In Part 1 of Cat Talking, I conceded that, although it’s been scientifically demonstrated that people who talk to their pets–anthropomorphize–are more intelligent than those who don’t, I might not be quite so smart as other pet talkers. In fact, I admitted my IQ might be three points below that of the sea sponge.
For the moment, however, let’s forget all that and assume I’m as smart as all the rest.
Yesterday’s subject was William, who doesn’t take direction.
Today I write about Ernest, who, wonder of wonders, does.
We’ve had our battles. He clings. He stomps on me. He stomps on the keyboard. He stomps on me . . .
An article posted on Facebook–my chief source of information these days–states that people who talk to their pets are smarter than those who don’t.
This is not news. We pet owners have always known we’re more intelligent than the rest of the population. If the rest of the population didn’t know this, that wasn’t our fault. But now everyone knows it, because everyone belongs to Facebook.
It seems that talking to pets is an example of anthropomorphizing, the attribution of human traits, emotions, or intentions to non-human entities. I was familiar with the word but had been told it meant my IQ was three points below that of the sea sponge. Obviously, that was wrong.
I have one question: Does talk mean traditional adult speech or does it also include baby talk?
For example, I say, Go stairsies? to my cats; would a scientist say that’s evidence of my mental superiority? The phrase means Do you want to go downstairs? or upstairs, depending on where we are. Ernest usually wants to go stairsies as soon as he’s asked; William mulls over the possibilities and decides later. He wants to make sure it’s his idea.
I tell William and Ernest they’re sweet puddy tats (readers my age will know where that comes from). Sometimes they’re feet puddy tats. Or they’re feet puddy wuddies. I tell them I wuv them (I wuv ooo). When I step on a tail, I say, I sowwy.
I ask them if they’re hungwy and want some breakbus, which is silly, because they’re always interested in food.*
This afternoon, William was hungwy. He jumped onto the arm of my chair–something he rarely does, because he doesn’t want his humans to think he likes them–and headed for the plate of bread crumbs on the table beside me. I moved the plate to the other side. William stayed where he was. I went back to work and forgot about him.
Suddenly he was in front of me, standing on the keyboard, again focused on the plate. I pushed him backward, then forward, but he weighs more than twenty pounds and is passive aggressive. He stayed where he was.
I finally gave up and let him cross in his own time, but not before he’d typed gggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggg and sent an email comprising one sentence, one fragment, and the line of g‘s. It was a business email. By the time I realized it had been sent, it was too late to Undo.
At that point, I wanted to say something that wasn’t baby talk but I kept my peace. William ignores criticism. Orders. Suggestions. Requests. Invitations. Pretty much everything. It all has to be his idea.
I’ve just realized this post has taken an unfortunate turn. I began by praising myself for being an intelligent cat talker, and am ending with a story about allowing my cat to send an email. Which suggests the cat is pretty high in the IQ department. And maybe I really am three points below the sea sponge.
*A relative I won’t identify used to ask her little boys what they wanted for lunch–eggy-do or soupy-doup. I have not yet fallen so low.
We have a fountain. It gurgles. The gurgling is supposed to remind the cats to drink.
We installed it in the living room. The Quality always have a fountain in the living room.
It works but doesn’t fulfill its original purpose.
Ernest was skeptical. When he stuck his paw into the water, we knew he’d figured out what it’s for. He can’t drink without first dipping his paw into the water and licking it. Two or three times.
I’m not surprised it didn’t catch on. It’s poorly designed–as you can see from one of the pictures above, the squared-off front makes the bowl too small to drink from comfortably. There’s no room for whiskers.
I learned about whiskers from Mrs. Fricke in the fourth grade, but, because some of what I remember from fourth grade is no longer operative, I looked it up. Mrs. Fricke was correct. According to the VCA website, whiskers “prevent cats from getting into jams“:
“As a kitty approaches a narrow spot in the fence, a slender space between rocks, or a small area between the living room chairs, whiskers help him determine if he can fit through the passage without getting stuck or turning over the furniture. This keeps the cat out of trouble in more ways than one!”
We tried raising the water level, but that didn’t help. Ernest sipped once from the stream. Since then, he’s ignored it.
With too much water, there’s no gurgling. David and I enjoy the gurgling, so we poured out the extra water.
