Posts Tagged ‘animals’

Charlston P Buttcat (Esq)

Charleston P Buttcat (Esq)

I took my furry companions in to the vet to be snipped this morning. I did not want to do it particularly, despite understanding why it’s important (too many rescue kittens, feline AIDS, antisocial cat behaviour etc). We’d put it off because we wanted Charlie Cat to be a ‘proper’ cat. That is a no-bullshit, fully-grown tomcat. Plus he’s such an awesome cat he should have the opportunity to sire some kittens.

So, after a bit of a fight (I only lost two feet square of skin and one eye) both cats, Nik and Charlie, were safely secured in their respective carriers and off we went to the vets with a chorus of yowling. All the way there I harboured a sense of deep unworthiness. I was betraying my dudes.

We get to the vet, fill out all the forms, have a nice chat with a vet assistant from the village and then take the boys in for their pre-flight check.


Charlie’s nards are nowhere to be found.

Are we sure we didn’t have him done?


Are we sure he wasn’t done when we got him (8 weeks old). We’re sure, but we call the lady we got him from (my mum’s cousin) to check. Definitely no, that’s too young to get them done.

Does he act like a tomcat? Yes. He ranges far and wide, he hunts a lot. We’re pretty sure he’s sired kittens and while we don’t go regularly checking our cat’s genitalia we’re pretty sure we remember him having a pair of black, furry walnuts back there.

Vet goes to get a second opinion. That vet can’t see any balls either.

They both feel up his belly in case they’re undescended (this can happen, but is rare, and double undescended testicles is almost unheard of). Can’t feel anything in his belly to suggest retained nads.

Charlie suffers the indignity of having his genitals shaved as the quest for the golden balls continues.

Nothing. We do find what could be a well-healed scar, though the vet isn’t completely sure.

The possibilities are as follows:

  1. Charlie Cat has an incredibly rare medical condition where his testes are internal, but none of the vets can feel them in there with a touch exam.
  2. Some motherfucker kidnapped my cat and, without my consent, had him snipped.

Given the only option to settle the issue was expensive and dangerous exploratory surgery I elected not to go ahead and brought him home.

I’m making a bit of a joke of it here, but I’m actually super upset. We made an informed and conscious decision not to have him snipped and it appears some bastard decided they knew better. He’s unlikely to have been picked up as a stray since we live out in the country and there’s no farm-cat colonies around here any more (and there haven’t been for some considerable time). So someone in the village took it upon themselves to do this to my cat, my friend, muse and companion.

Nikopotamus Q Needleclaw (OBE)

Nikopotamus Q Needleclaw (OBE)

Why didn’t we notice? I’m not in the habit of checking my cats’ genitals, plus Charlie has pretty thick belly and butt fur that covers him up a bit.

Charlie has obviously been violated (this must be what alien abduction ‘victims’ feel like) but I also feel violated. It’s not unlike the feeling of being robbed or of a friend being beaten up. Someone has invaded something or someone you love and done harm to them. Violated their personal sanctity.

Nik’s still getting the snip though. Go back to pick him up this afternoon.

Poor little sod 😦

Read Full Post »

StalinCatHigh above the ruined city sat the cat, curled up in the dry spot at the corner of the bullet-nibbled and shell-chewed factory. He observed his domain with tawny eyes and slitted pupils through a crumbling hole in the wall and squinted against the feeble warmth of the winter sun.

In the language of cats he was ‘Old-Tom-Ratkiller-Engine-Oil’, but in the language of humans he had once been named ‘Pushkin’, the name Grandpapa Karamazov had given him and that Little Olya used to murmur when she rubbed her face against his, stroked his paws and fed him scraps of meat from the kitchen.

It had been a long time since he had seen either of them. Grandpapa had gone off to fight the fascists and Little Olya, and her mother, had stopped coming to visit. Pushkin was left behind and, long ago a farm cat, that had suited him fine. Though when he slept his whiskers twitched, his tail flickered and he remembered warm nights in front of the fire with Olya, purring and kneading at her thigh.

