A couple of months ago I wrote that I was thinking of changing my weekly posts from Mondays. After trying things out on other days, I have to say that I like my old pattern best which is to try for Mondays and if other days arise, then post then instead or additionally. So it’s Monday. And I’m posting.
I want to tell you about my darling Perry (in the photo he’s nestling up against Kana). It’s been years now since he first showed up in our backyard and we trapped him, got him neutered, took him to the shelter where he was all but kicked out. They thought he was feral because he was completely shut down emotionally. I ended up bringing him home and earning his trust over weeks and weeks. I read poetry and stories to him, sang to him, and held his food bowl while he ate. Then one day when I stuck my hand under the bed, he came toward me and started to touch my hand with his paw. That was the moment when I knew he wasn’t feral and was going to be a big sweetheart. Video of Perry Hiding Under the Bed Touching my Hand
Perry has been a member of our family for 5.5 years now, and he’s the King of the Castle. He’s been the babysitter of cats and kittens. He is in charge of it all. I have expected to have him around until I was really old. Imagine my shock to realize something is wrong with his health. He’s got weird poos that have gotten increasingly soft, light-colored, and smelly. He’s lost weight–down a couple of pounds in the last two years. He feels skinny. And yet he’s a picky eater which gives me anxiety as it reminds me of Felix and Tiger when they got sick. On top of the GI symptoms, he suddenly has a level 3 heart murmur. This isn’t a terrible one, but it’s significant and especially for a seven-year-old cat. So he needs medical tests. The GI troubles could be Irritable Bowel Disease–or they could be lymphoma. The vet want to start with an abdominal ultrasound. Perry’s going to get an echocardiogram to examine the heart murmur. Please send all your prayers, vibes, and general good wishes for my dear darling special boy. The ultrasound is Friday, and the echo is in a month (they are hard to schedule).
As you may realize, we took in my son’s two cats six months ago. Two older cats who have their own ingrained habits and don’t get along that well to begin with is a pretty big thing to bring into a household with three older cats (two seniors plus Perry). It has not been a smooth six months. Not. smooth. at. all.
The gardener and I are over our Covid (we hope). It wasn’t fun, but it sure wasn’t anything like Valley Fever (I’m only speaking for myself here).
If you haven’t picked up a copy of Rooted and Winged, please consider it as a way to support the poetry community :).
If you have one and haven’t posted a review at Amazon (and maybe Goodreads, too), I’d sure appreciate it.
If you would like to review it for your blog or a lit journal, please email me at luanne[dot]castle[at]gmail[dot]com and ask for an ARC.
And if you have already bought a copy and reviewed the book, a million thank yous!!!!
For the past 75 days I have been participating in a class, taught by Kasia Avery, through Everyday Art called 100 Small Steps. The course was designed a couple of years ago which is when others took it. But it’s still up at their site and the price is minimal. So I am taking this class all by my lonesome. The structure is that of a daily prompt, a guideline, and a bonus life enrichment prompt and is meant to “force” one to do something creative every day. There is a Facebook page related to the course, and I am posting a photo every day of that day’s work. Of course, I am the only one doing so. And there are people who took this course in the past who are kind enough to give me regular encouragement although they are long past this experience.
At this point, I am 3/4 of the way through the program. Even when I had to go out of town for work or had distressing life events, I still made sure to do something in my art journal. There’s a lot of crap, but every day taught me something. And there are a few pages that make me very happy. One important thing about pushing myself through the 100 days is that I keep going. It would be easy to miss some days, but then it will be even easier to miss a few more. And time spent with my art journal is my zen time.
For the first 25 days I used a zippered binder and its “cardstock” dividers. This binder had been left at my house by a previous boyfriend of daughter. For the second 25 days I used an address book. 26 letters of the alphabet is pretty close to 25 days! Then I started a journal that Kasia had recommended as an inexpensive type she likes. It’s a Decomposition Book (hahaha), made of 100% post-consumer-waste recycle pages and printed with soy ink. This one has a topographic map on the cover and graph paper inside. The pages are a bit thin, so sometimes I glue two together. And the gesso helps strengthen them, as well. My big dilemma now is whether I continue in this book or switch to a fourth book. I think I’ll switch because the journal is already getting pretty thick with gesso, paint, collage, fabric scraps, safety pins, and the like.
The kitties are a lot of work because of integrating all these various personalities. But they sure are cute. I discovered that Meesker is talented at catch. We bat one of his toy mice back and forth. He catches with his claws extended and then smacks it right back at me. Lily is a talented eater and excellent lovebug.
I had a couple of poems from my Red Riding Hood project accepted at a wonderful journal (I’ll share when they are published) and have one of my Rooted and Winged Grandma poems accepted at another. I want to start a writing project before too long. Maybe when 100 Small Steps is completed. Go have a great week!
