Composition in Black and Green

black cat on green sink

Composition in Black and Green

Jelly Bean enjoys being washed in spring sunlight as I enjoy how the pattern of the window muntins falls across the wall, the sink and him.

Even though none of us is Irish, we’ll be celebrating this week with pictures of stunning black cats with those vintage mint green bath fixtures. And perhaps one with orange instead, you’ll see why later this week.

In the meantime, what you can’t hear in this photo is Jelly Bean’s loud, vigorous purr as it echoes in the sink, truly an amazing percussive technique.

A little later this year I’ll be choosing up to a dozen “Compositions in Black and Green” for a set of greeting cards, notebook covers and “black cat wear”, tees, bags and other useful items. Remember the ones you like and let me know.


Pretty Pleeeeze…?

two black cats in green sink

Mr. Sunshine turns on the charm

Mr. Sunshine will try every charming approach to get what he wants, and right now he wants a drink of water from the bathroom faucet. Who could resist? He has the most classically beautiful face of all four of his siblings, the nice wedge shape from his chin to his ears, exotic slanted yellow eyes and long, long straight whiskers and he’s the most curvy, and he knows if he catches me just right I’ll have a hard time turning away.

Jelly Bean is in the background, taking a break from his charming routine while Mr. Sunshine works. After all, you can’t go wrong if you just sit in the sink and keep your nose right under the faucet.

I do turn the faucet on for them every day, though I make sure they also drink from the water bowls around the house. Still, a stainless fountain may be in their future.

 


The Perfect Curve

cat on windowsill

Kelly Curved

Kelly enjoys a sunbath on an upstairs windowsill, watching the birds, her tail curled in quiet bliss shaping her into a lovely, graceful curve. Too bad you can’t hear her purring.


May I See Some ID?

Black cat on sink tilting way sideways

May I See Some ID?

“This is a private party for ‘Cats Who Drink Straight from the Tap’. You need to be a member of this club to enter.”

“This is my bathroom.”

“This is our bathroom. We grew up in here.”

“This is my house.”

“Nonsense. We spend more time here than you do.”

“I’m your human.”

“That’s nice.”

“I open the food.”

“Of course you do.”

“I might decide not to.”

“Of course you won’t.”

“Who turns on the faucet for this party?”

Silence.

“Guess you have to let me in.”

“I was going to anyway.”

“Sure.”


Droplets Flying

three cats drinking from the faucet

Drinking From the Faucet

The boys have their morning sip at the bathroom sink. The lowest pink tongue is Jelly Bean hanging his head sideways and getting his face all wet along with letting the little stream from the faucet run right into his mouth, and the upper pink tongue is Mr. Sunshine leaning over him to lap at the stream right below the faucet. Giuseppe in on the left catching splashes and trying to get his tongue in there. Mewsette had her drink and left; I can only get this photo with three of them since the fourth blocks all the action!

Some days the light is good for this photo but I still have to use my flash, which is tricky in such a small room even with a slower flash setting. I love how it freezes the drops of water in mid-air, though, like falling pearls.


This Sink Matches My Eyes

black cat in sink

Mewsette models the bathroom sink.

Mewsette discovers the perfect accessory for herself—that mint green bathroom sink! Of all the Fantastic Four, her eyes are the greenest, with very little of the yellow characteristic of their mom. The others’ eyes look distinctly amber when they are in the sink, but Mousse models her new-found accessory with her usual quiet happiness.

Typically playing the role of Basement Cat, Mewsette drinks out of the sink with the rest of them but doesn’t usually hang out there. When I go down into the basement, she usually drops out of some overhead hangout or pops out of one of my boxes of stuff and hurries over to greet me—”Welcome to my basement, isn’t it nice?”

This may be because she thinks her brothers are just plain stupid, judging by some of her expressions; well, you know how boys can be when they get together. But she cuddles and plays with them often enough that it’s probably not that she doesn’t prefer their company, just that she waits in the basement for the next silly mouse to enter.

But I’m glad she’s found a happy spot upstairs where I can see her round green eyes and plushy rich black fur all the more often.


Watch and Wait, or Do Something?

photo of cat on lap

Kelly on my lap after fluids.

