Lack of supervision…

Today was the kitten’s first full day at home unsupervised. I was pleased to arrive home to find things more or less in one piece. I was almost expecting furniture to be destroyed, shelves emptied, and every exposed wire in the house chewed through, but that doesn’t seem to have been the case. A few things are askew and that seems to be the limit of their adventures today.

Based on the film, I’d guess they spent most of the day loitering under my bed since they didn’t turn up in any of the camera-friendly rooms for large swaths of the day. That’s almost assuredly a harbinger that sometime around 7:30 tonight, one or more cats will go batshit crazy and race through the house periodically with little or no notice.

It occurs to me that living with these girls is a lot like having a new dog in that a tired critter is often a good critter. Since I wasn’t available to make them tired, I’ll pay the price overnight while they entertain themselves. It is, of course, also hard to tire out a cat who isn’t particularly interested in doing anything much beyond laying under the bed keeping an eye out for any unwelcome approaches.

I’m not at all sure I did the right thing by giving them the run of the house. Between Cordy’s determined hiding and Anya’s increasingly determined resistance to being caught when it’s time for her medicine, I wonder if it would have been better to leave them confined in the bathroom. At least there they were easier to corral and handle as necessary. While they’ve proven, so far, to be non-destructive, having the freedom of the house has simply made working with their various needs much more challenging.

As an animal person, I’ve often found myself challenged by making decisions of what, really, is the right thing to do – both in terms of their best interests and my own. Experience informs a lot of those decisions, but sometimes it too is deep, echoey silence.

Slow progress with a scaredy cat…

For obvious reasons, I haven’t been giving equal time to the two new additions. Where Anya has required multiple daily rounds of medication and came out of her shell fairly quickly, Cordy has remained largely reluctant and uncertain. Technically, she’s largely remained firmly tucked into the cardboard base of their inclined scratching platform.

If the paperwork is to be believed, Cordy went from living in a park to being trapped and hauled in to the shelter and then moved onward to my house all in a span of four or five days. For a three-month-old kitten brain, that’s got to be just about as much new experience as anyone would want to deal with. I’m not at all surprised she was mostly shut down for the first two weeks I had her.

She’s making slow progress – coming out at meal times and grudgingly playing with the business end of a feather wand, if only briefly before beating a hasty retreat back to the safety of her box.

For the last three nights, somewhat unexpectedly, Cordy has emerged from her safe space while I’m checking in with them before “lights out.” She’ll pad cautiously across the room, rub against my leg, and stand still for a few pets from ear to tail before losing her courage and jumping away. This morning, while I was doing a last check before leaving for the office, she did it again.

Even as I’m sitting here typing it out, it doesn’t sound like much… but it’s leaps and bounds of progress for a cat who was more or less shut down for the first two weeks she was here. It’s progress and I’ll take it. I’ll take as much progress as we can muster between now and the first week of April, when Anya’s scheduled for eye surgery. I’m fully expecting that to be a giant step backwards for all of us.

Overthinking the process…

I’m an over thinker. I’ve been that way since I was a kid, when I’d regularly worry myself sick about whatever issue my dumb brain chose to fixate on that day. I tend not to make myself sick anymore… although my blood pressure range might indicate that’s not entirely true. Still, I tend to dwell a lot on things that other people might tend to breeze through.

Now that I’ve at least gotten Anya to roam the house for a few days while I’ve been working, the next obvious step is trying to make a decent introduction between her and Jorah. In the olden days – or as I remember it from the early 1980s, when someone who came home with a new cat would just turn them loose in the house and let nature take its course as the newcomer sorts out the household routine, resident animals, and the dos and don’ts. 

Now, deep in the kinder, gentler 21st century, we have a thousand websites and experts with their own 47 step process for introducing new animals in the home. They seem well intentioned, to be sure. Maybe they’re even advocating the Best Possible Way™ to do things. The thing is, as much of an animal lover as I am, I’m not in a position to dedicate every hour of every day to catering to their every need. I’m happy to provide fresh food and water, unconditional affection, a safe environment, and if needed, specialized medical attention… but at some point, I need them all to simply exist together, even if it’s not a love match.

Much like I had to resort to old country vet methods of getting medicine into Anya, I’m beginning to think I’ll need to adopt the old ways to get these introductions over the hump. I don’t mind keeping a few gates up so the new felines have clear lines of retreat, but continuing to cycle between loose dog and loose cats every couple of hours feels like a ridiculous way to keep going indefinitely. Of course, all of this is only true for Anya, as Cordy continues to steadfastly refuse to abandon the comfort of their safe room… so we’ll need to do this all again if and when she decides to emerge into the broader household.

