Tag Archives: cats

The Kitchener’s Tail: Part 5 of The Caterbuddy Tails

Luanne: Felix, please tell your story to my friends. They have heard from Pear Blossom and Tiger and Sloopy Anne and Perry. But you and Kana have not yet told your stories. I need to coach Kana a bit on how to tell a public story, but you should be fine. Just tell it how you remember it. How you know it.

Felix: Mom! Stop! You tell it. I can’t.

Luanne: Sure you can, Fefe.

Felix: Aw shucks.

Luanne: You’re so big and strong. Why are you afraid to talk about yourself?

Felix: It’s embarrassing. People might look at me.

Luanne: OK, you tell me the story. I’ll write it down and then I’ll share it that way. Nobody will ever see you. We’ll negotiate photos later on.

Felix: Um, ok.

***

From Luanne: What follows is the story that Felix told me about his life. This story was being planned when Felix suddenly became ill last Wednesday. I was out of town for work in California, and when the pet sitter was watching him (thank goodness this happened when she was at the house). After he ate dinner, he threw up ten times, began panting, and made frantic runs to the litter box. She mistakenly thought he was constipated. I have made this mistake myself in the past when Pear started having UTIs. Rather than wait until my daughter could take Felix to the vet, I had the pet sitter drop him off at the vet as she left my house. It was a good thing that I didn’t decide to wait, thinking it was only constipation.

And a good thing that my vet decided to examine him before my daughter could get there. His bladder was the size of a grapefruit. He had a urinary blockage, which is a common emergency in (particularly) male cats, and fatal if not treated in time. It ended up that my daughter took him from the vet to the hospital because after they catheterize him he would need 24 hour care. He was in the hospital for three days. Now he is home, and I am watching him round the clock because there is a high possibility that he could re-obstruct within two weeks after the initial blockage. Felix is never any trouble except when he’s sick. In the past, it’s been parasite issues that stemmed from his life on the streets. This was the biggest emergency I’ve had with my cats, except for Mac’s end of life issues. And I wasn’t even home with Felix. The nurse who checked him out said that he was “famous” at the hospital for being sweet and soooo affectionate.

***

People think I’m scared, but I just don’t like confrontation. When I lived out there, you know, I tried to stay away from cats and other animals that wanted to fight me. I’m a lover, not a fighter. Remember when I ate in your front yard every day, Mom? You knew I didn’t have a home and you and Dad were giving me food so I didn’t starve! Then I started hanging around with your dog Sandy in the backyard because he was a lover, not a fighter, too. He told me all the stories about his good life in your house. So I began to stick close to your yard, hoping you’d bring me inside, but not wanting to make a mistake in case Sandy was wrong. What if you didn’t like cats?

Then I saw Mac in the window. I knew you liked cats, but would Mac like me?

I let you trap me in your garage using that silly “pull the string and the kennel door will shut” so-called trick. It never fooled me, but so be it.

You brought me to your friend, the emergency vet. That’s when we lived in California. Remember, Mom? She told her staff to be careful when they opened my kennel because I might be feral and mean. When she put her hand in my kennel herself (she doesn’t take her own advice), I rubbed against her hand. I’m a sucker for pets and rubs and scratches.

What? Oh, you want to know what my life was life before I came to live with you? It was kind of hard, especially when it was over 100 degrees in the summer. I got dumped by the people who fed my cat mother. There were too many of us, they said.

When you brought me into the house you let me live in the bedroom upstairs with the TV for two months. I didn’t meet my human sister for a couple of months because she had just started college and you and dad were what you called empty nesters. So you two watched TV with me every night while I was in that room. We had fun, and I didn’t have to meet Mac or Pear.

After I met them and moved into the rest of the house, Mac was kind of mean. Sometimes it irritated my good nature, and we would have tussles, even pull out each other’s fur. Pear was fine. She just ignored me. But a few weeks later, we all moved to Arizona. I was so scared. I wouldn’t eat for three days, and you had to give me special medicine because. Remember, Mom?  Huh? Remember? But after that, Mac and I were friends. Mac, Pear, and I were all close from that time on. We slept on 3 beds on the kitchen counter like three little kittens. The ones who lost their mittens. But we hadn’t lost anything. We had found each other. Mac was my hero.

