Tag Archives: cats

The Cornucopia List

Here are this week’s list of five things for which I’m grateful. In the future I imagine I will repeat some things as it will be that which makes me grateful that week, but for now there will be larger items, like life and chocolate. :)

  1. Thunderstorms–They’re not as frequent here in Vancouver as they were in Calgary where you could get super hot days and super cold rains. When a thunderstorm was imminent my mother would unplug all the electrical appliances, a very smart thing before power surge protectors when a lightning strike could travel into your appliance and kill it or start a fire. We would then all go down to basement and hang out, without the lights on, just in case of an electrical surge there. The sky would be vein with white light and the loud tumultuous clash of gray, broiling clouds. It was magnetic, dramatic, exciting! I remember one, while still living in Calgary down by the river. My boyfriend and I were watching the thunder and lightning outside our balcony window when there was an electrifying flash and smashing crash of sound that vibrated the building. Instinctively we had both run away from the window and were halfway across the apartment by the time we realized what we had down. That lightning strike hit on the hill not a mile behind our building. Today they warn that we could have a thunderstorm in Vancouver. I hope so.
  2. Turquoise–this is my absolutely most favorite color though I do like the whole range of greens (except for maybe puke green). Turquoise can be blue-green or green-blue, called peacock as well. I tend to like my turquoise on the slightly greenish side of blue, and I love it. I can’t explain but it is almost a visceral hunger to swallow, touch and taste this color. Contrary to what you might believe I don’t swathe myself only in this color though I tend to have more green clothing than anything else and one wall in my bedroom is turquoise.
  3. Cats–besides giving us an excuse to talk out loud without looking crazy for talking to ourselves, cats are lovely companions. They fill a space with energy and fur, they purr and express love for you, even if it is only cupboard love. They warm your feet and make you part of their family. And they certainly have unique personalities. From my first cat Beko, through Ming, Tiger, Banshee, Mango, Figgy and now Venus, they’ve all given certain traits and opinions. They can be a big pain in the ass, getting underfoot, knocking things over, scratching the wrong thing, howling to get in, in fights with other cats, clawing your leg on accident or purpose, demanding food, but hey, humans do much the same (except maybe clawing your leg). So yes, I am extremely grateful for the companionship of cats especially when I’ve been down. Venus, pictured above, is the epitome of a love cat, with people at least.
  4. Being female–Yeah, we have little choice with this unless we want to go through and expensive operation and face ostracization and social isolation. It’s very hard on people who feel they are the wrong sex in a body. And there are women supposedly who experience “penis envy” though I think that was more of a Freudian era than real, though there are women who feel they must act/dress like men to be respected or get a certain job. And unfortunately there are men who feel women are chattel, property to be dictated to, owned and wrapped and hidden away except for their own viewing. And of course, the Catholic church has long blamed women for leading men astray because gosh, I guess men can’t think for themselves. But still, I like being a woman and I feel that I am pretty empowered. If I chose I could give birth and I get to wear a way larger range of clothes. No wonder some men, who are truly heterosexual like to wear women’s clothing once in a while. I’m grateful I’m a woman comfortable in my body most of the time, with all my bumps and curves.
  5. Shoes–yes shoes. That I can afford them, that I have more than one pair (even though I do have foot issues) and that they come in such funky styles from stiletto with pointy toes, to round toes and wide heels, to flat shoes, to platforms, to straps, to slip-ons, to buckles and ties. A myriad of colors and materials of designs and patterns, and even of comfort, but I like them. I had a boyfriend once long ago who really liked shoes and maybe it was a shoe fetish but I developed a love of shoe styles through him, and they can completely ruin an outfit if not right. I have runners (tennis shoes or whatever they’re called in the US) but I only wear those for working out or hiking. They’re not for every day. But yeah, I’m grateful for shoes.

And there we go, from nature to fashion, my Cornucopia List for this week.

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Cats and Gods

Cats, we all know them. We love them or we hates them. There are those of us who love them, and that’s pretty much everyone on my block. My neighbor had a cat that died a year ago. He’s just got two new cats. I have one but used to have two. My other neighbor has four, two of which were the children of my cat when she was an unwed, teenage mom (also abandoned on the street). There used to be three of her children but one died. And my neighbor’s other two cats were street cats as well.

