Chaos to Cosmos
The path from chaos to cosmos was discovered by telling one's life story

Tuesday, 8 November 2005

So much more than chronic fatigue

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 don't have to imagine. 

"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".

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've 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, 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 totally unsupported, especially by those who one had previously relied upon. 

And, never forget, that is on top of feeling ill!

Monday, 24 October 2005

Mystery Malaise: Sick Dogs & Allergic Cats

Mico under the vines

Well, what a weekend we had! I hope yours was as much fun. Taking advantage of the ground being relatively soft after recent rains, I've been outside breaking my poor old ageing back (I ache .... whine, whine) pulling weeds up by the neck, by hand, before they grow high enough to strangle ours. Seven foot weeds are one of the disadvantages of a climate that makes things grow so fast and furiously. And this would definitely be easier if there weren't so many weeds, so much ground to cover and, if I actually had some tools with which to do the job. 

Meanwhile, the cats have been enjoying the return of the sun to catch lizards the size of prehistoric monsters. Yes, even Khan, sadly, from which we must conclude that the lizards are not biting hard enough! One really large specimen, who has been in and out of the house so regularly lately, I was beginning to wonder if I should make him up a bed, was finally dispatched by Kitty today. In the interim, she's dragged him in, Khan had ... Betty looked at him and decided not to.

Mico is more of a mouse man.

Balu? Oh, no. He certainly likes his food (and some), but he's a truly "modern cat" who knows that food comes from fridges, packets, tins and, especially with waitress service (read lazy). He sees little need to go out and hunt anything down and is thus rarely seen doing so. If he hadn't been born 25+ years after Garfield was created, I'd say Garfield was modelled on Balu!

And dear Holly dog, who, we must accept, is probably getting to "that age" (like her owner) when a few "off days" are not unexpected, was ick. Very ick. In fact, a better description would be to say that she exploded! Not wishing to ruin anyone's breakfast, but it was both ends, both types, all liquid and in generously copious quantity. Something her system did not want, obviously. Unfortunately, she was sleeping with me at the time of the sudden "explosion" and let me tell you, waking up at 7.30 a.m. on a Sunday morning - wet through and with a whiff of ... well a very nasty odor in the air - was not a fun experience.

Much swabbing later and, I think I've done two million wash loads.

One humorous side effect of this is that although I had to throw her out of my bed (where, I know and she knows she should not have been in the first place), I have allowed her to have her bed exactly where she wants it and will stay on it. That is, in the way! Really, right in the narrow entrance to my bedroom, where she does not feel that she is too far away from me and can "guard the door".

But whom exactly she thinks she's kidding with this guarding facade though, is the real mystery here, because 55 lbs of hulking Rottweiller type mongrel failed miserably to keep five cats out of my bedroom - all of which would have to walk right across the surface of dog's bed and probably various parts of the dog too (unless they flew) to get there. It is merely my HOPE that she would perform better with a real "cat burglar". To think Canarians cross the street to avoid her or ask me nervously if she bites. Nah, but she'll give you a nasty lick! LOL! 

Oh, there is actually no mystery about the probable cause, I don't think. The most convincing theory is that it was a result of Holly eating what we shall politely term "reprocessed" cat food. That is, reprocessed through a cat. And since three of the five cats are her "adopted children", I can see how it would seem natural for her to clean up after them. She's been washing their bums since they were tiny scraps.

It doesn't matter what steps I take, like covered cat litter trays, she will always find a way to get to the "housework" first, when I am asleep, when I'm not looking and especially cleaning up the odd "accident" that occurs.

No, the mystery alluded to in the title of this post is a malaise that has been affecting Mico, now my oldest cat (Mico is a year older than the dog and is coming up 12), over the past few years and, is one, I think, I have finally solved.

Each year, I have tried to carefully observe anything that might have coincided with the onset of the problem, in an attempt to find a means of dealing with it. Not an easy task, it was like searching for a needle in a haystack, blindfold, in the dark. Whilst it is widely known that many people have allergies to cats, what is not as widely known is that cats too have allergies. Each year in late summer, Mico would be inflicted with a nasty rash, so bad that scabs and scales would form, around his neck and ears especially, and it was also causing his fur to fall off.

That he also scratches more and becomes quieter and a more clingy "mummy's boy" at these times, also concerns me that the rash really bothers him too.

