Still Life, With Cats

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Step by step

Tonight we put up the tree.

As you can see, this is a very involved process. First, you must give all of the parts a thorough inspection before you remove them from the box.

Next, you begin assembling the tree. First the base gets placed into the stand, and then the middle section, and finally the top part.

Hmm. Funny. The top part of the tree doesn’t look quite like the rest. Better check the instructions again.

Some Assembly Required

(Yes, those *are* tiny stuffed dragons on the ledges above the window. They are flying animals, after all.)

The Branch Inspector takes her job very seriously. “Excuse me. I believe this one is a little bit crooked.”

Branch Inspector


The Quality Control officer, however, remains decidedly unimpressed.

Ingrid Is Unimpressed

“Yeah, yeah, it’s a tree. Can I go back to napping now?

‘Tis the season for Holidailies.

One year

2012-05-11 ShermanOne year ago today we went and picked up a tiny little scrap of grey fluff. He met all the cats and immediately decided that Rupert (the Highly Caffeinated Cat) was his Very Best Buddy in the whole world. And it didn’t take long for Rupert to figure out that here was a small minion he could take under his wing and mold into his own image.


2013-03-31 ShermanOnBlanketOver the past year Rupert has energetically taught Sherman all of his tricks (racing  around on the railing around the opening to the stairs, leaping to the top of the refrigerator cabinet, racing around on the ledges over the windows and doors, conducting the daily Great Race up and down the stairs and into and out of every single room at top speed and volume, dashing in between our feet when we’re walking – especially when going down the stairs, and, well, you get the drift).


2013-05-03 ShermanSleepingThere are days when we watch the two of them tearing around, leaving destruction in their wake, and wonder what the heck we were thinking. And then there are days when we realize that Rupert actually has someone who will *wear him out* (and for a cat whose full name is Goddammit Rupert Stop That, NO!, that’s saying something) and we agree that getting Rupert a Sherman was the best idea we could have ever come up with (even if that hadn’t been the intention in the first place).


I am sitting at my desk in our home office, typing this entry. Behind me, on the floor, lies this toy, and a pair of cats, and I do not have to turn my head to know that they are busily playing with it, because I can hear the soft smack of paws against the track, and the gentle rattle of the ball as it rolls back and forth. They have, in fact, been playing with this toy since we got home and I put it together, nearly 1 1/2 hours ago – oh, not all six cats at once, of course, but in twos and threes, trading off who is flopped on their side, wildly smacking at the ball or stuffing their paw into the track, and who is lounging off to one side, watching the entire process intently. It is rare to have a toy that enthralls the cats for so long, but at least in this household, this particular toy gets six paws up.

The toy was acquired during the annual Christmas Eve festivities at Richard’s parents’ place, where we spent most of the day. We drove down this morning, collecting all the presents and the biscuits I made yesterday, and a jar of spiced pear butter I made this fall, and a CD of Christmas music to play in the car. Presents were exchanged and pets were entertained. We chatted and laughed and ate delicious brunch food, and drank coffee, and it was a lovely, low key afternoon.

So now we are back home, with new books to read and DVDs to watch and a toy where I am not sure who is more entertained – the cats who are playing with it, or the humans who are watching them and laughing at their antics. Time to curl up with hot chocolate and laptops; with eBooks and knitting, and allow the day to fade quietly away.

‘Tis the season for Holidailies.

What lurks there in the dark

We have had the tree up for a while – in fact, since the weekend after Thanksgiving. It is a fake tree, because several years back we both realized we were tired of dealing with the mess of a real one, and it has turned out to be a good thing because half the cats in our house feel that the Christmas tree is an awesome toy that must be scaled on a regular basis.

We own a decent collection of beautiful ornaments to put on that tree, but ever since we got Rupert and Ingrid three years ago, we learned the hard way that putting anything breakable on the tree is just a very, very bad idea. Granted, we did have a collection of cheaper, soft ornaments that were always hung on the bottom, since all of our previous cats thought the dangling toys were too tempting, and usually at least one or two of them would be ‘liberated’ through the course of the holiday season. But before getting Rupert and Ingrid, we never had any actual tree climbers.

Rupert and Ingrid were soon joined by Nutmeg in the tree, in 2010,  and all three of them continued the trend last year. In 2010, at the after Christmas sales, I picked up a handful of super cheap, nonbreakable ornaments – the sort you can find 10 for a $1 in the clearance bin. They’re not my first choice for decorating, of course – I much prefer the individual ornaments collected over the years – but when one has a trio of tree-climbing cats, one has to make do.

