Cat blog about my life with many, many cats.

Wednesday, March 31, 2004

The Chewing of the Shrew

Last night was a misty, rainy night, and the cats were nestled indoors. Around dinner-time, they became "activated," as we call it. This is the time when meals are demanded, rubs are requested, and the cats interact with each other in our open dining room area, rubbing noses, playing, and generally behaving like a big feline family.

I noticed that Roman, our orange boy, and Becka, his tortoiseshell sister, were checking something out beneath our radiator pipes at the side of the room. I didn't think anything about it until I started to hear some squeaking. Tom was working on a drawing in the other room. I asked him, "Is that the sound of your markers?"

It wasn't. It was Mr. Shrew.

Mr. Shrew had apparently come inside seeking a dry spot, away from the rain. He didn't realize that he was entering a Dangerous Den of Cats. (We really should put up a warning sign or something. "Small, Tasty Creatures - Keep Out!")

I have a technique for catching mice and shrews that the cats bring in. Our cats are very well fed, so, generally, they don't eat them. (Generally.) So, quite often, I'm able to retrieve the rodent and take him back outside. I usually trap the little guy in a box.

It took me a while to find a box, and it was quite a comedy of errors tossing cats out of the room and closing off the doors. The cats were very determined to play with poor Mr. Shrew, who already had a gash in his side from one of our pusses. I was determined to save the little guy.

Finally, I trapped a scared Mr. Shrew in a greeting card box and gently returned him outside. I did a little energy healing work on him (which animals respond very well to.) I hoped to minimize some of his shock and pain. It looked like he would be okay, the gash on his side was small enough. I hoped.

Thank goodness, this little evening melodrama didn't become The Eating of the Shrew. It was more the Chewing of the Shrew, unfortunately, but I think he escaped a far worser fate.

He was a cutie, a little dark brown fellow with a tiny spiked tail and two little brown dots for eyes. Like one of Cinderella's footmen.

As I gently sent him off into the bushes and the dark, rainy night, I hoped for the best. When feline and rodent beasts collide, things can get a little hairy. Who needs the Animal Channel when you're living in the country?

Monday, March 29, 2004

Kirby, the Old Cat

Kirby is a cat I adopted from a vet about ten years ago. She's a striped tabby, thin and lean, with colorful orange and white splotches down her belly. She's my bachelorette cat, the puss who's been with me since my early days living by myself in Princeton. I once rented a tiny writer's garret apartment in the attic of an old Victorian house. It was a dark, depressing place, but it was right in the center of that pretty university town, and it allowed me to walk everywhere. There was only room for one cat, much as I would have preferred to provide Kirby with a companion. The way it worked out, I became her only companion.

I don't much like it when people adopt animals, especially cats, thinking that they'll be so "low maintenance," and then they never spend any time with them. When I used to walk around Princeton, on any given block I could name a handful of animals, people's pets, who rarely saw their owners. Everyone is so unquestioning of the automatic 60 hour work week that the world has adopted. They don't realize how that lifestyle doesn't mesh well with an animal's needs. These poor people's pets are practically abandoned, they so rarely have any contact with anyone.

Well, Kirby and me became joined at the hip (or the whiskers) right at the start. I worked from home while I lived there, first as a psychic counsellor, commuting for a few hours a week to my nearby office, but much of the time working on the phone. Later, when I made the transition to freelance writer, Kirby was still at my side. Only, at that point, Kirby had the freedom to make editorial decisions. Whenever she didn't like something, she could always press the delete key with one swift paw. (And, frequently, she did. I have to say that, for the most part, her editorial eye was excellent. I rarely missed any text after she had removed it.)

I'll never forget the time when I was still computing my tax returns on my own (and not very competently, I might add.) One day, I had the completed forms sitting on my table, and I was preparing to get them photocopied before sending them out. While I was getting together my coat and purse, Kirby "urped," and sure enough, a big blob of hair-filled goop landed on my Federal income tax form. Then, there was the inevitable follow-up - a second one landed on my State tax form.

Although I was annoyed, it turned out that that was the very best thing that could have happened to those forms. I had figured them out incorrectly, and if I'd sent them in, I probably would have been assessed penalties. (That's what you get for not being a math genius.) Kirby saved the day through heroic hairball emissions. Who would've thunk it possible?