The fountain still sits in the living room, gurgling away.
And after a day of suffering slings and arrows, and grunting and sweating and bearing whips and scorns and contumelies, not to mention fardels, David and I sit in our easy chairs, put our feet up, and chill out.
There’s nothing that gets rid of contumelies faster than a good gurgle.
You probably noticed I included no pictures of William. There aren’t any. He cast a baleful eye on the fountain, gave us a “you-gotta-be-kidding” look, and sashayed off. William is a bit of a Luddite. He says technology is okay, but some things can’t be improved on, and his plastic water bowl is one of them. And he already knows when to drink, thank you very much. As for fardels, he wouldn’t know one if it jumped up and bit him.
We arrived at Pocket Sandwich Theatre in time to hear the last scenes of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Judging from the chorus of boos and hisses and the popcorn blanketing the floor, the audience had a rollicking good time.
Not as good a time as David and I had, of course.
Only one thing is missing. William and Ernest, who made it all possible, couldn’t be with us. Or, more accurately, wouldn’t be with us. Since that ill-fated trip to the vet last June, the sight of a suitcase sends them flying under the bed. A vet tech now comes to the house twice daily when we’re away to feed them and give William his insulin injection.
They like her. After eight years of hiding from company, William sashayed out, snuffled her hand, and invited her to give him a tummy rub. They agreed to star in “Invisible Men Invade Earth,” but that was when they were young. They have since given up the stage. Awards mean nothing to them.
David and I, though, are officially chuffed. And we’ll stay that way for the next couple of days at least.
*In truth, David’s video was declared winner early this morning. The program started at 11:15 p.m. last night and it comprised twelve videos and one intermission plus intros and miscellaneous talk, so the awards portion didn’t roll around till about 2:00 a.m.
I’m collapsed on the bed at the Holiday Inn Express in downtown Fort Worth. I am tired.
Between sentence #1 and sentence #2, I stopped and tried to scrape a little black bug off the side of the monitor–it was at the very edge of the screen, and I had no idea where it came from but knew it would somehow scoot under the chrome and stick there, halfway in, halfway out, forever, and look awful and drive me crazy–and then I realized the little black bug was the little black cursor arrow thingy. That is how tired I am.
We just returned from Pappadeaux, where I wanted to order crawfish etouffee but ordered fried oysters instead, even though I sort of remembered I didn’t like them the last time we were at Pappadeaux. I ordered wrong because once upon a time I loved oysters, but also because David ordered them, and I’m always sure if I don’t order what other people get, I’ll be sorry. While he was cleaning my plate, I told him that the next time we go to Pappadeaux he’s to demand I order the etouffee, and to remind me why.
A digression: I know Pappadeaux is a higher-class joint than we normally frequent, but still, there’s something radically wrong with any restaurant that serves a plate heaped with french fries and oysters without providing a big bottle of Heinz ketchup. If they’re concerned about appearances, they could remove it when it’s not in use. Those little dabs of ketchup they serve just don’t do.
Anyway, against all odds, we got to Fort Worth. It happened in this wise:
First, David lay on the bed upstairs and coughed once in a while and then asked William to come out, and William did. David carried him downstairs and put him into the carrier. William banged against the sides of the carrier so hard I thought he would break out. David took him to the vet.
Upon hearing William banging, Ernest scooted upstairs. I remained where I was and kept on writing. David came home and sat down. He said he guessed we might not make it to the festival. I said we would. (I’m a pessimist who lies a lot.)
I got tired of sitting, so I went upstairs, closed the bedroom door behind me, lay down on the floor, and looked under the bed. It took a few moments, but Ernest’s big eyes finally became visible. I wished, as I do every time he hides under there, that the bed weren’t queen-sized. And that it weren’t built so low to the ground. Why do they do that?
David brought me the leash we never use, and I tossed one end toward Ernest and pulled it slowly back, over and over, as if I believed he would actually chase it so I could grab him. David brought me the meter stick. David lay on the bed, ready to pounce. I lay down on the other side of the bed and poked around and obviously made contact, because Ernest shot out the other side. David pounced. Before they made it to the carrier, Ernest freed himself from David’s clutches. Ernest is muscly.