It’s 3:00 a.m. and though I’m finally ready to go to bed I can see that Kelly is feeling no better, in fact she is even more lethargic than she was earlier. It may be just my middle-of-the-night all-alone-with-my-fears worry, but where I was earlier ready to just observe until morning I’m considering my options.

I take her temperature, and now it’s 103.9, just getting to the danger zone. Earlier it was 102.5, not too far from normal and an increase that may have been just from stress and only something to note and check later, but this needs to be dealt with now. Kelly has been confined in the bathroom all day for observation, and everything I need is here.

Why does this always happen right in the middle of the “dead zone” of overnight when it’s too late to call anyone, and it’s hours until I can reasonably contact anyone in the morning? At least it will be Monday morning and I will have more options than on the weekend.

Why am I the only fool awake in the middle of the night? Part of the issue with decision-making in cases like these is trusting my own judgement—is it serious enough to run off to emergency or should I just wait? Am I equipped to do something here? If I didn’t go, would I regret it later if Kelly was worse and I should have gotten her treatment at 3:00 a.m. instead of 9:00 a.m.? Why can’t it be morning? I really wish I had someone to talk it over with.

I write this for those of you who often find yourselves in the same situation, sitting alone in the middle of the night watching a cat who’s not giving you any clues as to what’s wrong, while you try to decide what to do about it.

photo of cat in sink

Kelly in the Sink

And don’t worry, Kelly and Peaches are fine, so is everyone else.

After years of middle-of-the night quandaries, I have two ideas that work together. I’ve actually come to believe that in the quiet of the dark hours without the distractions of the day our mind can simply focus more clearly and observation and decision-making are much easier. I don’t like staying up late, but I can focus on my work at a level I sometimes require, and I’ve made some of my best decisions which seemed insurmountable during the day, in these hours.

So, first, the lack of distractions makes unusual things more apparent; you may not notice an unusually quiet kitty during the day, but when there is nothing to distract you all senses are aware of the situation. You can assess and decide quickly.

Second, the body has natural rhythms, and even we humans with a simple cold will feel worse in the middle of the night. Of course your pet will as well. And perhaps because of those natural rhythms it seems that we sometimes lose ground in fighting an illness overnight, as if our bodies, exhausted from the effort, give a little to the darkness.

In the daytime, I’d immediately call my veterinarian. In the middle of the night, I call up all she’s taught me, and all my similar experiences, and let the clarity of these quiet hours help focus my thoughts.

What would a veterinarian do for a fever without other obvious symptoms…begin antibiotics and administer fluids before anything else. I can do that, and then see what happens.

I start getting things together and flip on the bathroom light, which stabs my tired eyes; I usually only have a small table lamp on in the bathroom at night to give my eyes a rest, but I need to see what I’m doing. Yes, I can take a cat’s temperature in dim light, especially when someone donated a really nice digital LED thermometer to me, no I can’t count out antibiotics or give fluids.

photo of cat on windowsill

Kelly takes in the sun.

I have my choice of three antibiotics on hand, amoxicillin powder, clavamox pills and Baytril pills, but I know that Baytril is the most effective of the three when a fever is present, so I drip a dropper of water into Kelly’s dry little mouth, pop a half of a 22.5 mg in next and follow with a little more water to help it go down. Kelly’s confused, but feeling too ill to put up a big fight. Mostly she talks.

I have subcutaneous fluids on hand for Peaches, but even without a cat in renal failure I usually have a fresh bag, a fluid line and needles handy; it keeps the evil spirits away (long story). I had given Kelly about 50cc of fluids earlier in the day just to help her out after a difficult morning, but that’s not a therapeutic dose and it was hours ago. Now was time for a real dose.

I warm the fluids in some hot water in the sink and get Kelly ready on my lap, talking gently, stroking her, letting her settle herself. She complains but again doesn’t put up too much of a fight as I push the needle through her skin and feel the fluids begin to flow through the line and under her skin, and I try to relax.

photo of cat on windowsill

Kelly at the Window

Whenever I give a cat fluids I always imagine the feel of the needle pushing through the skin and how the fluids must feel as they fill in the loose flap under a cat’s scruff. I’ve often wondered if that was an image I was visualizing through my cat in this intimate physical contact of a somewhat invasive treatment. Later, when I donate blood, the same image comes back as they push the needle into my vein and I flinch even though I’ve donated gallons and it doesn’t really hurt.

