Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Twenty-Eight Cats

One year ago today our thirtieth cat, Fat Sally died.

Then, for three hundred and sixty-five days, we had twenty nine cats.

Today we have twenty-eight. Hard to believe what a hole that twenty-ninth cat leaves in the household. But that is something I will write for myself.

I already know we have passed the zenith of the arc and will never have twenty-nine cats agin. That each year will end with fewer and fewer. That's how it has to be, because I don't want to die leaving dozens of cats needing a care-taker. I owe it to them to see them through their lives safely before I leave mine.

It's just the attrition that's killing me...

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Gone




Dinky is gone.

It was relatively quick and (I hope) painless. She spent most of the day sleeping in the bed, nestled between two hot water bottles . When I came in from working in the shop, I took her to the litter box, but she just lay down, too weak to stand. That's when I knew it wouldn't be long for her.

I took her back to bed and made a little nest for her, then lay with her, waiting for the end of this life to come for her. She had a very brief spat of crying out -- more in confusion--I pray--than pain, but it passed quickly and she fell into semi-consciousness. Her breathing grew slow and deep. And then, about a quarter-hour after six, she gave a little push against me with her paws and I knew that was it. She was gone.

My sweet, spunky little calico...

I'm going to miss her forever.

But I am glad that the long process that began with the renal failure diagnosis last spring is over and that for her there will be no more needles and no more droppers of medicine. I am glad it was a quick decline for her with no agonized lingering.

And that the last thing she heard was me telling her how much I loved her. She can carry that knowledge into the forever with her, where I trust she waits for me at the end of time.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Christmas Morning

Dinky slept under the covers beside me all night (short as it was for me.) I think we are both comforted by the contact. She's not eating. I got about five mouthfuls down her yesterday afternoon but when I tried to feed her more last night she started gagging. I gave her something to settle her stomach but didn't try to feed her any more. I'll make her some soup this afternoon and try again.

I am conflicted about force-feeding. I don't want our last days to be a series of confrontations over food, but I hate to think that she could be hungry but just be unable--for whatever reason--to eat. Cats always seem to stop eating before they die, as if some internal voice were telling them that they didn't need food any more.

Maybe that's why I am trying to keep Dinky interested in eating, to hold her here a bit longer.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Dinky

I always know this time is coming and that every one of these cats is going to break my heart eventually.

Dinky has been such a joy to know, it's hard to think of life without her--she takes up considerably more space in our hearts and home than one would expect. I'm glad I can voice my sorrow here without fear of misunderstanding but I don't want to get wrapped up in it. After all, she is still with us and I shouldn't be whining about the inevitable future--I need to focus on the moment and enjoy the love we share today.

She's not feeling good and she doesn't seem to be eating much, if at all. I gave her vitamins and a small amount of baby food this morning. I know her mouth is sore and hope the antibiotic will heal it enough that she will feel like eating. There's not much else we can do but keep her as comfortable as we can.

I know she enjoys being home with us--which is why she's not going to spend another night at the clinic. She's come home to die but it is home just the same--our circle of love that encloses her.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Home

10 degrees, overcast
16 inches of snow on the ground

Denny picked up Dinky from the vet clinic yesterday afternoon while I was at work. There is a big circle of happiness completed by having her at home.

She had pink streaks of amoxicillin on her face and throat and a polka-dot bandage wrapped around one leg where they had shaved her to administer fluids. I cut off the bandage, washed her face and combed out as much of the hardened antibiotic syrup as I could. It took her a while to relax and accept the fact that she was at home. She slept curled up next to me all night long, not moving from the bed until this morning.

Denny was told that her blood values--which had been elevated from normal by a factor of ten--had been lower by half yesterday afternoon. I don't know if that means she still has some kidney function or if the flushing out of toxins was working. I just hope it means that she is feeling better.

I doubt that I will put her through hospitalization again. The IV-fluid therapy may have helped but I know the stress of being away from home didn't. If I can double up on her fluids at home and maintain similar numbers, I know she will do much better. There's the adage, "Treat the cat, not the numbers," and I know the boost of being home and comforted has to weigh in for something in the equation.

