So I’m happy to report that Rumi is adjusting to both his life vest and leash surprising well.
The two of us have gotten into the routine of spending about 20-30 minutes exploring the marina together when I knock off from work for the day. In fact if I ask Rumi if he “wants to go outside”, he’ll start excitedly jabbering, go stand expectantly at the front door, and hold perfectly still until I snap his life vest on.
What’s really shocked me, though, is his attitude toward the leash. My cat prior to Rumi viewed a leash as a complete affront to his feline person-hood. Rumi, on the other hand, seems to think of it more as a safety line. I am expected to be firmly attached to the other end of it at all times when we’re outside.
If something happens and the leash slips out of my hand (say, when I’m trying to snap a photo) he’ll stop in his tracks until I pick up the other end again. And if I should be foolish enough to drop it more than once in a session, I get a look of sour disapproval over a cat shoulder which I can only translate as meaning something close to: “Sheesh! What kind of cat owner are you?! My safety and wellbeing are at stake here. Hang on to that thing, already!”
Rumi is getting pretty comfortable with the homes and floats but he’s still a little uneasy about meeting people in the marina if he’s not standing on his own deck. His favorite time to go exploring on the ramps is a weekday afternoon when hardly anyone is out and about.
Perhaps our biggest adventure to-date is when one of my neighbors left one of the marina wheelbarrows outside my front door. Rumi immediately hopped inside and the two of us were happily trundling him up and down the rampways–right up until my neighbor Dan ran into us on his way home for lunch. At that point, Rumi wanted both out of the wheelbarrow and back to be safely back home NOW.
I’m still not certain he entirely gets just how much water is around us. Some days he seems perfectly aware of the fact and others he spaces it. For example, when he’s busy watching ducks, he’s perfectly capable of walking straight off the ramp if I’m not careful to rein in his leash. He’s also totally fascinated by the boats docked out front. Especially the kayaks and canoes.
When the river goes down more later this summer and it’s standing height out front of my house, I’m contemplating doing a controlled splash into the river to make sure the kitty “gets” it. But I’m not that brave yet. But watching my neighbor two door’s down’s dachshund happily paddle by in the same exact life vest makes me wonder if Rumi might someday get to that point. At the very least, it would be good if he didn’t completely lose his mind if he ever fell in. I’ll have to give it some more thought.
This past week is the first time we’ve hit 90+ degree weather since I moved in. Like many places in Portland, my little place does not currently have air conditioning. I didn’t think this would be a huge issue considering the fact that I’m sitting in the middle of a river with some of the best wind in the world.
Unfortunately, I’m learning that the lovely windows I added which only open in the bottom portions so as not to obstruct the view of the river are not as good for ventilation as I had hoped. Moreover, I can’t leave my front door open like most of the marina residents do because Rumi is all-too-happy to go out and explore without supervision if I’m not paying close enough attention. (It would really help a lot if I still had a screen over my front door.)
My plan is to eventually add a small, split-system AC unit but that probably won’t happen until next summer. In the meantime, Rumi and I are spending a lot of quality time this week either under the ceiling fan in my living room, or, when it’s gotten really bad, in front of my open refrigerator.
If this keeps up I have a feeling I’m going to be developing a deep and meaningful relationship with my ice cube tray.
As it is, I’ve been taking a lot of ice-temperature showers and Rumi has gotten to the point that he’ll actually ask me to wet him down under the kitchen sink.
The temperature is supposed to break on Monday. I can’t wait.
Rumi’s water life vest just arrived in the mail today. I decided to go with a design from Ruff Wear. I liked that their design used actually flotation material rather simply air inflation and also that it had a handle to haul him out of the water if he ever got into trouble. (Thank you to the Coming Unmoored readers who made this suggestion!)
I’m trying to ease the poor little guy into it slowly. Rumi was showing signs of stress as it went on, so for his first wearing, it stayed on just long enough for me to grab a quick photo with my iPhone and for him to receive some encouraging cuddling and a treat for suffering through such indignity.