My landlady, the Mother Teresa of cats, has adopted so many homeless cats over time. Her two current cats were adopted from the street. One actually abandoned his first owner and the other was taken from his rough tom days on the street. We used to have a fish factory at the end of the street and there was always a bunch of feral cats living there. My landlady captured them, had them fixed and released them. She also still goes and feeds them every day.

Neighbors across the street and down the block have cats or have had them. There are two or three dogs but the cats outnumber them and the neighboring blocks have many cats as well. I also at one point, when I had my previous cat, had an interloper, a very pregnant, little tabby female. It turns out that she knew how to use my cat door and at that time I didn’t have one that looked. It seemed obvious to us that she was going to have the kittens in my place since I’d found her sleeping on my bed several times.

So we cleaned out the bottom of the closet and arranged some towels for the inevitable event. My landlady had laid out a little bed in the sink in the work shed but the cat studiously avoided it. And sure enough, I went away one weekend and when I came back, the cat had had kittens, seven of them on the seventh day of the seventh month. That’s a large litter for a cat. She also had chosen to have them, not on the lovely towel bed we had made for her in my bedroom closet, but in the den on a bunch of fabric I had stored.

With such an auspicious number of cats with the 777, I decided they all had to be named after gods. I named her Bast, the Egyptian cat goddess, because giving birth to all those babies made her a deity. The only black kitten, a female was name Kali after the Hindu goddess. There was one tuxedo cat that was named after a Celtic god but I can’t remember which one, Cuchulain rings a bell but he was a hero not a god. There were four tabbies, two with brown noses that I named Freya and Loki and two males with pink noses that were named Zeus and Hermes. And there was one longhair tabby male. I can’t remember all the names but I covered the Norse, Greek, Celtic, Egyptian and Hindu pantheons with the names. I believe there was an Isis and Osiris in there.

The cats went off to different homes and I don’t think any of them kept their original names. The longhaired cat became Smokey because of the color of his fur. Hermes and Zeus became Starsky and Hutch. I guess they weren’t meant for godhood.

 But then my other cat came along, she whose children were adopted next door. At the time I just wanted to name her after a god but I had no special reason. She was petite, with bunny fur and big eyes. Aphrodite seemed to big a name for such a small cat so I named her Venus. She did, after motherhood, fill out into a matronly form. However, she became less aloof after my other cat died and did in fact prove that I’ve named her aptly. Any time anyone enters my house my cat flops over at their feet and splays her belly to be rubbed. She loves attention all the time and being pet, even in the wrong direction. She doesn’t care as long as it’s attention. But she hates and is jealous of other cats.

Cats have been around a very long time and domesticated by humans for millennia. However, they have not been domesticated as long as dogs, the first animal that humans domesticated. And one can argue the domestication of cats, who maintain their independence. Cats are definitely more agile with their paws than a dog is, and they can go in litter boxes, eliminating the need for a daily walking. They are also pretty resistant to training, which dogs are not.

Between that life of ease, the aloofness, the independent behaviors, it’s no wonder that they have been associated with godhood. Ancient Egyptians worshipped them and mummified them, just like humans. And I believe that it’s the Thai people who believe that nothing perfect can remain on Earth, because it would ascend to heaven. Therefore the cat’s tails are cut so that they aren’t perfect.

So is it any wonder we name cats after gods? I always say I’m coming back as a cat in my next life. It wouldn’t be so bad to be pampered. My neighbor now has two new cats and my landlady and I think he should give them godly names. They’re Persians so they definitely look regal. It’s fitting to give a cat a godly name, because it goes with their nature. If one named a dog after a god, that god would have to be goofy or obedient, not exactly the way we see deities. Hail, the noble pussycat. :)

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Losing My Religion

My mother would probably have been raised Catholic, had her mother not died when she was four. Being of Italian parentage, it’s the default religion. I’m not even sure if my mother went to church regularly. Her stepmother wasn’t supportive and kept her and her sister outside till ten at night.

By the time I came along, third in the family with a six-year gap, my mother didn’t even bother getting me or my younger brother baptized. I seem to recall a few sessions in some church when I was young but I might have mixed that up with other things. I do know that when the teacher would ask us in class what we did in Sunday school I had a secret shame, because I did not go. I was different.

I did seem to have a spiritual bent because when I was about five my turtle died. I remember having a funeral, carrying the turtle in its little box down the steps in the back yard. A couple of little friends were lined up behind me. Then I buried the turtle against the side of the house but worried that it wasn’t protected. So I placed colored stones in a semicircle around its grave, butting up against the wall of the house.

