I don’t think of my cat as my baby.
That’s not to say I don’t love the floof-demon a stupid amount or take my responsibility of his wellbeing seriously, I just don’t think of our relationship as parent-child. I don’t mind if other people think of their pets as their children or fur-babies or whathaveyou, but as he’s an adult cat and I’m not trying to raise him to be a functional member of society with an independent existence, for me, it just feels jarring. I tend to say he’s my eccentric housemate, but even that’s not quite right.
I think pet relationships are different. Not worse, not unimportant, still family, still people. But … different. It’s because pets are inherently a whole other species with different bodies and different brains and different goals.
Mostly, this just makes them seem even more amusing and loveable. However, there are downsides. The big, annoying thing is that it is impossible, and will always remain impossible no matter their age, to communicate complex information clearly.
I mean, sure, there are cat-human phrase-books, and that means I can know that if my cat twitches his tail he is in a MOOD and needs extra personal space, and I can know that slow blinks show love and trust and make sure to do it back to him. Meanwhile, he can learn that breakfast happens when humans wake up and the first thing that happens when humans wake up is the beside lights turn on, and therefore if he was to turn on our bedside lights it will send a very clear message that it’s time for breakfast.
But it’s difficult to convey much more than that. So, for example, he couldn’t tell me when he started having trouble peeing. I just had to notice.
And I couldn’t explain why he needed to get in the dreaded cage.
He had cystitis.
This wasn’t terrible on its own, but a potential outcome was for his urinary tract to get blocked. If that happened, he would need medical—probably surgical—help fast, or he would die.
Hearing that scared me.
Because that’s the other thing about inter-species friendships. Different animals live on wildly different timelines. I am aware that (unless something dramatic occurs and I die very early) I will have to deal with my cat’s death at some point. But he’s not even three years old yet. It shouldn’t be now. It never occurred to me it could be now.
I spent an anxious few days following him around, making sure I was picking up on any discomfit he tried to communicate, examining his litter for wet patches every time I heard him dig in it, and generally behaving like a stalker. He gave me some funny looks, but he didn’t get blocked. The only medical help he ended up needing was anti-inflammatory meds, a special diet, and some time. Although the vet also recommended that my partner and I up his water intake.
We tried. We really did. But explaining the importance of hydration is a bit too complex for blinks.
It’s not that our cat dislikes water. He loves water. He loves water a stupid amount. I have photographic evidence of him having a delightful time belly-deep in what was supposed to be my relaxing bath before he stole it. The problem is he likes water too much, because most of what he does with his water bowl is splash.
It was hilarious at first, but that’s because at first he hadn’t caused water-damage to any of the nearby furniture and we thought he would grow out of it. Now he is very much an adult cat, and he will not drink without splashing a glass-worth of water all over the floor.
Nevertheless, we were determined to follow the vet’s advice. I investigated and found that some cats splash because they prefer to drink from running water sources. We rushed out to buy him a water fountain, hoping he would drink more from it.
He did not.
I tried putting it on a tray so at least it wouldn’t splash all over the floor.
He splashed it out of the tray.
For the first week he had this fountain, I had to refill it almost every day. In all that time, I never saw him drink from it. Eventually, having almost given up on it, I unplugged fountain for an ironing emergency. Later that day…
Still, the fountain has not been a success. He does drink very occasionally, but it’s clear he sees it as his personal water park.
The most effective water-intake tactic so far has been to trick him with food. He loves and will never opt out of food (and honestly, hard same). The best trick is to mix a little extra water in with his wet-food dinners. He loves food so much he doesn’t care if it’s basically cold soup.
We’ve also been having communication issues at the other end of the water-cycle.
He’s never been a particularly neat cat. He’s one of the ones that kicks litter everywhere.
And while he doesn’t have accidents all over the house, his aim could use work.
Unable to just ask him to please not, we found a practical solution and got him a taller box. He doesn’t kick out as much litter and there was no way he could pee over the side.
Or so we thought.
Because since the cystitis episode…
At first, we assumed he was just peeing next to the box. I feel like this was a reasonable conclusion to jump to. We moved the box to cover that exact spot, but again, we kept finding pee just slightly to one side. We re-cleaned the problem area as thoroughly as possible. No effect on the prevalence of puddles. We tried all kinds of tricks and tips to re-train cats with litter problems. Nothing worked. And then one day I saw him digging in a very odd position.
Now, before continuing I want it on record that by this point my partner and I were frustrated by the constant pee-mopping, perplexed that nothing was working, worried our cat was sick or unhappy or both, and generally desperate to figure out the answer. We couldn’t just see what he was doing in his litter because he’s pee-shy and jumps away from the box if we show the slightest interest. We were in educated guess territory with no compass. Right?
Because I thought it was this configuration:
But that’s the thing about inter-species housemates, isn’t it? You’re living with a completely alien mind.
Not only can you not ask it what’s wrong, not only can you not explain how things should be done, but it’s reasons for doing stuff might be entirely strange to you. For example, the way he holes up in the tin cupboard whenever we open it. There’s no cat food in there. All the human-food is in tins and packets—not nibbly. He doesn’t do it to any other cupboard. And yet, whenever that cupboard door opens, he will hurricane across the house to leap inside.
Does that specific cupboard smell nice? Would he do it to any cupboard hypothetically but isn’t able to generalise the experience? Is it fun? Does he just enjoy our reactions? We might never know.
