Archive for Columbo

Cat Call

Posted in Columbo with tags , , , on June 16, 2011 by telescoper

Just time for a quick post today, as I’m off to the airport this afternoon for a short trip (which I’ll no doubt blog about at the weekend when I get back). I’m also late into the office because I had to take my cat Columbo to the vet for his six-monthly check-up.

Columbo is now 17 years old (and a few months) and has been diabetic for the last six or seven of those. He needs to have a check-up every 6 months primarily to monitor whether his insulin dose (which is administered twice a day) is adequate to control his blood sugar level. The vet also gives him a general medical, and weighs him, during these visits.

This morning Columbo was even more reluctant than usual to get into his box for the trip to the vets. Eventually I got him in, but was apprehensive. Usually when he’s in that sort of mood he retaliates by befouling the box. This time, however, he settled down quite quickly and there were no toiletary disasters en route. The vet’s waiting room was empty when we arrived at 9am so we got seen straight away.

The vet was impressed by his age, especially when she saw how long he has been diabetic. Even without this condition 16 is a pretty good age for a tom cat. Columbo has been through a number of serious medical episodes, at least a couple of which took him near death, but he has always managed to bounce back. He may be an old boy now, but he gets 10/10 for resilience. Looking back over his (substantial) medical history, the vet seems to be amazed by his powers of recovery although history is now definitely taking its toll and he’s looking a bit frail nowadays.

The vet noted the effects of the advancing years. His eyesight has clearly dimmed. He’s never been very good at catching birds and mice, but I think he struggles even to see them nowadays. Despite the glucosamine treatment he has been having, his arthritis has also deteriorated. The stiffness in his joints makes it difficult for him to groom himself, so his coat isn’t in great condition even though I brush him regularly. He’s also lost a bit of weight since the last visit; not enough to be life-threatening, but significant nevertheless.

On the other hand, his heartbeat and other vital signs seem to be in order, and he purred contentedly on the table during the examination. The vet was a little concerned about his weight loss, but said he clearly wasn’t in any discomfort and trying to prod and probe, take blood samples and whatever to find out the reason was just going to cause him distress. And even if they could fix it, he was still going to be a very old cat if and when he recovered and there’s no cure for old age.

During these visits the vet usually takes a blood sample in order to check glucose and fructosamine levels for diagnostic purposes. This time, however, she suggested that it was probably best to skip it. The business of drawing a vial of blood from a cat’s neck is unpleasant and extremely distressing for the animal. Given that his bodily signs were OK, there seemed little point in subjecting him to this. Instead she suggested we just maintain the current insulin level unless and until something appears to go wrong. I agreed.

Not doing the blood tests saved me a bit of money, but that’s not the point at all. I know the old boy is much nearer the end of his life than the beginning. I just want his last days to be as comfortable and happy as possible. I don’t see the point of making him uncomfortable to satisfy veterinary curiosity or to prolong his life by a few months. When the time comes, I’d rather he went peacefully.

The one thing I did agree on was to try some anti-inflammatory treatment for his arthritis, stuff you squirt on food. If that works it might make it easier for him to get around, and also groom himself. It does have a side-effect with some cats, making them nauseous, so I have to build it up slowly and keep an eye on him in case he gets sick.

Anyway, when it was time to go he climbed willingly into his box – the cat-box process is a very different business at the vet compared to what it’s like at home. When we got home he bundled out at high speed and headed straight for his food dish. He still has a healthy appetite, that’s for sure.

Here’s a quick picture for his fans, taken just before he went in his basket for a nap.

Old Boy Network

Posted in Columbo with tags , on May 17, 2011 by telescoper

It’s only after spending what seems like weeks catching up after my short holiday that I realise I’ve forgotten to post the update that probably most people care about, i.e. my old moggy Columbo.

Well, although he’s not getting any younger he’s still doing OK. I had to make use of the services of a petsitter while I was away (both at NAM and then on holidays). It turns out the lady who usually comes wasn’t available all the time so I had two different people coming to the house at various times. His support network is becoming extensive.