I think I’m going to have to get him to start associating wearing the vest with getting to do cool things like I had to do with his halter.
I promise more pictures once he starts to get a little more comfortable in it. Clearly, I need to adjust some of the straps so it fits a little better on him. But I think it should work with a couple of tweaks.
Some days home renovations are easier than others. For example, I was just getting ready to get rid of the extra kitchen cabinet I removed when Rumi decided it was the new official Cat Cave.
In spite of him bonding with the cabinet, I did finally get rid of it after stubbing my toe on it one too many times during the night. I’m still getting a major guilt trip and sulks from the cat, though…
I have a feeling if feline-human relations continue to devolve, I may end up smothered in my sleep some night not too far off. (Especially if he can figure out how to use the bottle opener by himself.)
Time for some major sucking-up to the kitten methinks.
The upside of having traumatized my cat with the plane flight to Portland was that introducing him to my floating home was relatively non-eventful by comparison. Well, at least to start, anyway.
By the time we made it past two airplane flights, one metal detector, one determinedly-helpful Texan, two beers, a 20 minute car ride, and a series of marina ramps in the Oregon rain, Rumi was more-than-happy to be out of his carrier inside something at least vaguely house-like in appearance.
This charitable attitude lasted about twenty minutes into him casing the joint. Then he started to ask increasingly pointed questions Non-cat-owners may be skeptical about my ability to translate a Balinese, but for the believers amongst you, the chatter went along the following lines:
“Oh thank Bastet! We’re back inside. Hey, check this out! There’s even a litter box. Was wondering when I might see one of those. Pardon me for a second, here… Ah. Much better.
Now how’s a chap supposed to get something to eat around here? Oh, I see. Kibble over here. And water. Mrpmh! Chomp. Slurp. Uh, you don’t happen to have a beer lying around anywhere, perchance? Oh well. No worries. This will have to do for now.
So where in the world are we exactly? Oh never mind. You’re no help. You don’t even know where they keep the beer here. And if I ask you, you’re likely to stuff me back in that dreadful carrier. (Sniff.) I’ll just have to check things out for myself.
Interesting. Interesting. Hmm. Smells like birds. (Dinner, perhaps?) Oh, hey! A koosh! Don’t know where it’s been, though. Better drop it in the water bowl. You can never be too safe about that sort of thing…
Hmm. Nice views out the window. Warm spot of sun. No small children or dogs in sight. Not too bad, all things considered… just… where exactly is the REST of the house? And where did they put the furniture? How’s a cat supposed to nap around here?”
At which point I received an inquisitive yowl of inquiry and piercing blue-eyed stare. And no matter how many ways I tried to explain that the two rooms and bathroom were all there was, he simply didn’t seem to get it.
Rumi spent most of the first night walking a puzzled circle through the doors of the house trying to figure out where the other rooms had got off to. About every fifth lap through the house he’d stop by the sleeping loft, stuff his paw up my nose long enough to wake me up and inquire again about what exactly was the deal with the place.
Sometime around 4 AM I decided it probably was a really good thing I hadn’t bought a Tumbleweed or Rumi would have found himself stuffed down the compost toilet in my desperation to get a few hours sleep.
Oddly enough, the fact that our new home was situated on the water didn’t register at all with the cat at all until Day 2.
Just before lunch, Rumi was lazing on a sunny window ledge in the front room when a fishing trawler roared by at top speed.
Rumi’s ears flattened and his eyes bugged out of his angular little head. “That’s a BOAT. What the freak is a BOAT doing tearing through our front yard?!”
And before I could field that question, the wake from the boat hit the house, rocking it violently from side to side.
Rumi hastily scuttled from the window sill to the floor where he did his best impression of a two-dimensional object until the worst of the rocking had stopped. Then he looked up at me in abject horror. “Oh you have GOT to be kidding me! You’re telling me we’re on water? WATER?!!” he finished with a squeak.
