What's Not to Laugh?

Almost everything about aging–except grave illness and death–can be funny as well as disturbing. I try to find the funny and help us all get through it!

Archive for the tag “cats”

A visit to the vet, reluctantly

For you first-time readers in this space, my name is Penelope, and I’m a rescue cat. Penelope_softedgesI’ve lived with my adoptive parents over two years now and, much as I hate to admit it, things are pretty good here. Wondering why I hate to admit it? I’m known for my whiny vocals (which Mom calls kvetches; I had to learn a little Yiddish after I came here). I wouldn’t want it too seem like I have nothing legitimate to whine about.

But I am comfy here. Wet food…the Elegant Medley (more expensive) kind, dry food, a litter box that’s scooped several times a day, and two very attentive people who are home much of the time. It’s all good.

Except, that is, once a year, when my parents attempt to take me to the vet for a checkup. They try to be subtle and act like it’s just an ordinary day, but I know something’s up. Maybe it’s that black bag sitting on the floor…the one with the mesh sides and zippers. I remember being in it last year when they took me to the vet. This can’t be anything good. My motto is “You’ll have to catch me first!”

They try. I manage to outrun both of them, even if they’re on opposite sides of the room closing in on me. Dad’s the official catcher though. I give him a good workout, zooming from bedroom to bedroom, down the stairs and up again. When I think he’s getting dangerously close, I scoot under the bed or the sofa, a place neither of them can reach. In fact, they can barely bend down to see if I’m still there.

After this goes on a while, I can hear snippets of a phone conversation Mom is having. “I’m afraid we’ll have to reschedule. We can’t catch Penelope!”

I’ve won another round! Alas, the appointment was rescheduled, and as hard as I tried to win again, I let my guard down for a second, and Dad scooped me up and put me into the black bag. Soon we were on our way.

Although I don’t like other people, the technician and vet were nice to me and very gentle. And I got a compliment! I lost 0.6 pound, and the vet said “Good job!” She may have been talking to my folks, but I’ll except the praise too. After all, I’m the one who scurried around the house and raced up the stairs…an excellent way to trim my tummy.


Who moved my potty?


Something new to kvetch about

Penelope again, checking in. I haven’t had too much to whine about lately…although that never stops me. But recently, my humans did a switcheroo on me. They relocated my potty (known as the litter box to you).

Ever since I joined their household (July 2014), the litter box was in the first floor powder room. It’s an intimate, dark space, perfect for privacy while doing one’s business. The only drawback was that guests also used that space to do their business. But that wasn’t a concern of mine because the mere sight of a guest…or even the ding-dong of the doorbell…has me running into my favorite far-away spot.

I like my mom and dad, but I  refuse to mingle with anyone else. (It looks like I’m terrified of outsiders, but that’s not the case; I just choose not to associate with them.) I had been hoping that guests would decide to avoid sharing a potty room with a feline, even though I’m meticulous in my potty hygiene. (Okay, I’ll admit to getting a little aggressive and flailing around a bit of litter. Just a bit though.) But when everyone leaves and I feel confident that I’ll have privacy again, I enter the room and see the evidence: used paper towels in the wastebasket. Many people have used the room! The only good news? I didn’t see any of them. I was busy hiding…er, sheltering in place…in an upstairs bedroom.

Then, one day not too long ago, my mom called to me while holding my empty potty. “See, Penelope? Your litter box will now be here,” and she set it down next to the washing machine in a little alcove dedicated to laundry. She filled it with litter, relocated all the other equipment that goes with it, and said, “It’s ready now when you are.”


My new (cramped) potty space

Am I ready to change the habits I refined in the last two years? Am I ready to do my business with the sloshing and spinning of the washer and bumping and thumping of the dryer as sound effects?

Do I have a choice? Sure, many of my fellow felines have been known to relieve themselves anywhere and everywhere, but that’s not me. Besides, I depend on the kindness of these two people who feed me, talk to me, give me belly rubs, and most important of all, scoop my poop.

She’s real…honest

As regular readers know, we have a cat. I assume you believe me that we have a cat, her name is Penelope, and she sometimes writes blog posts. (Okay, I understand if you don’t believe that she actually writes those posts, but you do believe that we have a cat…don’t you?)

