Today we saw the first sign that spring is upon us.
It wasn’t a robin. It wasn’t a bluebonnet.
It was a chameleon, the first one I’ve seen in years. Once, a zillion lived in my yard in Fentress, crawled across window screens, sneaked into a bedroom and blended into the leaf-patterned draperies, causing minor panic when discovered.
Then Ms, my Siamese cat, went on a lizard binge, causing more havoc. If you think it’s unsettling to see, without prior notice, a lizard running across the bedroom floor, try opening the door and finding one lying belly up, dead, often minus the skin of his soft underbelly, right where you were planning to plant your foot. I appreciated Ms’s thought, but the gift, not so much.
Anyway—maybe because the chameleon population had been decimated, maybe because survivors got wise and relocated—by the early ’80s, they were gone.
They didn’t frequent our former apartment, either. But now that one has appeared outside the window at our new place, more will surely follow. I hope.
Ernest hopes so, too. He saw the visitor before I did, jumped onto the window sill, stood, and batted. Stood down, stood up, and batted. Again and again.
Watching a beloved pet hunt and not gather is heartrending, up to a point. Mostly it’s a grab-the-camera-and-holler-at-David-to-come-see moment. We focused on the scene as closely as Ernest focused on his prey.
The hunt ended when the lizard scooted eighteen inches to the right. Ernest lost him. He lay down and stared out the window. David tapped on the window and pointed but failed to catch his attention.
A few minutes later, we abandoned him and headed downtown to the Violet Crown Theater for CatVideoFest—”a compilation reel of the best cat videos culled from countless hours of unique submissions and sourced animations, music videos, and, of course, classic internet powerhouses.”
Most were short-shorts, amateur cats being cats, filmed by their owners. A few were scripted. I’ve included links to two of those—”An Engineer’s Guide to Cats 2.0—The Sequel” and “Henri 2—Paw de Deux.” Cat lovers—crazy or not—have likely seen them online. Crazies might think they’re worth watching again.
Here’s a link to a list of theaters (nationwide) where you can view the movie. Today’s showing was the last in Austin, but if you’re elsewhere and interested, you can look it up.
CatVideoFest raises funds for “cats in need.” Part of the proceeds from the three Austin showings will go toAustin Pets Alive, an animal rescue and advocacy organization that fosters homeless animals and finds them forever homes.
Years ago, I closed my first blog, Whiskertips, because it had, against my will, become catcentric. The title was the only one I could think of that wasn’t already in use, and I’d just acquired William and Ernest (from APA) and so had cats on the brain. I suppose the name constituted a self-fulfilling prophecy.
I’ve vowed this blog will not fall into feline paws, but lately I’ve been walking a very fine line.
There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance; pray, love, remember; and there is pansies, that’s for thoughts; . . . there’s rue for you, and here’s some for me. . . . O, you must wear your rue with a difference.
~ William Shakespeare, Hamlet
The Davis tree went up on December 2. I love it.
I always shoot for early December, but I’m calendar-challenged; some years, Christmas arrives almost before the tree.
This time, David said if I didn’t have the gumption to get up out of my chair and into the car, he would choose a tree himself. Not in so many words, of course, but the subtext was unmistakable.
Christmas trees have always been problematic. When we were first married, we had a tree tree. Six-month-old Chloe walked it like a spiral staircase and perched among the branches. We had to close her up in the bedroom so we could decorate. In fact, we had to close her up in the bedroom so we could get it into the stand.
She left off climbing—I don’t know why, certainly not because I told her to—but for the rest of the season, she and Christabel lay on the bunched up sheet (snow) beneath. They were picturesque. Then we discovered them eating needles.
We took the hint (potential surgery) and responded with an artificial tree with lights already installed and an electrical cord for easy twinkling. On a dining room chair, and after only one blip, it attracted minimal attention. Ernest did not chew the cord.
This year David had a brainstorm: Put the tree atop the china closet.
So we went next door to Home Depot, passed up fir, and brought home a small rosemary tree. Nontraditional, but that’s us. One of our most repeated sentences is, “I wonder how normal people do this.”
