Monday, October 31, 2005

Thor (right) and Loki (left)
Approx. four months old.
Photograph by Jason A Zwiker
At around three months of age, Loki discovered water. Well, not "discovered" discovered, he'd been drinking it all along. He discovered that if he put his paw in the bowl, the water would slosh around. Even better with both paws in it. Best of all if he'd just come from the litter box with some hard clumping litter residue on his paws.

Then he decided that dropping a mouthful of dry food in the water bowl was a sport. He even got Thor to play.

I changed the water bowl and mopped the floor about six times a day. I also gave up on keeping a glass of water around. Finally, an idea managed to make its way through the Swiss cheese of my pre-Alzheimers mind. (Remember high school, giggling and laughing over how many brain cells that toke or chug just killed? It ain't so funny x-many years later when you start to miss those good old neurons!)

Where was I? Oh, yeah, water. If Loki liked the water, how about the bathtub? I filled it so just the front part was kitten-ankle deep.

Oh peace! Oh joy. Oh both kittens occupied for hours. And I didn't have to worry about them drowning like real human babies. Loki waded in the water and patted and splashed and had a good old time.

Thor sat on the edge, staring at his brother, occasionally letting loose with one of his deep, throaty meows that evidently meant, "That's WATER! Dude! We're cats!"

Loki didn't care. He even got a bath one day, courtesy of daddy Jason. So did Thor, which may have been a mistake, because it only made him not fear the water. Ever try to take a shower with a kitten inside the bathtub with you? It is odd to say the least.

I eventually bought them a set of rubber duckies. Okay, what the HELL has happened to rubber duckies? Remember them? Big bright yellow ducks that floated on the water. Holding them under and letting go to see how far up out of the water they would shoot? Well, after hitting almost every toy/baby store, Target and WalMart in town, I finally find a little set of three at the World Market of all places. Three little teeny tiny things dressed as a fireman, a police officer and something else that I can't remember.

They don't float. Well, they float, but either sideways or facedown. I'm glad they are for my flipping crazy kittens and not a child. It would cause a trauma, I'm sure.

West Ashley Water Cats. That's what we decided their breed must be. If not, it is now.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

The kittens were home three days when Thor starts sneezing and has drainage from his eyes. I not so quietly go into a schizoid type phase where I know this isn't what Conan had, but still it's the same damn pattern. Day three.

I'm glad this time my regular vet is available. With Conan, he was out of town and the substitute vet poo-poohed my concerns. Chad knows me. He knows I have a background in neonatology, which doesn't transfer 100%, but it's surprising how much baby humans and baby kittens are alike. Mostly he likes that when he says things like penicillinase, I understand him.

So the kittens take the forty mile round trip to the vet. They are weighed. Loki is 2 pounds, Thor 1.8 pounds. They are ooohed and ahhed over by the staff. (They are damn cute kittens.) Thor has a cold. And a heart murmer. Barely a Grade One, Chad tells me. Heart murmers in cats are graded just like in humans. One is the least worrisome, just a sort of "okay, it's there, we'll keep it in mind". I'm given pink antibiotics for both of them since Thor is sure to share it with his brother. Which either the medicine works for Loki or he never gets it, because he never showed a single sign.

The next two days, I'm noticing every little difference in Thor's behavior. He doesn't eat as much as Loki, he doesn't play as long as Loki. Jason reels off his standard, "He is eating, drinking, pooping, peeing and playing. He is fine."

I know he is fine. But that little voice in my head is convinced I'm missing something and this kitten will die also. I spend much of the week saying, "I know I'm crazy, but..."

On Friday, Thor is sounding bad. He is snuffling and wheezing through his nose. When I'm not on the phone with the vet's office. "I don't think the medicine is working." "Is there anyway to suction out his nose?" "Is it okay if he breathes through his mouth when he is sleeping?"

Finally, they give me an appointment for Saturday morning, just to shut me up.

I dig out the cool air humidifier and Thor and I sit in the tiny bathroom in the master bedroom, inhaling the steam. He loves it and tries to catch the clouds. He also starts sneezing again, clearing up a good bit of his stuffiness.

I work night shift on the weekends, so Jason took the kittens for their Saturday morning appointment. When I woke up that afternoon, his report of "everyone was laughing at Thor because he sounded like a snotty two year old." wasn't exactly what I wanted to hear.

But he survived. So did I. And it gave the staff at the vet's office an idea of things to come with me and the kittens.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

We have an adult cat. Or rather, I have an adult cat. His name is Sutu, which is the same name as the first cat I ever had, a big fat Siamese. That Sutu was cool. Even the German Shepard next door was afraid of him. This Sutu has the same name. Period. He is and always has been one of those high strung skittish cats that fears everyone and everything on the planet. Except me.

Unless I'm not home and you can show him your cat food can opening abilities. Then he'll decide that you aren't some cat murdering pyscho for the length of time it takes him to wolf down three or four bites. When the worst of the hunger pangs pass, he'll remember that you aren't me and this was all a clever ruse to lure him out so you can kill him.

He's thirteen years old and there are members of my family who think I'm just making him up. They've never seen him. Well, they've seen pictures.

But he likes me. When it's just us, he acts like a normal cat. Always has. But let the front door open and he is gone.

We put him on Elavil once. I was hoping for Valium, figuring if he didn't chill out, maybe I could. That was a disaster. All it did was make him afraid of me. Because I was the only human on the planet who could possible get a pill down his throat without the need of stitches or blood transfusions. So we let him live under the bed. He seems to like it there.

So given his pyschological problems, I was a little concerned about bringing two kittens in to the house. But Sutu was the last of four cats we'd had while my son was growing up and I thought maybe some kittens would give him some playmates, spice up his remaining years a little.

Yeah. It was spicy indeed.

It was only a month of hissing and spitting and growling (and that was just me and Sutu) to come to some sort of detante. Which was that Thor was in charge. Of everything. And everybody. Including the humans.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

It started innocently enough, as these things often do, with a phone call.

"I'm at the SPCA and they have an orange male kitten. He's really cute."

I didn't want an orange kitten. We'd had an orange kitten who died after one week in our home. Monday and Tuesday spent falling in love with our brave little Conan. Wednesday and Thursday calling the vet like over anxious parents. Friday, Saturday and Sunday visiting our little guy in the ICU of the emergency vet clinic. Monday making the decision that he had nothing left to fight with. They gave us a diagnosis, some infection which I never can quite remember.

So it's only been a month and as I drive to the SPCA, I know I don't want another orange kitten. I arrive to find Jason in the play room with an adorable handful of orange fur.

"It feels like replacement," I say.

There is a young couple waiting on my decision. They want him.

But, what's this? This unusually marked brown and white tabby kitten zooming around the room? He's cute. It takes me several tries to corral him, which should have been a hint of things to come. He struggles in my grasp, wanting to be free to stalk the toys. A little throat scratching calms him down and he purrs.

"He's cute. We could take him."

We consider the little brown furball. Well, Jason considers. I'm in love. We decide, yes, we are ready for another one. We go to his cage to get his card.

There is his brother.

There is only the two of them.

"I can't separate them," I say.

I'd had kittens long ago, as a child. But those childhood memories did not prepare me for the adult realities of having two kittens in the house.

Bert and Ernie are quickly renamed Thor (God of Thunder) and Loki (God of Mischief) and the chaos begins.