All this goes through my mind during the four or five minutes it takes to let 150 cc flow and I look up to watch the fluids coursing into the fluid line, look down to see Kelly shuffling a little and hear her talk. When it’s done I roll the shutoff on the line and slide the needle from her skin, holding my finger over the spot and massaging to help the skin close again. I’m a far cry from the first few times I did this…probably 15 or more years ago. I’m glad I learned. It may be all she needs. If it’s not, I’ve gotten things started hours earlier than otherwise.

photo of lamp

Matsu the Sea Goddess lamp.

Kelly begins to resettle herself into the lap of my purple fleece robe as I remain where I was sitting on the toilet lid. I decide to sit with her for a while and just observe, so I reach up and turn out the light, leaving only the soothing glow of the table lamp and the radio playing something by Chopin that I should know but can’t name at the moment. I don’t have a clock in the bathroom (that works) and I have no idea how long I’ve been working with Kelly, or how long I’ll sit here. Until I know something, I guess.

This began, well, yesterday morning. Kelly was out of sorts with no interest in breakfast and seeming a little uncomfortable. I fed everyone, Peaches her special canned food, then went back to Kelly.

She has a little bit of a hard time now that Namir is gone, since the Big Four have joined the house with Mimi, and Dickie gets in the way. Kelly is very active and vocal and friendly, but very submissive to other cats and if someone is sitting near the water bowl, she won’t drink. I have six water bowls around the house, but Kelly doesn’t go in some of those areas. She also waits until no one is around to use the litterbox, either in the basement or the bathroom, but if someone is in the way, she waits. With nine cats, this can literally be all day sometimes.

photo of cat with geranium

Kelly eyes the geranium flower.

In this way, she has gotten herself rather dehydrated and constipated a few times in the past year and that may simply be the problem. She has also gone the other direction with frequent diarrhea, actually being diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease. In between these two extremes she’s fine. I take her up to the bathroom and close the door and she immediately hops in the box and has normal movements on both accounts. I praise her and sit with her for a little bit knowing if this is the cause, then she’s been a little traumatized by the other cats even if they haven’t looked in her direction. A little time out may be in order.

Normally, she’ll eat now. Back downstairs, I offer her breakfast, but she has no interest. I try to tempt her with some other favorites like a few drops of milk and plain yogurt, and she acts interested but does not partake.

photo of cat on windowsill

Kelly strolls the windowsill.

Observation begins. It is Sunday and I have a day of outdoor activities away from home. Kelly is not improving. Back to the bathroom, otherwise known as the kitty sick room. Take her temperature the first time, give her 50cc of fluids to see if it helps, leave her there all day, and though she seems to rally through the evening, here I am at about 4:00 a.m., still thinking things over as Kelly relaxes little by little.

I’ve had other unknown viruses move through my household over the years, and while some have caused high fevers and lethargy, everyone recovered. I never knew where they had come from. My cats don’t go outside, and no one new had come in. In each case I was the only contact. The day before, I had been at the Waynesburg Sheep & Fiber Fest meandering among farm animals and various animals’ sheared pelts. Had I carried something home on my clothing or skin?

cat eating grass

Kelly munches on grass.

But, in those dark hours I was also remembering our recently lost friend Amber. Ingrid King had kept us posted as Amber had begun with puzzling but non-specific symptoms, and we later learned it was a feline calicivirus. That was a little too recent for my comfort. I also remembered other friends who had suddenly lost cats to similar viral infections. Was I doing the right thing in keeping Kelly at home and just starting fluids and antibiotics? In the light of what I knew, should I run her off to emergency to see if anything else was out of sorts that I couldn’t find? I’m not a veterinarian, nor a veterinary technician, I have no formal training, I only know what I’ve learned through experience and what I take in intuitively. If Kelly’s life was at stake, didn’t she deserve a more learned opinion?