I tried to scoop Rumi up into my lap to comfort him but he was having none of it. Instead, he scurried to his carrier and tucked himself inside. If he could have figured out the zipper I’m pretty sure he would zipped himself in, too.
Managing to reassemble some small modicum of dignity, he blinked once sagely and then informed me: “You can take me back to the airport, now.”
Needless to say, Rumi spent most of Day 2 having the feline version of a nervous breakdown. I guess that’s understandable considering he’d just discovered his new home was built upon the most hated (to him) substance on the planet. And I, the one who was usually at his every beck and call, was the one who’d taken him into this very personal version of Cat Hell.
I think what probably saved our relationship was the ducks.
Sometime in the late afternoon of Day 2, our local momma duck and seven ducklings swam lazily by. Rumi was able to catch a glimpse of them from within the confines of the carrier. He might have been able to resist Momma Duck by herself even though she was, by far, the biggest bird he’d ever seen. But the ducklings were just too much.
Rumi was back up in the windowsill chattering in monosyllabic feline lust before he knew what hit him. And even after they drifted away he had no interest in going back into the carrier. He was just so blown away by what he’d seen.
That ended up being the only duckling sighting on Day 2, but a heron swam by about fifteen minutes later. And then a Pomeranian in a kyak a little after that. That pretty much clinched the deal. Grudgingly, he told me it might be okay if we hung around and checked things out for a few days. I just wasn’t to go getting any crazy ideas about baths being okay for cats while I was on this whole water kick..
Since then, Rumi’s favorite place to hang out is in the window by my desk. Periodically he’ll ask me “Will you get a look at this?”
I suspect we may have just found his personal version of cable TV.
(For the die-hard Rumi fans, I’ve attached some rough footage of both Rumi and the ducklings below. Be forewarned that I’m still trying to figure out how to manage the camera without making viewers seasick. Especially when juggling a leash at the same time.)
For those of you who don’t happen to follow me on Twitter, I flew Rumi up from Albuquerque to Portland this past Tuesday. It proved to be a bit of a day. For both of us.
Just in case you’ve missed the references in the past, Rumi is my one-year-old, bat-eared, Balinese cat. He’s quite spoiled and he has all the survival instincts of a developmentally-challenged lemming. He’s also quite the character, as my friends in Tucson and Albuquerque can attest to.
The beginning of the adventure was when I discovered that the ticket to stuff Rumi under the seat in front of me costs $15 more than my own. My friend Amber pointed out after-the-fact that I should have just bought Rumi his own seat. (Which, in fact, he ended up having anyway because the plane was so empty. We had a whole aisle to our self.) I have no idea why an airline feels compelled to charge $115 for the right to stuff a cat under a seat. I can’t imagine they have much additional costs involved with having a cat there rather than a purse. Admittedly, they do have to track how many on-board pets they have so that they don’t inadvertently set one of their allergic passengers into an asthmatic fit. However, I suspect the pricing is a lot more about lets-take-advantage-of-a-captive-market situation.
Anyway, the next step in the adventure was getting Rumi into his carrier the morning of the flight. Charlie recently had to drop Rumi off at the vet to get his teeth cleaned and the process took him 45 minutes. It was not at all pretty. (Believe me, I heard about it from both the boyfriend and the cat after the fact.)
So, needless to say, Charlie was dumbstruck when I simply scooped up Rumi, dropped him in the carrier, and smoothly zipped the thing up on the first try. I, of course, attributed this feat to my remarkable rapport with animals. The truth of the matter, however, is that Rumi is less awake at 4 AM than most caffeine-dependent humans I know.
You better believe he woke up in a hurry after that, however. In his world, little black cat carrier = nothing he’s going to like as a next stop. By the time I was ready to load the carrier into the car, it was busy bouncing around the living room as though I had the Tasmanian Devil packed inside, and the wails of dismay issuing from the carrier were fluctuating over a three octave range. I swear I could have opened the windows on my Mini and been mistaken for an emergency vehicle we were so loud.