He is of course pretty old now – he was 17 in March – and he’s showing quite a few signs of age. He has been suffering from arthritis in his legs for a while, but the medication seems at least to have stopped it getting worse. He still has a bit of a struggle sometimes getting up and lying down but the discomfort obviously doesn’t last too long. If it gets to the point where he’s in pain all the time then I’ll have to think very hard about what to do.

Despite this ailment (and his continuing diabetes) he still seems happy enough to potter about in the garden in between lengthy snoozes, more often than not on my bed. He’s also still got a healthy appetite. The only times he’s ever been off his food have been when he was really ill, so as long as he’s eating I reckon he’s basically OK. That’s why I don’t mind him cadging for snacks, as is his wont..

Columbo’s basically a friendly old chap and there are occasions when he clearly enjoys having other people around. At other times, though, increasingly frequent now, he clearly prefers his own company and goes off on his own somewhere. I know him well enough not to bother him when he’s in that mood. Actually, Columbo and I are pretty similar in that craving for solitude. We old boys like to keep ourselves to ourselves.


Columbo’s Birthday

Posted in Columbo with tags , on March 31, 2011 by telescoper

It’s been a while since I last posted an update about my old moggy, Columbo. In truth I’ve been waiting until today to post about him, because today is his birthday. He’s 17, not bad for a diabetic tom cat. Yesterday I bought some fresh prawns and this morning gave them to him as a treat. He demolished them so quickly I doubt if they even touched the sides. Technically he’s supposed to be restricted to special diabetic food but it’s a one-off so I decided to splash out. Anyway, here’s a close up of him looking close up. This is his tactic when there’s cheese on my plate.


Baby Columbo

Posted in Columbo with tags , on January 24, 2011 by telescoper

No time for a proper post today, so I thought I’d put up a gratuitously cute picture of my old moggy Columbo, taken when he was a youngster – about 16¾ years ago. Feel free to say “awwww…”. Oh, and the beardy weirdy in the picture is me, also in a younger incarnation.




The Day of the Rat

Posted in Biographical, Columbo with tags , , on January 22, 2011 by telescoper

The last two days have been a bit different from usual, owing to the arrival of an unexpected visitor in the Coles residence.

About 5am yesterday (Friday) I woke up suddenly to the sound of something moving downstairs. I thought it might be a burglar, so I switched all the lights on and rushed to the landing just in time to see a large rodent running along the hall on the ground floor. I followed it into the sitting room, but it had vanished somehow. Looking around I found a number of tell-tale holes in the skirting boards and floorboards through which the rat might gone to earth, including one hole which has been there since I moved in but which looked suddenly larger. I blocked them all up as best I could and, there being no further sign of my house guest, went back to bad.

Columbo didn’t seem to be in the slightest bit bothered by the intruder and, although I put him in the sitting room to act as sentry in case the critter appeared again, within a few minutes he was upstairs sleeping on my bed.

I couldn’t get back to sleep, as every little sound I heard made me think of the rat so in the end I got up, had breakfast and got ready to go to work. Thus it was that went into the department bright and early, put a full shift in, and then went along to the Poet’s Corner for a few drinks with the astronomy folks afterwards. This was even more pleasurable than usual because it was an opportunity to celebrate another succesful completion of a PhD; Well done Vanessa!

Anyway, I got home quite late and was pretty tired so went to bed hoping that I wouldn’t woken up in the early hours again by the rat. Unfortunately, about 6.30 I was disturbed by the sound of frantic scuttling and gnawing downstairs. This time the rat wasn’t on the surface, but moving about under the floorboards, trying to find an alternative way up. Clearly I’d managed to block the normal route. I made sure everything was secure and tried to get some more sleep, which didn’t work, and eventually when it seemed a decent hour I called a pest control operative who promised to come about mid-day.

I busied myself with some domestic chores until he arrived, while periodically checking on the sitting room and whether the rat could still be heard. It could. However, about 11.30, the noise grew louder and finally the creature surfaced again. It had made a completely new hole in only a few hours. Rats must have some gnashers on them. I chased it with a sweeping brush and it holed up under the television. There then followed a standoff, only interrupted by the arrival of the rat catcher about ten minutes later.