Kelly has adjusted herself slightly now and then until she is curled into her happy ball with her head turned upside down and all her long legs tangled, purring lightly. That is, actually, a good sign. A comfortable cat is not one feeling the aches and pains of a fever, nor potential gastric upset. I quietly take her temperature. It’s down to 103.3. I think I’ll try to get some sleep instead of running off with her. Tomorrow may be a long day. When I cross the landing to my bedroom it is ten minutes to 5:00 a.m.

photo of cat stretching

I am just a big scratching post.

Kelly is cheerful in the morning, but still not eating. I call my vet on Monday to tell her the condition and order more Baytril. She agreed this seemed viral, so she decided seven days if Kelly cleared up quickly enough, or we’d play it by ear and go longer, continuing the fluids as long as she wasn’t eating and adding Pepcid in case of an upset stomach. I briefly recounted the story of Amber so she’d know what was on my mind.

photo of cat at window

"There's a bird down there."

It was Tuesday breakfast before Kelly was tentatively eating baby food off of a spoon, but her fever was gone and she improved through the week. Thursday I let her back out and she was feeling quite fine.

cat looking out window

"I'm going to meet that bird."

Over the weekend, Peaches began to vomit and became seriously dehydrated. Big doses of fluids every day, Pepcid and special food. She was feeling much better by Wednesday, but when I fed Peaches her last meal of the day in the kitchen before I went to bed, Kelly vomited several times, nothing big, only seeming as if she had a hairball and was gagging. Hairballs don’t happen too often, and when she was done she jumped up and wanted to eat with Peaches. No big deal, I thought, just remember that it happened. But again I remembered Amber.

The next morning, still vomiting a few times, Kelly ended up back in the bathroom, no fever, messy stool, dose of fluids but eating by dinner time and feeling better the next day.

So my veterinarian and I are watching for other symptoms just in case…well, just in case, maybe, something is going through the house. Peaches’ immune system is compromised by her renal failure though she’s handled everything quite well so far. If Kelly does have an inflammatory bowel issue then her immune system is compromised as well, or it could just be that she’s highly stressed by the situation.

cat on windowsill

Kelly rubs her little face on all the edges of the window.

In either case, Peaches is sleeping on her little Dora the Explorer couch in my office, and Kelly is feeling well and eating well and actually enjoying herself in the sunny bathroom without worrying about other cats, though she’s beginning to want out.

But I feel as if I’m waiting for something to happen. Was the second round, for Kelly, a continuation of her original virus? Did Peaches catch a strain of it? Is it something different or is it completely unrelated? Is it anything at all, just Kelly’s reaction to her circumstances and Peaches battling renal failure? I may never figure this out. But I’ll keep looking for clues.

cat watching squirrel

Kelly Watches the Squirrel

So, how much time do we spend observing our cats for…whatever? How often do you follow your cat to the litterbox? Do you clean up any vomit and study it for clues? Do you catch yourself running to the grocery store in the middle of the night for anything that might perk up their appetite, even though you never feed them anything like that otherwise?

I don’t mind all the time spent observing and caring for them, because I form a tighter bond with them, and I learn something new that I can use later with another cat and perhaps share with a friend. I just wish that, if they had to get sick, they’d do it at a more opportune time so I didn’t limit my already limited sleep schedule any further.


Mimi Introduces Giuseppe, Mr. Sunshine, Jelly Bean and Mewsette

black cat profile

Mimi's Profile

Mimi’s third and final installment of her Mother’s Day trilogy with an introduction to her last litter of kittens, and a little more about the FIP study.

Summer 2007

I loved all of my kittens, especially the four I currently live with, my last litter, who as adults are more my friends and playmates than anything like grown children still living with their mother. Funny what spaying will do for your outlook.

cats in bathtub

Everybody in the Pool

When I gave birth I thought I was going to be on the same little kitten treadmill as before, litter of four, all black, four weeks, in heat again before these were done, seeing these off while gestating the next litter to be born in late October. I’ve always kept things in order, but I didn’t mind the change in schedule for what happened next.

photo of black cat nursing kittens

Mimi With Her Babies

These kittens were born the last Thursday in July and we moved here the following Sunday. You can read about the reasons and the move in A Nice, Nice Kitty. We’ve been here ever since.

