Tag Archives: cats

T minus and counting

siamese cat

So, Paka the cat actually refused to pose for the suitcase picture, so this is her understudy.  For those who are owned by cats (and we know that is a correct statement, don’t we?), packing and leaving becomes challenging.  I have made arrangements for her care, bought her favorite (as of recently) food, treats, litter and catnip, and before we leave, my FHB will put her favorite video channel, which shows hours and hours of birds landing and feeding at feeders.  We will quietly sneak out of the loft and hope that when return, she will allow us re-entry and that our couch will be intact.

Beyond, that, I have spent the better part of the day, preparing for our vacation.  Laundry is done, refrigerator is cleaned out, dishes are washed and put away and I have packed some food for the road trip.  That probably sounds pretty straightforward, and yet, I always ruminate about whether where we travel to has supermarkets, restaurants and drug stores.  I pack, just in case, Maine has closed all of the above and we will be in the wilderness, hungry and itchy.  It is completely ridiculous but I was a girl scout a long, long, time ago and the motto was “Be Prepared” which I have interpreted to mean, bring most of your household items because you just never know.

I have made a sincere effort to be a minimalist, which really means one large and one small suitcase, whereas normally it would be two large suitcases.  That is, in addition, to the cooler and insulated bag with oatmeal, crackers, peanut butter and some cooking utensils.  I just realized that I  had better put the can opener in.  You never know.   We will forage for fruit on the roadsides. Blueberries are big in Maine.  Actually they are small in Maine and taste so sweet.  That will sustain us and I have brought wipes when our fingers get all blue.

Map, check!  Compass, check!  Flashlight, check!  And off we go.  Wish us luck….and have a good week.


Waiting Room


Shut your eyes (metaphorically) and imagine hearing several voices…and you are hearing “Joey, I told you to sit down”,  “Brad, you don’t belong there…come over here!”,”Tanya, will you stop…how many times do I have to tell you!”  and other conversations…”So how old is she? She is adorable!”, “How do you get her to sit still..mine is always moving, moving!”.  Any guesses where I am….no I am not at the pediatrician’s office.  I am at the vet, with Paka for her annual exam.  I felt a little strange when the technician said to me “What kind of name is ‘Paka’?  I thought, she probably thinks that I am strange, since my cat’s name (which means cat in Swahili) is not a people name. She asked me if Paka was actually Parker.  Paahka…  that is how it would sound in Massachusetts with the Boston accent.  Go figure.

I love to people watch.  I love to people watch people with their pets.  The veterinarian waiting room is like a incubator for observations of dialogue and behaviors, and many one-sided conversations between the pet parents and their “offspring”.  It’s actually a much friendlier place than my primary care doctor’s waiting room. There’s a lot more eye contact.  I was absolutely fascinated by Brad (who was a pitbull….yeah…Brad the Pit) who couldn’t have cared less about what his mother was asking.  Lily the little white puff barked incessantly and every time her mother told her to quiet down, just barked in response.  It was beyond comical.  When we were finally taken into the exam room, Paka, who I believe was keeping her eyes shut so as to say “I hope this is all a bad dream”, seemed reluctant to come out of her carrying case.  The doctor, who I adore, always asks me the same litany of questions about Paka and her health (any vomiting?), her state of mind (so did she seem angry with you when she rode in the car, and was she particularly vocal?) and inquired whether she seemed bored.  I stated that she vomited when she ate kohlrabi leaves that morning, and that she was rather “indignant” when taken out of her home, and that in fact, she tempers her boredom with periods of long naps and bird watching out the loft windows.  He smiled at me with his amazing smile and seemed happy with my answers.  It’s always the same “dance” but I never mind.

Veterinarians are really special humans who have to develop relationships with both the pet parents and the pets.  They take care of your special friends from cradle to grave. When our twenty year old cat, Lucy, became more and more frail, and it seemed like it was her time to leave us, our vet was compassionate and patient and helped us let her go.  Our family will be forever grateful for his guidance and support.  I baked him cookies.

I am someone who has always loved animals, despite being bitten in the face by a nasty schnauzer named Sonny (Corleone) and scratched by a large gray cat named Molly.  Animals seem to have moved up the ranks from working animals, mousers and beasts of burden, to pampered creatures with people names.  The days of Fluffy and Duke seem behind us, along with people names like Bertha and Ike.  Mittens and King seem so yesterday.  Both my childhood cats were named Charlie (actually Charlie #1 was Charlene but we didn’t know that until the vet confirmed it).  My dog (who came with his name from the rescue, was also Charley (note the ‘Y’).  Personification makes these loving, doting creatures, rise in stature.  There’s a whole industry that is supporting pets. I just saw a television program in which a man was pitching wine for cats.  We have lost our minds for sure.  But when Paka comes and sits next to my FHB and watches television with him (especially the news) we feel comforted that it may be a dog -eat-dog world out there, but it’s a peaceable kingdom in the loft.

