Thursday, November 25, 2010

Giving Thanks

I will be the first to admit that humans are puzzling. I have been engaged in research, training, and operant conditioning of the species for the last three years, and they are still a mystery to me. How do they think? What drives their actions? Why on earth are they like that? And Bast above, sometimes despite all my research and observation and study, I still have no idea.

One of the things that I find curious about the human animal is this completely arbitrary notion of marking time. Time! It rules their lives! What hour is it? When do we go? When must I be there? When can I come home? They have obsessed about their "time" concept for a great portion of their history, to the point that humans now let it govern even their sleeping. Namely, they go to sleep not when they are tired, as any sensible cat would, and not several times a day to stave off exhaustion, as any cat or rational animal of any sort would, but only when their little clocks read out a certain hour. And then? Ah, here's the punchline: a bell (a loud, irritating bell, at that) goes off at a certain hour in the morning, and humans, regardless of whether or not they are still tired, get out of their beds anyway, and go about whatever it is they do all day. Incredible!

But one of the oddest aspects of the human psyche and its relationship with time is that humans let this artificial notion of time, 24 uniform hours which somebody decided sometime in human history constitute a day and night regardless of whether or not this is actually so from day to day (every couple of years they have to stick an extra day in there just to get it right. They know this ahead of time. They do it anyway.), rule their morality. They stumble about their lives, moaning that they haven't got enough time for all the things they want to do, and that includes doing right by other humans, and especially, doing right by cats. Well, or dogs, or other animals, I suppose. But I am trying to stay on topic here, gentle felines.

A lot of humans would really like to donate food to their local animal shelter, but they haven't got the time to go to the store and buy it. A lot of humans would really like to take in an abused or abandoned animal, but there isn't the time to devote to helping it heal and flourish. A lot of humans would like to help at those shelters for abused or abandoned humans, but think they don't have the time. A lot of humans look around them at the lost and forgotten and the least of all the creatures of this world, and feel terrible and weep for them and feel worse still about the fact that if the clock says they have only so many hours in the day, they cannot care for their own human kittens and still have the time to contribute to caring for anything else. And I feel terrible that these humans are distressed.

Gentle felines, I realize the irony of this, but here goes nothing, as they say. According to this strange, arbitrary, artificial notion of time that humans have imposed upon their world, they include Days of Note, and it just so happens that, in the place where I live and train my human, today is one such day. I don't know specifically what it's all about, and frankly, beyond a passing mild curiosity, I don't really care. Something about some humans and a ship and turkeys and Native Americans. I don't know. Can't tell you. Not important at the moment. But what is important is that today is the day where these humans congregate in groups to eat (another oddity. I dine alone. These creatures fascinate me!) and talk about things they are thankful for. Therefore, as I see it, now is the chance for astute cats to snap into action. If your humans are misty-eyed about their blessings, roll over on your back and look adorable, but do it on a copy of the Humane Society calendar. If your humans are feeling gratitude, make sure their checkbook is next to that calendar. They can connect the dots. I know they're dim, but trust me in this, fellow cats, with the proper assistance they CAN connect the dots.

And if you haven't got a Humane Society calendar, then perhaps you have one with pictures of distressed human kittens on it. Purr. Paw it. Call attention to it. Lead your human to water, my friends, and it just might drink.

Personally, I am thankful for my human. Honestly. I was seriously down on my luck, to put it mildly, and she applied for the job and was suitable. I am thankful that she is such a good subject. Unlike a lot of my fellow felines, who today are lost and alone and cold and without humans of any sort, or worse, with bad ones who deliberately harm them, I have a human who looks after me, and who I can look after as well. So today is the day when I am going to be certain to call extra attention to those cats---and humans, and human kittens, and other animals---who haven't got anyone to look after them, who haven't got enough to eat, who are cold, who are alone, who are hurt, and hopefully, my human will connect those dots and realize that if she hasn't got the time to help them, she thinks, then we are fortunate enough to have the resources to give to those who do.

Gentle felines, please count your many blessings today, and do the same.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A Note for Tia

Gentle felines,

I interrupt my regular programming to add a kind note sent to me by a new friend, Tia. Tia is a Persian Colorpoint who lives with her human. Tia has had some difficulty in posting to my blog, and so sent her comments to me through the kind intercession of Whicky Wuudler. It seems that others have had difficulty in posting to my blog as well. I blame my human. I blame it all on my human. She is very thumbist, with her superior attitude and facility with a can opener, but pride, they say, goeth before a fall, and if it turns out that my so-called "secretary" is responsible for the wonky settings on my blog that prevented kind cats from leaving me their gentle thoughts, her fall is going to be a jolly steep one, indeed. Mind you, no injuries. I still require service. I just want to get her attention, is all.