We also bought a string of 100 lights, some of which now hang down the side of the china cabinet. They add to the the quirky charm. Unless Ernest notices, chews the cord, gets 110 volts, and must again be rushed to the ER.
We found snow (a length of fabric from the Walmart sewing aisle) to keep the pot from scratching the wood where we would never see scratches, but still. Folded, it doesn’t look too bad, and it was cheaper than a lovely felt tree skirt. I think our old sheet-snow was lost in the move.
I insisted on some tiny ornaments. David said there wasn’t room. There wasn’t.
Back at home, I googled rosemary and learned it’s not toxic to cats, and that due to the strong odor, they probably won’t eat it, and, if they, do, they’ll stop at one bite. But the insecticide is toxic. Jolly. If eaten, rosemary can cause gastric distress. The label says the plant should be watered weekly; I’ll be sure to do that, since I don’t want any dropped leaves. We’ve had enough gastric distress to last well into 2020.
The label also says the tree needs natural light, which it ain’t going to get in its current location. David says not much light penetrates our window screens, anyway, so it’ll have to make do with lamps. I might put it outside for a few hours each day. No one is likely to walk off with it.
With any luck, it will last till Epiphany.
So there we have it: Rosemary for remembrance—and we will remember; and a prayer that, although we display our tree with a difference, David and I will get those cats through Christmas without our having to wear rue.
Shakespeare has a line for everything if you’re willing to think hard enough. That’s where the pansies come in.
When we tried to medicate William last night, a pill fell into the pit between the seat of my recliner and the arm, and we weren’t able to locate it. It’s in there somewhere, or it fell through onto the floor under the chair. After a cursory look, we gave up. We feel safe leaving it there because it’s a sure thing neither cat will gobble it up. If it were one of my pills, they would vacuum it up in a nanosecond.
The pill fell because I was careless and William got his tongue in gear and spat it out. We got another pill. Which means he’ll get only twenty-nine pills instead of thirty. William thinks that’s okay.
William is being dosed for pancreatitis. David is the cat holder. Due to my vast experience, I am the pill poker. It took a week for me to remember that coating the pill with butter makes the job easier. William doesn’t resist as enthusiastically and once in his mouth, the pill slides down more easily. He also doesn’t run upstairs after the ordeal, just jumps down and licks the inside of his mouth with vigor but no expression of distaste. Hurrah for butter. We have about two more weeks to go.
Ernest is probably unpillable. We haven’t tried, and I don’t want to.
I use a piller now. I had a piller in years past, but Chloe didn’t take to it, and I didn’t take to Chloe’s offer to use her fangs on my fingers while they were nearby. Every time she had to be pilled, I left her with the vet and let the experts handle her. Same with Christabel. Chloe was wiry and muscular and if she didn’t bite me, she wriggled out of my grasp. Christabel was big and built like Jello and rolled out of every half Nelson I applied.
At the end of this post, there’s a link to a video tutorial on pilling cats. I include it so you can see the piller. The starring vet says the process is easy peasy. Take that with a grain of salt. He’s a vet. He’s had practice. The cat knows resistance if futile. I suspect he’s a clinic cat. Those animals tolerate many outrages with aplomb. I suspect they have no reflexes at all.
My old neighbor, Steve Dauchy, a big orange tom, was a retired clinic cat. One cold winter day, his family smelled something burning and found Steve sleeping on a propane space heater in the kitchen with his tail hanging down beside the vent. His hair was singeing. He woke up when they pulled him off.
One winter night, I woke, reached out my hand, and touched fur I recognized as not my cat. Scared me half to death. I turned the light on, and there was Steve, snoozing away, the third cat on the bed. He’d sneaked into the house when I opened the door, hidden somewhere, and emerged at lights out, I guess. He was very astute. On cold nights, he slept on the seat of the riding lawnmower in his humans’ garden shed, a nice, tight bedroom, but when he saw a chance of a mattress, he jumped at it. The next morning, while Steve breakfasted in my kitchen, I called next door and told the worried humans about the slumber party he’d engineered, and later, when it warmed up, put him outside.
