Still Life, With Cats

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Comfort and joy

Two short things for today.

First, if you need a smile, then this video is definitely for you.

Timmie loves the foster kittens, and there are big gaps under some of our doors because it’s an old house. Put those two things together and you get scenes like this. There are two separate foster kittens reaching their adorable little feet under the door at Timmie.

Second, because today is apparently National Pastry Day (or something like that), this evening I whipped up these Hand Pies, except instead of blueberries, I used leftover cranberry curd in the middle.

They turned out delicious. Yum!


Unforeseen hazards

One of the things about kitten fostering is that even if you have one room solely dedicated to the kittens, sometimes you have to separate some out for whatever reason, and then there will be kittens in the bathroom. Due to a kitten recovering from a leg amputation (her femur was shattered prior to her being found and brought to the rescue through which we foster), our upstairs bathroom has been a secondary kitten holding space for the last few weeks.

The thing about having kittens in the bathroom, of course, is that then any trip to use the facilities takes significantly longer.

Usually this is because it’s really hard to just zip in and zip right out when there are adorable kittens demanding attention right there in front of you.

I mean, honestly, how are you supposed to resist sitting down and giving these adorable little cuties a snuggle?

But other times it’s because, well….

‘Tis the season for Holidailies.

Let the hall decking begin

In the past eleven years we haven’t done much decorating for Christmas, primarily because we got Rupert and Ingrid in the fall of 2009 and that Christmas marked the beginning of the self-decorating tree trend, which began with Rupert and Ingrid, and continued on with Sherman, Nutmeg, and finally Timmie.

But this year, now that Rupert is eleven and fairly calm, and Sherman is eight and also showing signs of slowing down, we thought that maybe, just maybe, we could try decorating like normal people. Also, there’s this pandemic raging through the world outside and having a little extra sparkle and cheer in the house would be nice. So we bought ourselves a new tree (and donated the old one to someone who was thrilled to get it), and this past weekend we put it up.

In years past Sherman has been extremely involved in tree assembly, but this year he was mostly interested in the box.

Cornelius M. Peabody, however, was all in on helping to make sure the top was perfectly straight.

So far the furry contingent have left the tree (mostly) alone, so this might finally be the year we can drag out the nice stuff that’s been gathering dust in the attic for over a decade.


Fingers crossed.

‘Tis the season for Holidailies.

Cat tales

A little math problem for you:

You have a room that contains eight VERY busy foster kittens. You open the door.

Two kittens run out. You put one kitten back. Two more kittens run out. You put three back. Three more kittens run out. You put two back. One more kitten runs out. You put one back. Two more kitten runs out.

Please answer the following:

  • How many kittens are still out?
  • How many of the escapees were the same kittens?
  • How long did you have to search for the final kitten before realizing that she discovered she could go down the stairs and was exploring under the bed?

Don’t forget to show your work.


I have a cautionary tale for you.

Rupert occasionally goes through periods of extreme horking. The last few days he’s been in epic form (in other words, watch where you step!). So when he was sitting on the island, right beside my laptop, and I heard him make his distinctive little ‘I’m going to hork’ cry, I decided that instead of just pushing him off the island so he’d hork on the floor (and not on my laptop), I would instead grab him and dash him over to the sink where he could then hork directly into something that would be easy to clean.

I know, I know, but in my defense I hadn’t had any coffee yet, so I wasn’t thinking clearly.

Let’s just say that we didn’t make it to the sink. Let’s also just say that (because the splatter range of a cat horking from five feet in the air is *impressive*) the kitchen floor and all the cabinet doors and baseboards needed to be thoroughly cleaned anyway. Sigh.

Please learn from my fail. You’re welcome.

‘Tis the season for Holidailies.

This is why I need coffee

2 AM
Cat: Hey. I want under the covers.

Me: Tries to ignore cat, knowing full well that this never works, but holding out hope anyway.

Cat: Hey. Hey! Covers! Lift the covers!