I have (laboriously, and grumbling all the while) disabled the word verification feature on this blog. I am mortified to discover that this feature does not work with the software available to all readers, but especially with the version used by Tia. I apologize to Tia, and to her human, and herewith attach Tia's comments. Tia, if you ever wish to leave me your thoughts, please do so at the email address so kindly provided you by Whicky. Whicky, thank you. Without your assistance I might have missed a new friend.

Best regards,

Puss-Puss, I can't tell you what a joy it is to finally find someone not only like-minded, but a tortie to boot! Your thoughts on humans I find to be spot on. I have been searching for a way to put into words what I felt about them, and you have ended that search. The concept of them as kittens always fits exactly with the behaviour I have seen from my own pet. She, like yours when she was sick, spent all of her time talking into the thing they call a phone, asking for others to come and help her, look after her. Thankfully, because she was contageous, nobody came, so I was able to keep her from danger by draping over the top of her and refusing to move, therefore forcefully preventing her from escaping from the den she had made on the sofa with blankets and pillows. We have a Dogface, who I'm sure might have thought about eating her in her weakened state if I hadn't intervened.
This human caring is very hard work, and I'm just so glad that I have another to talk about my frustrations with. My human is abominable. Her latest transgression involves trying to see if I have kittens in my tummy. She keeps taking me to the vet peoples for poking and prodding and all manner of invasion of privacy. Just like a kitten with a new toy, she can't leave it alone until she has exhausted all possibility of finding an answer. Do they not know the meaning of privacy? Of self restraint? Of "wait until I am ready to reveal it, all right?"

P.S. Tia's blog can be found at And Tia, a final thought: perhaps the Dogface is a handy tool after all. If your human lets any of those so-called "vet" quacks poke you again, then I say fill your human's pockets full of chicken as soon as you get her home, get the dog's attention, and make a break for it. Let the dog pin her down and show her the meaning of having her privacy invaded. A little chicken is a small sacrifice to make in order to put a stop to such impertinence. If you choose to have kittens, she can just wait to find that out like everybody else. Really! The nerve.

Friday, November 19, 2010

The care and feeding of ill human pets

This past week, I was reminded of why it is that I took on the job of training my human pet, these three years ago and more: in caring for the poor dumb brute, I see her exhibit behavior that sometimes makes me think that cats and their human pets are really not such distant cousins, after all. I know, it sounds like an outrageous slander. But hear me out!

What prompted this? Well, this past week, she took ill for a while. Horribly ill. There was lots of to-ing and fro-ing, lots of other cats' human pets (presumably. They refuse to wear identifying tags) in and out of the house, and lots of strange smells which, when I read them carefully, painted a picture of a location completely unknown to me, but filled with lots of other free-ranging humans, sterile, and strangely and illogically devoid of felines or any other animals.

Now, I have of course noticed before that humans tend to congregate. What's strange is that they do it even when they are ill. Rather than finding a nice quiet closet in which to hide quietly and reasonably, safe from harm during the most vulnerable phases of their disorder, whatever it may be, they create a huge fuss. They call in other humans, pump themselves full of strange tablets and potions, and occasionally down large quantities of dainties like chicken and noodles floating in broth, or fish--which, incidentally, they almost never share. Ill humans group together out of some sort of primitive pack instinct, and, without the barest ounce of common sense regarding their personal safety, they make sure that every other human in a 60 mile radius is well aware that they are ill. It's maddening. It runs counter to my every instinct of survival. It's ignorant, and potentially harmful, and should it go awry, should a larger mammal come along and just eat the blighters as a result of their diseased, feckless disregard for personal safety, some noble cat someplace will be forced to find and train a completely new staff, which is a chore no matter how you slice it.

I digress.

The rabble cleared out, my human pet came home and the other humans went away. I waited a while until the strange-smelling text of her travels that day had dissipated a bit, and I could stand to be in the same room with her. I then emerged from my cozy vantage point in the laundry basket, hopped up on the bed, and began my examination of the patient to figure out what was really wrong with her, rather than what some random human thought was wrong. (Really, the human concept of medicine is a lot like throwing darts at the side of a barn: you're bound to hit something sooner or later. Shocking.) As I looked her over, with a sniff here and a prod there, trying to diagnose the source of her distress, I was surprised to discover that I was actually somewhat distressed myself. I couldn't immediately figure out why, but  I was distinctly anxious. At the time, I was at a bit of a loss to explain it.

