Tag Archives: pets

The Feline Water Cycle

3 panels. First panel: I am sitting in front of a window, typing on my laptop. My cat is sleeping on the couch arm. Outside the window, another cat runs across a road. Second panel: the cat thunks up against the window and meows at my cat, who wakes up. Third panel: my cat and the other cat start meowing loudly to each other. I put on headphones.

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.

cat turns on beside light in the middle of the night. Cartoon people flail in eye-searing horror

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.

I am on the phone holding a card that says "local vet". In the background there is a cat in a littler box looking like it is in pain. A voice from the phone says "Yeah, that's bad in cats. Can you bring him in right now?"

And I couldn’t explain why he needed to get in the dreaded cage.

I am trying to get my cat into a cage, but he is climbing my face. I am yelling "LET ME HELP YOU"

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.  

cat makes little splash in water bowl

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.

cat makes big splash in water bowl

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.

Cat makes really big splash in fountain

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.

Cat making ridiculously big splash so water goes all over the floor.

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…

3 panels. In first panel, cat is meowing at me from behind an unplugged fountain. In second panel, I plug the fountain in. In the third panel, the cat looks at me. Leads into next image ...
3 panels. First panel, cat splashes the water. Second panel, time has passed. I am reading a book as the cat continues to splash on the other side of the room. Third panel, more time has passed. There is water all over the floor. I look up to see the cat lapping from the fountain.

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.

Problem solved!

Sort of.

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.

Everywhere.

EVERYWHERE.

Cat in litter. Litter has been kicked all over the floor and creates the word "everywhere"

 And while he doesn’t have accidents all over the house, his aim could use work.

Cat sitting in litter box and peeing over the edge onto the floor.

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…

Me and my cat face each other in front of a litter box. There is a puddle of pee right next to the box. I am not amused.

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?

Good.

Because I thought it was this configuration:

Cat is on forelegs in litter, but it's backlegs are on the edge of the (quite high) box, and it is peeing on the ground.

Look.

I know.

Ridiculous.

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.

Why?

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…

Me and my cat face each other in front of two litter boxes. They butt up against each other, and yet somehow there is pee on the floor between them. I am incredulous and very unimpressed.

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.

And …

…. 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.

3 panels. First panel, I am sitting in front of a window. My cat is on the arm of the couch. I say "You're lucky you're cute". Outside the window a different cat is running across a road. Second panel: same scene. Cat boops my nose. I look unamused. Outside the window a car goes past. Third panel. Same scene. Outside the window worried people are converging. I notice. Leads into next image ...
A series of panels. Three small panels show: the couch without me sitting in it, the front door opening, me shocked. Final large panel shows: people gathered around something. A women puts a cloth over something, a cat tail is poking out. She says "It would have been quick". Leads into next image...
3 panels. First panel: I am back inside, looking at my cat. Outside the window, the people walk away. Second panel: my cat steps onto my lap and I say "Your friend is dead." Third panel: the cat curls up and purs loudly in my lap.

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Brewing Tea

Three panel comic. First panel: some tea brews on a counter and cartoon me sits down in a chair nearby saying "I will sit down while my tea brews". Second panel: cat jumps onto cartoon me's lap. Third panel: cartoon me is stuck under the cat and a speech bubble comes from the tea saying "Your abandonment has made me cold and bitter."

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A (frequent) tragedy in three acts.

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Meow

Comic with three panels. First panel: cat sits by it's food bowl and meows at comic me. Second panel: cat meows again and I meow back. Third panel: cat meows LOUDLY IN CAPS and I meow LOUDLY IN CAPS back

3 more panels. First panel: cat meows so LOUDLY IN CAPS that the speech bubble squishes him and I meow SO LOUDLY IN CAPS that the speech bubble squishes me. Second panel: Cat looks at me, silent. I look smug. Third panel: Cat says: "bitch"

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Are you even a cat owner if you don’t mock your cat’s dramatic feed-me meows?

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Work-From-Home Colleagues

Three panels. Panel one, I walk with my laptop saying "Time to get some work done!" Panel two, I find the cat sitting on my desk chair. Panel three, I work on the couch.

Four panels. Panel one, the cat sits on the couch arm watching me type. Panel two, the cat climbs onto my lap, forcing me to move my laptop. Panel three, I hold my laptop in the air, the cat is curled sleeping in my lap. Panel four, I lean awkwardly to type with my laptop on the couch arm while the cat purs happily in my lap.

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The untold problems involved in working from home.

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Pests

Two panel comic. In the first panel, a kitten has caught a spider and brought it to me. I say, "Good kitten! When you get big we'll never have a pest problem in this house!" Second panel titled "six months later". The house is trashed. The cat is wielding a katana and leaping after a fly.

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The War Continues

 

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The War of the Plants

I have never confronted my mum about this, but I’m pretty sure I’m at least 50% elvish.

Having plants around makes me feel good. It always has. When I was a kid in need of a private place to sulk, I would climb a tree. After a long hard day of being a nerd in high school, I would water pot plants. As an adult, I filled my rental’s barren courtyard with potted herbs and spent all day staring vaguely out the window at them instead of being productive.

And finally, as a homeowner, I decided it was time for trendy indoor plants.

And a cat, of course.

It didn’t work out how I imagined.

The first problem was that our brand new cuddle floof turned out to be an indiscriminate glutton. He disposed of his dinner like a vacuum cleaner. Cooking meals became an extreme sports version of keepies-off. He consumed stray bits of dental floss and munched on rubber bands—and we only know about those because we found floss and bits of mangled rubber in his vomit. Who knows what other household items he’s digested.

It became quickly apparent that the probability of him finding and taking a bite out of a poisonous houseplant was 100%.