Me: You manage to get under the covers just fine without any help during the day. Go ahead.

Cat: Covers. Now. I can do this all night, human.

Me: Gives up, lifts covers.

Cat: But do I really *want* under the covers?

Me: Yes you do. Now go to sleep.

2-2:06 AM: Cat settles herself.

2:12 AM
Second Cat: Hey! How come she gets to be under the covers?

Me: Tries to ignore cat, hoping he will think I’m sleeping and go away.

Second Cat: Paws at my face, claws barely out, just to make his point. I said lift the covers, human!

Me: Fine. Here. Get under the goddamn covers.

Second Cat: But do I want under *those* covers, or do I want to just sit here?

Me: Why are cats?

2:12-2:18 AM: Second cat accepts head scritches and eventually settles under the covers.

2:22-2:31 AM
Brain: Hey, while you’re awake, remember when you did that really stupid thing ten years ago? Let’s revisit that in excruciating detail, over and over.

3:45 AM
Second Cat: Hey! Hey! I need back under the covers.

Third Cat: Horks wetly, somewhere nearby, thus setting up the daily minefield for bare feet.

Second Cat: Deliberately steps on the First Cat-shaped lump under the covers.

First Cat: OMG, someone stepped on me! Grr! Hiss! Whine!

Brain: Hey, while we’re awake, let’s plan out a schedule for the day.

4:08 AM
Fourth Cat: Remembers how much she loves the track toy that is in the room directly overhead, and begins to play with great and loud enthusiasm.

4:15-4:25 AM
Brain: Hey, have you ever thought about what would happen if –

Me: OMG, seriously? Gets up, goes upstairs.

Fifth and sixth cats: Yay! You’re awake! Pet us! Play with us! Hey! Hey! Hey!

Foster kittens: We hear you out there! We are starving! We are lonely! We have not been fed in twenty seven years and no one has ever given us any snuggles EVER in all our tiny little lives! Hey! Hey! HEY!

Me: Sigh.

‘Tis the season for Holidailies.

The bargain we make

It was almost twenty years ago, in the fall of 1999. I was no longer officially fostering with the Yolo County SPCA, although I had been known to take in a kitten here and there when one crossed my path (it’s how I ended up with Rosemary, after all). I was meeting up with some friends who were still heavily involved with the fostering, and we were in the back room at the clinic. One of them opened a cage door and this tiny little black puffball of a kitten launched himself out of the cage, straight at me. As I scrambled to catch him, one of my friends noted idly that he really needed a home.

They told me his story. He had been run over by a car and then surrendered to the shelter by his previous owners due to his injuries. One of his back legs was crushed. The vet – a rather crusty older guy – noted that he really should have just removed the leg entirely, but on a whim, he decided to see if he could save it. So by the time i met him, he was mostly recovered, but just sporting a limp, and a pin in his leg to keep everything straight while he healed.

I pondered. Rosie was the youngest and really needed someone to play with. I said I’d agree to foster him, but only if he and Rosie got along. They agreed to play along with the pretense that he was only going to be temporary, and I took him home. I named him Azrael, after the Angel of Death, because with his injuries he really shouldn’t have survived. Naturally he and Rosie got along famously, and it wasn’t long before he wore down all the others. Clearly he was staying.

Azzie, 2003

He grew up to be a black puffball of an adult, with huge round yellow eyes. He looked a lot like Nermal from the Garfield cartoons, except that unlike Nermal, Azzie was not smart. In fact, he was probably the dimmest cat I’ve ever known. He once got himself lost behind a see-through shower curtain. While the other cats all figured out a cat door in a matter of minutes, it took him over a week, and then he would first only go through when one of the others would go through, as if he wasn’t quite sure that it would work just the same. When we moved into the house in Sacramento, every other cat quickly figured out within days that the upstairs bathroom had two doors, and if one was open, they could just go around to the other side to get in, but it took Azzie over a year.