The vet would give him corticosteroid injections, but while they did immediately calm the rash, they can cause undesirable long-term side-effects, so I want to avoid more of them if at all possible. Indeed, I found this during my research:
Corticosteroids such as injectable dexamethasone will help calm the itching and inflammation resulting from dermatitis; however, safer and more natural approaches may be more suitable.
Actually, I knew this already, because I'd been given cortisone injections myself for hay-fever allergies in my teens - before the dangers were recognised/admitted. I also want to avoid long-term damage to his coat, not from vanity reasons, although that counts, but because he really needs it as protection from the sun.

We ruled out most parasites, etc. We ruled out flea bites. He didn't have fleas and the flea and worm treatments the vet recommended made no difference anyway. We ruled out the sun itself as the cause, because of the seasonal nature of the problem (the sun shines here all year) and because Mico comes from an area hotter than this one, but the problem did not develop until we moved here.

Mico was born on the south of the island, in a dry area, so the plants in this humid and fertile valley - and there must be a million varieties - are not his "natural habitat". We had got the point of knowing that, since if I kept him indoors the problem disappeared, it had to be "something out there" - an irritant plant - that was causing this dermatitis and not a household chemical. But what?

I've had to resort to keeping him indoors to keep the situation under control. I treat open sores immediately with iodine to avoid infection. I've used aloe (a natural antihistamine) gel on the rash on unbroken skin to calm it (this does seem to help some), bathed him in tepid water (not really appreciated) and slathered him with olive oil to soften and repair the scar tissue to encourage new fur to grow. That last works wonders and he doesn't mind licking it off!

This year, because we have had a number of factors determining that the cats should be kept indoors more than usual (the marauding tiger, too hot weather, too wet, workmen, etc.) I have had a better control of the situation and opportunity of tracking when the rash first appeared and when the problem finally ceased.

And, my conclusion:

Immediately after the grapes were harvested at the beginning of the month, the problem stopped. Once the grapes were gone, I let Mico out and carefully watched for any reaction. There hasn't been, even when he's been out all day.

All the days previous, while the grapes were still on the vines, he'd only have to be outside for an hour or two and he'd come back very red and raw looking. The tips of his ears would be fur-free and even bleeding at times. I have cried seeing it.

Then, thinking back, yes, the onset does coincide with when the grapes begin to ripen. And, the year that all of the crops seemed much earlier, so the grapes were harvested earlier too and the problem went away that much sooner.

And, when the crops developed later, it's lasted until later ...

Obviously, my conclusion lacks a scientific confirmation. My vet said that we could allergy test and it would be more reasonable to try that now with something to go on. It wasn't viable with 1001 plants to choose from. There is the chance that something else naturally coincides, but I do not think that likely to show such a marked cessation of the problem as did the removal (picking) of the grapes.

Which would seem to go completely contrary to the following information:
Bioflavonoids (plant-based, antioxidant substances with the power to protect plant and animal tissues), have been shown in many scientific studies to help the tissues maintain their youthful structure. Antioxidants from green tea (Camellia sinensis) and grapes (Vitis vinifera) have been shown to have particularly beneficial effects and may be employed preventively or therapeutically to help repair damaged tissues
However, even with my limited knowledge it seems logical in the sense that many things we can have as "cures" are themselves "causes". Think vaccines that are mild doses of the virus or whatever in question that they aim to protect against.

Neither would it be a long stretch of the imagination, mind you, to accept that I simply have an(other) "awkward" and "contrary" critter!

Then I remembered the only other time the dog was very ick.

She is not a thief. In fact, she has only stolen food on three occasions in 10 years, which is an admirable record for a dog. Once was sliced ham that I had neglected to put back in the fridge, while handing out scraps to an appreciative audience. Another was an English sausage, right out of the frying pan!

The third and last time, was a bunch of grapes.

That was when they were harvested last year/year before and the landlady left me four huge bunches. Three black, one white. I prefer white grapes and these did look especially nice. So, I put them all in the fruit bowl, up on a high enough surface (at least I thought) and was looking forward to tucking into them later.

.. and the next I saw of them was just the stalk, looking like a sad winter tree that had lost all its leaves, lying, suspiciously on the dog's bed. Exibit A.

"Fortunately" her system, again, realized that a good kilo or more of grapes should not be in there and promptly disgorged itself of them ... all over the hall floor. So much so that the only recourse was to hose it all outside!