An Open and Shut Case


Many years ago, a supervisor I had, made the comment that tall people are reliant on short people, rather than the other way around.  From where I stand, I have moments when I agree.  My father used to say that the only difference between someone who is short and someone who is tall is merely the  shin bone, and that the butcher throws that bone away. I am fairly sure that this is complete nonsense but when I was shorter than other kids, I held onto that belief.  He was a giant among men, in my eyes, but was only about five foot six to other people.  Point of fact, I was rarely taller than other kids, but that just got me first or second position in line and the attribute of being “cute”.

One’s stature (height not social) is something that we have no more control over than our eye color.  It evolves as we do based on our genes.  It is not a character flaw but merely something that we attempt to measure up to because somehow that matters.  I live with my FHB (and Paka the cat) who is over a foot taller than me.  The cat is much shorter than I am but has access to much higher places because she is a cat.  The height disparity is more of a humorous detail in my FHB’s and my relationship.  The only bone of contention that I have, which he appears oblivous to, is that he leaves doors open, both room and kitchen cabinet and the kitchen doors are just at approximately my eye level.  I have to duck and cover at times so as not to make contact with the sharp corners. When we cook together, his approach to culinary organization, is to open every cabinet and look for things for a recipe.  He appears to make an attempt to find various ingredients, but it seems rather mysterious to him, almost as though I rearrange things at night, just to irk him.  He is hardly a guest in the house, but often, he will ask, in earnest “where do we keep the..” whatever it might be.  I will move him out of my way, and point up to what he is looking for, and like Sherlock Holmes, he has solved the case. I, am, of course, Watson.  I do rely on him to reach to the top shelf or cabinet which he does effortlessly and of course, he does not see that he leaves the door open.  He’s a good man and so I wordlessly ( but in my head, out loud) just close it after him.  It is almost comedic…almost.  He will open a closet door and walk away and sit down and do what he needs to and NEVER shut the door, ever.  It is as though, mid task, something else comes to mind, never to return to the matter, or door, at hand.  I sense, that I may be thought of as picky. Perhaps.

I think I need to balance my “issue”, which I own completely, with a positive event that my FHB and I shared a week or so ago.  We do collaborate and working on household projects, I am a loyal and helpful assistant. I can identify many tools by name and never call things “thing-ys”.  I watch This Old House and all the woodworking shows and seem to have synthsized many skills, none of which I actually use, because I am the assistant.

Last week, I put on a pair of earrings that I had ordered in the mail.  I had come home from work and the package was there. I have no ability to put off doing certain things that should probably wait, so I put on the earrings and admired my good taste.  One of my household commitments, is to the care and feeding of Paka.  This involves food preparation and cat litter box maintenance.  I am a responsible adult and while I am doing the latter, I go to my happy place in my mind, and just get the job over with.  Paka was quite pleased and left me with a little personally manufactured gift in her box, to thank me for recognizing that it had been time to clean.  Can’t say I was grateful.  As I washed my hands at the bathroom sink, I looked in the mirror only to discover, I was wearing one earring.  I was quite annoyed with myself.  I did a bit of  chastising and then scouted around the house, retracing my steps, which all led back to the cat litter box.   It seemed evident to me that the old litter, now in a trash bag,  might be hiding my new earring.  A quandry….what to do. Do I admit my flaw?  Do I venture to go on this dig unaided?  Yes, to the first, and no to the second.  I called in my assistant.  I explained what I had done and what needed to be done.  This is where my FHB rocks my world.  I put on surgical gloves (non sterile, good for when you make meatloaf).  I lifted the bag up and as my FHB patiently held the bag I sifted through it and move the contents to another bag after I used the litter scoop (my FHB’s brilliant suggestion) to transfer “items” and look for the earring.  He stood patiently, and did not say a word.  I can’t of course know what he was thinking, but I saw that he was committed to helping me.  The end of the story is that the earring never appeared despite our joint efforts at search and recovery.  Luckily, I didn’t invest much, but they were pretty, and they did look good for about five minutes (give or take).  He never said much about it and let me just stew in my own reckless misery.  That’s the synergy we create.  He’s open to helping and I just shut my mouth.





Who among us, as pet lovers have not made the statement that “In my next life, I want to come back as my __________ (fill in the blank, be it cat, dog, or hamster)”.   I’m on that gravy train.  Life as my cat is oh so sweet.  Life as any of my past pets has definitely impressed upon me that life can be easy if you live with me.  My FHB might disagree but that’s a story for another time.  Currently we are a one cat household.  If I could read my cat Paka’s mind, that is just fine with her.  A definite only child syndrome. She did have an older cat sister, but Lucy passed away after almost 2o plus years last December.  Paka is six years old and when she arrived in our house, she was seven weeks old and Lucy really wanted nothing to do with her. Another only child mentality.  Over time, Lucy began to tolerate Paka and sometimes cleaned her,seemingly  haveing momentary maternal feelings.   That would usually be followed by hissing.  Siblings under the fur.  We all grieved when Lucy died, but somehow, life does go on and Paka loves being in the driver’s seat.

