Friday, December 25, 2009

Thursday, December 17, 2009


Outside it is zero degrees (F) but Grendel and Lena are snug and warm on this side of the glass door.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


Mimi is glad I put a cat bed under the tree. It is a prime napping location.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

A December Look

Twitch the Christmas cat....

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Watching Snow Fall

An afternoon in the life of a deaf cat....

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Lettting Her Go

1996? - 2009

Her whole life was a struggle but she, for the most part, didn't seem to notice.

She was born with cerebral palsy, and fought for the movement that came effortlessly to the other cats. Where they moved with grace and speed, her motions were slow and jerky--but if she resented it, she never showed it. She tottered around the house like a drunken sailor, undaunted by her own clumsiness. She would just persevere until she got to where she was going or accomplished what she set out to do.

I don't know why her original family took her to the Animal Shelter. Perhaps they were tired of her. Perhaps they didn't want to bother with a cat who wasn't "right." For whatever reason, Slippers--confined in a small cage--was pretty pitiful. With her unsteady movements, she was forever tipping over her litter box or food dishes. She was so "tippy" that she had to dip her paw in her water dish and lick it dry to quench her thirst--to lean over her dish was to invite a dunking.

It was that last image that burned into my heart.

I would go in the the animal shelter on my volunteer day and let Slippers out of her cage. I would watch her stagger around the cat room, enjoying the simple pleasure of having space to move in. I knew no one coming to the shelter to adopt a cat was likely to pick the stunted, plain-jane little tabby with the unsteady walk. They would logically assume she was unhealthy and prone to maladies. But I knew a little about cerebellar hypoplasia. I knew that this affliction only affected muscle coordination, not health or intelligence. In fact, CH cats are known to be both bright and cheerful little souls despite their handicap.

Still, I knew no one was going to adopt her, with her common looks and awkward gait while she was surrounded by lovely cats and engaging kittens .

Well, no one but us.

We learned a few things about her right away.

She didn't like to be picked up and would struggle frantically to escape our grasp. We figured she must have been dropped a few times by children or those who weren't expecting her to be so twitchy in her movements. So we made a promise to ourselves and to her that if we picked her up, we would never let her fall. After a few months, she became calmer and less frantic when we picked her up. It took a couple years before she learned to relax when we held her.

Apparently in her first home, there were no regularly scheduled meal times. Or perhaps Slippers was just forgotten more often than not. For whatever reason, she was a hazard to navigation in the kitchen, never trusting that we would feed her unless she was there underfoot to remind us. She had a voracious appetite, as if unsure when her next meal was coming. Despite regular and lavish feeding for the past decade, if anyone was in the kitchen, Tripper would be there, too.

For the first few years after she came to live with us, Slippers was quiet and rather shy. Time changed that so that in her final years, she was often the first one of our cats that visitors would meet. She loved her pillow in front of the wood stove and that's where she would receive guests.

All stories have an ending and we suspected that Slippers' story was drawing toward its close when she began to have seizures this past year. They were rare at first but increased in frequency until by October she was having several a day. We would find her in random locations, wedged under a shelf or between furniture, dazed and exhausted. We put her on medication that stopped the seizures but left her groggy and confused. Her nervous system was betraying her. In in the process she lost the strength in her hind legs and became incontinent. I tried to keep her clean and comfortable but she continued to decline and I had to accept that this wasn't a malady that she was going to recover from.

Slippers never gave up. It was the pattern of her life. But life gave up on her. What was left for me to do was let her leave with dignity and love.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Friday, November 20, 2009

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Max is Bax...

Max in his new digs in the shop:

So now the question is--what to do with him? I will give him a week or two in the cage to catch up on his eating and sleeping and generally de-stress. Then we plan to introduce him into the shop addition--an area where he will have no rivals and lots of room to patrol. That was our original thought when we first let Max outside.: that he could have free run of the outdoors and have the shop addition for shelter and warmth. In the hope that Max would eventually return, Denny installed a pet flap last month in the wall beside the man-door. But I think we will keep the flap blocked off until Max has had the chance to adjust to his surroundings and the weather gets milder.

All that is in the future.

As to where he's been and what he's been doing, Max remains mum. I know he wasn't two-timing us with a second family because surely someone would have noticed his collar maladjustment and come to his aid. So he has been subsistence hunting since July, perhaps supplemented with the dry cat food I kept available in the shop addition. I know he and Amber's kitty, the fluffy red guy from across the block, disputed the ownership of our lot because we heard the sounds of cats squabbling in the night occasionally during August, then less frequently. Then all we ever saw was the red kitty.