That was the start of my kitchen life. Once I moved into this kitchen with the long counter I never wanted to go anywhere else. The only times I’ve moved into the closet upstairs is when your dad would visit. Remember Mom? He had such a loud voice? I couldn’t listen, so I lived on the shelf in the closet while he was here. He never comes any more, but when Grandma comes now by herself I stay in the kitchen and she calls me “Mr. Big Eyes.”

You and Dad and my human siblings call me Fefe. And, Mom, you call me Feeferelli and Mr. Scoobydooby Man. You call me The Kitchen Cat. You call me Feef a lot. I love to crawl into your lap when you’re at your laptop at the kitchen desk.

But I don’t watch TV with you and Dad and the other cats. I like my basket in the kitchen. I have a window to the beautiful yard Dad created, and a nice cool sink to lie in for a change. I’m also very close to the food. When the other cats are done eating their breakfasts and dinners, I like to finish up their food. I eat a lot, but I really am a big boy with lots of muscles. And lots of love. I’m not shy. I just don’t like confrontation. I’m a lover, not a fighter.

Love,

Felix

 

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From Anne Lamott’s Pen

Following a writing prompt requiring the poet to pull words from a published book, I ended up with this poem. I wish I could remember which prompt I used–and how much I varied or not from it, but it was a couple of months ago. And these months have been full of work stress, so my memory looks moth-eaten.

The book I used was Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, a popular “writing text.” The subtitle is “Some Instructions on Writing and Life,” and I would say that the instructions are more on point for life–and maybe that’s why it is so popular!

 

WHAT TO NAME A CAT

(in the voice of Anne Lamott)

 

Find God

Propmaster

On Loan

Crazy Clocks

Special Effects

This Effect

Ring True

One Door Shut

R&B

Therapy

God’s Home

Samuel Beckett

Dirty Feet

Tiny Word

Redemption

One Leaf

Wordsworth

Rumi

Personal Drama

Delusion

Gorgeous

Pure Radiance

Way to the Truth

Present Moment

Home

Each one of these names resonates for me with what cats mean to me. Gosh, that sounds like an essay assignment for fifth grade. A fun assignment!

Maybe you can find a name for your next cat from my list haha.

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Update on Perry

UPDATE ON THE UPDATE: I am adding this to what follows and in doing so I am putting the end at the beginning. The latest word is that Perry’s lab reports were normal, so it’s extremely unlikely that he has cardiac disease. He will get a chest xray to rule out anything obvious in his lungs that would account for fast breathing. If that is normal, we will just have to watch him. He doesn’t act sick, by the way. So in a couple of weeks he will get an xray, but I think it seems  that he must be OK. My sweet sweet boy. WHEW!

Good news!!! I think.

The gardener and my friend who is another crazy cat lady cat mom went to the vet with Perry and me. She is studying to be a vet tech, and I wanted her opinion of the visit.

Perry did not have an echocardiogram because the cardiologist said he doesn’t think his fast breathing is cardiac-related. He did bloodwork instead, including a test that he hopes will rule out cardiac disease. A few days for that to come back.

If he has no heart disease, we still don’t know what causes his rapid breathing, but at least he won’t have a serious heart diagnosis hanging over his head.

I took a video a couple of weeks ago to show his “resting” breathing rate. In 31 seconds his rate was 47!!! That is very high. So why? He was just chilling at home at the time.

Our boy was such a sweetheart. He was very docile and easygoing for the vet and for the tech.

We are calling this a possible victory at this point. When the lab results come back negative/normal, then we can have our victory dance!

Thanks for your prayers, vibes, and virtual hugs and pets for this sweet boy.

Perry trying to get Tiger to play with him

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The Cat of a Thousand Expressions

This one is going to be short because I am burdened with too much work-work lately. But I wanted to let you know that my dear darling sweet Perry might have something serious wrong with his heart. He has to have an echocardiogram. I will report in on the findings, but the test isn’t for a little while, although my vet seemed anxious for him to get diagnosed ASAP so he can start treatment.

