Moments of Permanence

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Today I found a cat Oct. 30th, 2016 @ 06:33 pm
I am regretting not having taken photos of him when he was basking in the sun, he had beautiful, beautiful fur - black around the head and legs, with a deep, dark chocolate around the body.

I was walking down the street, then turned around to walk back the other way, because I wasn't going anywhere, I'm just trying to be less sick. Suddenly there was a cat walking down the middle of the footpath I'd just walked along a few seconds earlier.

He walked straight up to me, gave the longest, most plaintive mewl I have ever heard, and leaned against my leg.

I stroked him, and could feel every bone beneath his matted, dirty fur - this cat was three-quarters starved and clearly faltering, because a cat that isn't keeping itself clean is generally a cat near to giving up on life.

He had a collar, but it was very loose on him.

To skip many details: our lease does not permit pets, at all, so tonight he is spending the night with my parents. He's had food, and last I heard was sitting in my father's lap. (Dad will probably wash him and clip the mats from his fur later.)

He was chipped in 2002, but the website the vet's office checked had no details on him, and another was having issues loading; my parents have been given the chip number and some places to try tomorrow to see if he has a findable family.

If so, they've probably been missing him terribly; he's very sweet, friendly and affectionate, and before his recent suffering I suspect was well cared-for.

On cats, claws and paddy-paws Dec. 28th, 2012 @ 07:33 am
I was just reading a discussion of the issue of declawing cats.

This is a topic I always find rather disconcerting, because I don't really understand how that even becomes or became a thing. They're cats. As a species, they are clawed. I always, when I was younger, assumed that declawing was the word for when you trim a cat's claws so they're not so pointy, because the idea of using boltcutter-like devices to sever bone, crippling a pet for one's own convenience, would never have occurred to me.

When I was a kid, we acquired a cat, called Mouse, who was crazy. Super crazy. Before we adopted her she'd been rather nastily abused for a very long time, and she had severe kitty PTSD. You could pet her, and she'd purr, and then, out of nowhere, she would suddenly snap around and scratch you, hard enough to draw blood.

I don't recall the topic of declawing coming up even once. It wasn't something I can imagine my parents even considering.

What we *did* do was gradually train her out of it. It was a process with two primary elements.

The first doesn't apply to all cats, just emotionally scarred ones: we were gently loving towards her, tried to avoid doing the things we knew were specific triggers for her (like picking up a broom in her vicinity, for example; if he's even still alive, the man who abused her is very old by now, and I *still* want to beat him with household implements until he begs for mercy and then keep going), and essentially tried to help her understand that she was safe, now.

(In time, she did, and became the most wonderful cat I've ever known. It's been more than a decade since she died, and I still miss her.)

The second pretty much does apply to all cats, and the correction of unwanted behaviours (with a side-note for emotionally damaged cats that's important to pay attention to).

Simply, discipline, but in the correct fashion, which is to hit them - in a very specific way. With one or two fingers, not hard, across the nose.

The reason is simple enough: Substitute a paw for the fingers, and that's how mother cats discipline their kittens, and is therefore the way that you can communicate No! Naughty! to a cat that will clearly mean just that. A whap across the nose, not hard enough to hurt but hard enough to be undeniably a disciplinary action, is something that a cat will understand as a scolding.

A similar understanding is part of the reason why, if you need to restrain a naughty cat, you should catch them by the scruff of the neck to hold them. (Don't lift an adult cat by the scruff alone, it hurts them. If you're lifting them up because they've been naughty, hold the scruff, but lift their weight with your other hand, under the chest.) Adult cats move kittens by the scruff.

The major reason to hold a naughty cat by the scruff, though, is that it's your best bet for preventing them from biting or scratching you. For a really enraged cat, like if you're breaking up a fight, put your palm at the back of their neck, three fingers gathering as much ruff as you can, press them gently down so their chests more-or-less touch the ground to limit their squirm/evasion abilities, and have your thumb and forefinger extended on either sides of their jaw, so they can't turn their head to bite you. Hold them like that until they're calmer, *then* pick them up or let them go. Remember: You are bigger and stronger than they are, but they are *faster* and *sharper* than you are.

It can take a little bit of practice, which may result in minor injury to the human involved, to perfect the technique of grabbing a cat this way so as to gain immediate control of it without it scoring a retaliatory hit first. This practice is readily acquired if, for example, you get a second cat, and your first cat unexpectedly turns out to want her dead.

I digress from getting to the important sidenote about disciplining an emotionally-damaged cat, which is: remember that they can't necessarily help it, and that your objective is NOT to punish, but to teach them that that behaviour is wrong.

Mouse would turn, out of nowhere, and scratch, or occasionally bite, because she was traumatised, and sometimes something would trigger her into a state of reflex aggression. She wasn't trying to hurt us, not really, she was trying to protect herself.

She very, very quickly got the message that this was behaviour we didn't want. Immediately after she'd scratched me, my hand would always be raised above her, because I have reflexes too, and if the thing I'm touching has suddenly turned very pointy, I reflexively pull my hand away from it. Of course, this also left my hand in position to smack her on the nose.

However, I stopped actually hitting her, we all did, because the way she reacted changed quickly. At first she'd switch into aggression mode, and that would be that. But after a remarkably short time, what would happen is that she would snap, and scratch - and then immediately flinch back, cringing miserably and apologetically at us, and halt aggression.

Obviously, at that point, we stopped actually whapping her on the nose because at that point, it's not that she doesn't know it's wrong, it's that she can't help it, and that's not a reflex we were going to beat out of her. At that point, the interaction went like this:

Me: *strokes Mouse*
Mouse: *purrs*
Me: *continues*
Mouse: *suddenly snaps head around and bites my hand*
Me: *yanks hand away*
Mouse: *cringes*
Me (soothingly): It's okay. *gingerly resumes petting*

And in time, it stopped happening at all. Gradually she got used to the feeling of safety, so that it went from it being okay to stroke her head and scritch her ears, to okay to stroke all along her back, and eventually, it got to be okay even to touch her legs or belly.

More and more, I think, I'm developing a view that I'm generally opposed to the concept of punishment. Punishment isn't the point, discipline is. Correction of harmful behaviours is not achieved by retribution.

At least on real living beings. In video games, I have to say, doing something that offends me tends to make me vengeful. In Civ5, if you drop a nuke inside my borders, I will obliterate your civilisation from the face of the earth; in Skyrim, if you murder my chickens, I will kill you and every other member of your species I can find, giants.

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