Pushkin was the last cat in Stalingrad. The rest had left, taken away by their owners or they had been eaten by starving soldiers. Now he was alone. Prince of the broken city. He ranged far and wide from his factory home, scouting for food, hunting for rats and mice – the only prey to be found. Some lingering fondness for people kept him away from the bodies of the dead – though not the rats who feasted, growing sleek and fat. The best kind of prey for a grumpy old cat who liked to fight.

Pushkin was a big boy. Six kilos of muscle, gristle and scar tissue. He had been a beautiful tabby, white, grey and black, and that had been perfect for blending in with the frozen rubble of Stalingrad. Now he was mostly a dirty grey from the concrete dust, with matted fur from spilled oil, fur he refused to lick. He crawled with fleas and had a hump on his shoulder, an abscess from a rat bite, but it was healing and he felt none the worse for it. His claws and his teeth were sharp, he was strong and powerful and up here – in the aerie – he could hide from the soldiers and the rats and wait for the night; time to hunt.

His ears flicked back to protect from the noise as the snap-bang of a rifle sounded out from the ruined library across what remained of the street. A man was running, stumbling over the broken concrete, his hand was tucked against his side. Now and again would come the bang of a rifle and a puff of grey-white dust from the ground around the man as he tried to get to the factory, and safety.

Pushkin’s nose twitched, his whiskers swept forward, testing the air. He could smell blood on the air and it made his stomach yawn in hunger, but it was man-blood. Not for him. The Prince of Cats had to have standards.

A grenade came sailing over as the bleeding man in the long coat and the furred hat fell, sprawling, onto the floor of the factory. The bang rang the rusting girders of the building like a bell, raining brown dust. The noise made Pushkin jump from his warm little nest and scurry to the cratered chasm that opened up to the factory floor below, warily watching.

The man was laid up against the wall, panting and cursing, words Pushkin remembered Grandpapa yellig at the radio though he did not recognise the meaning. The man even smelled a little like Grandpapa – cigarette smoke and sweet tea, oil and metal. Pushkin peered curiously over the edge, ears back, wide eyes barely poking over.

The men with the guns were picking their way across the street now, but they stopped, cursing, different words that Pushkin couldn’t understand at all. There was something he could understand though, the stink of the rats who lived in the sewers, the sound of them boiling up from under the rubble in their hundreds and thousands.

The men moved away.

“Lassen sie ihn den Ratten,” they laughed, backing away with their rifles trained on the factory from their hips – just in case.

The man felt the tremor in the floor and stood, carefully, blood soaking his coat and dripping to the floor. He stumbled forward, teeth gritted, shoulder sliding against the rough concrete as he tried to get away, but he couldn’t.

The rats, awakened by the grenade, hungered by the scent of blood, poured like a wave of black and brown, out of the grates, through the gaps in the rubble, from every pipe and hole and crack. They converged on the bleeding man from every side. His pistol rang out but whatever it hit vanished into the tide as the rats began swarming up his boots and gaiters, climbing up to find the wound and the soft, exposed flesh.

The man reminded Pushkin of Grandpapa and the rats angered him. The Soviets and the Germans fought for the city, Pushkin and the rats fought for the factory. He had marked it his with his piss and their skulls, they had left his den in peace, but this was an invasion. It could’t stand.

With a primal scream of feline outrage, tail straight back like a spear and fluffed like a pine tree, Pushkin hurled himself through through the ruined ceiling. A thunderbolt of grey he hit the seething mass of rats like a grenade. Teeth and claws slashed and lashed, blood sprayed and fur flew in clouds like drifting ash.

The rat tide slowed, halted, turned against the valiant cat, now scarlet with their blood, standing proud on a pile of their ruined bodies. He didn’t feel their nips and bites. He was a frenzied squall of predatory instinct, protecting the man who smelled like Grandpapa. The man who, now, free of the rats seemed to find the iron in his soul, stamping and shooting, fighting alongside his animal rescuer, crushing rats under his boots and laughing.

The rats began to retreat, running away from the two, or full from devouring their own brethren, dragging the bodies back into the secret darkness of the under-city to feet their young. Man and cat stood side by side, bleeding and exhausted.

Pushkin flopped suddenly, ragged, panting. He was covered in gore, aching from dozens of bites. His paws sweated and his tail hung loose and flat, brushing the ground. He could barely yowl a protest as the man picked him up and stuffed him into his greatcoat, warm and wet and bloody.