Antacids and a rice & milk diet ensued, but she was clearly unwell for days.

The vet recommended plain rice, but I would like to meet the vet who could successfully feed plain rice to my dog. She will eat paella. Rice pudding is OK. She will even eat sh*t. Plain rice, however, she will not touch! It was only after this event that I researched and read that grapes can KILL a dog. They are too acid and can cause kidney damage, which is why I say it was fortunate that her system had the foresight to eliminate them so totally and quickly.

This is also where my logic says that if grapes are too acid for a dog's fairly hardy innards, then I can also see how that acid could be literally burning the cat's relatively more delicate skin to cause the redness, sores and fur loss.

I still say it is an allergy, because a) it responds to allergy treatments, like the corticosteroids and the aloe and b) it affects Mico especially. Betty, who was also from the south, but a higher altitude area where some vineyards exist, does develop similar symptoms, but not to the extent where they are a problem.

Hers has cleared up too in the last three weeks.

The other three cats, who were born locally and whose ancestors, we can safely presume, were also bred around here, show no signs or symptoms whatsoever.

Right, but that does still leave us with a tiddly problem.

We live IN a vineyard. The entire backyard is vines, hundreds of feet and enough to make 200 liters of wine. Even if it weren't, this is wine country: vines are up the road, down the road, next door, opposite the house ... and all around us. Acres and acres and layer upon layer of terraces literally groaning with them!

Possibly the key to the problem (which also differentiates our grapes from their therapeutic application mentioned above) is the length of time that the grapes are left on the vine for winemaking - frankly until they look "bad", to my untrained eye (and, by extension they probably ooze acid in that time).

But one of the reasons we live here is so the cats can go out at all. In urban areas on this island it is impossible. There is ALWAYS someone who will poison cats, deliberately. On banana plantations at lower altitudes, they also use chemicals that kill. On the vines, the only things they use are sulphur and weed killer once a year that we usually get warning about and can avoid. Stronger chemicals are prohibited because we are inside the protected Teno Rural Park.

Perhaps what we need to try is some form of barrier. Barrier cream, such as one might use on one's hands to avoid dermatitis, would be the obvious thought, but this isn't exactly an easy option with fur. A total sun block? Spray sun protection? Maybe. It needs to be something that won't itself poison the cat!

If, in the end, it just means I have to keep Mico in for 2-3 months a year between the time that the grapes begin to ripen and before they are actually picked, well then, so be it. It is better that he is able to go out the other 9-10 months, than not at all elsewhere. This will probably also be a lot easier to track than it might have been if it had been caused by one of thousands of "mystery" weeds!

Thursday, 13 October 2005

Lizards Bite Back

Let to right: Balu, Kitty and Khan

It took me a couple of years to gain the confidence of this timid little chap, Khan (right), before he would automatically come home when he was hurt or scared. Yesterday, not only did he come to find me when he needed me, he went straight to the bathroom to get treatment. When I first found these three abandoned kittens, Khan was not at all sure he wanted to be rescued and took a bit of catching. Once I had done so, the first thing he did when I put my hand inside the box was to rear up on his hind legs - all 4 1/2 inches of him - and spit at me. Then he fiercely bit my finger. I knew then that he was going to need a lot of love and coaxing and so I set out to give him lots of gentle handling every day. 

A year later, a storm scared him badly, he ran off and was missing for five days. Five, very long, anguish-filled days. Eventually, when he came out from wherever he'd crawled to hide (he was dry, but very dusty), I saw him coming up the path. Anyone who has ever had a pet go missing will have some idea of the relief I felt that day. And when I say a year later, I mean a year. Exactly.

I - I should actually say we, because it was the dog who discovered them first - found the kittens at 7 p.m. on May 3, 2001. The afternoon Khan went missing was May 3, 2002. And at the very same hour of the very same day that I'd found them my friend and neighbour - from whose cats these may be descended - had died (at only 47). So it was all eerie and omen filled to begin with.

Slowly, bit by bit, we've progressed over the years since then.

Khan still startles easier than the others and usually hides if there are strangers about. He takes longer to get used to it when my mother comes to stay and, even gives me a wide berth at first whenever I don't "smell right" after a shower.

I tell you this so you have some idea how "special" it was when he comes in meowing for my assistance and runs straight to the bathroom after he's attracted my attention, dragging the remaining half of the dead lizard that he'd caught, that had bitten back into the pad of his paw and was still attached. Gross. 

