The Kindness of Strangers

 

“I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.”

A Streetcar Named Desire ~ Tennessee Williams

I think it was Blanche Dubois who said this – fragile and alone in the world.

Today I was thinking that so many kitties are on the streets, in colonies, or barely subsisting based on the kindness of strangers. Their very lives hang in the balance… caught in a forever-cycle of overpopulation and hunger. Sometimes a fleeting kindness is all you can offer.

Last year I made a dream trip to Turkey. Dragging my big suitcase along a cobbled Istanbul street, I sat down for a rest and watched as three early 20’s fed cheese to a growing group of cats. Some kittens, some older, some timid, some aggressive. I was so happy to see this! These cats were getting a good treat of protein. I was smiling and the young man on the bench beside me surprised me by speaking in perfect English saying ” It’s cheese – they won’t eat anything else”. Really? Yes. They had tried other things. And so this group of travelers from Lebanon had gone to a store and bought a whole pack of cheese expressly to feed these cats. A genuine act of kindness.

In a lonely Cappadocian outpost I was feeding the cat who I was told would scratch me when a fellow traveler walked up. We were talking cats before I knew it, and he wasn’t even from our group. He was from San Fran and was thanking me for making the most of the typical tourist buffet by sharing it with felines. I never did get scratched, and the little cat got a bellyful of cold-cuts.

At the Ankara museum, I ran off to retrieve some meat I’d stashed in the bus, and when I returned to the cat sitting so happily on my spouse’s lap, he was deep in conversation with a British couple about cats in general. The cat, who was quite happy to sit and just be petted, discovered that there was a treat at the end. The real wonder was how easily cat lovers converse.

Dog lovers meet and greet all the time. It’s a social pet-ownership club – they meet at dog parks, walk their dogs together, meet at the corner and stop for a chat. Cat lovers are more solitary. I have yet to meet someone else out walking their cat! Are cat owners not as social? Well the Internet can tell the tale of very social people who love cats… cats are all over!

I’ve heard it said that the character of a man (or woman!) can be seen in how they treat someone who can do nothing for them. This stuck with me and I believe it to be true. There are people of the best character working in cat rescue, feeding colonies, doing what they can do. And yes, those who just stop to pet or treat a stray are doing a raindrop of good, but it’s that kindness that is capable of turning into a downpour.

 

Turkey 448

Ephesus, Turkey

 

He’s a Player

I’ve been meaning to tell you that about 3 weeks ago, my pal Oscar began playing. I’m not sure what triggered it, and I still don’t think he will be pouncy and bouncy like Nuala, but it’s PLAY!

Some time back I told you I was really happy that Oscar would swat at the bug toy. Next he was happy to swat at and chew McD’s straws. From there he started to expand his interests. He will now be more active (aka lunge at) in his pursuit of the bug. He chewed up the feathered bobber under his wave scratching post, he will pursue treats (not pounce them, but move for them), and a string drives him crazy. He will go after it.

He still doesn’t know how to retract his claws well, so he gets stuck on things he’s grabbed – the bug, the string. That confuses him. (What confuses me is how to deal with those claws since there is no way I’m gonna get close enough to trim them)

I haven’t pulled out da bird in a while, so tonight is the night.

Interestingly, the outside world with the real birds at the bird feeder every day and the window beside him at kitty eye-height holds no interest for him. I haven’t seen him look out once. I put a stool beside the window for 5 days and even put his blanket on top, and he simply eyed it suspiciously. He didn’t try to get up once. I put him up once (I was daring) and he just jumped off.

I think play learning will be slow. 

 

 

 

 

 

Stimulus and Response

Ouch. I have a scratch on the back of my leg from this morning with Oscar. We just learned something big with Oscar. Big, confusing, and not great.

Oscar gets agitated and aggressive when a cat is picked up. Not him – because I don’t pick him up. Any cat.

The first time was when Nuala got into his room. I went in to get her and he came tearing in upset and aggressive. I scolded him back and left him to calm down. I thought it was Nuala’s hissing and growling and that she was in his room. I thought he was defending his room or even me.

The second time was the other day when J picked up Nuala to leave our bedroom. Oscar became agitated and followed J to our bedroom door and swiped at him.

Today, Mouci wandered into the bedroom and she was doing fine, but it was time for her to leave, so I picked her up and started to carry her out of the room. Oscar became agitated, ran at me, blocked my path, and swatted at me. I scolded him back and he got a squirt from the water gun.