It was warm in here. The man smelled almost right and as he staggered out of the factory Pushkin closed his eyes in dark and warmth, remembering Little Olya rocking him like a baby. As though he were still a kitten he began to pur, a bubble of blood foaming at his bitten nose.


“Kommisar Vetrov!” Yuri’s jaw dropped so far his precious cigarette tumbled into the slush. “We thought you must be dead!”

Vetrov’s blood had clotted the coat to his side, though he could still feel the warm bundle inside it, gently breathing.

“Almost comrade. Fetch a blanket.” Vetrov groaned and slid, clumsily into the trench. Closing his eyes he rested his head back against the frost-rimed wall as he waited, gathering his arms around the purring bundle in his coat.

Yuri returned, with the blanket and more of the soldiers. Maksim and Nazar. It was a relief to recognise anyone. New soldiers were replacing the dead so quickly of late. Carefully, gingerly, he brought the cat out from his coat and laid it upon the blanket, swaddling it in the warm woollen embrace.

“The men will eat well tonight,” Maksim chuckled, his sub-machinegun hanging from his shoulder by its strap, hungry eyes on the cat that lay panting, purring and unconscious on the blanket.

Without even looking Vetrov drew his Mauser and shot Maksim through the heart. It punched a hole in him like a fist and flung him back into the slush with a wet thump, steam rising from the hole in his chest as the other two men looked at his body, stunned.

Vetrov hauled himself unsteadily to his feet, blood-matted coat hanging open, tearing the scab with an audible rip. His pistol smoked as he fixed the men with a ferocious glare, tears stinging his eyes.

“This cat saved my life, allowing me to return with information on the German positions. He is a hero of the Soviet Union and is to be treated as such. You will rouse the medic to treat his wounds and he will treat them before mine. You will feed him meat and milk from the officers rations, from my rations. You will guard him with your life because, if he dies, so will you.”

The men mutely nodded.

Vetrov groaned as he knelt in the slush, holstering his pistol and reaching into his jacket. He yanked the medal from his chest and split the ribbon, tying it around the old cat’s neck like a collar, the Order of Nevsky dangling from about the cat’s neck like a bell or tag.

“And, little comrade, we will call you Zhukov.”

The men picked up the blanket like a sling and together they went to seek the warmth of the fire and the comfort of a full belly.


This story has been haunting me for months since I had a dream about it. I’m not at full brain strength yet but I had to get it down even if it’s sub par. There really was a cat in the Soviet army in Stalingrad called Mourka, whom I discovered researching for this story. Mourka was a messenger-cat, carrying notes between Soviet positions about German positions. Of all the military personnel in Stalingrad, Mourka was probably one of the better off as there was a kitchen at the HQ and loyalty/motivation was probably ensured with food.

Read Full Post »

The Cat

ChuckstonThe cat who saved my life glowers at me from behind the curtain, the blinding sun at his back giving him a halo.

His amber eyes stare at me, narrowed on both axes, but do not deign to blink.

His nose is out of joint because of the kitten, whom he  – commander of the house – only tolerates.

He yawns, flashing the snaggle-tooth that hurts so much when  he bites.

The worst is yet to come.

Soon he will pay a ‘special’ visit to the vet – another consequence of the young blade that has joined our household and usurped his laply throne.

I couldn’t voice what is to be done to his fuzzy plums, waving my hand and making a snipping motion with my fingers.

It is the responsible thing, the right thing, the safe thing, the convenient thing…

…but to do to a pet what one would never do to oneself?

For the sake of an easy life?

The cat who saved my life, hunter of moles, home to fleas, he of the chipped tooth and unclipped claws.

Panthera tigris minimus, with coffee-stained chin and offset nose, fur of petrichor redolence.

The Alarm clock, the hero, the saviour, confidante, muse and master of the gardens.

Is he to be reduced to the state of a simpering eunuch?

This feline who, every day, gives me reason to get up, gives me love and affection.

This furry beast who – with touch of paw, push of head and raucous meow, the likes of which I’ve never heard again – broke into a closed room to save me.

Would he do it again for me?

