The Catio

Recall that after Bugs’s latest unauthorized walkabout, my good landlord built a screen-porch addition to the house. Around three months ago, nine days after my surgery, I was still too debilitated to get out there to enjoy it, so I showed you what it was like from the inside, only.

Now, thanks to the miracle of healing, I’m off the crutches and while not exactly bounding down the steps, I can manage more-or-less. So here is The Catio from the outside.

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Thanks to the uncanny and frankly somewhat-scary unseasonable warmth, the other day we did get out there to enjoy it. (It was in the ’70’s. In January.)

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Bugs marches forth.

In the distant past I had tried to acclimate Bugs to a harness so we could enjoy outdoors safely. One time he may possibly have enjoyed this but, other than a few ultimately unsuccessful harness forays, he has been outside only AWOL. Each of those latter times he sought refuge in dark underground-type places, so I’m guessing he has pretty much never enjoyed the outside experience. He has been housebound for the 5.5 years we’ve been together. Hitherto happily, it’s been my fond hope.

No longer.

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Did he ever react to outside.

“I show my tongue to you, Outside. You got nothing!”

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No video, so just take my word for this: He roared. I can’t think of any other way to describe it. It was like this: YARL, step, ROWR, step, WRACK, sniff, MEEROW, pause, REEROW, etc. etc. etc. Constantly. He did not stop.

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Back indoors, he kept right on with the Hallelujah Chorus. Got on my last nerve. Then he did this to the inside door. Because it’s got too cold now to go back out and . . .

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Bugs begs to differ.

So I’m guessing this time he may have enjoyed himself.

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Barney too. Great climber that he is, up he went.

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“I wonder, can I get up in there?”

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“Maybe I’ll try sideways. This ledge is at least 0.035 inches. Plenty wide.”

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“Well – kind of long way down there.”

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Whereupon he jumped down, all who-knows-how-many-pounds-of-him, onto the stone step. Ouch. When he does this inside the house, I have fixed the furniture so he has a soft landing. Not so outside. He seemed to manage fine, but next time I’m going to put a mat down there.

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Back inside. Double-cushioned.


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Spring Fever in January

It’s January 31st. At not yet 9:00 in the morning, it’s 56º F. It’s predicted to go up to 63º today. It’s been like that for days.

In January 2014, I was driving icy roads to get Barney to surgery. In December 2013, it went from the ’70’s one day to 12º the next and nearly a foot of snow on the ground.

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In January 2011 likewise. It went from 74º one day to frozen solid the next. In February of that year, we were bracing for an ice storm, which we got.

So the weather’s crazy. Why should it be any different inside than out? It seemed right to break out Kim’s Chateau Dryden Special Reserve Nipatini.


Barney kept his head, waiting for the right time to make his move.

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After the obligatory whappy-paws, this happened next.

nip 024-cropBox King

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New Year’s Medical Edition

I have news.

First Bugs’s urinary issues. For some of you this is TMI, but for those of us who are male-cat guardians, it may be a riveting read.

Followers know that we have been struggling with Bugsy’s plumbing for quite some time now. Maybe I should say “feline urologic syndrome” and sound smarter than I am. The struggle has been on-going since May 2015, to be precise, and even that may lack precision, because likely he had trouble longer than that and, in any event, nobody could diagnose exactly what the problem was.

Thankfully we ruled out struvite crystals, blood in the urine, and mucosal blockage, but other than that limited clearance, off we went down a long and winding road. This included a homeopathic consult and five different remedies, over several months, none of which appeared to do much for us other than to cost a lot, both for the treatment and for innumerable OTC pee-strips that kept showing positive one after the next after the next.

In reviewing my notes – I have 39 single-spaced pages of notes and no, as far as I know, I do not locate anywhere on the autism spectrum – I see we tried antibiotics, cranberry, Vitamins C and E, cod liver oil, and the five different homeopathic remedies. Here’s a representative sampling, from a note I wrote to the homeopathic vet on July 9th: “Three weeks into the last remedy you prescribed, Bugs is still testing positive for WBC. He is mostly peeing in the box in a familiar pattern, but his spraying has got worse. For the past five days he has sprayed every day. On one of those days he sprayed twice, and on one of those days he peed in his bed.”

Brings it all back. May it stay back there.

So in October my friend Kim told me about corn silk. This I have been adding to his food in small doses ever since. Last week the vet tested Bugsy’s pee and I rejoice to tell you it came up clean. “Two thumbs up,” the vet said.

So amen and hallelujah.

The secondary thing is the spraying. This has much improved, as Bugs is spraying less in volume and frequency. Still, this vet suggested that I might try smudging with sage, as she has heard a report from a guardian of fourteen cats who has had good luck with that strategy. The vet speculated that maybe the scent of the sage might cover the aroma of Trespass-Kitty and other unauthorized feline visitors around and about.

I doubt this, but then again I have come to doubt most things in this life.

