violetcheetah: (Default)
I started working with Precious almost two years ago at the shelter "tricking" her into realizing that petting was awesome; before that, she'd been there three years, and a few people occasionally "petted" her with a brush, but I don't know that even that happened that often. When I started working with her, I began by brushing, and learned that if you made her purr, she drooled. She drooled even more extravagantly once I could pet her for real with my fingers. I adopted her a little over a year ago, so I could now spend more than 15 minutes at a time with her, and two things happened: (1) I coined the term "spitsicle" for the up-to-two-inch strands of drool that would sometimes hang from her mouth; and (2) I discovered that if you petted her for about half an hour, she would eventually stop drooling — not, it seemed, because she stopped being happy, but because she would figure out to swallow occasionally.

Precious does not drool anymore. Maybe a drop or two when I first start petting her, but she no longer ends up with strings like a Saint Bernard. She's taught herself to unthinkingly swallow WHILE she purrs, like, you know, any normal cat.

One theory about why some cats drool when they purr is that they were weaned too early, so their brains are still stuck associating happy/purr with food. Makes sense; I mean, that's why adult cats knead, that leftover association with nursing. But then, why do most kittens learn not to drool when they are kittens? Is it because most other cats purr a lot OTHER than when they are nursing as kittens? Do housecat kittens learn because they purr more because they get petted all the time? Precious, before she was in the shelter, and then for three years after that, did not get petted. And so, apparently, other than maybe an occasional snuggle with another feline resident at the shelter, she … she didn't purr. And the occasional snuggle was likely not as marvelously ecstatic as petting. Is she that unusual? Are most cats wired such that nothing makes them happier than human petting — not food, not mutual grooming, not being nursed on by their kittens? Maybe when they themselves are kittens, their mother grooming them is equally wonderful; maybe, for the brief time "the act" takes, copulation brings an emotional ecstasy along with the physical. But other than that, maybe for some cats — most? — nothing in the world compares to an ear rub or a chin scritch by a human being. Maybe that's because we domesticated them and they evolved that way, or maybe part of why they were able to be domesticated is that we humans happen to caress them in a way that is reminiscent of their mothers' grooming. Either way, the result is this: perhaps many cats — most cats? — can never achieve their highest potential happiness without a person. Contentment, yes; but not unrestrained joy, not half an hour at a time of rolly-squirmy-kneady return-to-kittenhood when the world was perfect and safe and nothing bad had ever happened and never would.

Precious used to drool. I thought it was because her brain was miswired. But now she doesn't drool. Because she learned. Because in the last year, she's had an opportunity to learn — to learn something that she apparently didn't have the opportunity to learn in the previous six years or so of her life. I'm so happy for her it makes me cry. And at the same time, I grieve for the countless cats — feral, stray, or just "benignly" neglected — who will never return to kittenhood and never be nearly as happy as they could have been.

violetcheetah: (Default)
This post is kind of a sandwich: cat-whisperer giddiness to start and end, with some oversharing about psychological trauma in the middle.

Read more... )


May. 26th, 2013 10:44 am
violetcheetah: (peter)
I wrote the following at last Wednesday's Write Here Write Now workshop.

Read more... )

violetcheetah: (peter)
The cat shelter where I volunteer has a pretty good supply of donated linens to use for bedding. In some cases, too good a supply: we have a plethora of comforters, and really not a lot of use for them. They are too big to go in cages. We have 2-foot-by-4-foot boards on top of the cages in the "Free Room" for the kitties who are allowed to roam the room, but if you fold a fluffy comforter to that size, it's half a yard thick, plus it unfolds and falls off. Also, a large comforter takes up pretty much an entire washer load, and when you dry it, it wads up around itself or anything else in the dryer, and nothing dries.

So I had a thought: What if I took a comforter and cut it down to about the size of the cage-top boards, with wide seam binding to tuck under the boards? We also have a plethora of fitted sheets, which are the bane of everyone's existence because you can't fold them neatly. I could cut one into strips for the binding, repurposing two annoying items into something useful. And even if several smaller puffy pieces are washed in one load, they won't tangle the way one larger thing will.

I started with the big down comforter. It has quilting seams conveniently every 12-ish inches, so I sewed a seam a half-inch from those, then cut between the two seams; I did that outside in the yard, so the down could waft away on the breeze instead of wafting under my couch and coffee table. It made four rectangles plus a 2-foot square that can be used in a cage.

