March 2017
S M T W T F S
« Dec    
 1234
567891011
12131415161718
19202122232425
262728293031  

Archives

  • 2016
  • 2015
  • 2014
  • 2013
  • 2012
  • 2011
  • 2010
  • 2009
  • 2008
  • 2007
  • 2006

Categories

  • Film
  • Journals & Blogs
  • Places
  • Reviews

R.I.P. Maggie

My sister Katy texted me last night to tell me that our Mom’s cat Maggie passed away sometime during the day.

Mom had cats for just about my entire life. When I was born she and Dad had a cat named Dinah, whom I barely remember, although I dimly remember thinking she was someone to avoid. She died when I was still quite young. I grew up with an Abyssinian cat named Amos – I’m not sure if they got him before or after I was born – and he was around until 1987, along with our Welsh Corgi, Punkin, who joined us in 1976. I always found Amos somewhat aloof, even for a cat, just doing his own thing. I don’t really have strong memories of him, even though I was a teenager for part of his life.

In 1988, after I went to college and Amos passed away, Mom and got a couple of cats, a sweet tabby named William, and a feisty polydactyl calico named Jenny. William was my buddy whenever I visited, and I was very sad when he passed away in 2000. Jenny lived a couple more years, and I think enjoyed being an only cat.

We weren’t sure Mom would get another cat after Jenny – well, maybe Mom was less sure than the rest of us – but she found Maggie at a shelter, I think around 2003. The shelter said she’d been found pregnant and with a collar on her neck which was too small. And she was a small cat – maybe 7 pounds – a calico with smoky fur and a smudge on her nose. Mom adopted her, and really had to stick out caring for her for that first year, because she said Maggie took a long time to warm up to her, and even longer to really become her friend. But eventually she settled in with Mom, coming down for treats or to lie on the newspaper, and moving from room to room to lie in the sun in various windows. I guess she would growl and hiss loudly at cats who came into her yard, and avidly watched all the birds which flew into the yard.

She was not a very friendly cat, usually running and hiding when visitors came. It would take several days after I’d arrive to visit before she’d do more than look at me around a corner. She didn’t bite or scratch (much), she just wasn’t very friendly. She did warm up to me when I stayed at Mom’s house while she was recovering from knee replacement surgery in 2012, even getting into the morning paper routine. She’d even sit at the top of the stairs and meow for me to come to bed when it was Mom’s usual bedtime!

She had a bit of a mischievous streak: Mom said she once got outside, and Mom left both the front and back doors open for her to come back in. After an hour, she walked in the front door… and before Mom could close the doors she walked all the way through the house and went out the back. She did come in to stay later in the day, though. She also loved to play with tabs from plastic milk cartons, and would sometimes carry one to the top of the stairs and meow until Mom came out and told her what a good kitty she was. (When we were preparing to sell the house, I found dozens of the tabs behind the oven.)

Maggie had a hard time in Mom’s apartment in assisted living, with people coming in and out several times a day, and having a pretty small place to live. Mom played with her a lot, but as Mom declined (and I see in hindsight that she hid a lot of the symptoms of her decline from us) I think she became neglected and lonely.

The nursing staff told us that when Mom passed away she meowed loudly for a while afterwards, and then she had to endure several days in the apartment alone, with the occasional visitor to give her food and scoop her litter, until Katy and I came to clean out the place.

Katy volunteered to adopt her, and something remarkable happened: She moved into Katy’s house, with her son and her two young cats, and she totally took over the house. She whipped the young cats into line, and became very friendly to the humans. Katy says when she’d have workmen over, the other cats with disappear but Maggie would stay and supervise them. And last December, when Katy adopted a young dog, Maggie told the dog who’s boss, and used him against the other cats, since they didn’t like him.

So after everything, Maggie got her happy ending, a year and a half in a nice old house, with friendly humans, lots of wet cat food, and plenty of time lying in the sun on the porch.

Katy said Maggie had been getting small and thin lately, and we’re not really sure how old she was. Our best guess is that she’s 13, about the same as our calico Roulette, but she could easily have been a year or two (or more!) older than that. She always had kind of cruddy teeth, which is not a recipe for long-term health. So it was not really a surprise, though the suddenness was a bit of a shock. I don’t think Maggie would have done well with a long decline, anyway.

