Wednesday, December 28, 2005


Sally is gone.

It happened so quickly, we are still a bit stunned. I'm still in the stage of self-blame.

Monday night, Denny noticed Sally was limping when she came out of her hiding spot for dinner. I didn't pay him too much mind because she's had a slight limp for some time. But now she was not putting any weight on her left front leg and once we got a good look at her, it was obvious her shoulder and leg were swollen. So, thinking dislocation or abcess, I called the vet clinic Tuesday morning to get an appointment.

A bit of background. Sally (aka "Fat Sally", aka "Ms. Tabby") showed up about a year ago, eating the food we keep on the porch for strays. Because of her girth,we were afraid she was pregnant and rather than face the prospect of trying to trap her and locate kittens in below-freezing weather, we trapped her as soon as we could.

We installed her in the big cat cage downstairs with a large nest box and waited. And waited. And waited. No kittens.

So, it turns out that Sally was spayed. At some point in her life she had belonged to someone. How she came to be fending for herself in sub-freezing temperatures and be so terrified of humans is a mystery we will never solve.

As it was, she was inside and safe. Once we realized there would be no kittens, we let her out into the house, where she kept mostly in her hidey-box until we went to bed. We would catch glimspes of her from time to time, scurrying for cover when we happened upon the scene, but she showed no interest in warming up to us.

I wish that getting her to the vet hadn't been such a traumatic experience for her. I hate to think that her last hour was stressful, but she needed to be examined. Ralph eventually had to sedate her in order to examine her and it wasn't good. Rather than a dislocation, what he felt around her shoulder joint was obviously a tumor. A tumor that because of its size and location was both inoperable and fast-growing. Most likely already metasticized.

So we did what we felt most humane and let Sally go.

I had thought we had time to work with her, time to gain her trust. But now there is no more.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Making Progress

I woke up this morning to the sweetest thing. One of the cats was vigorously, estaticly rubbing against my feet. I looked down to the foot of the bed to see...Black Bart. Yes, the cat that I judged "hopelessly feral" two years ago. Over the past few days, he and I have been getting closer to an understanding. He has let me approach closer and even done "courting" gestures, like rubbing his face on something nearby when I talk to him. The signals seem to be that he wouldn't be adverse to being petted, though he retreated off the bed this morning when I reached toward him. He didn't seem to mind my feet rubbing him through the quilt, however.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

The New Cat

I woke up with a sinus headache and too much to do--as usual. I didn't sleep all that well. I woke up about two-thirty to see Dinky looking toward my closet and growling. I knew before I even looked--the newly-added stray cat that I am (for now) calling Rosalee was in my closet, looking scared. (I didn't check to see if Grendel was in her hidey-spot and refusing to share with a stranger or what...) I spoke calmly to Rosa, picked her up and carried her back downstairs. As I had feared, she had managed to wiggle out of the vestibule between the door frame and the temporary closet doors. I adjusted the closet doors to fit more snugly against the door frame and hoped that having satisfied her curiosity about what was on the other side of the door, she would be content to stay in "her" room. I worried she would try to get out and hang herself up against the doors. But after I put her back in the little room, she stayed in for the remainder of the night, so perhaps she found the rest of the house and the resident cats a bit more than she wanted to face so soon.

I had an 11:30 vet appointment for Rosalee, so after I made coffee and took a sinus pill, I decided to pack up my candy gift boxes before I got involved with cat chores. I don't know what I was thinking, making so much candy. Denny and I certainly can't eat it, and even after gifting the guys at work and packing the boxes for Arnie and Sam and the Harts, there is plenty left.

I got almost all the cat-boxes cleaned before I had to run to the vet clinic. Still have three more to do when I get home from work. Dots checked our new addition over pretty thoroughly, even shaved her tummy to find the spay scar--it was a relief to know her reproductive status but it begs the question--whose cat was she and why haven't they been looking for her? Anyway, Dots thinks she is only two or three years old. After we were done at the vet's, I took her down by the Shelter to show her to Mike and Sherry to see if they recognized her. There is something almost-familiar about her that I have been ascribing to her resemblance to our late Rosie but Mike seemed to think he remembered adopting out a cat like her to someone in our neighborhood. So--I wonder why she wasn't hanging out at her house instead of mine? Cats generally have a great sense of location and if she lived in our neighborhood, she should have known where her home was--not shown up starving and scared at our house....

