Saturday, July 22, 2017

Love is the Cure

My little Blitz is so jumpy that sometimes when Teddy jingles his way back inside after a potty break, Blitz scatters and desperately searches for a way out. Then, I watch him flatten out on the carpet, look up and sometimes, but only sometimes, he realizes its only Teddy and he loves Teddy. Teddy has never hurt him. Teddy likes to play with him. Teddy even licks him sometimes. Then Blitz relaxes and goes about his business, weaving between Teddy's legs and swatting at his tail.

Blitz is like that with strangers too, ever vigilant to strange sounds, even on television. Nick has trouble approaching him, but at least he can sometimes. Nick works at it. Whenever someone new comes to the house, the minute Teddy and I trundle downstairs to answer the door, I can see Blitz scattering. He has safe places, inside the couch, between boxes in the sewing room, and under my bed. If he's feeling particularly brave with company, he'll sit under the computer desk and look at them.

Can kittens have PTSD?

It's like the poor guy lived in a battle zone and at any second, the enemy, a dog or a human, can descend and take him out with whatever noise he is making.

How do you cure PTSD in a kitten if he has it?


Don't you love the Internet? I just found this site for PTSD in dogs. Apparently, people haven't gotten around to handling hyper-vigilant kittens. But the advice is sound. Make a safe place for them, make sure they get to play, and have lots of patience with them.

So, when my sister and all of the rest of the family come to the house this afternoon after we go tubing on the river, I'm going to lock Bitzie into my room with some yummy food and the litter box so he can feel safe and relax on my bed. Then, when everyone is gone, he can come upstairs and lie on my belly, take a deep breath, and feel the love.

Thank you for listening, jb

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Missing Out

My sister comes to visit tomorrow. Now, I'm kind of glad I cleaned all the bedding, the countertops, the floors, sanitized the litter boxes, and got the carpets cleaned because the cats had giardia. (I didn't have giardia, by the way. I can stop visualizing parasites any time now.) Stuff is pretty much ready for her to see. You know, the sniff test, the cream-colored glove test. I'll have to run the broom in front of the litter boxes for the barefoot-on-the-fake-wood-flooring test. It's a hard life I lead. Truly.

It's not the kind of cleaning I'd do if my mother were coming. Two years ago, when my mother came to visit, Mike announced that we were going to have the flooring redone for half the house. We hired landscapers. And we rented a storage unit. He talked about revitalizing the kitchen but realized we didn't have time to get the permits.

For my sister, things will be more relaxed. She can witness some of my teetering piles of books. She can gaze at my stately weeds.

The sad part is that Blitz is going to be on red-alert-invisible mode for the whole week. She hasn't met Blitz yet. She probably won't. Today, when the carpet cleaners arrived, he skedaddled under the bed downstairs and didn't come out until two hours after they left. When he finally showed his little face, he touched one paw to the damp carpet and ran back into the far bedroom for another hour. He's in his cat tree recovering now.

My sister isn't going to get to see how he rolls onto his back with his tubby belly wiggling and flattening out on the floor. My sister isn't going to see how he hangs his head upside down to play with me from the highest perch on the cat tree. My sister isn't going to see how he jumps onto my lap on the couch and lines himself along the length of me and always, always puts his front right paw on my left breast. Then, he stares into my eyes and make the tiniest of sighs when he's been thoroughly petted and just wants to sit with me feeling the love while I watch television with Mike.

My sister is going to miss all that.

Occasionally, when one of Nick's friends is over and they're focused on the video game in front of them, Blitz will be brave and walk behind the couch and cuddle up with my feet as I sit at the computer. But that's only when they ignore him. That's only one extra person in the room. That's only for relatively quiet people who aren't talking double-speed and almost double-volume.

My sister and I aren't quiet. Neither is my niece. That kind of chatter, even though I'm part of it, will drive Blitz from the room, down the stairs, and into the farthest, darkest, and quietest part of the house. He will search for a tunnel escape.

Poor kid. My sister would have loved the way he talks to me in the morning when I'm not feeding him fast enough. Blitz is never going to feel the joy of being adored by my sister.

Thank you for listening, jb

Sunday, July 16, 2017

When Aliens Arrive

Nothing to say.

There's a blue sky outside. I just got home from an outdoor musical. It was lovely and funny and ....

