Autumn, anyone?

I’ve been reading a lot of posts about autumn lately, one of which was even Freshly Pressed today, and left me desirous of a warm apple-cinnamon scone with my tea.

For some in the right place at this time (meaning latitudes higher/lower than the Tropics) the air is getting nippier, days are getting shorter…..and trees are beginning to get more colourful.

How lucky are you people of the Temperate zones…..you get to witness and FEEL the change of seasons.

I’m sure it must be glorious….despite getting back into school routine for mommies and children alike. In that sense autumn really is the beginning of a new year. Some even redefine it as a  time for rejuvenation…..of rebirth….and I think I can relate to that if the last two days are anything to go by.

You see, dear readers, I have been spring-cleaning at a time of year normally associated with the autumnal months, though Karachi seems to have registered this time of the year of all times, as the monsoon season.

So while dark clouds gathered overhead and burst their breaches, and as it rained non-stop for 24 hours, turning the poorly-drained streets and lanes of Karachi into rivers and lakes, and as yours truly deemed it wise not to venture out of her bubble for fear of the car stalling while navigating a particularly large lake which is actually her link to the rest of the world, the sponges, dusters and wash-cloths were brought out and the house got a thorough clean-up.

The night it started raining was the same night that I decided to take my allergies more seriously.

I have been waking up in the morning, my lungs choked, unable to breathe, despite the antihistamine pill I have been taking every night for the last month, until I take a few puffs of Aerolin. My bronchioles expand and I relax, and sink back into my pillow with relief.

For the last few years, these symptoms have usually arisen in October……so I’m taken by surprise this year as it started much earlier, and lately I have been thinking maybe it’s not just dust I’m allergic to. Perhaps I have been in denial about my cat allergies, I don’t know, maybe it is time for me to go to an allergy specialist and get myself tested.

I stayed up till 3 am the other night, sitting next to my balcony door, listening to the rumbling thunder, ominously loud at times, and the flashes of lightning periodically illuminating the sky. As the rain lashed against the door, and Fuzzy sat nearby, his ears twitching, looking worried, I read through six different articles that told me similar things about how to deal with cat allergies. I bookmarked this one, and am considering printing it out and sticking it to my bathroom door so I can read it every day and be more motivated and less likely to slack off in terms of safely and effectively minimising my allergic reaction to whatever it is in my house that’s triggering it.

Apparently, there are many allergens that can cause the same symptoms as cat allergens, some of which can be more serious than those that can be caused by a cat alone.

Whatever the case may be, there can be no harm in cleaning the house from top to bottom (with a bandanna wrapped around my face) and it can only benefit my fellow inhabitants and I.

The first thing I did was to remove my work table from a closed, carpeted room into a more airy area right next to the balcony. As many of you know, I spend an unhealthy amount of time on my laptop! Therefore, it was imperative that I balance the unhealthiness with a healthier environment, and I think It will make a big difference. Fingers crossed.

I realise that my house is probably smothered in cat allergens because Fuzzy, as his name indicates, has been endowed with very fine, downy fur. He is also, unfortunately, a black cat. Cats with dark fur are more allergy-inducing than cats with light fur.

I wish I had known this when we adopted him. Sigh. But it’s too late now, I love the little critter.

Here’s a little known fact. I am the only person in my family that has a humungusly soft spot for animals. I mean, my Mom does too, but I was always the one who imposed pets on her, she never had any when she was growing up. I do know for a fact that she adored my neighbour’s dog (i think his name was Silver…..he was sadly hit by a car…) and didn’t object to her rabbits roaming our house, munching uncooked lasagne sheets and pooping on the sofa….but I am straying from the topic at hand….

So I started with the space which I shall now inhabit as my primary work area, and armed with a ladder, soapy water and a sponge, I proceeded to systematically wash all the walls, from ceiling to floor. I dusted everything thoroughly with a damp cloth, vacuumed the furniture, the blinds, cleaned the fans of all the accumulated dirt and cat hair (which we do every 10 days or so) and washed the curtains in hot water to kill all the allergens on them.

Needless to say, I have been passing out, exhausted from the hard work, my arms aching, but feeling great that I’m working towards making the house healthier. I smile with happiness as I sing wheezily while going about my work, puffing my inhaler when need be.

Too bad Zahooran wasn’t around to see her employer doing a better job of housework than her that first day 😛

The biggest change for poor little Fuzzy is going to be the fact that I must train him not to sleep under the bed in my room…..which is his favourite place in the whole house for most of the day, emerging only in the evening, stretching out his limbs and meandering his way to one of us for some love, or over to his water bowl if he’s thirsty.

