Tuesday, May 24, 2011

When Is A Cat Not A Cat? When He's A Little Hoarse.

A few weeks ago, Shadow lost his voice. He's a chatty guy in general (seriously, he yells more than Nikki these days, and she's the Siamese!). Something tells me if he'd been left outdoors and, er, intact, he'd have been quite a hit with the ladies, given his fabulous vocal range and capacity to project! But apparently even his magnificently robust vocal cords have their limit -- as he actually managed to recently meow his way into a mild case of laryngitis!

Basically he got so excited following a particular trip to the Magical Land of Back Yard that he spent the next couple evenings meyowling (whilst staring pointedly at the back door). I am thinking he must have meowed all day the following Tuesday as well because when I got home from work* he was obviously trying to meow, but all that came out was a raspy, squeaky "miiiiiiew!"

Initially I thought he might be angry at something because the sounds he was making bore a vague auditory resemblance to the growly thing some cats do as a keep-away warning. But his body language wasn't angry at all; he looked normally curious and alert, albeit slightly perplexed (I am sure he was wondering where his siren went!).

Now, cats can get laryngitis for a variety of reasons, probably the most common being the acquisition of an upper respiratory infection. I briefly worried about this -- even though my guys don't have much direct exposure to other cats, I do, given my dealings with the local feral colony. As that colony overlaps with a population of half-housecats and self-socialized adolescent kittens, I don't entirely discount the possibility of my acting as a Kitty Typhoid Mary.

Certainly I do my best to minimize the risk of my carrying feline illnesses home via hand-washing and monthly application of flea-prevention medicine to my guys, but still. If Shadow had not regained his voice as quickly as he did -- he was back to full volume within maybe two days -- I most assuredly would have called the vet. Since he had no signs of URI...no runny eyes, no sneezing, no lethargy, and no change in appetite, I figured "watchful waiting" was appropriate, and in this case things did indeed resolve on their own.

But anyway. The most interesting result of Shadow's temporary voicelessness was how it affected Brodie. Generally speaking, Nikki and Shadow alternate in the position of Spokescat for the household. Their agendas and priorities differ somewhat, but they're both plenty concerned with getting breakfast on time, and thus they usually switch off as far as who is going to go scratch and howl at the humans' bedroom door at early-o-clock in the morning.

Apparently, though, Nikki decided to take the day off on one of the mornings when Shadow was still too hoarse to howl.

It took me a few seconds to even recognize the voice I was hearing when the meowing started up that morning. It sounded a little like Shadow, and even a little like Nikki (oddly enough) but not exactly like either. Turns out it was Brodie.

Brodie has never been silent, but he's nowhere near as vocal as either of his siblings, and seems to save his mewing for very specific occasions. And until Shadow's laryngitic episode, Brodie never stepped up to Morning Door Duty.

Now, though, he actually seems to have worked himself into the rotation! Which is both surprising and unsurprising, if that makes any sense. Brodie is a bright guy -- his mechanical skills occasionally rival Cora's -- but his personality is (in general) more passive than that of either of his siblings. He takes longer than any of the others to figure out certain kinds of social cause-and-effect where humans are concerned, and seems to have a tendency toward quietly observing situations for a long time before engaging with them.

That said, he never fails to come through for his feline housemates when the need arises. And I am beginning to see a pattern wherein Brodie seems to learn much of what doesn't come naturally to him by doing what does come naturally to him -- which is to say, being closely attuned to other cats and helping them out in any way he can.

* I've been employed part time as a hardware tech since January 2011, forgot if I mentioned that here already. It is tremendously fun. I feel like an anime fix-it girl!

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