The guy went for a net – although there isn’t much room to wield such a thing in my house – and we devised a cunning plan to trap it. The plan failed as the rat was much quicker than either of us and its daring escape bid made full use of the element of surprise as it charged straight at us.

The rat vanished again under the floorboards, so we had to settle for plan B which was to lay traps and poison anywhere it might get to. Various forms of rodenticide were deployed, including difenacoum and brodificoum. The traps are baited with a mixture of peanut butter and chocolate, both of which I hate, but which apparently rats adore. With that he gave me the bill and left.

Columbo slept through the whole adventure, but came downstairs to say goodbye to the rat man.

There’s been no more noise from under the floor, but I’m pretty sure the rat is trapped. If it eats any of the poison then it will die there, slowly, and the only way I’ll know about it is when its rotting corpse starts to reek. So I have that to look forward to, unless it hurls itself onto a trap and dies an instant death.

The remaining mystery is how the critter got into the house. It clearly wasn’t through a direct route into the front room, otherwise he could have got out the same way and wouldn’t be trapped. Columbo once caught a rat in the garden, but it wasn’t dead when he brought it into the house. The rat catcher suggested he might have done the same thing with this one, and it managed to escape and roam free. Perhaps guilt is the reason Columbo kept such a low profile through all this?

I’m still kicking myself for not acting quicker when it broke cover. If only I’d had a shovel like when I was little…

That’s enough about the rat. Time to get cracking with my dinner. Followed perhaps by a biscuit.


The Trouble with Columbo

Posted in Columbo with tags , , , on November 20, 2010 by telescoper

So far it’s been a busy and extremely frustrating Saturday all on account of my old moggy, Columbo…

Today I took him to the vets for his six-monthly check-up. All went well, even to the extent that he didn’t try to take the vets arm off when they took a blood sample for the fructosamine test that checks whether his diabetes has been under control since the last visit. He’s even lost a bit of weight, which won’t do him any harm, although at 6.8 kg he’s still not exactly slim. His only indiscretion was to have a wee in his carrying box on the way there, but that’s nothing particularly unusual and was easily dealt with.

However, when I went to pick up his supplies (food, medication, syringes, and insulin) the vet informed me that the manufacturer of the kind of insulin he normally gets is no longer supplying it. This particular type is of a flavour called “Protamine Zinc”, although I don’t know really know what’s so special about that. Anyway, given that I’m running low the vet wrote me out a private prescription for human insulin, which apparently they are allowed to do if the supply of veterinary products runs out.

So I took Columbo home with the other stuff, left him in the house and, prescription in hand, romped off to the nearest pharmacy, which turned out to be the first of many I visited this morning. The problem is that human persons who are diabetic generally don’t use the old-fashioned vial-and-syringes approach to administering insulin, but get their dose from preloaded gadgets that look a bit like pens. These won’t do for cats which have skin that’s too thick. So one after the other various pharmacists explained that they would have to order the stuff I needed, and that it might take a while to arrive since there’s not much demand for it these days. None of them had a supplier that was open on saturdays either..

Eventually I gave up trying to find the insulin today and left the chit with a pharmacist to order on monday when their supplier is open. That is, if they’re able to supply it at all.

I’m not sure what I’m going to do if I can’t get the supply Columbo needs. Probably we’ll have to switch to another type of insulin, but the problem with that is that we’ll have to establish the right dose. He’s been stable on his current dose of his normal insulin for a long time now, but it did take a long time to sort how much he needs. If I have to start again on a different type, it will probably require several tests to see how he responds.

Anyway, having hoped to get the business of his insulin supply sorted out today, I’m now forced to wait until monday to see if I can get the necessary from the pharmacist. If not, I’ll have to talk to the vet when the fructosamine results come back to see what to do about starting on a new type. It’s all a bit of a pain, and I’m knackered after traipsing around half the chemists in Cardiff on a wild goose chase.

Columbo, however, is oblivious to all this and is doing pretty well. While I’ve been running around on his behalf he has been sleeping as is his wont, this time in the bathroom. He’s a picture of him taken after he’d just woken up.

Now it’s time to do a bit of relaxation of my own, in the form of the Guardian Prize crossword.