Has there ever been such a unique and special cat? The answer is no. His face shows almost a thousand more expressions than those of other cats. These are subtle, complex, and always in flux expressions. He had a little test at the vet, and he was soooooooooooooo good. And when she asked to see inside his mouth, he opened it up wide for her. No, this is no joke. (Let me remind you they thought he was feral when we first found him hahahahaha).

Pear Blossom is taking Clavamox for yet another UTI, poor girl. She had to have an anti-nausea shot because after a week of that medicine, her GI system has had it. She takes it for 3-4 weeks at a time. Pear is 19 and has medical issues, but we’re enjoying our time together.

Tiger is struggling to keep her weight up. She might have a pancreatic issue. Right now, I am trying to keep her at 6.9 pounds. She no longer looks like the chubby little sweetheart she did a few years ago. I can feel her ribs.

The other cats are vying with each other for attention . . . .

***

I thought you might like a little Facebook tip today. Do you know how to delete a group of posts on your timeline all at once? Or hide them from your timeline? On your wall, turn to the “grid” view, then click manage posts. Little white boxes open up and you check the ones you want to either hide or delete. You can do up to 50 at one time. Then click next and you can choose whether to hide or delete. What you need to know is that if the post was originated by someone other than yourself (you can see the tiny profile pic in the top left corner of the post image) you can only hide, not delete.

***

Make it a good week. You are loved!

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The Outlier’s Tail: Part 4 of The Caterbuddy Tails

You can call me the Outlier because I refuse to be seen as just another one of the clowder. (You’ve heard of a murder of crows or a pack of dogs? A group of cats is a clowder, but this group stuff goes against my grain).

After breakfast I go to the bedroom hallway for a nap because the other cats stay in the kitchen. And when everyone else is watching television or reading books in the evening, more often than not I can be found in the hall, too. That’s where Mom keeps an old deacon’s bench her dad gave her, and I like to lie there.

My mom and dad never call me outlier. They call me Sloopy Anne or Sloops or Pretty Girl Princess. They aren’t very evolved when it comes to cat genders. Before I go any further I will tell you that I don’t consider myself an outlier with my hooman parents–just with the cats. If I could live with Mom and Dad without any other cats, I would be lying in bed with them and wouldn’t get out of their laps.

I got this way about other cats because of my life experiences. The first years of my life sucked so bad I don’t want to talk about them.

When I was three I was picked up by animal control. They don’t really have room for cats, and I heard some scary talk, but a lady from Home Fur Good no-kill shelter swooped in and gave me a freedom ride to that shelter. Woot! But all was not well. It was ok, but not good. You see, they thought I was pretty and ready to go to Petsmart to get adopted, but I got really scared. And I have a BIG independent streak. Plus I’m smart, so you can’t fool me about things. So I put up a lil bit of a fuss. Just sayin’.

Petsmart, although I heard they are usually really good to strays and rescues, said I could NEVER come there again.

This is where things began to go wrong again.

The cat roaming room at the shelter is full of . . . cats. Big cats, little cats. And people, in and out all day long. You can hear the dogs barking right in the next room. I was scared. They made me live in a cage for months because they thought I was skittish.

When Mom and Dad started volunteering at the shelter I was in the cage. That bothered Mom, and she started a campaign to get me out. In the meantime, her old cat Mac died and she adopted Kana. KANA, the one from the cage next to me. NOT ME. Part of me will never forgive her for that.

I had already been at the shelter for over a year at that point (though Mom didn’t realize it yet).

They let me out of the cage, but I was scared and annoyed so I spent a lot of time in a soft little cave bed.

Mom and Dad played with me when they came to take care of the cats, but time clicked on and I had to go in the nasty little hospital room because of ringworm. The cage was very small. And the room was dark and right next to the room with the BIG dogs.

A few weeks after I got out of the “infirmary” and when I had been at the shelter TWO STINKEN YEARS a big male cat chased me up on the high boards in the roaming room. He was bothering me, and I was more scared than usual.

When the tech came into the room, Mom and Dad reported his bad behavior. And the tech said, “Oh, that Slupe [that was my name then], she’s a BITER.”

Mom and Dad looked at each other in shock. They knew I didn’t bite.

The next morning the director of the shelter came to me and said, “You’re getting a new home.” A few hours later, Mom came and put me into a kennel and took me home.

