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Four Things My Cats Taught Me About Life

December 6th, 2009 at 07:46 am

1. Embrace your inner predator.
When Waldo stalks The String, I have to admire the intensity of his concentration. In that moment when his eyes lock on their target, the outside world ceases to exist. There are no distractions. All energy is focused on his quarry. Every movement, every twitch of The String is processed and adjusted for as the animal prepares to pounce at exactly the right time. In a house cat, such single-minded attention comes from instinct and genes, but cultivated by a person, these qualities could enhance one's accomplishments where patience, commitment and clarity of mind are required.

2. Life is best savored from a lounging position.
Like good old boys who never tire of telling the same story over and over again, the Fur Boys repeatedly urge the following wisdom:

"When you lie down, the pace of life slows down."

"Take time to smell the food bowl."

"You only go through life nine times."

"Stretch, roll, yawn and repeat."

"Indulging in a little catnip now and then is good for the heart."

"Decisions come easier following thoughtful meditation, preferably in morning sunlight."

3. Always make time for play.
Waldo has the long legs and lean body of a ballet dancer. He'll readily go airborne to pursue a flung mouse. His twists, turns and pirouettes would earn him points from a television dance contest judge.

Luther has the body of a weight-lifter, strong, stocky and stout. He's not much of a jumper and is more inclined to look for a seat as soon as he enters a room. At play, he prefers to have The String dangled inches above him as he lies on his back, four paws to the wind. At all times, he maintains a perpetual state of innocent, wide-eyed adorableness, a fiction he frequently plays up to get himself out of trouble.

4. Lick your loved ones.

The expression of love can take several forms, Luther told me one day, feeling philosophical. Licking, for instance. Waldo's gentle snoring, Luther confided, awakens in him a fierce desire to show his love, and he does so by firmly placing his paws around his best bud's neck and vigorously bathing Waldo's head in a no-nonsense kind of way. Should Waldo have the temerity to protest or the poor judgment to move, the licks are replaced by jaws locked on the throat and a tussle ensues.

Leisurely sipping a glass of Zinfandel in the afternoon sun, Luther was feeling expansive and eager to articulate his feelings. To prove his love to me, his Keeper, he explained, he only needed to beam and squint in beatific joy and gratitude.

When feeling particularly demonstrative, Luther expresses his love by gently gnawing on delightfully odoriferous human toes, starting with the littlest and saving the biggest (and best) for last. He'll begin by artfully gaining the victim's trust with gentle, tender nipping that lulls one into complacency. Then, without warning, the delicate sampling of the 5 Little Piggies degenerates as the victim's toes are noshed on while Luther clamps down hard with a devilish grin on his face.

30 Days With Waldo

June 6th, 2009 at 06:20 am

I've made a lot of progress with Waldo in just this past week. I've had him exactly 30 days today.

For the first time, he emerged from under his hiding place to eat his dinner last night while i was still standing there. I was amazed. Up til then, he'd waiting until it was dark and i had left the room before he'd eat.

He's eating more in general, not just the one evening meal.

He's also cautiously eaten a few snacks I've tossed in his direction.

Even better, the last 3 nights, we've spent a good 15 or 20 minutes playing with the cat dancer. He will paw and pounce on and bite the cat dancer and i even got him to enjoy rolling around in some catnip last night.

He also used the litter box while i was in the room, for the first time while I was there.

He will also groom himself while Lither and I are in the room and sometimes, when he looks at me, he closes his eyes. This is all BIG progress.

He also has made some cautious forays around the room while I'm in it, sticking close to the walls. I can see him eying the entryway to the room and it's clear he'd like to explore, but my shelter contact said conventional wisdom is not to let them have run of the house until they bond with you, and we aren't quite there yet.

It's tempting to just let him access my upstairs only, as i have a door at the top of the stairs. I don't know if he'd explore during daylight hours, but i may leave the upstairs closed off during the day, just to see. I decided against doing it last night because it would probably ensure a sleepless night. Luther would probably shadow and stalk Waldo as Waldo tried to explore. To Luther, who so wants a playmate, it's just a game as he is lord of this house, but Waldo is still new to it.

Waldo's brother, Scottie, was adopted by another woman who said that even after 8 months with Scottie (also feral) she could pet him, but only on his terms.

Vote on My New Cat's Name

April 17th, 2009 at 05:44 pm

Sometimes, what you long to hold is sitting right in front of you.

I picked out my second cat. No, I don't have him yet, but I hope to in another week or two. I decided to go with "Stripey," the large male tabby who time and again has been passed over by potential adoptees.