He may not have been the brightest of cats, but his internal clock was strong. He knew that wet food would come at 5pm, every night, so at least an hour or so beforehand he’d started yelling in the kitchen, just in case we had forgotten.

Azzie in 2017

The last year or two he’d been slowing down a lot – arthritis was definitely taking its toll.

And he’d also been dealing with a chronic upper respiratory infection. Initially we’d take him in and they’d give him a shot, or give us some pills, and that would clear it up for a couple months, but lately, nothing was working.

Azzie, from May of this year

He’d lost a few pounds over the past few years, as is normal for elderly cats, but in the past couple months the weight loss had increased. And it took us a little while to come to terms with what we knew we had to do, because through it all he was still coming for food, and able to jump up on the couch, and snuggle up for attention, but it was time.

It is hard, looking at the pictures of him from the past year, to remember what he once was, all wide-eyed and fluffy, skittering around chasing toys and running up and down the cat trees. I sat in the library this morning, watching our current crop of foster kittens charge around the room, and I thought – this is the bargain we make, when we take on these young things, full of life and energy. We let them into our homes and our hearts and they give us love and entertainment and joy, but in return, along with food and water and toys and things to climb and laps to snuggle and warm places to sleep, we also agree that we will make the hardest decision, when the time comes, to let them go.

Operation Kitten Delivery

So as I’ve mentioned here before, we recently took up kitten fostering, and we had a very adorable little kitten – Fern – and her very sweet mom. I set up the House of Floof page as a way for us to share pictures and updates on the fuzzballs, since I figured maybe not everyone wants to be constantly spammed with pictures of kittens (instead I just spam them with pictures of our resident cats). I also did it with the hope that someone might catch sight of those pictures and updates and decide they wanted to adopt one.

Well that worked, really well, amusingly, in that my sister up in Washington (the one with whom I do Baking Sisters things) started asking me a lot of questions about Fern, and then I got a phone call asking about the procedures for adoptions, and then there was a flurry of emails and messages back and forth between me and the adoption coordinators with the group with which we rescue, and to make a long story short, it turns out we weren’t going to have to take Fern out to any adoption placement days once she was ready to go, and all we were waiting for was for her to grow big enough that she could get fixed.

The second I got confirmation of her spay date, I sent a note to my sister, asking what her schedule looked like the following week, and then we made plans. She sent me a carrier that would meet all the airline regulations and I made sure to get all the required health records, and very (very, VERY) early Wednesday morning, Fern and I set off to the airport. She had a lot to say on the drive there, but once we got to the airport, she quieted down, and she didn’t make a peep for the rest of the trip.

Clearly no one was excited to finally meet her at *all*.

I got to spend two days hanging out with my sister and brother-in-law and niece, and playing with the resident kitties, and also giving Fern lots of goodbye cuddles and scritches. And then I flew home (arriving in the very wee hours of this morning), very happy to know that had Fern had found herself a most excellent home.


A while back, we decided that, being nerds and all, that we would get ourselves a wireless bathroom scale – the sort which syncs itself to our Fitbit accounts, and lets us track things online. Each of us set up our profile, so that when we step onto the scale, it knows who we are, and then stores that weight into the appropriate account. However, if someone it doesn’t recognize steps onto the scale, then it records the weight under the name ‘Guest’.

The other day, I was going through the list of weights to make sure it had assigned everything appropriately (sometimes it doesn’t) and I noticed a series of Guest weigh-ins. What was odd about these, however, is that they were all pretty consistently for someone about 11 and a half pounds.

So…in other words, apparently at least one of the cats has been hanging out on the scale, and it’s been dutifully capturing the weight each time. Based on who insists on being in the bathroom with us any time one of us is using the facilities, I’m going to guess it’s one of the grey boys (Sherman and Rupert both weigh roughly the same).