For a month I stayed in my new hooman sister’s old bedroom, and Mom would let me lie on her chest so I could feel her heart beating. Then I entered the rest of the house and met my new fur roommates. I don’t really think of them as my siblings, but as transient beings in my life.

Tiger sleeps with Mom and Dad at night, but once she’s gone, I plan to be the one in there. I was here before Perry, so I have the right. I want to be that one special cat who gets to be with my parents without any other cats around.

One more important fact about me: I LOVE MY DAD. He never grabs me for brushing, teeth brushing, or vet appointments. He lets me rub on his feet and sandals. He reaches down to pet me, and I love that. We are best friends.

I love my mom, too, but I am wary of her grabbing me. Sometimes she takes me in her room and lets me lie on her chest. She sings, “I love you, and you love me,” our signature song. And I love that. But I never know what she wants, so I try to run off if I see her hand coming near me.

Therefore, I am a Daddy’s girl. Through and through.

###

Note from Sloopy Anne’s Mom: Sloopy Anne might prefer to live in a home without other cats, but she does remarkably well with the others. She never fights with them, and she is even decent to Tiger (remember “The Bitch’s Tail“), her lookalike little calico female. That she wasn’t adopted for two full years at the shelter is because she needed to be put front and center for a moment of her life. As the shelter has grown in volunteers and experience, the cats now get moved along much faster except for cats that really do have some sort of an issue (like Tanman and Louise, the laundry room cats, who are doing so well in their new home, by the way!). No cat is left behind–there is an emphasis on each and every one.

One more thing: Sloopy Anne doesn’t realize this because she doesn’t get that close to other cats, but her fur is very unusual. It is much thicker than other cat fur, but still very very soft. And when she goes to the vet or gets her nails clipped she is always very charming and beloved. A very special girl.

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Organization and Happy Cat Tails

For two years, Tanman and Louise have lived at the shelter. They were born, along with their sister Thelma, in a laundry room, and received very little human attention in the first months of their lives. This means that they came to the shelter in the no-cats-land of not being feral because they had never been outside for a second in their lives and not being socialized either. At the shelter, we discovered that they are great with other cats and love to play. But they are afraid of humans getting too close.

In this photo you can see it says they were at the shelter 600 days, but that was printed in December. Thelma is the tabby and Tanman is, that’s right, the tan and white.

This story takes a good turn, I promise.

A couple of weeks ago, they were adopted together by “Catification Couple,” a couple who have a lot of cats and devote their lives to taking care of them. Their house is designed for cats, in fact.

If you want the fun of seeing Tanman and Louise warm up to humans you can follow their stories on Instagram or Facebook. They do post, as well, but to really see what goes on with these two kitties you have to watch the stories.

So I have been spending a lot of time (that I don’t have) going through files and files of old paperwork–writing drafts, academic papers, business “dead files,” and personal business out-of-date stuff. So far I have 8 banker boxes of shredding :/.

What motivated me is that I am missing a list of items that I know are just misplaced. When you have too much stuff, you can’t find what you really want to find.

But I am reading a few things before I toss them.

 

Audre Lorde is one of my favorite poets. My dissertation (gosh, that feels like such ancient history now–and it really is) is structured on one type of identity for each chapter. Then I focused on one poet for each identity. A chapter I was excited about, but never got to was “the performance of economics,” using Lorde’s poetry. She so often uses images and metaphors of money and math. I suspect it meant that she dealt with feelings about worth.  Reading this poem made me remember how disappointed I was to exclude the proposed chapter from my dissertation, but I already had enough word count and just wanted to graduate.

Going through all this stuff is making me wonder what other writers do to organize all their work. It seems an ongoing time-consuming project to organize well. Right now I have a binder of published poems and a binder of published prose with lists for each. But the binders are full and they seem a bit disorganized. Then I have a binder for all the paperwork related to Doll God and one for Kin Types. Maybe it’s my habit of losing things that make me want to use binders instead of just file folders.

There is still much to be gone through, but I am losing my passion for it. My allergies are in an uproar over the dust I’ve stirred up, and I’m tired of the same project. And have started to feel overwhelmed by how many incomplete poem drafts I’ve found!

Do you do intense organizing like this? If so, how often do you engage in it? I sort of think this is my first time . . . .