This litter had three boys and one girl, kind of unusual, and one of the boys is the little one while the girl is as big as the other two boys. Well, there’s no accounting for genetics. I can clearly see which of the studs is father to which of these kittens as well, though the little guy gets his more petite build from me. The most unusual feature about them is that they all have white hairs in their ears. I have no idea where they got this—I don’t have even one white hair in my ears and I don’t remember that in their fathers, but there’s genetics again.

four black kittens

A Four-kitten Pile-up

Somehow, mom tells them all apart, though she sometimes has to guess, but she can see details most people can’t. I sit by to check her accuracy and she’s almost as good as me. Now, my mom could go on and on and on…about these four, but I have a little more restraint when it comes to these cats, so let me give a little description about each one.

First, my human mom took all four of them into her paws as soon as they came into her house, and although she was a stranger and I should have tried to protect my newborns, I decided that not only did she need to do that, it would also be good for them. And so it has been—having been handled practically since birth they are relaxed and gentle with everyone, even the lady who pokes and prods and shoots us up.

Giuseppe

black cat in tub

Giuseppe

Giuseppe is the biggest and heaviest of all the four at 15 pounds, and he thinks he’s the ringleader but we don’t always pay attention to him. He trained with Namir in greeting people at the door and in the ways of getting a human’s attention, and he is long enough to stretch and reach above the waistline of most people, so people pay attention to him, but when it comes to being brave around a loud noise or the like, Giuseppe is gone. He is playful and talkative, but sometimes he tries to tackle mom by walking in front of her and grabbing her legs, considering this play. This is not a good idea. However, he cuddles and loves little Peaches and keeps her warm in the winter, and this is a very good idea. Even though he is silly and not very brave, he has a very good heart.

kittens nursing with colored ears

Kittens nursing with colored ears.

His name is derived from La Boheme in this way: when the kittens were babies, they looked identical except the one with the white spot. Mom was concerned about this FIP thing and about their health in general, so in order to be able to tell them apart she put a dab of tempera paint on their left ear, keeping the color consistent with the kitten. Giuseppe was the “green” kitty. Now, the composer of La Boheme is Giacomo Puccini, but Giuseppe Verdi, Joe Green to you Americans, is also a composer of opera, so mom decided to have a little joke on the name, which apparently only she understands. It takes a little too much explanation to be really funny. When he was young she called him Joey, but a big boy needs a big name.

Mr. Sunshine

mr sunshine

Mr. Sunshine

Mr. Sunshine is the man cat of the household and even when mom’s friend started whacking the tub with a sledgehammer at the beginning of our bathroom renovation and all normal cats found safe places to hide even after mom had locked us up, Mr. Sunshine escaped and strolled into the bathroom saying, “This man needs supervision.” He’s the next biggest at 13 pounds with very thick fur that makes him look even bigger, and while he could probably take on any intruder and is totally unafraid of any noise or circumstance, he is the biggest cuddler and regularly flips onto his back and kneads his paws in the air for a belly rub.

Young Sunshine

Young Sunshine

How did a black cat get a name like Mr. Sunshine? Well, it was like this. He was supposed to be named “Marcello” after the second male lead in the opera, but mom noticed that his eyes were just like his half-sister Lucy’s, just like them, so mom decided to name him Luciano after the great tenor Pavarotti, who famously sang the lead role in La Boheme. We’re not done yet. Mom noticed that she was singing “You Are My Sunshine” to the little guy, just as she had to Lucy when Lucy was a baby, and Lucy actually is derived from the word for “light”…it’s just another one of those things that only mom understands.