As befitting of an older male cat, these are the names I'm mulling over. Please tell me which TWO you like the most:


I am leaning most toward "Waldo" or maybe "Basil."

Anyway, as I said, I don't have him yet. My last contact with my shelter contact was when she emailed me yesterday saying they were going to have a traveling vet come to the shelter to give him his shots and put him in the carrier for them.

Luther and I have gotten into a nice lifestyle here and while I can still see he's got oodles of energy and needs more company, I also don't want to upset/disrupt our loving little household.

On the plus side, everything is pretty much cat-proofed at this point, and I don't think an older cat would be likely to get into more mischief than Luther already has. My shower curtain is now permanently thrown over the bar since Luther clawed the bottom. Same goes for my bedroom floor-length curtains. (Unfortunately, he managed to get one down and there are small holes in one panel. I really had to grit my teeth then.) I have vinyl blinds in several rooms and I've been careful not the let the cords dangle, as that is just like waving a raw steak in front of a hungry cougar. He HAS to attack.

If I can see fairly early on that Stripey won't hurt Luther and they more or less look like they'll get on, that would be huge for me. I am prepared for it to be weeks (maybe more) for this cat to warm up to me. That's ok. I can be patient. I just would find it very difficult to have to keep the 2 cats separated for any length of time, since I could see closing myself in whatever room i put Stripey in will cause Luther to start meowing and carrying on. (Plus, my upstairs bedroom doors don't close to well; they tend to pop open.)

I plan to put Stripey in my office here. Luther and I spend more time in my bedroom, so during the time when Stripey is still acclimating, this will be a quieter area where I don't HAVE to be.

I am pleased as punch to have pushed my emergency fund over the $10,000 mark with today's contribution. (I do a transfer every payday.) I'm about 41% toward my goal of 8 months worth of living expenses. I am 2 months ahead of schedule with having saved that amount, and it's because I threw my tax refund in that.

This is part of my daily commute. These daffodils cover a wide area. (The homeowners live across the street.)

Meet the Newest Member of the Family

February 21st, 2009 at 06:33 pm

This is the story of the first day of the rest of his life...

I arranged to pick up Luther around 7:30 am so I could be home with him all day on his first day with me.

They put him in a new carrier I'd bought for Sitka, black vinyl with a kind of black webbing.

We started out on the 25-minute ride home. Luther started out with little meows. I can handle this, I thought. I kept talking reassuringly to him. Then the little mews turned into alarmed, louder meows. Then without warning, Luther went beserk, desperately trying to get out of the carrier. I was trying to keep my eyes on the road, and when I looked down at him, I saw he had chewed a hole through the webbing and his nose was halfway out.

I knew I had to keep him in his carrier at all cost and I had no time to pull over, so I put my hand over the hole so he wouldn't make it bigger. Then he bit me, but good. I had two small puncture wounds which started bleeding. The cat was still doing a pretty good kamikaze act in the carrier, so, still driving, I grabbed a pad of paper with a cardboard backing and pushed it against the hole. You don't know how glad I was when i pulled in my driveway.

I let him out once inside the house. He was pretty scared. I showed him where his food dish was in the kitchen, and his litter box in the upstairs spare bedroom, then put him in the bedroom figuring he'd feel most secure under the bed. Then I went across the hall to tend to my wound. I was in there for just five minutes, and when I returned to the bedroom, he wasn't under the bed. Before I picked him up I made a point to close all closet doors, plus the doors to the basement and 1 bathroom, just so it'd be easier for me to keep tabs on him. I searched the whole house upstairs and down and COULD NOT FIND HIM. I knew he was hiding somewhere, but figured he'd show when he was ready. Still, I worried he might be stuck somewhere, so I searched the house up and down a 2nd time, a 3rd time and even a 4th time in the next 2 hours. Still couldn't find him. Finally, I did. He was squeezed under a dresser in my bedroom which had a five-inch clearance at most. That's where he spent most of the day. Throughout the day I would take breaks from work in my office, lie down on the floor by the dresser and stick my hand in there (brave, right, after getting bit?) and pet him and he'd purr like mad, but he still wouldn't come out.

Then, at dusk, he found the courage to come out of his hiding place and to move over to under the bed, which was a bit roomier but still secure.

The next day I left for work, wondering how he'd do on his own. When I got home, I found evidence of play. A toy of Sitka's that had been on the counter in the upstairs bathroom sink was on the living room floor. A throw blanket on a chair was on the floor. Evidently he had been exploring when the house was quiet, but he would still stay in the bedroom when I was home, though he was super lovable and affectionate.