Katy says she’s having Maggie cremated and will spread her ashes over Mom’s grave next time she visits. I think they’d both like the thought of that.

(photo by Katy)

(photo by Katy)

Jackson vs. the Fan

Well, not literally. But this week has been nice and cool at night (compared to the over-90s highs we suffered through most of last week), so at night we’ve not had the fan on while we slept. And that’s confirmed that our cat Jackson really does not like the fan in our bedroom.

He doesn’t especially hate fans, but when the fan is on overnight he doesn’t sleep with us. And in fact he tries to wake us up once or twice by pawing at the venetian blinds, to the point that we often chase him out and close the door. This week, he’s slept with us more nights than not, and has hardly disturbed us at all. And at least twice he’s been snoozing on Debbi’s side of the bed when I woke up (Debbi leaves for work before my alarm goes off – we have a time-shifted marriage).

Well either that or there’s some temperature threshold above which he won’t sleep with us, but the correlation seems stronger with the fan. I don’t know what it is about the fan that does it, since he’ll sleep on the couch downstairs underneath a running fan, and he doesn’t seem hostile towards any of the fans. Just some funny association in his little kitty brain, I guess!

The Adventures of Mr. Orange Kitty

In the few years we’ve lived in our house, we’ve become familiar with a number of neighborhood outdoor kitties. For instance:

  • The small tortoiseshell we think lives in the house behind us, and who sometimes walks through our yard.
  • The tuxedo cat who lives across the street and sometimes hangs out on our front porch.
  • The tabby cat who also lives across the street but who mostly stays over there.
  • The young cat down the street who sometimes walks with us to the edge of his territory when we go for our neighborhood walk. He has a collar so he’s probably an indoor-outdoor cat.

Our most common visitor, though, has been a large orange tabby who we call “Mr. Orange Kitty”.

As far as we know, Mr. Orange Kitty doesn’t have an owner (no collar, doesn’t want to interact with humans). He also walks around like he’s the ruler of the neighborhood. (We actually don’t know that he’s a “he”, but he’s a big guy – probably 15 pounds or more – so that’s our guess.)

Sometimes we see him hanging out on the front porch (occasionally with tux boy), but he runs away when we get close. He walks across the street, hides under cars (and seems to know to avoid them when they’re driving down the street), and comes into our back yard to sleep in the sun on our patio. He has on occasion attracted the attention of our indoor cats; they find him interesting, but he’s realized their appeal to him is limited. Here he is exchanging a look with Blackjack, which means this is probably from 2011:

Mr. Orange Kitty & Blackjack

But we mostly see him sitting on our back yard fence, especially in the spring and fall when he can sit in the sun when it’s cool out. He also sleeps on the roof of the shed in the yard behind us, or even on the room of the house next to us. A couple of times I’ve place cat treats on the fence near where he sleeps to see if he might warm up to us, but no luck so far – he takes off whenever someone gets close to him.

The sad recent development is that a month or so ago we noticed that he looked kind of disheveled (well, more than usual) and was walking with a limp. Around the same time we stopped seeing him on the fence, so we think he got hurt somehow – perhaps in a fight, since we do sometimes hear the sounds of cat fights at night – and that he might not be able to jump onto the fence any more. I actually hadn’t seen him at all for a few weeks – which is quite a while even for him – but Debbi says she saw him crossing the street heading for tux boy’s house this week, so he’s still around.

Since we don’t see him in his usual spots anymore, we put a cardboard box on the front porch for him (or any other cats) to sit or snooze in. No sign yet that they’re using it, but we know cats like the porch so hopefully some of them have found it.

Hopefully Mr. Orange Kitty will heal up and be able to get back to his usual routine. Of course, we have no idea how old he is, so if he’s an old guy then he might not heal up. But I wish him the best, because he’s been a cheerful part of our corner of the neighborhood for the last few years.

Nap Time

Tiny Kittens

Over the last couple of months I’ve been watching a group of kittens through a page called Tiny Kittens. They have a Facebook page, but more importantly they have a live stream page. Ceej turned me on to them.

