Feline Flow

I’ve always admired people who can exercise on their own at home. They are devoted to their routines and rarely miss a day. I have at least three women friends who do this and a family member who works out almost every morning in his home gym.

It’s so self-contained and convenient. Doesn’t require special clothes, driving, money, or having to talk other human beings on those days we’d rather not.

Many times, I’ve wanted to emulate my self-disciplined friends. But living and working alone, I’ve been afraid I’ll miss the inspiration of good teaching, group energy and companionship. So, until recently I stored this idea away in my mental files.

I became less happy with my yoga studio. Not particularly friendly, lackluster teaching, more money than I can afford and too much rubbing on of oils and the slippery woo-woo philosophy. I went on a quest for another studio and discovered two things: 1) most of the classes in our beach town are heated, and 2) they are powered by 20-something, bendy toothpicks.

After almost fainting in a smelly, cave-like, “hot” yoga class, I tried a couple of outdoor classes next to a temporary trailer where our new Y is being built. A good teacher, but I had to get used to my mat slipping on fake grass and tune out the “Express Circuit” class leaping around next to us. A young woman failed to complete the leap across a big tire and landed in a heap of pain. Cell phones came out and I thought for sure we’d have paramedics, but as soon as the coaches were able to hobble her across the field, all seemed okay. My teacher had to get up, grab a clipboard and “make a report,” but then returned to finish up our class. We both commented on how yoga allows us to calm down.

One morning I was rummaging around in my office closet, and, without thinking, I pulled out my large, thick yoga mat. Not the thinner one I carry to and from class. One I used to store for $5 a month at a fancy studio, too heavy to carry, but perfect for home practice!

I lay it out on my office floor and started moving. My office is peaceful, shaded by trees that cover the windows. I’ve practiced yoga long enough – 18 years – to be able to move from one pose to another and create my own sequence. The only guiding voice I need is my own. The only music I need is the soft wind pushing the branches and leaves into the glass panes.

And I don’t lack for company. My three tabby cats, who normally lie around day and night, have suddenly decided they need yoga too. This is new! Mom sits on couch or lies on bed and we snuggle in close, but this body swinging and bending and legs swinging in air is too much! Must investigate. Must emulate. Underfoot, yes, but graceful.

To my surprise, I love the feel of their little bodies and can move with and around them. Whereas a person’s foot on my mat in a class would annoy me, these little soft paws and bellies are comforting. So far, they have mastered Sphinx (what cat could not?), Puppy (like Sphinx, but with butt in air), Half-Assed Side Plank (not unlike mine) and, of course, Savasana (the cat’s natural state, resting).I now look forward to my routine every morning. I am pleased, not just that I stretch and feel good, but that I am stretching into a new way of being – freedom to move (in my pajamas!) at my convenience. I see myself doing this for the rest of my life, even if I’m away from home.

I also found another studio, a mellow one. Instead of signing up for a membership, I bought a class pack and can go as often or as little as I want. Say once a week. Or not. Depending. (For an overly conscientious person like me, this is HUGELY freeing.)

This morning a woman brought two kittens to class in a carrier. She couldn’t leave them alone with their dog. Brother and sister, Houdini and Magic, grey and white and calico. We took turns petting them. They were quiet during class.

“Welcome to Feline Flow,” said our creative teacher.

Yes, perfect name, I thought as I settled into my mat.




The Vet Trek

Cat carrier

Who hates going to the vet more – my cats or me?

It’s a toss-up, literally and figuratively. My three cats suffer terror for about an hour during the hunt and toss into carrier phase, the yowling drive there, the visit indignities (being pried or dumped out of carriers and having orifices probed), then the howling return drive. Once we are home, they are upset for another few hours, hissing at each other and growling at me. By the end of the day, all is forgiven and forgotten.

I don’t enjoy any of this either, but I am more upset before than during. In fact, I start worrying the night before as I carefully bring out the carriers and line them up on my office floor. What if I can’t catch them all? What if one of them runs and hides in a place where I can’t reach (like under my bed)? What if one of them bites or scratches me and I die of an infection? Why don’t I have a boyfriend or husband right now? Why the hell did I get three cats?