He runs into my room and under the bed, first chance he gets! Especially when the doorbell rings……he is terrified of visitors 🙂

Giving him up is just not an option, friends.

I know I just have to work a little harder, that’s all.

But since we’re on the theme of the art work around my house, and autumn brings to mind dead leaves, here’s some I painted several years ago when I picked them up from somewhere because I thought they were beautiful.

browny
olive-y

Here’s to rebirth…..and rejuvenation. And cleaner air and less allergens. And hopefully more watercolours some day.

My heart goes out to the people of Badin and all the other waterlogged, flooded areas of Sindh, where people’s homes and livelihoods have once again been ruthlessly washed away. I know better now than to wish for rain in a country with governments that do nothing to improve or spend more money on building and maintaining crucial infrastructure.

The fuzzy cat

So I’m sitting at my table, it’s early morning (earlier than usual for me, since I am NOT a morning person) and I’ve just had a couple of pan-toasted chapatis and a mug of sweet tea for breakfast. It’s a bit chilly, after the surprise rain we received in Karachi during the last couple of days, so I fetch my snuggly old hoodie and proceed to comfortably peruse my blogs and do some moves on Scrabble before getting on with my list of chores for the day.

I’m distracted by a familiar scratchy, gravelly sound outside the study door, and I smile, knowing what this means. No, it doesn’t mean Freddy Kruger is around. It means Fuzzy the cat is being a good boy and using his litter tray.

You’d think that’s only natural, right? Cats are SUPPOSED to ‘powder their noses’ in their designated space. Wrong. Sometimes a fuzzy black half-Persian tomcat decides he wants to break the rules.

Exactly four years ago, Amu stamped her little foot (not really, but it sounds cute) and demanded a pet cat. I tried to reason her out of it of course. Having a pet is a huge responsibility (and I would know, since I have a looooong history with pets) and knowing Amu, I had a feeling she wouldn’t have the patience or the time to look after it.

I humored her though, and after a week or two of daily pleading, I spread open the Sunday ad section of the newspaper and pored over the pet column, with Amu sitting next to me. It turned out there were quite a few kittens for sale! We jotted down a number and made a phone call to get the whereabouts of a semi-Persian pair of kittens. Amu nagged and nagged until we got in the car and drove off to look for the house of the gentleman selling the little felines.

Finding the place was an adventure in itself, but as we parked outside the house and rang the bell, Amu and I wondered what we’d find. Someone came up to open the gate, and a youngish boy with greasy hair greeted us and ushered us into his garden. We walked over to the patio and saw the most adorable sight! Two tiny little gray furballs hurtling after a ping pong ball and swatting it back and forth with their little paws!

Amu and I just looked at each other. If she has an ounce of my genes, (and I think she does), we both felt the same thing. A mix of heart-melting delight and longing was shining in Amu’s eyes, and I knew she was in love with the first scruffy little kittens she encountered on her quest. As Amu clung to my arm and mouthed silent pleas, I asked the youngish boy how much he was asking for one of them. He quoted a sum about three times what I had in mind, so I told him we would go home and have a think and get back to him later in the day.

Back home, Huz and I had a pow-wow. I thought the guy was asking for too much money and it wasn’t worth it. Amu was blinded by love and couldn’t think straight, of course. Huz warned us of the consequences of having a pet cat. What if it wasn’t potty-trained? What if we wanted to go on a holiday, who would care for it? What if it demanded too much time and commitment? Who would take it to the vet? These, and many other questions were debated, but Amu stuck to her guns and assured us she would love it and care for it and we wouldn’t have to worry about a thing. And then she threw in the trump card. She was lonely.

That did it. So, against our better judgment, we went back to the greasy boys house, handed him a wad of cash in exchange for Sam, the tinier of the two siblings, feeling guilty for taking him away from his sister and playmate forever.

It was evening as we drove home with a new addition to our little family, and we stopped on the way to buy some things that we had never bought before. Cat food! And cat shampoo! It felt like the gateway to a new world of groceries and products had just opened up for us, and it was kind of cute and amusing to be buying things called Whiskas, or Me-O, or cat litter that came in kilograms, in a sunny yellow bag that said Thomas.

The tiny kitty perched on my knee during the ride home, while Amu leaned over the seat to pet him. He seemed quite comfortable with us, and didn’t seem scared or bewildered by the suddenness of this strange new experience.