This year, we still have a trio of cats in the tree. Although Ingrid no longer seems to have much interest in climbing it, her place has been taken, quite enthusiastically, by Sherman. This has not surprised us in the slightest, of course. Since pretty much the day we brought Sherman home back in May, Rupert took him under his wing and has made it his mission to teach Sherman *all* of his crazy habits, plus Sherman is still young enough to have plenty of bad habits of his own.

Case in point. This is what happened when we finally put the ornaments on the tree this evening.

‘Tis the season for Holidailies.

And then there were three

This past weekend we put up the Christmas tree. It is a very quick process, these years. We drag the extremely heavy box down from the attic, and we open it up and then we remove a cat, and we pull out each section of tree and we remove a cat, and then we set them all up and we remove a cat, and we hook all the cords together (and remove a cat) and then plug it in. And then poof, we’re all done. Because even though last year I did go buy some completely nonbreakable ornaments, we have come to the conclusion that it really is not worth even bothering with decorating.

That would be because of two reasons: Rupert and Ingrid

Rupert, the tabby terror

Ingrid the poofy

This year, we added Nutmeg to our little family. Nutmeg loves following Rupert around, and anything Rupert does, she is sure she needs to do too. So she came over and sniffed the tree, and we waited. And watched. And sure enough, after a day or two to ponder it, our tree gained its third (and final) ornament for the year.

Some people have all sorts of fancy ornaments and tinsel and garland.

Us? We just decorate our tree with cats.

‘Tis the season for Holidalies!

The hardest part

I thought we had more time. Although I’m not sure which was worse in the long run, thinking we had more time, which meant more time to watch and worry, or having it all go by too fast.

She was losing weight. She’d always been thin, but this was getting too thin. Rosemary was due to go in for a blood check anyway, to make sure the pills were keeping her thyroid hormones stable, so I decided it would be a double-tortie vet visit. I carefully placed the carriers in the car so they couldn’t see each other. Checkers and Rosie never liked each other. Checkers didn’t like much of anyone, for that matter – except for me. Most of our life with her involved a lot of arranging things for her so she didn’t have to deal with anything else but me.

He felt lumps in her intestines, and I could tell by the look on his face that it wasn’t good. She went back in, later, for x-rays. When I went to pick her up, he took me aside to talk. There are treatments, but life expectancy isn’t great. The least invasive is pills, but only if she’ll tolerate them. We are talking about Checkers here. Treating her for anything has been a massive struggle.

I brought home a bottle of pills and some pill pockets – little treats into which you stuff a pill so the cat will eat it with less fuss. She took them for four days. I started to feel a small sense of relief. The internet said if she’d do the treatment, we could get a temporary reprieve. The vet said it always comes back, but maybe she’d get another few months or a year or two.

The fifth day she bit the pill pocket in half and tasted the pill, and that was it. Four and one half pills. No more.

I tried to catch her to take her back for the next type of treatment – steroid shots. She freaked out and bit me, hard. I’ve been bit and scratched thousands of times in my life, but never like this. I sat down on the floor and cried, partly because it hurt like hell, and partly because I didn’t know what else to do. How do you explain to a cat that this is the only thing standing in between her and death?

He said that this wasn’t painful; that it will mainly just make her waste away. I saw her eat. I bribed her with wet food. She spent most of her days under the bed, only coming out at night to burrow under the blankets and curl up as close to me as she could, purring and shoving her head into my hand for pets.

Last night – although it was really early this morning – we came home from a trip down to San Jose to watch Richard’s parents’ play. Getting ready for bed, I noticed Ingrid and Rupert staring under the bed. Leave her alone, I told them, and then crouched down to find her. She was stretched out under the bed, barely breathing. I yelled for Richard. He brought me a towel and I pulled her out gently and wrapped her up and held her in my arms. At some point during the drive to the emergency vet, she passed away.

August 8th is when we were given her diagnosis of lymphoma. It’s only been four weeks. I thought we would have more time.

I wanted there to be more time.

Checkers: March 2003 –  September 4, 2011


Do you know what is more fun than a cat coming down with something that requires a vet visit and medication? A cat coming down with something that requires a vet visit and medication, shortly before you are going to be out of town. And do you know what is even more fun than that? If the cat needing medication is the cat that won’t let anyone but me touch her. Sigh.