He isn't used to the normal noises of the house, having been born outside. My fir floor boards creak all over the place, especially upstairs, and I think that startled him for a while.

I don't think, for instance, he ever experienced a TV before and he has been watching it curiously.

Later in the week, I came home to find some drapes covering my interior French doors down on the floor; I hope the tension rod didn't hit him.

Today, he's really coming into his own. He's been coming downstairs now to follow me and hanging out all over the house. Despite the bite, he is a super-affectionate cat. (I don't think he intended to bite me, he was just trying to get out of the carrier.)

The second night here, he stayed all night with me in the bedroom, sometimes on the bed and sometimes on the rug. I could tell where he was at all times, even in the dark, because i could hear him purring nonstop. Like a beacon in the night. He seems very happy.

Oh, about that bite. I emailed the woman at the shelter to let her know how his first and second days went and I almost wasn't going to mention the bite. She strongly urged me to see a doctor and get antibiotics because she said cat bites are easily infected. I had washed the bite wounds out very well and used peroxide on it; it looked fine to me, though it was swollen and particularly sore on the first day.

But I went to see the doctor yesterday, and I'm really glad I did. He said it was already a "first tier" infection and gave me the meds. He told me he could almost guarantee me that if I'd waited til Monday (they're closed Sat/Sun) I would have been in a lot of trouble. He said cat saliva has a bacteria that spreads very easily and cat bites on the hands are the worst because there's very little flesh there and the infection can spread quickly to the tendons. He said if I had waited until Monday to see him, he'd probably have sent me to a hand surgeon.

I was rather shocked. Also shocked at the meds. I remember years ago if you got sick or needed antibiotics, you'd get 200 milligrams, or maybe 400. I'm taking 875 milligrams twice a day! I shudder to think what it's doing to my system, but at Costco today I bought a case of Stonyfield yogurt and am also taking acidopholus.

One thing i especially like about Luther is that as a long-haired cat, he has these tufts of long hair growing out of his ears, so long they kind of curl up at the ends outside the ear, kind of like a cowlick. It's very cute. Did you ever see an old man with really bushy eyebrows? Kind of reminds me of that. Smile

He loves to play and is just today getting into wanting to explore everything. He really seems to be relishing having the space and freedom to explore more than than the tiny room he shared with 5 other cats.

I was a little alarmed the 2nd day because when i cleaned out the litter box, there was pee and no poop, but i smelled poop in my office. OH NO, i thought, i CAN'T deal with another cat that doesn't poop in the litter box. This is just not possible. This can't be happening to me. I searched the office everywhere but couldn't find the poop, but my nose is very good. I finally found it. I have a large potted dracena with some florist dried moss covering the dirt. The cat had scratched off the moss and pooped in the dirt. So I cut a corrugated piece of cardboard into a circle to cover the top of the pot with a slit for the plant's stem, then used clear masking tape to keep it on.

Next day, I found poop in the litter box. I was thrilled. It's the simple things that make me happy.

I'm still considering whether to get a companion for Luther, but I'm a little afraid of rocking the boat with another cat who either may not get along with him or else create a situation where one cat dominates the other. (I've experienced both before.) So i don't know. There was a female tortie that lived in the same room at the shelter with Luther, and i know they got along, so she might be a possibility. But Luther is a needy cat, he is constantly with me looking for attention. I don't know if he'd be willing to "share" me with another kitty.

Help Me Name the Orange Guy

February 16th, 2009 at 03:39 pm

Yes, I can say it now because it is official. The shelter checked out my references and I "passed." I am now free to adopt the long-haired orange cat I went back to see a second time today.

He is a mush. Very sweet, gentle and mellow personality. He's just five months old. He and two siblings, both of whom were already adopted, were found with their mother living under a house in a not so nice town.

He's been there about a month and I was surprised no one had taken him yet, because he's very cute, but maybe it's because his photo was not up on their website yet. So no one would know about him unless they came to the shelter, and I think a lot of people like me browse www.petfinder.com before deciding which shelter(s) to visit.

The parents are still feral and loose, but I think they caught the mother and spayed her. I'm told that my cat is the spitting image of his dad, while his mother was a calico.

So would you like to help me name him? I have settled on two names that I like, though if you have others I'm all ears. Since he is a beautiful rusty orange, i was thinking either 1. Apricot, or 2. Luther.

I always wanted a cat named Luther. Don't know why. As for Apricot, it's a bit long, but I could see myself calling him "Appy" for short, which rhymes with "Happy."