We followed Ernest downstairs and tried to flush him out from behind our recliners (which are joined by a cat bed ingeniously constructed from a straight-backed chair, a double-decker end table, and a piano bench that needs to be reglued, topped with a variety of pillows and a quilt (you have to be there). He got past me and ran upstairs, where all bedroom and bathroom doors had been closed. Oops!
David went up after him. Ernest ran down, got past me, ran behind recliners/cat bed, ran back upstairs… several times.
Desperate, David dragged the double-decker bed over and placed it at the foot of the stairs. I added to the barricade with cardboard boxes, suitcases, and the red-and-black tote I got at Malice Domestic 2015, which had my laptop in it. While I was barricading, David brought the carrier back downstairs (it went up and down several times during the morning) and set it atop the double-decker cat bed. Then he went back up for Ernest, somehow got hold of him, and carried him down. Jubilation ensued.
David was lowering Ernest into the carrier when I saw the opportunity to help: Ernest was doing the I’m-going-to-spread-my-hind-legs-so-far-apart-you’ll-never-get-me-into-that-thing, so I reached over to squeeze them closer together. I don’t know exactly what happened then or why, but I ended up with a great big hind-cat-toenail lodged in my arm. I had to grab his foot to free my arm.
But somewhere in the chaos, Ernest ended up in the carrier, I stuck three Neosporin-covered bandaids on my arm–tiny bandaids, I couldn’t find any regular ones–and we scooped up carrier and bags and headed for the vet’s, and made it in time to leave at our ETD of 12:02 p.m. and arrive at the hotel at our ETA of 4:10 p.m.
Our original ETD and ETA were 8:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m., respectively, but because we prize flexibility, we’ve mentioned the changes only once. That was when David said we would have to take the Texas 130 toll road because at noon IH-35 between Austin and Georgetown is a parking lot.
Well, we’re here, and David’s film runs at 10:00 a.m., so I’ll sign off. I expect to sleep well. The morning workout was so invigorating, I don’t know why I haven’t already passed out.
If I don’t sleep, it’ll be from guilt. I poked my dear, sweet Ernest with a meter stick. I’d never done that, never expected to do that, and, now that I’ve had time to think about it, I feel pretty awful. I scared him. And I did it so he wouldn’t be home all weekend, alone and scared. How dumb is that.
He’ll get me for it. He’ll give me sad, dirty looks for several days. He’ll boycott me. He’ll never allow either David or me to lay a hand on him ever again, so we’ll never get him into a carrier, and consequently, I’ll never get out of Austin ever again. David will go to all the film festivals by himself, and he’ll come home with stories of camaraderie and whooping it up* in big cities like Beaumont and Conway, Arkansas, and I’ll smile and pretend I’m happy for him. And Ernest will sit between us on the chair-piano-bench-double-decker-end-table-cat-bed and look at me and smirk.
Few things are more maddening than a smirking cat.
Our film festival experiences haven’t included any whooping up, but I can imagine.
We’re on our way to the Fort Worth Indie Film Festival.
All we have to do is get William and Ernest into the carriers and haul them to the vet’s. They watched us pack, said, “We may be crazy, but we ain’t stupid,” and crawled under the bed. This is why one shouldn’t go to film festivals two weekends in a row–cats remember.
An open can of salmon rests on the post at the foot of the stairs. Unfortunately, salmon isn’t as stinky as used to be, and some cats cannot be bribed.
David is about to try to pull William out from under the bed. Since William needs insulin, his cooperation is critical. Ernest has never been left alone–he’s always had either parents or brother–so his cooperation is critical, too. Scared, lonely cats are scared and lonely, and that worries me, and they sometimes do things to furniture that I don’t want them to do, and that worries me as well. Ernest produces a lot of adrenaline on short notice. After hearing William in crisis, he may stay under the bed for a week, absorbing nutrients from the air.
I hear David upstairs, speaking softly, cajoling, babytalking, being generally sneaky.
We may be on our way to the Fort Worth Film Festival. At present, I am not optimistic, but we persevere….
When I suggested setting the salmon on the post, David said wouldn’t it fall off. I said no. He just came bopping downstairs and knocked it off the post. He’s now cleaning up the mess. It didn’t fall on the carpet. As I said, salmon is not as stinky as it used to be. Water-packed salmon doesn’t taste as good as salmon packed in oil, but next time I shop, I’ll buy the water.