In any case, I keep forgetting to smudge and this morning Bugs sprayed a little, naturally, who says we get to celebrate entirely whole-heartedly. So I may have to try that, if as and when I can remember. I’m not too keen, as it is smoke, after all, and this is a pretty small place I will be fumigating.

But in any case, as I said, the main thing is that the white-blood cells are gone and Bugs apparently no longer has inflammation or infection.

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Soft Bugsy.

Next up, skin issues or allergies or whatever the problem is, once again, nobody seems to know. This problem cropped up two years ago in June and ugly it was then and now. We’ve had the problem intermittently, worse lately. He gets eruptions on his forehead, muzzle, and ear flaps – pinnae, I guess they’re called, if I want to stay sounding smarter than I am. These are like acne but the homeopathic vet informed me that I don’t get to call it acne unless it’s under his chin. Whatever. Looks like acne to me.

Again I have to thank Kim for a pointer to juice up Bugs’s immune system with echinacea tincture. This I add to his food in four drops, two weeks on and two weeks off. There does seem to be a correlation. The spots back off when he’s on and they come back when he’s off. I’d like to get him off soon. He’s on at the moment.

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Barney seems healthy. I’m just now listening to the boys duking it out in the other room. Inevitably it’s Barney who instigates, so I’m glad to say there’s no loss of vigor on Barney’s part.

Medical news for the human? My foot is better. I’m off the crutches and surgical boot, I’m into shoes, and I ride the recumbent bike 4.5 miles a day at the health center. You might not believe how much muscle-mass and function you lose with three months’ inaction. Unless you’ve been through this yourself and my condolences if you have.

This healing and recovery thing seems to advance in small increments. Much like the fur-ball I’ve been collecting. Each I time I groom the cats I add a little more. Here’s the current status, with my old cell-phone to show scale.


Happy New Year. May the growth and healing accumulate for all.


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A Collision of Love

One argument in favor of keeping cats indoors is that they kill birds. I think I also remember a counter-argument, when I began writing this blog five years ago, saying they don’t kill that many.

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Bugs might like to try his luck out there.

Recently, though, I became aware of a 2013 study, reported in the New York Times, showing that “the estimated kill rates are two to four times higher than mortality figures previously bandied about, and position the domestic cat as one of the single greatest human-linked threats to wildlife in the nation.” The study claimed that they kill a median of around 2.4 billion birds a year.

What’s a billion? One billion minutes ago would put us around the time of Jesus, times two and then some. 2.4 billion birds slaughtered, every year, just in this country.

There is some doubt about those numbers, and there can be grim consequences to the safety of outdoor cat populations as a result. “Cat advocate organization Alley Cat Allies says that the study is so ‘biased’ that it amounts to an invitation to ‘ramp up the mass killings of outdoor cats.’”

Whatever the math, carnage came to mind when I read Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom. There’s a bit there where an environmentalist was so distressed about a neighborhood cat killing birds that he kidnaped the cat and drove it away to a distant shelter – and then stood by, silent, as the heartbroken kids called in vain for their lost kitty.

I think I might know, from Bugs’s most recent walkabout, how the kids may have felt.

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The face that launched a thousand ships.


Franzen writes most beautifully and whimsically about birds. Here’s a taste, set in Central Park, from his memoir The Discomfort Zone:

“I followed . . . as if in a dream in which yellowthroats and redstarts and black-throated blue and black-throated green warblers had been placed like ornaments in urban foliage, and a film production unit had left behind tanagers and buntings like rolls of gaffer’s tape, and ovenbirds were jogging down the Ramble’s eroded hillsides like tiny costumed stragglers from some Fifth Avenue parade . . . . as if these birds were just momentary bright litter, and the park would soon be cleaned up and made recognizable again. Which it was. By June, the migration was over . . . .”

Here’s another taste, this one taken from Franzen’s New Yorker article on the climate melt-down: “Not everyone cares about wild animals, but the people who consider them an irreplaceable, non-monetizable good have a positive ethical argument to make on their behalf. It’s the same argument that Rachel Carson made in Silent Spring, the book that ignited the modern environmental movement. . . . [T]he moral center of her book was implicit in its title: Are we really O.K. with eliminating birds from the world?”

The answer is no, no, and no again.

So I see, in this, a collision of love. The love of those who want their outside-kitties to be free, to be their wild predatory selves, colliding with my own love for the birds about whom Franzen writes so passionately.

I also like what I just read in a book on empathy by the Dalai Lama and Paul Ekman, Emotional Awareness.  There are two sides to empathy. “Compassion is focused on the suffering of the other, on the wish to see others free of suffering. Loving-kindness is focused on happiness, on the wish to have others happy. They arise together. When you wish others to be free from suffering, the wish for others to enjoy happiness arises side-by-side. Crucial for compassion is connectedness, a sense of endearment to others. This cultivates a state of mind that makes the sight of others’ suffering unbearable to you.”