Friday, December 22, 2006

17 degrees, overcast
Strong northerly winds
16 inches of snow on the ground

I’m having a hard time getting into the holiday spirit this year.

This should have been a week of relaxing and enjoying the season. I had my cards in the mail, Denny is home for the holidays... Instead, I’m feeling like a Grinch and all the over-the-top gaiety grates on my nerves.

The main downer is that I know this is Dinky’s last Christmas with us. My thoughts dwell on those other dear souls who left us in the dark of winter...Sparky, Johnny, Newt, poor Fat Sally.

I think about the dire straits Dinky and Sparky were in twelve years ago. Christmas for them that year—their first winter—was spent cold and hungry, abandoned by the people they had depended on for food and shelter all their brief lives. It was one of the last days in December when they were brought into the Shelter. In my heart, I bless the gruff man who rescued them, who gave enough of a damn not to just leave them to freeze or starve as their “owners” had done. If not for him, I never would have had the chance to know Dinky and Sparky, two cats whose sweetness was undeterred by harsh circumstances.

So if I can milk one good thing out of this sadness, it is that Dinky will not die cold, hungry and alone.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Bad News

20 degrees, partly cloudy
16 inches of snow on the ground

Well, the news from the vet is not good concerning Dinky…

They were unable to get her kidney values down even with IV fluids, so it would seem that she has lost all her kidney function and her time is very limited now.

I had such hope that she would be able to hold this inevitability at bay for a while longer. But would there ever be a good time to say goodbye to a cat like Dinky?

Tomorrow we will bring her home for this little space of time we have left.

I’m just sorry that there is nothing we can do to hang on to her. This disease will take everything from her before the end--everything but that little heart so full of love and the mind as quick as mercury.

I will fight to keep her comfortable as long as possible. I hope I don’t give up too soon. I hope I don’t hang on too long.

I know that is the last gift I can give her but I don’t want to do it. I want her to die in her sleep curled up in my arms, where she has slept for so many nights. I want her to carry happy dreams and a sense of love and security into eternity…

Damn it all.

So, tonight, for comfort, I am holding close the realities of the lives I have saved, even if only for a while. I guess all we can manage is a little while, and then we have to let go. I am so very glad I brought Dinky and Sparky home twelve years ago. And of course, Punkin, who is my comfort and constant companion.

Dinky has been such a special cat to me. These coming weeks are hard to face.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

26 degrees, windy, fine snow
17 inches of snow on the ground

Dinky is spending the next two nights at the veterinary hospital.

I took her in to see the doctor this morning to get a blood check on her kidney values. They had been dropping ever since she was diagnosed. But we didn't check them in November and she's been acting a little quiet the past two weeks, so I thought a re-check wouldn't be out of line.

Her values were all through-the-roof elevated.

The vet wants to keep her a couple of days to try and "flush her out" with IV fluids, then she'll come home for us to treat with more sub-Q fluids. She is still bright and active but I know this means her disease is moving to a new phase--a phase closer to the final one.

Damn it.

I know what you may be thinking, She has so many--what's the big heart-ache over one?

The sad truth is that the cats that we are the most likely to lose are those who have been with us the longest.

Dinky's been with us almost twelve years now--the dirty, starving, half-grown cat who was brought to the Animal Shelter in deep winter. She and her brother, Sparky.

Sparky died just before Christmas in 1998 and I have clung to the sweetest of his memory as I held on to Dinky.

She has been a wonderful cat, a great companion, and I am trying hard to muster gratitude for her presence in my life out of the heaviness that is in my heart.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

18 degrees, overcast
12 inches of snow on the ground

I'm concerned about Dinky. She has been uncommonly subdued for the past four or five days. I fear her kidney problems may be catching up with her. She was doing so well for so long, I let myself believe that she was going to "get over" it somehow. I have to face the reality of her condition. I made an appointment for a vet-check for her next week to see how her kidney values are doing. Maybe there is something we can do to make her feel better.