Why am I asking this question? It seems that the people who have been to our home may be wondering if it’s all a ruse. They may be thinking that we place various cat toys and scatching posts strategically around the house, fill a plastic box with litter, and put out food and water bowls just to keep the ruse going.

Penelope (our real cat, honest) loves us but is terrified of everyone else. At the first ding of the front doorbell, she flies up the stairs and into the most remote snug space she can fit into. She stays in that spot, ignoring her need to use the litter box or her growling stomach, and doesn’t emerge until she’s absolutely certain that the last guest has departed.

If she happens to be on the first floor when somebody comes through the front door, she scurries up the stairs so fast, you’d think you just saw an animated grey streak.

Her current hiding place is a tiny space behind my husband’s Elfa rolling filing cart that’s tucked under his drawing table in his office. It’s impossible to find her there unless you’ve exhausted your search of all the logical and illogical places in the house. To be sure she’s there, you have to lie flat on the floor and look for a glimpse of fur between the legs of the table and wires of the cart.

Nobody can see me here, can they?

Nobody can see me here, can they?

Her most feared guests, I’m afraid, are my twin grandsons. They love cats and have one of their own, Nimbus. But Nimbus, besides being as big as a medium-sized dog, is the coolest, most easy-going cat I’ve ever met. He strolls around the house, rubbing against anyone who happens to be around. He’ll lick your hand and snuggle up against you, never uttering a sound.

The boys, no matter how many times I tell them that Penelope is frightened of strangers, will scour our home trying to find her. If they discover her hiding place, she’ll scurry out of it and look for another. Once, when they were younger, she was trapped under the loveseat in the living room, hissing at one of the boys as he laid on the floor trying to entice her out. That was the first and only hiss we witnessed. It meant she had reached the peak of her terror.

I think they've all gone now. I'm hungry.

I think they’ve all gone now. I’m hungry.

The twins, therefore, can attest to the fact that Penelope is real. But other guests still have their doubts. If you’re one of the doubters, I invite you to cat-sit for us. You may not see Penelope, but eventually you’ll notice that the once-full food bowl is empty and the once-pristine litter box has clumps that need to be scooped. What more proof do you need?

The Q-tip caper

I may go broke over Q-tips. Okay, I’m exaggerating. But something my clever, conniving cat is doing is certainly costing me a little more.

Everyone thinks his or her pet is the smartest, cutest, fastest, most loyal…you name it. But I know our cat, if not the smartest, is in the top ten. Penelope invented a game to keep herself occupied. It’s usually played while I’m in the bathroom, getting ready in the morning or preparing to go to bed in the evening. She’s developed the habit of sitting on the counter watching me wash my face, brush my teeth, and put on makeup. What really fascinates her is the sink. When I turn on the water, she comes very close. Once the water drains, she’ll even put her paws in the wet bowl. But that soon loses its power of engagement. Then the game begins.

Penelope loves Q-tips. I’m not sure why except that they’re sticks (she likes sticks) and have cute little white fluffy globs on each end. I use these swabs to fix eyeliner that’s traveled to the corner of my eyes or mascara that’s smeared on my lid because I’m not getting any younger and my eyesight is waning. If I leave a Q-tip on the counter, she spots it right away. Then she’ll creep over to it and either knock it on the floor or take it in her mouth. In both cases she jumps off the counter and begins to play.

She’s discovered that it’s fun to push the Q-tip under the bath rug and then burrow under the rug to retrieve it. At first, when I saw her trying to get the Q-tip out, I thought she’d accidentally pushed it under the rug, so I helped her by bringing it out. That wasn’t what she wanted. Later, I watched the procedure from the beginning. She was actually pushing it under only to attack the rug to get it out.

This game involves more than one Q-tip. She’s a Q-tip hoarder. One morning, I was about to take a shower and I wanted to straighten out the bath mat. I lifted it and shouted, “Oh, my goodness” at what I saw. I must have shouted a little too exuberantly, because my half-awake spouse called out from the bedroom, “What happened?”

“Nothing important; go back to sleep,” I replied. “But I found 6 Q-tips under the bath mat.”