Then my older brother turned Mormon from when he was around 16-18. (He got baptized twice because they slipped and dipped him a second time. We always joked that his soul needed extra cleansing.) My mother let us be taken to Mormon Sunday school, I think mostly to get us out of her hair for a couple of hours and give her a break. Strangely, I remember nothing of Sunday school so I don’t think we went for very long. My mother would roast the Mormon missionaries that were assigned the Anderson household, asking them why they had no black people in their inner temple (the one in Salt Lake City), why only the rich could go, etc. They must have drawn the short straw to see who would have to visit my mother.

My mother certainly didn’t attend church and she tended to read a lot of Edgar Cayce (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edgar_Cayce) books when I was young. I read or flipped through a few in my teens and Wiki says he was probably the forefather of the New Age movement. He does seem to be a kind of modern oracle who tried to ease people’s physical suffering.

As a teenager, I went with my mother to a few Spiritualist Church events. They sang hymns, which I didn’t like, but then would do palm or psychometry readings, or aura readings. A little bit of free fun. I was never convinced in what I was told though. I also felt no inclination to follow this path. I remember attending one friends communion around when I was 16. I felt intensely uncomfortable, being unfamiliar with churches and especially Catholic rites. After that I tended to avoid churches because I felt uncomfortable with them and unfamiliar in them.

I did continue to explore and think of spiritual and metaphysical matters throughout my teens. At one point my mother attended an experiment being done through the University of Calgary on psychic energy. In one room they had one of those bulbs that have the light sensitive vanes inside. The bulb was in a darkened room and in another room sat a person trying to move the vanes with psychic energy. I have no idea what the results of the experiment were, but my mother met several people intrigued with this aspect.

I would go with her to these meetings at one person’s house where we would try spoon bending, psychic impressions, psychometry, aura reading, etc. It wasn’t religious or spiritual, just exploring psychic phenomenon. There was one guy when we tried reading each other’s minds where it seemed he was trying to manipulate. Interestingly enough, on the drive home my mother had also got strange feelings about the guy.

Eventually the group dissipated, my mother stopped going and the group sort of reformed as a meditation group. I think we did start to get into some spiritual aspects as well. However, I left the group when it got down to Ouija board practice and asking the “spirits” and how to conduct day to day affairs. It got ridiculous and no one seemed to make a decision with their own brains, so off I went.

I moved to Vancouver, and continued my own explorations into spirituality but it didn’t involve churches at all. When I was 25 a young cat I had disappeared one night. I looked everywhere for her, put posters out, checked the SPCA. Nothing. So then I put out prayers, pleas, bargains, cajoling, threats to any deity that existed. And nothing.

At that point I gave up the last vestiges of being a Christian, and lost my religion. I also realized at that time that our North American culture is so permeated in Christian values that even if a person is agnostic they still are ruled by these values. It shapes our everyday affairs, how we conduct our marriages and families. It is in everything we do. At that point I claimed to no longer be even a token Christian and I also tossed out the belief that we’re guilty until proven innocent, as sits at the base of most Christian doctrines. Jesus didn’t die for my sins. He didn’t know me and in these tenets we’re all bad and flawed and tainted. I didn’t like being painted with guilt and so I wasn’t.

I became agnostic at that point, and believed in nothing (refused to believe in anything) for three years. After that the journey of discovery continued and does to this day, but that’s a tale for another time.

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The Ins and Outs of Cat Doors

I first wrote this forTechnocopia.com back in 1999.

If you’re in a flap about how your cat makes its entrance, here’s a few ideas.

My neighborhood is typical of combined renters and owners. We’re a cat neighborhood, with a few dogs. My neighbors to the left have one cat, to the right have two cats, above me have four, and I have one. As people move in and out of the rental places and the co-op housing there’s always a new cat or two plus the regulars on the block.

There are tabbies and black cats, tiger-stripped gingers and grays. There’s old cats, spry young ones, cats that are fixed and those that are toms. In the cat realm there are cat politics, alliances and wars. Figment, my outdoorsy cat, has some friends and a few territory scuffles.