Jelly Bean

black cat looking in mirror

God, I'm Cute

He’s the little guy at only 11 lbs., and is distringushed by his smeared little white collar and large white triangular Speedo on his belly, plus the few white hairs in his armpits. He’s just like the goofy little brother, but he purrs professionally. Mom noticed that he would toddle to the cage door and purr before his eyes were even open when she walked in the room and greeted the kittens. He is very playful and the most congenial, but he is also the most friendly with other cats. When Fromage, the neonatal foster kitten, entered the house, he would sit by the bathroom door where she lived and purr. When mom decided Fromage needed the company of other cats despite some risk of disease, she opened the bathroom door to Jelly Bean who sat and purred and blinked his eyes happily as little Fromage tried to take him down; following his example, the other three siblings also adopted her, though I think Mewsette thought she was a little toy. But later when Dickie entered the house, Dickie was frightened by the advances of four large black cats, though Dickie is larger than even Giuseppe, but Jelly Bean squinted and purred and walked right up to him with his tail straight in the air and rubbed noses with him. He is the most charming little kitty, and he is the biggest proponent of drinking out of the bathroom sink faucet.

black cat with mouse toy in tub

Toys are better in the tub.

Okay, “Jelly Bean” appears nowhere in any opera, but his nose looks like a black jelly bean, and he needed a silly name, so there you are. He was originally Rodolfo because he was so completely charming, even as a newborn, but he was just too silly and became Little Guy when he was a little guy, the Jelly Bean, and it stuck.

Mewsette

photo of black cat with plant

Mewsette considers the Christmas Cactus © B.E. Kazmarski

Mewsette is the only girl, and she’s a big girl at 12 lbs. with thick lovely slightly longish fur that makes her look very big, plus a very round face and round eyes and big paws. While the boys fall all over you for attention, Mewsette is off in her own little world, having spent a good bit of her childhood in the basement training to be Basement Cat. But she is fiercely affectionate in her own good time and likes to tenderize mom’s arm or shoulder with all four paws at once, purring vigorously. She is always paired off with one of her brothers or with me for the long afternoon naps because she likes best to use another cat for a pillow. She has been working as an understudy with Cookie to learn to be the female lead in the household and to be her mom’s lady in waiting.

photo of cats on bed

Mewsette questions Cookie

Now, there really is a Musetta in La Boheme, but my little girl thought that name was a little too fussy for her, so when our mom called her Musette instead she answered. Our mom of course changed the spelling on the first syllable to resemble our little kitty sounds, though none of us currently says “mew”, but why not?

How the FIP figures in

Lucy, Pink and Gray

I know that several people were interested in my perfect black kittens and in me, but from overhearing conversations with my mom and the lady who comes to poke and prod and shoot us up once in a while I learned about the FIP. I am a tiny cat, as I mentioned, but my kittens were also a little small for their age and that was a concern. Apparently, not much is known about this disease and there is no test or vaccination, but if a cat is carrying FIP it’s likely the symptoms will begin to show in the first year, as they did with Lucy after she was spayed. Mom and the lady decided to keep us all together for the entire first year just to be sure; my mom said over and over that she wouldn’t want anyone to adopt a kitten and then lose the kitten as she had lost Lucy.

Well, my kittens were born at the end of July. One year later those who had been interested had adopted other kittens, and the shelters and rescue organizations were full of little kittens, not a good time to start marketing a family of five adult cats. By the time the shelters were emptying out, it was October, not a good time to be adopting out black cats.

five black cats at basement door

We do many things together.

And of course, we are especially gorgeous, especially when seen all together, so, of course, my human mom began photographing and sketching us, and before we knew it she became “our” human mom. Any feline mother would want the best home for her kittens, and why not the one she preferred herself?

Note from human: We’ll keep you updated on the FIP study, and everyone will be writing again soon.

Mimi’s Mother’s Day Trilogy

Mimi, on “Mother’s Day”

Mimi’s 2006 Children: Lucy, Charlotte, Angus and Donal

Mimi Introduces Giuseppe, Mr. Sunshine, Jelly Bean and Mewsette


On St. Patrick’s Day, Drink Straight From the Tap

photo of four blakc cats drinking from a faucet

A Drink With Family on St. Patrick's Day

Especially if you’re the Parched Puddies having your daily drink in the mint green sink! They’re not Irish and neither am I, but when you’re getting together with family and drinking from the tap in the presence of something green on St. Patrick’s Day…well, we non-Irish have to improvise.

This photo, for once, is actually from “today”; usually they are from the previous day’s download. All four do this every day, in fact doing their best to lead me back upstairs after breakfast to turn the faucet on to a drip so they can drink. Just this morning the light was perfect* and all four were drinking at one time, plus you can actually see the faucet (a little) and tell it’s a sink.

