Templeton’s Personal Trainer

A dragonfly perches on a leaf in our backyard in Portland, Oregon in August 2006

Our oldest cat Templeton likes to chase dragonflies around the yard. He never comes even remotely close to catching them but he never gives up hope, at least it gets him lots of exercise. There was one time when a mating pair of dragonflies almost flew right into him, focused more on themselves than the world around them, but I saw what was happening and was able to restrain him.

Trials and Feats of Daring

Our cats Scout and Templeton sniff noses while in our backyard

Throughout history, many societies have made their young people endure trials and feats of daring to prove their readiness to be welcomed into society as adults. These feats could range from the fairly benign, such as swimming across a raging river full of hungry crocodiles with a hunk of meat strapped to your back, to the so-dangerous-it’s-almost-suicidal, such as giving Scout a bath.

Anthropologists have long debated where one such feat fits into this scale of bravery: getting Templeton to take his medicine. The debate knows no end chiefly because it all depends on who is giving the medicine.

If it’s a stranger to Templeton who’s giving the pills, we’re on the nearly-suicidal end of the scale, much like trying to hold Scout while small children are around.

If I’m giving Templeton his pills, however, we fall into the fairly benign category. Much like trimming Scout’s nails, there may be a lot of noise and movement but there’s no real danger.

The little one won’t strike out at me in anger, and the feat of daring becomes more a feat of patience and resilience with a dash of cleverness thrown in. You collect him in your arms and he knows what’s coming. He gives you a look that says “I love you but I’m not taking that pill!” I look back into his beautiful green eyes and answer “I love you and you WILL take this pill” and then it’s on.

Templeton’s defenses come in two main thrusts. His first defense is to keep the pill out of his mouth in the first place, which involves a lot of head turning, a jaw clamped down with all his might, lots of squirming, and flailing legs that try to knock the pill away.

We have a little device that shoots the pill down his throat which has helped immensely. However, this is where his second method of defense kicks in. After you’ve shot the pill a hundred times and missed, every so often you’ll use the force (thanks Obi-wan!) and the pill will find its target. However, Templeton immediately starts to work it back up, and it’s a stunning sight to see how quickly he can spit pills back up. If only there was a way to harness this power for the good of humanity.

Templeton added a new wrinkle to his defenses this last time. He had picked up an infection and needed a pill in the morning for over a week. Once I got the pill down his throat, he wouldn’t try and work it up. He’d just sit there and wait to be released. He’d meow a bit in protest but otherwise was calm and I figured my will had finally overcome his. Feeling victorious, I set him free and he bolted away. It slowly dawned on me that during his meows of protest he had kept his mouth closed the entire time.

He hadn’t swallowed the pill at all! He was going to run off and spit it out when I wasn’t looking! These pills start foaming fairly soon after they come into contact with saliva, however, so he couldn’t get them up very easily and it looked like he was foaming at the mouth.

So if you want to know how I spent each morning that week, you can envision a mighty struggle trying to get him to swallow the pill, then me chasing him around the house while a foamy white spittle is hanging down from his mouth. I’d eventually capture him and get all the foam back inside his mouth (kids, don’t try this at home) and then try and get him to eat since the medicine was supposed to be taken with food.

Templeton would protest of course and not eat anything, even though he was hungry. I know my little one won’t hold a grudge against me for long, though, so I’d just go upstairs and then come back down and he’d usually eat for me right away.

That cat is a little too clever for his own good.

Cure for Insomnia

Our cat Templeton sleeps happily in the grass

I’ve been a night owl most of my life and have constant trouble adapting to the sleep schedule of an early-bird-gets-the-worm world. I’m insanely jealous of Templeton’s ability not only to almost sleep at will, but how he seems in perfect peace when doing it. I’m thinking of wallpapering my office with this picture, to help me on those nights when I need the master’s help in drifting off to dreamland.


Our cats Templeton and Scout sleeping on our guest bed

Templeton has been almost his normal self the past few days after we switched him to a different type of kidney-friendly food, so I’m guardedly optimistic that he’s finally getting back to normal, 3 months after swallowing the sewing needle before Christmas. I’m not ready to declare victory quite yet, but I’m breathing a little easier.

This picture is from 2002 when we were living in Keizer. Scout loves to curl up with Templeton but he usually prefers to sleep on his own. If she’d catch him when he was tired enough, he’d decide it was better to let her snuggle than to have to get up and move somewhere else.


