. But it runs on two AA batteries that tend to run down in a couple of months because it never actually turns off. It stays powered by the batteries all night.

For that reason, I've been trying to get into the habit of taking the batteries out at night and replacing them in the morning. I'm not very good at remembering to do this, but last night I remembered. Then I did something stupid. It was late and I was tired and in a hurry to get up to the house, so I left the batteries lying on top of the Rubbermaid box that I use to cover the keyboard.

The readers of this blog are surely snickering by now. Yes, I came down this morning and there was only one battery left on the box. Not a big deal. I keep spare batteries around. What disturbs me is that I can't find the other battery. I searched every inch of my desk, then every inch of the floor around my desk. I searched in the wastebasket. I searched under things and around things and between things. I widened the search the floor of the rest of the office. Bast only knows what the moggy or moggies have done with that battery. I'm not happy about a somewhat toxic object lying around where some fool cat might decide to chew on it. I can only hope it was whacked into some obscure, out of reach corner where it can lie forgotten until some future archaeologist excavates it from the ruins of my office.

P.S. Uni had a gopher for breakfast.


I found the battery. It had somehow been batted way up under the large plastic floor mat I have over the carpet for my office chair.

Occasionally, I like to light a cone of incense in the office to offset some of the other odors. I looked over and realized that Theseus had positioned himself right next to the burning incense. I mean right next to it. I got over there just in time to prevent him from setting his butt on fire. The incense was gone, the air held the faint scent of burning cat fur and he seemed utterly oblivious to the small patch of burnt fur on his flank. Yeesh.

The Spring Gopher Massacre continues. Unicom had a late night gopher snack. Theseus has just finished playing Gopher Basketball and is crunching down his breakfast. Die, gophers, die!

I've come to think of Puck and Blue as The Tabby Mafia because they like to hang out together. I found them crammed together in one cat bed, heads and paws going every which way. It was adorable.

Later, Puck got between my keyboard and monitor and took a nap with his head on Owl's butt. A few hours after that, I knelt to pet Owl who was curled up in the aforementioned cat bed and suddenly up popped Puck's head from behind Owl. Puck the cuddle-bunny.

Except for the moment he got on the back of my chair and savaged my pony-tail. Or ran around the office picking fights left and right because he was bored.

We were amused to hear Nefreet at the dining room glass doors chattering the way she does when she's lusting after a bird that she sees outside. Only this time, she was chattering at a bat that was swooping close to the deck, back and forth, right in front of her.

Sometimes, we sit in the living room and watch "bat tv". Our lamps attract moths to the top of the high cathedral windows and we can watch the bats dart around scooping up the moths.

I got careless for a few days and only gave Owl one anti-histamine a day instead of two. As punishment, he removed a small patch of hair from his back. The rest of the fur on his back is growing in beautifully, so it's a minor set-back, but I simply must be more disciplined about pilling him twice a day.

Randy carried Puck into the office this afternoon and announced the Puckster had been playing with a snake. I trotted up the driveway to have a look where we found Unicom had taken possession. Uni was batting at the snake and the snake was coiling and striking.

I hauled Uni up in my arms and took him into the house, an action he didn't much appreciate. Randy and I had a good long look at the snake. It was small and was of the type we've seen before where we have trouble determining whether it's a gopher snake or a young rattler with no rattles. The gopher snakes have evolved the unfortunate traits of a similar set of markings, flattening out their heads when threatened, coiling and shaking their tails in imitation of a rattlesnake. It might be a good defense in the wild, but against people, it's deadly.

We finally concluded it was a beneficial gopher snake. I got a broom and dustpan. We "helped" the snake into the dustpan and I dumped him in the deep grasses further down the hill so he could safely escape from moggy predation.

We had let Uni outside for his usual evening machinations about an hour earlier when it began to rain. Randy quickly went to the dining room doors to see if Uni wanted it.

Uni dashed inside...with a mouthful of gopher. Not-quite-dead-yet gopher. We didn't want to toss him out in the rain, so I tried to direct Uni plus gopher into the back hall which at least has a linoleum floor. Uni went, but I had to pick the almost dead gopher up by the tail and deposit it in the back hall.

Then later I had the delightful fun of cleaning up the leftovers. Meanwhile, Uni was going crazy with wanting to go back out and find another gopher. I let him out onto the front porch which is covered. If he wants to get wet gopher-hunting, more power to him.

Unicom the Mighty Gopher Slayer wasted no time getting his second gopher last night. When I came up to the house, Randy proudly pointed out a very wet cat and the remains of a gopher on the front porch. I noted the irony that Uni complains vociferously when I have to wet him down partially for his anti-allergen treatment, but he's perfectly happy to get wetter than that in pursuit of gopher.

There was a moat outside my office door this morning after the downpour. Tribble and Theseus rushed to the door, looked at the water and backed away. I decided not to open the cat door, since there was no way they could use it without going through the moat, and I wasn't in the mood for a ton of wet, muddy moggy paws tracking across everything.

By noon the rain cleared, the sun came out, the moat receded and I let the horde out for a brief romp.

Having romped and eaten, they're settling in for the afternoon. Owl is taking a nap on my escape key, thus tricking me into thinking my software is on the fritz until I remind myself of rule #1 of glitching software: "First, check to see what a cat might be doing."

We just had a one-act play of Cat Follies. Randy had come down to my office and when he stepped outside, he found that Theseus had a live, struggling gopher in his mouth. He praised Theseus and I decided to come out with the camera and get a couple of shots. Between Randy and the camera, Theseus got discombobulated and dropped the gopher.

The gopher made a ran for the tall weeds near me, so I blocked it and kept blocking it and nudging it back into the open while one useless damned moggy after another came by, took a sniff and wandered off. The irate gopher ran around, biting at my boots and not one of my blasted cats will go after it. Uni was up in the house asleep, or he'd have taken care of it instantly. If old Achilles were still around, he would have dispatched it in seconds.

The gopher dashed past me into the open door of the office. I jumped inside and booted it out. It ran back inside. I booted it out again and shut the door. Randy brought Puck over. Puck laid down next to the now somewhat battered gopher and gave it one half-assed pat of the paw, apparently unable to work up the interest to do more.

Randy gave up in disgust and went back to the house. I finally picked the gopher up by the tail and tossed it over to Theseus, who anchored the gopher with one big paw. I left him to his own devices. When I went out a few minutes later, there was no sign of Theseus or the gopher. He's either eaten somewhere or it has escaped to nurse its wounds underground. Take your pick.

You might recall that I posted a story about a week or so back in which Theseus had his butt singed by plopping down next to a cone of incense I was burning.

It turns out I had a closer call than I realized. Only last night, I happend to notice a black spot on the wooden, matchstick blinds. When I investigated, I saw that what had actually happened is that when I spooked Theseus into jumping up and running off, the clump of burning incense was tossed through the air and landed on the rolled up bottom portion of the blinds, which is why I never found anything more than residue of ashes on the incense burner.

The incense proceeded to burn a nice, round hole through the matchstick-thin wood of the blinds. Luckily, it didn't set the blinds on fire, but it looks like it came close, or at least had the potential. Yeesh.

Cone incense is hereby banned from this office.

The Spring Gopher Massacre continues. Since last night:


And the night is young. Last night, Uni caught his first gopher within five minutes of going outside. He had two last night and one tonight, but I wouldn't be surprised if he manages a second one tonight.

Puck and Diva both gave me fits by refusing to come inside after lunch. I managed to "lure" Diva inside finally by pretending I'd lost interest in her. But Puck doesn't fall for that. He goes down the hill below the barbed wire fence and ignores me. Today, I grabbed a couple of large bulldog clips, hiked to a loose section of wire, clipped the bottom two strands of wire up to the top one and made a handy access point. Puck didn't even try to run off as I hiked down to him and hauled him up to the office.

Theseus has a bad butt. A smelly, nasty, unpleasant butt. He's been having intestinal problems compounded by being so furry...I'll spare you the details except to say that he stinks and that every time he jumps onto my desk, I chase him off in horror. I need to come up with a method for cleaning him up, a task I so do not want to confront.

I've also been wrestling a bit at a time with his matted dreadlocks. His tactic for avoiding this is to keep moving around in circles or figure 8's constantly as I try to work on the knots. I either give up or get dizzy and fall over. Today, I finally gave up on one knot I've been working on for a week and cut the blasted thing off. There's still plenty more to work on yet.

I found that I had a couple of special packets of moist wipes designed to clean up dog butts. Consequently, I gritted my teeth, donned a rubber glove and went after Theseus.

Most cats provide a handy, flexible pad of skin at the scruff of the neck which makes it easy to hold onto them. Instead, Theseus is more like one of those football players who is built like a refridgerator. No neck. I grabbed hold of his no-neck the best I could and proceeded to work at the compacted globs of disgustingness that had taken over his rear end.

Theseus was damned pissed off about it and I can tell you I wasn't enjoying it much, either. However, I did manage to improve the situation, though he needs more work yet. At least I no longer smell him coming from ten feet away. I smell him when he's about one foot away. I'll have to pick up some baby wipes on my next shopping expedition so I can finish the job, then he may be due for a visit to the vet, since the intestinal problem appears to be chronic at this point.

Owl has denuded a couple patches of his back *again*. It's hard to keep up the anti-histamines because he hates taking them so much. I have a painful puncture wound on the side of one knuckle as proof of just how much he hates it.

Blasted Nefreet went out this morning and killed a small bird. I coudn't quite tell what it was. Possibly a young finch. I don't mind the cats killing as many rodents as they want, but I really don't like them to get the birds.

I had to play Find The Puck yet again. Today's game required using the barbed wire "arch" and hiking down the hill a ways.

I have a large lump of contented Siamese in my lap, quietly purring and making it tough to type.

"I just realized," Randy said, "that every time you have to get all your cats into your office, you're doing a cat scan."

"And an MRI."


"Moggy Review Inventory."

Blue decided to be a Delinquent this morning, picking fights every two minutes. I was finally forced to chase him around the office with a water squirter until he fled outside.

Unicom has caught one gopher a night for the past three nights. This morning, he got nippified (hit up the catnip planter on the back deck), trounced Nefreet (whom Randy had to rescue) then picked a fight with Theseus, whereupon I hauled Uni inside.

Both Uni and Nefreet gave me the Spitting Hiss treatment during their anti-allergy rubdowns.

Uni's on a roll. He got another gopher this morning.

I called for Randy to come outside and help me rescue a striped racer. This is a beautiful and harmless snake with a long, slender, nearly-black body and thin yellow stripes for its entire length, and a pale yellow belly. This was the largest one I've seen yet, a bit over a foot long. He was lying utterly still partway across the driveway. I've had to rescue this type of snake from my cats many times in the past.

Randy and I squatted down to have a good look at the snake while one cat after another came prancing by, over and across the snake with no clue it was there since the snake had the very good sense not to move. I ran my fingers lightly down the snake's back to the end of its extremely thin, pointed tail. The snake curled the end of its tail around my finger! That was very cool. It then held the curl up in the air. Sly discovered the curl and began sniffing the snake, at which point we needed to expedite the rescue. Randy carefully picked it up and deposited it in the high, thick weeds where it quickly disappeared.

A bit later, I was standing on the driveway outside my office, surrounded by ten of my cats lying in various poses around me. One of them was Uni, who hasn't co-existed all that peacefully with the rest of the Horde in the past. Now that Uni is a privileged house cat, he has only occasional contact with the others, aside from Nefreet, which doesn't help any. I saw Uni stroll down toward Knobby. Since those two have had vicious fights in the past, I remained outside to make sure there was no trouble.

Knobby got tense, which made the other cats get tense. Blasted Puck really started things by jumping on Knobby himself which set off a Cat Grenade. There was a wild flurry of fighting for about ten seconds and I found myself surrounded by a bunch of puffed up males caterwauling at one another. I had to wade in like a burly Irish cop. "What's all this, then? Break it up! There's nothing to see here! Move along!"

Tosca wandered around as though trying to decide whether to cheer on one of the guys or just get into a fight herself. The wailing continued. I "escorted" Uni up the driveway and herded various troublemakers away from one another until they finally calmed down.

Cats is a four-letter word.

Unicom wasted no time at all going out into the light rain last night and snaring a soggy gopher. Uni was extremely anxious to go out, in spite of the weather. We suspect he knows it's good gopher-catching conditions. We were speculating that the rain might force the gophers to the surface to seal off their holes or repair holes that collapse, little expecting a predator to be waiting for them.

We kindly let Uni bring it into the back hall for dining, and I had the fun of cleaning up the leftovers later.

Puck curled up in my lap a little while ago. That's one of the first times he's done that. I really enjoyed it. Lots of moggies lying around asleep on this wet afternoon. Kate is using Querida as a pillow for her head. Querida is too deeply asleep to notice.

After rain and snow flurries this morning, the weather settled down to just plain wet. But around mid-evening, we were suddenly hit with a powerful burst of hail. Very small hail, fortunately. As we stood looking at it accumulate on the back deck, Randy remembered, "Unicom's outside!"

We ran to various doors calling and calling for him as the hail kept on coming. Finally, I went to the back door once again, called a few times, and Uni made a mad dash from under my car and up the back steps. He's opted to remain a warm and dry indoor moggy for the rest of the night.

Theseus paid a visit to the vet this afternoon., Theseus was hauled off to the vet. I got to do the paying. I got off more lightly than I expected. He railed at me the entire way there. I took him in because he's had a cyst-like growth in the corner of his mouth for weeks that hasn't gone away, plus his intestinal problems.

I had vaguely remembered Theseus having this thing on his mouth before, but I had completely forgotten that it had been surgically removed until the vet saw it in the chart. Apparently, this sort of thing is fairly common in cats. She gave him an anti-inflammatory shot to see if that will clear it up. If not, he's in for a second surgery on it.

She also shaved the disgustingness from his rear end and a few of the remaining dreadlocks on his flanks as well. Whatever he has is intermittent with no sign of it at the moment. As a precaution, she put a variety of worm-killing pills down his throat and we'll just have to see how it goes.

He was quiet as a little lamb all the way home.

Oh, yeah, I forgot to mention. Theseus also wins the heavyweight prize of the Moggy Horde, weighing in at 18 lbs!

I was Pucked over today. All the other moggies came in after lunch,but not Puck. I called for him and looked for him. No sign.

Around mid-afternoon, when we had to go into to town, we called for him and looked for him. Nothing.

When we got home around 6:30, we called and looked again. This time, he finally showed up and we hauled him inside, the little snot.

The moggies had a party on my desk last night. A wild party, from the looks of it. My keyboard and the Rubbermaid container I keep over it had been knocked off the desk, and the keyboard was hanging almost to the floor by its cord. One speaker and a spare mousepad were knocked off. The large wastebasket was knocked over. Much mess and things askew. Innocent faces all around, of course.

Puck happened to be next to the office door after lunch, so I nabbed him then and there. While I was trying to get Blue inside, Puck managed to spurt past me and get out again. I went for him. He tried to make another fast getaway, but I made a luck grab and got him. No going walkabout today.

It's a rude, blustery, temperamental day with a storm threatening, and the moggies aren't at all happy about it. A few of the hardier ones went outside for a while, but soon burst back inside through the cat door, saying "it's crazy out there!"