Still, for his sake, I kept my calm (with considerable difficulty).

Lizard removed, paw washed and iodined, Khan is fine and seems surprisingly unperturbed. Please, someone congratulate me! LOL!

What I certainly hope this means is that he will catch less lizards in future. The first time we discovered that these lizards bite was when one "caught" Betty - it had attached itself to the back of her leg. That time it was whole, alive and still biting. Betty took off, screaming, while dancing furiously in a circle, backwards, round and round the patio. There was nothing I could do. She would be impossible to catch and impossible to handle (she's really a wild panther), if I could.

We also hadn't been in the area very long, so I had no idea if it could be venomous or do her any serious damage. So I phoned the vet - just in case. He laughed and said, "No, but she's just discovered that they bite back!" Over six years later and I have NEVER seen her with a lizard since. Cross fingers!

Tuesday, 11 October 2005

Mountain Cat


On my way from looking for subjects for future photographs, I snapped this for the family album. It wasn't until I had downloaded the images to the computer that I discovered what I had, with the Teno Mountains reflected in the right-hand window. He's quite podgy, but hardly this mountainous of a cat! And, while I could make puns about mountains moving to Mohammed, his name, in fact, is Khan.

Friday, 23 September 2005

Water, Water Everywhere

Indoor flooding was nearly this bad

Today, the greater part of my house was flooded again - enough inches to wet furniture - for the forth time. After two major storms and an "indoor lake" when my neighbors hosed down to prepare their house for painting, now this. 

For the last few days, the local council have been tinkering with the water supply. What they are doing is great: instead of using the current gas guzzling pumps to send water uphill, they were diverting the system to bring the water down from the mountains, using gravity. Now considering how abruptly mountainous Tenerife is, I have to wonder why the heck they weren't doing this in the first place, but I won't go there. There is never any logic in their reasoning.

The current change is, they say, due to rising oil prices and to that, I say, shove the price up some more then, if it is going to finally FORCE people to look at doing things in more sustainable, economical viable and environmentally respectful ways. Of course, nothing is ever that simple.

For several days I had been living with the sound of rushing water somewhere. Couldn't find a leak and nothing was turned on, but it was pretty conspicuous (read bloody disruptive) at night. The only good point was that after six years with water pressure so pathetically weak that I'd have to dance round in circles to get my entire body wet in the shower - I could piddle faster - I suddenly had a raging torrent capable of pressure washing me from head to foot in an instant - and that was when I only wanted to wash my hands in the basin.

So yesterday, I popped down to have a quiet word with the guy in charge of water maintenance, because I wanted them to be aware about the extremity of the noise and pressure in my house and, because I was concerned that it might break something (knowing they'd bill me for the pleasure of "using" the additional water). I also knew the response I'd get before I went down. Nothing is ever a problem here in the Canaries, unless it happens to one of them.

So, of course, what happens today?

First the pressure rose to the extent that my toilet cistern began constantly filling, even though it was full and hadn't been used. Then, as work was coming to an end, the water maintenance guy came to the door and asked me to check to see if the pressure was OK for my water heater to work. As I walked across to go to try it, I saw that the other half of the house was under water.

This water had come from the pipe that serves the washing machine out in the outside back patio / utility room, water had filled that area, gathered as much muck as it could and then tumbled down the stairs from there into the house proper. It took me hours to sweep it all out and it will take forever to clean and dry it all out properly. Now, bear in mind that washing machine has been quite happily plumbed in there for six years: I'm now told that I must switch this supply off when I am not actually using the machine, like it's my fault. Nah!

Also bear in mind that the guy came and knocked at my door to ask me about water pressure. He had, therefore, implied that he knew that this pressure had been altered by the works. His next "trick" (on seeing the flood) was to claim that the current works had no effect whatsoever on the water pressure, so it must be something else, like that the regulator may be broken (it couldn't be that the EXCESSIVE pressure broke it, by any slim chance?). And, then, he just walked away fast leaving me to deal with the mess on my own.

After the fiasco with the power last week, I feel like I am living in a Flanders and Swann meets Groundhog Day nightmare. See, The Gas Man Cometh.

Tuesday, 20 September 2005

Wind Power

You can never get any when you need it ... Though, the dog finished off the remains of my lentil stew yesterday and today, she could power the national grid. Stinky! Actually, that's not the kind of wind I was talking about (and, yes, I know that American viewers call that gas and what you also call gas, we call petrol and, we could go round in circles all day "getting lost in translation"), but last week I could have done with any sort of power - period.