Cold and hunger must have driven Max back to brave his rival. I had heard the sounds of a cat argument Monday morning but when I ran outside to the shop addition and called, no one came running. Still, I just had a feeling--or a hope--that Max would remember where he was sheltered last winter and come back to us.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


I was settling in to watch the evening news and glanced at the camera that monitors our front door. A dark cat was on the porch, drinking from the heated water dish. It wasn't the fluffy red cat that regularly patrols our lot. Could it be Max? Could it?

I crept downstairs to peek out the window, trying not to make any sound lest I send the cat running off before I had a chance to get a good look at him. Leaning over the sink, I could see gray tabby stripes. The next thing I knew, I was throwing open the door and calling his name--"Max! Max! Kitty kitty..."

He made a move as if to jump off the porch until it sank in that I was calling his name, then he turned and came to me. I gathered him up in my arms and took a quick inventory--he was thin but not critically so, and his red collar had slipped to around his chest. It was tight--too tight to unfasten--and later when I had cut it off of him, I could see it had rubbed his fur into clumps around it and there was a patch of dried blood where it had cut into his skin at some point.

Oh my poor Max... I am sure it was a relief when I snipped it off of him, but by then I had transported him to the back room and he was so torn between confusion and joy that he probably didn't notice.

Anyway, I have him settled in the big cage in the shop--familiar to him from the days he spent there last year--with food and water and a bed and litter box all his own. He ate a can of Friskies and drank half the water, then settled in to appreciate warmth and safety.

I slept so well last night--without the half-waking and the worries about where Max was and if he was warm and fed. Finally I knew the answers to those worries.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Rare Sight

Cats can always surprise you, so I won't say I never expected to see Mimi and Frannie sharing a bed. But given their long-time hostility, I did feel I should capture the moment for history. I suppose with Clarence back on the scene, Frannie has found a new opponent and now regards Mimi as an old friend. And apparently Mimi is accepting the new attitude with feline aplomb.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Halloween Cat

Bart is one of the least scary black cats you will ever meet.

Friday, October 30, 2009


She often looks so sweet and fragile, we might forget the rough start Frannie had in life. But--as the healing scratch on her nose reminds us--Frannie is quite capable of taking care of herself. And has a bit of devilry in her heart.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Up Close

Mimi checks out the cat condo--and the camera--as she takes in the afternoon sunshine.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Formerly Known As...

..."the Boys in the Back," Raider, Nash and Clarence are slowly finding their way to fit in with the rest of the household.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Twitch in the Cat Run

Twitch enjoys the late-season sunshine from a safe perch in the cat run.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Friday, October 2, 2009

October Spirits

Perhaps it is the energy of Halloween's approach, for I am seeing ghosts today.

You know what I mean. Those little glimpses caught between the corner of your eye and your right brain, so that Jasmine sunning in the window becomes for an instant Red Fred. Just the right combination of sunlight and a deflected gaze. Perhaps my unconscious brain found similarities in the facial structure of the two cats, brought out by a low sun-angle. Perhaps the spirit world draws closer in this season. All I know was that for a second or two, I was looking into Fred's calm face.

Then the angle changed and he was gone.

Later, I saw Dinky, with all her trademark vivacity and fluff, perched on the cat tree giving it a healthy scratch. When I turned to look at her, she was suddenly replaced by Mimi, a sleek short-hair twice Dinky's size. But for a moment I thought of Dinky and smiled.

And of course, any glimpse of orange-y fur brings Punkin back to me. Nashley's broad back in the twilight suggests Punkin's fluff and for a moment she is here with me.

Though I haven't really felt her loss in any but the most superficial ways. I have that pain safely encapsulated somewhere in my psyche to be dealt with later. She was so ingrained in me that it sometimes feels as if she is still here, just out of sight, off sleeping somewhere. But I miss her; her life and passion and the way she had of being a focus of energy. The love between us endures but we are separated for now.

So I treasure the half-glimpses I have of her--and the others--because it makes it seem as if they are here with me, if only for a moment.

Sunday, September 13, 2009


We haven't had a Midget update in a while. She is doing great. Her fur--shaved off by her previous owner--has grown back to its normal length.

She is lively and indomitable, spending a great deal of her time chasing Lola--or anyone else who will run from her. Although she can't jump very high because of her stiff back, she polices the floor and everything up to about two feet above it.

Lola retreats to the top of the cat tree.

I haven't caught Midge up that cat tree yet, but she somehow managed to climb to the top of the cat tree downstairs.

And she was very proud of herself.

Thursday, September 10, 2009


Clarence's sister--and Bart's daughter--Lola is small-boned and fluffy like her mother. She reminds me of two of my favorite cats. She is small, black and fluffy like our Little Miss Newt with the out-going, Gemini personality of Dinky. She's plenty special on her own, too.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

In The Cat Condo

I don't know why I named him Clarence. He just looked like a "Clarence", I suppose.