It's the wind, I think. Cats are geared to movement and I suspect that when there's too much wind, it overloads their sensory equipment.

Alas for the poor moggies. It's storming and raining, and they've had little time outside. The big furries, Theseus and Tribble, braved it for briefed moments, but that was it. I'll be gone for a week visiting family, so today was their only chance to be outside before being locked up for a week. They'll be pampered and loved by my petsitter, but they're not going to like having to stay inside. Poor babies. I just hope my office will be in one piece when I return.

I'm still out of town, so I have no new moggy stories to post, but Randy sent me email with this amazing story in it, which he has kindly given me permission to share:

I let Uni in because it was raining outside at about 9:00. At about 9:30 he went over to the sliding glass door and started growling. I looked over at him and his tail was as puffed out as I'd ever seen it. I got up from the couch, went over and turned on the deck light, but didn't see anything - until I looked over to where the living room windows are. And there was a bobcat, standing on its hind legs, stretched out, with its paws resting on a living room window, and looking into the living room, right across from where you usually sit on the couch. I don't know if it saw its reflection and didn't know what to make of it, or if it was just trying to figure out what glass is, but as it was standing there it kind of tapped the window with one paw, like Uni would do if he was testing to see if something on the ground was alive - you know, kind of like a low impact test strike. I tapped on the sliding glass door to get its attention (Uni is growling really loudly all of this time - sounding about twice his size), and the bobcat looks over at me, absolutely unconcerned, and then looks back into the living room. Finally he goes back down on all fours and slowly walks towards the bedroom where I can't see him anymore. I kept looking for it, but haven't seen him/er again. What a cool experience. It was a healthy looking animal - gray and white with black spots - mostly white belly - about twice the size of Uni.

Having returned from a nine-day trip, I entered the house and called out to Unicom and Nefreet. I called in vain. A few minutes later, I found them on the bed. They yawned in my general direction.

At least I was mobbed by the happy Horde in my office. Not being quite as spoiled as the house cats, they were glad to see me.

I had to make an emergency run to the feed store for more cat litter. I was looking over some of their alternative brands and asking questions when I had the following peculiar conversation with the man who was helping me. I had just explained the respiratory problems I have with clay-based litter.

"Have you tried lay crumbles?"
"Lay crumbles."
"Lay crumbles."
"I can't even figure out what you're saying."
"It's chicken feed."
"Chicken feed?!!!"
"One of my other customers read about it on the internet. She said it works the same as this cat litter."
"You mean it clumps?"
"That's what she says."
"And it's chicken feed?"
"What's it made of?"
"Corn. And it's only $4.50 for a 25 pound bag."
"I'll try it."

And that is why my cats currently have one large box filled with what looks like honey-beige cat litter. This, however, is the most nutritious cat litter on the face of the planet. What it's actually made of is wheat middlings, ground corn, calcium carbonate, canola meal, rice bran, safflower, dehulled soybean meal, and a long list of vitamins and minerals. It's designed to help chickens lay better, stronger eggs. Unfortunately, it won't be eggs that my cats are laying in it.

But at that price, hell, I'll experiment. Stay tuned for further reports.

You could knock me over with a chicken feather. This stuff actually works! It clumps every bit as well as any of the clay litters, and even better than some of them. It's more lightweight and easy to deal with. I don't see any flaws with it so far, but will reserve final judgement until I've used it for a couple of weeks. At the moment, I'm a convert. Lay crumbles are my new cat litter of choice.

Out of curiosity, I googled on the terms "chicken feed" and cat. After going through twenty pages of results, I came across a couple of references. Kris Willison, who seems to breed Balinese and Javanese cats, mentions it on her page.

It also gets a mention on a Cat Chat page in a discussion of cat litters. There was one other mention on a page of dog health tips as an alternative for people who have dogs that want to eat cat litter.

As it turns out, the chicken feed may have problems that hadn't occurred to me. I told my petsitter (who has far more cats than I do) about it and she mentioned it to some other people. She received two negative comments in return. One person said the feed gets bugs in it, and the other person said it gets worms in it. Mealworms, maybe?

That's why I'm reserving final judgment until I've used it for a month or so.

Puck has played very hard to get the past couple of afternoons. He's taken to disappearing after lunch when I bring the rest of the cats in. Probably a reaction to being locked inside for over a week.

I'm not sure which is better on a rainy day -- letting the Horde go outside or not letting them. It's a choice between bored, antsy cats wanting to go out or satisfied cats trampling all over my desk with their little muddy feet.

Uni and Nefreet simply slept the day away.

I was sitting at my desk about to email some files, when I heard the loud and pitiful screams of terror of a bird right outside my office. It was late afternoon, so all of the office cats had been inside for hours. Uni never shows interest in birds. That left only one very likely culprit.

As quickly as I could hit "send", I jumped up and ran outside. Sure enough, there was Nefreet perched on one of the railroad ties that outline a parking area across from my office. As soon as she saw me, she hopped off the tie and trotted over to me. I investigated where she had been sitting. There were feathers everywhere in the long, tangled masses of native grasses and wildflowers. Lots of tremendously upset quail were skittering out of the grasses and making distressed sounds in the trees.

I looked carefully. There was a batch of large feathers and a lot of small, soft downy feathers, but there was no body. Nefreet wouldn't have had time to eat anything in the half a minute between me hearing the cries and getting outside. My best guess is that a lucky quail had a close call and is quivering in a tree contemplating the loss of quite a few feathers. I hope that's all it lost.

I was trying to concentrate on writing a piece of game dialogue when Puck, Lord of Mischief, decided it was time to savage my ponytail. He stood with his hind legs on the side wing of the desk, his front legs on the back of my chair, and delivered my ponytail a serious thrashing.

Satisfied he had slain the vicious ponytail, Puck curled up in my lap for a nap. A few minutes later, he launched out of my lap (digging into my legs as he went) and bounded over to an open window where a large lizard was sunning itself on the screen. The lizard was on a part of the screen covered by glass, so it was entirely safe, much to the Puckster's frustration.

The Great Chicken Feed Experiment continues. I heard secondhand that one of the problems with using chicken feed for cat litter is that it develops bugs and worms. I had a long discussion with the guy at the feed store who confirmed that a) if I had a big chest-style freezer (which I don't) I could freeze the feed for a couple of days and that would prevent the bugs; and b) the bugs are the exact same tiny moths that appear in old boxes of flour or grains. Quite harmless.

I have yet to see anything appear. Of the four large tubs I used for cat boxes, two have lay crumbles while the other two have a 50-50 mix of lay crumbles and clumping cat litter. The 50-50 mix works every bit as well as the plain chicken feed.

Unicom was extremely upset at being brought inside last night around ten. It was a full moon, a hunter's moon, and he was NOT ready to be incarcerated. He prowled restlessly around the house, refused to sit with us on the sofa, sat by the door, and made a lot of irritated, complaining noises, which for some odd reason we find quite endearing.

By this morning, all was forgiven and he came into the bedroom for his usual bout of Adoration by the Human Slaves.

I discovered that he'd left most of a gopher on the back deck. After I let the Horde loose from the office, Tribble quickly found it and had it for breakfast. That was not endearing. That was disgusting. But that's a cat for you. Nefreet will turn up her pert little nose at many of the treats we offer her, but she'll eat day old gopher guts.

One of my first actions of the morning was to rescue an unfortunate lizard that Diva had discovered. She had tossed it around a little bit, but it was unhurt and even had its tail intact.

I have been remiss, however, in celebrating some birthdays.

Tribble was born May 1, 1989, so he has just turned 14.

Querida's birthday is unknown, so I'm going to let her share her son's birthday of May 1st, which means she's has just turned 16, though she could actually be as old as 17 since I'm not quite sure of her birth year.

Knobby and Kate were born on or about 4/18/91, so they've both recently turned 12.

Unicom's birthdate is unknown, so I think I'll let him share the May 1st date, which means he just turned 13.

Nefreet, Uni's nemesis, is possibly 11, though she could be older.

Blue and Artemis, were born sometime in May-June 1995, so they're 8.

Theseus, Tosca, Diva and Sly have even more uncertain birth years and I have little to go on for even guessing at birthdays for them. Best guesses are: Theseus 9, Tosca 8, Diva 7, and Sly 10 or 11.

I don't have any birthday for Owl, either, but he has to be at least 10 now.

Which brings me to the youngster, Puck. Puck's actual birthday is unknown, of course, but it was in April of last year that I finally took charge of having him fixed. He would have been around a year old then. Given his nature as the Prince of Mischief, I've decided to give him the honorary birthday of April 1st, which means he is now 2 years and a couple of months old.

With my lifemate out of town for a couple of days, Unicom is put out at having a large chunk of his HAQ (Human Adoration Quota) missing. When I went to bed last night, Uni picked a fight with Nefreet so that when I opened the door to intervene, he could muscle his way inside. He jumped onto the bed and proceeded to complain vocally about the deviation from schedule and the lack of other human.

I felt so sorry for Uni that I let him spend the night on the bed with me. I had to shut the door or Nefreet would come in and there would be more feline fuss and bother. This was a mistake since Uni decided he wanted out of the bedroom at 5:30 am, just when I was getting some deep sleep, and woke me up open the door. I won't be doing that again tonight.

If you're in need of a good laugh, you must check out CAT PRIN. Turn your cat into a frog! Or, alternatively, a sheep, a rabbit, a chicken or Anne of Seven Gables. It's hysterical. Go see.

Lady Tosca-bella has come inside to lie on the desk next to me. Her back is adorned with a fetching decoration of cobwebs. I won't ask where she got them.

The moggies are enjoying the lovely weather. Gophers are being duly slain. My back deck has an area mottled with gopher blood where Uni likes to eat his victims.

I've been more consistent about giving Owl two anti-histamine a day and the fur on his back is growing in dark and luxuriant. There are still a couple of small spots he goes after and thins out, but they're minor compared to what he was doing.

The Great Chicken Feed Cat Litter Experiment is now a month old and I have yet to see any kind of insect or moth appear in the boxes.

I'm a bit worried about Kate. The past couple of days I've heard her making a low growl, which is unusual enough, but then I noticed she wasn't necessarily making it for any obvious reason such as another cat bothering her. I began paying more attention to it and I think she's suffering some kind of vague distress. She might have something caught in her throat, because she's making choke-like sounds, too. Or it might be something internal that's hurting her. She seems fine in every other respect.

I've put in a call to the vet's. Looks another vet bill is coming up.

I was woken way too early by a call-back from the vet's. I wasn't terribly coherent, but I got the gist of it. The vet was totally booked and my only option was to drop Kate off as soon as possible and leave her to be looked at whenever the vet could find a spare minute. I dragged myself out of bed, didn't even bother with breakfast and hauled the furry blimp that is Kate into town.

Kate is one of those cats that never makes a sound. She has a silent meow, or at best, she'll sound as though her hinges need a drop of oil. It is only when she's in the car being taken to the vet that she exhibits Voice. Suddenly, out of nowhere, come piteous meows from the Girl Who Does Not Talk. This time, though, her voice sounded rather strained.

A couple hours later, the vet called to say, yes, the signs are certainly vague. They did a blood test and everything looked fine. In general, no obvious problems except the swallowing and a wheeze when Kate's head was turned a certain way. Best guess is that she has a throat infection of some kind. She'll be on anti-biotics, with a warning to bring her back in if she doesn't improve in 3-4 days.

When I got home, Randy displayed about a two-inch scratch down the side of his face, just to side of his left eye.

"What happened?"

"I was playing 'doggy' with Nefreet."

"Then you got what you deserve."

"Yeah. It itches," said the man who is allergic to cats.

Randy likes to tease Nefreet by panting like a dog. It drives her nuts...more nuts than she already is. Usually, she just bites his hand or tries to take a piece out of his pants leg. This time, she got his face. If you're going to tease a Psycho-Kitty, you must be prepared for the consequences.

Kate is home, having made barely a peep on the drive. Yet another cat to give pills to twice a day, and I'll bet she's going to be a tough one. I asked about her weight as she felt pretty hefty in the carrier. She's gained weight since the last time I had her in. The Wild Abyssinian Blimp is up to 15.5 lbs.

I'm relieved to say that so far Kate has been relatively easy to pill. I was afraid she was going to be like her brother, Knobby, who is impossible to get medicine into. Just give me a lobotomy first, please, if I should ever have to pill Knobby again.

Apparently the smell of my shampoo is enough to drive Puck mad. I came down to the office right after drying my hair and the Puckster got onto the desk, clambored onto my shoulders, slid down my back, wrapped his paws around my neck and assaulted my hair in a frenzy of abandon. Then, when he was sated and exhausted, he curled up in my lap for a long nap.

Owl is lying on his back with his hind feet splayed in a pose that proves he has no real dignity whatsoever. Being Siamese, he likes to pretend he has Dignity, but he is silly far too often to be convincing.

I had to fight off a shampoo-crazed Puck again this evening. I really should write to Pantene and suggest a new advertising campaign: "Drive your cat wild with Pantene!"

Okay, that will teach me never to say anything positive about the condition of Owl's back. He has created three new bald patches in spite of all the anti-histamines. I sure wish I could figure out what his allergy is, not that it would necessarily help.

Tribble had a gopher for brunch. Or I should say, for crunch.

Diva was fast asleep on my printer a few minutes ago, when she suddenly jumped up making loud sounds of distress, and has gone off somewhere else. I think she had a bad dream.

Poor Owl! He turned over in his sleep and fell off my desk. It wasn't a bad landing, so he stalked off with as much dignity as he could muster, while complaining about the suddenness of it all. He has gone to soothe his nerves with food.

Kate seems to have traded in one set of symptoms for another now that she's done with her pills. She's no longer growling or swallowing the way she was. Now she's wheezing, sneezing and her eyes are runny. She has a cat cold. It's not too bad, but I left a message for the vet anyway, just as a precaution. Also, I really hate having cat snot all over the keyboard.

My day did not go as planned. It started normally with Unicom scratched at the bedroom door. We let him in for the morning bout of petting and adoration. I noticed that his left paw looked odd. Then Randy also commented on the left paw. We took a closer look and realized that Uni's left paw and most of his leg were swollen to twice their normal size. He was using his paw normally, behaving normally, not showing any signs of distress or pain...yet he had this enormous paw.

I called the vet who is only in for a few hours on Saturday morning and was told I'd have to drop him off. I gave all the other moggies their pills, had a quick bite of breakfast and got Uni to the vet's by 10 am. For the next hour, I did errands in town: went to the library, picked up mail, bought groceries, and went back to see what Uni's condition was.

He was a lucky cat. It was a rattlesnake bite. They shaved the top of his paw and now I can clearly see one big fang hole. The skin is a dark, lurid purple. This must have happened last night. I brought him inside around 10:30 pm as usual, and he was totally relaxed at the time, not acting at all like a cat who'd had a close encounter with a rattler. That meant over twelve hours had passed since the bite. It would seem he was only gotten by one fang and must not have taken a heavy dose of poison. The vet did blood work to check for the kind of internal damage the venom can do to liver, kidneys, etc., and everything looked good.

Uni is home on anti-biotics and under house arrest for the next couple of days because the vet said to keep a close eye on him. The first thing Uni did upon getting home was eat, complain because we wouldn't let him out, then he curled up on the bed and was blissfuly asleep in minutes. Moggies are made of tough stuff.