A few years ago I was taking care of an outdoor cat I had to take to the vet for a fight wound. Even with a neighbor’s help, I couldn’t hold Buster firmly enough to stuff him into the carrier. He was a sweet cat who belonged the neighborhood but there was no way he was going to endure being taken away. I was already running late for the appointment and finally called in desperation. The vet tech suggested we descend on poor Buster with a large towel or blanket. “That will calm him down.” It worked but I’m not sure I could have done it alone and poor Buster was suffocating in that writhing mass of blanket.

So, for my three, Dewey, Lily and Zoe, this would be my last choice. I reviewed some advice online. I was a little out of practice, since I hadn’t taken the cats to the vet in two years (I moved and put off finding a new vet). Keep carriers on firm surface, such as table, grab reluctant cat by scruff of neck. Oh yes, I remembered those worked. One article suggested “training” our cats to trust the carriers with a series of exercises (cat toys in carriers, moving them closer, etc.). This requires leaving the three carriers out permanently and a LOT of time. No thanks! I have a small apartment and hate clutter. By the time I finished all these steps, it would be time to go to the vet again! And while I have a friend whose cat loves to travel with her, I’m not planning any road trips soon, or even day trips, that include Dewey, Lily and Zoe, as much as I love their company.

Dewey, Lily, Zoe
Unsuspecting slumber — the calm before the storm

On The Morning, I decided to start with Dewey, the biggest, strongest and most frightened of my cats. Even though he is now 10 and very affectionate with me and his sisters, he runs from everyone else and hates to be picked up. When I adopted him at the age of two months, they told me at the Humane Society he’d been found abandoned and alone on a sidewalk; I guess that memory has never completely left him. I considered packing him up last, but was afraid the commotion of seeing his sisters carried off would totally freak him out.

I had to sneak up on him in his closet sleeping space, pretend to pet him and before I could hesitate (she who hesitates is scratched), grab the scruff of his neck with one hand and his 17-pound body with the other. Ran to the carrier on the dining table, pushed him in and zipped it up. Phew! I felt like a scorpion pouncing on my prey.

Six-year-old sisters Lily and Zoe are also large (17 and 15 pounds), but mellower and easy to pick up. Lily has even gone into the carrier on the floor by herself. Not this time, of course, especially with Dewey hissing. In the time it took me to chase and capture Lily, Zoe hid. My worst nightmare.

When I made the appointment, I said I would like to bring the cats separately (or two together and one alone). However, they prefer seeing pets together – and offer a good discount. Guess I’ll miss out on the discount I’m thinking as I search. Finally found her behind a chest in my closet and like a mother lifting a car off her kid, I called on my super-human strength to pull the chest and grab that little brat.

From there it was down the elevator, one wobbly carrier at a time, to my garage, hoping the manager would not see me, because she thinks I have two cats. But despite the wailing chorus, no one in the apartment building seemed to notice or care. If they did see me, they were probably glad it was me and not them.

The vet techs helped me carry the cats in and the friendly vet, a big man with a big house and six cats and seven dogs, said my three feline friends were healthy. Good teeth, no fleas. Yeah! Good for another year.

Animal Antics

“I just wanted animals to do what they do. It’s very poetic, and unpredictable. You never know what they’re doing next.” — Heiner Goebbels, the director of “De Materie,” a Dutch avant-garde opera being performed at the Park Avenue Armory, on the use of live sheep in the show (New York Times Quotation of the Day, March 25, 2016).

Thanks to the universe and its animal lovers who post videos! Where would we be without them? Dying of boredom hunched over our computers, tablets and phones.

cat looking out windowThere is only so much work we can do in one sitting, only so much raunchy news and outright terror we can handle after a few minutes. And so we welcome the animals and their antics, no matter how silly. In fact, the sillier the better.