I noticed last night that Punkin and one or two of the others are a bit congested, so it's likely there's a cold going around. Maybe that is why Dink is feeling low. I need to be more careful about changing clothes when I come back from the Animal Shelter. I didn't worry too much when all the cats were younger, but as they age, I should be more vigilant about bringing home germs.

I bought some dry food for Frieda that is formulated for a sensitive gut. We will see if that helps with her digestive disorder. Exploratory surgery is one way of determining just what type of inflammatory bowel disease she may have but that seems a harsh diagnostic process for a fifteen-year-old cat. She hasn't responded to the medications that treat the two of the types, so that pretty much points to the third option--food allergy.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Lucy

I had a dream that our Lucy Sue was walking down the hall to jump up on the bed next to her sister, Cissy. Even though it was a dream, I was happy to see Lucy again. She was such a loving and wonderful cat.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Monday, December 11, 2006

Punkin

28 degrees, clearing
three inches of snow on the ground.

Punkin is my darling.... Since she came to live with us at such a young age, I think she actually believes that I am her mother. The force of her conviction has convinced the other cats as well--no one has disputed her right to be Queen since she took on the role upon the death of Whiskers in 1999.

She is mostly a hands-off ruler, content to claim the best sleeping spot (which she will share with the blind kitty) and first shot at my attention, letting the minions dicker over their own petty roles. She walks through the daily hub-bub of the House of Many Cats with her confidence as her shield, taking little notice of the underlings.

She reserves her focus for the people in her life, Denny and me. She lights up when we call her name, eyes alive with intelligence and affection. It was the smallest quirk of fate that brought us together--but we have formed a bond so deep that it seems as if we were fated to meet.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Grendel

We have made some progress with Grendel this year.

After years of basically letting her be, we became more intrusive this year--probably as a result of Fat Sally's death. We didn't want any hidden health problems to crop up when it was too late for us to do anything for her, so Grendel got hauled to the vet several times this year.

She is passive for a feral. She will let me pet her if she can't escape but then will sneak off to a new hidey--hole soon after. Catching her to take her to the vet has become progressively less traumatic though we still have to corner her and stuff her into a carrier against her efforts to escape. But then, there are several nominally "tame" cats that have to be treated like that, so I'm not holding that against her.

Grendel has to be about eleven or twelve now--a round-bodied tortoiseshell with golden eyes. She is virtually invisible most of the time. She and Skinny (aka Star) have a large cardboard box hideaway in the corner of our main upstairs room. If the house is quiet--after I go to work or town or after bedtime at night--Grendel comes out of her den and will go downstairs to sleep on the bed of the spare room, desirable because of the access to the outside cat condo from there. When the weather is fine, she likes to sit out in the condo and watch the birds and take in some sun.

Her fear of us is slowly eroding. She watches us warily if we enter the room when she is exposed on the bed, but doesn't run for cover every time she sees us. I try to peek into her den and say "Hi" frequently, just so she will get used to our attention. It's a quiet life but she seems happy, with shelter and companionship and a steady supply of food. I hope some day I will wake up to find her sleeping on the foot of my bed, but if that never happens, I will still feel we have done okay by her.

Saturday, December 9, 2006

Update

Dinky has been a real shit about taking her fluids lately. I massaged her shoulders and she doesn't seem to have any inflammation there that would account for her attitude. Maybe it's just too much for too long as far as she is concerned.

She saw me warming the bag of fluids this morning and split. It took me about half an hour to find her, wedged in the back of the pantry. I have to be so careful when I start preparing the fluids or else I find myself extricating her from the most inaccessible location she can find.

I started Frieda on acidophilus yesterday. All I could find were tablets, so I cut them in half and ground them up to mix in her baby food along with the slippery elm. She seems to be doing no worse off her meds than she was doing on them. Maybe I will give her gut some time to regroup before resuming the antibiotic. She had been on it for a month already.

Cissy has bounced back from her cold and is her old self again.