Poor Uni is an unhappy boy tonight. He napped the afternoon away. When we checked on him around 6, the swelling had gone down and his paw is pretty much back to normal size.

Nonetheless, we aren't letting him outside, much to his annoyance. He keeps going from door to door, wondering why his human door openers AREN'T DOING THEIR JOB. He went to the dining room doors, to the front door, to the side door, to the bedroom glass doors, and not a one of them was opened. Poor Uni.

Uni's paw is healing rapidly and the skin is a healthy pink again. No worries there.

Now it's Tribble's turn to give me fits. He's always been right there demanding his treats and gobbling them down with his pill inside. Suddenly, for the past couple of days, he's developed a total aversion to the pill and has come up with the most cunning way of eating every *but* the pill, which he spits out all nice and clean.

I've tried breaking the pill (actually half a pill) into smaller pieces and putting the smaller pieces into separate treats, but Tribble is able to sense the least atom of a pill and tries to work his way around it. I hope this is a passing phase, as it used to make my life so easy when he would just take the blasted things without a fuss.

Tribble made his position clear this morning. "That's it. I'm not eating another one of your nasty, pill-spiked treats." He spit it out and that was that. I had to do it the old-fashioned way.

Thank Bast that Querida is still in love with treats and seems oblivious to the pills, since I have to give her more pills per day than the other cats. She comes to my feet and demands her treats. "Where is it? C'mon, c'mon, I'm WAITING. Can't you hear me down here?"

Tosca has decided that her first duty of the day is to get as filthy dirty as possible. As soon as she goes outside, she rolls in the dirt and grasses and whatever else she can find. She is the cat version of the Pigpen character from Little Peanuts.

I had a notable first with Puck. He showed up on his own and knocked on the cat door to get in after I had called for him a few minutes before. Usually, I have to go search for him, find him, and carry him down to the office after lunch. I'm hoping this is the start of a new pattern.

Although I'm having to give Tribble his pills the hard way, it isn't proving to be too much of a hardship. He shows up to get his treats with more interest now that they aren't spiked, and he doesn't give me much trouble with the pilling part.

All twelve office cats are curled up asleep at the moment. Ah, the peacefulness....

With the arrival of company, Unicom's nose is severely out of joint. Nefreet is mostly unfazed, of course, but Uni goes into major avoidance mode. He stayed outside or went into hiding. Randy got worried.

"He's been outside all day and night without coming inside. What if he needs food and water?"

"He won't starve. If he wants food, he'll come inside."

Immediately after that, I decided to check on Uni and found him chomping down a gopher on the back deck.

However, Uni heartily dislikes having a strange person around and having his routine disrupted. He won't be a happy moggy again until the visitor leaves.

Now I'm worried about Diva. Yesterday afternoon, she began spitting up foam all over the place. That in itself isn't a big thing to worry about. I've seen my cats do that after eating a bitter-tasting bug.

But she hasn't been entirely her normal self since then. She went into hiding. In fact, I had to have Randy come down last night and help me search before we finally located her. Imagine a coal-black cat on a pitch-black shelf in a dark corner. She's sitting around inert instead of being her usual, bouncy, energetic self. And she refuses to touch the treats, which she is normally enthusiastic about.

I've checked her over the best I can. I can only guess that she's eaten something that is making her feel unwell, but I can't figure out what would last this long.

The question becomes, can I afford another vet visit, especially for something this vague?

Diva is definitely going to the vet first thing tomorrow morning. I had a long talk with one of my vet tech's. Her main concern is that Diva needs to keep hydrated. I haven't seen Diva eat or drink anything, but I often don't because I'm otherwise occupied. She went outside briefly this morning, but for the rest of the day she's done nothing but lie around inert.

The tech suggested I try giving her some melted ice cream. Something cool and delicious should appeal to her. I tried that tonight and she wouldn't have any part of it. I even tried smearing bits on her muzzle that she would have to lick off to entice her. No go.

I also saw her in the box straining to produce something solid and not being able to get anything out.

As I type this, she's thrown up a couple of globs of mucous. Not good, not good.

It's a sign of how worried I was about Diva that I arose at what I consider to be a genuinely obscene hour of the morning, unable to sleep and determined to get her there first thing.

Unfortunately, I thought my vet's office opened at 7 am. They don't open until 8. I did take the precaution of calling first, which saved me from sitting there for an hour.

I spent the extra time in my office observing Diva. She seeme about the same -- trying urgently to use the catbox and unable to produce anything, and spitting up pieces of saliva foam. It's ironic that she's one of my most talkative cats, yet she hardly uttered a peep the whole way into town (a 20 minute drive).

They've had her all day. They're swamped and trying to fit her in between surgeries and other appointments. I called once to check on when I might pick her up. Maybe by the end of the day, but apparently my vet is still trying to figure out what's happening with her.

I know one's going to cost me. Sigh...


While there is still no answer to "why", it now looks like Diva's problem was -- getting ready for it -- X-Treme Constipation. As in being packed up solid. Other than that, she doesn't show signs of other problems. The vet said extreme constipation can cause all the other symptoms, such as spitting up.

So I'm paying for one hell of an expensive moggy enema. Diva is spending the night where she can be messy in a cage instead in my office, and be checked again in the morning.

After being a client of this vet for over ten years, and with hordes of cats passing through her doors, we've gotten to be good friends. She called at the end of the day to give me the information. Afterwards, I said, "Do you ever stop to think -- "I went to school for this.' "

She said, "I was sitting here thinking, 'I love my job. It's a Friday night and I have my finger up a cat's behind.' "

We had a good laugh over that.

Bast is not letting me off easily on this one. Things have taken a mysterious and disturbing turn. Around 9 this morning, my vet called with a report. Diva's insides were...uh...cleared out, but the vet had done an x-ray and found something totally unexpected.

Large portions of Diva's liver are calcified. My vet said this was "extremely rare". In fact, so rare she couldn't remember the last time she'd seen anything like it. It was time to do more tests.

About an hour or so later, the vet called with more mystifying news. Everything was coming out normal. The blood count was normal. No anemia, no elevated white blood cells. The liver functions were normal. Diva has no temperature, no other signs or indications of problems. She's hardly wasting away. Since the last time I had her in (over a year ago at least), she's gained two pounds. She's a little over 12 lbs. now and overweight.

The one and only minor thing was an elevation in a protein that usually indicates some kind of infection or inflamation...except there are no other signs to go along with it. All in all, I'd say the vet is baffled. I certainly am. I discussed many possibilities with her on the phone and again when I got there around noon to pick Diva up. The vet figures Diva may as well be in her own environment for now and we'll just have to see how things go in the next couple of days. She gave Diva an anti-inflammatory shot, just to see if it would help.

I saw the x-ray while I was there. I could easily see the outline of the liver. In the center was a large white area of calcification, and along the entire lower lobe there was a thick scattering of calcification. The vet said this doesn't happen overnight. It takes a while. It could well be old damage, especially since her liver seems to be functioning fine right now.

My main concern tonight is trying to get Diva to eat. She continues to act like a cat who doesn't feel well. She's hiding in a dark corner under my desk. Time to break out the canned food and see whether she'll respond to it.

If anyone reading this blog has dealt with a cat having these kinds of symptoms, I would love to hear from you. Use this email address: moonfire (at)

I'm happy to say that Diva has bounced back very nicely. But to back up a stark contrast to the drive *to* the vet's, Diva was quite vocal on the way home. She sang Chinese Opera to me. I joined her in a duet which I'm glad no one else could hear.

She also had the final "word" by peeing in the carrier, thus she was somewhat bedraggled when I let her out. Since it was early in the day, I released her outside the office and she was happy about that.

She slept under my desk most of the afternoon and evening. By late evening when I was getting out the pills and treats, she popped out and wanted her treats. Then I put out some canned food, and Diva happily stuck her snoot into that. I went to bed feeling reassured.

This morning I spent hours thoroughly cleaning my car inside and out. My poor car had come to consist of smashed bug juice holding together an inch of grime. During this major job, Diva came up to see me, hung around and talked at me rather a lot. When Randy came out, she sucked up to him and took all the attention he could give her. I'd say she's pretty much back to her old self. Now to hope she stays that way.

Diva continues to do fine, though I won't declare her absolutely back to normal until I catch her doing a #2 in the catbox. So far, every time I catch her in the box, she's taking a pee. I want hard, so to speak.

But it seems I'm destined go be given no break at all because now Nefreet has a limp. Randy thinks she hurt herself when she jumped down from the bedroom window. She is getting up there in age and she could actually be older than I estimate. She has to be 11-12 at the absolute bare minimum, but I have no way of knowing exactly how old she was when she adopted me.

Anyway, it's not a terribly bad limp. I'm going to watch it for another day or so to see if it clears up. If to the vet.

At long last, I caught Diva in the act of taking a dump, though I had to catch her while doing it outside. Apparently, she likes to pee in the boxes, but crap outside. Everything looked fine and normal and she's been her usual bouncy self.

I've been keeping an eye on Nefreet's limp, which comes and goes. Yesterday she was racing around being a rocket-butt. Today, I saw the slightest bit of a limp. She may keep re-injuring whatever she's done, but it doesn't look serious.

Having spent some time vacuuming the office and having achieved a spotless, clean rug, Owl christened it with a nice, large gift of cat vomit. I can manage to keep the carpet clean for about five seconds in this place.

There are certain sounds that can occur right at the subaudible levels of hearing and they'll still make a cat owner leap out of the chair and go running, which I did this afternoon. Outside, I discovered that Sly and Knobby had both decided to climb the same oak tree. This oak has a long, straight trunk that goes up quite a ways before branching into a large fork. Knobby was lodged in the fork and Sly was hanging onto the tree trunk for dear life, either unwilling or unable to back up. But every time Sly tried to move forward, Knobby nailed him. They were howling and yowling and making such a fuss.

I went to fetch the Weapon of Deathwater Discipline aka the water squirter bottle. I think the mere threat was enough because by the time I came back, Sly was on the ground. Later, I had to comb out both of them because they were covered with as many burrs as there are galaxies in the universe. Now I pray there will be no abscesses. Please, dear Bast, I deserve a break. No abscesses.

I looked out the living room window this morning. Uni was lying on the deck watching Puck who was below the deck next to the bushes. Puck was in turn watching a family of quail -- mom, pop and a dozen or so babies -- who were casually strolling along the strip of land between my deck, the bushes and where my lands fall steeply into hillside. To my amazement, neither cats made a move on the quail. One of the quail parents belatedly spotted them and the whole mini-flock took roost in the oak tree. Uni took a nap. Puck wandered off in search of something else of interest.

Around dusk, I saw Uni lounging on one of the big railroad ties that lines the patio, while a pair of bunnies fed on the pile of bird seed I leave on the patio. Forget birds, forget bunnies. Uni is a specialist. It's gophers or nothing.

When I came down to the office this morning, I found the roll of paper towels had been savagely assaulted, disemboweled, dismembered, scattered across the floor and left to die. I've decided to blame Artemis, who has a previous record of paper towel disemboweling. It must be a good way to exercise her thumbs.

It's bad enough getting home in the wee hours of the morning after long hours on the road, feeling gritty, exhausted and wanting nothing but to collapse in bed. Add to that finding three piles of cat vomit waiting as a gift. Well, two piles, with a third pile in the I-don't-know-what-it-is-and-I-don't-want-to-know category.

Part of it is Nefreet's stubborn insistence on eating the Spider plants. They're not good for cats and we've tried and tried to break her of the habit and they keep making her throw up and she simply refuses to stop doing it, the brat.

I also had to trot downstairs to give pills and ear scritchies and clean cat boxes. No matter how late it is or how tired I am, some things cannot be ignored. I was unhappy to see Diva get in the cat box, strain and strain and produce nothing. It could be that her problem is returning. I need to keep a close eye on her.

This morning, I let Nefreet out on the front porch. Randy let Unicom out on the back deck. About five minutes later, we heard a screeching cat fight on the porch. It seemed awfully fast for Uni to "ring the Nefreet doorbell", so I dashed out there. I barely glimpsed a cat speed away from the porch and down the driveway, with Nefreet in pursuit, but only to the car. I knew it couldn't have been Uni. I hurried to the back deck and sure enough, Uni was all the way in back, sitting up going "What's all that fuss?"

Nefreet raced up to me and came inside, where I discovered a long scratch down her nose. I cleaned it up and was glad to see it wasn't very deep. I think the intruder must have come all the way up from the first neighbor's house on the hill. He never gets his cats fixed, so they tend to wander more. I'm hoping Nefreet was more than he bargained for.

I took another look at the way Nefreet was favoring that leg this morning and called the vet yet again. They were able to get me in right after lunch and that was the only time for the next 2 weeks. My poor vet is running her practice entirely on her own because it's so incredily hard to find vets who will come and work in this small mountain community, instead of taking the big bucks elsewhere.

Nefreet meeped a lot on the way there. She behaved just like a typical tortie and gave the vet a severe hissing-to. My vet just laughs and gets a good grip on Nefreet's neck. My vet takes no guff from snotty torties. The upshot is that Nefreet is in excellent health, her teeth are great, her stomach is very fat (she's up to 9.5 lbs.) and she may have a touch of arthritis in her shoulders or leg joints, but nothing significant. It's likely she's hurt herself in a way that will take a bit longer to heal up. Meanwhile, she'll get baby aspirin twice a week.

And if you come across a vet who would like to relocate to a lovely central California mountain town an hour outside of Yosemite, let me know.

The stray cat came back again, the one that scratched Nefreet's face. It was late last night after all the cats were in, but Uni was reacting to something on the back deck. We kept turning on the lights, but could never spot anything.

When we went to bed, we heard a THUMP and Randy quickly grabbed a flashlight and aimed it onto the deck. He said it was a short-haired orange tabby, which took off at high speed. It probably wanders all the way up from our first neighbor on the hill. This neighbor has a tendency I don't care for to bring home batches of kittens that live outside with a bit of food, but no names, no vet care, no spaying. Eventually, the bobcats or coyotes or whatever gets them all and my neighbor brings home the next batch of kittens. Consequently, we get the occasional young tomcat straying up to our house.

I've decided I could make a fortune with a new invention that I urgently need, if it doesn't exist already -- a cat door that is lined with a brush fringe so that everytime a cat goes through it, she is cleaned off by the brushes. I could really use one of those. At the moment, I have a broom next to the door and when one of the cats comes inside heavily encrusted with the outside world, I run the broom over his back. Oddly enough, none of my cats seem to mind this.

The Puckster decided to live up to his name yesterday morning and went into Toxic Cuteness Overdrive. We looked onto the back deck at the right moment to see Puck oozing and wiggling through the wire mesh cage that sort-of-but-not-really protects the large pot of catnip. I ran for my camera. Randy and I stood watching for a whole minute as Puck worked his way through the wire mesh, then curled up in the catnip in a fit of stoned zeal.

We let him indulge in this for a while, until the catnip took too much of a beating. Next, Puck settled in amongst the flowers in a long, narrow planter on the patio where he proceeded to strike one adorable pose after another. He's a natural for the camera. In fact, he's a ham.