Tonight’s dose went down in record time. David wanted to medicate him before he went to the grocery store, but we waited for him to come downstairs under his own steam. Between four and five-thirty every day, awakened by his circadian rhythms, he waltzes downstairs for insulin and dinner. Mainly dinner. He hardly notices the insulin.
When I was a teen, I read a book about caring for cats. There was a chapter about medicating them. The authors, a married couple, used the terms cat holder and pill poker.
When I pilled my Siamese, Ms., I was both cat holder and pill poker, but after the first few confrontations, she cooperated. I didn’t have a piller, but she didn’t Didn’t open her mouth on command, but I didn’t have to use much force, and she sat still. She was highly intelligent and behaved more like a dog than a cat, except for pilling. Dogs never cooperated.
The Siamese’s first name was Mademoiselle–for some ridiculous reason–until I realized she was liberated, the Gloria Steinem of cats, good looks and all–and I changed it to Ms. That was ridiculous, too, because I called her Kitty. And Puddy. And Puddy-Wuddy. And Feetie-Pie. All the usual cat names.
She produced kittens when she was eleven months old. Her idea, not mine. Wonder of wonders, they were Siamese kittens. Praise goodness for the gentleman Siamese down the street. The kittens would probably have been just as easy to give away as if they’d been generic, but people seemed extra pleased to have purebreds. No official papers, of course. Ms. was not an aristocrat, and considering the kittens were conceived under dubious circumstances, they would never have been accepted into High Society.
My one disastrous encounter with a sick cat occurred at the veterinarian’s. The tech was attending to one end of William and I was holding the other end, the one with teeth. He’d buried his head as far back between my body and my forearm as he could go, considering I had my arm clamped to my side. After suffering indignity for longer than I thought he would, he rebelled. I think he tried to bite me, but he managed only to rub his fang against my arm, hard enough to scrape the skin slightly. Within minutes, I had a budding case of cellulitis–I recognized it as such because I’d had it before from an encounter with cat teeth–and I had to go to the urgent care clinic for pills of my own plus shot of antibiotic. It turned out that William wasn’t sick. That night I wrote a verse about the experience and posted it on my blog, here:
William bit me at the vet,
Didn’t like the aide’s assistance,
Used his claws and fangs to set
On the path of most resistance.
Say I’m teary, say I’m mad,
Say that pills and needles hit me,
Say my arm’s inflamed, and add,
William bit me.
It’s patterned after one of my favorite poems, Leigh Hunt’s “Jenny Kissed Me”:
Jenny kissed me when we met,
Jumping from the chair she sat in;
Time, you thief, who love to get
Sweets into your list, put that in!
Say I’m weary, say I’m sad,
Say that health and wealth have missed me,
Say I’m growing old, but add,
Jenny kissed me.
If Hunt and Jane (Jenny) Carlyle were around to read the parody, they might not approve, but if I didn’t like the original, I wouldn’t have used it. I don’t consider my version an homage, exactly, but I’m fond of it. I’m a rotten poet, but I do pretty well at parody, if I do say so myself. I wish I could write them for a living.
I’m can’t write anything for a living. I don’t write fast enough, and as yet I haven’t hit upon the Great American Novel. I haven’t hit upon any novels at all, just short stories. A couple have brought in a few dollars from contests, and those that have been anthologized bring in a few cents in royalties (which are divided with the other authors), but the cents are donated to charity every year (supplemented, of course). The truth is–like many lightly published authors, I would be tempted to pay to get my stories in print or online. But I wouldn’t do that. My efforts are worth at least $0.00.
I didn’t plan to say anything about my literary efforts, but in a stream-of-consciousness post, things just happen, so I’ll happen to add that my stories appear in the three anthologies pictured in the sidebar–MURDER ON WHEELS, LONE STAR LAWLESS, and DAY OF THE DARK. My best stories, two of them, are in Murder on Wheels, which has an unimpressive cover but good stuff inside, so if you buy one, please buy that one. They’re all available in paperback and ebook formats. They might be available from your local public library–if they’re not, I’d appreciate your requesting the library acquire copies.