The problem is, I have a finicky sewing machine, which breaks needles at an annoying rate, especially on thick stuff, if you pull the fabric the slightest bit too quickly. I've learned to work with it, but I resigned myself to breaking a few needles due to the thick down making the fabric shift back and forth. I was not disappointed: I bent two into fish-hooks and bent the tips of two more by the time I was halfway done. But hey, as least I didn't jam anything or have the needle break off inside.

When I took out the second one with the bent tip, I regarded it with regret; so close to perfect, just that little tip askew. I pondered. I got out my needle-nose pliers. I broke off the tiny bent bit. I put the needle back into the machine and threaded it. And I'll be danged if it didn't work about as well as it had before. I was nearly finished with the third of four pieces by the time I broke it for good. The other bent-tipped needle got me halfway through the fourth piece. Both refurbished needles broke at the eye, clean and easy to remove. There is no way this is a good idea, and yet the miser in me says "Neener neener" to my persnickety machine.

Also, I now have four useful pieces of bedding to bring to the shelter in half an hour.
violetcheetah: (peter)
I call Peter, my foster cat, the quaalude kitty.  He doesn't sleep any more than other cats, but even when he's awake, he's generally lounging, grooming, eating, or walking between those three activities.  Well, not so much walking as sauntering; he's pretty much never in a hurry.  Just now, however, he was such a perfect storm of insanity that I think I cracked a rib trying not to howl with laughter in the middle of it, so he'd keep going.

He's lying in the middle of the floor, doing this bobble-head thing that I've only seen in orange cats, and also whipping his head around as if his back itched.  He leaps to his feet and hops into his favorite box, then flattens out on his belly, head sticking up, ears back.  Chess catches his eye as she crosses the room, and he has a history of playing with/preying upon her — where by history, I mean twice in the four months I've had him, but that's also how often I've seen him go barking moon-bat crazy — and he's way too rough for her, which is kinda impressive, because she always liked to leap on Butler.  So I quickly grab a toy off the floor to distract him, hold it over his head and then toss it in the box.  He does the bobble-head thing, flips around on his back... and looks at me in puzzlement, because he's now lying on the toy and doesn't know where it went.  I retrieve it and toss it again.  It lands in his exposed belly.  He looks down, lolls his head around in a circle like someone cracking their neck, flails a paw, but can't seem to figure out how to get to it.  I try tossing it outside the box, then holding it over his head; he wants to play, but he seems completely bewildered.  Well, at least he didn't chase after Chess, so I give up and stand.

Oh, wait: there's a fur mousie by the door.  I get and and hold it by the tail above him.  Nothing.  I toss it about ten feet away into the hall.  He glances its way, but that's it.  I sit down on the couch, expecting him to come jump up on his favorite spot on the back and be petted, and he's looking at me, contemplating, poised to stand.  Suddenly his head jerks, and he's peering down the hall.  Despite the mousie presumably not moving for a good minute and a half, all of a sudden, he notices it.  Bobblehead, ears, back, then flinging himself out of the box.  Not up and over the edge or anything, so the box kinda stays under him for two feet, but then he clears it, hurls himself down the hall, becomes an entire hockey team, and scores a goal under the living room closet door.  He grabs frantically under the door, about 8 pokes in less than a second, and then flees in terror back down the hall and into the bedroom.

And that's all.  He's done, goes to take a nap on the cat structure.  Tune in next month for the next play session.