These particular kittens are six called the “tiny dancers”, born to a mother named Calypso, and with six dancing names: Mambo, Foxtrot, Jitterbug, Lindy, Salsa and Hula. Over that time the kittens have grown from barely-able-to-move to being small but fully-functional cats, running and playing. Their mom has been great, too: Once they started weaning from her, she became playful and would even wrestle with her kids. And she was a beautiful calico to boot. (She was a little clueless about monitoring her kittens sometimes; once one of them fell out of their bed and was meowing on the ground, and Calypso would go down, then jump back up, and back and forth until a human came in and picked up the kitten and put it back.)

Anyway, the kittens are now about three months old and have been getting fixed and are heading out to their forever homes. Mambo and Hula headed out on Wednesday, and Calypso – who has also been spayed – went to her own home today, after one last morning snuggling with and cleaning her kittens. I watched Wednesdays’ departures being packed up with little plastic lunch box care packages, and being shown to the camera one last time before they departed. (Each pair has their own Facebook pages: Hula and Mambo, Foxtrot and Salsa, Lindy and Jitterbug.)

Watching them get broken up has been sad. Even though I know they’re all going to good homes, living together is all the kittens have known and I wonder how the seven cats each react to being broken up like this. It’s totally anthropomorphizing on my part, since I know most cats adapt to their new situation, and they’ll all be happy with their new humans. It’s great that it looks like each kitten will have one of their siblings to spend their lives with: I remember telling Newton several times that he got to spend just about his whole life with his brother Jefferson. Of course I don’t know whether they really cared about that, but we humans like to think they do. I still have small regrets that none of the other three cats got to say goodbye to Jeff, since he went so quickly.

Anyway, I can’t imagine fostering kittens myself. It would be too hard to let them go, I think. It’s hard enough watching these kittens – who I haven’t even spent times with directly – head off. Debbi has thought about volunteering with our local Humane Society, but I think she worries that she’d have trouble saying goodbye to them, too (not to mention that not all of the animals will come to a good end; even if the shelter is no-kill, some of them will get sick or have other problems).

In any event, I guess the Tiny Kittens shelter will get some new kittens in at some point, and I’ll get to watch them grow and then leave. It’s adorable and entertaining while it lasts. But it’s sad because what the end is for me comes all too soon.

The Kittens Go to the Vet

We took the kittens to the vet yesterday for their annual check-up. At 14 months, they’re not really kittens anymore, but we still call them that, and probably will for a while.

We also brought Roulette for her check-up. In the past she always rode in our large carrier with her brother Blackjack, but since he passed away just about a year ago, we decided to put her in a small carrier by herself and put the kittens together in the large carrier.

Result: Roulette meowed the whole drive, and Sadie meowed from time to time and even louder than Roulette. Jackson was completely blasé about the whole thing.

In fact, Jackson was perfectly happy at the vet: He came out of his carrier, tail straight up, and checked out everything in the office, and was perfectly pleasant to everyone he met. Other than a brief yowl when his temperature was taken, he was quite comfortable in this new place. He really is the alpha cat, I guess! We also learned just how enormous a cat he is, which is to say, not as enormous as we’d thought: He weighed in at 14-1/2 pounds, well under the 16 pounds I’d guessed, and even the 15 that Debbi guessed. He’s about the side Jefferson was when Jeff wasn’t getting pudgy.

Sadie was also pretty comfortable at the vet, but Roulette was not, and had to be pulled out of her carrier for her exam. And afterwards she jumped down and went into the large carrier and curled up. So we decided to have her and Sadie ride home together, since they get along pretty well (it’s Jackson and Rou who don’t get along – specifically, Roulette does not like Jackson).

(Aside: Roulette is a little lighter than Debbi had expected, at 11 pounds. Sadie weighed in at 10 pounds, fluffiness and all.)

Putting the girls together worked great, as everyone was relatively quiet on the ride home, and Roulette was even up and looking around during the ride. When we got home we let them all out and the three sort of followed each other around looking a little dazed by the experience, without any friction between Jackson and Rou. So maybe there was a little bonding that went on during the trip.

The adventure took a lot out of them as they slept most of the rest of the day.

