Thursday, December 30, 2010

Ben bullies Commander

Ben was a greedy piggy bully to Commander at lunchtime today.

When the wind permits, I like to hay the boys outside of the run-in, and have two tubs and haybags set up behind it. Even when there's some wind, it's sheltered there; the ground is hard-packed stone dust so it's not muddy; and the boys tend to clean up every scrap rather than trampling some into the muck and wasting it, as they do inside the run-in.

Normally, they each take a position at their own bag-over-tub station and eat peaceably. But the recent blizzard left a huge sweeping drift curving along the base of the slope up to the run-in, and Ben found it a cinch to block off Commander's access to the inner hay. That drift on which Ben's tail is just resting is only hock-high at that point, but it rises up to chest-high on Commander within a couple of feet.


I was watching from a few dozen feet away, hoping Commander would swing wide into the snow where it was shallower and come up around to the inner feeder; the drift had already been broken through near the fenceline (Ben chasing Commander, perhaps?), so surely he'd follow that path?

Nope. He stood patiently watching the big bully chow down, just waiting. He's certainly smart enough to know how to get there; I guess he just wasn't hungry enough make the hard work of plowing through the snow worth the effort.

So I grabbed a piece of baling twine, looped it around his neck, and took Commander around to the path (okay, spaced-out holes) in the drift, unbaling-twined him, and slapped his ample rump. Off he went, breaking through to hay, glorious hay! I followed him to dry ground, knee-deep even lurching precariously from hole to hole. At least I didn't actually fall into the electric fence.

After a pat for my gobbling Morgan and a snuggle with Ben (not to mention a lecture on sharing which he of course completely ignored), I left them contentedly munching away. It's amusing to see Ben, always an underhorse in every herd I'd ever seen him in before, exercising his royal prerogatives now that he has the little Morgan to push around. For his part, Commander doesn't seem to mind his second banana status; and somehow, if there's any hay to be found, there's always some hay to be found in his mouth.


Thursday, December 9, 2010

Warm cats for a cold December day

Chilly day, chilly winds whipping by outside, but inside it’s snug and snuggly. Warmth is where you find it, and these critters warm my heart:

Squash and Peanut:


Ted, Peanut, Squash, Pumpkin:




Tanya and Peanut:



My little old lady is getting very old; at least 16, if not older.

She’s also been getting thinner and frailer over the last several months. Oh, her spirits are still good, her fur is sleek and shiny, she eats -- though a bit more erratically; she goes about her daily routines -- though they’ve gradually constricted; and she’s able to get about the house and do what she wants -- though she can’t jump places she used to, and the other day while sitting she tried to roll back to wash her butt and fell over.

In short, I fear her time remaining is short. She had a yearly checkup a couple of months ago, which confirmed what my hands were already telling me about her weight. She was otherwise in good health. If she goes markedly downhill I will of course zip her right back to the vet, to see if anything can be done, but mostly I’m making sure she’s fed, comfortable, and loved, and making the most of what time we have left together.

Taken a few days ago, and – as is so often the case with my photographs of her – not nearly a true reflection of what a lovely little cat she is:




Schooner and Tomba -- sometimes it's okay

Below, two photos I took yesterday morning of the combatants. As I said before, sometimes these two appear to get along just fine.

When things do get tense, though, it’s always initiated by Tomba. In fact, he’s been showing intermittent fearful hostility recently toward all the other male cats – even Pumpkin. Even humble, meek, rock-bottom-on-the-totem-pole Pumpkin! He has no problem with the girls, either his sister Tanya or my Sally and Sophie.

So, what’s up with that? Why, when he had apparently established himself as king of the household, does he now seem to see all the other male cats as a threat? I have to wonder whether Schooner tried to play with him (the doofus likes to play rough), accidentally hurt Tomba, and that caused Tommy Boy to lose his confidence that he was, in fact, the Big Man around here. So perhaps he’s regressed to that scarey stage of trying to figure out where in the pecking order he belongs.

The other boys seem bewildered and wary but not inclined to duke it out with Tomba for a higher position. Tomba himself may be marginally less wound up than he was a couple of days ago. May be. I just hope he gets himself sorted out soon. As king he would sometimes bully an underling but was a lot less intense about it.

Anyway, the photos. First, with the flash; then, with the flash not firing. As you can see, Tomba’s left eye is a bit squinchy still; it sometimes is completely open, sometimes is like this.


Now, if there were tension simmering between these two at this moment, I doubt we’d be seeing body language like this.


Saturday, December 4, 2010

Trouble in Paradise?

Hopefully this will all prove to be no big deal, but....................

Roughly a week and a half ago, Tomba went ballistic on Schooner, yowling and howling and growling and all “Bring it on!” Schooner, bless his dumb-bunny incorrigible curiosity, kept approaching the furious feline rather than doing what any sensible cat would do: flee and hide. Which of course just stoked Tomba’s rage even more. And of course all the other cats were freaking out at the brouhaha, which further ratcheted up the tension.

I was finally able to placate everyone by feeding them, and discovered that Tomba had a watery eye with a bloody tinge in the exudate. Since this was after midnight, I wasn’t feeling well, the bloody exudate didn’t resume after I carefully wiped the eye, and the nearest animal hospital open for emergencies at that time of night is a good half-hour’s drive away, I opted to wait for morning and see what was what.

What was what next morning was a squinchy but not wholly closed eye with both inner eyelids partially showing, and a bit of redness in the conjunctiva. So off to the vet we went, to the reassuring news that the eyeball was undamaged, the conjunctiva may have been nicked by a Schooner claw but nothing was seriously hurt, and a short course of an eye medicine I already had for both Tomba and Tanya* should set Tommy right. And so it has proved; Tomba’s eye is doing fine.

What aren’t doing fine are Tomba/Schooner relations. Oh, it’s not all war, all the time; most of the time, in fact, they seem to be perfectly amicable and will peaceably hang out or pass by within feet of each other; but since the initial episode there have been two or three more keening-fury eruptions from Tomba, as well as a handful of other lower-key cursing confrontations. Schooner doesn’t react with anger, he just partially bottles out with fear-fluffing, but damn his foolishness still tends to approach rather than run. What triggers it? Damned if I know.

So far Tomba hasn’t out-and-out attacked Schooner, other than short charges that break off just shy of actual engagement, and I’m hoping it never comes to that. But I gotta tell ya, it’s a bitch being yanked out of sleep by the wee-hours siren of an enraged cat. I’m hoping I can continue to placate them when things do blow up, and that Tomba will get over this with time, but what do I do if things escalate to full-on fights? The way my home is set up, I can’t keep them permanently separated, other than by caging one or the other. If it came to giving someone up, I have to say that I think Tomba would be quite content as an only cat, but I’d rather not go that route if at all possible.

* T&T have had off-and-on squinchy damp eye (her, right; him, left – the one Schooner apparently got) ever since they came from the shelter; the vet said it’s likely to be a herpes infection, perhaps shelter acquired, perhaps even picked up from one of my other cats, but very difficult to avoid in a multi-cat situation, not a serious problem, and easily controlled with eye med when it flares up and adding lysine to the diet to promote ocular health.