Eventually, Puck leapt off and Tribble took his place in the planter. Tribble was far more sedate, of course, more interested in napping than posing, but I shot several photos of him. I shot three rolls altogether and spent most of the morning in the sweltering heat doing it. I tried to get some shots of Nefreet, but she will never be still long enough, and of Uni, but he was in one of his camera-shy moods.

Later in the day, I missed out on Randy's rescue of a baby kingsnake. It was another one of those beautiful black and white California Kingsnakes, but quite small. Randy found Uni batting it around at the back of the house and saved it by getting it safely into a gopher hole. Beneficial snakes have a tough time around this house, I'm sorry to say.

I picked up the slides this afternoon and there are many wonderful shots of Puck and some nice shots of Tribble. I have much scanning to do. There's one shot of Puck looking totally zoned in the catnip that is a classic. I'll post links once I have some of the shots posted on webpages.

I've had to devote some time to one of life's most hated tasks, at least as far as I'm concerned. Sewing. My pile of clothes in need of repair had reached epic proportions, so I dragged out the sewing implements. I don't own a machine. Don't want a machine. Hate to sew. But sometimes, you just gotta.

Nefreethas been "helping" me. She is devoted. When I sit down and thread the needle, she is right there ready to pounce in case the thread should leap free and try to run away. She then insinuates herself onto my lap and reaches out with one paw to hold down the material while I sew. This lets her watch every movement from only inches away as she dreams of strings that might be hers. Since I don't want to accidentally poke her in the nose with the needle, this has forced me to sew in a slightly twisted-to-the-side askew position. I'm not very good at sewing to begin with, so you can imagine how much this helps the results.

I've had to settle into a pattern of locating Puck every day after lunch, then carrying him down to my office. Usually, he isn't too terribly hard to find, and he never gives me any trouble about being carried down. He's usually purring when I sling him over my shoulder.

Today, however, he decided to flail around. I think it's because Uni was lying nearby, even though Uni wasn't doing anything at all. But Puck flailed around anyway and managed to run a couple of his claws down the center of my forehead.

Great. In two days, I'm going to a gigantic trade convention where I need to see and be seen, network with friends and business associates, make new contacts, impress my existence into the right minds, and Puck gives me this going-away present -- a nice, long scratch RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF MY FOREHEAD with another smaller one to the right of it.

I'm totally disgusted, I tell you.

On a cheerier note, I've added a new picture to the Silly Sleeping Pose Olympics. Roscoe will make you chuckle.

Go to: The Silly Sleeping Pose Olympics

I've changed my pattern somewhat in order to give the moggies more time outside in the morning. Right after I get up, I go down to the office, give pills, and let the Horde outside. Then I do the rest of the cat chores after breakfast.

But first I let Uni and Nefreet outside. Today, I let both of them out on the front porch. Several minutes later, as I went outside to head down to the office, I glanced over and saw that something was going on. Nefreet was up at the fence line, beyond which is a line of oleander bushes, the driveway to the house further up the hill, and wilderness. She was deeply intent. As I stepped over that way, I saw something cat-like go bounding off. I wasn't able to get another look at it. From the way it instantly vanished, I'd say it was something wild, rather than the stray cat which would have headed downhill.

Nefreet started to chase it, too, except that I yelled her name. She trotted over with her tail POUFFED OUT as far as it would go. I saw that Uni was wisely back at the front porch with his hair inflated to the max.

I'm guessing that Nefreet had a close encounter with a small bobcat. She thinks she's a damned 600 lb. cougar. Maybe the bobcat is in love with her. That would be about right.

Right after I saw down at my desk, Katie placed herself next to the keyboard and shook an entire cloud of fine dust all over the keys, the desk and me. Computer companies really should pay me to test their equipment under these conditions. If they can survive this, they can survive anything.

The cats were extremely happy to be set free after four days of being locked inside. Uni decided to snub us initially. I can't entirely blame him, after being trapped in the house with his insane nemesis, Nefreet. Poor boy.

I picked some flower buds off the catnip and tossed them onto the patio. Pretty soon, Owl, Blue, Puck and Theseus were rolling around en masse in stoned pleasure.

I have new scars. Diva was startled out of a deep sleep and set off a Cat Grenade, which included Puck who was up until then standing quietly on my lap. He launched into orbit, using my right thigh as his launching pad. I have a nice set of puncture marks to show for it.

Late in the afternoon, I was watering the plants along the back of the house and filling the birdbath, when I glanced up at the deck and saw a rat scurry across the top step toward the house.

I dropped the hose and raced over. The rat went beneath the steps, saw me and began to run away underneath the deck. He didn't get very far when he had a brief encounter with Unicom who showed minimal interest. The rat ran back toward me, then decided to take his chances with the half-assed cat. This time, the rat managed to get past Uni, who sauntered out and plopped down by me. "Why didn't you get the blasted rat," I lectured. He gave me that look that says, "I'm a Specialist. I only do gophers."

Pat Cadigan gave me permission to post this:

A True Story by Pat Cadigan

Last year, I got Chris a combination DVD/VCR for his birthday. We hooked it up--or thought we hooked it up--as best we could, but never managed to figure out how to make it work. For over twelve months, we have been fidgeting with the thing in our spare time. It became a family hobby--fidget with the DVD/VCR, see if you can get it to work.

Today, not fifteen minutes ago, the cat figured it out.

While I was fidgeting with the DVD/VCR (by way of unwinding after several hours of writing), the cat walked over to have a look at me. She gave me that pitying you-pathetic-human-how-puny-you-are, then stepped on the remote for the cable box, hitting the power button and switching it off.

Instant DVD playback. Duh. In order to play DVDs, we must switch off the cable box. We didn't know that. The cat knew it.

I'm not going to ask her *how* she knew it. I'm afraid she'll tell me.

It's so hot, none of my moggies wanted to be outside. Even Puck was already inside when I came down to the office after lunch.

I found Theseus crouched over a large, beautiful lizard. It had blue and yellow on its back and royal blue on its belly. I've been told that this type of lizard can make a cat sick, but I would have rescued him anyway. He played dead until I got him outside in the warm sun, then scurried off.

And now, in the Weird News Category. My only comment is, I want to know what happened to the poor cats!

Cats thrown in woman’s face in Santa Fe
Last Update: 07/24/2003 6:21:05 PM
By: Todd Dukart

Santa Fe police are searching for suspects who allegedly threw cats in a woman’s face.

The 23-year-old woman, who does not want to be identified, was attacked early Monday morning when she answered a knock at her front door, thinking it was her cousin who was expected. One or more people allegedly threw cats at her, and ran off.

She went to the hospital to be treated for the scratches, and was given antibiotics because they were infected. Now, police are searching for the attacker or attackers. The woman was not able to see who threw the cats.

Let me set the stage here. I've been sick as hell for six days. I have breakfast, go to the doctor's, spend over an hour waiting at the pharmacy for all the meds, get home around 2 pm and for the first time in days, I'm actually hungry again. Starving, in fact.

I sat down and took about two bites of my late lunch when I heard cats wailing and screaming at one another. I raced outside. Puck and Uni were fully inflated, facing off in battle mode and ready to attack. I sent Puck off in another direction and the next thing I knew he had jumped on Sly and they were off and fighting. They tumbled down the driveway in a ball of fur, dust and fangs while I looked for a safe way to separate them. I know from painful past experience what that's like.

Finally, I managed to shear Puck away and grabbed him by the scruff of the neck right outside my office. I held him down and lectured him sternly until he slowly came out of berserker mode.

Then I had to check everyone for injuries. Puck looked ok, Uni looked untouched, Sly mercifully unscathed. I thought that was it. I had just finished my lunch when Randy came home. He located Nefreet and it turns out that this must be where the fight started. Nefreet, of course, antagonizes any other cat and is willing to fight anybody.

This time she got the worst of it. She has a couple of bite punctures on her head, luckily not deep or severe. She must have taken a claw into the eyelid, because she has a nasty slit in the lower eyelid of her right eye. We took her inside and cleaned her up. I found some anti-baterical eye ointment left over from one of the other cats and got the vet's ok to use it, and I have some Amoxicillin to give her for the next few days.

Hours later, Puck is curled up next to me on the desk looking as innocent as an angel. It was something I sure could have done without when I'm this sick. Or any other time, for that matter.

Nefreet seems to be doing all right. She was pretty wiped out yesterday and I'm not letting her go outside until her eye has healed up enough. The upper eyelid was slightly swollen this morning, but it's getting better.

Fluffball Tribble is sitting by the closed cat door whining to go back outside into the 100 degree plus heat. Totally insane, that cat.

Although I checked Nefreet over for other injuries, I managed to miss the worst one. Randy felt a tiny bit of something in her right "armpit". When I began cleaning the area with hydrogen peroxide, it opened up into a large, gaping fang-gash that had matted closed. Randy had to help me hold onto her, because she was spitting mad about the pain, but I had to shave the area, then get it thoroughly opened and cleaned. That's exactly the kind of injury that causes nasty abscesses.

I was trying to move Owl's large furry butt off the escape key, where he loves to rest himself. As I tried to push him to one side, he stuck out a foot, hit my battery back-up and turned off the blasted computer while I was in the middle of FTP'ing something. ARRGGGHH!

1 Aug. 2003
As I started the Moggy Round-up after lunch, I found the Puckster around the side of the house showing no interest in coming down to the studio. He was also encrusted with burrs, the tiny but nasty kind covered with microscopic needles that hurt like blazes when they get in your skin. Every time he brushed up against my legs, he left half a dozen burrs on my pants.

I gathered the rest of the Horde inside, then headed back up to the house with a cat comb. I removed a few thousand burrs, then hauled him over my shoulder and brought him inside.

THE GREAT CHICKEN FEED CAT LITTER EXPERIMENT: For those who remember, toward the end of April I began experimenting with using chicken feed as cat litter. To be specific, I'm using Purina Laytena lay crumbles. It works exactly like clumping litter, but is entirely organic.

I've now passed the three month mark and I love the stuff. It's super-cheap, easy to deal with and after three months there has been no sign whatsoever of moths hatching in it. I go through it more rapidly that other people would, perhaps, because of the number of cats I have, but at this point I have no complaints at all.

2 Aug. 2003
I was worrying about Nefreet's eye last night because her upper eyelid remains swollen and red. I looked at her again as soon as I woke up this morning, called my vet and asked if there was any way at all to have it looked at. My vet is only open half a day on Sat., but they told me to come on in.

The battle of temper and wits between Nefreet and my vet leaves us both laughing our asses off. The vet wrapped Nefreet in a towel for the eye exam, Nefreet would wriggle out and attack, be rewrapped, would growl and hiss and spit while we chuckled. Oh, she was not happy with us. The vet was also impressed by the nastiness of the gash under Nefreet's front leg. She used some "Superglue" to fix a flap of the gash so that it will heal properly.

Nefreet had a small amount of ulceration in that eyelid, and she may have been having an allergic reaction to the ointment I was using. So the upshot is that I keep giving her the Amoxi, stop putting anything in her eye, and put Neosporin on the gash -- and give everything time to heal. There was a final spat with the vet as she put Nefreet back into the carrier, as Nefreet was determined to get the final swipe in, as it were. Ah, dear little Psycho-kitty. She lives up to her name.

6 Aug. 2003
There are times I want to throttle a cat or two. I was "pucked over" today. First, Puck sprayed my car, which is not such a big deal. You can rinse off the spray and I did. Then he tried to jump onto the back, misjudged, and tried to stop his fall by digging in with his claws. He left two sets of three claw marks ALL THE WAY DOWN THE SIDE OF MY CAR, top to bottom. He has just gouged a large chunk of value out of my car. GAARGGGGHHHHH!

11 Aug. 2003
After being gone for a couple of days, Puck's idea of welcoming me home was to get into a brawl with Knobby. A full-on brawl that I had to break up by using the Water Squirter of Doom on Puck. Puck is used to being an outdoor cat, so I don't think he's happy about being locked inside for days at a time.

16 Aug. 2003
It's been Business As Usual with the Moggy Horde. Bouncing around after crickets. Getting into the catnip. Taking naps. Begging for treats. Heaping around the keyboard until I can't work. Sprawling or curled in contented heaps around the office.

I went to the feed store to pick up some more lay crumbles. As I drove off, a black cat trotted quickly away from the feedstore across the road in front of me with a big mouthful of rodent. Good moggy! I'm sure the feedstore appreciates it.

19 Aug. 2003
Moments when you wish you had a camera: I looked onto the deck this morning and saw Unicom and Puck lying side by side, only a foot apart without bothering one another. And they were in identical positions.

I hauled pathetic old Tribble off to the vet's this morning. I had to drop him off because my vet is so overworked, she had to fit him in between other appointments. He's been losing weight, looking more frail, and not eating well. In fact, I think he's pretty much refusing to eat anything but canned food now.

Another oddity I noticed is that his nose has gone very, very dark in color instead of the usual healthy coral-pink.

He is 14, after all. That's getting old. I decided I wouldn't give him a Tapazole (thyroid med) this morning as a precaution, because I knew they'd be giving him blood tests. Which they did.

It takes 20 minutes to drive to the vet's, so a round trip eats an hour out of my schedule. I dropped Tribble off around 10:30, did errands in town and called at noon just in case I could pick him before driving home. I was told he wasn't ready yet.

But when I got home, there was a call from the vet from around 11:30. I got hold of her. She couldn't find any obvious problem with Tribble. His teeth and mouth look fine, his general condition seems okay except for losing a couple pounds. She gently chastized me, and with good reason, for self-diagnosing Tribble and giving him the Tapazole without having him tested. Although I was probably correct about him being hyperthyroid, the Tapazole can cause problems with the kidneys.

"He could die of kidney problems," she told me, "long before he died of the thyroid disease." Meaning that I may have done him more harm than good. She did a full blood panel and will have the results tomorrow.

Then I had to schlep back to town and get Tribble out of hock. He was a very unhappy moggy and is quite glad to be home again.

20 Aug. 2003
For some reason, Artemis has taken to sleeping under my desk lately where she tends to spread out and push my wastebasket slowly, inch by inch, from under the desk.

I have a footrest under the desk, and this morning I suddenly felt a warm, soft, furry sensation on my right big toe. Artemis had reached out and rested one of her giant polydactly paws on my toe. Kinda like having a mitten on my toe. I quite enjoyed it.

22 Aug. 2003
It took a while to get back the results of Tribble's blood tests. I talked to the vet this morning. Basically, it looks like I screwed up badly giving him the Tapazole. It drove his thyroid level so low as to be almost non-existent on the test. That would make him lethargic and disinterested in eating, which he was. One kidney test was normal, one was borderline abnormal. That could be from the Tapazole as well. Overall, nothing serious, except that he needs to recover from being on the Tapazole.

He's gotten much perkier in the past couple of days. This morning, he started showing interest again in his treats and I saw him eating the dry food. I'd say he's getting back to normal. I think his nose color might be coming back to normal, too, but that's a subjective call. I'm not quite sure yet, as it remains rather dark in color.

The important lesson of the day -- never self-diagnose your cat's condition. I thought I knew what I was doing and I could have seriously harmed Tribble in the process. Shame on me.

24 Aug. 2003
I was pleased to see Tribble digging into the dry cat food with good appetite this morning. He lost two pounds that he needs to regain.