Penelope's game, step by step.I was running low on Q-tips, and I needed to nip this in the bud (pardon the pun). So the next time I needed one, I used one side of it and then hid it among the cords leading to my lighted magnifying mirror and my Water-Pik. (Getting older requires additional appliances as well as numerous lotions and creams.) Penelope appeared on the counter, as if by magic, mimicking the Cheshire cat in Alice in Wonderland. And just like that, she nosed through the cords and uncovered the Q-tip. I needed a better plan.

I decided to hide the half-used tip in the box that holds my daily makeup and skin care needs, which I take out from under the sink when I need it.  I jammed the Q-tip in among the brown, gray, black, and even purple eyeliner pencils—many of which I never use. This worked well for a couple of days. But yesterday morning I stepped out of the bathroom for a few seconds. When I returned, the pencils were in their usual formation, but the Q-tip was gone. Then I saw it on the rug, Penelope standing guard and looking wide-eyed and innocent. “Mrrrow” was all she could say in her defense. “Tell it to the judge,” I told her, and then took a new Q-tip out of the package.

Disclaimer: No cotton swabs were harmed during these incidents. Or maybe just a few. Also, in case Unilever’s attorneys come knocking on my door, I am actually using the Q-tip® brand cotton swabs. They’re the best!

Cat-to-human dialogue, and vice versa

I think we have the smartest cat that ever existed. I say that having done no research and having had only three cats in my life. Penelope is a chatty cat. No, “chatty” is not the right word. Mostly she kvetches. We hear variations on a theme of whine throughout the day, and sometimes late into the night.

We try to interpret her vocalizations, and there are books available on that topic, but there’s never been a cat who read the book and agreed with the interpretations or loudly proclaimed, “This is poppycock!” (in feline-ese, of course).

I talk to her many times throughout the day. Sometimes she just stops what she’s doing and stares at me. It’s disconcerting because she can out-stare me by several minutes. But most of the time, her reaction is  “Mew. Mew. Mew. MEW!” (Translation: “Why are you talking to me instead of playing with me?”)

When Penelope is grousing, and it’s at—or past—her feeding time, I’ll say, “Do you want some FOOD?” Her response is a very loud “MEOW!” I’m sure she knows what I’m asking her. But, being a cat, she’ll often walk up to the food I’ve put before her and touch it with her nose, then step back, looking at it as if it’s a dish of poison. After making several attempts to bury it (if you’re a cat owner, you know the gesture), she usually goes back and laps it up. I’m convinced this is a ritual designed to let us know who’s the alpha creature in the house.

Penelope’s most common sounds are “mrrrows” rather than “meows,” although she throws in one of those occasionally. And if her immediate need isn’t met, the mrrrows get louder and tinged with anguish. I can’t stand to hear babies and cats cry, so I’m quick to call out to her, “What do you want?” in the hope that she’ll understand and answer in a way I can interpret. She doesn’t and I can’t. But we’ve learned that if we ignore the plaintive cries, she’ll eventually get bored with her own caterwauling and settle down for a snooze.

A kitty kiss in action

A kitty kiss in action

Penelope can also ask questions. Her “Mrow?” comes after we’re doing something that puzzles her, like ending a play session and walking away. My interpretation is, “Where the hell do you think you’re going?” I could be wrong though. Maybe she’s more humble than we think. Maybe what she’s really saying is, “Why did you stop? Was it something I did?” Yeah, right. I have to remember this is a cat, not a dog.

But my favorite Penelope expression is not vocal at all. When I give her a slow blink (the equivalent of a kiss to a cat), she now slowly blinks back. It’s a gesture that makes it easy to forget all her whines of the day. It’s like a young child saying “I love you, Mommy,” right after you caught her scribbling on the coffee table. Who can resist? I can’t. I love that furry little kvetch!

Penelope: I’m bored

Can't you tell I'm bored?

Can’t you tell I’m bored?

I don’t expect anyone reading this to actually help me fight boredom, but since whining (kvetching) is what I do best, I had to write this post. I’m a growing girl (I’ll be 4 years old in July…I think), so I have lots of energy and need lots of stimulation.

And speaking of growing, I’m hearing not-so-kind talk from my owners these days. “She’s getting fat!” is practically a daily announcement. Can I help it if you feed me several times a day? Is it my fault that you put treats in my bowl? Do you hear me distinctly saying, “I’m hungry” or “I need a treat”? I didn’t think so. Nevertheless, if I am putting on the ounces, that’s all the more reason I need outlets for my energy.