Rumi finally settled down about the point I reached the airport.
Checking him in was uneventful and even a little amusing when they issued him his own little kitty boarding pass. The security line was another story entirely.
I just want to go on record and say that whatever nimrod at Homeland Security who wrote the requirement that all pets now have to go through the metal detector with their owners has never had to stuff a hysterical seven-pound cat back into a carrier when they are quite clear about the fact that they didn’t want to be there in the first place.
I normally try to wear comfortable clothes when I fly. Based on my experiences this week, I don’t recommend this approach for anyone traveling with a cat.
Tuesday morning I was wearing a pair of yoga pants, a white tank top, and a hoodie. Nevermind that I’ve been allowed through the Albuquerque metal detector wearing the same hoodie on multiple occasions before. This time I was asked to take it off. Because, God knows, on top of my Weapon-of-Mass-Destruction Balinese, I might have explosives or some such nonsense in the zipper of my hoodie.
Long story short, I normally only wear white tank tops under another piece of clothes in lieu of a bra, so I was showing a lot more skin in the security line than I felt comfortable. And then I had to pull Rumi from his carrier. Rumi clung to me for dear life as we went through the metal detector together. So there I was trying to cradle my cat to me with one hand and keep my tank top from being yanked down to my bellybutton with the other. I was only about half successful on both accounts.
Things only got worse on the other side, when it came to trying to get Rumi back into his carrier. He was hanging on to my shirt for dear life and I just about lost my top entirely trying to peel him off my body, much to the amusement of the security guards–none of whom were willing to offer any sort of assistance.
I’ll be eternally grateful to the Texan businessman in the line behind me who helped me save what little was left of my modesty by helping me disentangle Rumi from my shirt and get him back into his carrier. He kindly explained to me he had a cat back home he really missed but whom he suspected would be even less acomodating to flying than my “little treasure”. (Ladies, anyone who doesn’t think knights in shining armor can show up in Stetsons has never met this guy.)
Thankfully, the rest of the trip was fairly uneventful. Rumi eventually reached the conclusion that things inside his carrier were far less scary that things happening outside. And by the second flight he’d recovered enough of his equilibrium that he worked his usually charm on the stewardesses. They actually offered to bring him his own beer when they caught me letting him sneak sips off mine and, at the end of the fligh,t they awarded him plastic wings.
Suffice to say, by the time Rumi and I reached my place in Oregon, all either of us wanted to do was take a long nap which probably helped ease the transition somewhat to the floating home.
In the interest of time, I’ll go ahead and freely admit that, no, I do not have any children, and, yes, I tend to treat my 1 1/2-year-old Balinses cat, Rumi, like the spoiled only-child I never had. The one time he was in any kind of jeopardy, I pretty much lost my mind. I fully embrace my status as a Crazy Cat Lady and have already been given the appropriate action figure by friends, so let’s just move past these points and continue on to the subject at hand…
Rumi has been raised entirely indoors and has less survival instincts than an developmentally-delayed lemming. Moreover, when they were handing out the feline attributes of agility and grace, I think he was busy going back through the line for a second helping of caterwauling, because he’s the most clumsy cat I’ve ever met. My cat has been witnessed by more than one friend tripping over a line in a tile floor. He also thinks that his monthly “bath”–in which I wipe him down with a washcloth moistened with a spray-on cat dry bath solution–is the worst conceivable thing that could ever possibly happen to him. There’s wailing and mock fainting fits for hours afterward.
All of these factors combined makes me more than a little nervous that I’m about to move Rumi into a tiny floating home which is surrounded by the Colombia River on all sides. I was very careful that when I had new windows installed in the place to order ones with built in screens. But there’s still the possibility that he might one day try to sneak out either the front or back door when they’re open. And when that happens, I worry about him ending up in the water.