* * * * *

In other news, hey, look, I made another pair of socks. The pattern is Lorentz, which I picked firstly because of the interesting texture pattern, and secondly because it’s yet another version of a toe-up sock that, unlike the others I’ve tried, actually seems to account for the fact that one’s foot tends to widen around the ankle, and one’s sock should reflect that.

Despite my best efforts I couldn’t get a picture that shows the texture clearly, so click the pattern link above to see what they really look like.

(Oh, and by the way, I can now share two more pairs of socks I’ve made – as test knits – since the patterns have been released. Both of these were done in November of last year.

Transversal socks – I really like the texture patterning on these.

Swirl Sampler Socks – these incorporate lace and texture, and are mirror images of each other.

A brief tutorial

How to photograph a finished knitted item, without cats:

  1. Lay out your knitted item on a flat surface, preferably with a solid color sheet of cloth or paper underneath.
  2. Stand on stool, or chair, so as to be able to best photograph the item from above.
  3. Take the picture.

How to photograph a finished knitted item, with cats:

  1. Lay out the background sheet, carefully smoothing out the surface so as to minimize any wrinkles or lumps.
  2. Remove the cat who has come out of nowhere to tunnel underneath the sheet.
  3. Re-smooth the sheet with one hand, while flinging a toy with the other so as to distract the cat.
  4. Lay out your knitted item, smoothing it out carefully.
  5. Remove the cat who has flopped on top of the knitted item because if it’s there, it *must* be a thing for cats.
  6. Re-smooth the knitted item.
  7. Climb up on top of a stool or chair to take the picture.
  8. Climb back down to rescue the item from cat who reached up with one paw and stealthily snagged a corner of the knitted item, which is now rapidly disappearing underneath the table.
  9. Try to distract cats with toys, empty boxes, packing paper.
  10. Repeat steps 1 through 9 several times more.
  11. Give up and take a picture that includes the cats and call it artsy.
  12. Eventually manage to snap hasty shot of item once cats get bored and wander off to wreak havoc somewhere else. 



Here is the thing pet owners know: pets make noises.

Some are normal noises – in our house, Rupert is a narrator and Azzie and Ingrid are whiners and Ruby beeps, and Nutmeg only squeaks imperiously when I’m not going fast enough to lift her from the floor to the counter so she can drink out of the sink, and all of them chitter at birds.

But there are other cries that a pet makes that are *not* normal. So when I heard one of those sounds this afternoon, I flew downstairs to find Sherman hunched over, and backing into a corner.

At first, after he proceeded to hork all over the floor, I figured it was just a hairball. But then he went into a litter box and started straining and cried again, that horrible sad sound, and he tried another litter box, and when I went to pick him up, the second I touched his side he yelled and hissed and that is so very *not* normal for Sherman.

Richard called our regular vet but they didn’t have any slots available, plus they close early on Saturdays, so I called the local emergency vet, and once I described the situation they said bring him in.

Sherman hollered non-stop the entire drive. In the waiting room he calmed down enough to charm a nearby couple who were there waiting for news on their dog (and were, like me, anxious for anything to take their minds off the reason they were there – this isn’t a clinic you go to for regular care, so if you’re there, it’s for very bad reasons). But eventually that passed and by the time they’d stuck us in an exam room, Sherman was back to yelling that horrible, wrong cry that made it clear he didn’t feel well at *all*.

There is no clear diagnosis as of yet. It could be any one of a whole host of things. Because he was perfectly fine last night it’s not likely to be something chronic, and if he ate something he shouldn’t have (I remind you all that he’s the culprit in this story) there’s no guarantee it’d show up on x-rays.

They gave him some fluids and an antibiotic shot in case it’s an infection, and sent me home with pain killers that are apparently a controlled substance because I had to sign a form and provide my date of birth. He’s now locked up in the library, a little bit stoned from the pain meds, and at some point later today I’ll head off to the grocery store to buy up their available stock of baby food meat since he’s only allowed a bland diet.

And now we just cross our fingers, and wait.

‘Tis the season for Holidailies.