Tommy is quietly blooming under the additional attention he has received since his seizures and seems to be feeling quite well. The blood work showed that his glucose levels were fairly well-controlled in the month before his seizure.

Since I hadn't been giving him insulin up until a week prior to his reaction, I am wondering if he really needs it or if his diagnosis was based on the slight elevation of glucose levels that all the cats seem to get under the stress of a vet visit. I will get him rechecked in a few weeks to see how he is doing but right now the risk of overdosing him on insulin seems greater than the risk that he's going to lapse into diabetic coma.

Friday, December 8, 2006

Clarence & Lola

Tonight I am thinking of that wisp of a cat, our Lola.

If not for Denny and I, she would have grown up wild in the forest to a short, harsh life. Now she lords it over the Boys in the Back, a perfect little princess of a cat.

In some ways, Lola is reminiscent of Newt—another small, quick, silky black cat. But Lola is quicksilver where Newt was steady. There are aspects of her personality that recall Dinky, but as of yet, she hasn’t shown the heart that Dinky has. But these are not shortcomings—Lola is just what she is, a quick and quick-witted creature who is still finding a way to be our kitty.

Lola and her brother Clarence are blessed among our cats. Born in the early summer, they have never known what it is to scramble for survival in winter’s cold and dark. The most traumatic event of their young lives was also the greatest blessing--when they were trapped by us and given passage into the world of humans.

Clarence has adjusted to life in the back (with the Boys in the Back) remarkably well. I felt badly for him, that first week or so after his banishment. But it was so liberating not to have to search the house each morning to find where he has sprayed, to deal with the laundry and cleaning and deodorizing, and resenting him for it.

And--as often happens-- having found his niche in the back rooms, he seems to have stopped spraying—-or slowed way down on it. He has gone from being Lena’s timid shadow to being one of the dominant personalities in the back.

He’s bulked up a bit, too--not growing fat but more sturdy. His new contours echo Bart’s blocky body and it no longer seems odd to think that they are father and son.

Gone is the dirty-white kitten who bolted from me that first day, the first time we realized that we had kittens eating on our porch.

His smudged features have darkened into red-gold points and his pale body taken on that golden cast that flame-point cat acquire. He retains a pantherine grace that suggests the wildness of his youngest days, but he loves to be stroked, pressing against our hands with a decidedly non-feral urgency.

I think in time he will mellow to the point where we can let him come back into the main body of the house.

But cats are creatures of habit above almost anything else, and the Boys in the Back have formed their own stable and happy social group. Pickle Boy still moves between both worlds, as does Lola on occasion. Bart and Punkin visit the back rooms but rarely stay for more than a quarter hour or so.

Clarence may choose being a dominant cat in his small domain over being one of the lesser cats in a larger one.

Thursday, December 7, 2006

Our Tabby Girls

38 degrees, occasional rain
3 inches of wet snow/slush on the ground.

I surely enjoy Molly, a brown tabby of indeterminate age. She is such a pleasure to hold--round and soft and full of pleasant noises. She is a "hummer," who comments on most any occurrence with a short "Prrt" sound and reacts to physical contact with her persistent purr.

Her life has improved quite a bit since the winter she spent sleeping in the woodpile of a summer cabin and scrounging for food where she could find it. She found it mostly at our house, but being skittish, she never let me approach too closely. All we could do for her was make sure that food was left out for her and watch and worry over her.

A deep snowfall forced me into action. When I went out to leave her food that night, I saw her tracks, weaving from side to side in our driveway and realized that she was looking for a path through the two-foot deep snow cover--and that she was wearing herself out trudging through the snow.

I followed her tracks to the carport next to the house, where she was huddled underneath a boat. I set the food down and while she was eating, I edged close enough to grab her--that desperate hold that knew there would be no second chance. I had her inside before either of us could draw two breaths.

I don't know much about Molly's life before she was abandoned. Someone had cared enough about her to raise her and feed her and have her spayed. But she was been living on her own for months, and some time before she came to live with us, someone had made her fear people and flinch from contact. At some point, two of her canine teeth had been broken--had she been hit by a car or by a human being?