Oh yeah: And they’re all healthy, which was the point of the trip in the first place.

Roulette’s Difficult Summer

It’s been a couple of months since Newton passed away. I’m not sure Jackson and Sadie really noticed. I mean, I’m sure they did in some way, but it didn’t slow them down. They both started lying in Newton’s spot on the couch pretty quickly (to be fair, so did Debbi and I). But he was not a big part of their life for very long.

Roulette has taken his passing harder. It doesn’t help that Jackson still chases her from time to time, and doesn’t take her hissing at him as a signal to stop. She spent several weeks mostly upstairs, and mostly under the guest bed, which seems to be her safe spot. She would come down at night and sit on the back of the family room couch and mostly try to avoid Jackson. She recognized that Sadie is not a big threat, even though Sadie would chase her too, sometimes.

But I think she’s been a bit stunned by the last of the three cats she grew up with passing away. It’s been a sad time for her.

We wondered what would happen when we went away for our vacation for 12 days. We found a great cat sitter through a friend, and knew that she would give them all plenty of attention and play time, but still Roulette would be alone with the kittens for at least 23 hours a day.

Oh, and the kittens ceased being kittens early in September, as it turned out their recorded birthday is September 4.

Our first night back we realized that Roulette was coming in to our bedroom, and leaving when she noticed Jackson in there. I suspect she expanded her territory to include our bedroom while we were gone, and that the kittens mostly stayed downstairs.

Also, since we got home she’s been spending more time downstairs, and not a lot of time under the bed. She sits on the couches, and on the dining room table in the sun during the morning. Last week when I sat in the living room reading comics she curled up with me for most of the evening, and even tolerated each of Sadie and Jackson lying with us, for a while.

This weekend she started lying on the family room couch itself, not just on the back, and she’s been cuddling up next to me and Debbi. And there’s been less chasing, and less hissing. And she plays with toys when we bring them out sometimes, too. She’s also joined me in the study to pester me while I’m paying bills. And Debbi even noticed her eating next to Jackson yesterday. Sadie has gone up to her and groomed her a little without any growling.

So I think she’s started to get used to the kittens, slowly, slowly. I think the next step will be to see her and Sadie grooming each other, or at least snoozing together. Perhaps not any time soon, but maybe it will happen.

But we did get some pics of the three of them lying together on the couch, in Newton’s spot, for a little while:

Cat harmony

Home Maintenance

After our whirlwind time last weekend, we wanted to have a quieter time this weekend. It didn’t quite work out that way, but it was pretty good anyway.

Friday morning I took my car in. I had it in a week earlier for an oil change, and they said they’d noticed both an oil leak (possibly coming from the head gasket) and a power steering fluid leak. They suggested I take my car to have the engine block steam-cleaned, and then come back in a week to see if they could find the leak. So I did that, and they couldn’t find any evidence of recent leakage. So perhaps whatever they saw was an old leak which has since been fixed. They also showed me how to monitor my power steering fluid level to know when to add more fluid, or when it might need to get fixed (which will be expensive). So, that was about as good as I could have hoped for. I did get a new battery, though, since mine was nearing the end of its life.

That night we went out for Italian food and drinks, which I was craving. And then we went for one of our walks around the neighborhood, which we haven’t done recently since Debbi has been hurt (shin splints and/or pulled muscles in her leg), or sick, or we’ve just been busy (after all, I bike to work on the days we did our walks over the winter). We dropped in on my friend Alex and his family so Debbi could see how their black lab Alton is doing. He’s no longer a puppy, is how he’s doing (well, he’s dog-sized by still has a puppy brain). He also got so excited that he peed on my sandal. Thanks, Alton!

Saturday we ran some errands. The filter warning light for our refrigerator’s ice maker has been on for a couple of weeks, so we bought a new filter for it (and subsequently found the one we already had). We then discovered that it didn’t actually have a filter installed! Yet it took two years for the warning light to come on. Weird. Well, there’s a filter now.

We also bought a new area rug for our family room, as we had to get rid of the old rug because Newton had peed on it. (I hadn’t really intended this entry to be about animals peeing, but there you go.) Debbi wanted one that didn’t have shag since the old one was a pain to clean and vacuum. We found one we like pretty well, and put it down. And then we decided to run it the other direction, so we moved it on Sunday. Lots of furniture moving. But it did give us a chance to pretty thoroughly de-fur the couch.