Uni seems to be slowing down a lot. We think the arthritis is the culprit. He isn't quite as eager to go outside at night as he used to be, and he hasn't caught a gopher in months. He spends more time sleeping on the bed. I wish there was something more we could do for him.

25 Aug. 2003
Amazing how much pain one little claw can cause. Puck hasn't come to terms with the comb yet. He came in covered with burrs that I was trying to comb out, but he keeps attacking the comb. On one swipe, he sunk a single claw deep into my finger, so deep I couldn't get free. He's pulling his paw away and I'm going with it, frantically trying to get the claw loose. That sucker hurt like fury. Bled a lot, too.

Tribble continues to eat and pick up steam, to my relief.

Diva adorned her head in Goth Princess spiderwebs again. Very chic.

30 Aug. 2003
I've had a "first" with Puck. I got tired of hiking back up to the house every day after lunch to search around for him and carry him down to the office. I decided to try simply calling him from the door of the office. And five minutes later, he "knocked" on the door!

Then, the next day, he did it again and answered when I called. What a good boy!

Tribble is back to being enthusiastic about his treats and eating more regularly, as well as being more active. I'm hoping he'll put on some weight.

6 Sept. 2003
I discovered, very much after the fact, that every plant I have growing in profusion around my house -- spiderplants, nephthitis and a diffenbachia -- are either very toxic or at least unhealthy for cats to eat. Naturally, Nefreet was obsessed with eating the spiderplants.

I found a nice, simple solution to that. I bought a packet of oak grass seeds, set up a pot in the dining room next to the glass doors, and have grown her a pot of grass to eat. Oak grass sprouts within a week. It couldn't be any easier to grow. And Nefreet loves the stuff. I now have a happy, grass-grazing cat who isn't throwing up so much.

18 Sept. 2003
When I returned from the 4 day business trip, Artemis had forgotten who I was. Really. I'm not even making a joke about it. She was in Deep Hiding. I tried to coax her out from wherever she was by pouring fresh water into the water bowl. Her favorite thing is to drink from the stream of water and every morning she rushes over to do that. Not this time. It took me a very long time to finally locate her in an obscure hiding place. I When I did, she ran from as though I were the Devil Incarnate.

Later in the afternoon, she regained her memory and all was well, but what a weird cat.

19 Sept. 2003
Tribble's nose has returned to its normal coral color. That would make it fairly certain that the extremely dark color was caused by his hypothyroid condition. He's back to his bouncy, treat-demanding self, but he's also back to being skin and bones. I can't get any weight on him. He seems perfectly happy as he is, though.

23 Sept. 2003
I attempt to type with Puck sleeping alongside the keyboard, trying to push it into my lap and insisting he sleep with his head on the escape key. After moving his head a few times, he's settled for sleeping with his head up against Owl's butt.

The Puckster isn't much of a hunter, I'm afraid. Shortly after he went outside this morning, he nabbed a gopher. He had the gopher out in the open and was in combat with it. But whereas Unicom or Achilles would have killed the gopher in 30 seconds, Puck wasted time and the gopher escaped down one of its many holes.

Teenagers these days. They don't take their hunting seriously.

I went to the office door where Theseus was lying and realized there was a scorpion right next to him. He was clearly oblivious to it. I stomped the scorpion flat.

Owl, the nefarious Plastic Bag Eater, managed to snaffle a plastic bag even though I take pains to keep them out of his reach. I didn't know this at first. A couple of days ago, when I was getting the Horde inside for the day, I saw that Owl was resting under an oak tree down the hill a little ways. It isn't a place I've seen him hang out before, though some of the other cats occasionally will. I didn't think much about it.

The next day, as I was coming down the driveway toward the office to let the cats out in the morning, I glanced over and spotted what looked like a plastic bag under the tree, right where Owl had been. I hiked over and sure enough, it was Owl's secret plastic-munchie snack. What was left of it. What a loon.

I bought a sonic bug repeller thingie and plugged it into the bedroom wall socket. Every few seconds, it emits a small KLIK sound. Nefreet jumped onto the bed for her afternoon nap, then became aware of the sound. Her ears swivelled around, her eyes got big. She pinpointed the source. She crept to the edge of the bed, then onto the floor. She stalked over to the device and every time it went KLIK, she would jump. It reminded me of the way Captain Hook would twitch to each tick of the clock in the crocodile's stomach. Klik! Twitch! Klik! Twitch! Finally, Nefreet got up to it -- Klik! Twitch! -- sniffed it and decided it was nothing to worry about. Now she totally ignores it.

I had to go to Nefreet's rescue this morning. Uni and Nefreet got into a howling fight on the stairs to the loft, said stairs being open air and carpeted. When I got there, Nefreet was clinging to the bottom of the one of the stairs with four feet and Uni was standing over her in battle mode so she couldn't do anything unless she let go and fell. It was pathetic and funny at the same time, like one of those photos of a cat hanging onto a thin branch for dear life.

I hauled Uni off and Nefreet pulled herself back onto the steps. I don't know who started it, but she does have a bad habit of acting like a troll and trying to keep Uni from going where he wants to go. I don't blame him for getting fed up.

23 Sept. 2003
Puck decided to help me while I was uploading eBay auctions. He "helped" me by hitting the enter key halfway through the process, so that I had to start over.

I'm quite miffed with Unicom. I was giving him his weekly anti-allergen rubdown which he hates. He moans and groans and complains through the whole thing. But today he also whapped me across the cheek. He's NEVER done that to me before. I was startled, to say the least. He didn't use enough claw to scratch me. All the same, he's not in my good graces right now.

Last night, Randy was sitting to the left of me on the sofa and Nefreet was curled up to my right. Randy began making his "panting dog" sounds that drive Nefreet crazy. Did she go over and chastize the maker of the sounds? Nooooo. She grabbed MY pants leg and gave it a vicious shake before running off.

2 Oct. 2003
We noticed that Uni was a bit more nervous about going outside lately. Two nights ago, Randy found him facing off with another orange cat. We've seen this guy a couple of times and are pretty sure he comes up from our first neighbor's house, a goodly distance down the hill.

But last night, Randy saw a fluffy tuxedo cat that was upsetting Uni. We have NO idea where that cat may have come from. I've certainly never spotted a fluffy tuxedo cat in this area before. I hope he has a home around here because we're not adding any more cats to the Horde. NO MORE CATS.

5 Oct. 2003
I came up to the office door to leave for lunch and found Theseus' rear end hanging from the cat door, with his front end to the outside world.

"What'cha doing, puss?"

He made small, piteous meows which told me, "I'm not doing anything. I'm *stuck*!"

Like Pooh after eating too much honey, my Sherman Tank of a cat was stuck halfway through the cat door. Usually he can get through, but I suspect he didn't work up the right momentum.

I put my hands under his butt and with a bit of heaving and wiggling, he made it through. I suppose I should have been hysterical by that point, but it was so utterly pathetic, I couldn't even bring myself to laugh.

10 Oct. 2003
Puck was about to get into a spat with Tosca yesterday, so I swivelled my chair around to move him. He flailed out instinctively as I grabbed him, leaving me with two shallow, but very long scratches down my neck.

Now Tosca and Diva are going at it hammer and tongs. Those two girls play rough. They growl and hiss and curse and bat one another around. Is that any way for a mother and daughter to behave, I ask you?

11 Oct. 2003
I stepped outside and found a badly mauled, baby gopher snake on my office doormat. I feel terrible when the cats harm a beneficial snake like this, but I don't know what to do about it short of not letting the Horde go outside at all. I gently picked up the poor snake and left it in a quiet, isolated place so it could at least die in peace.

12 Oct. 2003
Owl is such a sweet boy. I had one of those moments where I'm suddenly so tired, I'm nodding off in front of the computer. So I leaned over to where Owl was lying next to my keyboard and used is broad, soft back for a pillow. He didn't twitch a hair, he simply purred and purred until I'd gotten past the tiredness.

Now that's what I call a catnap.

14 Oct. 2003
I was giving Querida her pills and treats last night when I realized that her right eye was badly inflamed. She seems to be prone to eye inflammations these days. Fortunately, I have eye ointment around for her. Let me tell you how much Querida loves having ointment put in her eyes. About as much as she likes a red-hot poker up her backside. Her eye is much better today, though far from well, so I'll have to keep forcing gunk into her eyes no matter how much she hates it.

Puck found a way to get inside the deer fencing we have around the grapevines and small cherry tree. He was so happy in there. He had a whole private playpen to himself. King of the Playpen! He rolled in the dirt. He rubbed against the grapevines. Happy puss. Blue found his way in and the Tabby Mafia hung around together.

Tribble jumped into my lap, as he often does, but this time when he moved away I looked down to see that the entire front of my shirt was thickly coated with a combination of cobwebs, cat hair and unidentifiable detritus. He has achieved a new record in Coating the Human with Catstuff.

Unicom caught a gopher today, and in broad daylight. He's been slowed down a lot by his arthritis, been sleeping a lot, and this is the first gopher he's caught in months. It's good to know the old Gopher Slayer still has a few kills left in him. After Uni finished chowing down what he wanted, Nefreet moved in and cleaned up the rest. Except for the snout. They always leave the snout and those big rodent teeth. I don't blame them.

While I was walking toward the side of the house, I happened to spot an odd pile of leaves with something in it. The something turned out to be a small rat. While a dead rat is generally a good thing, we have bait out for the rats and don't want the cats getting them. 99% of the time, my cats don't catch rats, for whatever reason. The one who caught or found this one only ate the brain (ewyuck) which wouldn't be enough to do harm to the cat given the weak nature of the poison we use. I got my garden gloves and deposited the stiff carcass in the dumpster just to be safe. I get all the good jobs.

16 Oct. 2003
Querida's eye is getting better, but this morning she refused to come out for her treats. Since that's my best shot at getting her various pills into her, this is not good news. She's in deep avoidance of the Eye Ointment Torture, meaning deep avoidance of me. I finally left the pills-in-treats under her nose in her hiding place, hoping she'd take them once I was well away from her. When I checked later, the treats were gone. I waited an hour or so before I captured her for the Torture in the hope she'll stop associating the treats with the Torture.

Be sure to check out the Silly Sleeping Pose Olympics. There are a couple of new contenders you will enjoy.

17 Oct. 2003
Diva decided she wasn't going to come in after lunch with the rest of the moggies. She was hiding out under my old Subaru where I can't reach her. I called her. I tried the food lure. No dice.

I went outside several minutes later to look for her again. I found her around the side of the house and went wading gingerly in sandaled feet through piles of leaves the moggies had clearly used as an outdoor cat box. Diva cunningly stayed out of reach, darting here and there and finally taking refuge under the car again.

I resorted to desperate measures. I used the Biride Toy. You know the one -- feathers attached to a long plastic string attached to a rod. Wave, wave, catch the birdie! My cats love it.

My Birdie Toy was denuded long ago, so I replaced the fake-o feathers with some real bird feathers and they get to chase bluejay and woodpecker feathers. I flicked the Birdie around under the car. Diva chased it and caught it a couple of times, but she was hip to my ploy. She didn't come out from under the car. I kept at it. Finally, she was so overtaken by her biride lust that she followed it out and pounced upon it. I quickly grabbed her. She squealed, but it was all over.

I took her inside and let her catch the birdie a few more times as a reward.

Having resolved that, I settled down to do a couple of hours' work before heading into town. Tribble decided he had to go outside. He began to insist loudly upon this. Tribble has one of the most annoying cat whines you will ever hear. Annoying and pathetic all at once. He whined and whined and whined NON-STOP FOR HOURS. I thought I would go totally mad. I consider grabbing him by his dear little throat and throttling him. Chinese Water Torture can't begin to touch the Tribble Whining Torture.

18 Oct. 2003
The Goth Princess aka Diva looked quite fetching this morning with her entire face and muzzle veiled with gauzy spiderwebs. Why she likes to stick her face into places full of spiderwebs is beyond me.

For some reason, the other cats love to play with Owl's tail. This happens when he's lying on my desk. I'll grant that he has a large and powerful tail, but it holds special fascination for Puck, Tosca, even Tribble, who go after it like a rampant snake.

The long-suffering Owl generally endures this first with aggrieved patience, then small aggrieved noises. The aggrieved noises are rather pathetic and are therefore completely ignored. His noises become more aggrieved BUT HE DOESN'T MOVE. That's the hysterical part. Only once or twice has he finally gotten so totally fed up that he's deigned to move rather than simply lie there and complain about it.

18 Oct. 2003
Owl came up with an inventive way to avoid taking his pill last night. He threw up. The last thing I felt like doing was shoving a pill down his throat right after he's thrown up, so he got out of it. Sneaky cat.

Unicom caught another gopher, the good boy. Randy was worrying because Uni slept all day, not budging from one spot. But come late afternoon, the mighty Gopher Slayer went forth and slew.

I picked up the Rubbermaid container of dry cat food in the kitchen last night and found a lovely, tiny lizard curled up under it. I haven't seen one like this before -- a pale back with no markings and a very dark underside. The little guy must have been in shock because he easily let me grab him. He tickled my hand as I carried him outside and set him loose in a spider-plant in a planter on the patio. Wow, quite a batch of "p's" there. He was still there this afternoon, looking active and happy. All he has to do is avoid Nefreet's lizard-lust or not be crushed when Puck decides to nap on the planter (one of his favored spots).

Moggy tongue-twister: Puck purring in potted plant on patio.

22 Oct. 2003
One of my blasted moggies killed a bird. I found the remains outside the office. It has blue feathers, so it was either a bluebird or a young bluejay.

Tribble was sleeping to the left of my keyboard, the spot that Owl likes to occupy. Owl occupies a lot of spot, so there wasn't room for two cats. Undaunted, Owl more or less sat on Tribble's head. Poor Tribble came up for air looking confused with a big dark Siamese tail wrapped around his neck. He gave up the spot.

Tribble is not always the victim, however. This morning, I was 10 seconds too late in rushing onto the deck where I saw Tribble about to pounce on Nefreet. He pounced, they screeched and rolled around and knocked things over. I tried to break it up. Tribble chased Nefreet under the car. I ran for the hose and turned it on, ready to douse them, but Tribble got wise and took off.++

The above two symbols were contributed by Puck, who is determined to sleep on the edge of the keyboard. I keep moving his head, he keeps putting it back. sigh.... ++++++-------------

27 Oct. 2003
As usual, I let Nefreet outside first thing this morning, and a short time later she came back in. This time, she came in yowling with pain, walking oddly, stopping to lick madly at her nether regions and yowl some more. Last time she exhibited this behavior was when she somehow managed to get a foxtail (a spear-like seed) up her vagina.

Barely awake and without the benefit of breakfast, I alerted the vet's office, put Nefreet in the carrier (she yowled in pain), and made the 25 minute drive to my vet's. This isn't a cruise in the park either. It's driving on a mountain highway with a high mortality rate and dangerous mountain pass that requires careful attention. Then I have to drive through town and all the way to the far northern outskirts to get to my vet.

Yes, there is a closer vet. There's one five minutes away from me. However, this was the vet to whom I took Nefreet to be spayed and she came back totally psychotic and has never been normal since. That was ten years ago and I have never gone back to that vet. I never will, unless it's such an emergency that my cat wouldn't make it for another 25 minutes.

