Thursday, 24 November 2005

Cats, Cats and More Bloody Cats ...

Catch-as-Cats-CanThe image ought to be a clue that I actually like cats.

Indeed, since I have five of them (it was once seven), all of whom are currently spread out all over my bed - roasting gently on the electric blankie or snuggled up to the dog's bum - then I had better do!

(Note to self: buy a cat basket to sleep in!)

But, anyone daft enough to be a regular reader here will also be aware of the existence of our UNfriendly neighborhood marauding tiger, who has been terrorizing us since the spring or early summer.

That is one flamin' feline I cannot get along with.

Yes, he is still around, unfortunately.

Goodness knows how many times I have chased him off, the dog has chased him off, all my boys have tried and got a right pasting and a bloodied ear for their trouble, but he just keeps bouncing back.

He is uncatchable: you can't get within 30 feet of him, otherwise I would and take him straight to the vet to have his "attitude rearranged".

I'm not sure I really want to try even, because he's been seen hauling a bag a trash that my neighbour said she had trouble lifting herself. But, at least her catching him in the act, finally, let mine off the hook from false accusation in The Case of the Constantly Strewn Rubbish.

Night-time. Mine had watertight, cast-iron alibis!

Recently, we have also been "watched" by another black and white cat. I know it wasn't one of my two b/w's, because they were both by under my feet, while I could see this other one sitting, perfectly still, observing us (sizing us up, probably) from the field opposite the house.

Let's hope he didn't fancy what he saw.

Last week too, we were thrice visited by a scrawny black tortoiseshell. Khan literally bumped straight into her (I am assuming it was a girl) as he stepped out of the house one morning. Kitty was nearby and hissed and Khan chased her off down the field towards Juan's chickens and ducks - the latter "kindly" letting us know, with much quacking and squawking, that they had encroached their territory. Cacophony was raised again later when she mistakenly sat on the outside windowsill to their "dining room" at feeding time and, the dog nearly tore my arm out of it's socket when she saw the same cat slinking off into the vines at dusk. Thankfully (touch wood) that one seems to have taken the hint!

Tiger face, on the other hand, seems to have got himself a bike.

Before his untimely arrival we'd had many other cats visit, some of whom had waited around for daily meals even, all quietly and peacefully, without upsetting anyone. Now any "foreign" feline presence gets the spitting going and the hackles to raise. It seems incredible that one solitary cat with a bad attitude can change the entire landscape.

The woman who lives across the valley from us mentioned the other day that she has three new born kittens, two girls and a boy, but I would be merely casting aspersions if I claimed that tiger had anything to do with those because I haven't seen them, but who knows? (Later observations suggested he did.)

Oh, I also suggested to her that she get them *fixed* before they create a population explosion, but I truly doubt she will. People don't here. I have met many adults who have no idea what it means, because I am constantly explaining why my five do not become five million.

And others, grown men even, who have a vague notion of "operations to stop babies", but are totally unaware of, for instance, the physical and behavioral differences between a vasectomy and total castration. (Bet they'd notice if they had the wrong one performed on 'em!)

Yes, mine all are fixed. This is a good thing, but, apart from the fact that the locals are mostly ignorant of the fact that my boys are therefore no longer even disposed to be noisemaking fighters, also puts my "pussies" at a bit of a disadvantage when they are picked on by wild, intact toms who are brought up with boxing gloves on and regularly pump iron.

One of our pathetically unsuccessful methods of attempting to discourage tiger's visits is to make regular patrols of the backyard with the dog. She can leave her scent there and I hoped that regular canine and human presence would deter him from hiding in the approximately 250 foot jungle of fruit trees, vines and weeds. It has made a difference. He waits in the weed jungle just at the side of next door's field instead now.

And he is there, ready to ambush my poor cats (and make my dog bark), as soon as they put their paws outside the front door. Poor things have got to go out, but it is becoming something of a suicide mission.

And, while I was at the end of the garden, I spied three small kittens hiding between the plant pots on Juan's patio. There was a time, not long ago, when I'd have found this cute. Now, it filled me with dread.

(My youngest three "kittens" - a bit of a misnomer because they are now over 4 1/2 years old - I found abandoned no more than 50 yards from the end of my driveway. So, I assume they were bred locally, but I have never known anything about their parentage.

Sooooo ... What do you think, cousins maybe?

The three kittens on Juan's patio are a tabby and white, with a ring of white around the base of the tail, almost identical to my Kitty. Another is black and white, with a distinctive white splotch in the middle of it's black back, even more of an uncanny likeness to her brother Khan.

And the third is a stripy tabby tiger, just like the marauding bastard.

(Yeah, same selection as the ones in the poster above. And that tabby in the middle even has a suitably angry looking expression on his face!

I wouldn't sting 'em up, but let's hope they find them homes before they get big enough to make it up to our garden and cause mayhem!

