Episode 17: In Which a Cat Meets a Kitten

Fri 29, Jun, 2018
Episode 17: In Which a Cat Mee

It is good to be settling in to the best time of year. In my window-ledge bed, the sun is strong, warming the glass. It glows in the leaves, turning them to emeralds, and a breeze pushes its way through the tree branches, making them dance. A bluer sky never existed, the perfect backdrop for the white cotton clouds skipping by in the stratosphere. Sometimes, in the afternoon, those clouds bundle together and block out the light, filling with water and turning grey by the weight of their own shadows. The breeze builds itself to a gale and pitches rain against the window, the steady rapping keeping time for the lightning. It is a pleasant chaos that temporarily interrupts the routine sunshine.

This morning, I was enjoying some of that routine sunshine in meditation; I was very close to deriving a formula for traveling through wormholes (cats have been after that tidbit for centuries) when I heard a miniscule mewling. One of my friends was seated at the big table, holding what appeared to be a towel, while her canine companion looked on in earnest. A reiteration of the tiny cry impelled me to vacate my window seat and investigate. I hopped up onto the table for a better view, and made my way carefully to the edge where I could see into my human colleague’s lap. There, peering out from the folds of the towel, was the tiniest specimen of my people I have ever encountered. Its mouth opened wide and emitted another utterance, and I replied in our native tongue. This garnered its full attention, and it gazed up at me unblinkingly, my own summer storm.

Two large, shining eyes stared at me out of a face framed by wild tufts of soft, fluffy kitten fur. Whiskers too long for the size of the head and body poked out in all directions; she would grow into them eventually, and her ears as well. That face stirred something in me; those eyes, wide as the world they had not yet seen, were filled with wonder at everything in sight, and at the same time gleamed with the fierce spirit of our people. I marveled at the nature of life; such a tiny thing, thrust into being to join the rest of us in this cosmic enigma. Two tiny white mittens rested on the arm of her caretaker, and she raised one and stretched it toward me. I reciprocated the gesture and reached gently out to touch her head with my paw. Our mutual ally brought us close enough to sniff, and when her tiny pink nose met mine, I felt the spark of familiarity and the scent of our kind filled my nostrils.

For a moment, I wanted to keep her. I saw myself with this kitten next to me, teaching her our traditions and our culture. From me, she would learn how to think properly about the world and the way of things; I could impart my wisdom on the importance of progressing universal discovery. It only lasted that moment before I came to back to my senses, and the visions dispersed as vapor on the air. What would I do with a kitten? They are too much work; more storm than sunshine. No, it is far better that she find a home with Dr. B., to be taken care of as I am taken care of here; without fear, needs met, and love.

She was carried away, and I returned to my window and stretched out in the sunshine. A distant mew drifted down the hallway behind me, and I did my best to ignore it, but I felt a small twinge. Instinct, I suppose, of any species to provide for its young. I watched the dancing emeralds for a while, and then squeezed my eyes shut. What a very different course my life could have taken. But then, such is true of everyone who ever lived, and all we have is to walk the path before us and make our choices based on the information available to us. If life is good, as mine is, then regret has no place in it.

 

Dr. CJC

Fri 08, Jun, 2018
Episode 16: In Which a Cat Has

The world is a funny place. Even a well-traveled and worldly fellow such as myself can unexpectedly run into something new. Just the other day such an occurrence transpired right here in my home. I was making my usual morning rounds, and I decided to take a well-deserved respite for second breakfast. When I approached the hall leading to my room, I heard a most peculiar sound. A soft, breathy vocalization was emanating from one of the kennels. It was obviously not one of my people, and it didn’t sound like any dog I’ve ever heard. My whiskers were all on end, and I felt my tail thrash in anticipation as I slowly approached the kennel. A wet, earthy smell drifted into my nostrils, and my ears picked up the distinct rustle that revealed this outsider to be feathered. Lowering my body toward the ground, I slunk closer to the barred door. Instinctive apprehension that accompanies confronting the unknown flowed through my body like electricity. How large would it be? How much of a threat? I knew that it was locked in, but that could not override millennia of the evolutionary drive for survival.