Cat videos outnumber all others (15 percent of Internet traffic, according to one article). Traditionally, dogs have been more popular pets in the United States, but cats now surpass dogs. They are easier to care for and take up less time and space in our busy lives. They may be difficult to train or stuff in cat carriers, but not to capture on video …

In the last week ALONE, here are the videos friends and family have emailed me or posted on Facebook:

  • Cat plays with new puppies
  • Cat plays with dolphin
  • Cats steal dog beds; dogs shake out cats or steal cat beds
  • Dog bounds into ocean for first time
  • Dog plays ball with machine
  • Dog greets owner after absence
  • Three dogs left home alone (and caught on camera) jump from couch to couch in living room
  • Dog plays with kangaroo. Kangaroo plays with dog.
  • Bird pecks dog on ass
  • Turtle plays ball with dog
  • Wolves and hyenas hunt together, proving Middle East peace is possible
  • Miniature horse and turtle munch on shared lettuce
  • Parakeet shoots down tiny ramp on tiny skateboard
  • Chicken rides on back of turtle
  • Butterfly perches on lizard’s head
  • Snails are pimped out with psychedelic designs to prevent getting squished. They look like walking Easter eggs.
  • Naked (hairless) guinea pig poses with food (lettuce, grapes, strawberry, cupcake …)
  • Baby goat with ADD runs around in a frenzy, jumps on other baby goats and knocks them down
  • Animals sniff flowers: cat, dog, fox, tiger, chipmunk, squirrel, gopher, rabbit, raccoon, owl, orangutans, lizard, donkey
  • Animals yawn: hippo, kitten, monkey, turtle, porcupine, panda, koala, seal, donkey
cat hanging on
Ho hum, get back to work you idiot

Yes, even animals get bored and tired and must take a break. Let those silly idiots videotape something else.





Here I Am versus There You Are, Feline Version

There are two kinds of people in the world. Those who walk into a room and say, “There you are!” and those who say, “Here I am!”  — Abigail Van Buren (Dear Abby)

Leaving aside people, I’d like to apply this distinction to cats. Dogs, in my experience, are a revolving door of both, but I could be wrong, not having lived with any long enough to fully appreciate unique canine personalities.

Cats I know well, having shared space with them most of my life. Currently three: Dewey, 8, and sisters Lily and Zoe, 5.

Lily leaps into the “Here I am!” category. Walk into a room and she comes running and yowling. For such a slim and non-Siamese cat, she has a loud and deep voice. If anyone appears at the door, she’s right in front of them in a flash. “Hi, pet me! Aren’t I beautiful?” If I talk to one of the other cats, she also comes running, even if in a deep sleep in a far corner.

Leaping Lily
Leaping Lily

Like a jealous kid, she can’t stand it if she’s not the center of attention. Her worst habit is wanting this attention whenever I’m on the phone. She makes such a ruckus I can’t hear the person on the other end. This is not too bad if it’s friends or family, but with business conference calls, it’s embarrassing. I’ve tried shutting her out of my office, but she soon escalates into a full-blown tantrum, throwing herself at the door. I try to remain calm and professional, hoping the corporate stiffs are not picturing me in a zoo in my pajamas with wild hair.

Lily is my only lap cat. “Here I am, now that you have your morning coffee and writing journal so well arranged on this comfy couch.” She is also the most agile, able to leap and land in high places.

Just as Lily is slim and loud, her sister Zoe is compact and quiet. If a stranger comes to the door, she retreats into the “There you are and I don’t want to be here” category. Eventually she’ll walk halfway back and watch warily. If it’s me, she’ll approach slowly. Unlike Lily, she doesn’t like her head rubbed, prefers to be brushed or patted on the rump. She has a soft purr and meow. But of all my cats, she is the one who prefers my company during the day. “There you are!” Working at your computer? I’ll help you by walking across your keyboard. Wrapping presents or addressing envelopes? Perfect resting spot. In the mornings, she is the quietest, snuggling into the back of my knees until I actually stretch and say good morning.

Zoe the Helpmate
Zoe the Helpmate

It took me awhile to realize that she is the sneakiest of my cats and that she exacts revenge on the other two. Every morning, she and Dewey get into a wrestling and howling match for about five minutes. Then Zoe saunters up to Lily who hisses. Mostly the cats get along and I assumed that it was Dewey and Lily who were being more aggressive. But no! After watching more carefully, I realized that Zoe pounces on Dewey every morning, wrestles him to the ground, then chases Lily into a corner and bats her on the head. So, she has her way of saying “Here I am!”

