Saturday, 26 November 2016

The Autumn Plumage of the Greater Plummet

A mere week ago, I wrote about one of the cats (Oatmeal) picking his moment of maximum inconvenience to be ill. After a brief rally, life and complicating events have headed on a downward course – I had barely pressed the Kindle Direct button (yes, I really do want to publish this book) when I found I would have to work away from home for a week. No internet, limited phone, and certainly no way to track the progress of my book, or do any of those little promotional nudges it might need.
Still. Only a week. No too bad...
At one-thirty on the morning of departure, Thug dropped by for a bite to eat, and I spent half an hour ensuring that all he ate was cat food. He had Piper cornered in the kitchen – no way to reach the relative safety of the lounge (there is a cat-flap in the lounge door), and a torrential south-westerly storm the other side of the cat-flap out of the house.
Before I could settle into mediating between Thug and Piper, Oatmeal came out of the lounge to see what was happening. Thug does not do cat-flaps (yet), so this was not the brightest move. Having come face-to-face with the Purring Death, Oatmeal ran for the bedroom, which distracted Thug long enough for me to pick up Piper and put him in the lounge. See, things are picking up already...
Oatmeal took ‘refuge’ on the bed, right where my feet are supposed to go. Ginge was already in ‘her’ spot between the pillows (is that snoring in my ear my partner or the ginger gooseberry?). Thug did his best meerkat routine, rearing up to assess the lie of the duvet. Ginge growled; Oatmeal growled. Not an end-of the-world growl, just the initial invite and RSVP-if-you-dare. Thug went round the other side and jumped up on to my partner who woke to the Cat Growl duet.
Thug decided that two against one was too easy, so he jumped down and explored under the bed, presumably looking for a third cat to join Ginge and Oatmeal to give them a chance. Whatever he was looking for, the junk under the bed was thoroughly investigated. Finally, after half hour or so, Thug decided to go back out – at least the storm was worthy of his attention.
I’m sure I’ve heard somewhere that sleep is over-rated. I wouldn’t know.
It felt like it was all over, but really, that was the tipping point where a downward drifting week became a full-blown seven-day fall.
Breakfast was deceptively peaceful, and then I drove into town to pick up a fruit and veg order for my partner before I and the van went away for the week. I was early – no delivery yet, so I returned home and met that classic morning question – are you still wearing your grubby clothes?
This generally means the side of the barn has fallen off, or one of the rams is knee-deep in mud and needs rescuing. That sort of thing... but today it was a wounded sea gull. We tramped out across the field, caught the injured bird (amazingly easy) and took it to the vet – they know a man who tends to sick sea birds. Sadly, the gull had a badly broken wing and there was nothing to be done.
On the way home, we dropped in to pick up the fruit and veg... still not in. That south-westerly over night caused a bit of flooding, interrupting deliveries. In the end, I drove away no more than two hours late, leaving my partner to try to arrange alternative transport.
I can make up two hours. No problem. Just take a look at the job. Cold light of day and all that. OK... that looks a bit more than we thought... and this bit here might need an extra hour... or two...

So here I am, writing this at half ten at night, knowing it will have to wait for the weekend to actually go on my blog, grumbling about the day that went down hill. Or as Monty Python might put it, the one that didn’t so much fall as plummet.