The cats love the new rug. They’ve all been lying on it, especially when it’s in the sun, and we’ve played with them on it. Jackson likes to lie under the coffee table now that the rug is there.

We made a trip out to one of our favorite pet stores to buy some toys for the cats and also for Debbi’s sister’s family’s kitten. And we got Chinese for dinner, trying a couple of new dishes by ordering their prix fixe menu (or do I have to figure out what “prix fixe” is in Chinese to write that?).

We have been a little worried about Roulette since Newton left us last week, since now all three cats she grew up with are gone, and she hasn’t warmed up to the kittens yet. So we gave her some extra attention. We even each got her to play for a bit, and she tolerated having Sadie sleep almost right next to her. I wonder if she knew Newton was not in good shape and if that was stressing her out. Now that that’s been resolved, maybe she will integrate with the kittens a little better.

Sunday I got up and mowed the lawn. The back lawn was looking a little brown, and I finally did what ought to help it: Replaced the solenoid for the valve which controls the automatic sprinklers for that area. I hate doing those kinds of home repair, because it seems like when I do it not only do I fail to fix the problem, but I manage to break something else. But this went smoothly (other than dousing my shorts with water when I removed the old solenoid, not realizing I should have shut off the water to the valves first), and I ran the sprinklers in the evening to let them get some water overnight. Talking with my friend Chad about sprinklers I’ve learned a bunch of things about them recently. I’m not sure I’d want to actually replace one of the valves myself, but maybe I could.

We wound up the all-too-short weekend by grilling pork chops and asparagus for dinner (and I made some sour apple martinis), and then I went upstairs to pay bills.

The weekend flew by, and I feel like we didn’t have quite enough downtime during it, but we did get a lot of stuff done, and between the family room and the sprinklers it feels more comfortable now.

Newton’s Last Days

It was about a week ago that we decided to take Newton in to the vet because of his increasing meowing, apparent trouble sleeping, and starting to pee in more and more places. While I thought we might do some blood tests and see what was up, I also realized there was a good chance that we would just decide that that was it for him (as it turned out to be). I made the appointment for Sunday because our vet was booked on Saturday and I had another appointment on Friday.

We actually had quite a busy week, and I admit that some of it was wanting to be distracted so I didn’t sit around moping about the impending vet appointment. I felt a little guilty that I didn’t want to spend as much time as possible with him, but honestly he was becoming an increasingly grouchy kitty and he really did not interact a lot anymore.

Last Sunday – before I made the appointment – we had gone to the birthday party of our friends’ four-year-old twins, and while there Debbi scheduled a couple of other dates with their parents and some other friends. So Wednesday we met four of them at Flea Street Cafe, in a part of Menlo Park we’d never been to, for dinner and drinks. It’s a pretty good place, rather on the pricy side, and a little ritzy for our usual dinner haunts, but we might go back with other folks sometime.

Friday I had an appointment to take my car in. I drive a 2000 Honda Civic, which I actually bought in fall of 1999, and it is starting to show its age. The battery needs to be replaced (it’s been replaced at least once before), I have an oil leak (which might be at the head gasket), and apparently a power steering rack leak as well. They told me to take the car to have its engine block steam cleaned (I’ve never heard of such a thing!) and I’ll bring it back this coming Friday to see if they can pinpoint the oil leak. But likely it will run well over a thousand dollars to get it all fixed. I will likely fix it, since I’m not yet ready to get a new car, but it looks like I’ll need to move on cleaning out the garage before too long so I can consider getting a new car (which I won’t want to park in the driveway).

Friday night we got together with Susan and Subrata for dinner and games, which is always fun.

Unfortunately, Debbi started feeling sick on Friday, with a sore throat when she woke up, and we had many plans on Saturday. She felt a little better on Saturday, so we went ahead with the plans. In the afternoon we had six of our adult friends, and four kids, over for a BBQ in the back yard. This was a lot of fun, but also a lot of work to keep this kids entertained. The twins live in a house without stairs and so they always want to go up and down the stairs when they come visit. But mostly it was an outdoor party, so they got to run around in the yard, but we adults went out to keep them entertained regularly; they wanted me to swing them around by their wrists or ankles, and to chase me back and forth in the yard. (The five-year-old realized I would cut back to avoid the twins, so I had to zig again to avoid her; fortunately I can still out-think a five-year-old.)

