Our Radioactive Cat

We have two senior cats. One of those cats, Buck, has had a lot of health issues over the years, including heart problems, digestive issues and a blood clot. He’s likely on eight of his nine lives and can add another health problem to his long list: hyperthyroidism.

Thankfully this can be fixed with an expensive radioactive iodine therapy. He’s such a sweet cat that I thought we owed him a chance, plus the alternative treatments, a special diet or pills, just won’t work well for him.

Waiting for food.

Radioactive iodine therapy involves one shot and several days at a treatment facility to let the radioactivity levels subside. It doesn’t cause the cat any pain, but they can’t be around people or other animals for a few days. When he gets back we have to minimize contact with him for awhile and scoop out his litter into a bucket that has to sit for a few weeks before we can dispose of it.

I’ve never been to a vet as organized and efficient as the folks doing this treatment, Advanced Veterinary Medical Imaging in Tustin. They send a daily spreadsheet update, call frequently and there’s even a webcam in Buck’s cage which has allowed us to watch him beg for food and hide from the vet techs. I really wish our human health system in the country spent a little more money on communicating with patients and families. It would make life easier for everyone including our overworked doctors and nurses.

Mr. Buck came to us over a decade ago as a kitten from a neighbor who found him unconscious in a driveway. I feel privileged to have lived with this feline in all his ups and downs and when the time came to make the decision on this treatment I didn’t think about it long. We’re fortunate to be able to afford it and I felt an obligation to make whatever time we have left with him as comfortable as possible.

Until this absence this week, I didn’t fully realize what a presence he is, the way he bosses the dog, the other cat and even us around. The house is haunted by his absence, by the way he bangs on the window by the bed to wake me up at 5:30 for breakfast, his nocturnal zooms and his conspicuous midday napping.

Mr. Grumpy Needs a Home

Have a place in your heart and home for a sweet little cat? Got a text from some cat rescue folks I met recently:

Grumpy, our foster, is very far from grumpy. We had been feeding him in an alley near our home and thought he was feral, but when we trapped him we discovered he is friendly! He is the sweetest boy; a true lap cat. He is about 2 years old (estimated). Grumpy would love nothing more than to spend his most of his time snoozing on his owner’s lap. He isn’t super frisky or active, but he does play with wand toys. He is friendly with other cats, non-aggressive. When confronted with aggression, he hides rather than fights back. So he would benefit from a calmer environment, maybe a single person or a childless couple, who spend a lot of time at home and want a best friend like Grumpy. He could be in a multi cat household as long as it wasn’t more than a couple cats. He would be an excellent companion. He is very loyal, loving and snuggly.

Grumpy was neutered at FixNation, received shots, flea treatment. will be given dewormer treatment, and he tested negative for FelV/FIV1. One notable characteristic is his distinct limp – it’s likely he had an old injury on his front left leg which caused this. He had x rays and exams by two vets- there are no visible or palpable fractures, and there is no muscle atrophy, meaning he still uses the leg. So even though he limps, it won’t require any further treatment. He gets around just fine.

He is a special cat who has been through a lot (likely dumped on the street by a previous owner) and he needs a wonderful home. For any potential adopters, we will want to do a home check either in person or by video, and have a meet-and-greet at our home so we can see how they interact with Grumpy. Any renters will need to provide landlord’s contact info so we can verify that pets are allowed. A few character references will also be required, or I can take your word for it if you’ve known someone a long time.

Send me an email at [email protected] if you’d like to adopt Mr. Grumpy and I’ll put you in touch with the rescue folks. If you can’t adopt Mr. Grumpy please send this post around.

A Litter Box Enclosure

With great hubris, allow me to toss my thinking cap into the realm of litter box design. I say hubris because only the cat that has the right to hold an opinion on the form, location and orientation of any litter box.

Commercially available litter boxes I believe, and I think our cat friends would agree, are made for the convenience of humans and the profits of the pet store industrial complex. Nobody talked to the cats about them. Most are too small and they’re all ugly. For years we’ve been using a 28-inch by 15-inch plastic storage bin. It worked fine from the cat’s perspective, but stray litter gets kicked around and behind the box, staining the bathroom floor and walls where the litter box resides. Frankly, it’s gross.

So I set about to make a larger box in which to house the same plastic tray. Essentially, I enclosed the plastic tray with an open topped box with a circle cut out so that cats won’t have to jump over the box (they are in their senior years). The tray fits inside an inner shelf to prevent loose litter from falling down into the bottom of the box.