We had significant outages on three separate days, culminating on Friday evening with a three hour power cut. Then, just when the power had been back on long enough to start the computer and re-load the work I was planning on doing ... *poof* and it was gone again. Half an hour later, process repeated and off it went for the third time.

When I have no power, there is NOTHING whatsoever I can do. 

The house is too dark for my poor old eyes to read regular books (remember those?), even in daytime. No TV, no computer, no coffee (panic). Even my ISDN phone line doesn't work without electricity. For the first time, I got quite concerned about the isolation. This is when living alone in the middle of absolutely nowhere starts to look less appealing, even a little scary.

I can understand when the power invariably goes off during storms or high winds, because this always badly affects the overhead power lines, but there were no such weather conditions last week. As it was peak evening hours, I harbour a suspicion that the current system just ain't up to coping with growth. 

Maybe I'll just have to feed the dog more beans?

Wednesday, 7 September 2005

Cat-astrophe Befalls

Anyone who has followed Garfield for years will already know a few thousand ways that a cat can seriously annoy a human. Add one more ... 

When I rented this house it came with furniture. I also have my own furniture, so a lot of what can't be shoe-horned into the rooms is stored out in the covered back patio that doubles as the utility room plus cat canteen.

One of those things is my set of dining chairs. They are nice, sturdy chairs, apart from the seats, which, once upon a time, used to be raffia. I bought them because I love them as they are pretty much identical to the chairs you find in almost every Greek cafe. However, they are not the best thing to have in a house full of fur people who just have to vent their frustrations and sharpen their claws on them. So, the chairs are now seatless. One day, I plan to take them to a nearby carpenter to have wooden replacements made to fit.

A while ago the carpenter hand made me a piece to extend my desk, neatly finished, in the time it took me to have a coffee in a nearby bar. Cost under $4! 

So in the meantime, these skeleton chairs are laid on top of the wardrobe that doubles as the animal food storage cupboard. And, cats being cats, they are apt to jump up there to see if they can make an aerial assault on the contents.

Lesson #1 - Look up before you open cupboards.

As I opened the cupboard door as they lined up at feeding time, down falls one of the chairs that the little buggers had dislodged. No damage was done - to the chair - as it fell to the concrete floor, because something had broken it's fall midway. My head mostly ... and my shoulders ... and my back.

I am bruised and hurt everywhere and had to spend most of the day lying flat.

Of course, it could have been a LOT worse, if the chair had the extra weight of a seat, or broke a bone or knocked me out. Or, heaven forbid, killed me!

I can handle the idea of being mauled to death by cats (well almost), but I didn't expect to get bruised and battered as they stand by and watch while I cuss and scream in pain. And I swear they giggled.

Sunday, 21 August 2005

Lunch is served

Betty and Mico the culprits

At lunch time, I had just put the cauldron of stew on to re-heat and was about to take the dog out while it did so. Opened the front door to find two "innocent looking" cats, Mico and Betty, sitting behind it, waiting to be let in. 

Generally, when you find the two of them together, trouble won't be far away. 

He does the hunting and she does the eating. He let's her henpeck him and I think he hands over his spoils, like handing over his wages, just for a quiet life.

Usually, when Mico catches something, he comes up the garden "chirping" away to announce it. He did the other day and I was just in time to see him arrive with a mouse, which he instantly dropped at Betty's feet. She casually wandered off with it, while he just carried on, slowly sauntering toward the house, resigned.

Why these two comedians couldn't have come in any one of numerous open windows, is anybody's guess, but I'm sure glad they didn't, because there outside the door on the patio was today's lunch of a half-eaten RAT!

Watch the birdie

Balu Birdwatching

Young Balu here was sitting, utterly transfixed on the windowsill, watching a flock of swallows swooping and diving and I had great fun watching his head moving in sync, like one of those nodding dog ornaments you see in the back of cars!

The other day, I couldn't help being distracted by a flock of wild canaries - there must have been about 100 of them - as they all alighted onto the telephone wires.

And while I was keeping an eye on the clouds rolling up the valley the other day - you dare not let one of those into the house - I spotted Khan sitting in the field next door, transfixed on five or six geese, belonging to my neighbour, Juan. I'd forgotten about them actually, because they are normally kept in a pen far enough away that you wouldn't know they were there, unless you go down the other end of my backyard (it has enough vines to make 200 liters of wine, so it is sizable).