In addition to the BBQ I made mai tais using the recipe the twins’ Mom uses (more or less), which is pretty different from the “traditional” mai tai (it uses pineapple juice) I made a batch, gave it a try, added some stuff to it, and it turned out pretty good. There’s still something missing, but I’m not sure what. It was also stronger than I’d expected, but I think the dark rum I happen to have on hand is pretty strong in both flavor and alcohol content.

When the first people showed up, I let Newton outside with us, and basically just let him roam around the yard – as long as he didn’t go under the deck we let him be. He lay in the sun, lay in the shade, went behind bushes and our Japanese maple tree, sat on the edging stones, and generally had a great time (meowing a lot of the time, too). Eventually more people showed up, so I took him indoors, but he spent at least an hour and a half (including some time before the party) in the back yard, so it was a good last full day for him. He managed to sneak outside a couple of times later, too.

The party went rather longer than we had originally planned, but everyone was having fun and the kids were still full of energy so we didn’t worry about it. Things wound down around 8.

This was good because we actually had plans with the neighbors around 8 to go hang out for the evening. So we were a bit late to that as we cleaned up (and gave Newton his subcutaneous fluids). It was a nice change from the busy-ness of the afternoon, though: Our neighbor enjoys making vodka drinks, so he prepared four different ones for us, and we all sat and talked and noshed on munchies and enjoyed the drinks, which were delicious. Now I’m feeling inspired to make martinis and such. We stayed until nearly midnight, and then staggered home, being very glad we didn’t have to drive.

Debbi unfortunately felt sicker on Sunday (and is home from work today), which was also a drag because she was trying to take care of herself while we took Newton to the vet and then came home after having him put to sleep.

It’s been easier getting over Newton’s passing than it was for me with Jefferson. Partly I think because I said goodbyes to him last year before his hospital stay, and partly because we’ve basically known since that stay that his day was not far off. Really he lived longer than we expected, I think. The kittens have been sniffing around his spot on the couch and sometimes lying there, and I sat there last night to watch the Red Sox game. Roulette I think knew something was wrong with him before he passed; we’re worried about how she’ll handle the fact that the last of the three cats she grew up with is gone, and now she just has these kittens that she doesn’t fully accept. With time, maybe she will.

We’ve been picking up some of the things we had to deal with Newton peeing around the house, and we took up the towel from his spot and put a regular blanket there (our couch is covered in blankets to try to control some of the cat hair). It’s not quite the same and taking away the food dishes when Jefferson passed, but there’s a mark of finality to it. Disposing of his remaining medications is next, I guess. And I can try to return that unopened pack of puppy pads to Petco.

And, life goes on.

Remembering Newton, 1994-2013

Today Newton went to join his brothers Jefferson and Blackjack in that big cat window in the sky. Newton lived to be 19 years old, quite elderly for a housecat, but I think he was mostly happy up until the end.

I got Newton and Jefferson not long after I left grad school in 1994. The Humane Society in Madison thought they were six months old in October, but after seeing how big our current kittens were at six months, my guess is they were more like three or four months old when I got them.

Hi, I'm Newton
“Hi, I’m Newton.”

Newton was “the explorer” of the pair. I remember when we (my then-girlfriend Colleen and I) let them out of the carrier when we brought them home, they both immediately did a 180° turn and walked right up to a half-height mirror that was leaning against the wall. They both jumped back from the “other cats”, but quickly learned that there were no actual other cats. They spent half an hour exploring the living room, and then walked over towards the kitchen. Jefferson headed into the kitchen, but Newton noticed the hallway leading to the bedroom and bathroom and immediately turned and headed into the bedroom, with Jefferson following. I also remember going into the bedroom when they got bigger and finding Newton on top off the door. I guess he jumped onto the desk, onto the bookcase next to it, and then across the doorway to the top of the door, where he happily sat for who knows how long before I recused him.