A Brush with Columbo

Posted in Columbo with tags , on October 10, 2010 by telescoper

I bumped into a few people I haven’t seen for a while at the rally yesterday, and quite a number of them told me off for not posting more updates about my old moggy, Columbo. Suitably chastened, I decided to put up a couple of snaps today. I was actually away Friday night and most of Saturday so had had to arrange for Columbo to be looked after by a professional catsitter so he could get his insulin jabs on Friday night and Saturday morning. Although the catsitter I use is very reliable, I always worry a little bit when I’m not there as I think he gets a little bit lonely.

As a treat for him, I stopped in a shop and bought him a bit of fish before I got on the train in Paddington. It was very cheap because they were about to close but I’m sure Columbo didn’t know that. Two and a half hours later when I got home it had certainly started to pong a bit, but that merely served to drive Columbo wild with anticipation.

I gave him his insulin as he scoffed the fish, sounding more like a pig than a cat – the combination of eating and purring noises is not all that pleasant. After he was done and had established that there really wasn’t any more, he joined me on the sofa for his favourite after-dinner pastime: getting brushed. He loves getting the metal brush over his head and face and often grabs the thing himself just to do it that little bit better.

After a good going over he looked quite a lot smarter and adjourned to the floor for a sleep. I think he’d forgiven me for leaving him alone for so long because, unusually, he didn’t try to eat the newspaper as I did the Guardian crossword.

Cat Nap

Posted in Columbo with tags , on August 15, 2010 by telescoper

It’s been a month since I last posted an update about Columbo so I thought I’d put up a quick item.There’s been no repeat of his recent nosebleed, and he’s showing no after-effects at all. As you all know, he’s not exactly in the first flush of youth – so there’s no more of the racing-around-like-a-mad-thing he did when he was kitten. He still likes to go for the odd wander about, but it’s strictly in his own time. In fact he’s still spending quite a lot of time out of doors, as the weather, though not as good as June and July because it has rained a bit, is at least reasonably warm.

However, he did recently discover a new comfy spot, in the cupboard under the stairs which he has now added to his collection of places to sleep. Other well-established locations are: under the coffee table in the sitting room, on the mat next to the bath, behind the trees at the end of the garden, and in the corner of the spare bedroom, as well as his basket of course. It must occupy his mind to a considerable degree deciding which of these spots to sleep in. Still, sleeping is mainly what he does so it’s obviously important to do it right. It’s a hard life, being a cat…

The other day I did a bit of work in the garden. When I’d finished I swept up various bits and pieces into a pile but realised I’d forgotten to bring a shovel. When I came back with said implement, Columbo had appeared from nowhere and was rolling around in the pile of muck. It seems far from unusual for cats to enjoy rolling around in leaves, twigs and general dirt. Probably it’s a good way for a moggy to scratch their back. Anyway, after a few minutes’ escstatic rolling around, Columbo nodded off on the path right next to the rubbish so I decided to take a picture.

The Curious Case of the Cat’s Nose

Posted in Columbo with tags , on July 17, 2010 by telescoper

Another day, another feline emergency.

This morning I got up to feed my old moggy Columbo. As usual, he was out and about first thing in the morning, but as soon as I got downstairs he was there waiting for his grub. I put it down for him, gave him a dish of fresh water, and did the usual insulin jab.  He started to scoff the food. As usual, the combination of eating and purring produced a sound like a pig at a trough so I left him to it and proceeded to make a cup of tea.

A few seconds later, Columbo sneezed. Nothing particularly unusual about that so I didn’t pay much attention. While I was waiting for the kettle to boil, however, I noticed something strange. There was blood on the food in the cat’s bowl, and a fine spray of blood on the wall behind it. Columbo had resumed eating, and seemed fine, but there was clearly something very wrong.

As it happens, a trip to the vet’s was on my agenda for today because I needed more of Columbo’s Feline MD, food which is specially designed (and specially priced too, apparently) for diabetic cats. I also needed some more insulin and some more of the tablets he has for his arthritis. Never cheap, these trips to the vet. Since I was going to go anyway, I thought I’d take him in for a check up, and phoned to see whether they could fit in an appointment this morning, which they did.

