Monday, June 25, 2018

WHY CATS?

Thimble and Thread -- their eyes are much better today and they did a lot of romping.

I live alone in a very small shabby house in a small village that prides itself on nice lawns.  I "have" four cats, two big and two little -- or actually half-size cats, all related.  The two big cats are mother and daughter.  The half cats are the daughter's last batch of kittens.  One male, one female.  The male is gray, first-born and named Thimble.  The second is male, black, named Thread.  I didn't ask for them -- they just happened.  The grandmother was raised in a back shed, the mother and her kittens were born in my bed.  

I didn't ask for them.  I just went to sleep with one big fat cat beside me and woke up with a not-so-fat cat and her kittens.  I saved the two and should not have.  They have not prospered.  For one thing they're inbred.  For another they seem to have afflictions, esp. Thimble.  This town is overrun with feral cats.  Now and then a plague sweeps through them, though some claim it's an outbreak of poisoning and it may very well be both.  Others claim that city people constantly replenish the supply of cats by dumping off unwanted pets.

Anyway, the four cats who come into the house are constantly interfered with by garage cats, from generations back, whose mother died last winter.  There's fighting and screaming and stealing.  I jump up to see whom to save and from what.

This is good, because sitting is the new smoking (in terms of health impact) and I sit way too much because of writing -- all day if I can get away with it.  I stand to open the door or close the door or just look out the door to see who's out there.  I go to wash my hands because a half-cat just leapt onto my shoulder -- which is much better than shinnying up my leg with claws -- and it had something sticky on it.  Probably tree sap, but why take chances.  (The big cottonwood that is my joy also needs defending because is on the property line and the Southern Baptist church has members who want to saw their side off because it will be neater and easier to mow.  This time of year it drips sap on everything, which is not as nice as making "summer snow" fluff that drifts everywhere.)

Health is part of the reason I'm here.  Twenty years ago a heart doc in Portland told me I had early congestive heart disease and time grinned.  I had barely enough money to move here, thinking I would have just enough time to write Bob Scriver's autobiography before I died.  I did that ("Bronze Inside and Out") and more, but my new doc says he can find no signs of congestive heart failure.

But since I'm a little too preoccupied with health issues, chasing them through Google, I chase cat diseases along with my own.  The problem for both of us is money.  Health industries are voracious and there are too many professionals out there repelled by "practice managers" and insurance companies, missing the professional status that used to be theirs, overwhelmed by the new wave of redefined and discovered problems, that their idea is to charge high, limit time, and retire early.  So I Google when I'm between doctors and sometimes behind their backs.  That won't be necessary if this doc sticks with me.

When I got my blood test results, of course my cholesterol and blood pressure were high -- I measure them at home all the time.  But three other molecules were marked by the lab:  monocytes and basophils were a little high and A/G ratio was a little low.  Of course, I googled.  They suggest a mild infection, although I imagine that I'm suffering from everything I read.

Monocytosis is the state of excess monocytes in the peripheral blood. Examples of processes that can increase a monocyte count include:
Basophils are a type of white blood cells. Basophils are the least common of the granulocytes, representing about 0.5 to 1% of circulating white blood cells. However, they are the largest type of granulocyte. They are responsible for inflammatory reactions during immune response, as well as in the formation of acute and chronic allergic diseases, including anaphylaxis, asthma, atopic dermatitis and hay fever. They can perform phagocytosis (cell eating), produce histamine and serotonin that induce inflammation, and heparin that prevents blood clotting although there are less than that found in Mast cell granules It used to be thought that basophils that have migrated from blood into their resident tissues (connective tissue) are known as mast cells, but this is no longer thought to be the case.
A/G Ratio  A low total protein level can suggest a liver disorder, a kidney disorder, or a disorder in which protein is not digested or absorbed properly. Low levels may be seen in severe malnutrition and with conditions that cause malabsorption, such as celiac disease or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).Apr 10, 201
I'd been thinking about zoonoses, infections that are shared between species, so I began to look at cat diseases.  The big cats seem healthy except that they "slip" their pregnancies so have more "heat" phases than are strictly necessary.  The kittens have crusty and oozing eyes, respiratory tract infections, and one is severely underweight.  They have every symptom of Q fever, a disease called by Coxiella burnetti, a bacterium.  It's mostly Australian although a scientist brought some to the Bitterroot Valley super-lab and it escaped briefly.  But many bacteria and viruses have similar effects.
Local opinionators stretch out between two extremes:  kill all excess, diseased or runt animals.  (The vet charges $50 to kill a cat.  I took him the uncle of these kittens, who had only one testicle and lost every fight so that he was a bloody mess.)  I could probably just squeeze these half-cats to death, but I can't bear to kill kittens once they open their eyes.  The other strategy locally is to abandon unwanted cats near a farm, but that is from the days when farms had cows and mice.  Today they have poison and I'm told the coyotes soon finish off an unwary cat.
Cat vaccines tend to be only 30% effective.  I can't afford them.  If I took these cats to a shelter (I can't -- there aren't any here.) they would be disease vectors that infected the whole population.  If I keep them warm, fed, talked to, they may just survive and recover.
So the cats keep me aware and pursuing disease.  They keep me on schedule by wanting to get up at the same time, eat at the same time, go in and out at the same time.  A disturbance in that scheme means something is wrong and I'd best respond.  Screams mean invaders.  A sudden thundering stampede through the house ending under the bed means a dog is loose. They're like canaries down a coal mine.

More than that, I have no children, my family is dispersed, I stay apart from neighbors for various reasons, and my "circle" is through the internet.  I need a certain amount of skin contact and conversation and there they are beside me, come to find me and tell me, "Mrrrfhlm mmmkk," which is only unintelligible if you don't have enough context.
I saw a strange thing on the internet.  It was a cage for a canary in a coal mine and attached to it was a little cannister of oxygen for reviving the bird once it had keeled over from carbon mono.  Then they could take it down another shaft.  So far half-a-dozen unapproachable feral cats have died that I know of.  No oxygen cannisters for them.  I'm the oxygen for these four.

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