I peeked over the edge of the kennel floor to see once and for all what I was contending with in my space. She let out a slightly louder quack (I could hear at once that the voice sounded female), no doubt startled by the sight of such a handsome face appearing so suddenly to greet her. No bigger than me, feathers all in white, a long flat beak and flat, rubbery looking feet to match; a duck! I sat and looked at her, and she cocked her head to conduct an appraisal of her own. She chattered softly and seemed curious. I asked her where she came from. It was difficult at first to understand her accent, but I got used to it without too much trouble.

She relayed to me a harrowing tale of wandering into the wrong section of her yard, where she was chased by a small dog. He had wanted to taste fresh duck wing (typically inconsiderate dog behavior) and had nearly succeeded before her keeper rushed to her aid. It came as no surprise that her keeper is one of my friends here, the one with a penchant for unusual breeds. She was just here to make sure that no real damage was done in the chase, and she admitted to me that her pride was sorer than the bruise on her wing. How embarrassing to lose oneself in one’s own home, and then to have to be rescued by a human companion, not to mention the indecorous comportment of running around like a chicken with her head cut off. I empathized with her sentiment, and told her that I could relate to the indignity of relying on human assistance from time to time. She appreciated the words of solidarity.

We shared several more exchanges throughout the course of the day, and she proved to be a gracious and intriguing house guest. My perception of ducks, and possibly waterfowl in general, was considerably improved following this encounter with an incidental ambassador. Not having met many of her kind, I must assume that she is a paragon of her people. Intelligent and quick witted, our conversations were punctuated by her laughter. She was self-conscious of the quacky timbre of her mirth, which only made her peals of amusement all the more charming. She made for an exquisite companion, and it would have given me great pleasure to spend many more days with her. Given the nature of my work-life balance, however, I knew that this was highly improbable. She left at the end of the day, and when I passed by her kennel, its emptiness resonated in my chest, and I did not like to linger and look into the space that had so recently offered joy. It wasn’t just the kind of emptiness that comes from the lack of presence; it was the hollowness of a space that was occupied by the irreplaceable and which now harbors only resounding silence.

Tucked into my own kennel for the night, I reflected on the day, and the nature of my existence. Friends come in and out of my life on a regular basis, and what a gift it is to make a lifetime of connections that are meaningful, if short. The happiness and affection that we share is unequivocally genuine, and I am grateful to experience such amicable regard on frequent occasions. This time, though, my gratitude was dampened by a hint of sorrow tugging at my heart strings and filling my mental atmosphere with its gloom. Only the intangible components of this world carry such weight. To my surprise, I was able to identify and acknowledge the definite source of my melancholy; I missed her. I know that this is my lot in life, and I would not choose another path. I wanted only to see her one more time, and I couldn’t bring myself to silence the quiet voice whispering comfort that maybe someday she would come back. But I know the reality of seeing friends repeatedly here, and I know better than to cling too tightly to false hope. I will endeavor to persevere, and take solace in the quotidian love of my human companions. That is the life of a hospital cat.

 

Dr. CJC

Fri 18, May, 2018
Episode 15: In Which a Cat Loo

 

Episode 15: In Which a Cat Looks Inside HimselfI like treats. I can’t help it. Food in general is one of life’s greatest pleasures. The taste of it, the mouth feel; it’s instinctual to crave it, I can’t help it if my ancestors programmed the need for food into my brain. The other day, one of my friends retrieved a snack from her locker in my room, and the minute I heard the rattle of a bag, I had to know what it was and persuade her to share. I stalked her and wove around her ankles and chattered at her until she could ignore me no longer. She told me I wouldn’t want it, that it was cheddar goldfish crackers and that it wasn’t made for my people. CRACKERS MADE OF FISH AND CHEESE? Of course I wanted in on that! I was unapologetically relentless. I wanted them, needed them, I demanded to have them immediately. She resisted my pleas. Said it wouldn’t be good for me. What does she know?? I waited and watched while she had a few and then returned the bag to its hiding place. She swung the door closed and left, but it did not shut all the way. I knew that this was an opportunity, a stroke of luck that had befallen me. With my paw, I pulled the door open. I had to control the salivation gathering at the corner of my mouth. Finding the bag wasn’t difficult, I have a nose for these things. I pulled it out and tore it open with my claws. Those tiny crackers may be the best thing I’ve ever eaten. Crunchy, crispy, salty, cheesy; I tasted no fish, but who cared when my dreams were all coming true. I ate my way through half the bag before I could eat no more, and then I ate two more. I hauled my substantially tighter belly to my chair and was barely able to leap up in it and instantly fell into a food coma.