After completing the not too easy task of persuading Columbo into his travel box, off I went to do the honours. Soon he was sitting on the vet’s table, looking right as rain and showing no ill-effects at all. He was even purring; he seems to like this vet more than any other he’s ever been to. Anyway, I told the (sceptical-looking) vet what happened and she gave him the once over. She said the blood could be a sign of something quite serious, but it could have happened for any number of trivial reasons. Not finding anything wrong in his mouth or nose, she asked me whether I had found anything strange in his dish when he had sneezed. In fact there had been a small piece of a blade of grass, which I’d thought slightly odd but hadn’t mentioned because I didn’t think it was relevant.

The vet smiled and said she thought that was probably it. She went on to explain that cats often eat grass in the summer, sometimes to help digestion but also sometimes to help them produce furballs. It’s not all that unusual for a small piece of grass – which can be quite sharp – to find its way into the cat’s nasal passages from its mouth and when it gets there it can cause a nosebleed. Since the offending grass had found its way out, the problem was probably over. I sighed with relief. Panic over. It must have been unpleasant for the old chap, but better out than in.

The vet mentioned that Columbo has pretty good teeth for a 16-year old cat, although he is missing one long incisor at the front. The end snapped off this ages ago, probably during a fight. It didn’t seem to cause him any problems at the time so the vet said it was best just to leave it. A year or two later, however, he began to experience dfficulty eating and the vet suggested it was probably the tooth causing the bother. He spent a day at the cat hospital and had it removed under a general anaesthetic. Sorted. The rest of his gnashers are in good nick, as he is wont to demonstrate on unsuspecting visitors.

I was a bit worried that he might have developed another dodgy fang or some other mouth problem. I’d be a bit nervous about subjecting him to a general anaesthetic at his current age, as the risk increases markedly for the more senior citizens of the feline world. Thankfully, that’s not an issue. Not for the time being anyway.

After we got back he spent the rest of the day on a rigorous programme of sleeping, interrupted only by an attempt to eat the Travel Supplement of my newspaper.

Nearly time for his supper. I hope this time it’s not to be sneezed at.


Posted in Columbo with tags , on July 3, 2010 by telescoper

It’s been a while since I posted anything about Columbo, so I decided to take a quick picture of him in the garden. Now the roses have gone, but the lilies are out and I thought it would look nice to get a snap of him with them in the background. He didn’t seem to keen to pose, however, and I had to settle for this one in which he looks more than a little grumpy…

The hot humid weather we’ve been having recently broke on Thursday with a considerable downpour of rain. Columbo was delighted. With him being diabetic I have to make sure he gets plenty of water so I give him a fresh bowlful every morning. Usually, however, he prefers to go outside and drink rainwater from varies containers around the garden. During the hot spell these have gradually dried up and he’s been forced to drink the water I provide, which he clearly doesn’t like as much. I asked the vet about this and he said it’s because tap water smells funny to cats. Dirty water in a manhole cover doesn’t, apparently.

Anyway, when it rained Columbo went out and started lapping water up from puddles and off the leaves of the shrubs in the garden. He obviously loved it, although he was a very soggy moggy when he finally decided he’d had enough.

One of the drawbacks of Cardiff is that it’s a pretty damp place generally, partly because it rains quite often and partly because it’s very low-lying. My own house is near the River Taff – on its flood plain, in fact – so the water table isn’t far down. The result of this is that the garden can become a profusion of slugs and snails. Fortunately, I’ve never had the problem that some neighbours have had with slugs getting into the house. The hot weather has kept them away this year, but when I went out yesterday morning they were all over the lawn and even climbing up the walls. Obviously they prefer damp conditions, but it doesn’t take much to make them spring into life. Today’s warm again and I didn’t see any this morning. I wonder where they go when it’s too dry?

It’s sunny again today and Columbo’s reverted to his usual place in the shade at the end of the garden, emerging occasionally to make a half-hearted attempt to catch butterflies. The slightly odd weather seems to have done wonders for flowering plants – the roses were lovely this year, and the honeysuckle is still going which probably explains the large number of butterflies.

I wish I could persuade some songthrushes to visit and feast upon my latent slug population, but I suppose with a fierce cat lurking in the bushes they’re wise to stay away.