It literally took us years--a decade--to overcome her fearfulness. That she comes to us when we call her and greets us with joy may mean that she has finally forgotten the hard life and the times before...

~*~*~


I guess Maggie is about seven or eight years old.

She started her life in a neighborhood of Anchorage known as Muldoon and enters on the scene as an abandoned cat, a young mother who was raising her kittens under a trailer in a mobile home park where my brother and his family was living. My sister-in-law and nieces took pity on the poor cat and rescued her and her kittens. The kittens had no trouble finding new homes but, as is so often the case, an adult cat without the benefit of kitten-cuteness is not as sought-after as a pet.

So my brother's family kept "Momma Cat" as their own.

A year or two passed and the family was moving out-of-state. So--you guessed it--we took in "Momma Cat." I met her for the first time when Denny pulled into the driveway with the fluffy tabby cat sitting on the front seat of his pick-up truck. She looked very composed for a cat who had just had a 220-miles road trip. That quiet self-composure is a hallmark of the cat we re-named "Maggie."

Maggie is a great cat. She doesn't pick fights or force her attentions on people. She is smart and pays attention and tries so hard to understand what we ask of her that she reminds me of Newt in that respect. Her fierce little Persian-type face makes her look forbidding but it masks a sweet and compliant personality that any cat-owner would cherish. I am glad the long road from Muldoon ended at our house.

She lives in the shop right now and I can't recall quite how that happened except that there were strong personalities involved and she was being terrorized by one or more of the established house cats. Moving her into the shop seemed the best solution for all concerned at the time. The dynamic in the house seems to have mellowed lately, and we are slowly trying to reintroduce her into the household social group. As she is a very low-profile kitty, I am optimistic that she can find a place in time.

She has a happy life in the shop--sitting in the window or outside in the cat run, sunning herself or looking for errant shrews in the straw carpet of the cat run. Like many of the more self-effacing cats, she doesn't demand attention but I suspect she would enjoy having more.

~*~*~

It is a mystery to me why Snickers was left to languish at the Animal Shelter while her two siblings found a home.

I knew from the first time I met her that Snickers was an exceptional cat. She had life and personality and a way of looking you directly in the eye when she spoke to you. I marked her as special, taking an interest in her and hoping every week when I went in to volunteer at the Shelter that she would have found a good home.

I guess eventually she *did* find a good home. Ours.

I was really trying to hold the line against gaining more cats but every now and then one comes along that you can't close out of your heart. I cared about the shaggy earth-toned tabby and worried about her fate. As I dithered about whether I could possibly squeeze her into the House of Many Cats, she contracted a bad case of cat flu.

It was difficult, in the ramshackle conditions at the old Animal Shelter, to keep the animals all healthy. One sick cat coming into the small cat shed could spread an air-borne virus overnight and there weren't any decent facilities for quarantine. Serious illness usually meant euthanasia.

When I showed up for my volunteer day, Snickers' cage was empty.

I was afraid to ask what had become of her, though I peered into the crowded supply room and the office area to see if she was in isolation there. I couldn't find her and went through the day with a sad heart, wishing I had been able to save her. I knew too well the realities that made it so hard to save sick cats, especially when there weren't enough homes for the healthy ones, but I knew I would hold the memory of the out-going tabby close to my heart for a long time.

That evening, as I passed the Shelter on my way home from work, I remembered that I hadn't checked in the bathroom. The small but warm room frequently had to stand-in as an isolation area. Maybe, just maybe, Snickers had been put in there...

I heard her miserable meow as I unlocked the bathroom door. She was there--nestled next to the space heater but too sick to do more than raise her head when I came in. With her eyes gummed up and her nose clogged, she looked pretty sad. But she was alive and I felt as if I had been given a second chance to save her. Without really thinking, I bundled her up, put her in the truck, and took her home for personalized nursing.