Monday, 21 November 2016

A Policy Of A Pee's Meant

Bad things happen when you’re busy. I have just self-published a novel and the last few months have been dominated by editing, proofing, and yet more proofing... which is why Oatmeal (6.5kg of feline lap-hog) chose his moment to be sick. Cats are never ill when you have time to deal with it. So, in the final week of mind-numbing work, when I really needed to concentrate...
My partner noticed one of Oatmeal’s eyes was not opening properly, so we took him to the vet who diagnosed an ulcer on his eyeball. We have no idea of the underlying cause – a bit of grit, a scratch from playing with one of the other cats, or something else entirely. The cure was simple – a course of antibiotics. Not tablets, or a handy, one-off injection, but eye-drops.
Cats appreciate us and what we do for them – the food in the bowl, the comfy sofa, the warm fire in winter, the lovely absorbent pillows on the bed for drying paws in the middle of the night... Really, the only thing they actively and aggressively don’t appreciate is the health-care plan.
Amazingly, the vet got a couple of drops in Oatmeal’s eye with no trouble. OK, not so amazing really – we have seen this with most of our cats over the years. It’s scary at the vet, so the cat tones down normal responses. The trouble starts at home – one drop every two hours for the first day, then four times a day for a further four days. Welcome to cat-owner’s hell.
Oatmeal is a remarkably placid and amiable cat, until you need to give him a pill, or apply flea-treatment. The solution for the eye-drops was a towel – wrap the cat so that all paws, and their claws, are contained and controlled. So I held Oatmeal whilst my partner attempted to get the drops in his eye, and Oatmeal wriggled. Then he ducked and wriggled some more, backed up and disappeared inside the towel, shuffled around, I lost my grip, caught him again, got him re-wrapped... this may take some time... ow, shit... wait... ow... just a moment... ow... and finally the drops were in. Then all I had to do was drop my clothes in the wash, because the smell of cat pee gets everywhere.
On the second round, he only managed to pee on my trousers. On the third, he scored a hit on everything. Again. Oatmeal has a very solid policy of peeing on anyone who tries to put drops in his eyes.
We modified the approach and used the towel to pin him down on a piece of lino in the kitchen. Even with virtually zero traction, he managed to reverse up, hide inside the towel again and pee on my ankles. And the door-mat.
That’s just day one. Four more to go. Time to start the count-down – undamaged fingers... ten... nine... eight...
By the end, we had a system – change into the least offensive-smelling trousers, catch the cat, work entirely on a bigger piece of lino, wipe afterwards, wipe shoes afterwards, change socks, clean trousers back on... And under no circumstances say ‘it looks fine now, we could just stop...’ because if the antibiotics haven’t quite cured the infection we might have to start all over again from the beginning, every two hours on the first day...

Oatmeal didn’t win, as such, and his eye is now fine, but whichever way you look at it, he had a policy to deal with unwanted medical attention. A policy with a capital P.

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Schrödinger's Other Cat

The saga of Thug continues – the trip to the vet for attitude adjustment went well, but in the aftermath he started visiting even more frequently. Our main concern was to convince him that when he stopped for a bite to eat the only thing on the menu was cat-food, not cat. Thug very much lives by the old motto – a cat is not just for Christmas. The bits caught between his teeth will be a snack for later.
Attitude adjustment seems to taken well – he comes face to face with Oatmeal, who growls, and Thug stops. Turns away. Backs off. That is a huge improvement. Piper on the other hand takes one look and goes into hiding.
I am no expert on cat eye-sight, but Piper can definitely spot a ginger cat. I have seen Piper duck and cover when Ginge turns up, and then check carefully to confirm that it isn’t the other ginger cat. He has just been hurt by Thug too many times.
Still, all going well. Until now.
Thug worked out how to get into the house. He hasn’t got the hang of cat-flaps (yet) but has obviously seen Ginge or Piper using their favourite route in through the fanlight window. It turns out that my eye-sight is on a par with Piper – I see a ginger cat in the house and it takes me a while to work out that this is Thug, the big ginger.
This is Schrödinger's Other Cat – none of that nonsense about not knowing whether the cat in the box is dead until you open the lid, instead just not knowing which cat it is. Or whether there is any cat at all.
Thug has not only found the way in, but uses it like it’s old news. Up until now, Thug has been hanging around at the back door for food. Now, he has discovered the self-service window and he likes it.
This is not good news, but so far, Thug and Piper are keeping very different schedules, and Piper hasn’t really noticed. If that changes we might have to find Thug a new home. Piper gets priority – he has been here longer, and is currently lazying on the sofa beside me, claws against my leg to make sure I emphasise his side of the story.

At least Thug hasn’t worked out how to get into the lounge yet... The trouble is, with Schrödinger's Other Cat, you never know exactly when and where he will be next.