I’m trying to mentally prepare myself for one more big effort here – and I’m tired just thinking about it.

Diagnosis and the way ahead…

Anyanka had her follow-up exam with the ophthalmologist today and we’ve arrived at several conclusions. 

First, Anya is a carrier for feline viral rhinotracheitis (FVR), often called “cat flu” or less popularly known as kitty herpes. Odds are the virus was transmitted by her mother at or shortly after birth. The virus often presents as a standard upper respiratory infection with the expected coughing, sneezing, and watery eyes, but it can also cause a nasty infection of one or both eyes – in Anya’s case, her left. 

There’s no “cure.” Barring a breakthrough treatment, Anya will be a carrier for the rest of her life and may or may not experience further flare ups. One of the most common causes for these flares is stress – things like living in a shelter environment or suddenly finding herself thrown in a crate and taken to a new home. Given how little I enjoy change myself, I’m optimistic that as things settle into a routine here, we’ll be able to minimize whatever stress she may experience going forward.

Second, most likely as a result of ongoing infection in her eye from a very young age, Anya has conjunctival symblepharon. For lack of a proper veterinary explanation, this is a condition where her third eyelid and portions of her inner eyelid are adhered. It’s why even now that the infection is controlled, you can really only see about 1/3 of her eye. Fortunately, the eye itself doesn’t appear to be damaged. Assuming no further issues, we’ll schedule surgery in about a month to correct the adhesion and try to get her a wider field of view in that eye.

Even with surgery, it’s never likely to look “perfectly normal.” That, of course, is an issue I’m perfectly indifferent about so long as it improves her overall health and quality of life. The vet’s recommendation is that this is a “one and done” effort. If for some reason the surgery doesn’t take, it’s better to leave well enough alone than try repeatedly.

I had a hunch I was getting into something when I decided on this little gray kitten hunkered down in the back of her cage at the shelter, though admittedly this has gotten more involved than I planned for originally. Whatever. Everyone wants an “ideal” kitten. After already spending three months getting passed over, there’s no telling how much longer “the cat with the weird eye” would have lingered there or worse, been returned or dumped somewhere, once they realized the cost and level of effort required to get her fixed up. She’s in no danger of that fate here.

On the good news front, the cone of shame is now tucked in the cabinet and we’re down from four medications three times a day to two medications twice a day. That level of treatment feels much more manageable, especially since the two meds we’re continuing are basic eye drops rather than the ointment that stuck to everything or the oral suspension that she disliked mightily.

Now that we have Anya on the mend, it’s probably time to shift a little focus towards helping Cordy come out of her shell a bit. Given her background as having been “caught in the wild” just a few days before I brought her home, I can’t help but feel like this is going to be a whole different kind of project. But at this point, what’s one more thing to do?

Slow progress…

The day to day of my world can be somewhat constrained at the best of times. It’s how I like it, so no complaints. For the last week or ten days, though, it’s constricted even more than usual. 

With Jorah, I spent the better part of six months keeping him contained in the kitchen. Fortunately, the kitchen here is spacious and well lit, so it wasn’t a particularly bad imposition in exchange for easy cleanup while we conducted remedial housetraining and cleaned up his all too frequent accidents. 

With Anya and Cordy, the confinement is considerably less spacious. It may be a generously sized guest bathroom, but the apparent space shrinks down considerably when you add in two cats, a litter box, scratching post, multiple food and water dishes, multiple beds, and some toys. At the moment, the confinement is mostly for the convenience of the repeated, daily rounds of medication I’m giving to Anya. Keeping them in a single space feels somehow more humane than chasing the poor girls through the entirety of the house thrice daily. Plus, she’s currently forced to contend with the cone of shame. Giving her the run of the house while the cone restricts her ability to squeeze into space that would let her avoid any unwanted canine attention feels distinctly unfair. 

The shelter recommended a two week decompression and adjustment period before introducing the new additions to the wider household and all of the additional room to roam. That would nominally end on Friday. The plan for the moment is to maintain the status quo at least through the weekend and Anya’s follow up appointment with her ophthalmologist on Monday. It seems that we’ve gotten a grip on the worst of the infection – her eye isn’t bright, weeping red – but there’s obviously still a lot of involvement with her conjunctiva. Assuming she’ll need continuing medication past Monday, I’ll need to reconsider our options. 