Anyway, dropped off Nefreet. I had to exert superhuman will power not to bring home two completely gorgeous and adorable kittens that were up for adoption. Twin boys with marbled tabby markings but in such subtle tones of gray you could barely make them out. They'd been named Click and Clack (after the brothers who do The Car Show on NPR). They were bounding and bouncing and affectionate and climbing the cage like little monkeys. Only my solemn vow to Randy kept me in check.

I went back into town for errands in the afternoon and picked Nefreet up around 5. It wasn't a foreign object; she has a severe bladder infection. She now also has a very bad rep. She growled, hissed, spit, and fought with everybody that tried to handle her. As one tech joked, "She's a tortie. It's in her genes." They've labelled her "fractious" on her chart. I suggested they just put "psychotic".

Granted, she was clearly in pain, so she had a small excuse. But it was so bad, she even mauled my catsitter who happens to work at the vet's. My catsitter has been taking care of Nefreet for ten years. When I came in, she showed me the bleeding scratches and puncture wounds on her hands and arm. That was from putting Nefreet back into the carrier to come home. "You just wait until next time I babysit you," she warned Psycho-Kitty.

Lucky me, I only have to give Nefreet anti-biotics for the next week or so. That will be fun. She didn't utter a peep on the way home, but she has been wandering around the house yowling about the pain. I hope the drugs give her some relief soon.

28 Oct. 2003
Nefreet is doing better. She doesn't seem to be in pain, at least. I'm giving her liquid anti-biotics. She managed to spit out my first attempt, but I got it into her on the second try.

1 Nov. 2003
It must be something about the cold weather and the moggies spending more time inside, but I've had to break up a lot of fights. After an initial warning shot, I finally had to go after Puck with the Water Squirter of Doom.

Unicom and Nefreet are, as usual, the worst. I was about to get into bed two nights ago when I had to race into the kitchen and break up a nasty, screaming fight. Then I had to clean up after Nefreet who's standard response to being walloped by Uni is to pee. She left a large puddle on the kitchen floor.

At 3 am this morning, I was jolted out of a sound sleep by the two of them fighting and had to break it up. Around 7 am, Uni managed to muscle our bedroom door open and I had to get up again to deposit him back in the living room. Once we're ready to get up, we let him in to get on the bed and we have a love fest. But before that, we need sleep!

I need to be more vigilant with Querida's pill-treats, too. I put down a treat with her thyroid pill in it right in front of Querida, turned away for no more than two seconds and when I looked back, Diva was already scarfing it down. Diva is a treat-junkie like her mother, Tosca.

3 Nov. 2003
I put some bird seed on the patio this morning after all the rain. I saw Tribble apparently eating the bird seed. When I went out to check, I discovered he was actually eating the very soggy remnants of some bread bits that I had put out *before* the rain. He is such a weird cat.

Uni and Nefreet had another tiff in the middle of the night, but I was too far into sleep to rouse myself from bed. There will never be peace between those two.

11 Nov. 2003
Artemis was up to her bad old tricks while I was gone. My catsitter commented on how much water the cats were drinking. I had to inform her that the culprit is Artemis who has been fascinated with water from kittenhood. Mainly, she likes to bat the bowl around until all the water has sloshed out of it. I had to bring down a third brick so that the water bowl is now wedged in place with three bricks around it.

My catsitter is unable to give the anti-histamine pills to Owl when I'm gone. Even for me, it's a trick to do this and Owl won't let her get anywhere near him with a pill. I asked the vet if there was a liquid alternative and was told to try Liquid Benadryl for Children.

So I bought some. Cherry flavored. Last night, with high hopes, I filled a dropper and squirted it into Owl's mouth.

TOTAL DISASTER! He ran, he foamed and frothed at the mouth, and he threw up everything he'd eaten all day. He threw up at least three times, foaming profusely the whole time. I felt terrible. It's back to the pills, I'm afraid.

Owl's such a sweet boy that by today he had completely forgiven me.

23 Nov. 2003
As I headed to my office after lunch yesterday, I waited for the usual herd of cats to follow me down the hill. I looked around. No cats. "Pusskers," I called. Where were they?

Worried, I got inside the office and found what seemed to be every single cat not only indoors, but most of them were up on the highest shelves. I went outside to scout around, not really expecting to spot anything. It would be long gone by then.

Then Randy phoned. "We must have had something in the yard," he said. "Theseus is in the oak tree off the patio and Unicom is in the oak tree next to the bedroom."

We concluded it must have been dogs from the house at the bottom of the hill directly below us or a coyote. Last week, we had a baby bobcat in the yard. It wasn't a kitten, but it wasn't much larger than a big domestic cat yet. It was on one side of the driveway and Uni was on the other. Uni didn't run or climb a tree, though he did bristle to full size. Going up in trees is definitely a canine-threat response.

Randy propped a ladder on the one tree and got Uni down, figuring that Uni with his arthritis might need more help.

I stood under Theseus and urged him to come down. He blinked at me and didn't budge. I knew the best way to get him out of the tree was to leave him to his own devices, so I walked back to the office, calling Theseus as I went. Sure enough, about five minutes later he knocked at the closed cat door and scooted in.

I can understand why Theseus opted for the three rather than running to the office with the other cats given that he can barely get through the cat door at all.

26 Nov. 2003
I was watering bushes around the back yesterday, when Puck raced up in rocket mode and went straight up the oak tree. He explored the oak tree at length, way out and way out. He perched. I looked up to see Puck perched raptor-like on one branch and a bird on another.

This wasn't good enough for the Puckster, who worked his way out some branches and jumped onto the roof. He then explored the roof thoroughly. I had Randy come out to enjoy the spectacle. Randy was worried about Puck getting down. "Oh, he can get down," I assured him. Randy was in the act of getting the ladder when Puck leaped off the roof, sailed halfway across the deck and made a perfect landing on the railing. Randy was in awe. "I didn't know they could do that!"

Later, after I'd gotten the moggies inside and put out the midday treat of canned food, I realized a large food-hog was missing. Theseus was nowhere around. I began the search. I looked around the outside of the office. I called and called. I began my search of the outside of the house. As I came alongside the cars and called, I heard a truly *pathetic* meow. Theseus had gotten himself trapped inside the little wodden shed over the pressure pump, the same shed the poor rabbit got itself trapped in and died not too long ago.

Theseus must have gone inside while I was watering, because I have to open the small door in the shed in order to turn on the water to the hose. Then I propped it shut as usual and he was trapped. The door is about the size of the cat door and Theseus could barely squeeze himself through it. I'm very glad he has the sense to call out. I don't like to think of what would have happened otherwise.

28 Nov. 2003
It was time to get the cats inside after lunch so we could hit the road for the Thanksgiving Day parental visit and dinner. I was in the bedroom when I heard a loud thumpity-romp-thump on the back deck. Far too heavy for a cat. I looked out the glass doors and there was a large dog right on the deck!

I was out those doors in a shot, yelling bloody murder. The dog and his buddy vanished too fast for me to see where they went, plus I was in my socks and couldn't go all that far without shoes. Randy heard me hollering and raced outside.

We found five cats were in the trees. Poor old Tribble, looking very distressed, and Sly were up one oak tree. Puck and Tosca were up another oak tree. Theseus was up yet another oak tree, though it took me a while to find him. I was furious. This was undoubtedly the same dogs that chased Uni and Theseus up the trees a few days before.

I've seen the two dogs way down below in the valley, but they're new to me and I have no idea who they belong to, since they don't belong to anyone within dozens of acres of me. I asked one neighbor down below, but he had no idea where they came from. The big dog is actually very pretty, a Great Dane-type that's mostly white with black patches. But pretty or not, he's on my hit list now.

We needed to leave by a certain hour in order to get there in time, so as the minutes ticked away, I did my best to coax cats out of trees. Randy got our highest ladder and put that against one tree trunk. Puck came down first, being young and bold. The rest weren't showing any interest in vacating the high places, thank you.

I found most of the other cats in the office, to no surprise, and was worried about Theseus until I finally found him in his tree on the back side of the office. I took a can of food and spoon outside and dinged the spoon against the can. That worked great for Tribble, who is Perpetually Hungry, and worked for Theseus, the Food Hog. They came in and got fed.

After about half an hour, Tosca began to work her way down the tree. I got up on the ladder, coaxed her over to me and managed to grab her by the ruff of the neck, sling her over my shoulder and carry her down to the office.

That left Sly, who was waaaaay up on the highest branch of the other oak tree. I took the ladder over and coaxed my heart out. He wasn't budging. Finally, we had to resort to Water Herding. I was too short, but Randy was able to aim a stream of water from the garden hose to the branches behind Sly. Bit by bit, we herded him down until he arrived at the lowest branch, slightly damp, where I could grab him.

So, miraculously, we got all the cats inside and still left on time. But I have to do something about those damn dogs.

28 Nov. 2003
Now I am REALLY pissed off and upset. Owl is injured and I'll have to get him to the vet first thing in the morning. I can only hope it isn't too serious.

When I first ran off the dogs and raced down to my office to check on the other cats, I saw Owl inside sitting upright licking his belly as he so often does. After that, I was totally focused on getting the other cats out of trees, then having to run off on our trip. We got home so late, I could barely stagger down to the office to give Querida her pill, clean the boxes and collapse.

This morning when I was giving out the pills and treats, I couldn't find Owl. I finally located him in a new, cozy hidey-hole inside an old box. He's such a secretive cat, that this didn't strike me as unusual, and he certainly prefers to avoid getting that pill in the morning. I decided not to bother him.

But as the day wore on, I slowly grew more concerned. He didn't come out once, not even when I put out canned food. I couldn't coax him out. Finally toward the end of the day, I decided something was definitely wrong. I carefully eased him out of the box and discovered he won't use his right rear leg at all. He's in a great deal of pain, doesn't want to move or stand up, cries if I try to move the leg. I did my best to check it out. I can't see any bite marks or obvious wounds. I suspect he could have hurt his hip or leg badly by having to rush too quickly through a cat door that he's just a little bit to big for.

I immediately called my vet, then another vet, but none of the vets up here will do after hours or emergency calls any more. I would have to haul Owl all the way down to Fresno (nearly an hour's drive) to an emergency clinic at extreme cost. The sad reality is that I can't afford it.

I gave him a baby aspirin before I went to have dinner. Since he may not have had water all day, I also squirted several droppers of water down his throat.

When I came down after dinner, I found Owl lying in one of the cat boxes. He must have needed to use it, then couldn't make the effort to get out again. I carefully eased him out, brushed him off and carried him over to the food bowls. I gave the moggies more canned food so that Owl could have some. He gobbled it down, which is a good sign.

Then I carried him over to the water bowl, hoping he'd drink some water. Instead, he has sprawled on the floor next to the bowl, clearly not wanting to move an inch.

It looks like he can move the leg a little bit, but he can't bear to put any weight on it whatsoever. And I am snarling mad at whatever useless jerk owns those dogs.

29 Nov. 2003
I woke up before 7 am, consumed with worry. I found Owl lying right where I had left him, near the water bowl. I debated having to put him into a carrier, but it seemed the only safe recourse. I set up the carrier, carefully scooped up Owl, only to discover that Puck, Prince of Mischief, had jumped into the carrier to investigate and wouldn't come out. I had to put Owl down, remove Puck and try again.

I got to the vet's at the instant they opened and insisted on staying until someone could look at him. About 15 minutes later, my favorite vet motioned me to a room. "Come look at x-rays," she said. I knew it was going to be bad news.

It was very bad news. She brought in a book that showed an x-ray of what a cat's knee is supposed to look like, then showed me the x-ray of Owl's knee. The bones are horribly out of place. She said he has completely ripped most if not all of the ligaments and tendons. The only option is major orthopedic surgery.

"If this were a dog, he'd never walk again, but with cats and with this surgery, he will at least be able to get around."

It's so major, that she doesn't feel qualified to attempt it. She's going to call a couple of specialists in Fresno to see if *they* even want to attempt it. The fact that he's such a large, heavy cat complicates matters.

I have to go back now to pick up Owl. The vet wanted to run blood work on him to make sure he'll be okay for surgery given that he's now 10 years old. It's hard to believe I've had him for 6 years now.

I've also started calling around, asking neighbors about the dog. No luck so far.

The vet spent more time going over Owl's condition with me when I went to pick him up. His blood work was good with one somewhat significant glitch -- his blood sugar was through the roof. High normal is around 145 and he was at 262! She thinks he's borderline diabetic and the stress has goosed the glucose level, as it were. He'll have to be rechecked before surgery to make sure it doesn't stay that high.

She even brought out a model of a cat's knee to show me exactly what's happened. The ligament that is normally between the two knee bones is completely gone, the two side ligaments are ripped, and the only thing holding his knee together at the moment are the badly stretched tendons. The surgery will have to stitch all that that back together, resulting in a knee that will be considerably stiffer and less pliable (and hopefully without pain), but should at least work.

She connected me to a surgeon in Fresno who's done plenty of these and is very good, but charges half of what the other Fresno surgeon charges, so it will run between $600-$800.00 (not counting what today's bill was). I have the x-ray and blood test results in hand to take to the surgeon. Owl goes in Tues. night, has surgery late Wed. afternoon and has to spent Wed. night there, understandably.

Owl was an excellent boy for the whole trip. I let him out near the water bowl. He struggled out of the carrier and plopped down. He hasn't budged from there since. As soon as he got out of the carrier, he found an old bit of cat vomit with cat food in it and began eating it. I raced over with a bowl of food. He chowed down hungrily, then I gave him some canned food a bit later. His appetite is good enough, but I'm worried at not seeing him drink water.

I made a special cat box for him from an large cardboard box with the sides cut low to make it easy for him to get in and out. I hope he manages to use it.

I hate to do this, but this vet bill is coming at a very bad time, so I'm going to cyber-beg. I'm appealing to my fellow cat-lovers to donate to Owl's surgery. Anything would be a help right now.
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30 Nov. 2003
I introduced Owl to his special cat box last night by carrying him over to it and making him stand in it for a second. Only a second, as he promptly plopped down in it. So I carried him out and dusted him off, but I left him in the center of a triangulated area that includes the box, food and water so that he doesn't have to hobble far to reach anything.

However, Owl isn't showing interest in making *any* attempts to hobble. He's decided that having three legs is the same as having no legs and is imitating a large, furry slug. Not that I can entirely blame him, as I don't know how severe his pain might be. I can't give him more aspirin. It takes 72 hours to completely clear aspirin out of a cat's system (warning: only .81 mg of baby aspirin is safe and only under vet's instructions) and it must be cleaned out prior to surgery.

When I checked this morning, the special box had been used. Whether or not Owl used it is the unanswered question. I hope so.

I WISH they could do the surgery sooner!

I hate to do this, but this vet bill is coming at a very bad time, so I'm going to cyber-beg. I'm appealing to my fellow cat-lovers to donate to Owl's surgery. Anything would be a help right now.
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1 Dec. 2003
Owl has managed to work up enough energy to hobble from one part of the office to another, which is encouraging. I think it's because he wanted to be closer to the heater. His poor leg is badly swollen, though. I just got back from the vet's who gave me some pain pills to help get Owl through today and tomorrow. I immediately gave him one in a treat. I should know better. He easily removed the pill from the treat, forcing me to do it the hard way, but he should be feeling better now.