I'm exhausted. I'm telling you that I have nothing to say. I'm beyond tired. I still haven't heard back from my gas/bloating doctor. Something is still brewing in my gut. I don't want to talk about my gut. I feel like a helium balloon. I'm ready for bed. It's not quite 6:30pm.

The cats are all relaxed and feeling great. I think Blitz had always had a painful gut before now. He used to groan every time I picked him up. He still groans, but it's different than it was, an argument not a complaint. It has no oomph. The last time I picked him up, he didn't even bother making a noise. Isn't that sad? To think that life was only ever having pain and a bloated gut and not knowing that anything else in life was possible. I'm glad that he's happier now. I really am.

The problem is that Blitz has been extra active lately, whacking Seth, jumping out in front of Teddy and scaring him, and waking me up, I suspect, at four in the morning, so I can fill his belly with yummy kitten food and treats even though I'm supposed to be weaning him to ordinary cat food.

Did Seth teach Blitz to move around nearly silently, but not completely silently in the wee hours so I wouldn't realize who woke me and then appear, all cheerful and purring, when I walk up the stairs? For the past three mornings, I was, bleary-eyed and exhausted at 4:23 am, but too hungry to go back to sleep. I made myself something to eat. Why not feed the kitten since he's here and acting so sweet? Look at his adorable self. Rolling on the floor in front of me. Look at Seth, waiting to be petted and hoping to eat some kitten food. Why not? Why not feed them now?

Somebody's waking me up at four in the morning. It's almost two hours earlier than I need to get up when school starts. But this is summer. I have no alarm clock in the summer. Yet, there I've been, sitting up at four in the morning wondering if I just heard a noise. I really should not feed cats when I get up in the morning.

Who was it that got me started feeding cats in the morning? I should feed them at dinner time. I should put my foot down. Can I remember to put my foot down tomorrow at four in the morning when I wake up?

No. If I don't feed them, they'll keep me up until noon when I really have to drag my ass out of bed and run my errands.

When aliens arrive at our house, they will assume, based on the natural servitude that occurs among the members of the household, that cats run our society, that humans are mere slaves put on this earth for the one purpose of making cats as supremely comfortable as possible. The cats even have pet dogs to toy with and tease. Humans are a mere instrument of whim. Water, kitten food, cat treats, cat beds, large cat beds that the dog is allowed to use when the cats aren't lying on them, sofas, pillows, blankets, and warm laps when necessary. Humans provide them all. Humans are encouraged to come and go but merely in the effort to bring in more cans of kitten food and cat treats and also to remove refuse from litter boxes.

Humans are allowed to sit on the cat's sofa, but that is the best positioning for long massages behind ears, under chins, and along the spine for good alignment. Gentle grooming of fur is also encouraged. The cat will inform the human when he's finished.

Yes, if aliens arrive on our planet, they'd better hope they are cute enough to run our society in this way, to make willing slaves of humans for their own purposes.

Maybe aliens already did arrive on our planet. Maybe one is dozing in the cat tree, languidly watching birds outside, and the other is stretched out on a heated padded lap.

Thank you for listening, jb

Friday, July 14, 2017

Not Quite Finished with Giardia

I am done bathing cats. It was traumatic for both of them, yowling, clawing, and eventually submitting to the injustice of being totally wet and worse, being foamed with perfumed and medicated shampoo. The second time, Nick helped me manage. You need four hands to wash a cat, maybe five. Plus, Nick is very good at calming cats.

Giardia treatment required one bath at the beginning and one at the end. So we washed the cats twice within a week. In the interim, I coaxed two cats to eat wet cat food covered in medicine they didn't like for six days. I washed the covers of three dog beds, bedding for three people, throw pillows, blankets, and two cat beds the cats seldom use. I sterilized two litter boxes twice. I put dog and cat dishes into the dishwasher daily for six days. I disinfected a cat tree and unwashable foam pads for three dog beds. I got going with the bleach and ended up sterilizing my sinks and countertops just in case. The cats don't jump up there when I'm looking, but what about when I'm not home? I never did steam clean my floors. I know I should have. I was just tired. I would have been tired simply bathing the cats. Even the cats were tired after we bathed the cats.

I don't believe in giving cats a bath unless there's a specific reason. This was specific enough. Giardia, a parasite, living in their intestines, eating their food, making them feel sick, taking control of their bodies like aliens. I felt sick to my stomach just thinking about it. I've washed my hands about a thousand times in the past six days. I used a whole bottle of bleach. I went through a half bottle of perfumed medicated cat shampoo. I washed and bleached five towels that might have been infected after cat baths, twice. Except for the floors, I was thorough.