After some consideration, I went ahead and put her and Twitch in the papers as found cats. If their families don't want them, they won't claim them. I suppose there *could* be an intelligent excuse for both of them to be bumming at my house. We shall see if anyone responds.

Another Houdini

Rosalee escaped her private room again last night, coming upstairs to hide in Denny's closet once again. Obviously, she doesn't like being shut away from the activity of the household--such as it is. She hasn't shown any aggressive tendencies and our other cats are so innurred to newcomers that they view them only with mild curiosity, so we'll just leave her out and see how she integrates herself into the clowder.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

We had five inches or so of snow Sunday night/Monday morning, but by Tuesday, the weather had warmed up and the rain began falling Tuesday night. Now, all our deep snow is gone--just scattered patches of wet snow and smooth ice. I'd despair for our holidays if I didn't know that the weather is supposed to turn colder this weekend and into next week.

Bebe got out of his cage--found him wet and scared in the garage. It's nice to know that he won't go running across the road to his old home if left to his own devices, though I would rather have found this out some other way.

Friday, December 2, 2005

Feral Cats

Feral cats are so easy--I wish I had a houseful of them. (Oh, wait--I nearly do...)

After six years with us, Grendel has finally gotten enough confidence to move furitively around the house during the day but she still will vanish if we pay too much notice of her. Although, yesterday she was in the downstairs bedroom while I was cleaning the cat boxes and made to dash into her hiding spot until I spoke soothingly to her. She stopped and watched me warily while I went about my chores. I got both boxes clean before she retreated to what she considered safety. She is such a pretty cat, I would like to see more of her. She must understand by now that we aren't going to hurt her. On occasion, she will walk through the bedroom while we are watching television, then stop halfway down the hall to peer at us. Maybe I am just imagining the questions in her eyes.

Skinny (officially named "Star" but no one calls her that) has been known to sneak up and sleep on the foot of the bed at night but spends most of the daylight hours pretending to be afraid of us. I have touched her several times, getting close enough to stroke her paw when playing with her (and she is a great one for playing with the kitty-teases). She is quick to show me how sharp her claws are when I venture a finger too close, but I don't have the feeling she is scratching out of fear--just playfulness.

Fat Sally obviously belonged to *someone* at some time because she is spayed. She will creep out when the house is quiet--day or night--but retreats if we pay attention to of her. She likes to sleep in the basket by the computer upstairs at night. She is another one that I talk soothingly to when I pass by. She's been with us for nearly a year now.

Black Bart is a strange one. We trapped him two years ago when we brought Baby and her kittens inside. We had him neutered at the time but he was so hostile that I figured he was hopelessly feral and let him loose to live in the yard.

That seemed to suit everyone just fine until this August. He suddenly started showing up on the deck during the day, visiting the housecats through the screen door or the wire of the small cat run. Skinny and Clarence seemed particularly fond of him and I had to wonder if he remembered Skinny from the time she lived outside (up until September 2004.) That he might recognize/remember Clarence as his kitten seems a stretch but Clarence and Lola were allowed out in the cat run a few months after we brought them inside, so I suppose he could have seen them in there from that time on, before the memory and their scents changed too much.

Over the course of a month or so, Black Bart came to take his meals on the deck. Denny built him a little "bus stop"-like shelter that looked into the kitchen from the deck and as winter approached, he was often sitting there day or night, peering in at us. He would still hiss and move away when I went outside to feed him, but he retreated a shorter distance and his hiss seemed more rote than heart-felt. A few times, he even ventured inside the screen door, but if I made a move into the kitchen, he would hasten outside again.

It took catnip and leaving the cat run open to capture him. After he was prodded inside the house, he quickly found the feral havens both in the downstairs bedroom and up in the living room. There was a minimum of hissing as the ferals were all more afraid of us than of a new cat, and he was well-behaved from the start. I have to think that Skinny in particular was glad to see him, though they don't interact much while I can see them.

After a few days of lying low, Bart began coming out of hiding when I fed the cats, keeping to the shadows and out of reach, but understanding the procedure and fitting in. Last night he got up on the second shelf of the cat tree and stayed put while I walked through the room several times, so he is taking baby steps toward us. It would be nice to wake up some night and find him curled on the bed, but thus far, he spends his nights downstairs with Grendel and Skinny, probably taking air in the cat run.