I awoke later with memories of what I had done. No regrets. My stomach was feeling very full still, so I decided to go for a stroll through the building. It was remarkably quiet in the treatment area, and I poked my head into a side door to see if I could locate any of my companions; I was certain they would already be gossiping about the cracker incident. The room was empty, except for the big, white table in the middle. I hopped up to inspect its glossy surface. They must have vacated the room recently because all the lights were on, including a bright one directly over the table. Its glow was very warm, and combined with the lingering contentment of the fish crackers, staying on my feet was more than I could stand. I stretched out on the table under the warm light, and in doing so struck something with my back foot. They shouldn’t have left it so near the edge; it tumbled right off toward the floor. I heard it collide with something below the table, some sort of foot pedal I had seen before jumping up. There was a subtle click, and the computer screen in the corner of the room lit up. It was showing a strange image; there were no colors, just bright outlines accompanied by shadows in varying degrees of inkiness. Just as I was on the cusp of deciphering the meaning of the mysterious picture, they returned to the room. There were exclamations followed immediately by laughter, and the others were called in to look at the image. There was more laughter, and I felt like I had either done something very clever or something foolish; either way I had the distinct impression that all this jollity was somehow at my expense. I meowed indignantly, demanding an explanation. First, they told me I was very clever, and while it came as no surprise, it is always nice to hear. It turned out that the image on the screen was some sort of photo, and that I had taken it, and that furthermore, it was of me. They called it a Radio-graph. Apparently, there was a special type of picture taking mechanism that could take pictures of my insides without showing my glorious hide. Seems like a waste of a photograph to not capture my handsome exterior, but evidently this is something they use for medical purposes. This was a decidedly inopportune moment for them to glimpse my insides, as it revealed my surreptitious snack consumption. The fish crackers, now mid-digestion, were on display for all to see. “He really is full of it!” they said, and laughed some more, and I felt a hint of shame creeping in, knowing that this was all the result of something I should not have done in the first place. I could feel my whiskers and ears droop slightly, and my face must have betrayed my mood, because one of them picked me up and held me close and told me that I shouldn’t eat things other than my food. They were glad that I hadn’t eaten anything dangerous, and they were laughing out of relief and surprise rather than malice. Still, with my pride as deflated as my stomach was full, I spent the remainder of the afternoon in the solitude of my window ledge bed, contemplating whether those little bits of cracker heaven were worth the humiliation of discovery. Eventually, I concluded that they were totally worth it, and I would do it all again if the opportunity presented itself.

Dr. CJC

 

Fri 04, May, 2018
Episode 14: In Which a CatR

Today has been the most interesting day I’ve had in a long time. One of my companions approached me in my chair while I was napping, and what I assumed was the usual due attention turned out to be the installation of some sort of contraption that covered my chest and had straps that went under my legs and attached behind my shoulders. I heard them call it a harness. I didn’t mind; it wasn’t uncomfortable. I was then carried out past the big front desk, and then, to my absolute surprise, through the big doors and into the great unknown.

The rush of air in my face took my breath away for a moment, and my eyes were dazzled by the sunshine. I must have voiced my astonishment, because they used their gentle tones that they use to calm animals here. I admit that I was uneasy; so many smells and sounds and feels were overwhelming at first. They carried me a little way off across the parking lot and set me down on the grass. The feel of the earth beneath my toes drew back distant memories of times long past. Steady, but cool and soft from yesterday’s rain. I had forgotten how much I loved having my feet on bare ground. The grass bent under every step, and I could feel the plant fibers crush slightly under my weight. I made my way carefully under a nearby tree and sniffed a low hanging branch. I paused for a moment to revel in the scent of the fresh, green growth. I heard a birdsong, clear and sweet, ring through the open air as I have not heard in a very long time. Each of my senses felt sharper, and I felt the stir of instincts that I rarely need these days.