So we rolled with my outlandish guess about his peeing habits and wondered if it might be because we had changed litter brands. It was very similar to the old one, but it wasn’t exactly the same. Perhaps it felt different on his paws, and he wasn’t just trying to use the litter while touching it with as few feet as possible.
We got him his old litter and another new litter, and we put two boxes down so he could choose and we could see which he preferred…
We were out of ideas, so it was lucky that around that time, by complete fluke, we saw what was happening.
Our cat is not doing litter-box yoga. He starts out normally, then transitions into spray-mode and by the end he’s just standing upright with pee going horizontally right over the side of the box in a huge jet. It’s not the usual way cats mark things. He’s trying to pee normally into the litter and failing.
I was scared it was the cystitis again, or something worse, that he would get blocked and not be able to tell me something was wrong. That he would die too soon.
We got a pee sample and went back to the vet.
…. He’s fine. His spraying behaviour might have been established as a response to the discomfit of the cystitis, and it’s just a bad habit now. Unless we suspect it’s caused by significant anxiety (which does not seem to be the case), he doesn’t need meds. Since it’s only in his litter and he’s not trying to mark things, it’s probably not due to visiting cats bothering him. And as we can’t explain to him why it’s not awesome for us, there isn’t much we can do to stop him.
The solution is just an even taller litter box and puppy pads.
And mopping up a lot of pee.
I drew this juuuust before we left, and the holiday is done now. The first half of the holiday ended up being too busy for work (I saw Harry Potter and the Cursed Child which was very cool and which I will not spoil), and then during the restful part of the holiday I got a cold and was sneezing and sniffling and leaking from the face far too much to be worried about writing or drawing. So you don’t have to worry about my work-life balance. My immune system has that covered.
One time after hardly sleeping for many, many days and nights (ah, the heady days of chronic insomnia plus university assignments and poor time management), I decided on a whim that The Thing (the 80s one) was absolutely, unbeatably amazing. As I was pretty much delirious from exhaustion, I figured it was completely reasonable to force the friends I just happened to be with at the time to watch it. Even though it wasn’t their sort of thing at all. Even though they told me this. Repeatedly.
I fell asleep a few minutes in, and they sat next to my unconscious body through over and hour and a half of dripping vagina monsters out of politeness.
They’re still my friends. I don’t know why.
(That story doesn’t have anything to do with anything, not even this comic. But it’s true.)
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For those who like fart jokes as explicit as possible, I drew another version. And yes, it’s available in my store. Because who wouldn’t want a dinosaur fart on their morning coffee mug?
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Are you even a cat owner if you don’t mock your cat’s dramatic feed-me meows?
Before we begin, let me quickly introduce my dad…
My dad wore a Greek fisherman’s hat everywhere. My dad cooked squid spinach. My dad was notorious for eating unusual things, particularly seafood. He told us which flowers in our garden were technically edible and snacked on them. He fossicked in rock pools and consumed their contents.
We thought it was excellent. As kids, we showed our appreciation through gleeful declarations of how grossed out we were accompanied by general screaming. He retired the fisherman’s hat sometime during my teenaged years, but otherwise remains as is.
This is the tale of the octopus liver. It happened when I was about eleven or twelve. It is an incident of some contention in our household. There have been denials, arguments, blatant lies.
But this is how I remember it…
It started, logically enough, with an octopus. We caught the eldritch horror in a net while camping. It oozed through the mesh, tearing it wider, and nearly escaped the eskie. It was gross, horrifying, and absolutely amazing.
I believe it ended up cooked and eaten. That is generally what one does with caught seafood, but I have no firm memory of it.
That is, except for the liver.
I remember very clearly because it went into the freezer, and I was in a habit of keeping track of questionable freezer content.
My freezer diligence began a little while earlier when dad killed our excess roosters (we were promised one rooster and four chickens, but we got five roosters), put them in the freezer, and talked often and lovingly of cock a vin (a French recipe for cooking roosters—not whatever you were thinking). I would not eat ex-pets, even if they had been shouty arseholes. An anxious child and a fussy eater (by my dad’s standards), I counted frozen roosters every time we were having chicken anything.
And so, after the octopus, whenever I rummaged in the freezer for ice-cream, I double checked the icy little parcel of liver was safely tucked away.
And I waited.
Until one day …
Which, with hindsight, is an almost plausible explanation. Almost plausible, because in reality he didn’t cook it in butter and use it as a sauce, he cooked it in the microwave.
… Without pricking it first. I added the microwave to my list of Things To Be Anxious About In The Kitchen and quietly avoided using it for a very long time.
But that’s not the end.
The moral of this story is my dad kicks your dad’s butt, always prick your cephalopod hepatopancreases before you microwave them, and definitely don’t forget to remove the ink gland.
First up, a big thank you to my dad for being endlessly interesting and an excellent sport! I’m not sure he entirely understands why I always found this episode so funny (or why his insistence that it was a hepatopancreas and not a liver was so adorabley dad-funny that I worked it in), but he still played along when I asked if he would mind if I wrote (the version I remember) down and showed it to the internet. That’s love.
I’m not sure if it’s necessary to say this, but just in case … my dad is a marine biologist and has passed exams on which rock-pool discoveries are edible and which are certifiable jerks who will stab you with venom* that paralyses your autonomic nervous system, potentially shutting down your lungs and suffocating you. So probably don’t follow his lead in picking up and eating random things unless you also have some sort of relevant knowledge/experience and know what’s what.
* That’s right, I know the difference between venom and poison. You may swoon now.