It must be nice to have breakfast prepared every morning in your favorite dish with fresh water on the side.  Paka stands in her spot near her food and I feel eyes watching me as I wash her dishes, drying them carefully (they are porcelain) and filling them with something I wouldn’t eat just by smell alone. But then again, I do not share the same palate as my feline.  Breakfast appears to be serious business as she gets right to it and when I wake at 5:40 a.m. she accompanies me to the bathroom, in part to make sure I don’t dilly dally (a term my mother used incessantly) and get to the task at hand.  She then watches us from some place on high, be it a kitchen stool at the island, or from the top of an antique buffet that my maternal grandparents brought from Germany that was made in 1912 for their wedding.  Nothing is too good for Paka.  The sun has not yet risen by that time so she finds the softest place on the couch, usually warm from my FHB’s derriere, after watching the latest news as he gets ready for work. It’s a nice arrangement. Soft and warm space, prepared with her in mind, I am sure she believes.

We leave in the morning and she somewhat sees us to the door, and on some occasions we forget something and go back minutes later and she is already in her spot dreaming of her next meal.  We of course, are out there working to make sure she has the best food, or rather the food she likes best.  Have you ever watched people in the pet food aisle spending a lot of time and sighing over the choices for their cat? Usually these are the folks that engage in conversations that start with “….I don’t know why I bother, she hates everything!” and then proceed to discuss the merits of chopped versus grilled versus pate’.  I usually do the stealth move of reaching, grabbing quickly the usual (stuff that includes cheese) and try not to maintain any eye contact or it’s over.  Litter is another issue.  Paka is not too vocal except when she indicates her need to have the box changed.  Usually she disappears, as she is a social cat and is always nearby.  Then I look for her and find her sitting in the bathroom, in the dark, near to her litter box just staring.  This is when I realize that I have been sent a mental message  ”  It is about time that you stop thinking about yourself and think about me and my needs.  Have you looked at the box lately?  It’s disgusting!  When are you going to change it?  Do you think I can lift 20 pounds of litter?  Do you understand that you work for me and it’s not the other way around?!!!” or something like that.  She supervises this process and I realize that I am apologizing for not being there for her and meeting her needs. Then I realize that I am in a relationship with someone who seems to have seriously narcissistic tendencies.  My next realization is that I must like it in a strange way because when all is well, Paka sits on my lap, or next to my hip and we are both  content.  I definitely will be considering how I come back as my cat in the future, and also how to make sure that the cat food choices are more to my liking.

Have a good weekend.  Keep yourselves and your pets safe.  By the way, Paka means “cat” in Swahili.

Animal Magnetism

Ten cats, one dog, twenty-one turtles, a rat, a rabbit, a snake, two cockatiels, four parakeets,  about a million fish, and one cameleon.  No, there was no ark involved, but there were children who were in need of pet(s).  They, the pets, didn’t all live with me, at the same time, because that would have been just crazy.  I always wanted a pet of some sort.  I was lucky to have an aunt who always had dogs and cats, and for a while, that is where I got my fix.  I didn’t have much luck with fish or turtles (who jumped out of their bowls to their death, which I believe must have had something to do with the plastic palm tree as the only form of stimulation).  I was not the caretaker of the cockatiels as my son decided he had to have them, at age 14, but they did live and die under my roof.  Cats arrived in my  life when I was about 13 after much negotiating with my father.  The first Charlie only lived for three years, but her successor, also Charlie, lived well into her late teens.   When our family was going through some turmoil, my sons asked if we could have a dog.  I always wanted a dog.  The dog, Charley, who came from a shelter,along with his name, lived till 15 1/2.  All the rest of the animals, including the reptiles, were creatures that stayed for a while until it was their time.  Now, my FHB  and I have Paka, which means cat in Swahili, and she is six.  She arrived much to the indignation of our cat, Lucy, who lived to the ripe old age of twenty, and died almost nine months ago, on Frank Sinatra’s 100th birthday.

I  have always talked to my animal partners in life.  They generally stare back, sometimes cocking their heads in some sort of empathy-like response.  That always seems sufficient, even when I suspect that they comprehension of the serious nature of my discussions with them, is  limited to their personal hope for something food oriented or at least some pats on their heads or stomachs.  I did not often, or actually never,  reached out to either the rat or chameleon as confidents because I didn’t feel much of a connection, despite knowing that Josh, the rat, was highly intelligent and had markings like a cow and I am very fond of cows.  Humans often pretend to listen when you are attempting  to convey something new, exciting, or something that involves directions (technological or geographic).  You know when they are pretending, because they seem to glaze over or actually turn away and focus on something more stimulating than what you are discussing.  They are often rude.  My animals at least give me eye contact or rub up against me in some sort of comforting and connected fashion.  Yes, I know the goal, once again, is food or pats, but at least we understand one another.  I do find, that their child like ways, specific to cats, is that they will make significant attempts to get my attention, when I don’t pay attention. For Paka this is leaping across the room, at breakneck speed, with a mission of knocking something down or destroying something expensive .  This gets me to shout at her, and we are engaged in an interaction.  I insist that she stop her negative behavior as she sidles up to me and I relent, give her a treat for not shredding the rush on the dining room chairs and we then relax and enjoy a tummy rub. Her, not me.  I am well trained.