In preparation for moving him up to Portland, I’ve been doing a lot of reading about how liveaboard sailers manage the safety of their pets. Many sailboat owners with cats will leave a towel or rope ladder draped over the side of their ship. That way, if a cat falls overboard, they have something to help pull themselves back on board. Unfortunately, my cat has no front claws and I’m not sure he has the agility to manage a rope ladder. (Although, I’ll may put them out front and back just the same if they don’t present the risk of trapping detritus from the river. I need to do more research on that point.)
I’ve been hunting for some sort of sensor that could be attached to Rumi’s collar that would emit an alarm should it ever come in contact with water. If anyone knows of a device like this for pets, please let me know because, so far, I haven’t had much luck finding one. The closest thing I’ve found so far are wristbands intended for children that are listed as weighing a pound. That seems like it might be overkill for my seven pound cat even for an over-protective cat mother like me. (Admittedly, wearing something that heavy would certainly slow him down a bit in a mad dash for freedom. But once the little bugger hit water, I could just see him drowning from the damn thing.)
I’ve also thought about trying to set up some sort of sonic fence over the two doors to try to encourage Rumi to stay inside. I’m not thrilled at the idea of zapping my cat anytime he gets too close. Especially as slow as he is when it comes to learning what he’s not supposed to do. But I may end up setting one up.
So far, the thing I find that comes the closest to addressing my concerns of trying to prevent my precious baby from drowning pet life preservers. Yes, they do in fact make them for both dogs and cats. I’m not the only over-protective pet parent out there. I’m just not sure it’s practical to have my cat spend the rest of his life wearing one as a safety precaution in case me might someday get out and fall in. I could however, see making him wear one if I ever let him come outside on a leash.
In case this information might be useful for someone else, I’ve listed several suppliers of pet life preservers below:
While it pains me to admit it, I’m aware that not all of my friends are as enamored with my cat as I am. So I’m trying hard to limit myself to about a picture a week. Here’s my favorite from the past week…
When I first started to sort through my books, packing some and setting some aside to turn in for credit, Rumi thought the process of was great fun. There were lots of new boxes to hop in and out of, dusty shelves to explore, piles of books to kick over when Mom wasn’t looking. But after two days of this, the kitten hit overload. He crawled onto the loveseat (his favorite comfort spot), wrapped his tail around himself, and proceeded to suck his paw for a couple of hours.
I’ve reached the overload point a few times myself already and could completely empathize. It made for a cute picture, though. (Now if I can just figure how to take a picture of him with both the flash on and his eyes open.)
And while I’m at it, here’s the journal entry on how Rumi came to enter my life…
So I went to check out the Balinese breeder on Sunday afternoon and, naturally, I returned home with a kitten. (Duh.)
He started off as the geekiest, most serious little kitten I’ve ever met. I’m not exactly sure why we bonded other than he looked up at me with the biggest pair of blue eyes in absolute, abject horror at his situation. I was pretty much feeling the same way about the whole thing. I think we bonded over the feeling of: “Holy sh-t. How did we end up here??”
So much for my theory that breeders produce healthier, better socialized kittens. This lady definitely qualified as the Crazy Cat Lady with w-a-y too many damn cats. She’s an MD and somehow I expected better than that.
Her place is way out by the Saguaro National Monument. Apparently this was so she could build the “cat house” of her dreams without her neighbors getting upset. I never actually saw the cat house where the un-neutered males were. I suspect that’s a blessing in disguise.
The main house literally has an airlock configuration with two doors that will not open simultaneously. This is to keep the waves of cats INSIDE the house. And it really was an ocean of cats. You couldn’t move without currents of creatures drifting and wending past your legs.
In contrast, the family room was a forest of 7′ scratching posts all ripe with kitties that dropped to the ground at random intervals.
The place was a complete, feline madhouse. When the wrong cat drifted into the wrong 3 foot x 3 foot invisible grid of territory much yowling and hissing would ensue until equilibrium was restored.
I had driven from Sierra Vista and made the mistake of asking if I could use a restroom. There were empty litter boxes stacked up from floor to ceiling along the wall with the bathtub. As far as I could tell that was the only bathroom in the house. God knows where she bathes.