With stress being consistently listed as one of the causes for flare ups of her condition, getting her introduced into the house while also mitigating her symptoms feels like it’s going to be a fine line to walk in the coming days. I’d very much like to avoid a flare up resulting in another weeks long course of drops, ointments, and oral meds.

Anyaka has turned out to be quite the trooper. Despite our rough start and her being thoroughly annoyed with the current medical regimen, she’s purring up a storm and remarkably affectionate. Cordy remains uncertain of this new home. However, she has allowed me to touch her briefly while distracted with stinky food or toys. It’s slow progress all around, but it’s progress nonetheless. 

Anxiety and frustration…

The internet is truly a font of information. Need to know how to replace the front end on a 1953 Buick? There’s a YouTube video for that. Interested in watching other people play video games? There are more streams than any one person could ever hope to watch. There are endless “how to” blogs and videos on every topic you can imagine. The thing is, they should all probably warn you that your mileage may vary. 

Every veterinary video I’ve watched in the hopes of picking up tips and tricks for making our daily routine of eye drops and oral medication more tolerable has exactly one thing in common: They each use the most quiet, docile cat imaginable for the demonstration. No hissing, no spitting, no teeth or claws, barely even a head bob while the person fiddles and fools with their test subject. Not one single video I’ve seen has featured an angry, hostile, animal who has had minimal handling and only basic socialization with people.

The other comment, popular throughout Reddit, is that giving medication to cats “can be a two-person job.” Hey, that’s fantastic information and all, but is the expectation that I’m going to hire my own vet tech to drop by three times a fucking day for two weeks or more? Advice, it seems to me, is best when it’s practical.

That’s all a lot of words to say that the best advice available online hasn’t been particularly useful in my current situation. In the struggle just to get the job done, I’ve fallen back on the very old school (and frowned upon by those endorsing the modern, kinder and gentler approach) method of grabbing this poor cat up by the scruff of her neck and getting the treatment done by brute force. I don’t like it. She very much doesn’t like it. I have grave concerns that I’m poisoning what should be our prime time for bonding and trust building… But short of sending her off to medical boarding for the duration of the treatment, I’m simply at a loss of how else to proceed. 

I’m ending this week full of anxiety and deeply frustrated.

Cats are jerks…

I have a morning routine. I don’t know that anyone reading this will be surprised by that factoid. Once the morning necessities are taken care of (and while my heathen animals stay comfortable in bed) the dogs go out. Then we come in and the dogs get fed and watered. Then I turn on the sunlamps and feed and water the tortoise. Then I circle back to the bathroom and put out fresh water for the cat (He gets fed at night because he seems to sleep more readily on a full stomach). Usually the cat follows me around through this entire routine. Today he didn’t. I didn’t think much of it until I noticed he wasn’t in his usual spot underfoot while I was fixing my coffee. Then I backtracked. He wasn’t scrounging for dropped dog food. He wasn’t curled up on a favored chair in the living room or sprawled across my bed.

Where he was, however, was stretched out happily in the middle of my indoor tortoise habitat, enjoying the sun lamps, and thoroughly annoying the resident tortoise. Of course that’s where my daily routine came off the rails… because now I have to close off the office, which means moving the 8-foot long, dirt-filled container holding the tortoise, because when I built it in place needing to close off the room wasn’t a consideration. After some effort, a dolly and managing not to spill the entire set up onto the floor, I was able to move it far enough to swing the door closed. The doors don’t so much lock as they “catch” closed using a tab, but I judged them secure enough that a small cat poking at the bottom of them wouldn’t be an issue.

Finally, desperately behind schedule, I was able to depart Fortress Jeff for my day job. Twenty minutes later, the alarm company calls to report “interior motion sensors are active”. I rolled the dice that finding a way to set off the motion sensors was the cat’s version of retribution for shutting him out of the office and I was not, in fact, being robbed blind only a few minutes after leaving for the day… and was proven right. Mercifully. But not before spending the entire day wondering if I shouldn’t have set a course for home at best possible speed and fearing what I’d find when I arrived.

Living with small creatures can be exhausting… and yeah, cats are jerks.