For months, I was happy to chase a little red laser beam around the house. It was fun, even if I could never quite catch it. Then, suddenly, it wasn’t fun anymore. I realized the futility of it and decided to give up.

Then there’s the game She’s named Mousie. She tosses one of dozens of catnip mice (I managed to bat most of them under the refrigerator, so there are only a few accessible) across the room, and I run after it. Sometimes She tosses it right at me, and I catch it! I can jump high into the air to make the catch, and She always claps afterward. But then she spoils the moment by adding, “I’m afraid you’re going to get hurt jumping like that!”

I still like playing Mousie, most of the time.

In the bedroom, I have a small cardboard box that’s open on both ends so I can crawl through it. I can also roll around in it and even try to catch a rope that She or He dangles over my head. That’s still fun.

Now that it’s spring, I get to sit by the window and watch the birds dart from tree to tree. If only there was no window screen and window between us, I’d show that feathered creature who’s boss. I also watch as cars drive by and people walking their dogs pass the window. Those dogs think they’re so privileged, getting to run around outside and breathe fresh air. I’ve been outside—when I was homeless on the mean Chicago streets—and it’s not so special. And inside I’m protected from nasty fleas and ticks. Cats have it better! But I digress.

So I have things to do. But…it’s not enough. Please don’t send in suggestions about some of those “self-amusing” cat toys shown on TV. We’ve had a few of them, and I chose to ignore them. What good is any toy without a devoted human to interact with me? I want nothing less than constant attention. Except when I’m napping. Or eating. Or using my litter box.

Most important of all, don’t dare suggest that our household needs another cat for me to play with. I am the only Princess, Cutie Pie, Sweet Patootie, Kitten Kaboodle, and any of those silly names my owners call me. And I don’t share.


Penelope: Things you should know about me

My favorite toys: tissue paper, plastic straws, string, and a cardboard box

I get bored with cat toys and immerse myself in tissue paper, plastic straws, string, and a cardboard box.

I wish my owners would get some new toys for me. The laser pointers and catnip mice are becoming boring.

I scamper away when they try to pet me, but I really love their gentle touch. I crave it. Just do it on my terms, when I’m ready.

I wouldn’t ever want to be in the water, but I’m fascinated by the running water in the bathroom sink. After it goes down the drain, I like to step into the bowl and dampen my paws.

I like my owners a lot—maybe even love them, if I could figure out what love is—but I don’t understand why they can’t devote all their waking hours playing with me.

And speaking of their waking hours…why on earth do they have to sleep at night? Can’t they take cat naps during the day like I do? I’m ready to rock and roll at 10:30 p.m., and they’re turning out the lights!

When I’m running around, bouncing off the walls, and doing somersaults, she calls it a hissy fit. I resent that. None of that activity involves hissing! If they want to see hissing, I’ll show them what it’s like. And it’s not a tantrum either. I’m just showing off my gymnastic prowess.

And speaking of my gymnastic prowess…I keep hearing, “We should enter her in the Kitty Olympics!” But nothing ever comes of it. I doubt there is a Kitty Olympics. It’s just flattery.

I’m a really good girl. I’ve jumped onto the kitchen counter only three times, and I got down as soon as I was reprimanded. When I put my paws on the kitchen tabletop and hear a sharp, “No table!” I get down immediately. I eat all my food, wet and dry, and use my litter box all the time. I don’t even scatter litter everywhere while burying my business like my predecessor did, so I’ve been told.

I’ve been called a “kvetch” because of my daily mournful sounds. Does that mean I’m a Jewish cat? Can you kvetch if you’re not Jewish? And if I’m a Jewish cat, it would be nice if they gave me a bat mitzvah—with lots of luxurious gifts. (In case you’re wondering what to get me, a climbing tower or a nine-lifetime supply of Fancy Feast would be welcome.)