Which ruled out all the trendy ones.

Terrified I would accidently kill the fluff-monster, I did some research before getting anything.

And good thing I did. As soon as I brought my non-toxic houseplant selections home, my fears were confirmed. Our food-hoovering, face-cuddling, foot-biting, sink-splashing, shoulder-sitting cat was also a plant-nibbler.

Our sentient scarf fixated on a Boston fern. He nibbled and nibbled. The damage began to show. We moved it around, tried to hide it from him, but he found it again and again. Over the course of month, he ate it down to twigs.

Until that point, I had everything arse-about. I had assumed the plants were a risk to the health of our furry hedge-trimmer, but in fact he was a danger to them.

Our murder-croissant moved on to an African violet. He bit the leaves off so he could play with them on the ground. It lived longer than the fern, but he knocked off leaves faster than the plant could regrow them.

I was not ready to admit defeat. My elvish heritage would not be denied. I picked out some replacements, and this time I choose robust plants, capable of withstanding a bit of casual grazing.

I had grossly underestimated his capacity to nibble.

Worse, the toebean-licker seemed to understand how much I hated it. He would use it to seek vengeance whenever I refused to feed him dinner at 2pm, stopped him from murdering my knitting, or fished him out of the toilet and shut the lid to prevent him playing in it.

It always played out the same way. First, there was a lull in cat mayhem, and I would return to my internet browsing or fantasy novel. I relaxed, but before long I would feel the seeping awareness that the silence was too good to be true. In fact, I inevitably realised it wasn’t silence at all.

Leaves were rustling.

And I would look up.

The nibbles started to show—on my nerves as well as on the plants.

I searched for new solutions. I started hanging them so the meowinator couldn’t reach them to nibble.

If I only wanted a couple of plants, I would have found my solution. But I wanted my victory to be absolute. I needed more plants, large plants, multiple per room!

I couldn’t hang them all. I needed another alternative.

Channelling my elvish wiles, and found it.

It was, I am willing to acknowledge, a little bit evil. A tad cunning. Slightly Slytherin. It betrayed a dark corner of myself I usually pretend I don’t have.

Cayenne pepper.

At the end of the day, the important thing is not my moral integrity or the state of my immortal soul, it’s not even that I got to keep my plants.

It is that I won.

Sort of.

 

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Cat Daydream

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Cat Pie Chart

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White Goose’s Reign of Terror

This was not unusual. Parents of small children must keep to a strict schedule of Ruining Everything to prepare their brood for the challenges of life. It is important to get all your tantrumming out of the way as a child when you get the wrong colour cup, so that as an adult you can cope when your favourite movie is remade, or people like a new fad that you don’t like.

Up until this point, my parents’ preferred method of Ruining Everything was letting my sister sit in my chair and stopping us from watching Jurassic Park on endless repeat. The goose came as a surprise.

If you have ever met a goose, you know where this is going. You probably have your own Goose Story. In fact, you are probably cowering behind the couch right now because if you’ve met a goose and aren’t afraid of geese, either your name is Chuck Norris or you’re lying. And even if you are Chuck Norris, I’m sceptical.

Geese are objectively terrifying.

If you haven’t met a goose and think I’m exaggerating for the sake of humour, enjoy it while it lasts. Your Goose Story will come for you. Maybe it will happen on a picnic. Maybe when you stop your car on a road trip for a quick pee a goose will catch you with your pants around your ankles. Maybe it will happen inside your own house. One day, you’ll learn.

Just like I did.

Before this all unfolded, I thought I knew about geese. We had a large yard with a utopia of poultry—chooks, ducks and two geese. The geese were sisters. They had been my parents’ pets longer than I had been their child. They were lovely and gentle and shy. And, perhaps, this is the more noteworthy Goose Story. We called them the Grey Geese.

Maybe the Grey Geese are why my dad—who had been around longer than me, had met more geese, and really should have known better—thought a new goose would be just the thing.

The new goose was beautiful. He was sleek and pristine white with a submarine yellow beak and cornflower eyes. If he were human, he would not need Instagram filters. He was the Miss Universe of geese.

We called him White Goose.

He came for my brother first.

That first attack crossed a line that could not be uncrossed. White Goose got a taste for violence, and nothing would stop him.

My Goose Story was not a single event. It was not an afternoon of alarm followed by a good night’s sleep and amused retellings, the way my Emu Story was. My Goose Story was a nightmare cycle, an abusive relationship, a siege. My Goose Story was like camping in Jurassic Park. In fact, if you ever meet anyone who doubts that birds evolved from dinosaurs, introduce them to a goose.

Dad, the instigator of the madness, insisted that it wasn’t so bad.

It was that bad.

Our yard was no longer our yard, it was White Goose’s. I could not come and go as I pleased. I could not play where I liked. It was like getting the pink cup when I really wanted the green one. White Goose was, figuratively speaking, sitting in my chair. And my parents were allowing it.

Unacceptable.

(You have to get your tantrumming out of the way young.)

So instead of trying to avoid White Goose, I decided I would outsmart him. I would go where I wished. I would play where and how I wanted. No goose would stop me.

I tried being tall.

I tried being fierce.

And in one memorably innovative and stupid attempt I tried wearing armour.

Although actually I’m the eldest sibling, children under ten are basically tiny Bond villains minus the funding, and memories are a bit vague after two decades, so for the sake of honesty I should mention that there’s a chance that last one went a little differently.

Accounts vary.

In the end, I had to admit defeat. I could not outsmart a goose. White Goose had won. He reigned supreme over out yard for several long years, until one night he met with a large marauding dog.

We were free.

For a while.

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