He used to drive me crazy, squeaking dirty, wet paws across my bedroom window, late at night, before I had an acrylic door put into my house door for him. It’s a bit of a trick at first getting a cat to go through something so strange. It leaves them in a vulnerable position, half outside, half inside and anything could attack right then. I started by taping the see-through flap open to get him used to moving through the hole this creates. Cats tend to like this right away because there’s no waiting for that lazy human to come and open the door at her whim.

The next steps progress at what you think your cat can handle, and work best if you have juicy tidbits to entice him through the opening. You begin by taping the door open but with less and less open space. The cat may shy from this at first. Figment did, but you stand on one side saying encouraging things and hold up a delectable little snack. For Figment it was smoked salmon (a true yuppie cat). He’d hesitantly put a paw up to the door then push through with his head.

Continue lowering the flap more and more until it is completely closed. Then you still have to stand on one side and waft appealing aromas through the flap and tell your cat to come on in. You may have to encourage him the first few times. This process takes from one to two weeks. The flaps close as the cat exits or enters without slamming on their tails. One tail slam and the cats would abandon the entrance and the manufacturers would be out of business. And because there are no big motors, the noise doesn’t upset the sensitivity that cats show around vacuum cleaners and other motorized monsters. Once the cat is used to the door, he’ll come and go at will. No more noisy 3 a.m. yowls at the door or window.

Figment liked to lay on the carpet and watch the world go by his cat door. When an enemy walked by he’d barrel through to make his stance. Which comes to one of the weak spots in cat doors. The simple plastic hinges can break if hit hard enough. But Figment was fifteen pounds of pure cat muscle. They stand up to normal usage just fine and have an insulating nylon pile to help seal out drafts when the door is closed. Most doors can be left unlocked for in and out access, as well as locked in one direction or the other, and can be locked completely for times when the cat needs to stay home.

The one real problem with a cat door is the free access. Most cats won’t know how to use them. One of our neighborhood toms did. Fortunately Figment liked him but I still had a moocher and once in a while, that unpleasant smell of unneutered cat urine. I didn’t want to lock the cat door and keep Figment out so I looked into an electromagnetic cat door. The only difference between a manual cat door and the electromagnetic door is the magnet key that is hung from the cat’s collar.

The door has the electromagnetic switch, which is run by batteries, or as Mark at Mark’s Pet Stop told me, with an electrical cord (about $30 higher in cost). All the doors have locking switches. Mark told me people generally find they work well and have no problems except for one woman who wanted to keep her neighbor’s cat out of her house. She purchased the electromagnetic door and loved it so much she told her neighbor, who decided to get one for his cat. Same brand, same magnets, same switches. The neighbor’s cat had free reign of two houses once again.

The tom moved on and I never bought the door. I had reservations too because I’ve never managed to keep a collar on Figment for long, due to his territorial wrestling. All I’d need is an $80 door that my cat couldn’t get into because he lost his collar.

The only problem I had was that one of Figment’s little friends would come sit at the door. She didn’t know how to go through it but she would sit outside and bat the door so it swung back and forth.

The regular, manual cat door runs about $20-$30, with the electromagnetic ones starting at $80-$90. The English Pet Mate (Cat Mate in Canada) runs on the magnet key for the collar. The Staywell has a nonmagnetic collar key. The super deluxe Solo Motorized Door works by sensor on the collar and the door moves out of the way by the time your pet reaches it. It closes by gravity. These ritzy models begin at $360 and go up to the dog-sized door price of $800. Spare keys can be bought for all the electronic/electromagnetic door which do lock once the pet is through them.

Installation does involve having to cut a hole in your door (or in some cases, your wall), but a template of the correct size is supplied with Pet Mate. The frame is easily mounted with a screwdriver. Some of the electronic doors can be wired into the walls. All come with a warranty.

Addendum: Eventually I had problems with raccoons coming into the house, through the cat door. I did buy the electromagnetic door. I had to lock it to keep Figment in for a vet’s appointment. But Figment, always desperate to be outside, clawed at the door until he knocked the plate off where the wiring was. He shredded the copper wiring and lost the spring that actually opened and closed the door. And true to form, he lost his collar in a fight.

I wrote the company with my sad tale and it gave them a laugh. They sent the new piece but I never installed it. Figment just wasn’t good with collars. I locked the door so that nothing could come in but Figment could go out. This worked out well enough though I still had to let him in at nights.