The cat in question for this little bit of excitement is Checkers, the extremely opinionated little tortie who lives downstairs in the master suite and who refuses to step one dainty paw outside the bedroom door (her choice entirely – the door is always open but, well, let’s just say that she has Issues and leave it at that). It started with just some sniffling and sneezing, but since she’s the sort of delicate creature that comes down with at least one cold per year, I know to just keep an eye on it because most of the time it just goes away on its own. Except this time, I noticed that her left eye was starting to look puffy and inflamed, and despite crossing all my fingers and toes and leaving it alone for a day or two, it wasn’t getting better. In fact, it was getting worse.

So this afternoon I left work early, dashed home, had an exciting few moments of chasing a furious cat all over the bedroom, was reminded yet again why it is that I am eternally grateful we do not have carpet (as she promptly peed all over the floor to express her extreme displeasure at this entire situation), stuffed the indignant cat into a carrier, cleaned up the floor, and set off to the vet.

The verdict – an eye infection of some kind. Luckily it doesn’t appear that she scratched anything, so it’s just a ‘simple’ matter of pinning her down and putting drops into her eyes twice a day. The vet indicated I needed to do it for 10 days, but knowing Checkers I will be lucky to get a full week in before she makes it impossible. I am just hoping it’s enough, because while I can dose her tomorrow morning, I’m headed out of town for another short work trip, and she’ll miss several doses until I return.

The one silver lining to all of this is that, while clipping her claws at home involves the two of us locked into a bathroom, a lot of screaming (on her part), swearing (on my part) and bleeding (also on my part), when at the vet, sheer fear turns her completely docile, and I was able to take advantage of the situation and hack off all her lethal weapons. Medicating her over the next week or so is going to be all kinds of fun (ha ha!), but at least now I have a fighting chance of coming out of this only minimal damage and loss of blood.

‘Tis the season for Holidailies

The Squeebles, one year

As of today, Ingrid and Rupert have been with us now for one whole year. And they have definitely made our lives (and our house) more interesting and exciting.

Rupert is the classic Little Boy in personality (think Calvin, from Calvin and Hobbes, or perhaps Dennis the Menace, in feline form). He is quite possibly the most active, curious little cat I have ever met, and he has only slowed down minutely since we got him. He is still determined to get into / on top of / underneath / behind anything and everything. He has managed to lock himself into rooms several times, despite the placement of heavy doorstops (we live in hope he will grow out of that eventually). He still remains firmly convinced that some day, Azzie will be his friend (Azzie still would prefer that Rupert go away and leave him alone, but he is slowly wearing down – mainly because Rupert pretty much defines the word ‘persistent’). He is extremely friendly and is sure that everyone who enters the house is there solely to entertain him. He has absolutely no fear (of heights, of the unknown, of being whapped by Checkers), and we are sometimes not really kidding when we joke that he is immune to trauma. He always has something to say and cracks us up on a daily basis, and it’s hard to imagine the house without him (although we often agree that we are very, very glad that we did not also adopt his brother who was as high energy as he is, because the house would not have survived).

Ingrid is a goofy little delight. She is still a bit shyer than her brother, and is more likely to growl when strangers come up the steps to the front door (she growls and runs away. Amusingly, since the strangers always eventually leave, this has convinced her that this ‘scary’ behavior *works*). She has yet to meet a vegetable she doesn’t adore, and we have long since given up trying to keep her away from the produce we bring in from the garden (in fact, this morning, she was helping herself to a fresh tomato, and she has been known to steal lettuce and gnaw on squash). She is all-over-floof, of the softest variety, and is not the slightest bit graceful. She often flops, without warning, to roll onto her back, and her favorite sleeping position is against a wall/bookcase/sofa cushion so that she can sprawl upside down. She purrs at the slightest touch, and has the goofiest little whine, which she employs quite often (usually while flopped on the ground, because we are then supposed to come to *her*, and not the other way around). She still carries Sock around (small stuffed sock toy), although we are a big saddened that it is no longer her favorite (currently the favorite toy is either a cherry tomato or a baby bell pepper – she’s going to be really disappointed when those are no longer in season). She makes us laugh, all the time.

It’s been a wonderful first year with these two little fuzzy goofballs (even though sometimes it’s still a little hard to remember what we had to lose in order for them to join the family). Looking forward to many, many more.