Friday, September 22, 2017

Two Boxes of Harris

We can't bring ourselves to recycle two shipping boxes that Harris has taken over in our bedroom. He's been having so much fun with them. Since we don't have his favorite pole toys anymore (and no swallowed string has materialized) we play with a fleece ribbon on a pole and a red plush cherry toy that I tied to a length of wide grosgrain ribbon that no one has ever seriously tried to eat. 

Harris also likes to play in his boxes by himself. If he keeps tossing them around at 4 in the morning and waking us up, I'll have a serious talk with him. But I still won't get rid of the boxes. I am wrapped around his paw.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Possum Is Perfect

First — we've seen no sign of the missing foot of string, nor have we identified the string-eater yet. Everyone seems just fine: eating, sleeping, pooping, playing, hiding, purring. Toffee did throw up a bit this morning, which got me all freaked out, but then he ate breakfast with gusto and wanted to play.

Possum and Wendy had their annual checkups on Saturday including rabies vaccines in the tips of their tails. Wendy is well but needs dentistry, which we expected since we can't brush her teeth. Possum may need a cleaning, since we don't brush his teeth well enough, but he probably won't need any extractions, which suggests that our efforts are better than nothing. (Our vet kindly pointed out that we humans brush our teeth yet need regular cleanings, too.) We're going to switch to PetSmile toothpaste and hope it improves his plaque problem.

Possum has lost a little more than half a pound since last year, perhaps from my vigilance about keeping his nose out of other cats' food bowls at supper time. He was a little overweight to begin with. But we agreed that he should have blood and urine tests to make sure he was okay. His results were declared "perfect," and we are so glad. Wendy will have her blood tests when she has her dentistry in November.

Our "perfect "Possum condescended to pose for me yesterday and I was grateful and obsequious:

Sunday, September 17, 2017

I'm an Idiot

Harris brooding quietly in his carrier at Angell.

I was home alone and on the phone Wednesday morning, trying to support a friend with a sick cat and other troubles. When we began talking, I had Harris and Toffee chasing a Neko Flies pole toy in the bedroom. These very attractive toys require vigilance; when Lion finds one unattended, which has happened at least twice, he's eaten more than a foot of the nylon cord, and needed endoscopy to remove it. One time he jumped to a very high bookshelf to get it; another time, we'd left the pole by a chair and he sneaked over and helped himself.

If you've been reading this blog, you know where this is going.

I put the phone down, more than an hour later. A while after that, I remembered that we'd been playing with that toy. The phone conversation had been so intense that I didn't remember putting it away . . . or setting it down anywhere. I ran into the bedroom found the pole on the floor, separated from the toy, with more than a foot of the tough fluorescent green cord gone.

It's hard to describe what it's like to make that discovery, but I've been through it a few times now so I'm better identifying the stages once one remembers that the pole toy wasn't properly put away:

1. Astonishment that one could be such an idiot. Again
2. Hope that nothing was eaten this time
3. Disbelief upon making the discovery, while feeling like an idiot
4. Horror (while searching frantically for the string)
5. Denial (surely that string will turn up somewhere)
6. Returning horror and acceptance that one, indeed, is an idiot with a string-filled cat
7. Panic. Which cat?
8. Action: calling the animal hospital and Uber while gathering carriers, phone, charger, water, sweater, etc.
9. Racing to the animal hospital with two or three suspects.

This time, the usual suspects did not include Lion. I hadn't seen him all morning. He's been hiding even more than usual during the day lately because we'd had  guests (two days previously) and more mess and disruption than usual from some fall cleaning and touch-painting. So I figured it had to be one of the two who had played with the toy. My money would have been on Toffee, since he'd eaten string from a pole toy when he was a kitten. I felt I could only manage two cats on my own, so I picked what I thought were the most likely candidates.

Toffee put up a fight as I forced him into his carrier. Harris, a model individual, went right into his. The drive to Angell Memorial Animal Hospital was quick.

The emergency vets weren't that busy (four patients ahead of us is better than average, I'd say) so I probably waited an hour to see the vet and hand over the cats. We sat in the cat-only waiting area with only one other patient, who talked to me loudly, quickly, and nonstop about her cats and their numerous parasites and kidney problems, firing questions at me and staring until I responded. It was exhausting, so I gave her a lecture on feline nutrition just to quiet her down.

The vet said there was still time to try to induce vomiting by giving the cats a powerful tranquilizer with that side-effect. After it's administered, they wait and watch for 30 to 45 minutes to see if it works. If not, they reverse the sedation with another drug. While cats always vomit when you least want them to, it's very difficult to make them do it; the drug is successful at emptying the stomach only about half the time or less. But it's relatively safe and inexpensive compared to an endoscopy under full anesthesia.

I said I was afraid to go back to the waiting area and told them about the lady. They knew who I meant and let me wait in the exam room.

The tranquilizer didn't work, although they reported that Harris helpfully threw up some liquid.

I was at Angell for five hours while all this was happening, which gave me time to think, and to text with two of my wisest cat friends, who were full of advice and support. I calmed down and saw things more clearly. It occurred to me that Harris would have eaten the toy, his beloved "Growly," instead of the cord. I had most likely put him through all this for nothing. Toffee was more mysterious. He had eaten a pole-toy cord as a kitten, when I'd been distracted by difficult phone call and set it down.  He'd done many dangerous things until he was about 2, when he grew up, wised up, and stopped giving us fits. He had been very excited about playing that morning; so he could have eaten it, but it would have been odd, given his years of good behavior.

As for Possum and Wendy, anything is possible, but neither has ever caused us any worry by eating cords. They are older and weren't interested in toys that morning. Wendy was hiding in her usual spot under the bed with Lion. Possum was taking a long post-breakfast nap.