David has progressed from cloth towel to paper towels and Simple Green. He said Ernest is watching him from the landing. He said Ernest is coming down. It’s not the salmon, it’s curiosity. Here he is! It is the salmon. He’s snuffing and thinking about licking the floor. I hope Simple Green is good for cats. If it isn’t, the vet can take care of it, if we get to the vet.
I turned on “Remington Steele” in hopes the felines will think we’re watching. I’m using the Chromebook so Ernest will be jealous and jump into my lap, as he spends seven days a week doing, except today. Maybe I need to get the laptop out of the suitcase.
He’s on his way back up the stairs. David has gone back upstairs. Ernest came back downstairs. He’s behind my chair. He’s looking at me. He jumped onto the arm of the chair! I rubbed his tummy. He jumped down and is now examining the site of the salmon spill. Now he’s going back upstairs.
David has been upstairs for a long time. He and William are usually kindred spirits, but not right now.
I have not yet begun to weep. But I’m close.
This blog is titled, “Telling the Truth–Mainly.” That comes from Huckleberry Finn. Mr. Mark Twain told the truth, mainly. I am telling the truth, period. Everything I’ve written happened or is happening. Really.
I am becoming disheartened, so I shall stop and concentrate on sending harmonious vibrations to the floor above.
I really, really want to go to this festival.
The life of the artiste is not an easy one.
Some people live calm, uneventful lives. Things work. They make plans and carry them out. They write about grammar and cooking and astrophysics. What am I doing wrong?
A recent Paws N Reflect post displays a picture of a cat and a quotation about realigning oneself. For the rest of this post to make sense, please click here and read the quotation.
The juxtaposition of cat and quotation prompted a question: Do cats really realign themselves?
Initially, I said, No. Cats come into the world perfect. Cats are the creme de la creme. Miss Jean Brodie need not apply.
On reflection, however, I realized that cats sometimes do realign. A case in point:
Ernest the Cat Davis is a compulsive snuggler, a compulsive stomper, and a compulsive pest. I am a born victim.
When I’m lying down, he marches back and forth across me, turns ’round and ’round like a dog, and makes biscuits. Lots of biscuits, and I am his bread board. When he’s ready, he settles down and snuggles.
When I’m sitting in a recliner, working on the laptop, he jumps onto the arm of the chair, right side, reaches over, and tugs at my shirt. I pet him. He tugs the shirt again. I pet him. He tugs the shirt again. Etc. I know I’m reinforcing the tugging, but it’s either that or lock myself in the bathroom.
Tired of tugging, he turns 180 degrees and straddles my forearm–the one attached to the hand sliding the mouse around on the chair arm/mouse pad. Then he settles and tucks himself in, leaving my hand in what would be prime tummy-rub position, if I weren’t holding the mouse. When it comes to pinning, Jesse Ventura has nothing on my cat. I eventually I manage to extract my arm.
Then he crawls onto my leg. I quickly shift the laptop to the left. He goes into stomping mode.
This is where the real battle begins. While stomping, he backs up and tries to straddle my forearm. I resist. There’s one upside: The sight of him making biscuits with his front feet and at the same time stabbing one hind foot in the air, trying to glom onto my arm, is funny, and I laugh and release endorphins all over the place. The endorphins almost make up for having to hold his tail to keep it out of my face.
Finally he tires and collapses, on the keyboard if possible. Once in a while he hits the Enter key. His rear has sent several unfinished emails. If I’m lucky, he turns over so his tummy is exposed for easier rubbing. If I’m luckier, he oozes down to the footrest.
It’s a lengthy and exhausting process, and it takes place several times a day.
Now, here’s where realigning comes in. For quite a while, I’ve tried to influence Ernest’s behavior.
While he tugs and stomps and kneads, I say, “Lie down, lie down, l-i-i-i-i-e-e-e dowwwwn.” It’s begun to sound like a mantra.
For the first few years, he ignored me. But lately there are signs it might be working.
He doesn’t stomp as long as he used to. Today we set a record. I said, ” L-i-i-i-i-e-e-e dowwwwn,” only fifteen or twenty times before he obeyed.