Suddenly, a roaring beast entered the parking lot behind us and I nearly jumped out of my skin. It was huge, and making sounds that nature did not intend an animal to make. Was it a bear? I have heard stories of bears, huge and lumbering and capable of making such low grumbling and loud roars. My friends attempted to quell my fear, but they failed to explain the nature of the beast that was so near. After a minute or two, it roared away again, and I heard them call it a “fedextruck,” something with which I am not familiar and which I made mental note to put into the Google later. Whatever it was, I do not think that I care much for fedextrucks.

With peace restored, I ventured along the grassy bank. I could see the hospital not far away, and I found comfort in that bearing. A mysterious phenomenon kept me from wandering farther than a certain distance from my companions, and it took me a few minutes to discover that they held a long tether attached to my harness. No matter; they followed wherever I went. I explored under a few different kinds of trees, and cut a trail through a low bush. I was pretty rugged, I must say. I suppose it is the natural tendency for a handsome fellow such as myself to also be robust. I wound my way through some very tall grasses, and I think I felt what it must be like to be an African lion.

Then I was again picked up and carried across the parking area, back toward the doors of the hospital. They put me down on the pavement and opened the doors for me to walk inside. I was embraced by familiar smells and sounds and the calm atmosphere of my home. I returned to my chair, where I now sit, cleaning my paws and contemplating this adventure. So much exertion has left me quite tired, I admit. But I did appreciate the stimulation of my faculties that resulted from our constitutional. I wouldn’t mind a repeat of the adventure, and I find myself wondering if this will be a regular occurrence…

Dr. CJC

Fri 13, Apr, 2018
Episode 13: In Which a Cat Bec

It’s the waning crescent. I can feel it under my skin and in my bones. The balance of the moon is shifting and it’s affecting my very being. In this phase, it is the most mischievous moon, a shadow of its usual self, smiling that crooked smile while the stars wink at each other because they are all party to the same cosmic inside joke. My whiskers are electric, and my tail has a mind of its own, constantly twitching and switching. This is a universal occurrence for my people every Friday the 13th. The cause is still unknown; cats have been concentrating for millennia on the enigma of the effect of a day and date combination resulting in atmospheric disturbances. Whatever its cause, it makes us nuts, in a nutshell. The phenomenon has been labeled many things, but it is commonly referred to as the Zoomies.

When a cat gets the Zoomies, he has no control over his own body. It is maddening and terrifying and thrilling all at once. It is like a subtle itch on the underside of my skin; just enough to make me want to scratch it, knowing that no amount of rubbing or rolling will make it go away. Then, my legs get restless and my feet feel the uncontrollable need to fly, and I can’t resist the urge, so I give in to it and race from room to room as fast as I can. I derive great satisfaction from reaching top speed. My companions barely see me as I zip by them. I am all but invisible, an orange and white specter seen only out of the corner of their eye, leaving them bewildered in my wake. I streak through the halls, and I let my tail be a rudder behind me, like my cheetah ancestors. I dive between feet and duck around desks and dodge past opening doors. I am unstoppable!

When I reach the carpeted area by the big front desk, I brake hard with my claws to catch my breath. I dig into the carpet for a moment, overcome by the satisfying sensation of my claws puncturing the threads. One of them scolds me for this; they always do. But I can’t help it, they don’t understand what it’s like to fall victim to the Zoomies. I give them a sideways glance and flee the area before they can catch me. I dash back through the treatment area and leap up onto a desk. The pictures on this desk are so shiny, made of glossy paper, and I find myself compelled beyond all reason to taste it. Once I start I can’t stop; the smooth paper feels so interesting on my tongue, and it tastes strange and new and exciting, and before I know it I’m chewing on one of the corners. I don’t want to eat it, I’m not hungry, but I am possessed by the Zoomies. I hear one of my human friends approach and am immediately reprimanded for the destruction of the picture. I may feel guilty later, but emotions have no place in this feral state.

I escape to my room where I leap to my window ledge. So much activity is exhausting. I take advantage of the momentarily quelled possession to tuck my paws under my chest and close my eyes. Perhaps I will be the one to discover the secret behind this condition which renders us senselessly savage. This may require deep and prolonged meditation; being a cat is arduous, but we are prepared to bear the burden of thought for the good of all creatures.

Dr. CJC

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