That left Lion. I hadn't seen or heard him come out from under the bed to eat the string that was lying on top of it. But it dawned on me that it's exactly the kind of thing he'd do. He's sneaky, and he loves eating strings much more than playing with the toys themselves. He'd already done it twice, and shown no signs of enlightenment. He could have heard us playing with it because the metal clip at the top of the pole makes a distinctive tapping sound as the cord flies around. So I sat in the exam room realizing I'd probably left the real patient at home.

Which was another reason to feel like an idiot. When will I ever learn, I asked myself? I am supposed to be smarter than my cats. I'm supposed to protect them from hazards, not create them.

The vet didn't want to perform two endoscopies, especially since we couldn't be sure that either cat needed it. We were sent home with instructions to watch all the cats carefully for at least a week for signs of intestinal blockage: vomiting, lack of appetite, lethargy, straining in the box, etc. Any of those will send us racing back to the hospital for emergency surgery.

So far, all the cats seem perfectly normal. Lion gave me what I thought was a guilty look when he finally appeared for supper.  I try to go to bed late and get up once in the middle of the night to check on them, and I make sure I don't leave the apartment for very long.

The Neko Flies pole toys, most beloved by all our cats, have been thrown out, never to return. I saved both the pole sand the toys in case someone develops a safe, edible string or some indestructible alternative (chain?) that can't be bitten. I'm not optimistic. I was an idiot to keep them after they caused trouble on previous occasions but Harris especially loves them more than anything else. And I thought I was mindful and sensible enough to always put them out of the cats' reach. Ha.

With any luck the string will pass through whoever's digestive tract without getting stuck, and turn up in the litter box very soon. That would be great. But I don't seem to have any luck, so who knows what will happen.

I'll keep you posted.

Friday, September 15, 2017


Remnants of Hurricane Irma drifted through Boston yesterday. It hit as I was walking across the Mass. Ave. bridge to meet my husband for an impromptu dinner at the taqueria on the MIT campus. The sky looked ominous from my side of the river and I hesitated about going, but he reported bright sunshine and blue skies on his side. I was skeptical but hungry, so I took the big umbrella and walked fast.

The river was calm but no one was sailing. I should have taken that as a sign to turn back but I did not. The thunder and lighting began and the downpour quickly followed when I was less than halfway over the bridge, at about 150 Smoots for those of you who know Boston. I was glad to have my umbrella — I passed lots of people getting drenched. But umbrellas only do so much when the rain is blowing sideways, so my legs got soaked and my sandals turned into squishy, slippery nuisances. However, there was a quesadilla waiting for me.

I dried off with paper napkins and we stayed inside until the rain stopped. Walking home, the light was still weirdly yellow, with mist and massive clouds. I can't imagine what it was like to experience this storm's intensity in Florida and on the islands, and I hope I never find out.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Catching Up & Patching Up

If you've noticed that I haven't been babbling communicating as much as usual in recent weeks, it's not because I find talking to you dull. I've been both lazy and busy, partly with projects for some of the neighborhood organizations where I volunteer. I've been spending time in Back Bay's alleys inventorying and photographing trees, for one thing. I did this for a few weeks last September and I still have more work to do. But soon we'll have an alley tree website as a reference (proof) whenever someone cuts down a tree without permission — or plants one, which happens more rarely.

I've also been on a small home improvement kick lately. Since we began house-hunting (was that really eight years ago?) we'd neglected our condo to the point where it was depressing me. And it would have depressed anyone who came to visit.

In future posts, I'll tell you about a few simple things we did recently, with the cats' cooperation, of course. Here's one project, which shows you not only how lazy we are about doing repairs around here but also how willing we are to paint a ceiling the wrong color.

In 2013, an early-morning leak from the top floor sent water pouring into our bedroom closet and the crawlspace above it, threatening to soak our best clothes and all of our Christmas decorations with dirty water. It was a memorable morning. Our building manager hired a mold prevention service to open up walls and bring in equipment, and we spent a week trying to sleep next to a massive dehumidifier that blew like a jet engine 24/7, while the cats enjoyed clawing at the sheets of plastic that formed a little room around it. What a lousy time that was. When the dehumidifier left, and the walls were replastered, we were left with large white patches on one sandy-gold wall and a rectangular "cloud" on our sky-blue ceiling. The handyman who works for our building was supposed to return to paint them. Ha.

We finally gave up and repainted ourselves last winter. The wall paint matched perfectly but the ceiling patch was the wrong color — a shade too light, even though I had written the color, Forget-Me-Not, in the book where I keep records of all of my paint colors and glazing recipes. It's hard to forget a color named Forget-Me-Not. We got used to living with a different two-tone ceiling.

Last week, the name "Serenity" popped into my head as I was looking at that too-light ceiling patch and not liking it at all. I looked up the color on a Benjamin Moore paint deck and decided it looked like a match for our ceiling, although I didn't go up on the ladder and compare the two because I don't like ladders. I thought I might have changed my mind about Forget-Me-Not after a previous flood, and forgot to write down this new, familiar-sounding color. It sounded plausible to me.

I bought a quart of Serenity and handed it to my husband with a very cute little touch-up painting kit: a toddler-sized roller packed in clear plastic that's a mini tray. The color was much too dark and looked far worse than the previous wrong color. We decided that the too-light color was better, even though it was obviously wrong, but we figured that we'd never figure out the right color. So my husband went to the paint store again for another can of Forget-Me-Not. And the second time around, it matched perfectly! They must have mixed the wrong color for me last year. They must have set their mixing machine for one shade lighter.

So, three quarts of paint later, the ceiling finally looks great — if you don't pay attention to the cracks.