Read Full Post »

Tonight we visited the vet with my mum’s elderly and increasingly frail cat and we had to have her put down. Her name was Lily and she was a beautiful – and typically neurotic – Siamese and she was absolutely and completely my mother’s cat. Body and soul.

Lily didn’t like most people, she tolerated a few but she adored my mother. Every night she would sleep next to mum under the covers and she would wait in the window in the afternoon for my mum to get home from work so she could greet her.

To everyone else Lily was skittish and standoffish. In all her years she sat on my lap but once, even though I fed her and took care of her many times. I always imagined Lily as some grand dame of the theatre, elderly and eccentric, displaced by the advent of film, surrounded by the dusty relics of her theatre career and just wanting to be alone.

As much as Lily loved mum, mum loved Lily. Lily was ill for a very long time with feline asthma, arthritis and other problems but mum wouldn’t give up on her. Not out of selfishness but out of care and concern. Our wonderful vet, Mrs Chitty, was willing to go the extra mile, or even hundred miles and mum helped pioneer administering asthma medication to cats, through Lily. Something that most people didn’t think could be done due to how uncooperative and resistant cats can be.

That just goes to show how close and special the relationship and empathy between mum and Lily was. She trusted mum to take care of her and mum did all she could to give Lily a wonderful and beloved life far longer than she would have had otherwise.

That’s the story of a my family though. Duty and care to others. People or animals it doesn’t matter a jot to us, we look after them. Gran was like that, mum is like that and I feel the same way about doing what’s right.

Lily was fortunate, even blessed, to have such a willing and caring person to take care of her. Mum was fortunate to have a cat that, for her, was pure love in sleek, furry, feline form.

I see how upset my mum is and my heart breaks for her. I sat by helpless as Lily cuddled in against her like a nursing kitten and slowly went to sleep in her arms. There’s nothing you can say that isn’t a platitude. Nothing you can do that doesn’t feel pointless or ineffectual. All you can do is just be there and be strong for those who can’t.

Still, I look to my mum and the strength of her grief is a mirror of the strength of the affection her and Lily had for each other. Every tear and sob is a testament to how much a pet can mean to someone and how much you can mean to a pet.

I ask myself if its worth all this pain and heartbreak to have a friend you know is going to leave you one day. How can you enjoy their friendship and affection knowing how the loss will hit you and tear your heart to pieces?

I got home and almost the moment I sat down my cat, Charlie, an independent and cheeky soul in a tabby sleeve, came trotting in to see me. He knew something was wrong and climbed up onto my lap, whiskers swept forward as though sensing I was upset. He never climbs onto me if I don’t have a blanket on me. He talked to me, chirping and merping and he butted my chin and cheek with his head, he licked the tip of my finger and he sat with me as I struggled not to cry, now that I didn’t need to be a rock.

I knew it was worth it then.

I know Lily had the best possible life and gave as much love as she received and that’s what a pet is.


Read Full Post »

The sickly sweet smell of half-rotten flesh, the jingle of bells and the curving, beaked mask are the shop signs of the Phylomancer.

He stands at the street corner, bowed under the weight of the cages on his back in which his menagerie yips and yowls, barks and squeaks. Beneath the sweet stench of corruption is the sweeter tang of honey and the urinal miasma of damp leather.

His sleeves are rolled back from his gloved, claw-like hands and the greenish, flaky skin, pocked with hexagonal wounds crawls with the grubs and insects of his trade.

It is never silent with the Phylomancer, his familiars’ cacophonic chorus and the high hum of his insect courtiers create an unmistakable and unending sound. A song individual to each and every practioner of his gruesome trade.

He lifts his mask a moment, scarred and scabbed flesh, cracked lips on show and crooked and pointed teeth behind them. His tongue uncoils like some bloated canal eel and – with great delicacy, a mosquito alights upon that swollen muscle and shares a gift of blood, a droplet of life from the patient before him.

The mask descends and gives his voice a strange and booming quality above the sounds of his zoological burden.

“The wound is infected. My grubs can eat away the diseased flesh, but it will scar and it will cost you fifty centimes.”

The hobbling man nods, sweating, fumbling for his coins as a magpie swirls out of the smoky sky and alights on the Phylomancer’s shoulder, whispering secrets in his ear, just for him.

Read Full Post »