Until next time,


My pet peeves

Hi again. It’s Penelope. I liked the experience of blogging so much (or as much as I like anything) that I thought I’d do it again. This timPenelope_crop2e I’m going to point out the annoying things my owners do. Please don’t misunderstand. I have a good life with them, and I’m reasonably happy. But it could be so much better

if She would just call me Penelope and stop using those insipid cutesy names. All day long I hear, “Hi, Sweet Patootie!” or “Here’s my Lover Dover.” And there’s “Kitten Caboodle” and “Cutie Pie” and “Baby Girl.” Okay, I get it. She loves me and finds me adorable. That’s good, but for heaven’s sake, I’m an adult cat! Three-and-a-half years old (or thereabouts)! I don’t know what that is in people years, but it sure isn’t a baby or even a toddler. Let’s have some mature name-calling here.

if they would not go off and leave me at times during the day. I don’t mind it so much when one of them leaves, although I manage to have that forlorn look that makes the person leaving feel guilty. I’ve perfected it. But sometimes both of them are gone at the same time. For several hours. Do they even think about how I feel with nobody to play with? I have toys, sure, but they’re no fun without someone waving them in front of me or chasing me while I run after the laser dot.

if they wouldn’t go to bed at night just when I’m feeling most vigorous and playful. I try to make my feelings known by bouncing on and off the bed, catching pieces of blanket with my back claws as I go. But do they change their minds and get up to pay attention to me? Of course not.

if they would stop scolding me for scratching the furniture and rugs. This isn’t their first cat. They must know that a cat has needs, and one of them is to sharpen those claws wherever and whenever. Besides, I rarely make any holes in the upholstery. Or pull up threads in the rug. And I think the “you have a cat, don’t you?” decor is trending.

My owners are not young, so teaching them new tricks may be a lost cause. Plan B is to be so loveable and charming that they can’t bear to leave me and will eagerly devote their days (and nights) to my needs. I think I have a chance.

Don’t call me Penny

My name is Penelope. Not Penny. Not Pen. Not even Nelope, a name my female owner is fond of because she’s too lazy to say all four syllables. I’m a cat.

I’ve heard that my predecessor, the late great Maude, blogged here from time to time. I’m usually so busy chasing catnip mice, following laser pointers, and looking out the front window, I wasn’t sure I’d have time to post my thoughts here. But I don’t want to disappoint former Maude followers, so here I am.

I’ve had a rough early life. It started to get better when the Animal Control people found me and my six kittens wandering around the streets of Chicago.Penelope_closeup2 It certainly didn’t seem better at the time. I didn’t know where they were taking us or what would happen! But it turned out well. We were brought to Heartland Animal Shelter and our lives began to get better. Well, mine didn’t immediately get better. I had to undergo surgery…something called spaying. Then I had to have a rabies shot. Ouch. And I had to stay in a cage until I got the rabies shot to keep me away from all the other cats who were roaming around our room. They got to climb and jump and get petted by strangers while I stayed in a wire container with my food and litter box.

But I’m pretty—or so I’m told—so some folks were interested in adopting me. One of them was a shelter volunteer who would have snapped me up in a minute if she didn’t already have two cats at home. It’s just as well. I don’t mind being the new cat, but two others are too much competition.

Then this couple came in and stuck their hands in my cage. I sniffed them. Not bad. I poked at them a little too, but I didn’t put my claws out, and I guess they saw that as a good sign. About a week later, they came in again, signing papers and clutching a carrier. The male held me, and I burrowed my head into his arm. Both of them marveled at how affectionate and docile I seemed and were sure they made the right choice.

I didn’t like the ride home very much. I was put into the carrier (I hate those things!) and sat on her lap while he drove. I’m glad their home is close to Heartland because I’m not fond of riding in a car…especially confined to a zipped-up bag.

When we got home, they put me into a little room that had a clean litter box, a stuffed toy, and a water dish. I saw my chance to hide because a cabinet in the room had a little space under it. I stayed in that little space for about a half-hour.

When they came to check on me, I not only emerged from my hiding place, but I left the room. I sidled up to each of them, letting them pet my head and neck. Then I started to explore the house. There were so many interesting things to try: Stairs to scamper up. Bathroom counters to jump up on. A dining room table to sit on for the few seconds it took them to say “No!”