Bugs in a drawer, being endearing.

So if I focus on the silent suffering of dying birds, if I am endeared, as I am, by the birds, if the slaughter of the birds is unbearable to me as it is, I must keep my cats indoors.

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From: Feathers in the Snow

If I focus on the happiness of my cats, if I am warmed and made joyful by their grace and dignified affection, as I am, I must do all I can to keep my cats amused and vigorous indoors, and hope that it’s enough for them.

Bugs may have his doubts about that – and much else, too.

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It’s the confounding tension in a collision of love.

bird3 002Chocolate haze.


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Six Years Now

Every Thanksgiving I thank my lucky stars.  It’s been six years, over the Thanksgiving weekend, that Bugsy gamboled into my life and changed it forever.

thanksgiving 001-cropBugs looks back.

Five years ago I started this blog. (It only took me one year to start.)

thanksgiving 002-cropBarney wonders what was the hold-up?

Four years ago I noticed that Thanksgiving tends to be a time of remembrance for loss, as well as for gain.

thanksgiving 004-cropNever mind that, where’s my treat?

Three years ago I noticed that Thanksgiving tends to be a time of thanksgiving. I like what I wrote back then:  Bugsy “makes me feel love wash through me like I was transparent.”  Still true, if not more so.

Two years ago I failed to notice the anniversary altogether. The bar exam must have stunned all sense out of me.

Last year’s post I wrote amidst snow and the boys fighting.

thanksgiving 006Boys not fighting.

And this year, six years since Bugsy’s arrival, I am starting to put my injured foot down and to wean myself off the crutches. Remember me sleeping with a box over my uncast broken foot, scared to death that Bugs would jump on it? Recently I put the box away, feeling confident enough without it.

This morning Bugs was pissy that I hadn’t yet got around to making his breakfast – by 5:30 a.m. He jumped on my injured foot.

I rejoice to report that I was fine. Scared and freaked out – but fine.

Things are looking up.


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Necessity is (a) Mother . . .

. . . of a challenge these days.  This is not all a bad thing.

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Thanks to the surgery, this is how I’m sleeping these nights. With my bruised and battered foot under a box. Necessity demanded that I invent this solution. My now-screwed-together foot is just wrapped, not in a cast. My blood ran cold picturing what would happen if Bugs, in one of his nocturnal frenzies, leaped onto my uncasted foot. Hence the box.

Good thing, too. Last night Bugs, in one of his nocturnal frenzies, leaped onto, but for the box, what would have been my foot. Thank you, Necessity.

Thanks to Bugs’ recent escape, Necessity further impressed on my landlord that another layer of doors should be interposed between Bugs and the great outdoors. I can’t show you the new Catio in all its glory, because my arms and back can only take the bare necessities of pegging around on crutches, and this does not include fighting my way out the front door and down two steps unless absolutely essential.

So here is what the new Catio looks like from the inside.

catio1 001-cropBugs ponders the extra barrier.

catio1 002-cropBarney wonders what all the fuss is about.

catio-barnes 001Decides it’s really not all that interesting.

catio-bugs 001Bugs follows suit.

In other wildlife news apart from Mr. Packrat’s recent visit, one night rains caused this:

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Probably a Fowler’s toad, like last time.

And this is not news, but I am still so proud of this —

milkweed2 001My wonderful swamp milkweed plant.

It was like Grand Central Station this summer. I could not believe the numbers of fauna this little flora supported. This is a native species that has been decimated by habitat loss. I really understood the seriousness of the situation, when I noted with amazement the swarms of insects and pollinators who materialized on the property to enjoy these fragrantly generous blossoms.

Including stressed and threatened Monarch butterflies. This is a Monarch caterpillar.

milkweed 001Loss of the milkweed plant is specifically identified as one of the principal threats to these amazing creatures.  At one point I had four or five Monarch caterpillars on the plant. They totally devoured every scrap of leaf and bud. And welcome to it.

But as I said, this is no longer news. It is now cold enough for this:

catio-mashup 001Cat Mash-up.

Except when Bugsy does this.

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More Excitement

Last night I was trying to get some rest when suddenly it sounded like the house was being torn apart by a squeaky toy.

This guy.


R.B. Forbes, U.S. Dept. Agriculture

Turns out Bugs had driven Mr. Packrat under the recliner, where I caught sight of his little face, all big ears and button eyes. As I am still helpless, I called the landlord and he rushed over with his wife and two boys. Excitement all around. We threw Bugs in the carrier and Barney in the box-room and we hustled Mr. Packrat out the front door in short order.

Wikipedia says packrats like shiny objects and will “trade up” to get these. This accounts for the joke that a man found his dime replaced by two nickels.

Considering that Mr. Packrat traces his ancestry back to the late Cenozoic, he was probably entitled to more respect than we showed him.


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