Sunday, August 7, 2016

My Life With Cats (and Other Critters)

I have always loved cats.  Anything furred, actually, but cats have always been in my life.  I don't know if my grandparents had pets, but my mom had scores of photos of all her animals.  

The first cat we had was Samantha.  We found her when we were helping to paint the church.  She was a black-and-white tuxedo cat, and we had to have her.  Mom was fine with it.  I don't remember Dad's reaction.

Anyway, Sam was the beginning.  Along the way, there were cats named Persuticus, Vercengetorix Montmorency Arbuthnot Vandergriff III (yes, all those names for one cat), a raccoon, a possum, a dog (Mom, look what followed us home!), a baby alligator, a bigger alligator that my brothers kept in the baby pool, many mice, and all kinds of tropical fish.  I don't remember having any guinea pigs or hamsters.

My mom used to cook a scrambled egg every morning for the cat.  Yes.  

I wish I could find my list of all the cat names. We had quite a few.  Whe we were kids, people used to drop off their cats in our yard, and I think the same thing happens today.

When I lived in my first apartment, pets weren't allowed.  Same thing with our first apartment when we got married, but our next door neighbors used to have a gray cat named Laura, and she would climb our screen door, until we'd open the door and pet her.

When we bought our first house, we lived next door to a man with two dogs and I don't know how many cats.  He told me that one of his cats had kittens, so I went to see them.  There were three in the litter.  I told Wayne I was just bringing them home to give them a bath and get rid of their fleas.  I fully believed that.  Wayne knew they were going to be our kittens.  He's allergic to cats, so he said we could keep them, but they had to stay outside.  We fixed up a little area for them on the back porch, but every time we opened the door, they'd run into the house and pee on the carpet under the kitchen table.  We named them Max, Schroeder, and Schuyler.  Max was a gray and black tabby, and Schroeder and Schuyler were apricot beige - they were all long-haired.  We gradually allowed them into the house, and as long as Wayne washed his hands after petting them, his allergies didn't bother him.  

The man next door died, and his son moved in, but he wasn't doing a good job of taking care of his animals.  We ended up taking his dog, a reddish Chow-Lab mix, and we named her Poochie Girl.  We got one more cat from his colony, Minimax.  She looked just like Max, but smaller.  Many of the cats tested positive for feline leukemia and had to be put down.  Poochie Girl hadn't been fed much since the man had died, but she was very territorial, so we weren't sure how easily she's adapt to us.  She became our first dog, and immediately cost us $600 because she had hematomas in both ears.  She was a good dog, and she got along with the cats.  

When I brought home a tiny kitten I named Mozart, none of the other cats would have anything to do with him, but Poochie Girl adopted him like he was her own baby.  He used to "nurse" on Poochie Girl, and even when he grew to 13 pounds, he still liked to "nurse" on her, and she didn't mind.

Schuyler disappeared, and months later, we found out that the little boy down the street had taken her.  After all that time, we didn't have the heart to take her away from them.

So that was our first animal family:  Poochie Girl, Max, Schroeder, Minimax, and Mozart.

When we moved up to North Carolina, the vet had given us Valium so the cats wouldn't have a hard time in the car.  Luckily, I tried it on them before we left.  They staggered around the house, yowling like little furry drunks, so no valium for the road trip to North Carolina.

From North Carolina, we moved to Hattiesburg, and Minimax had kidney problems.  When she died, we buried her in the back yard of the rental property, but when we moved back to New Orleans, I told Wayne I couldn't leave her in Mississippi, so he dug her little body up and brought her with us.  She's buried in the back yard (along with several other pets who died over the years).
She was only 6 years old.

Poochie Girl was next to leave us.  We estimate that she was about 13.  She'd had a long and full life and was a good dog.  I didn't even know I was allergic to dogs until many years later.

Max, Schroeder, and Mozart lived to age 13, too.  Max had kidney failure and congestive heart failure.  Schroeder had liver problems.  Mozart had seizures.  We took over care of the cat who lived behind us.  They'd left the poor cat outside when they'd evacuated for the hurricane.  We re-named the cat Linus.  He was an orange and white tabby.  

We were down to just one cat.

Then I got a job teaching high school, and to reward myself, I asked Wayne if we could get another cat.  One of the ladies at my church (June) told me about her neighbors who'd brought their cat to the shelter, so we went to get her. When we got there, one of the shelter workers had already adopted her, so I called Wayne and asked if we could get two kittens.  
We sat in the adoption room, picking up and playing with all the kittens.  At one point, I had five kittens in my lap.  June said, "Wayne said you can only have two kittens, Debra!"

My first choice was a seven-week-old gray kitten named Henry.  He didn't have a litter-mate, so I chose Harry, a mostly white with gray and black tabby splotches, who purred so loudly, I couldn't resist him.  He was ten weeks old.

I brought them home, and they had the run of the house.  They played so hard, that they would overturn the glider-rocker, the garbage can, and the lamp.  When I told the vet that they needed ritalin, she suggested buying cat toys.  I did that.  Still VERY active.....

A year or two later, one of the feral cats decided to take a chance and come inside.  She was so skinny.  She has never even ventured outside to this day, and she is the fattest cat we've ever had.  Her name is Violet.  We nicknamed her "Violent" for a very short time, because of her reaction when we tried to put flea treatment on her.

A year or two after that, I heard a loud meowing when I was walking in the neighborhood, and I saw a very tiny calico kitten in someone's garden.  I knocked on their door - no answer.  I thought it might die before I got it home.  Its tail was broken in two places, and there was blood on its chin.  I nursed it with a baby bottle and kitten replacement milk.  We called her Zoe.  She's not very good at being held, but she loves to sit on your lap.

When I retired, I wanted a dog so he could be a visiting pet.  I found Walter's picture on the SPCA website, and we picked him up on a Saturday in January.  He's a little too hyperactive to be certified as a visiting pet, but nonetheless, he does a good job when we visit people in nursing homes.

I volunteered at the local animal shelter, promising Wayne that I wouldn't bring any more animals home.  Well, you can guess how that turned out.  Of course, I wanted every single one of the animals.  But there was this one kitten I couldn't stop thinking about, and when I found out she was still there after coming home from visiting my sister-in-law, I told Wayne I wanted to adopt Paisley.

So now we have one dog and five indoor kittens.  Linus, Sally, and James Bond, Jr., make up the feral cat colony in the back yard with occasional visits from Jeremiah and Black Panther.  Various raccoons and possums eat up their leftover cat food.  I just found a garter snake this morning - I think the cats must have killed it, although I didn't see any wounds on it.  So many birds come to visit - I love sitting and watching them fly from one bird feeder to the other.  Hummingbirds flit to and from the red blossoms of the hummingbird bush that grows underneath the bird feeders.  

I hope I will always have animals.