After the second baths, I began to relax a bit. The cats had finally eaten all of their medicine. Nick and I decided to bring both cats outside on leashes to dry on our partially completed deck where they could lie in the sun. Nick said it would be nice for them to dry their fur in the sun. He was right.

Blitz was sure he didn't want to go outside. I didn't want to argue with him, but Nick kept saying he'd like it once he felt the heat. Blitz clung to me around my neck as I carried him out after we got Seth and Teddy set up outside. Poor baby Blitz. Being outside must have been traumatic when he was a tiny kitten. Feral cats don't have it easy.  Feral kittens probably learn that death is so near, so casual. I could feel all that in Blitz's grip.

I sat down on a chair with him still clinging to me. Nick tied his leash to the barbecue. I began to lean back, to look up at trees swaying against blue sky, to listen to birds singing. Then, Blitz relaxed a little and slid down to my lap. We sat. Nick sat at the rough edge of the deck and let his legs swing back and forth between the joists. Then, Blitz looked at Seth on one side and Teddy on the other and Nick on a third side. Each of them was enjoying the light, the heat on the recycled plastic boards, and birdsong. The deck is three-quarters complete. There was enough room for us to sit together and stretch out a little.

Finally, Blitz jumped off my lap, squatted flat for a moment, looked from Seth to Teddy to Nick, then he rolled onto his back. He stretched his paws out and let the gentle heat soak into his damp fur. Summer weather is nice in the Pacific Northwest, but don't move here unless you enjoy ten months of continuous rain. Personally, I love the rain. It's getting a bit dry here for my tastes.

Still, it was a good day to wash cats. And even better news was that both cats were cleared of giardia. That was my reward for cleaning the litter box five times on the last day of their medication, then digging around when a cat finally pooped. It was my reward for scavenging turds the size of marbles so that lab people at the vet's office could look for alien creatures under a microscope.

I try not to think about parasites in intestinal tracts. I try. The cats are clear. They're clean. All our bedding is clean. Their dishes are clean. Nearly everything is clean.

But I'm not quite done with the whole thing. After a talk about issues with my roiling gut, my doctor recommended that I get tested for giardia. She didn't even tell me it was psychosomatic, all that thinking about parasites making me sick to my stomach. She just stood there and handed me a kit.

Joy of joys. Now, I have to poop in a cup and bring it to the lab.

Thank you for listening, jb

Friday, July 7, 2017

Giardia Round Two

Do not wash an almost yearling kitten in the sink.

He was too big. He pushed half out of the sink while I washed the other end of him. He buried his head in my elbow while I washed his shoulders. Because I was battling a parasite, I had to leave the shampoo in his fur for what I hoped was five minutes while he yowled, wrestled, and occasionally took a hopeful leap away from me.

I hate giardia.

I haven't given Blitz a bath since he was tiny and rolled in poop while I was out of the room. That night - yes, it was in the middle of the night - I filled the sink with warm water and he lounged in it while I massaged the crusty bits out of his fur. Then, I rinsed him in warm water while he looked up at me as if he were amazed at the depth of my love. Drying him off was as simple as taking down a small towel and wrapping him in it while I stared into his eyes and rubbed the wet off his whiskers.

Or at least, that's how I remember it.

This was so much worse. I'd lost my sink plug. The water was too cold at first. He shook and water went all over a stack of books I hadn't thought I needed to move. He finally got resigned to the treatment but then I was wary that he'd take a wild leap when I let my guard down and held him from underneath with a grip on both front legs. .

Have you ever seen the video of the cats lounging in bath water?

I hate those cats.

Blitz was pathetic, his pink belly jiggling under thin wet fur when I rolled him onto his back. At least he let me rinse him under his shoulders. I hope I got all the soap out. There was enough water to wet the front of me, so I think I did.

When I brought him upstairs, he stepped out of the towels, shook a foot, stepped, and shook another foot, glaring at me as if I'd tortured him.

Then I got out the cookies. He glared at me while he chomped his cookies.

Then, before Seth could get a clue, I picked him up for round two. I knew I couldn't wash Seth in the bathroom sink. He's about as big as the bathroom sink with an added muffin top. By the time I was done with Seth in the tub, I had a set of claw marks in my right thigh, I looked like I'd puked and peed my pants. I had medicated soap in my hair and on my glasses and water ran across the counters, the floor, and splattered the far wall. Forget the books. I can read wet books.