Why do I even worry about this?

Well, I'm a foreigner here. Therefore, I am going to be in the wrong, automatically, by default. Think this is myth? Try living here. And it doesn't help that my neighbour is my landlord's brother.
There is NOBODY else who actually looks after cats here. The ones that sort of have homes are never let inside them and are generally expected to go self-catering. They may as well be wild. Effectively, they are.

Mine, on the other hand, are well fed, doctored, pampered and brought indoors at dusk for the entire night, every day, to prevent them from getting into fights, making a noise or disturbing the neighbours.

On purpose.

This is something I have always done in 40 years of being owned by cats - for their own safety and the selfish reason that it saves on vet bills, but I am more particular about it here, because I know I would not be given a second chance if it were thought that I was causing a problem.

And let's not forget that I rescued them and took the problem off their streets in the first place.

Something even the local authorities have absolutely no provisions whatsoever for.

But, when all these loose, wild cats make a noise, fighting and screaming like babies in the dead of night, who do the neighbours automatically assume those cats belong to? It is only going to be worse if they look so similar, that mistaken identities become that much easier.

Already, since this tiger menace has been hanging around, I have had to firmly explain our "lock down procedure" on more than one occasion, stating simply and outright that my cats can NOT be under their bedroom windows when they are under my bedcovers and, I've underlined the fact several times that this stray cat is also causing me problems, so that they are fully aware that it is not mine, nor am I about to adopt it.

This should be an inconsequential and unimportant matter, but it is actually making life like walking on eggshells 24/7 at the moment.

As much as I love cats, more of them around here only spells trouble.

Saturday, 12 November 2005

Cats are dangerous animals

Well, mine are, I don't know about yours. Never mind bites and scratches: those are so frequent that I consider shredded skin to be a normal feature. First we had the falling chair incident, now, with feline assistance, I've managed to badly twist or sprain my ankle and can hardly walk.

Oh, it wasn't really the cat's fault. Poor little Khan is a bit poorly and, as usual, wants his mum. So, I let him lay on my lap. He is a small cat and really only a bit chubby, but for some reason, weighs as much as a couple of rocks twice his size.

So, my leg went to sleep.

Not realizing that it was so far asleep that the foot would dangle limply, silly me, I got up to walk and promptly tried to put my weight on what I thought was the sole of my foot, but, which, in fact, was the instep as my foot flopped back under me.

Cat that I was carrying to bed went flying, so did I and my ankle hurts like hell!

They don't warn you about this kind of thing in the cat books, do they?

Tuesday, 8 November 2005

Chronic fatigue

"Imagine that you feel so utterly drained of energy that you can no more climb into bed unaided than scale Everest. Imagine that sleep, when it finally comes, leaves you feeling no fresher, and that you feel like this not once or twice, after a busy day or a stressful night, but frequently and without warning, for weeks, months and even years. Imagine also that your head aches and your muscles hurt, that you feel cold in summer and hot on a chilly day, that your skin crawls, that bright lights and loud noises are intolerable, that your concentration is poor and even your memory fails you. Finally, after endless tests, your doctor tells you that there appears to be nothing the matter with you. And then the doubts, the suspicions, the accusations begin. Are you making it up? Are you lazy? Or are you simply losing your mind? For thousands of people, this is the reality of the illness that dominates their lives ..."
I do not know if what I have is chronic fatigue, myalgic encephalopathy, fibromyalgia, or, for that matter, bubonic plague. Probably not the latter! All I do know is that the above sums up how I have been feeling for 10+ years.
"Current definitions of CFS centre on unexplained persistent or relapsing chronic fatigue that is not substantially alleviated by rest, is present for at least six months, and which results in substantial reduction in previous levels of activity. Alongside fatigue, a diagnosis of CFS requires a number of other symptoms to be present, perhaps including impairment of short-term memory or concentration, mood swings, sore throat, tender lymph nodes, muscle and joint pain, headaches, unrefreshing or disturbed sleep and post-exertional malaise lasting more than 24 hours."
I can certainly tick "all of the above".

I can also add history that I won't bore you with, but which would strengthen a diagnosis. Not that anyone asked about or was even interested in that history.

Because MANY tests found nothing. My GP told me that the pain I complained of (and still have to this day) was merely a figment of my imagination. I'm also sure she has written something on my notes, perhaps to suggest that I'm a problem or a hypochondriac, because of the poor attitude towards me from subsequent GPs AFTER they see those notes - they have been friendly before the notes arrived.

My father died utterly believing that because the "expert" doctor said there was nothing wrong with me, then there was nothing wrong with me.

Therefore, I effectively no longer have access to medical care. With no diagnosis, obviously, I have no recourse to financial assistance and I get precious little by way of sympathy. There is no way to get across how awful it feels to be utterly dumped, mistrusted and unsupported by those who one had previously relied upon. And, never forget, that is on top of feeling ill!


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