And then it hit me: I felt as protective of this human as I would of an actual feline kitten. I felt this way because she seemed to need protection, because rather than gutting it out alone and taking the consequences like a cat, my human pet's reaction to pain and weakness was to allow herself, in some ways, to be dependent on others temporarily. And that included me.

I have to believe that, in many ways, both mentally and emotionally, humans remain kittens from birth until death, every one of them. I believe this because in times of distress they exhibit a strange vulnerability consistent with extreme youth and inexperience, such as that seen in human kittens who are chronologically so brand new that they are practically still sporting their window stickers. I believe this because when humans are ill or injured, they thoughtlessly disregard the simplest precepts of safety: rather than hide it stoically like a cat, they show that they are sick or hurt. Rather than go away and heal up as quietly and solitarily as possible, they fuss and call attention to themselves and require assistance. If it weren't for the fact that we cats don't generally let our humans roam free, something might notice them in a weakened state and eat them because they would be too weak to fend it off. And according to the most basic rules of the Cat Law Governing How The World Works, it would be their own damn fault in the first place. But when they are ill, humans think of none of these things. In short, when humans are ill they revert.

I confess that as a cat, I myself would be mortified to be seen exhibiting such a complete and utter lack of gravitas. But there was something strangely moving about my human pet's...neediness. I realize that my job is clinical: research, study, and practicum in the training of humans, for the benefit of cats everywhere. But I found myself setting aside my clipboard (so to speak), and just providing my ill human with the loving paw of companionship, rather than the firm paw of guidance which I usually employ.

It seemed that there had been some question as to what exactly was wrong with my human in the first place, and so part of the flitting about was spent in going from one ignorant pack of humans to another, in the above-mentioned sterile, feline-free location, so that they could make thinky "hmm" noises at one another and guess what the problem was, and pretend to be very clever. I was able to identify the issue at once by smell and intuition. Clearly (without going into needless details), this was a complaint which produced pain and fatigue and some anxiety, and the treatment would therefore be rest, nutrition, and heat to ease the pain. Someone had given my human a bottle of some chalky tablets, as well. They smelled bitter and I saw they contained nary a smidgen of catnip. Since I knew full well they would be perfectly useless, I also knew my human needed nothing of the sort, so I smacked them off the bedside table and made sure they rolled as far under the bed as possible. They made a nice rattly noise. I may poke the bottle later.

In any case, I set aside the daily training program and draped myself across my human at the exact location of the pain's origin. I may have purred. I know I napped. But this produced a hopeful sign indicative that my patient was on the mend: she gave me some quality ear and back scratching, and a good deal of petting, until she herself fell asleep. In service to others, they find some sort of meaning, humans do, and it invariably makes them feel better. As I know for certain that serving me does my human a world of good, I knew that this was the best medicine.

Perhaps this means I'm weak-minded. Perhaps I'm a shameless sentimentalist. Maybe I'm just a great soppy. But somehow, I just cannot look at the relationship between humans and cats, no matter our intellectual differences (they can't help it) or our differing philosophies (anyone who doesn't give me ALL the butter is clearly not living right) or even the difference between biped and quadruped (no wonder the poor things trip and tip over), and not see that underneath the fur or lack thereof are creatures that aren't really that different, after all. We cats are thinkers and innovators. The most you can say for humans is that when properly trained, they are a credit to their cats. But both humans and cats feel, we both hurt, we both are born and grow up and get old and die, and we must make our grand entrances and our final exits alone, each and every one of us. That is just the lot of every living creature on this planet. In our weakness and our mortality, humans and cats and all living things are brothers.

I'm glad for the company.

Figure 1: Me, looking charming, as always. My human was well enough to photograph me, and so I graciously offered to pose.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Welcome to my world.

Welcome to my world. I am Puss-Puss, a stunningly beautiful female tortoiseshell cat. I share my realm with my human servant, and her silly little dog. We all have our crosses to bear. I have begun this blog to share my pearls of wisdom, in deathless prose, on all aspects of Life with Apes (as a dear friend calls them, and quite rightly, too), for their edification and for the assistance, advice, support, and commentary of my fellow cats.

Being as a terrible human in my horrible past life BCSA (Before Current Satisfactory Ape) was a vicious barbarian and declawed me, I find typing to be a painful task. I will dictate to my human servant, and can only pray that in transcribing my thoughts she Gets It Right For A Change. I make no guarantees. This starting-up-a-blog thing is an involved process, and is in constant evolution. Gentle felines, I crave your patience. Watch this space! More to follow! Any commentary or assistance will be gratefully accepted.

And so, where to begin...