May. 9th, 2012 10:34 pm
violetcheetah: (peter)
Okay, Peter is clearly not a cat. I'll give him props, he's very convincing: he grooms, he kneads, he acts like a loon around catnip, he has fish breath.  But I was working on some sewing projects today, for the first time since I brought him home, and I had two nearly-finished dresses floomphed on the coffee table.  He jumped up to lie on them, as any self-respecting cat would do, settling into a contented ball within five seconds.  But then, when I whined, "But, but, I need those.  Here [I lay one of the couch throw pillows flat]; wouldn't you like a pillow instead? Nice fluffy pillow [pat, pat]," he left the sewing projects to sit on the pillow!  Cats. Don't. Do that.  A fundamental tenet of the feline code is that you much remain on the sewing project for at least 17 minutes, and if forcibly removed by the seamster or seamstress before time is called, you must leave at least one picked place.  So I don't know what he is — bunny, ferret, unbilled platypus — but I'm onto him.  He's up to something, plotting some evil, cunning plan.  Which is just like a cat, but I'm not fooled, oh no!  Purr while you can, monkey-boy, or whatever you are; I'm watching you.
violetcheetah: (peter)
I've been volunteering at a cat shelter since November, and while I'm a sucker for the scaredy cats, something about Peter, the most completely mellow cat in the "Free Room," just clicked with me.  I mean, yeah, he's adorable,  but so are most of the cats in the shelter, in their own way.  But there was something hysterical about his utter unflappability.  Of course, he was on atenolol for a rapid heartbeat, which made him sleep a lot, but that side effect seemed to be slowly wearing off over time, and he'd occasionally get a little playful, and then started "helping" M do dishes and set out food, by walking on the counter.  But especially when it came to the other cats, he just seemed to have been born without a give-a-crap.  He was scared, didn't flee even from the alphas in the room; he just didn't seek them out, didn't play fight, didn't mutual groom.  If someone lay down with him on a pillow, he'd stay, but they might as well have been a comfy hot-water bottle.  And the thought entered my mind, "He's exactly the kind of cat who might get along fine with my three."

And he knew.  He read my mind, and he started selling himself.  I would come in for a shift, and he'd stretch and hop down and come greet me; no rubbing my legs or mewing piteously; just sometimes a single croaky m'ow if I didn't notice him.  I'd be cleaning a cage, and I'd straighten up afterwards and there he'd be on top of the cage, looking at me with kingly befuddlement.  I would climb up later to change the various linens on top of the row of cages, where the free-roaming kitties usually hang out, and he'd helpfully stand on whatever board I was trying to remove a sheet from, and then usually roll onto his back so that I could rub his chest between his front legs.  This was all the more adorable because he'd usually stand there for two to five minutes, puzzled that I was not rubbing his chest, before figuring out that he needed to lie down first.  I didn't say he was bright; he is in fact a blond shade of orange.

I brought him home last Saturday.  He's a foster cat for now; eventually he needs a follow-up echocardiogram to see if there's anything structural behind the fast heartbeat.  Depending on the outcome, and how prohibitively expensive treatment would be, he'll either be a permanent special-needs foster, or I'll adopt him.  Either way, he's home.  Even Butler has pretty much stopped hissing at him now, and OJ no longer flees in terror from the new kitty about two-thirds OJ's own size.  And tonight, he did this thing he used to do at the shelter that just absolutely killed me, but that he hadn't done for weeks.

He was lying on my bed when I came into the bedroom, and he did his fully awake but luxurious roll onto his back, secure in the knowledge that I would rub his chest, which of course I did.  I then decided I'd rubbed him long enough, and went to move my hand away.  People who have been around a variety of cats know that each one has different belly etiquette.  Some love to be rubbed, some hate it and will slash at you even though they themselves offered up that furry little paunch.  Probably most common is the instinctive gutting of your hand, in which they want you to rub them, but as soon as you do, they forget that they are not play-fighting with a littermate from their kittenhood, before they learned not to use claws.  The friendliest cats in the world may not be trustworthy once you touch their bellies, and they may look appalled and scared and ashamed once they've drawn blood, but they'll do it again the next time.  

Peter turns this inside-out.  I was rubbing his belly, and then I stopped.  Cobra-fast, his front paws flashed out, wrapped around my wrist with only a hint of claw, which with most other cats would be followed half a second later by teeth and/or back-paw bunny-kick gutting.  But Peter curled his paws around me, pulled my hand back down, and shoved it under his cheek and rubbed against it.  "You don't seem to understand what is required," said his wide eyes, deranged and slightly condescending. "Let me demonstrate. The hand goes here."  I rubbed his chin, then moved my hand away again. Grab: "No, you're not getting it.  I'll show you again."  Rub, move, grab.  He never gets angry, just shows the infinite patience of a parent of a toddler, knowing that it's not my fault that I can't comprehend, that my brain is small and unformed but that with enough repetition, it will all be worth it.  He loves me even though I am incredibly stupid.  And I, like a toddler, could probably happily do the same thing a hundred times and never grow tired of it.  But I do have the self-restraint to not laugh shriekingly each time he does it.


violetcheetah: (Default)
Violet Wilson

October 2016



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