Despite being young and strong, Snickers almost didn't make it. It took several vet visits, days of force-feeding and subcutaneous fluid therapy before she started to make signs that she was interested in living. And when you fight so hard for the life of a cat, it is very hard to put them up for adoption. I guess it is true that when you save a life, you become responsible for it.

Snickers was ours because I couldn't bear to lose her again.

She is a wonderful cat. At least all the people who know her agree with that. For some reason, most of the cats that know her well find her insufferable. Maybe they think she is an incorrigible suck-up. She isn't confrontational but she doesn't back down from defending herself and she is good at it. Anyone who tries to violate her personal space can end up with scratches while she is unmarked. She may not be well-liked by her peers, but she is respected.

She radiates self-confidence and a joy of life that give me a warm feeling when I look at her. It is obvious that whoever gave her up for adoption was not a connoisseur of cats, because she is a treasure among felines.

Cissy

36 degrees, overcast
rainy, windy
3 inches of old snow on the ground

Cissy is the other of Demi's surviving kittens. Strange to think of her and Frieda as kittens when they are fifteen years old but there is a wealth of emotion encompassed in the designation "kitten". There is something special about knowing someone their entire life. I was the first human to touch them (and will undoubtedly be the last.) Frieda and Cissy (along with a handful of those we adopted as very young kittens) go through life with a sense of confident entitlement born--no doubt--from never having to scramble for shelter or scrounge for food.

They have only known love and security, and it shows. Cissy is a friendly, talkative cat who loves to be held and adores being combed. She is less assertive than her sister but has been known to insist on respect from those cats who joined our family after her. In any confrontation, she knows she can count on Frieda to back her up.

But by and large, Cissy's joys in life are the simple ones--sunning in the cat run, hunting for voles and shrews and savoring fresh grass in the spring and summer. In the winter, she sleeps snuggled up to the warm and fluffy Toby John and Tommy on the sheepskin bed in the middle of the shop.

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Frieda

She is fifteen now, my little red tabby girl, Frieda. She still is the dominant personality among the cats in the shop. Judging from my very limited experience, orange female cats seem to have dominant-type personalities.

Only about 20% of red/orange cats are females. There is a reason the phrase "ginger tom" rolls off the tongue. Genetically-speaking, the feline world produces black or red tabby males and tortoiseshell or calico females in abundance. And every now and then, red tabby females.

Like her coat, Frieda is a firebrand--stubborn, assertive, protective of her family and courageous in the face of threats. In her youth, when she was allowed access to the outdoors, she stalked spruce grouse, chased off intruding dogs and challenged eagles and owls who came too close. I fear unrestrained, she would have had a brief but exciting life.

Now settled into retirement in the shop, she is the Queen. Any disturbance (if she doesn't initiate it) will draw her attention. Any threat to her mother or sister will draw her wrath. She oversees her domain with a no-nonsense air about her, emphasized by her short, upright tail, like a little exclamation mark.

She may be fifteen years old, but no one messes with Frieda.

Monday, December 4, 2006

Twenty-Nine Cats

No one sets out to have twenty-nine cats.


They just happen, one cat at a time. Johnny was an abandoned two-month old. Newt was in a box of kittens outside the grocery store. Toby (the first) was struggling to survive in zero-degree temperatures at the town dump. Fred was subsistence-living in our woods... Just single little lives in need of shelter. One by one, like individual pearls on a string, we added them to our life.


I have thought a lot about Demi lately. The first few years that she lived with us, she was genially ignored, overshadowed by the cuteness of her kittens. She is not a pushy cat and never demanded attention, but I have memories of her following me on my treks through the woods, happy to keep me company.


From the first, she has been out-going and friendly. Abandoned by her original owners and expecting kittens, she discovered the dish of cat food I kept out under one of the vans and must have clung tightly to a steady source of food. One morning when I went out to fill the dish, she popped out from under the vehicle, looked up at me and said hello.


I brought her inside and set her up in the shop with bedding and a litterbox. Gradually over the next week, she worked her way into the house and up to the bedroom. Two weeks after we met, she gave birth to six kittens in a nest box I had set up for her in the back room. Frieda, Cissy, Lucy and their siblings entered our life.