I had grand visions of a neo-classical litter box temple housing the aforementioned tray but this vision got simplified in the interest of ticking off a long requested project on the honey-do list. My table saw and router table made fabrication quick and easy.

In some ways we’re the worst possible test for this litter box concept. We have two cats who have never had an indiscretion outside the litter box in the over 11 years we’ve had them. I’m aware that some cats react with horror and anger at an ever so slight change in litter box placement or aesthetics, as if even an errant moon beam hitting a slightly moved box will cause a fit of piss fueled revenge.

Should this box fail in any way I promise to be a good blogger and post an immediate update. Wish us luck.

No Tweets Just Cats

I’m in the midst of an experimental one month digital detox as suggested by Cal Newport in his book Digital Minimalism. During this period I’m giving up the Twitters which usually forms the basis of a set of links I post on Saturday. Twitter has devolved into a way of monetizing people yelling at each other and I’m not missing it. I may look at it again, or I may figure out another way to do the link feature. At this point, I don’t know. But I’m happy to report my attention span, last fully appreciated in the pre-web 1990s, is slowly returning. I can now read long chapters of Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow without the urge to look for cat memes on my phone.

Speaking of cat memes, in lieu of a set of tweets please enjoy this shot of the sort of power catnapping that happens around our household every afternoon. Now turn away from your screen and go pet a real cat.

A Brief History of Cat Art

Cat drawing by Arthur Tomson.

The cat art meme lords of the present day interwebs aren’t anything new. Over the weekend I was thumbing through a digital copy of the 1894 issue of The Studio an Illustrated Magazine of Fine and Applied Art, a highbrow art, architecture and craft periodical published in England and the U.S. between the years 1893 and 1925. After several hundred pages of some daring, racy and avant-garde stuff I was surprised to find a review of an exhibition of the cat art of a Mr. Arthur Tomson,

It has been recognised that he has, amongst contemporary painters of cats, eminently succeeded in expressing the suppleness of their action, their grace, and fascinating waywardness. His illustrations to a charming book of poems “Concerning Cats,” contributed to and selected by Graham R. Tomson, at once placed him in the ranks of the masters of this particular branch of animal painting. Those who are acquainted with the work of Burbank, the English painter of cats, Gottfried Mind, called the Raphael of cats, Hokusai, the Japanese genius, the Dutch artist Cornelius Wisscher, Delacroix, whose sketch-books were full of studies of cats, and J. J. Grandville, will understand how completely Mr. Tomson’s work justifies the position it takes amongst the work of these artists.

Would that the latest edition of Art Forum dedicated a few paragraphs to the contemporary masters of cat art. Not wanting to wait for that slim possibliity, I thought I’d take a closer look at the review’s short list of cat artists of the past.

Gottfried Mind painting.

Let’s start with Gottfried Mind (1768 – 1814) the “Raphael of cats.” An autistic painting prodigy, Mind painted cats not from life but from memory hours after he saw witnessed their antics. Other than the occasional bear, Mind focused almost exclusively on cats.

Katsushika Hokusai 葛飾 北斎 (1760-1849) painted a lot more than just cats. His work reached the West at a time when there was an interest in all things Japanese.

Cornelius Visscher 1629-1658 was a Dutch Golden Age engraver. His 1657 print Cat Sleeping has a bit of an Albrecht Dürer vibe.

Eugène Delacroix (1798-1863) is the most famous of this short list of cat artists. He liked to fill the margins of his sketchbooks with cats and, as you can see from the examples above, his work shows the hand of a masterful artist.

J. J. Grandville (1803-1847) a French caricaturist, wins the award for wacky. His anthropomorphic cat series makes him the best candidate for the title of 19th century cat meme lord.

I couldn’t find much info on the English painter “Burbank” mentioned in the article other than this frontispiece based on his work. Update: Root Simple reader Annie tracked down Burbank for me. She says,

I believe “Burbank” is J. M. Burbank:

A Favourite Cat

The Gourmand

There is a bit about “A Favourite Cat” here:

And this book has a section on Burbank

Thanks Annie!

Beyond the cat-centricness of this post, if you’re looking for a few hours to kill I can’t recommend The Studio enough. You can find the whole shebang here. Notable is how seriously the editors considered the art of casual pencil drawing, since it was a skill more people practiced in a time before cheap, candid photography. Also notable is how risqué the art of the Fin de siècle period was.