"You're a good kitty, Seth," I had repeated over and over in what I had hoped was a soothing voice.

What I really meant was, "You're a he-devil cat from the Bronx with titanium claws, the strength of a pit bull, and the sonic voice of doom."

Round two. Cats win.

Thank you for listening, jb

Thursday, July 6, 2017

A Pain in the Neck

Do you all want to watch this trainwreck?

This morning, after going back to sleep and finally getting eight hours of sleep amid giardia dreams, I woke up feeling great for just about five minutes.

Then, my neck seized. 

I can't look to the right. There's some rubber band in my neck that keeps stretching to the breaking point whenever I look right and sending waves of zingers through my extremities on that side.

Remember, this was the day I needed to:
  • help Mike rebuild the deck
  • bleach litter boxes and associated utensils against giardia
  • wash all bedding in the house where a cat might have rested his butt
  • drag unwashable stuff like the cat tree and fancy dog beds outside to sterilize in the sunshine for four days
  • schedule carpet cleaners
  • steam clean vinyl floors
  • sterilize fake wood floor some way that won't ruin it
  • run food and water dishes through the dishwasher
  • wash one reluctant dog and two reluctant cats
  • walk the dog
  • buy groceries
  • coerce cats to eat white mealy stuff in their wet food
  • coerce the teenager to help rebuild the deck

Shit, I couldn't even drive. You really shouldn't drive if you can't look to your right.

What a pain in the neck. My symptoms are a metaphor.

I bought groceries but I used up my good graces with Nick by asking him to drive me to the grocery store. At first he was reluctant but he got pretty quiet when he saw how much it hurt for me to go around left turns. That pretty much eliminated any chance he'd help with the deck though, especially since it was hot and he ran two paper routes for a friend yesterday and didn't stop once for water. Don't tell Mike I messed it up for him.

So, I managed to clean the litter boxes, but I clogged the tub drain with cat litter I thought I'd scraped out of the litter boxes. Don't tell Mike.

Don't tell him that I'm pretty sure I got rid of giardia on the counters, but the cats don't walk on the counters after long and complicated training. I was too freaked out about the parasites that I couldn't help myself. Don't tell Mike I wasted my time. 

Don't tell Mike I didn't wash any bedding, call any carpet cleaners, help with the deck, drag unwashable stuff out into the sun, steam clean, sterilize, wash a reluctant dog. Don't tell Mike I couldn't wash two reluctant cats.

I spent most of the day groaning on ice on the couch and trying not to change positions.

Oh hell. I think Mike knows. I wonder if I used enough bleach in the tub to kill the little parasites I poured out there?

Thank you for listening, jb

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Leaning Slightly Away

Blitz has giardia.

Great, just flaming great.

The creatures are going to board there on vacation in a week and all of them needed some kind of vaccine or test in order to be let in. Blitz only needed a fecal test. I didn't even manage to get a fecal test for Seth yet.

On Sunday night and Monday morning, I cleaned litter boxes five times just to get one clean sample of poop, put into a plastic container and bagged in Ziploc for extra safety. Five times in twelve hours. Five.

So you can see why, when they couldn't get a sample on Seth at the vet's office, I procrastinated the five-times litter box cleaning.

I got the message about giardia last night, too late to call back. So, I looked it up on the CDC website. It's only a small chance that a person can catch giardia from a cat. Small, not nil.

My stomach began to bloat immediately.

"Mike, do you think I have giardia?"

"Probably not."

"But it says here at the CDC that the chances are small, not nothing."

"You probably don't have giardia."

"I bet I've got giardia. Parasites, little creatures swimming around in my stomach, eating my food."

"Have you lost any weight?" he asked looking away from the television at me.

"No, but I just started being lactose intolerant just a few weeks ago."

"You probably don't have giardia."

"But what if I do? Blitz sleeps on me. He rolls in cat litter and comes into bed with me. There are little bits of cat litter on my side of the bed."

"Did you get any cat litter in your mouth?" 

"Ew, no."

And with that, Mike went back to watching his movie. He'd already seen the movie, something with Matt Damon in it. My stomach turned over in my gut. I scooched a little closer to him on the couch for comfort. It might have been my imagination, but it seemed like he leaned away from me, just a tiny bit.

Thank you for listening, jb