Our cat Templeton chews on a catnip bag

Templeton’s had his ups and down since getting his stomach operated on to remove the sewing needle he swallowed. After recuperating at home, he had to go back to the vet for a weekend to get antibiotics and fluids to battle a fever. Then he came home and every morning for the past couple of weeks has had the pleasure of me shooting a pill down his throat (and let me tell you, for a sick old man he sure could put up a fight).

A few days ago he really started coming around, back to about 70% of his normal self. He was moving around, wanting to play, meeting me at the door when I came home. He had another check up at the vet on Saturday and they will have the results on Tuesday. Today he was pretty quiet again and spent part of the day sitting in his cat carrier. I’m not sure if that’s a bad sign or if its irrelevant. Normally when we put him in there he goes to the vet, so I hope he’s not trying to tell us something. Usually he’s a bit more vocal when something’s on his mind. On the other hand, we usually don’t leave the carrier out like it is now, so perhaps he’s just trying out a new napping location.

The Christmas tree finally came down today, over a month after Christmas has come and gone. It’s so nice coming home and walking down the street and seeing the beautiful lights through the window, it’s a shame it can’t stay up year round. And Scout loves sleeping under (and in) it so much she’d love it if it was up year round too. In February we could decorate it for President’s Day, in March for St. Patrick’s Day, in April for Easter, in May for Memorial Day …

We’re also getting many of the rooms in the house painted, so the cats will get to spend the week closed off into the lower part of the house. Fortunately it seems Scout can’t open the door that leads into the kitchen, although I’m not sure we’ve seen her at her most desperate.

The picture above is Templeton with a catnip bag back in 2001 when were still living in Keizer.

A Return to Normalcy

Our cat Templeton rests on my Powerbook

I’ve always loved that President Warren Harding made up the phrase “A Return to Normalcy” as his campaign slogan and it stuck, so now people seemingly talk about returning to normalcy after every disaster. At least something good came out of Harding’s administration.

Things are starting to return to normal, both cats went to the vet this morning and had good reports. Templeton has mended pretty well from his stomach surgery and the only real issue is the possibility of early stages of kidney disease. One of the little tidbits that came out of his emergency surgery is that we learned he only has one functioning kidney, as one of them never properly formed.

I’ll give you one of mine if you need it little one.

The picture above probably seems like it was setup so that it would look like Templeton was working on my Powerbook, but it wasn’t posed. He was still recuperating at that point, isolated to the guest bedroom, so I had spent the evening with him on the bed while I sorted through some pictures I had taken. I went downstairs to get something and when I came back up, Templeton had moved to where I was sitting and plopped himself down in front of the keyboard. He likes to take my seat when I get up for reasons I don’t quite understand, but it can get a little comical in my office when he steals my seat the moment I get up.

Templeton is zonked out in one of my office chairs as I write this, with Scout sleeping on the floor below him. Just like the old days.

Cat or Kitten?

Our cat Templeton recuperates in our guest bedroom after surgery to remove the sewing needle he swallowed

It’s the night of December 22nd. We’re preparing to fly to Texas in the wee hours of the morning to visit family in Texas over the Christmas holidays.

My wife comes into my office and tells me not to freak out but she can’t find her sewing needle. Doesn’t seem too troubling to me but when we get downstairs I understand her concern: the needle was attached to some black thread, and Templeton might have swallowed it.

Now Templeton’s a thread eater, no question, but he’s never swallowed a needle. He’s thirteen years old after all, a cat and not a kitten. No chance he swallowed it.


Wrong. We looked everywhere for the needle and couldn’t find it, so we took him to Dove Lewis Emergency Animal Hospital (great folks) and X-rays confirmed his stomach contents: lots of food and one sewing needle.

He had surgery that night to remove the needle, and fortunately a friend was able to keep him in her house while we were gone and keep a close eye on him. He’s back home now, isolated to the guest bedroom to keep him from running and jumping, with a clear plastic collar around his neck to keep him from pulling out his stitches.

We give him supervised time without the collar so he can bathe himself (except for the stomach), and it’s a lot easier for him to eat and use the litter box. He still smells a little different, enough that Scout hasn’t really realized who he is, although now that he can bathe himself a little she’s coming a lot closer. She only gets to be around him when we’re around, otherwise he’ll convince her to pull out his stitches for him.

He’s scheduled to get the stitches out on the 6th of January, so he only has to hold out for a few more days with his unwanted fashion accessory.

Let this be a lesson for my feline readers out there: eating thread is bad, eating needles is really, really bad.