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Week’s End

I might have mentioned that the gardener and I have had a lot going on in 2019 with relatives visiting and other urgent projects (non-writing, of course). I have been looking forward to April to write some poems. Ahem.

Friday I went to the doctor for the plantar fasciitis in my left foot. This is not my reconstructed ex-tumor-ridden right foot. I’ve had pain now for about 8 months, so the doctor had me get xrays. He called me Saturday and told me I need an MRI to rule out a stress fracture or whatnot as there is a weird white line or somesuch on the xray. This line has gotten bigger since a random xray I had last May. That xray was to check on my reconstruction in the right foot and they only took an image of the left for comparison.

Then Saturday afternoon my two boys lay together in a bed on the counter.

Are Perry and Felix not the cutest guys?! Felix has that expression because when Perry lays with him he always says to me, “What fresh hell is this?” a la Dorothy Parker.

I have primary lymphedema in both legs, and I use a compression pump–or am supposed to–to flush out some of the excess fluid. I hadn’t used my pump in a long time because I’m so tired at night and it takes a couple of hours, but I decided to last night. I didn’t put Perry in his room. Big mistake. While I was trapped on the machine, he started “instigating,” and he ended up knocking over our good lamp, shattering the light bulb and breaking a big chunk out of the side of the lamp. In the photo look at the right side of the lamp and you can see the white line at the start of the hole.

The gardener searched for the broken pieces of the lamp and tried piecing it together while I swept up the light bulb and made sure the floor was safe for little cat beans.

Then I hooked back up to pump my legs, while the gardener started watching TV. Less than two minutes later, he was sick. Without going into all the details, I will say he is still ill and we don’t yet know what is wrong.  Because when it rains it pours, I received two separate rejections for poems since Saturday night. Yup.

(Update: The gardener is suddenly starting to feel better!)

So I am going to close comments and leave you with a favorite poem (that I dug out to show Theresa Barker when she visited Phoenix. WordPress won’t allow correct formatting, but I think this is close enough to give you an idea of the poem.

SO I SAID I AM EZRA

 

by A.R. Ammons 1955

 

So I said I am Ezra

and the wind whipped my throat

gaming for the sounds of my voice

I listened to the wind

go over my head and up into the night

Turning to the sea I said

I am Ezra

but there were no echoes from the waves

The words were swallowed up

in the voice of the surf

or leaping over the swells

lost themselves oceanward

Over the bleached and broken fields

I moved my feet and turning from the wind

that ripped sheets of sand

from the beach and threw them

like seamists across the dunes

swayed as if the wind were taking me away

and said

I am Ezra

As a word too much repeated

falls out of being

so I Ezra went out into the night

like a drift of sand

and splashed among the windy oats

that clutch the dunes

of unremembered seas

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Cats and First Sentences

This past week I have been babysitting my daughter’s cat. Isabella Rose is a sweet brown tabby. My daughter watched Perry once for a week, so Izzie knows Perry and they get along fine. At one point, I thought Perry was in love with Izzie, but that ardor has cooled and they are just “parallel play” buddies, like toddlers. The other day I let Perry go in the bedroom alone with Izzie because I was busy and thought he would babysit her for awhile. Hah!

When I went back to look for him, I couldn’t find him anywhere. I started to think the gardener had let him out of the bedroom and had forgotten. I searched the whole house. Nada. Then I remembered something. The bedroom was once his bedroom when he was new to our house. At that time, he clawed a hole in the bottom of the box springs so he could climb up in there.

Sure enough, I found him up under the bed. With the boards and the fabric bottom surrounding him, I thought he was stuck up there. If you want to see a very dark video, check out my Instagram. If you have an account, please follow me, and I will follow you back if you “like” Perry’s pic/video (so I know you’re legit haha).

Come to find out, Perry just didn’t want me to take him out of Izzie’s room. He got out of there just fine when he wanted a treat.

Before I let you go, tell me if you think this is an appalling first sentence for a chapter (because I do):

The first hint of fall filled the crisp late afternoon air.

It’s boring, but that’s not the problem I find with it. What the heck is the “first hint of fall”? Huh? WHAT specifically fills the air. I can’t imagine it. There is no image so of course I can’t imagine it. Is it a smell that fills the air? A sound? Please share it with me, writer.