Inobtrusive and self-contained, Demi is a member of our household who rarely demands or receives special attention. She was and is content to have a warm, safe place to sleep, regular meals and occasional cuddling, but time has brought to us a greater appreciation of the little polka-dotted calico with her unfailing affection. She slipped into our routine with barely a ripple but she is a comforting presence in our daily lives.

Sunday, December 3, 2006

Fred is the cat who has lived with us the longest, joining our household in the early winter of 1990. He is an easy-going, friendly cat who enjoys being with people. He has to be at least seventeen years old--possibly as old as nineteen. At this point in his life, he is a skinny old man of a cat, wiry and spry. He has a notch on one ear, a last souvenier from Wild Red, the feral cat who fathered Frieda and Cissy and who used to make life interesting for Fred back in the days when he was allowed free access to the outdoors.


Now Fred's world has shrunk to the shop and the second-floor mezzanine, which he shares with Twitch and occasionally Cissy. He spends most of his time napping in the laundry baskets or on the spare bed. With his advanced age, he carries a feline dignity that spares him from the petty byzantine bickering of cat society. Where he was once a target for casual abuse by the other cats, time has mellowed their attitude toward him and he can pretty much do as he pleases and go where he wants.


He still enjoys sitting in the outside cat run and watching the world go by. I doubt he recalls the winter he lived in the forest behind our house and only came to us for food and affection. The year after he came to live with us, Demi showed up and her kittens were born here. Every other cat who joined our family found Fred here first, ready to accept them into our household without prejudice or rancor.


In the sunset years of his life, we appreciate his love and unfailing good-humor and are glad that fate brought him, an abandoned young cat to our door so many years ago.

Saturday, December 2, 2006


I have cut back on Frieda's medications quite a bit, since they haven't really done anything to cure her symptoms. I am trying slippery elm and yogurt to soothe her gut now, and tempting her palate with ground chicken and special treats. She can go back to the vet in a couple weeks to see what else we can come up with for her. Poor kitty. I sure love that hard-headed girl.


Tommy, on the other hand--Tommy who looked so close to death just over a week ago--is walking around the shop like he couldn't be in finer health. The best guess is that he went into insulin shock. Due to the long-acting qualities of feline insulin, it effected him for nearly two days. He seems fully recovered, though he now prefers the bed we made him on the shop floor to the communal bed he shared with Toby and Cissy. Always a quiet cat, he is relishing the extra attention we give him now.

Friday, December 1, 2006

Bart

After all these years, I still don't understand the minds of cats. They are a mystery wrapped in velvet.

Bart is a particular enigma.

I don't recall exactly when he started eating from our porch--we have had a series of stray cats show up over the years. So many of them have been black and there was no particular reason to remember him at the time.

It was as if he made a decision, in the summer of 2005, to try to trust us. By that point, we had trapped his family and moved them to other homes. Clarence and Lola remained with us. His other companion, Star (aka Skinny), had moved inside a year before. It could have been that he was lonely and wanted to be with the other cats.

He moved his feeding spot from the front porch to the back deck, where he could look into the house through the patio doors. When fall came, Denny built him a small shelter so he could look into the house and eat without having to sit in the rain. He would still hiss and move away from us when we put his food outside, but his retreat was shorter and shorter as time progressed.

Finally, one day, I propped the door of the cat run open and put some catnip inside to lure him in. In a matter of minutes, he was trapped and his life outside was over.

He is an unexpected cat. His wildness has fallen away, leaving a devoted cat who loves to be petted and twines between our legs when we walk. He grew up with people. People who apparently didn't mistreat him, for he is trusting and loving.

So what led him to be living in the woods, with a deep mistrust of humans that had me convinced at one point that he was "hopelessly feral?" And having reached that point, what made him decide we might be trusted? Was it the way we treated our cats? Could he see that Clarence, Lola and Skinny were happy and well-fed, part of a feline community?

That is Bart's secret. I'm just glad he made his choice to join us.