I was at the vet's with Tribble. I'd made the appointment for Tribble last week, before Owl was injured, but I'm worried enough about Tribble that I took him in anyway. He seems happy enough and certainly energetic enough, but he's down to nothing but skin and bones. I can't get an ounce of flesh on him, even though he is incessantly hungry.

He treated me to the Tribble Whining Torture the entire way there. They're doing blood work, so I won't know the results for a couple of days. The vet found a nodule on one of his kidneys, and that's not a good thing. Let up hope, please, that it's only hyperthyroid or a touch of diabetes and not something worse.

In the midst of all this grimness, I should mention that there are two new contenders in the Silly Sleeping Pose Olympics -- LWC (Little White Cat) and Artemis.
I am deeply, profoundly grateful to the people who have contributed to Owl's surgery. If they give me permission, I will mention them by name. Otherwise, all I can say is thank you.

Please help by donating to the Owl Surgery Fund.

2 Dec. 2003
Poor Owl sensed he was in trouble as soon as I brought the carrier into the office. One thing about a cat who can only hobble -- he can't escape. I petted him and soothed him and picked him up very carefully, but I could already feel him trembling.

He's such an excellent boy, though. He never made a sound for the whole trip, which takes about 50 minutes to the south end of Fresno. He laid down and tried to pretend it wasn't happening.

I was immediately impressed with the vet. He had a great presence, an excellent manner and a good handshake. I'd brought the x-ray and blood test results with me. We discussed those, then he gently extracted Owl from the carrier and gave him an exam. He went over everything he was going to do (he might have to pin the knee together), informed me when he'd call (after Owl wakes up from surgery) and assured me that he stays late to make sure everything's all right. If he has any doubts, he will take Owl home with him so he can keep an eye on him for the rest of the night.

I really liked him. I feel much reassured. Owl was an unhappy boy, not at all reassured, and tried to burrow into another reality via my armpit.

The surgery doesn't take place until late afternoon, so I probably won't hear anything until 6:30 or 7 pm. It will be a long day.
Please help by donating to the Owl Surgery Fund.

3 Dec. 2003
I said to Randy, "You watch. The minute I go to put the first bit of dinner into my mouth is when the vet will call." And sure enough, five minutes later, that's exactly what happened.

Which was fine with me as it was nearly 7 pm and I was getting more worried by the minute. The vet said the operation went fine and Owl is waking up and seems to be doing well. He had to use heavy sutures, wire and screws to put the knee back together. It was *badly* damaged. "I guess he won't make it through airport security," I joked. To his credit, the vet laughed and said, "Show them the x-rays."

He said to call in the morning. As long as Owl is doing fine and hasn't developed a fever or any problems, I should be able to bring him home. There are no sutures; Owl is stapled together. Those come out in the follow-up visit in two weeks.

I also heard earlier in the day from my local vet about Tribble. As I expected, he is major hyperthyroid. Fortunately, his kidney functions were good, so I can start him on Tapazole, using about half the dosage I give to Querida since Tribble seems to be more sensitive to it. The one warning she gave me is that his liver functions were somewhat elevated. She told me to check the soft palate (roof of the mouth) for any signs of yellowness which would indicate the liver problem getting worse.

And that is the Moggy Run-Down for today.
Please help by donating to the Owl Surgery Fund.

4 Dec. 2003
Per the vet's instructions, I called this morning and was told that Owl was fine to come home. I intended to get down there by early afternoon, but too many other thing intervened and I found myself on the way to Fresno at 4 pm, much later than intended or desired.

A slight digression -- one of the things that intervened occurred when I was heading into town to do errands around 11 am. As I was halfway down my 2 miles of dirt road, I saw the stray dogs again -- the big black and white mastiffy-looking thing that was at my house chasing the cats and the medium-sized brown mongrel that is his constant companion. I've been watching for them for days and I wasn't going to miss this chance to find out where they came from.

I talked nicely to them from the car. This made them nervous and they took off. I slowly followed them. Having the car follow also made them nervous and as I hoped, they headed for home. They cut across a field where I lost track of them, but they went in a direction that I had suspected. I took the side road and stopped at the nearest house.

A young woman there pointed out where the dogs come from. They've had trouble with the dogs, too. She said the owners were "partyers" and made a lot of noise. I called Randy to fill him in on this info and to let him know I was going there.

I drove up to a rundown, crappy mobile and sure enough, there were the two dogs right at home. The grounds were covered with litter. When I got out, the dogs were friendly goofs, not at all threatening. The big black and white guy kept jumping up on me until I used Command Voice on him. I knocked on the door. The porch area was covered with litter, booze bottles and all form of trash, and the inside that I could see through the glass doors looked like a disaster area.

A young guy about 19 or 20 came outside. I asked if he was the owner of the dogs. Scarlett, the brown dog, was his but Dodger, the black and white dog, supposedly belongs to his ex-girlfriend's parents who won't come and get him. Right. I laid the whole situation out to him with great emotion and in no uncertain terms -- where the dogs had been, what they had done, what it had cost me (and I don't just mean money) and so forth. He didn't have the nerve to look me in the eye and could barely find a single word to utter. He wasn't taking any responsibility, that's for sure.

I had pen and pad handy, so I demanded his info, wrote it down, got the name and number of the supposed "owners" of Dodger. Then the kid said something quite telling -- he said, "he (meaning Dodger) ate my cat". I warned him he'd better get Dodger under control or tied up or whatever because if he sets foot on my property again, that's it.

Next step is to call the other people and see what kind of response I get. I suspect the dog is in a custody limbo where nobody really wants him. I doubt I'll get satisfaction this way. I also intend to talk to Animal Control to see what they say about it. The final step is likely to be small claims court, though given what I saw at the kid's place, getting money out of them could be tough.

Anyway, back to Owl.

The vet wanted to talk to me, so I had to wait a while. He brought out the after-surgery x-rays so I could see exactly what he'd done, and he even brought out the little knee model for further reference. Owl had two humongous screws through the two leg bones, with a figure-8 piece of wire connecting the screws. Plus there are a bunch of tough sutures in there, all of this to hold the bones in place while scar tissues forms and helps to further keep it in place. There's also a long line of metal staples that come out in two weeks.

Next he brought Owl out. Owl was a most seriously unhappy Frankenstein moggy. His entire right hindquarters are shaved, of course, with a big, long operation scar. They didn't shave the foot and it's still twice the size of the other foot. He has shaved patches on both front legs where the IV and whatever went. He has a narcotic pain patch fastened around his neck with a bandage collar (that comes off on Mon.) He looked like hell.

The vet stressed that it's very important for me to gently stretch and bend the knee and leg twice a day to keep it from stiffening up too much as it heals and to promote flexibility. He showed me what he wanted me to do. He said Owl probably won't start using the leg for another 2-3 weeks. He said to try and get him to eat, since Owl wouldn't eat for him while there. Then he eased Owl butt-first into the carrier.

I drove home slowly and carefully. No throwing the car around corners on this trip. As I eased up the dirt road, I could hear Owl's low, steady purr. Probably a comfort purr rather than a contentment purr. For those who don't know, cats will also purr when they're sick, distressed or dying.

When I let him out, he surprised me by immediately hobbling around as though looking for something. He mostly drags the leg along. I put dry food in front of him, but he wasn't interested. I finally realized what Owl was doing -- he was looking for a nice, dark hidey-hole. He'd only go a short way before having to plop down and rest.

I came back down after dinner to find that Owl had gone back to his original hiding spot inside a box filled with rags. That was where I found him when I discovered he was injured. I decided to leave him alone. It's better to let Owl do things on his own volition.

Just now, he's come out and plopped down on the carpet within a few feet of me and is purring again. I hope it's a contentment purr this time. Maybe some canned food will perk up his appetite.

Yep, that did the trick.
Please help by Owl Surgery Fund.

5 Dec. 2003
Owl is doing pretty well today. He's hobbling around more than I would have expected, from one part of the office to another. The silly cat even used the regular cat tubs instead of the nice, easy, low-cut cat box I made for him. Once I realized he was doing that, I waited until he was done and carefully lifted him out, rather than have him drag that leg over the high edge of the tub.

Then he headed for the cat door. I don't know how serious he was, but when he stuck his head out, I said, "No, no, no! Don't even think about it!" He backed away in a hurry. After that, I got the rest of the cats inside (not hard to do, since it was raining) and blocked off the cat door. I'm afraid the rest of the Horde will have to share Owl's confinement.

I also did the stretching and bending the vet told me to do. Owl lies there absolutely quiet and still, even though I could be hurting him Bast knows how much, no matter how gentle I try to be. He is such a gentle boy.

I tried calling the purported owner of Dodger, but was told I'd have to try back later tonight.

I spoke with a woman at county Animal Control and gave her all the info. She was both sympathetic and indignant by the time I explained everything. An AC officer is supposed to stop by that house this afternoon to check on the dog and make sure the guy keeps the dog restrained. The woman I spoke with said to be sure and call her any time I see the dogs wandering around, so she can create a paper trail. She also said that if the man I talk to tonight admits to being the owner of the dog, that's the one I should go after legally.
Please help by Owl Surgery Fund.

6 Dec. 2003
Owl's been pretty quiet today, understandably. He wasn't entirely happy with the leg-bending this morning. I'm being very careful and gentle, but after the second bend, he got up and hobbled off. Today he's been sleeping next to the heater. It must feel strange to him to have one whole leg and hip bare with no fur to keep him warm.
Please help by Owl Surgery Fund.

7 Dec. 2003
I think Owl may be feeling not so great today. He's mostly inert, not showing interest in treats or much else, poor baby. It could be that the pain patch on his neck isn't giving him as much relief, since it's supposed to come off tomorrow. He was very good about letting me flex his leg, though.

When I opened the front door first thing this morning to let Nefreet onto the porch, a big furry orange cat bolted from the front yard and raced toward the canyon. It was a wet, misty, dripping morning, so I feel sorry for the poor thing. I don't know where it's coming from, whether it's abandoned, lost or feral. I suspect he's one of the reasons Unicom sometimes comes inside at night looking spooked.
Please help by Owl Surgery Fund.

8 Dec. 2003
This was the day that Owl's narcotic pain patch was supposed to come off. He had a fairly tight binding around his neck to hold it in place, so I naively thought all I had to do was cut off the binding, remove the patch and drop it off at the vet's to be properly discarded.

I had a plastic bag ready, donned plastic gloves and discovered to my shock that the pain patch was stapled to his skin! Just with teeny little staples, but all the same, I wasn't going to risk hurting him by trying to somehow remove them myself. I actually thought of using my regular office staple remover gadget, but it was too big for these staples.

That's how Owl ended up making an unplanned trip into town this afternoon. I had hoped to avoid putting him in the carrier again so soon. I was glad that he seemed a bit more chipper and alert today, after being so inert yesterday.

It only took the vet about 2 minutes to remove the patch. I'll bet Owl is really glad to have all that foofah off his neck. I just wish he would bend the knee more. He's stubbornly keeping it as straight as he can manage, and the only time he bends it is when I make him. Well, maybe it's early yet and that will come. In about another week I have to take him back to the vet in Fresno to have the big staples on his leg removed and we'll see what the vet says about it then.

After that, Owl had to ride around town with me for a couple of hours as I had a dozen errands to do. Luckily, it was a nice cool day and he was a perfect gentleman about it.

Please help by Owl Surgery Fund.

My deepest thanks to the kind and generous people who have recently sent donations.

9 Dec. 2003
Imagine my shock when I felt a weight against my leg and a heavy THUMP and I realized that Owl had just tried - and of course failed -- to jump onto the desk! Fortunately, he didn't seem to hurt himself, the silly goon. I can't believe that the thought of jumping even entered his furry moggy brain.

I figured he wanted to be in his usual place next to my keyboard, so I lifted him up. He hobbled around the desk and kept trying to plop in his regular spots, but without being able to bend that leg, he just couldn't manage it without knocking my keyboard into my lap.

At one point he cried from trying the maneuver the injured leg in the tight space, and I decided to set him back on the floor for his own good.

I'm also relieved to see that the swelling in his foot has finally subsided and it's back down to normal size. He's almost managed to remove the clear patch. The vet said to let it come off whenever it would, so I'm not worrying about it.
Please help by Owl Surgery Fund.

My deepest thanks to the kind and generous people who have recently sent donations.

11 Dec. 2003
It's been one week since Owl's surgery. He managed to get the clear patch most of the way off. The sticky side was accumulating rather a lot of hair and grit, so I pulled it the rest of the way off today. That was a small "ouch!" moment that Owl didn't enjoy.

Other than that, I'd say he's coming along all right. He can't put any real pressure on the leg, but it looks like he's getting a tiny bit of bend in it and he's setting the toes down more properly instead of dragging them and the leg along behind him. Small bits of improvement in a long process of healing.

An Animal Control officer called yesterday to ask whether I'd seen the dog running loose again. I haven't. She also informed me that due to a complaint from yet another person in the area, she set out a large cage-trap for the dog. I'm still paranoid every time the cats outside.

I bought some new, very healthy, high quality diet food for the moggies. The horde in my office are eating it readily enough, but the spoiled house cats, Uni and Nefreet, have turned up their dainty noses at it. I brought home a different kind of food for them today. I'm a bit worried about Uni who has thrown up three times in two days. We'll see if the new new food makes a difference.
Please help by Owl Surgery Fund.

My deepest thanks to the kind and generous people who have recently sent donations.

12 Dec. 2003
Owl weirded out on me today and decided to run away from me (or to be more precise, hobble quickly), maybe because he's tired of taking pills. I had to be careful not to make him think I was chasing him, which I wasn't, because I didn't him to hurt himself in the process. All I really wanted to do was give him some love and see how he was doing. Besides, we finished the anti-biotics, so no more pills.

However, for some strange reason, both of the cats who were happily taking pills inside the treats have suddenly and in unison decided they absolutely will NOT touch the treats. Querida and Diva were being so good about it. boycott. Or would that be a catcott? At any rate, it's back to doing the pills the hard way, dammit.

16 Dec. 2003
I'm pleased with the progress that Owlis making. He's bending the knee a little bit more and even limping along on it. He's only putting the barest amount of weight on it and the leg is very shaky (of course), but that still seems good to me. We'll see what the vet says tomorrow when I take Owl back to have the metal staples removed.

I had to take a short trip and when I got back, my sitter told me that Diva seems to be having her constipation problem again. She strained in the box without producing anything. My sitter told me to try canned pumpkin. She said a vet recommended it and that her cats love it as a treat.

So yesterday I put dollops of the canned pumpkin in their bowls. There was a flurry of excitement, followed by a rather quick descent into confusion. "What IS this stuff? Where's the good stuff?" Tribble went from bowl to bowl and went away unhappy. It was not a resounding success.

By this morning, a bit more of the pumpkin had been eaten. I tried a new approach. I opened the regular can of food they were expecting and mixed that into the pumpkin. That's worked much better. And Diva made a deposit in the cat box this morning, so I can stop worrying about her for the time being.

17 Dec. 2003
Since I brought Owl home from the surgery, I've no longer been leaving the cat door open in the office because he kept showing too much interest in it. Today I got tired of having to constantly go to the door to let cats in and out. I decided to open the cat door, figuring I'd keep a close eye on Owl.