It was about six years ago that we trapped him and his family and brought them into the world of humans. He is still shy but has an affectionate nature.

Sunday, September 6, 2009


Frannie takes an afternoon nap on the sun-warmed kitchen couch, while the fabric-kitty watches over her.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Another Sunbath

Black Jack spent last summer roaming the neighborhood and scrounging for food. He lost his freedom but gained a home when we caught him last September. He has adjusted well to life as a "kept" cat and although he enjoys the cat run--especially after I put down a fresh layer of hay--he doesn't seem to miss his life in the great outdoors.

He is a very engaging cat. He likes people. So where did he come from and how did he find himself on his own? He is young--probably four or five--but he had been hanging around the neighborhood for two or three years--long enough to learn to distrust and avoid humans.

As always, I'm just glad to be able to offer him a safe place to live.


Edited to correct the name--I called Black Jack "Bart"! Sorry for the confusion.

Thursday, September 3, 2009


Sweet old Grendel--still feral but getting more comfortable around us. I guess she should--she's been living with us now for over a decade. She lets me pet her when I feed her but only in her eating place. The rest of the time she prefers if we keep our distance.

I made a vet appointment for her--a geriatric check-up. She has begun to lose weight and I suspect our time with her is drawing toward an end. I want to make sure she is comfortable and that we are treating any ailments that are treatable. She has taken up so little space in our home but I know that being here--inside and safe with all the other cats--has made her life longer and fuller.

Saturday, August 22, 2009


It has been a month now since we have seen Max...

Max--June 20, 2009

He has gone missing before. The first time he was gone for three days and I cried every night until he came home.

Then he disappeared for a whole week.

He reappeared looking none the worse for wear. He knows how to hunt and is a cautious and restrained cat. It was obvious when we put him outside that he had returned to what he considered his natural element. Indoors, he was timid and insecure. Outdoors, the world was his oyster.

Denny and I have called for him every time we go outside. Sometimes in the night we hear the sounds of cat disagreements. We feel Max is around. We feel he is doing okay. We have talked it over and both think that he has moved back to his original home territory, an area to the north of us.

You see, Max first started showing up on our doorstep shortly after I trapped Black Jack last September and moved him inside. Up until then, we hadn't seen the fluffy red cat that lives on the farm south of us, either. So we believe that when we removed Jackie from his home turf, the two cats who had bordering territories moved into his and were "time-sharing" our porch and the food dish until I trapped both of them last November.

So we think Max has gradually pulled back, under the pressure of the red cat, into what was his original stomping grounds. I suspect that as it gets colder and "game" becomes scarcer, we will see Max again.

I hope so.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Enjoying August

Bart and Franny in the condo

Yesterday was such a perfect summer day that Bart and Franny couldn't be coaxed from their fresh air spot in the "condo".

Friday, August 14, 2009


The household seems diminished without her presence.

Denny remarked last week that the house seemed so much quieter--almost dull--without Punkin's energy. Even when she was ailing, she managed to fill the house and we were always aware of her--where she was and what she was doing--on a subliminal level. She was the dominant cat in our home. Her life-force was the warm beacon that defined the center of "home" for us and now the cats seem directionless and lethargic without her serving as our binding energy.

I had been prepared to lose her for the last year or more but her loss continues to hit me in all the small ways. I catch myself thinking that she is just off somewhere sleeping in a favorite hiding place, or catch an edge-of-the-eye glimpse of reddish fur or a particular shaggy coat and forget just for a moment that she is gone.

Not that she will ever be gone because she lives in my mind so vivid and clear that I feel her presence still burning warm in the heart of the life we shared.

Sunday, August 2, 2009


This morning, it hit me.

I walked into the living room, looked at the cat beds in front of the glass door and it hit me. Punkin is gone.

In a visceral moment, I felt her loss all the way through to my heart.

All those years.

How much she loved me.

All the nights she slept on my pillow, her paws touching my head.

What will stay with me the most is how she would light up when I said her name. The bond of love was so strong between us that nothing else mattered.

I watched over her last days, tended her dying and wrapped her for burial in a fog of insensitivity. Not a failure to feel so much as a refusal to feel.

Or just a delay.

Somehow, I knew I would have the rest of my life to mourn her loss.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Good-bye, Punky

1 October 1994
31 July 2009

A bright flame has passed into the West...

Monday, July 27, 2009


I know these are the last days of her life.

My heart hurts, watching her grow thinner and more frail as the days of summer begin to wane. I have known for the past few years that her kidneys were failing. She has out-lasted my expectations, for which I am glad.