Newton was also a very enthusiastic, high-energy kitty. I remember we would play with them and he would keep going long after Jefferson called it quits. Heck, he would keep going until we stopped, and would sit looking at the toy and panting. And if we started again, he’d keep going. We finally stopped for good because I was afraid he was going to hurt himself!

I got it!
“I got it!”

Pump and run
“If I put paws in both holes maybe I can get the mouse…”

Jefferson grew to be much bigger than Newton, and also became top cat, as I’d learn later. Newton topped out at a little under 10 pounds; I always wondered if he’d been the runt of his litter. Despite their size difference, Newton and Jefferson were pretty evenly matched. Newton was also the social one: I remember hosting a book discussion group at my apartment, and Jefferson stayed in the bedroom, but Newton eventually came out, jumped up on an empty chair, and loafed up as if he were listening to the conversation.

The three of us moved to California when I went to work at Apple. I started dating Debbi, and bought my townhouse in Mountain View. Jefferson may have resented Debbi’s taking my attention away from him, but Newton adjusted pretty well; he enjoyed getting attention from anyone, and got more and more snuggly as he got older.

I loves my brother
“I loves my brother!”

Debbi’s kittens came along in 2003 and changed the dynamic: Jefferson became top cat (though Newton could always pester him like no one else could), and Newton and Blackjack started their struggle for the second position, which I don’t think ever really got resolved. The two of them would sometimes wrestle with each other, and we’d call them “the silent wrestlers” because they would often fight without making a sound, just pouncing back and forth and circling each other. Newton would often roll onto his back to fight, which was funny since Blackjack was much bigger than he was.

Kitty friends
“Fighting? Us?”

Okay, okay, that's enough
“Okay, okay, that’s enough!”

Newton had some weird habits. One was jumping up on my desk when I was at it and putting his head directly under the incandescent bulb of my desk lamp, “baking his brain” I called it. He never showed signed of getting particularly cold, so I don’t know what was going through his head. He was also the cat who would spaz out at a second’s notice and go running through the house. At the townhouse he’s tear down the stairs to the landing halfway, and then wriggle under the railing to jump down to the floor directly, and then keep going. He’s also the reason I didn’t have house plants for many years, not because he’d eat them but because he’d dig in the dirt in the pot. Again, don’t know what was going through his head. For a few years he liked to lie in the sink; when he got older, he just liked to drink out of it. And he liked to bury his head in my armpit, sometimes making snorting sounds when doing so. It grossed Debbi out.

When Jefferson passed away, the cat dynamics changed again; I think Roulette sort of inherited the top cat position from Jefferson, because neither Newton nor Blackjack was willing to yield it to the other. We moved to our current house, and Newton again was the first cat out of the carrier to check things out.

Blackjack was diagnosed with lymphoma in early 2011, but by this time Newton was almost 17 years old and was taking medication for hyperthyroidism, so I think their struggle ended without really being resolved. Then early last year Newton spent a few days in the hospital, and was diagnosed as having slowly-failing kidneys (kidney failure seems to be a common way older cats die). When he came home he was not quite the same cat he was before, having slowed down a lot and lost a lot of weight. He spent more time downstairs, taking the center spot in the family room couch as his own, and didn’t sleep with us anymore. He went on a regimen of subcutaneous fluids and various drugs, which took a while to figure out how best to give them to him (especially the aluminum hydroxide; going with an oral syringe of it in gel form worked much better than adding a powder to wet cat food).

Last November we got our new kittens, Jackson and Sadie, and Blackjack passed away a couple of weeks later. Newton quickly laid down the law with the kittens, showing that he wouldn’t take any guff from them, but they could sleep with him if they wanted. I think they actually made him perk up a bit because there were now things going on in the house.

New brothers

I guess she's okay

We realized earlier this year that Newton couldn’t really run and could barely jump anymore, which meant it was now safe to let him out into the back yard with minimal supervision. This quickly became his favorite thing in the world, and he would sit at the back door meowing to go out, and also try to slip out with a human when the door opened. As long as he didn’t go under the deck, we let him have the run of the yard. He’d lie in the grass, sit on an edging stone, walk behind the Japanese maple, and then come over the rub his head against me, in thanks, I guess.