Hah! I forget that he's a sumo ninja. Two minutes later, I turned around to find Owl pulling his stapled leg out the cat door. I decided to take pity on him, so I let him stay outside while I stood attendance on him for a few minutes. All he really wanted to do was eat grass. Yeesh. I let him graze for a minute, then brought him inside and closed the cat door again. I swear, his favorite hobby is throwing up. Part of his previous routine was to go outside, eat grass, come inside and throw it up. I guess he misses that.

At least it told me I could throw out the special cat box I made with the low sides. If he can get out the cat door, he can get in and out of a regular cat box. And sure enough, a short time later he did exactly that.

I'm glad he's going to the vet this afternoon, though. There are a number of staples that are in the process of coming out already.


Owl was an excellent boy. He refused to come out of the carrier, as usual, not that I can entirely blame him. The vet was impressed with how well he's using the leg already, but was rather surprised by the staples that were coming loose. He said his staples usually hold better than that. Leave it to Owl to push the limits.

From this point on, it's a gradual process of Owl regaining some use of the leg. I'm supposed to keep doing the flexing exercise to encourage him to bend it more.

Owl is down to 15 lbs and bit, which is good. He needed to lose some of the excess weight he was carrying.

I also discussed Unicom's arthritis condition with the vet. I brought along Uni's x-rays. Very severe arthritis, he commented, then he suggested Adequan, a type of glucosamine injection that is much more powerful than the glucosamine pills and has less side-effects than the other medications. He would like to see me wean Uni off the aspirin and Prednisone, if this other medication helps him enough. I'm checking with my local vet about getting it.

20 Dec. 2003
Owl horked up a big old hairball yesterday. Aside from that, he seems to be doing pretty well. There's a small section of his scar that looks a little red to me, so I'm keeping a very close eye on it. I don't think it's infected. I think that part might bother Owl and he keeps licking it until it becomes a little irritated.

22 Dec. 2003
Today was Unicom's turn to visit the vet in Fresno. When I was there last time with Owl, I took Uni's x-rays along and discussed Uni's arthritis problem with him. I decided it was worth the long drive to have this vet help me get Uni started on a new treatment.

The day started very badly for Uni. The guy who is remodelling some walls for me forgot about keeping his dog restrained until I could get all the cats inside. He has a nice dog, but she's a big exuberant goof and after being chased by the big exuberant not-nice dog, you can imagine that this freaked out poor Uni. Not to mention that Randy was holding him at the time (in order to bring him inside) and Randy ended up with a set of claw gouges in his arm.

Then there was the noise and upset of the remodelling work itself. So by the time I put Uni in the carrier, he was already pretty upset. Add to this that he *hates* the carrier. He sent me a clear message. Within 5 minutes of a 50 minute trip, he peed all over it.

Have you ever gone to deal with a small problem, only to unexpectedly be faced with a far bigger and more serious one?

The vet gave Uni an exam, of course, since he's never seen him before. He listened gravely to Uni's heart and informed me that Uni has a galloping heartbeat. This is a strong indicator of a heart problem. He couldn't make a definite diagnosis without doing more tests such as EKG and ultrasound.

He had me listen through the stethoscope and wants me to listen to Uni's heart when he's relaxed at home to see whether it continues to gallop or returns to a normal lub-dub beat. Randy and I have noticed that Uni has not been doing as well over the past year. He's become far less active and has days when he obviously feels badly. However, it's easy to associate that with the pain and problems of the arthritis.

The vet did go ahead and give Uni the first Adequan shot (for the arthritis), showing me how to do it and gave me what I need for the treatments. I also had him do a "senior panel" blood work-up, though I won't get the results until tomorrow.

I had to explain Uni's name twice: once to the receptionist and once to the doctor. The female techs were quite taken with my big old orange boy.

However, now that Uni's been home for hours and should be recovered, he's breathing very heavily. Not quite labored, but far from normal. Randy and I are both deeply worried. We've been researching on the net and the symptoms keep pointing to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (enlarged heart), with grim outlooks. There is some treatment, but no cure and not a great prognosis.

I suspect neither one of us will sleep easily tonight, worrying about about Uni.

re Owl, I discussed the red section of Owl's incision. It hasn't change at all and I seen no indications of infection or problem. When I described it to the vet, he agreed that it sounds like a certain type of scar tissue. I forget the term he used. The part of the incision didn't heal quite as flat as the rest of it, so it formed that scar tissue to fill in the space. I hope most of it will be covered over when his fur grows back.

23 Dec. 2003

Today we are in mourning. The grief is too piercing. Words will come later.
Spring 1991 - 23 Dec. 2003

Sleep in peace, Mighty Gopher Slayer.
May you dwell in sunny fields of catnip
filled with slow, juicy gophers.
May memories of our love
keep you warm and content.

25 Dec. 2003
Here is what happened with Unicom, starting Mon. afternoon.

As I mentioned before, I took him to the Fresno vet that did the surgery on Owl. It was meant to be a routine visit to start a new treatment for Uni's arthritis. Instead, the vet discovered that Uni had something going quite wrong with his heart. He was having blood work done as the first step in following up on it.

I got home from that trip to Fresno around 6 pm, due to horrendous traffic. After that, Uni was never the same. He began to have problems with his breathing. As the night wore on, Randy and I grew progressively more concerned as Uni had to labor more and more for each breath. Oddly enough, he would eat food and drink water and look just fine, then he'd lie down and keep changing position, unable to get comfortable. He got on the sofa between us he usually did, but couldn't summon the energy to knead. Though it must have been hard, he purred as we petted him, but it wasn't his normal purr. It sounded like a purr with a death rattle mixed into it.

That did it. We'd been intensely debating what to do for over an hour. I'd called every local vet, but every single one of them up in the mountains now refers after-hours emergencies to a 24-hour emergency hospital down at the south end of Fresno -- an hour's drive from here. We were very worried about how badly the stress of going back into the carrier and making that trip could affect Uni. But the breathing was becoming too labored and too erratic. We were afraid he wouldn't last the night.

Around 11 pm, we got ready and went. I put the carrier in the back seat, but decided to hold Uni in my lap next to the carrier instead of sitting up front while Randy drove. I should have remembered what Uni did on the earlier trip. We got to the bottom of the driveway when I felt myself soaked with fresh, warm cat urine. Yes, the last thing Uni did while I was holding him was to pee on me. I hastily helped him into the carrier as we dashed back to the house. I cleaned up and changed clothes as fast as humanly possible.

I sat next to Uni on the long drive and tried to comfort him through the grill of the carrier. He was very upset. A few times he clawed at the grill and once, while I was trying to calm him, he bit my finger. Not hard and I don't think it was intentional. He was badly stressed.

The young man who checked us in at the emergency hospital quickly and effeciently took our info and saw how badly Uni was breathing, so he took him into the back right away where they put him into a special breathing chamber that pumped super-saturated oxygen to him. We did the necessary paperwork and met with the doctor. He was wonderful, very thorough, with just the right blend of compassion and a no-b.s. just-the-facts attitude.

We waited until he'd taken some x-rays, then he went over the x-rays with us in thorough detail. The outlook was very bad. Uni had fluid both in and around his lungs, enough to make it impossible to even see the heart. About the only way he was breathing was from one corner of the right lung. The left lung had virtually no function left at all and some kind of major mass in the entire central lobe. The mass could have been anything from pnuemonia to cancer.

Another problem was the long-term Prednisone use, which causes its own complications. Plus he still had the galloping heart beat. All in all, we left trying to keep hope they could save him, but I cried as we drove back. We got home around 3 am, exhausted in every way and dragged ourselves to bed.

Around 5:30 am, I was jolted from sleep by the phone. I knew it had to be the emergency vet and I knew it had to be bad news. It was. He gave me a quick run-down on everything they had tried, but it had all failed. Uni was fading quickly and reaching a stage where he would be in intense agony. We did what had to be done and gave the vet permission to give Uni a quick release from suffering.

Then Randy and I held each other and sobbed and sobbed our damned hearts out. We cried for hours. We cried as the dawn came in on the wings of a fierce storm. The storm outside echoed the storm of grief inside. All morning long, we kept bursting into tears. We went over what could have happened, how we could have missed earlier signs of trouble, what we could have done differently.

The Fresno vet who saw Uni first called me this afternoon, having been notified by the emergency hospital. He was totally shocked by what had happened, that Uni had failed so dramatically so quickly. He was very kind about it and discussed it with me at length. It's so typical of cats to hide how badly they're really doing, and when he saw Uni, there wasn't the labored breathing or obvious signs of what was to come. He wished he had done an x-ray yesterday, in case it might have shown something. His best guess is that Uni had the underlying hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (heart disease), but because of the stress he had an pulmonary embolism which quickly created the fluid in his lungs.

He offered to do an autopsy for free, so that we can know for sure what happened, and he offered to buy back the expensive arthritis medicine I'd just bought. I plan to go to Fresno on Friday and accept both of his offers.

We are emotional wrecks, totally heartbroken, and I'm crying again as I write this. We miss our beautiful boy so much. There is a giant Uni-sized hole in our lives. I will miss the most hearing him come stumping down the hallway to the bedroom, scratch at the door, give me is impatient little "rorrrw" when I open the door, and the wonderful times we had with him curled up between us on the bed as we rubbed his belly and scratched his chin. He had a majestic, loud purr machine that we will never hear again.

He was 12 going on 13, so he had a full life. He gave us as much love as we gave him. His last years were as happy as they could be. But it doesn't make the pain any less. Farewell, Unicom, Mighty Gopher Slayer.
25 Dec. 2003
I thank everyone for the hugs and kind wishes. We aren't taking Uni's death well at all. It was a deeply melancholy day. The house feels empty without him.

Randy came down to the office last night to get some cat therapy. He scritched a lot of cat ears and wielded the feather toy with half the Horde taking turns at killing the feather. Randy said he saw Owl scratch his chin using the injured leg, so that's pretty good. Owl is getting along on the leg a little better each day. Because of his allergies, Randy can only stay down here about 10 minutes, but it helped lift his depression, at least for a while.

The only one who comes out happier is Nefreet. Her nemesis is gone. No more sharing the sofa, the bed, the food, the catbox or the humans.

27 Dec. 2003
Yesterday afternoon, I drove to Fresno and picked up Uni's body at the emergency hospital. The final insult is that I had to pay yet more hundreds of dollars to close out the bill. It's not that I begrudge them all the work they did trying to save Uni. They did their best. But cost me hundreds and hundreds of dollars with no cat to show for it. It cost me more to *lose* Uni than it cost to repair Owl. That hurts. It's like someone dealt me a body blow and then, while I'm gasping on the ground in pain, they kick me in the teeth.

The Fresno vet is located very close by to that hospital, so I arranged an appointment in which I turned Uni's body over to them and had Querida examined. My intuition is that she needs less of the Tapazole and I was worried about having her on Prednizone for so long. She also gets a lot of sinus congestion, as though she keeps getting the cat version of a cold.

She quacked unhappily most of the way down there. Querida has always hated being confined. The vet didn't seen anything seriously wrong, but we did a blood and urine work-up to be sure.

He called today with the results. As I suspected, we can cut back the Tapazole a little bit as her thyroid is way down. There are indications she's heading for some kidney trouble. We are carefully weaning her off the Pred., and I'll need to get her rechecked in a couple of weeks. Naturally, she had none of the symptoms of congestion at the time, but he gave me some nose drops for her all the same.

Tribble is slowly putting on weight now that he's getting Tapazole. I can no longer feel every bone in his body, though he's still extremely skinny. And I think he's calmed down somewhat. He's lying next to my keyboard and I can see that his breathing looks much more normal than it used to.

A few minutes ago, I heard the rustle of a plastic bag. I hurried over. Sure enough, there was Owl snacking away. I have no idea how he got hold of that bag and he wasn't happy with me for taking it away. I really must grow some oat grass for him.

Owl has also returned to removing the fur from his back, thus I am once again giving him the anti-histamines. He is *really* unhappy about that, poor boy.

29 Dec. 2003
The vet called with his report on Unicom's autopsy. It confirmed what he had theorized -- severe hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. Uni had a very thickened left ventricle (so his heart wouldn't have been pumping efficiently, therefore leading to formation of clots) and clots in the right atrium. The vet said it was quite unusual to see clots on the right side. They usually occur in the left atrium. He had no explanation for it, but it looks pretty definite that the underlying heart disease, the stress and the clots are what killed Uni. His lungs were waterlogged, totally filled with fluid, which is brought on by the clots lodging in the lungs.

Basically, Uni's days were numbered no matter what. The heart problems were going to kill him. The stress of the day probably brought it to the crisis point a bit sooner, but there was little we could have done. The vet thinks that if we'd kept him at home that night, Uni might have died a bit later at best.

Perhaps if we'd somehow detected the heart condition sooner, we could have extended his life by a few months, possibly more, but the end was inevitable. It turns out that the aspirin we were giving him was doing the most good. The Prednisone, however, was doing harm in this particular situation. There's no cure for this heart condition and the best one can do is treat the symptoms. The vet said they don't know yet what causes it. It may have some genetic component, but what brings it on is still a mystery. In humans, this condition can show up in boxers and other athletes. I've heard about that in the past, especially when an otherwise healthy athlete suddenly drops dead.

I don't feel entirely absolved, but I know there was nothing significant we could have done. It sure doesn't make the pain of missing Unicom any easier to bear, and damn, I'm crying again.

31 Dec. 2003
Yesterday, Randy and I went to a rock outlet and bought some large, flat pieces of quartzite to line Unicom's grave. We have a brief break in what is supposed to be a week of rain, so this needed to be the day. It was a gray, chilly and overcast. This morning, I drove to Fresno and picked up Uni's body. That was a tough moment. Yes, he was wrapped up. There's no way I could bear to see him, but even so...

Randy had already dug the grave several days ago. We chose to put him next to one of his favorite spots at the far corner of the patio. Uni loved to lie there where he could keep an eye on everything: to one side was the house, below him was my office, and spread out in front of him was the valley. Plus it was a great place to listen for gophers. He would hang out there for hours.

Randy laid in the quartzite slabs. I wrapped Uni in his towel. This was the towel Randy kept on the sofa so that Uni could knead it, which he did nearly every night. We set Uni's body inside and set the stone slabs around and over him. We left him sprigs of catnip because he was such a niphead. I put in a stone chip from the headstone of Peter's grave. This seemed appropriate because we never would have had Uni at all if Peter hadn't insisted on bringing him home.

Once the grave was filled in, Randy moved over a large, triangular boulder that Uni loved to sit on. That is now his headstone. We had a pile of large and small rocks which we used to outline and cover the grave.

Uni has come home, or at least his body has. I hope his bright little spirit has moved on to happier things.

Puck with ball
Puck says, "Could I get any cuter?"

Unicom asleep
Unicom at rest

Artemis the Great White Belly.

Kate the Wild Abyssinian

Nefreet the psycho-kitty.

Unicom in feather-slaying frenzy!

Owl says, "Can't a guy lick his crotch in peace around here?"

Puck in window
The Puckster

Tosca, Tribble and Puck
Tosca, Tribble and Puck


Diva and Puck
Diva and Puck face off.

Diva and Puck
Diva and Puck decide to think twice about it.