Today’s incident gave me insight into the first time. I see the pattern emerging. I don’t often pick up a cat in Oscar’s presence, but I should. My kitties are very used to being picked up and handled so that’s an easy thing. There was once I picked up Nuala near the door of the room and Oscar didn’t react.

Hmmmm. I wonder what brings this on. Any thoughts?

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Typical morning – with Oscar glued to my side

 

Humour

Here’s my joke. I don’t tell them often, but here I go…

Q. Why is Oscar on steroids? (The cortisone shot he got is a steroid)

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‘You’re seriously going to tell this joke?’

A. ‘Cause he’s a BUFF tabby!

 

(Okay – it was pretty punny, but hey I tried… buff meaning his special dilute-orange colour and buff also meaning muscled – a realm plagued by steroids)

S’Up?

I’ve been meaning to tell you that Oscar is a sweetheart. Shhh… don’t let him I told you and ruined his tough-boy image. Oscar is a real gentleman. He wants to sit beside me and be petted more than he wants his food in the mornings. He happily rubs those cheeks against my legs as I sit and read. He also has been an angel in meeting Nuala.

Nuala remains Hissy McGrowly-kins as she scratches the door to be allowed into my bedroom only to walk a few steps in and then hiss at Oscar. She growls a deep throaty complaint, but is fascinated with him.

Oscar sits very still, sits up and lets her do whatever she likes. Every once in a while, he bobs his head and makes a little ‘mrrrr’ call to her. It’s exactly like saying ‘s’up?’ in a gentle way. Always gentle – never a hiss or a growl from Oscar. He even sits still when she gets to a foot away from him and growls.

Here’s a video where you get a little ‘S’Up?’ head bob at the beginning. It’s usually more pronounced and he does it whenever he sees Nuala.

If Nuala is too much (just hissing and growling – hey she’s now the expert), then Oscar simply takes one step back and remains utterly calm. He looks to me to see if I am beside him and then feels safe. I am always beside him a foot or two away – I know that allows him to feel like I have his back. It makes me smile to see how much he trusts me.

Yesterday we had a swat – Nuala swatted Oscar’s paw and he did it back…not very aggressive. Nuala still hissed, but they were fine. I give them treats when they are 1-2 feet apart (positive reinforcement).

So what happened to the stray, battle-weary tomcat with the nose scars? This is not what I expected at all. My Nuala has been bit snobby (okay – they had a thing outside once so she has a long way to go to trust him) and Oscar has been an angel. This calm, laid-back sweetness has completely blindsided me. Don’t you love to be surprised?

Today Mouci (now fully deaf, a little frail, and a little forgetful) surprised me by strolling into the room. I scooped her up and carried her out – she and Shadow don’t come here and neither has claws to protect themselves with. But Oscar saw her approach, saw her walk about 4 steps into my room, and did nothing but just look at her calmly.

I think I can say with confidence that Oscar would be fine in a home with another cat as long as they have a slow introduction.

Bedroom is looking like a cat gym. Also don’t know how to take photos with the ipad so they are clearer

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Kitty Neglect

Poor Oscar! For the third time in a week, I have locked him out of his litter, food and water for about 5 hours! To say I feel awful is an understatement. To his credit, this does not seem to phase him like it upsets me. He just takes it in stride and has not messed the carpet (white) once or indicated that he was put out in any way. What an angel!

You must be asking how on earth this could happen. Why would Oscar not have access to his food, water and litter 24-7? He did. He always has… until I began introducing Oscar to Nuala again. Actually, Nuala has been pushing for this and since my hand healed, I’ve been letting her into my bedroom to let her be her Hissy McGrowly self. In doing this, I must close Oscar’s room door.

Oscar should have one safe-room. A place where no-one can bother him, where his food, water and litter area is undisturbed by any other cat. Where he doesn’t have to share food or feel threatened in any way. So, each time I let Nuala in, I close that door. When Nuala leaves I close the door to my bedroom and let Oscar have access to his ‘suite’ again.

This is great in theory, but in practice, I do get distracted. I sit and ‘have Oscar’s back’ while Nuala comes in and they hang out just feet apart for an hour or so. I try to do it 2x a day, so when life calls, I get distracted.

The great thing is that Oscar is having a little kitty company and still has his safety and privacy. The sad thing is that I’ve left him hanging. I’m trying to be better.