Dewey the oldest is the shiest. He was a terrified kitten when I adopted him from the Humane Society, found at the age of five weeks alone on a sidewalk. He shook when I lifted him out of his cage and then spent three days under my couch when I brought him home. His stance was definitely, “There you are and I want nothing to do with you.” Almost as far as a feral cat, but fortunately not entirely.

Gradually he learned to trust and “There you are” became his reassurance. He transformed into one of the sweetest and most loving cats I’ve ever known. He is the first one I see in the morning, sitting by my head, watching. As soon as I open my eyes, he kneads his way across my stomach. This brings Lily leaping to the top of the bed.

Dewey the Gentle King
Dewey the Gentle King

Dewey is the only one who sticks his head into what I’m eating. He loves eggs and turkey bacon. He is an affectionate big brother to his sisters. Licks them both on the head, often taking the lead with Zoe and responding to Lily’s “Here I am, lick it.”

Like Zoe, he runs from most people he doesn’t know. Unlike Zoe, he doesn’t sneak back, but hides under my bed covers until strangers leave, a big lump in the middle.

When my son and his wife visit with their dog, Ruby – “Here I am! Here I am!” – all three cats scramble under the covers. “There you are, you little alien. Here we are not. Go away.”

When the Old New is New Again

It was bound to break eventually. In fact, I’m surprised it hasn’t already – having survived decades of two sons, many visiting children and dogs, a dozen resident cats.

Yes, my grandmother’s Chinese vase she converted into a lamp lies in pieces too numerous to reassemble. My cats took off in the middle of the night, launching themselves off our bed, down the long hallway, into the living room, across the back of the couch – and crash! – onto the side table and into the lamp.

I got up in a hurry. What were they chasing? Nothing I could see.

I’ve heard this crash before and usually it’s the wood-based lamp on the other side of the couch. Also a Chinese antique, but strong enough to survive assaults. No, this time it was the turquoise and coral vase/lamp. I burst into tears, which set the cats running back down the hall in the opposite direction. Since then, I haven’t had the heart to pick up the pieces behind the table in a corner on the floor.

The vase was given to my grandmother by her father, a Scottish sea captain who brought it from China in the late 1800s or early 1900s. After retiring in Scotland, he came to live with her and my grandfather in GranMontreal and her home included many of his Chinese treasures – statues, plaques, screens.

My grandmother was a creative woman who loved to cook, sew and garden. She wrote letters to me that were little gems of poetry. If she were alive today, she’d be a writer or an artist.

She was also modern in her tastes, despite the Chinese antiques. In the 1950s, she redecorated her living room with lime green couches and blond, kidney-shaped tables. She made the housepainter repaint the walls because they weren’t the right shade of pale lime green.

When she and my grandfather followed us out to California in the ’60s, she furnished their tiny apartment overlooking the ocean with Scandinavian teak – clean, simple, elegant lines perfectly suited for their new, smaller home and lifestyle. A nearby store featured ultra modern home accessories and she became one of their favorite customers, buying items from Finnish Marimekko cushions to space-age Danish silver bowls to Swedish crystal glasses.

When she died, a year after my grandfather, my sister and I inherited several of her pieces. I loved the lamps because they fit in with my furniture as my own tastes and budget changed. I also adopted and immediately loved their two matchingmid-century friends Danish modern teak bureaus. My grandparents initially mounted them on their bedroom wall. Talk about streamlined! Then my grandfather added slim legs.

I used them for years in my bedroom and in recent years in my dining room as a side buffet. They too seem to fit in with any décor. My favorite was in front of a wall I painted orange.

Now this look that was once new and is now old is new again. It’s all the rage, mid-century modern. We want to go back in time to a simpler age.

As I scale down in my own life, I want to live with less, distill to the essence. I mourn the passing of 100 years, now in fragments.

I think I’ll move the teak bureaus back into my bedroom, get rid of the rattan monstrosity, and welcome in the modern spirit of my grandmother.