Now I remember ... One day that Juan was working in the field and, everywhere he went, they were following him like puppies. I was relieved at the time that I am not the only one around here: it's bad enough having five cats who will follow me everywhere - I am sure I am known as "that mad foreign woman with the cats".

The geese were smaller then. Now they are each bigger than a cat, and Khan was certainly keeping about a 20 foot distance. The cats bring in a steady stream of prey; small rabbits, canaries, mice, rats, lizards by the gross, but I don't think - gee, I hope - none of the cats is going to come in dragging a goose any time soon!

Thursday, 18 August 2005

Fair Weather Friends

knows that cats don't like water, well, with odd exceptions. I happen to have one who will happily stand in a bath of warm water, purring his bloody head off, pushing into my hands as I massage the shampoo into his back. (And yeah, he does come out looking a lot like Bert here.)

His brother, Khan, would stand armpit-deep in a metal dog-bowl of water on hot days when he was little and, one day he created great entertainment by doing a kinda triple-jump self-service sheep-dipping dance the length of a full horse-trough. He was dripping wet at the end of it, yet totally un-bothered by the experience.

But, when it's water falling out of the sky, think again! It's been raining here in Tenerife for about 24 hours now, on and off between drizzle and proper rain. Yes, this is newsworthy: it "should" not rain at all here in August.

During a couple of sunny intervals, I let the cats go outside and both times, within 10 minutes, the sky began to get dark and only "looked like" it was going to rain  and all FIVE cats (not just one or some of them) filed indoors rapidly. I find this especially curious, because I have had to keep them in quite a lot recently for their safety. So you'd imagine, rain or shine, they'd be dying to go out.

Couple of days after the last episode, the local tiger thug picked a fight with poor Mico, who came in with his white shirtfront covered in blood. I don't like to see them hurt and felt especially sorry for Mico, because the blood was coming from a hole that had been ripped open under his chin.

The background to this is that Mico was kicked in the chin several years ago. His lost part of his lip, his jaw was broken and had to be wired and I had to hand-feed him soft food for weeks. He still prefers not to be touched there.

And this time, he felt really sorry for himself too. I've never heard him whine and complain, as he did. After cleaning him up (to a nice rose pink shade), I lay him in my bed and he just stayed as he was put and hardly moved for 24 hours.

His "missus", Betty washed him back to white, then cuddled up with him. A couple of times, I had to shake him to wake him up - just to be sure he was still alive!

The next morning, he was right as rain, of course.

Typical man! They just can't take the pain, can they? :)

After I hadn't seen the pest for a couple of days, I thought we'd try and see if I could let them all out. I mean the poor animals need exercise and fresh air too. But within ONE HOUR, just one solitary hour of letting them out, that bastard was back, picking fights, caterwauling and making the dog bark.

So, they were locked up again, until either this nuisance got fed up and terrorizes someone else, gets chased off during the hunting season that began this month (no, I don't wish him anything worse), or I work out a way to catch him.

The hope being that with no-one to beat up and no way he can sneak in the house to scrounge a meal, he will eventually get the message and bugger off.

Five cats and one dog inside one, relatively small, house?

You'd be amazed at how well behaved they were - I was - among themselves.

No bickering between them - which was the worry and one of the main reasons for removing them from the problem, because they had started to do so (and had never done before) while they were getting picked on by the "tiger". Practicing, I guess? With me, they were like little kids on the long school holiday.

"What can I do now mum?"

"I'm bored."

"I'm hungry." (again)

One after another, 24 hours a day and, if I wasn't paying full attention - like if I had the audacity to try to sleep or something - the "request" came accompanied by a thump on the nose by paw full of sharp talons! Ain't they just so sweet?

Last week - finally - they were able to sneak out for a few hours in the morning without getting ambushed. And you would think, wouldn't you, that after several weeks of being shut up, that they would be off like lightening. Not so.

They go out, do what they have to do and come back, or they sit on windowsills by open windows until I push their bums out! Or, they come out with me and the dog - all in file like ducklings - and come back and indoors again at the end of the walk. It's entertaining and I'm glad to have them all relatively close so I know they are safe, but on the level of "normal cat behavior", I just can't work 'em out. :)