*Photographing black cats in natural light is a trick, and many of the other photos I have of them drinking in the sink—or doing anything as a group, for that matter—often turns out as a black blob with eyes and ears if I’m not careful. It was often difficult to tell what was in the sink, let alone the number of cats.

But the sun is bright today and reflects off the white walls in the bathroom and I’ve finally captured one of my favorite moments with these four.


A Little Baby Foster Kitten

Fromage with her ball and formula splashed across her nose.

Fromage with her ball and formula splashed across her nose.

Little, little kittens fascinate me. A miniature that can easily fit in my outstretched hand with a Hello Kitty head and stubby legs sits and licks the side of her paw then swipes it across her face, though she sways perilously from side to side with the effort.

Fromage attempts to talk to Basement Cat.

Fromage attempts to talk to Basement Cat.

As soon as their eyes have barely opened at ten days to two weeks of age every moment is spent building skills and coordination, gathering knowledge out of the air and fearlessly exploring their surroundings and conquering the errant toy or human foot that gets in their way. They never worry about falling down or making mistakes or looking stupid.

By six weeks they can climb a scratching post, run faster than you, chase and kill a small insect or even a tiny animal if necessary, give themselves a complete bath and get into more trouble than you can imagine because they have yet to develop any common sense.

I am fostering a very young kitten for the first time in many, many years. She came in at about two weeks of age, fitting herself from nose to rump easily on the length of my hand, her eyes open but that cloudy blue gray that still doesn’t focus. A friend’s daughter heard her at night, tangled in brambles in a city lot, squeaking with a volume hard to believe in something that weighed just a few ounces. Her little life depended on that volume, though, and her persistence and vocal skill paid off in her rescue and is typically indicative of a cat with a strong will to live, able to face down most ills that may befall her through the rest of her life.

That early audaciousness has translated into an easy adaptability and an outgoing, affectionate personality, even in less than a week. At about three weeks old she had doubled her entry weight, at least by my little postal scale, was a little longer than my outstretched hand, her legs had grown so she was at least off the floor, her eyes were clear and her pupils reacted to light, and she was ready for action.

Fromage gets lost in one of my skirts. I hope it doesn't damage her young eyes.

Fromage gets lost in one of my skirts. I hope it doesn't damage her young eyes.

At this age she is considered “neo-natal”, not newborn but still recently-born and needing some critical nurturing. Her body was really too young to digest solid food at first, so I purchased kitten formula and a tiny bottle with miniature nipples to fit on the top. She was confused by the bottle, which did not feel like Mom, so I put a few drops of formula on the inside of my arm and got her little face in it. It had warmed to my skin temperature and she began lapping immediately and kneading my arm. I slipped the nipple of the bottle toward her tongue and squeezed a little more formula onto my arm, and eventually she got the connection and finally nursed from the bottle and lapped from a shallow dish, though she still checked my arm now and then.

It took one session to recognize the cloth I put on my lap when I fed her. She danced and squeaked and climbed all over me as I sat down on the floor with her formula.

Good girl!

Good girl!

Her little digestive system also needs “stimulation” in order to be able to eliminate, as her mom would lick her in strategic areas to make sure what goes in comes out; this is accomplished by me with a warm, damp rag. Because I was already handling her already I simply put her in the litterbox when she was ready to go. On her second day here she got in the box herself, the little one I set up for her like a potty chair next to the big adult litterbox.

Scratching around in the big girl box.

Scratching around in the big girl box.

In just a few days both the warm damp rag and the little girl litterbox were history because she decided she was a big girl and would use the big girl litterbox, and she didn’t need any help. The third time she got in the box she began scratching around in the litter first. How the heck did she learn that?! Scratching in the litter before elimination and burying afterward are instinctive, plus most kittens imitate their mother if she’s around, but the last litter of kittens had their mom, Mimi, an excellent momcat, and still I don’t remember them using the box that successfully or that young.