Back home, we let him roam around and explore the house and entertained him with things that normally delight kittens. We thought of giving him a new name, since he now had a new life. I can’t remember now if we re-christened him that night or the next day. I was stuck on Prince Rustam for some reason, but Amu decided on Fuzzy. We all approved, and hence, it stuck.

That first night we made him as comfortable as we could, and made him a bed out of a cardboard box lined with newspaper. We wondered if his mom had taught him anything, and imagine our surprise when we witnessed the first bit of evidence that he had been rightly and properly schooled in the way of cats! Out of all the places he could have chosen to relieve his tiny little bladder, he picked a spot on some newspapers we had left lying in a corner for just that purpose. Oh, what a relief! Now I wouldn’t have to worry about learning how to be a mommy cat! Little Sam/Fuzzy knew his business, and by the time we got him a proper litter tray, he took to that immediately as well.

The new addition

We couldn’t sleep very well that first night, Amu and I, as we were worried about Fuzzy being alone outside in the living room. So we ended up staying awake till 5 in the morning, keeping an eye on the little thing as he prowled around, and once again I thought to myself ‘what have I let myself in for’. One does tend to get anxiety attacks when one is sleep-deprived. But after a week or so, we all settled down to happily co-exist, man and beast.

It seems the little beast got a bit too comfortable sometimes, and there were ‘episodes’ where he was too ‘lazy’ to walk all the way over to his litter to relieve himself. Cat piss is a nasty, nasty business involving odours that are very hard to get rid of and have a propensity to linger, as I discovered to my horror. I had a penchant for having a clean house that smelled fresh and lovely, like washed laundry, so imagine my shock at realising how little control i had over my cat’s bladder!

He merrily proceeded to pee at least once a day on something he really shouldn’t. Like the sofas. The rugs. The bean-bag. The comforter. The floor. The newly-installed carpet in Amu’s room. The bathroom mats. You get the picture. The cat was out of control!

I scrubbed and cleaned, and neared the edge of tearful despair, contemplating driving him to a faraway location and abandoning him, or giving him away. Obviously, I couldn’t be so cruel. But I was decidedly not as loving as I should be towards a pet, and remember smacking him on the head a few times until I did some research and learned that’s not a very good way of teaching a cat not to do bad things. I consulted my upstairs neighbour, who lives with six cats, and asked for his advice after tactfully inquiring about any peculiar behaviour he may have encountered in his brood of kitties. He told me about a fabulous product that de-odourises pet ‘accidents’. You just spray it on and let it break down the molecules in cat piss that cause the odour! Apparently, cat pee contains a high concentration of urea, about twice as much as dogs, and that’s what gives it such a strong smell. They can’t help it, poor things. They’re just evolved that way. It’s useful for marking their territory, and keeping unwanted enemy cats at bay.

That’s what we thought was wrong with Fuzzy. We thought he was unusually insecure about the stray cats that prowled around our building, yowling their heads off and busily marking their own territory outside our doors. Of course he could smell their pee. So he went into counterattack mode. Either that, or he was trying to attract some romantic interest his own way….

We marched him off to the vet to have him….(gulp!)….neutered. Now, neutering is supposed to be a fairly simple procedure in male cats that have normally built external genitalia. But our cat chose to be different. The vet felt him up and declared him to have a condition called monorchidism. In other words, he only had one descended testicle! The other one was somewhere in his abdomen, developing at a much slower rate than its twin. Nevertheless, poor Fuzzy had to undergo not just the scalpel, but an utter invasion of his privacy, and needless to say it was a difficult time both for us and him.

It has been four years learning how to live with our cat. He’s been through vaccinations, de-fleaing, de-worming, operations, antibiotics, and many trips to the vet for checkups. You must be wondering if the neutering made a difference. Well, it didn’t. Ultimately, we just had to be very vigilant, make sure his litter tray stayed clean enough for him not to turn up his aristocratic little snub nose at it. We roll up our rugs and protect our sofas with plastic coverings every night, and every morning we unroll the rugs and put away the plastic. We chase Fuzzy to his litter every time he starts sniffing around and acts suspicious. Sometimes he pees on the plastic coverings, so I am to be seen mopping and de-odourising every so often. But at least it isn’t so difficult now that we have accepted this gruelling labour as part of our lives. As you can imagine, Princess Amu doesn’t lift a finger. In her defense, the poor girl has to go to school, so she is forgiven.

So you can imagine, dear readers, the joy I feel when I notice, or hear, Fuzzy using his litter tray of his own volition. It’s a daily triumph to see him do that.

Okay then, my writing for the day done. Time to go unroll those rugs….

how does one stay mad at a cat that looks at you like this?