I will miss her. She has been my companion for fifteen years. A cat of passion and intelligence, she will leave me sadden but grateful for the life we shared.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

A Walk in the Backyard

Punkin loves going outdoors, though she seems a bit confused about what it is she wants out there. She walked around with me for a while, mibbling grass and sipping at rainwater puddles.

I can't begrudge her these last glimpses of Nature that she loves so well.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Friday, July 24, 2009

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Max, Relaxed

Max has enjoyed being outside these past weeks. He is obviously in his element, living the lifestyle he is accustomed to. We have never seen him so relaxed and happy.

I hate having to make the decision to put him outside but it seems to be the best one for all concerned. I will feel guilty if something unfortunate happens to Max but but threat has to be balanced with his joy and the marked decrease in tension among the cat in the house. They are happy he is outside, and so is he. I'll just have to live with my fears.

The good of the many....

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Unperturbed the eagles perched in the trees...

Monday, June 22, 2009

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Black Jack

It's been a while since I posted a photo of Black Jack.

He's been adjusting to his new indoor life rather well. He is a dominant personality in the shop--to such an extent that Mr. Twitch tries to avoid him. Since Twitch has visiting privileges in the house and his own space on the mezzanine, he's making do alright.

Regular meals and cozy living agree with Black Jack. I have started to call him "Waddles" as he is getting a bit broad in the beam.

Even so, he is a beautiful cat.

Saturday, June 20, 2009


Lola has become much less reclusive over the past winter. In the last few months, she comes out among the household by day, and even ventures into the cat condo to take in some sunshine.

She and her brother, Clarence, were living wild in our yard until they were eight-ten weeks old, so they both have a bit of skittish to them.

Clarence is still quite shy but Lola is quietly positioning herself within the household hierarchy. I think she plans on becoming Queen once Punkin is gone.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

At Ease


It is good to see Grendel finally becoming at ease enough with us now to come out of her "den" during the day and even partake of the luxury of sleeping in the sun. She has accepted more contact over the past year so that I am now able to pet her at dinner time, though she still is wary if I approach her directly at any other time. But she will stay in a cat bed while I work on a computer just a few feet away from her.

It has only taken a decade--but I am guilty of not pushing her harder to socialize. When I brought her inside, it was enough to know she was safe and warm. If she didn't want companionship from us, that was okay. We have plenty of other cats for provide that.

I reckon that she is about fifteen now. She was a young, pregnant feral when I first saw her in the spring of 1996. I trapped her before she could further contribute to the unwanted, uncared-for cat population and she had her babies in our downstairs bathroom--two little black kittens.

That was the year our Bunny was born--just a day or two after Grendel's kittens--and after a week or so, I took Grendel's kittens and mixed them in with Bunny and her littermates so that they would grow up in a socialized setting. Soon, I couldn't tell Grendel's babies from Bunny's black siblings. Grendel was spayed shortly afterward.

I felt bad about taking Grendel's only companions from her but I knew it was the best thing for them. I hoped to tame Grendel over time but before I could get started, she escaped and resumed her wild life in the woods.

I didn't see her again until the winter of 1998.

I had given her up for dead by then. Feral cats lead short, brutal lives. We keep food and water outside for any hapless ferals or abandoned pets that come our way, but in those days we didn't see who was coming by in the middle of the night. As the weather grew bitter, I set the cat trap out to bring the unfortunates inside and was shocked when we caught a vaguely-familiar tortoiseshell.

I had been wondering about her since she left so abruptly over two years before but figured coyotes, eagles or other predators had made short work of her, or that some feline virus or deprivation had carried her off. But there she was--the little feral tortie--her nose banged up from trying to escape the trap but whole nonetheless.

Many of our cats have come into this house in the cat trap. Almost all have turned out to be abandoned pets, not truly feral cats. But Grendel was different. She hissed at us and spent her days in hiding. When it was necessary to handle her for vet visits, we had to wear the big leather gloves and stampede or wrestle her into a carrier. Since she didn't want human interaction, we have largely left her to our cat society, where she gets along fine.

So, the small victories have been sweet. The first time she didn't run to her hidey hole when I walked through the room. The night she sat a foot from her food dish while I spooned her dinner out. Then, the tentative sniffing of my fingers and a hesitant acceptance of my fingers stroking her head.

She tolerates our touch but unlike our "civilized" cats, she doesn't seem to crave it. I don't think it gives her pleasure to be touched by us but perhaps that will change now that we have established a foot-hold in civility.

Friday, May 15, 2009

The House of Many Cats - The Early Years

John Thomas July 1988

John Thomas July 1988

Johnny was the first of our "Homer cats" and the first kitten either of us had raised in a long, long time. We guess-timated that he had been born in mid-May--he had a definite Taurean personality--so I think of this date as his birthday.

Johnny gave us a full measure of love--and many laughs along the way.