One of the kittens she tried to introduce me to was completely feral. Picture someone taking the Tasmanian Devil and dropping it without warning into your lap and you pretty much have the scene. The kitten took a good chunk out of my hand before I could get out of the way. I’ve been disinfecting the bite several times a day and popping antibiotics at home because the kitten hasn’t had her full set of immunizations yet. If I go to the doctors, they will have to report it. That means at least the kitten, and possibly several others would have to be quarantined to confirm she doesn’t have rabies. So far so good and no infection.
The little boy I bonded with initially didn’t want to be handled as well. But then he realized my lap was a relative point of calm in the sea of chaos, hunkered down, and didn’t want to leave. So he sat there hiding, nothing more than batwing ears and wide blue eyes showing in my lap, while I quietly dripped blood from my bite onto the tile floor.
If all that wasn’t enough of a tip-off that I probably should have walked, the breeder also offered to sell me the little boy for a lot less than I was expecting her to ask. But, at that point, I just wanted to get both me and him out of there. Plus, I figured it could be the sorry-my-innocent-looking-kitten-just-took-a-hunk-out-of-your-hand discount.
My kitten didn’t so much as squeak in the cat carrier on the ride home. Either he was grateful just to be getting the hell out of there or he was so shell-shocked he didn’t know what to think.
He’s definitely been the most quiet, stoic little kitten I’ve ever met. My experience has been that, normally, when you put a collar on a cat for the first time there’s major snit fits and somersaults of doom. Humans are supposed to know there’s nothing worse for their karma than trying to put a collar on a cat. With this little guy it was: “Oh. OK. Cool. A collar with a bell. That’s kinda neat.”
My kitten quietly peers at his surroundings like a wizened little old man with occasional breaks for massive, limpet love-attacks for me who, after much contemplation, he’s deigned to designate as His Human. Which is why he ended up getting named “Rumi”.
I’m not exactly sure what’s happening but his personality transforms a little in the middle of each night.
The first night started off with him wanting to do nothing but hide under the bed… until about 3 AM when, for some unexplained reason, I suddenly became His Human. At that point his place to be was smack in the middle of my chest wedged between my breasts. Then commenced the 1-hour schedule of being woken to perform the Ritual Adoration of the Cat. I swear the routine is more stringent than a Catholic Monastery. Three days into the schedule, now, I’m starting to have some vague appreciation of what it must be like for a mother with a newborn.
After the second night Rumi started to make throaty burrish noises that may, at some point, after much practice, actually morph into something resembling a “meow”. That and, nestled in bed yesterday morning, I got him to reluctantly admit the garishly-colored cat teaser I bought might have vague possibilities for entertainment. This is also when I discovered my kitten appears to be left-handed. He’s weird enough in every other dimension that I can’t say this really surprises me.
I’m not sure what the heck happened last night but I was woken around 1 AM with the kitten plopping the cat teaser on my chest saying: “OK. Explain to me how this thing works again.” I was foolish enough to comply. Not only did he decide the toy was pretty cool but he apparently felt it was time to make up for 12 weeks of never having played before in a single night. I think I got about 30 minutes of sleep after that. It’s now 6 AM he’s still trying to coax me to keep going with a pugnacious resolve that eerily resembles the coach from Rocky.
The reason why I haven’t written about the kitten before now is this… It took me about a day to realize but he came home with an upper respiratory and eye infection. I’ve seen kittens with infections go south really quickly and I’m scared to death I could lose this little one, too. When my vet told me it was going to be three weeks before I could get him in to be seen, I called Tom’s wife, Debra, who just purchased Cimarron Animal Hospital.
They got me in right away and stocked me up on antibiotics and supplements to try with him. His eye is a little better this morning and he’s definitely got more energy (lucky me). But I’m watching him like a hawk.
Anyway, that’s what’s up on the kitty front at present. Be forewarned that with his eye infection my little philosopher cat currently looks like he’s been on the losing side of a barroom brawl.