Then Venus came along. I purposefully didn’t teach her how to use the door because she was very mean to Figment and at least he got the range of the outdoors without her bugging him. Figment passed on from cancer a year and a half ago. Venus has full range and although I never taught her how to use the door, she figured it out. This doesn’t stop her from meowing for me to go and open the door for her.

And Jasper, the big fluffy gray cat that used to be Figment’s buddy, waits outside the cat door peering in. It used to drive Figgy crazy because he wouldn’t go out with Jasper standing there. Venus just hisses.

PET DOORS

http://www.petdoor.com/elecdoor.html

http://www.petmate.com/

http://www.petdoors.com/just_cat_doors.htm

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Petiquette

Off and on dogs end up in the news, usually when people are attacked in some way. Inevitably the media latches on and worries the question to death as to whether this breed or that should be banned, put down or punted to another planet.

Personally, the people in the baby poo yellow house a few doors from where I live should be punted. They have one of those little tufts of fur for a dog, barely bigger than palm sized but with a mouth on it that you can hear for blocks. Mr. Dog Owner (they got this critter when their daughter left home) thinks it’s cute to walk his mop and let it run after the cats and sniff them. Luckily the cats are smarter and faster, and leave. He also thinks it’s cute to let the thing yap for hours, getting all excited and probably jumping up and down like it’s spring loaded. I don’t know though, because I’m usually trying to sleep in at 9 on a Saturday morning, the inevitable time for the yapster to begin.

Sure, some dogs are more “talkative” than others, but just like kids, you can train your mutts not to bark (kids can be taught to be polite). It’s not cute to anyone but the englamored pet owner when their wee snookums does its noisy tricks over and over and over again. So, folks, take your dog to school. A bad dog usually has a bad owner.

I think it should be mandatory that every dog owner has taken lessons on how to train and discipline their dog. Taking a dog for a walk means respecting the space of other people and dogs around you, and being able to call your dog off should an altercation begin. Socializing animals is imperative and an off-leash park for dogs does not mean that your dog can intimidate other dogs and people.

Petiquette means that your dog will come when called, obey commands and won’t attack every moving thing it sees as a threat. I was with friends sitting on the grass in an off-leash park. A dog came up and pissed on my bag and then ran off happily. One of my friends went over to talk to the people about what their dog did. They were unrepentant, believing that since they were in a dog friendly park it meant that their dog could do anything it wanted. Hello, people, knock your head on a brick wall! Parks are for people first and foremost. I should have gone over and pissed on those people.

Don’t presume everyone likes dogs, or wants them in their vicinity. It’s not okay to tote your dog with you to anyone’s place, unless you ask first. Even if it’s an outside do, there are a myriad reasons why dogs might not be welcome. Space, other animals, delicate objects, cherished gardens, allergies, bratty children, are just some reasons to leave Fido at home. I have friends who have brought their dog to my place when we’re barbecuing. They haven’t asked and some day it’s going to be a problem. If this was last year when my other scaredy cat was still alive, it would emphatically have not been okay and they would have been told to take the dog to the car. I like the dog but there are times and places for dogs, and asking is just plain considerate.

Dogs aren’t children and do not get the same rights of accompanying a parent everywhere. They may be no more emotionally mature or intelligent than a two-year-old, which means you have to be in control, but they aren’t children. Oh, and they are not freakin’ fashion accessories. A co-worker once said that someone was a yappy as a Yaletown dog. An apt description because in Vancouver, Yaletown is the nouveau glitzy trendy place for condos and restaurants and people spending too much money on clothing just to say they spent too much money.

Putting a Gucci diamond/rhinestone studded collar on Boopsie and a nice little matching coat and booties to match, borders on vomitous. Dogs aren’t dolls. Tossing them into a matching carrying case doesn’t make you cool. Having a big, mean looking dog doesn’t make you tough. All living beings that we make ourselves responsible for, should be treated well. Leaving them in hot cars or cooped up in cute little cases and dumb outfits doesn’t serve them well. Oh and driving with your dog on your lap while talking on your cellphone goes beyond idiotic to downright dangerous. I’ve seen it often enough. If your dog can’t stay where it belongs while you’re driving (and that’s not your lap), then go and get some training.

If you’re driving a car or walking a dog, taking a course is a great idea. Like I said before, this isn’t limited to big dogs as the only dog to bite me was a dachshund. Every time I see a bad dog, I know that most of the time it’s because there’s a person who lacks discipline and politeness themselves. Be considerate, take care of your pets and control them.

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