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Handsome boy! If you wonder about the iron always in the background… I use it to weigh down the cardboard between our doors. That is a story for another day

 

PS In case you were wondering… I have not pursued getting Oscar adopted since the forever-home fell through. I wanted to make sure he was okay and then this scratchy thing came up, so it needed to be addressed before Oscar finds his forever home. I’m acutely aware that while I might have a bumpy ride, what I do now will impact Oscar forever, so I’m taking my time and giving him every reason to love living inside

Itching for Relief

All this scratching is making me itch!

Oscar went to the vet. I think I was more stressed than he was, though he didn’t love the time on the exam table.

The day began with our quiet time and two treats with a drop of calming remedy on top. He was extra-loving by noon. I gave him one more treat with a calming remedy drop on top. I then put his towel (smells like him and home) into the carrier. My spouse covered Oscar with a fleece and gently pushed him into the carrier. It went easier than the time he went to get fixed and when he was going to the failed forever home.

He was very quiet all the way to the vet… just meowed when I spoke to him. He has the cutest half-formed ‘meow’ – more like ‘meor’. No problems getting him into the office or even out of the carrier, since we just took the top off. Luckily we hid him from the dogs that were finishing up their appointments.

The vet was very gentle and I told him exactly what I’d tried. I also mentioned the dry crusty paw pads (which have almost entirely healed) and he seemed interested in that. He said that while the loss of fur was there, there was no breaking of the skin or any lesion where he’s scratched and removed fur. He seemed to think the paws and the scratching were tied to an allergy of some sort.

If the paws are tied to the allergy, then it is from his very first days inside. I wonder if it was something tied to his shots, Revolution, or neuter op since that was done on day 2. Or an allergy to the fleas he had. I know that allergies or infections often show up on cats’ ears, but Oscar didn’t have anything on or in his ears. The good thing is that his paws are 80% better now – almost no crusts. Maybe an early allergy is working itself through his body.

We agreed to the cortisone shot (the pills are safer but you can’t miss them and there would have been 2 pills twice a day). So Oscar got the shot and we’ll watch him. The itch is expected to go away by the end of the week. The problem with cortisone is that if the kitty has a heart problem it could kill him. If there is an infection in the body, it could make it worse. I’m going to watch Oscar carefully.

I have a good feeling that this will be all he needs for a ‘re-set’ and he’ll be fine after. I’m going to keep him on grain-free food for the next coupe of weeks just as part of my re-set ‘cleanse’ for him.

Please send healing thoughts to Oscar.

Here are some resources:

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His fave spot

Itchy & Scratchy

I have my very own itchy and scratchy show here every day. Oscar has the itch: a big itch. It’s mainly behind his right shoulder blade and he goes at it as if something just bit him there. He also has a spot in front of his right arm (on his belly area) where it seems to get to him. When it bothers him, he scratches it with dogged determination. He’s taken out tufts of beautiful soft blond fur and made a long,thinned stripe there.

At first I thought ‘oh no – bugs!’. Let me be honest – I have the blissful naivety of someone who has never had a cat have fleas or ticks. I wasn’t even sure what to watch for… but I watched very carefully for any ‘movement’. I was told that if there are no noticeable fleas after 2 weeks, it’s not that. There wasn’t. This shouldn’t surprise me since he was treated with Revolution on day 2.

Then I thought ‘dry skin’. I increased the humidity in his ‘suite’. I gave him a little of my omega 3 oils as well. There didn’t seem to be a difference. Someone warned me about grain allergies, so I immediately stopped the omega 3’s. I gave him a little Vit E oil every second night. I’m not sure if this helped, but around about this time the problem seemed to subside a little.

We’re back to the itchy and scratchy show.

About 4 days ago, I changed him over to grain-free foods from the foods my other kitties eat. He didn’t like the first food at all. I got a second one and he seems to like it. He’d had all our other foods for 2+ years without incident, so I’m hoping that food is not the problem. It would be tough to dictate food to his future family.

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A curious non-itchy moment

It’s been about 6-7 weeks since it started, so we’re going to take him to the vet. Poor guy – he must be frustrated: even though it’s not constant, when the itch comes it seems like a very strong need to scratch. I have heard repeatedly that this can be solved with a shot of cortisone. I’m no expert here, but my rescue-contact told me that the shot is not a good choice. She suggested pills – but that would depend on if I can cajole Oscar into taking pills. It’s also an expense at a time when I really don’t need it, but I feel like we’ve adjusted for the other possible solutions.

Just taking Oscar to the vet will be an interesting venture!