I discovered this annoyance in Rita Mae Brown’s Tall Tail, one of the cat mystery series Brown writes with Sneaky Pie Brown (her tabby who MUST have passed on by now). It’s a Bantam Book and Brown is a big-ass writer. Years ago, I read her influential lesbian novels Rubyfruit Jungle and Six of One. She’s a good and prolific writer, but I’m really appalled at the poor editing (on the part of an editor?) that would allow this sentence to go to press.

Why am I sharing my frustration? I tend to think that if the book has a big publisher it’s been well edited. But I guess not. This is not my first disappointment of this nature either. Is this a new development in the world of books or have I not noticed it before?

OK, done, time to think about other things.

Perry says HAPPY HOLIDAYS TO EVERYONE!

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!

Love and light to you and yours!

Luanne

 

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The Bitch’s Tail: Part 3 of The Caterbuddy Tails

(Again, apologies to Chaucer. Third up in the series of Cat Tails is that of Tiger)

I’ll proudly claim my B-word title. I am the most petite cat in my queendom and rely on my claws for protection because almost all my teeth had to be removed. Other than my canines–isn’t that ironic?! I have a genetic tooth disease that comes to me from my god-ancestor origins in Egypt (note: the other cats are obviously not related to gods–this is proof). I am special, set aside from the other cats. My power intimidates them, so they don’t even try to get close to me. They have to respect and admire me from afar.

My story begins as a Cinderella tale. Remember that in Cinderella stories, the heroine seems to start from a lowly position, is elevated to a high station, and it is often revealed that her concealed origins were royal or aristocratic.

So when I tell you that my story here begins in a grocery store parking lot, remember that my story-of-origins begins earlier with my royal Egyptian forebears who now sleep forever in the vaults and tombs of pharaohs.

OK, the parking lot. I was young and tiny and hungry. I don’t know how I got to the parking lot because the first thing I can remember is standing there on the pavement, wondering how to avoid all the cars spinning in and out and all around. Before I was smashed to pieces, a young human snatched me up and took me away. She couldn’t keep me, so her friend took me home with him. He was a single college student, living in a one room apartment near campus. He meant well, but he couldn’t really take care of himself very well. I ate better than he did, but sometimes he couldn’t afford litter for my box. And one day he ran an errand, forgetting to put out the candle burning on the table.

He saved my life when he got home, but only after I got a little sick from the thick smoke. I became cautious of life after that, and especially of people, except for my young dad. I slept under the covers with him. He was my world.

One day, he went on vacation and left me with his parents. That was different. I didn’t like them at first and tried to snap at them (I still had teeth at that time). But the father was so good at playing “mousie” that I started to like him. And the mother wouldn’t give up petting me even when I was mean to her. And they bought me so much litter and gave me pieces of chicken. I have a thing for chicken. I asked to stay with them, and my young dad and his parents agreed that I had a better life with them. I didn’t realize until later that “them” came with a few other cats.

I didn’t have to worry about the other cats. My new father is besotted with me. I am his favorite cat, paws down. He won’t allow anyone to say anything negative about me. And when people talk about his love for me, he gets a silly grin on his face. I have claimed the title of bitch because I will smack any cat who intrudes on my territory–and since my father won’t allow anyone to call me a bitch, I will say it myself as it keeps everyone on their toes. [Mother intrudes: “But, Tiger, you are also afraid of other cats and sometimes your own shadow. How do you justify presenting yourself as brave?” Tiger replies: “Mother, this is my story to tell. And if I sometimes lie on my back and cry when someone comes close and stares at me, it’s because I have a sensitive nature. I guess Father understands that.”]

I am the only cat to sleep with Mother and Father every night. No matter how many new cats come to live here, it’s always me. That shows you how special I am. I am also a Tabico cat. That means that I have Calico Cat markings that are made up of Tabby Cat stripes. Tabicos (or, as some call us, Patched Tabbies–or even Torbies) are very rare cats indeed!

I’ve been with my mother and father for years now. I am fourteen years young. The funny thing is that although I know how much Father loves me, I love to curl up on Mother at night. She tries to push me away (careful, Mother, you know the power of my claws!), but I wait until I think she is asleep and climb back. Every morning she has to explain the scent of Tiger on her to Perry, Sloopy Anne, and the other cats.