So here I am in what I hope is my forever home. The first few weeks were tough—for them. If they had asked, and if I were able to speak Human, I would have told them that I wasn’t really that docile little girl they thought I was. After that first day, I wouldn’t let them pet me. If either of them approached, I ran away. But I did want attention, so I mewed and mrrowed all day. When I didn’t get immediate attention, I whined. Yes, cats can whine. It’s all in the drawn-out mournful tone.

I especially did this when they were sleeping (with were being the important word here). At 3:00 in the morning, I’d start complaining. I did this a little too much because soon their bedroom door was closed to me. I began clawing at the door to see if I could get it open myself. That didn’t last long either.

I could sometimes hear them discussing me, and I heard a dreaded phrase: “Back to the shelter.” I couldn’t let that happen, so slowly I began to relax a little and allow myself to be petted—but just for a few seconds. And I moved my middle-of-the-night whining up to 4:00, then closer to 5.

Now I sleep part of the night on their bed and only carry on and walk all over them when I’m very hungry. I think I’ve adapted very well and have succeeded in training my owners to meet my needs. To date we have four laser pointers, five different bags of cat treats, too many catnip mice to count (most are under the furniture now, thanks to me), and a cute bird feeder affixed to the front window. This is for my amusement…once the weather gets warmer and the birds come back.

I think they’ll keep me. And I will certainly keep them!


Cat shopping

Nobody likes to be sad and melancholic, and my husband and I have been feeling that way for over a week after the loss of our adorable cat Maude. We could do the practical thing, the smart thing, like wait to adopt another cat until 1) we have the carpet and furniture cleaned, 2) we make up for the travel we missed when Maude was sick, and 3) we give ourselves a breather and a chance to deal with the loss. But who says we’re practical and smart?

We’re lonely. So yesterday we drove around for hours looking for cat shelters. I didn’t realize that adoption hours are restricted to, say, 4:00 p.m. until 7, or 9:00 a.m until noon. We turned up at the wrong time at two different places. There was a third we identified, but I read several negative online reviews and decided we should skip it.

The one that was open for pet viewing at the time we arrived there happened to be the shelter where my family and I adopted a cat in the 70s. He wasn’t a great pet, but that’s just the chance you take when you adopt a kitten. We walked inside, and since we had been in the car so long, I had to use the restroom. I asked the guy reading the newspaper at the front desk if they had a public restroom. “We do, but it’s not working,” was his reply. This set the tone for my impression of the place. I had no memories of what the shelter looked like long ago, but yesterday the smells and overall seediness of the place were off-putting. We looked at a few sorrowful cats in their cages and then got out of there as fast as we could.

We went for a late lunch and discussed our options. It was unanimous: We would go to the 4 till 7 place in the early evening.

That place was Heartland Animal Shelter, only a short drive from home. What a difference! First, they ask you to sign in and wear a visitor badge. Before seeing any of the animals, you must wash your hands. I was impressed.

When we walked into the young and adult cat area (there’s a separate space for kittens), most of the cats were out of their cages. That serves to give the cats some needed exercise and allow potential adopters to interact with them. It was hard to keep track of who was who since they were out of the cages that were marked with their names, ages, and personality traits. The shelter volunteers name each cat they take in unless it was someone’s pet and already has a name. Some of them are funny, like Purris Hilton, Spazter, or Cindy Clawford. Some are cute names that we would probably stick with if we adopted that cat.

We spotted one that we had seen online—a gorgeous girl who is now 7-and-a-half years old. We wondered if that was too close to being an “old” cat who is more likely to become ill. We’d had enough of that worry and expense for a long while. But she is lovely and gentle. She’s also very large. We got used to our little princess Maude, who was never more than 10 pounds. Then there were a cute pair who must be adopted together. Could we handle two cats? Two litter scoopings each time, two times the food, two times the vet bills? Maybe not. But there’s the advantage of not feeling so guilty if you return home a little late because, after all, they have each other for company.

We were nowhere near a decision, although the 7+-year-old was a favorite. We took an application home and said we’d return this evening. I had a hard time falling asleep last night. I tried to imagine one of those cats in our home, and kept thinking about Maude. Each cat is different, and we need to accept that.

So where are we in our decision? Not much further ahead. We’re going to Heartland this evening, and we’ll see what our hearts tell us when we view all the sweet felines again. Watch this space.

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