He didn’t make his last months easy, though. He stopped peeing inside his litter box, so we put puppy pads down in strategic spots for him to use. Sometimes he’d miss and we’d have to clean up the floor. These last couple of weeks he started peeing in other places (even on the blankets on the couch a few times, though we managed to save the couch from getting wet), and he was meowing more and more. Sometimes he’d put his head down, and then three minutes later lift it up and meow for thirty seconds. I don’t know whether he was sleeping very well, or eating or drinking. And his breath got really foul, which our vet says can be a symptom of severe kidney degradation.

So I made a vet appointment for today. I took him outside for one last walk around (the picture below is from this morning), and then in we went. After talking with our vet and thinking it over for a while, I decided that it was probably time. His meows probably meant he wasn’t very comfortable anymore, and I didn’t want him to deteriorate over the next week or two to the point where he was miserable and pathetic. The vet thought it was a good decision, that even if we treated his current symptoms it was likely he’d only have a few more weeks. I didn’t know going in whether that would be the decision, but I thought it was likely. Despite feeling like I’d said my goodbyes to him last year before his hospital stay, and the fact that he hasn’t really been the same cat since, it was still very hard to say goodbye. We snuggled with him until he was sedated and he seemed just happy to be in our arms.

Several of my friends had young cats around the time I got my guys, and Newton I believe outlived all of them: Scout & Smokey (Newton & Jefferson’s doppelgangers), Sarabi & Mufasa (Sarabi passed away earlier this year), Oscar & Spud. And all the “K” kitties two of my friends had, of which I only remember Kang, because he always wanted to snuggle with me when I visited.

Goodbye, little orange fellow. You had a long, full life, and I’ll miss you.

Onwards!
Onwards to new adventures!

Caring for Newton

When I got Newton and Jefferson in October 1994, my vet’s best guess was that they were about 6 months old, so they have an unofficial birthday of April 1, 1994. Seeing Jackson and Sadie grow up (they’re about 8 months old now), I’m pretty sure my guys were actually younger than that, but I’ll never know for sure. In any event, Newton is now approximately 19 years old, which is something like 94 in human years. He’s an elderly kitty.

Since his hospital stay last year, he’s been doing pretty well, but he’s been getting harder to care for.

First of all, he gets quite a bit of medication:

  • Subcutaneous fluids daily
  • A half-pill of tapazole twice a day for hyperthyroidism
  • A tumil-K tablet daily (a potassium supplement)
  • A quarter-tablet of Pepcid daily
  • Two ml of aluminum hydroxide gel twice a day (to reduce his phosphorus levels)
  • A shot of Epogen once a week, to improve his red blood cell count

This is less expensive than it might seem – only the Epogen is really expensive – but it’s a lot of stuff we have to do every day. This (combined with Blackjack’s condition prior to his death last year) is the main reason we haven’t taken a vacation trip since our two weeks in Hawaii in 2011. It’s been a drag in that regard.

On top of that, Newton has basically stopped using his litter to pee in, so we’ve had to surround the downstairs litter with puppy pads for him to go on, and change them once or twice a day. Some days he doesn’t even make it to the litter and just goes on the floor. It’s pretty annoying. I’d be more okay with giving him all his meds if he just used his litter properly again.

The one bright spot is that he’s still doing pretty well. We upped some of his meds to the levels above when he went to the vet in February. But the vet said that he seems basically healthy, and still happy (since he was rubbing his chin on things in the vet’s office). He has his days when he does little besides sleep, but other days he walks around a bit, sits in the sun, and meows at nothing. And he loves for me to take him outside into the back yard; since he can’t jump well anymore, I let him walk around in the grass on occasion since I know he’s not going to run away (over our 7-foot-tall fence).

Newton’s not really the same kitty he used to be, and he keeps to himself a lot. While I’m glad he’s still around, part of me kind of wishes that his decline wouldn’t drag out quite so long. And that he wouldn’t pee on the floor.

Anyway, we’re going to have to take a vacation sooner or later, and the care he needs means we can’t really ask our friends to come watch him, so we’ll probably have to find and pay for a professional sitter.