Two years ago when my boyfriend and I left Princeton to move to this farmhouse here in the country, we brought along Kirby, Cal (my boyfriend's lovely, tubby, calico cat) and Smoky (a sleek and pretty gray cat we both adopted as a stray.) The three girls loved the move out to the country. I was so glad, because Kirby had to make the transition to having extra company now. She wasn't used to having other cats around. It had always been just her and me.

Little did I know how much company she'd eventually have to get used to! Now we have eight cats. Yikes! But Kirby seems unphased by all of them. She's fearless with the big males, in spite of their blustery ways. Even Earl and Tabby, our two bruisers who are always fighting, bow their hats to the mighty Kirby who, with one sharp hiss and a swipe of her claws, makes it instantly clear that she won't be messed with or have her routines disturbed.

Now thirteen years old (but not appearing a day over ten, my vet kindly assures me,) this still-spry girl has kept many of her old habits. She has always been a desk cat, and she alternates between Tom's desk and mine, where she knows she can sleep beneath the desk lamps and simply be near us while we work.

Kirby's a good cat. She's put up with a lot from me over the years, and I will always appreciate her.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

Octopuss - Life with Eight Cats

I've decided to make entries in this blog again, and you cat lovers out there might want to check back once in a while to hear about what it's like to live with eight cats. Yes, that's right. It's no longer life with seven cats, it's eight.

All of our cats are "rescued," i.e., unintended cats whom the Universe, in her mysterious wisdom, saw fit to bring into our lives. If there's a Zen of acquiring cats, or a secret mojo or something, we appear to have mastered it. I figure we've been following our dogma as we welcome this abundant flow of cats, or chasing our katma, or something.

The latest addition to the feline homestead is Teddy, a big, roly-poly, dark-striped tabby who found his way into the house in the midst of the bitter cold we had this winter. We had seen him around a few times eating on the back porch, where we keep food and water, but he had never ventured inside before. One evening, he sneaked inside through the basement cat doors and made a beeline for the real buffet - the area in the kitchen where we keep cat treats and all of the goodies.

He was a little shy when we walked up to him, but with a little coaxing, he was soon accepting rubs and pats. He's a very affectionate character, a total lap cat. His shoulders are like those of a burly linebacker's. He has the physique of an Arnold Schwarzenegger cat, and even our vet was shocked at the size of his front shoulders.

He had been neutered and was obviously a house cat at one time, he was so affectionate with people. Gradually, he started staying around the house, especially on the cold days. What cat could resist warmth, yummy food and catnip, and great surfaces to lie on?

Earl, our 20 pound bruiser of a white cat, has not been very pleased with Teddy's stay in our house. Actually, this is HIS house, as Earl repeatedly seems to be reminding us with his howls and yowls. He and Teddy have had quite a few tussles. Inevitably, they happen in the middle of the night, on top of the bed, when Tom and I are trying to sleep. We've gotten used to waking up in a state of dead panic, wondering why all hell has broken out in cat land.

Our vets tells us this is just part of the procedure, getting a new male used to being in a space with another alpha male cat. Yikes!

Things were getting so bad with the male cats in the house always fighting that we started to pursue other options. Tom and I are both working from home now, so having constant cat chaos just wasn't adding to our productivity or our piece of mind.

We put out posters with the headline, "Adopt Teddy" at various area locations. We're hoping to find him a good home, one without other male cats who would inevitably have major tussles with Teddy, since he's such a huge hunk of puss.

Perhaps Teddy was aware, on some level, that we are trying to find him a new home. He has been suspiciously GOOD for the last week, practically a reformed cat. And Earl has been leaving him alone, for the most part.

So far, the only phone call we received was from a woman down the street who owns a cat just like Teddy by the name of Bruce. (Bruce? Who names a cat Bruce? Sounds like a deranged character to me.) Bruce is an indoor/outdoor cat, and she was wondering if he was wandering up here from time to time for an extra meal. We assured her that Teddy is pretty much in the house 24 hours a day, so it isn't likely to be Bruce.

She told us about a place called Tabby House about twenty minutes from here. Apparently, they take in unwanted cats and take good care of them. Sounds like a wonderful place. We might just check it out to find out what they do there, although it's doubtful we'd be willing to put Teddy there.

We figure either things will calm down and my blog will have to be officially renamed: OCTOPUSS - Life of Eight Cats. Or we'll manage to manifest just the right, perfect, home situation for the guy.

At this point, I have to admit, I'm getting attached to him. He's a lovable ball of mancat.

Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, if you like happy endings, read here about the four-eared kitten in Berlin who just found a new home after her human parents couldn't afford to get her spayed.