Maybe you wonder if I still see my first dad. I do. He visits us sometimes with his new wife, and I let him pet me. He’s still one of my three favorite people. And I’ve heard that he’s become a really good cat dad and even a . . . I can’t believe I’m saying this . . . dog dad. Mother and Father think he’s one of the best. You can all thank me for that. I am the one who trained him, the one who had patience with him, and the one who put up with his childish mistakes.

Just remember my motto when you think of me: I AM TIGER, HEAR ME ROAR!

FOR THE OTHER CAT TAILS (SO FAR):

The Dowager’s Tail

The Baby’s Tail

 

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Filed under #writerlife, #writerslife, Cats and Other Animals, Memoir, Nonfiction

Cat Couture as Anxiety Cure

On Facebook, I belong to a couple of cat groups because I enjoy seeing the photos and hearing snippets of stories about cats. On one of the groups, I saw that a woman named Penny Cardino posted adorable photos of her cat Shadow dressed in a Christmas dress. Before you think I am talking about a woman with too much time on her hands, playing dolls with her cat, learn the reason for this. Shadow suffers from a severe anxiety disorder. Wearing her Christmas dress makes her happy. I knew that thundershirts sometimes work for dogs with anxiety, although I haven’t personally heard of a cat who has been helped by one (that I can recall). But this was the first time I had heard about using clothing to comfort an anxious cat. Penny agreed to be interviewed about Shadow and her anxiety problem.

Where did you get Shadow and how long have you had her?

We found Shadow in at a gas station in 2011. Our vet said she was about 7 weeks old and looked to have been abandoned. The first night she would not come to us, but we could tell she was very hungry. She would walk up and then dart away quickly. I went inside and got her something to eat and a cup of water. It took us three days, but we finally managed to get her trapped. A good friend of mine kept her over the weekend for me while we were trying to decide if we could keep her or not (we have a very territorial male Siamese). We decided that she had been through enough and thought that Ashby (the Siamese) would come to accept her. That was almost 8 years ago.

When did you first learn about Shadow’s anxiety?

While we were gone during the day, we kept her in a huge kennel in our son’s room so she and Ashby could get acquainted safely. We would go in and shut the door and spend time with her. She would sleep with William (our son) and then, about four months after we brought her home, we eventually just let her stay out and put the kennel away. She always wanted to go to William’s room at night and sleep with him but she didn’t want to stay in there by herself, especially in the dark. She would follow him to his room, and later we would hear her crying to get out. At that time, I did not think anything about it–I just thought she wanted to be in the living room with everyone else.

Then she would start to cry if someone new came to visit. The crying got worse; it went on for hours and nothing would settle her down. She would pace constantly. Her cries were loud and long. We talked to our vet; I really did not want to medicate her because it was not an everyday thing. Mainly, it happens when the security system goes off, visitors come to the house, or if there is work being done around the neighborhood close to the house. I started letting her go to William’s room when company came, but I would have to turn the light on for her. Occasionally, if the house was very quiet, she would call out intermittently, as if she were looking for someone. We finally answered her one night and said, “we are right here.” She quieted down, and it was as if she were making sure she was not alone.

I started to make mental notes of how frequently she had these episodes and how long they lasted. There are times that we come home from work and she is in the midst of an episode and we have no clue as to what started it. Shadow is strictly an indoor cat; Ashby is as well. Shadow wants nothing to do with the outside, and she panics if we are holding her and open the door to look outside. She will push it shut with her paws.

How does her anxiety show itself?

When Shadow has an anxiety attack, she usually starts to cry back to back. She has different vocalizations, and we have learned them, but her anxiety sounds very distressed. She paces back and forth, she won’t eat, drink, play or get on her cat tree. Her episodes can last from a day to a week, depending on the event that led to it. Her cries will break your heart because they are long and mournful. She does cry in her sleep at times and has nightmares. William says he hears her crying and will wake up and talk to her, stroke her head and let her know he is there until she calms down. What is odd about this is that during her nightmares, her eyes never open.

How did you learn to put the clothing on her? Did you try a thundershirt first and what happened?