Obeyed isn’t the correct word, of course. Cats don’t obey. They don’t react to stimuli. They are the deciders. There’s a reason Pavlov had a dog.
But Ernest is changing. He’s realigning.
I took some photos of Ernest realigning. To see captions, hold the pointer over pictures. The black-and-white stripes are my shirt. I wanted to get a shot of the tug-holes in the shoulder, but my arms are too long.
We discovered William’s blood sugar was running high. The veterinarian prescribed an increase in insulin dosage. To pinpoint the cause–he may have become insulin resistant; I may have been giving his injections incorrectly–we need better data.
When his diabetes was diagnosed, we switched to a special brand of catfood but, on the vet’s instructions, didn’t try to limit intake. William ate a reasonable amount and lost a few pounds, and seemed to be doing well.
Now, however, we’ve instituted a new regime: breakfast and injection at 6:00 a.m.; dinner and injection at 6:00 p.m. No more grazing. Food stays out for three hours, then disappears. Eat now, or forever hold your peace.
In human terms, I suppose it’s sort of like going on Weight Watchers. Suddenly and involuntarily. Times two, because Ernest has been grazing right along with his compadre.
And they did not hold their peace.
The guys started out eating the usual breakfast portions and, consequently, were lobbying for dinner before 1:00 p. m. When they would usually have been upstairs sleeping, they milled around the kitchen, parked in the middle of the living room, stared at us with their big sad eyes, and licked their little chops.
One day, William jumped into my lap three separate times. He rarely does that, and although I enjoyed the attention, I knew his motives were not pure.
A couple of nights ago I caught David offering Ernest one last chance at calorie-loading. To the uninformed, it seems a kindly gesture. In reality, it’s pure self-preservation: two hungry cats equals eight pointy feet stomping back and forth across us until the clock strikes six.
And the guilt, the guilt . . .
But things are improving. There’s more napping, less milling, less stomping, less nervous energy in general. We keep tabs on the water intake and watch to make sure William doesn’t become hypoglycemic. In a few days, he’ll go back to the doctor for a glucose test. And the vet will advise us on the next step.
And whatever that is, we’ll trying.
On they page, they may come off as kind of wimpy. But the Davis guys are a couple of pretty tough cats.
For several months, William has been taking insulin injections.
The good newsis that he cooperates, mostly. If he’s downstairs when shot time comes around, David grabs him and puts him on his lap; I give the shot. If he’s upstairs on the bed, that’s different.
David goes up first and pets him. I follow a minute later. When he sees me, he starts to get up. David positions him so I can scruff him. Sometimes before I get hold of him, he lunges, and David has to redouble his efforts. Then I give him the shot and we pet him and tell him he’s a good kitty, something he already knows, and that’s that. In short, he doesn’t mind the shot, just the temporary loss of free will.
The most difficult part is scruffing him. There’s not much to scruff. Sometimes I have to try several times to pull up enough skin so the needle doesn’t go too deep. The veterinarian has trouble, too.
The other good newsis that in all the time I’ve been sticking a needle into him, I’ve stuck it into myself only three times.
The second other good news is that have I never injected myself with insulin.
The really, really good news is that I always stuck myself before, or instead of, sticking him.
Except for once last week when the needle went through his skin and into my thumb. As I said, there isn’t much up there to scruff. Since them, I’ve aimed more carefully.
The best news is that his blood sugar is down and he’s back to his old self, wrestling with Ernest (William starts it); staying downstairs more; playing with the Filthy Pink Mouse; grabbing my hand, holding on (claws), and biting my fingers. Sometimes he just licks my hand. That’s icky, worse than the biting.
It’s been a calendar year since I was diagnosed with breast cancer.
My good news is that I finished chemo (the evil drug) at the end of May and now am much stronger. I said many times during chemotherapy that the side effects were mild. Now I realize that during that time, I felt pretty rotten. I was weak. The feel of water on my skin was unpleasant. I couldn’t walk more than five or ten steps without stopping to rest. I lived on Benadryl to keep my hands and arms from itching. But I still believe I had it easy.
In June, I had lumpectomies (I didn’t know you could have surgery twice within one week). In September, I went through radiation, twenty consecutive days, weekends and Labor Day excluded, smiled cheerily at the technicians, let them admire my cute socks, lay perfectly still for a few minutes while they zapped me, and drove home.