Cant type… cat on keyboard…

Before I get to the meat of today’s post I should note that we’ve reached the part of the journey through kittenhood where Hershel seems to want to either be on top of the keyboard or is trying to lacerate my fingers while I’m typing. In any case this situation does not lead towards unbridled happiness for either of us. It’s an awfully good thing that small animals are so damned adorable during this phase of life. If they weren’t, I have no earthy idea why we’d tolerate them… but that’s not really the point.

Fortunately, I was able to keep the keyboard clear long enough to do a bit of post Thanksgiving shopping. If I accomplish nothing else over the next few days I’m expecting a shipment of my favored formerly-made-in-England footwear to show up on my doorstep. I wore a standard part of eight-hole Doc Martens all through college and my attempt at a teaching career. A little paste wax and they were good as new for year after year. I changed it up a bit when I went all corporate and switched over to the more “professional” looking oxfords. Still, they were the Made in England accept no substitutes real deal. If I though I could get away with wearing my black “weekend” boots with the parade of khaki pants and polo shirts that are my wardrobe I’d do it in a second… but even my fashion sensibilities have their limits.

Unfortunately, they don’t seem to make brown boots in England anymore, but they make a pretty good replica of the boot I wore for years somewhere in Asia now. It still has 8 eyes. I’m willing to bet it will still fit my foot like the proverbial glove. More importantly I’ve reached an age where I don’t give a damn if Aztec brown combat boots are considered office attire or not. This long time enthusiast is going back to his roots with a pair of English boots, designed by a German seventy or so years ago, and manufactured in China.

Baby steps…

Until two and a half weeks ago, I’d lived for a little over eight years in a canine only household. I’m not counting the tortoise because mostly he’s just a sunlamp loving rock that
needs daily greens and fresh water. Being cat free wasn’t because I harbor instinctive ill will towards. There was always a cat around growing up and I had one myself in the past. Adding another mouth to the herd was just never all that FullSizeRender (27).jpgmuch a priority.

Since I haven’t given our new addition a proper introduction on the blog, it felt like something I needed to do. The nice folks at my vet’s office had been fostering Hershel since he was dropped off on their doorstep at about two weeks old. He ended up being the sole survivor of his litter-mates. They were looking for a permanent position for him so they could take on the next troubled animal… which of course paved the way for me to bring him home to Fortress Jeff.

I’ve never been particularly sympathetic to people, but animals, man, they seem to manage to find all my feels. I’m happy to report that he’s integrating even better than I had expected. I think what we’re all getting use to is having a youngling around the house again. With both the dogs well into advanced middle age and me being the youngest old man on the planet, the level of energy a kitten has is something to behold… even if it is occasionally troublesome for the rest of us.

Really, though, we’re all still getting to know one another and figure out where we all fit in. The dogs have been remarkably tolerant of this small creature that seems determined to pounce on them from every direction simultaneously. I’ve also learned just how many electrical cords I have strung around this house. Tonight’s project is coating as many of them as possible in soap, which he doesn’t seem to enjoy chewing on at all.

My initial assessment is that we’re going to enjoy having this little fuzzball around… especially once he decides there are better things to gnaw on than my fingers in the middle of the night. For now it’s all baby steps.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Storage options. Fifteen years later and Jeep still hasn’t designed a good place to stow a cell phone that’s both accessible and not prone to sending your device flying in a random direction when you hit a rough patch or tighten up in a turn. You’d really thinking that during those intervening years that kind of thing would have come up. I mean it’s not like people are toting around fewer electronic devices now than we did way back in the mists of time.

2. National polls. Can you please for the love of God stop citing national polls in talking about which candidate is up and which is down? National polls are worth less than the paper they’re printed on. Since we’re a federal republic consisting of 50 sovereign states, a district, and a handful of territories who are all responsible for holding their own elections, we don’t have a “national election” so much as we have 50+ smaller regional elections for national offices. Those are the results that matter. If you want a sense of who’s up or down, tell me what the breakdown of the states looks like. Otherwise I’ve got a solid recommendation for where you can stick your poll.

3. Kitten energy. It’s been a little more than eight years now since I’ve lived with a young critter in the house. The intervening years have left me with many pictures that remind me how utterly adorable they can be, but somehow my memory blocked out just how much energy they have… and the fact that they want to burn off all of it between midnight and 5AM. Even with two infinitely understanding dogs taking the brunt of it, the wake up calls as 12:30, 2:00, 3:15, and 4:15 are something of a struggle. It’s an awfully good thing the little bastards are so cute, because no one would tolerate them otherwise.