I used to swaddle William when he was an infant after a bath or when he would cry. I would rock him until he settled down. So I wondered what would happen if I tried that with Shadow. I saw the thundershirt commercial and tried it, but she started bucking like a bronco and her cries were more piercing. I also tried a little Prozac, but that made her sick as she does not tolerate medications well.

While out shopping for a baby shower gift, I came across a baby t-shirt that was very soft and seemed like it might fit Shadow. I decided to see if this would work better than the thundershirt. When the next anxiety episode hit, I put on her shirt and she jumped down, walked over to her daddy, and jumped up on his lap. She talked to him and her meows were not distressful. She sat with him for a bit, then jumped down but her demeanor was totally different–she was more calm and not pacing. Shadow went and got on her cat tree and actually took a nap. We were amazed that this one little shirt would make such a difference.

I have tried different materials and different styles. She is not a fan of tutus or anything that has a real tight band around the “waist.” Occasionally, she will wear a hat for picture purposes and then I take the hat off. We never leave her clothes on while we are gone; she only wears them when we are home. She last had an episode that lasted three days, our neighbor stopped by to give us some homemade pickle relish and it set off her anxiety.

Have you swaddled or clothed other animals or seen it done before?

My grandmother had a Yorkie that came from a neglectful situation and had to have all of her hair cut off. The mats were so bad that the groomer shaved her entire body, leaving only the hair on her head and tail. This dog would not come out of the bedroom and looked pitiful if we had to go somewhere. So my grandmother bought her a hair bow and a big open bag. In the bag, along with her wallet with money and ID, she paced a baby pillow. Then she fixed that pup’s hair in a bow and off they would go. They went everywhere: to the mall, Walmart, but Dillard’s was their favorite. Everyone would come peek at “Sandy.” For some reason, that little dog perked up and had a completely different attitude when her hair was fixed. She eventually grew a beautiful coat, but still wanted her hair done up in her bow.

Do you have other animals?

We have two other animals–Ashby, our Siamese and Whiskey, our Black Mouth cur.
Ashby will be 9 in March and Whiskey will be 9 in February. Whiskey will not stay still long enough for a picture. Ashby has many, many pictures.

Shadow and Ashby

What else would you like to say about Shadow?!

Shadow is a special girl; she helped my son when he was in elementary school. While he had many friends, he would still get bullied or made fun of and I would talk with him or try and make the hurt go away. Sometimes a parent just can’t make it better no matter how hard we try. But Shadow could make it better. I heard him talking to her one day; he told her that she knew how he felt. He told her that the person that abandoned her was a big bully and she understood how much it hurt him when the kids would laugh at him for being smart or a little overweight because of what she had gone through. Once in awhile, he would cry into her fur and she just sat with him while he let it out. When he and I would talk again, he would feel better. He has learned how handle the bullies.

William and Shadow

Shortly after receiving Shadow’s help, William wanted to tell Shadow’s story. He said that his peers needed to know how “dumping” an animal is cruel, both mentally and physically, so he created a Facebook page for Shadow called Shadow’s Sanctuary. He says that he did this so he could show people the long term effects of being abandoned have on the animal and the people who care for them. Shadow has about 1,000 followers. He hopes to break the cycle of abandonment. William is now 17 and Shadow is still by his side. She is afraid of the dark, unless we are with her. If we know we are going to be out after dark, we always leave a light on for her so she isn’t afraid. She loves her brother, Ashby, and is crazy about my husband. It takes a long time for someone to gain her trust, but once they do, they have a friend for life. I often wonder though, with Shadow, who rescued whom.

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Luanne’s comment: I realized after reading Merril’s comment below that I ought to make a comment about dressing cats in the general, as opposed to the particular as in the case of Shadow. Most cats are stressed out by being dressed up. It isn’t something to try just for the fun of it, unless you are talking about cats who are willing to wear hats and jewelry for photos (as some of mine are). Years ago, my daughter tried to put a sweater on Tiger, and Tiger was so upset it took her four years to forgive her human sister! But Penny’s story about Shadow shows that all cats are different and have different needs. The trick is figuring out what they need and when. That is something that Penny and her family have mastered!

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Filed under #writerlife, #writerslife, Cats and Other Animals, Nonfiction