At the beginning the formula seemed to satisfy her. By the end of the week she was squeaking that it just wasn’t enough so I got food appropriate for her age and introduced her to it. She barely said hello to it before she was gobbling it down, then lapping formula out of a dish. In just a few days she had no interest in the formula at all but ate her canned food mixed with formula and then with plain water, purring and talking as she ate.

She also knows the direction in which I disappear and presses her little nose in the crack between the bifold doors to the bathroom to call for me. After a few days I saw her little paw on the edge of the door giving it a shove. Oh, no, not already! I have a hook and eye to hold it closed, but if she learns that fast she’s going to be a terror.

Who is that kitten! Fromage sees her reflection in the trash can.

Who is that kitten! Fromage sees her reflection in the trash can.

Now at about four weeks her little squeaks of “ee-ee-ee” have matured into a more recognizable “mew-mew-mew”, her eyes are shading to green and she’s begun to pin back her ears and flap her little tail and run around the bathroom with great speed and coordination, climb what she can and stalk and ambush me, crouching beside the mint green toilet on the white tile floor where I’ll never notice a fuzzy black kitten.

This is all happening too fast. In her four weeks she’s gone from zero to small cat with no signs of stopping. Just in the two weeks she’s been with me she’s transformed from helpless squeaking fuzzball to capable kitten, formula to real food, pee on the floor to proper litterbox use. She has a big personality and I can see the type of adult she’ll become, friendly and outgoing, audacious and playful, that same will that saved her life also making sure that she is the center of attention wherever she goes.

She moves too fast, waving herself around to get me to rub her belly!

She moves too fast, waving herself around to get me to rub her belly!

I sit on the floor and let her run all over me. She climbs my shirt and plays with my chin, then she runs onto my outstretched legs, flops herself down in some nook, rolls over on her back and waves her little paws in the air, waiting for me to rub her belly. She then gets up and walks the length of my legs to my feet and climbs up onto my toes where she precariously balances.

Doing the Kitten Dance.

Doing the Kitten Dance.

After this gymnastic effort she leaps off my legs and does a few laps around the bathroom, stops to pin back her ears and arch her back and tail and do the little sideways dance that always cracks me up when kittens do this, eventually coming back to my lap and starting over.

Fromage rols back and forth and plays with two toys at once.

Fromage rols back and forth and plays with two toys at once.

I worry that she doesn’t have a buddy to wrestle with. They need to develop those muscles and coordination and social skills, but all she’s got is me. It’s not a good idea to use your hand to wrestle with a kitten because they usually grow to learn that human hands are toys and anyone can conclude that’s not a good idea when kitty gets bigger. I have plush toys that I hold in my hand when she wants to wrestle with me, and when she’s a little bigger and I won’t worry so much about her falling I’ll add a slanted scratching pad to her toys so she can climb and a few little cardboard boxes she can jump into.

Fromage on Day One--in my house, at least!

Fromage on Day One--in my house, at least!

This is the first time I haven’t had any of the nurturing kitties who took over fostering little ones as they got older and needed to learn big cat things. I relied on especially Moses and Stanley to teach the kitten important lessons, even if that meant Stanley playing soccer with the kitten, using the kitten as the soccer ball. Right now, Fromage is sleeping in the special “kitten bed”, the one I purchased for a long-ago kitty who helped me to foster kittens and all the kitties who have used it since then. Added in the bed are the small pillow with the gray kitty face that was Moses’ bed, and underneath that is Stanley ’s infamous pink sweater. Mimi’s Children slept in this bed, cuddled in the memories of all the other rescues who’ve lived with me, and Fromage returns to this bed frequently, so I guess they are still doing their magic.

Fromage beats up her plush toy instead of my hand!

Fromage beats up her plush toy instead of my hand!

I’ve been lucky Fromage has been healthy and progressed normally; I’ve fostered others orphaned young who had so many health issues it was hard to treat them all, upper respiratory infections, parasites, injuries, infections, all of them life-threatening, hard to believe something that little could fight off that much. But wherever Fromage emerged from she didn’t encounter any of the usual orphaned kitten illnesses or they would have evidenced by now. The bigger illnesses—I guess we’ll see later. Fromage certainly seems to be in control of her destiny, and perhaps that will keep her protected through the rest of her life.