The hardest part was getting the gown tied correctly.
On the last day, in the hallway outside the radiation room, one of the techs asked if I wanted to celebrate. I said, “Sure.” He brought out a small cardboard box and the three of them threw confetti at me.
If I seem to be making light of the experience, I suppose I am. In part, that’s because it’s what I do. It makes better copy. In part, it’s because I didn’t go through the hell others go through. In part, it’s because I have to.
Within days after the last radiation treatment, I slid into depression. The radiation oncologist said she’d seen it before, and I needed a goal: travel (just did); creative activity (got one story with an editor, working on another one); gardening (no place to plant and I kill everything anyway); talk to a therapist (already do); exercise? (oh d*mn).
Before it ended, I heard myself thinking, I’ll buy the package of 300 stars instead of the one with 1000. I might not be around long enough to use 1000. Every time, I immediately countered that with, Stop it, you can’t think that way, buy the 1000.
Radiation might have caused the downhill slide, but I believe it stemmed from the feeling that I wasn’t doing anything to help myself heal. Three months without the chemo drug, I felt all right. I no longer had to report at 8:00 a.m. for radiation. There were no technicians to impress with my brave, cheery attitude; nurses didn’t seem impressed. Taking a pill every morning took no effort. Periodical infusions to boost the immune system had weeks ago lost their luster. I wasn’t working at it.
Hearing, or telling myself, Cheer up! didn’t help. As all depressives will tell you, it never does. It makes us want to cuss or, better yet, to kick the sunshiny idiot adviser in the knee.
My other good news is that by Christmas I was on the mental mend, thank goodness. Because the scariest part was that depression and big T-cell boosting smiles don’t coexist.
My second other good news is that my latest CT scan, done in early December, shows the lesion in each lung and the two lymph nodes that were radiated in September have decreased in size so much that they wouldn’t show up on a PET scan. The radiation oncologist’s pronouncement: “Awesome.” Indeed. The oncologist is pleased and said he hopes I am, too. Yes, I’d say I’m pleased. The next scan is scheduled for March.
I continue to juggle a positive attitude and uncertainty. The next scan may be clear. The lesions and lymph nodes may show metabolic activity again. Problems may show up elsewhere. I’ve been having pre-cancerous tissue removed here and there for the past fifteen years. Cancer is the Curse of the Wallers. It’s in the other side of my family, too.
But I’m here, and I had an excellent report, and I keep on keeping on.
Which makes everything I’ve written here not just good news, but the best.
P. S. I have hair again. Shirley Temple and then some. I don’t know what I’m going to do with it.
Christmas Night, and all through the house, one person and two cats are sleeping all snug in their beds, while I’m sitting here watching Apollo 13 and a lava lamp.
This is my first lava lamp. I skipped the ’70s. David said it’s his first lava lamp, too. He was present for the ’70s but skipped some of the trappings.
The lamp is fascinating: like a kaleidoscope but with fewer colors and curved edges.
We had a quiet day, one of our traditional nonstandard Christmases. We opened gifts, ate a light breakfast, and sat around.
Then we repaired to Saffron Restaurant, which serves an eclectic mixture of traditional Indian Cuisine punctuated by the flavors of the Himalayas. Goat curry, chicken tikka masala, tandoori chicken, steamed basmati rice, naan… and several things I can’t name because instead of wearing my glasses to the buffet, I left them on the table.
After lunch we came back home, plugged in the lava lamp, and waited for it to erupt. It did not disappoint.
Of course, we took the obligatory photos of the children with gifts under the traditional nonstandard Christmas tree. Changes in living room geography kept us from giving our real artificial tree center stage, so this morning we moved our ceramic artificial tree to a snow-covered chair and accorded it official status.
Facebook reminded me that four years ago, I found these bear foot slippers under the tree. They were the warmest slippers ever. A week later, William sat down and started making biscuits on them. Now they’re called William’s shoes.
It’s now past midnight. Christmas Day is over. Time to turn off the lava lamp and sleep snug in my bed and dream of goat curry and naan. Which, come to think of it, would make a fine traditional nonstandard New Year’s Day lunch.