Royalties from Murder on Wheels go to Meals on Wheels in Austin, Texas. Royalties from Lone Star Lawless go to the Port Aransas Public Library, which lost its collection and everything else to Hurricane Harvey in 2018. Royalties from Day of the Dark go to Earth & Sky, which through its website presents information about science and nature. The radio program Earth & Sky (EarthSky) used to air on commercial, NPR, and other public radio stations, but since June 2013 has concentrated on its website and social media.
So there it is, a disjointed post. I went to bed too late last night and woke up too early this morning, so I can’t work on my novella-in-progress, because the characters are too tired to do or say anything interesting. They’ve already said and done one hundred + pages, but they need to do and say it better. Anyway, since they’re not cooperating, and since I’m tired, too, I abandoned them for this post.
The novella will be out this fall. I won’t mention the title or anything else, because it’s a secret, but you can be sure more Blatant Self Promotion will appear in a future post. Not a disjointed one, I hope.
Now I’ll go back to those characters and try to rev them up. They produced pretty well yesterday, when they were rested, so I know they can do it. With the deadline they’re working under, they need to get on a stick.
This turned out less disjointed than I expected it to. Half about cats, my default topic, and the rest about books and writing. All about me, my perpetual topic. The experts say not to write about yourself, but except for Helen Hunt Jackson’s nineteenth-century novel RAMONA, I’m about all I know.
I’m putting what I know about Ramona on a separate blog, but doing so requires typing a lot of footnotes, and that’s a slow and sleep-inducing procedure. The text is interesting, though, if I do say so myself.
We’re pleased to announce that “Invisible Men Invade Earth” was named audience favorite at the Central Arts Short Film Battle in Hurst last night. It competed with “Don’t Die” by Cody Lovorn from San Antonio.
As winner, “Invisible Men” will compete with other 2019 audience favorites later in the year.
After the Battle, a 90-minute feature film, The Monster of Phantom Lake, produced by Film Battle organizer Christopher Mihm, was shown. The Creative Spotlight terms Mihm a “retro-styled director.” Of the film, it says,
“Made on a nearly non-existent budget, this B-movie went on to garner much critical acclaim, appear in many genre-based film festivals, win multiple awards, and continues to screen across the world.”
Without further ado, here are pictures of writer-director-producer-camera man-sound engineer-casting director-key grip-best boy-etc. David Davis, stars William the Cat and Ernest the Cat, and one wall of the theatre.
Photos of David Davis by Kathy Waller
Photo of wall by David Davis
Photos of William and Ernest by Charla, our vet tech cat minder, for whom William and Ernest always pose nicely, because they like her more than they like David and me
Posted on Whiskertips, December 24, 2009, when William and Ernest were still young adults.
If you read my earlier post, our Christmas tree has been the subject of intense, but not unexpected, conflict.
As soon as the tree lit up, so did William and Ernest. William had to be physically restrained from chewing on the lights.
The next morning Kathy found the tree lying on its side and the cats out of sight. The tree spent the day endeshabille, as it were.
After lengthy trilateral negotiations, a compromise was reached.
Ornaments and tree skirt are, of course, out of the question.
Gifts will appear Christmas morning immediately before they’re to be opened.
Christmas Compromise, 2013
After Ernest began eating everything he found interesting– thread, twine, string, ribbon, “elongated things,” the veterinarian said– and his health care became repeatedly expensive, David and Kathy decided Christmas tree needles shouldn’t be allowed in the house.
David bought a small artificial tree complete with lights and set it on a chair.
William supervised setup and checked for stability.
A certain instability was discovered, but William said Ernest was at fault.
Ernest said, “Liar, liar, pants on fire.”
Since then, however, nothing untoward has occurred.
William continues to keep watch.
In 2018, gifts still appear Christmas morning immediately before they’re to be opened.
Note: The black thing William is lying on started as my bearfoot slipper but soon became a soft, squishy thing for William to make biscuits on.
Another note: I don’t think my cats are cuter than other people’s children and grandchildren, but I don’t have children or grandchildren, so William and Ernest get their pictures broadcast worldwide.
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.