There’s been a lot of subtracting and adding going on at my house this past year. After my daughter lost her dear cat Izzie, the gardener and I lost Felix and then Pear. Those three sweet furry souls were all gone within two months. That left us with four cats and my daughter with zero (although she had her dog).
I started to think about the years ahead when we would have fewer cats, thus making it easier to travel. And I would have less daily kitty chores.
Then daughter and SIL adopted two kitten sisters. Daughter was keeping her fingers crossed that they would bond as well with Riley, the dog, as with each other. Sure enough, this happened.
I asked my daughter if when Tiger (who was 18) was gone, she and her husband would bring their animals over here and take care of everyone while the gardener and I go on a long trip (first time ever).
But early this summer we had to open our home to my son’s two cats, all while our little Tiger seemed to be ill. Sure enough, she died on June 28–4 weeks after the new cats arrived–and on the 7th anniversary of our furboy Macavity’s death.
So we were six cats, then five, then four, then six, and now five. Follow that? No long vacation for us for awhile!
Lily is the long-haired orange and white cat, and Meesker is the house panther. Lily, a very affectionate girl, is already fully integrated into the household, but Meesker is more shy and prefers the freedom of his own suite (i.e. bedroom). That’s because his Minion Manservant (the gardener) watches TV two times a day in there with him. They play mouse, too, and Meesker brings the mouse back so it can be thrown again. Sometimes he stops by his water bowl and washes the mouse before he brings it back.
Now I just need to figure out how to get Meesker out of the room without stressing him too much. I will also have to figure out how to tell, in a half-second, whether it’s Meesker I’m seeing or my other house panther, Kana.
Has anybody read the Ruth Galloway mystery series by Elly Griffiths? I just plowed through all fourteen books, and I’m upset that I have to wait until 2023 for final installment. As much as I love Louise Penny and Ann Cleeves, I liked these even more! The characters are wonderful, and Ruth’s love life is certainly interesting.
Yes, I’ve been up to my kitty ears with kittens and cats this week. Eight of them. Yesterday, the two smart little hamsters kittens went home with their fully vacationed parents. The two senior cats will be living with us indefinitely. More on those two later. For now, I am exhauserbated.
Some of my biggest heroes are people who work in animal rescue. Those who provide sanctuaries or care of cat colonies might be my favorites. Ruth Rawls, who I met years ago when we were both blog posting regularly about genealogy, founded and operates a sanctuary for cats in Georgia. I think you might want to hear about it, so I interviewed Ruth to find out what it’s like taking care of the cats. Listen to how Ruth did what a lot of people say they would like to do if “only” . . . .
Ruth, can you describe the environment and lives of the cats on your property?
The environment is lovely. It’s an acre and a half of mature trees. There are climbing platforms and shelters and feeding stations. The cats spend their days lounging and waiting on the next meal.
What do you know about the backgrounds of the cats?
Originally, I released two cats there in 2007 to start the colony. Those two cats came from a McDonald’s restaurant about 13 miles away, and they and other cats were depending on food from the dumpster. A friend of mine who is also an animal rescuer/rehabilitator delivered newspapers, so she was always out in the wee hours of the night and would stop for coffee. She noticed the cats, called me, she set traps, I transported to the spay/neuter clinic, and then released at the new colony. I named them Catkin and Catnip. They were truly wild, and I rarely saw them again. At the time I also had another cat that I had trapped and named Sylvia because she was going to be sylvan, even though I trapped her at a convenience store. Sylvia was semi-feral, in that you could pet her, but when she was finished with pats, she would grab your arm with all claws extended and hold on, never breaking the skin. Sylvia was heavily pregnant when I trapped her, and after her kittens were old enough, I vetted them and found homes.
Other cats have come and gone in the almost 15 years of the colony, which I named Catcatcher Corner.
There are 8 cats living there now, and the group dynamics have changed from a feral colony to a more domesticated group.
Currently, the oldest cat and oldest resident is Georgia, who came from upstate New York when her owners moved to South Carolina in 2008. They were cat lovers whose income didn’t match their desire to help cats. They moved south with approximately 12 cats, and most of them weren’t spayed or neutered. I took 4 of her female cats, had them vetted, and found homes for the two kittens and kept Georgia and her sister Cali. I estimate Georgia is about 15 years old.
Next we have Jersey and Joey, littermates who came from a litter of six that were left in a cardboard box on a local walking trail in 2012. They were so newly born that their umbilical cords were still attached.
Sue’s mother brought her litter here about 8 years ago. There were 6 in that group. I had to trap them all with the exception of Richard Parker, who seemed to be the runt of the group and could be scooped up. Richard Parker and several of the kittens were rehomed. Sue is the remaining member of that group.
Pop-Up was a stray at a friend’s house. He’s probably about 4 years old.He was friendly but was having trouble integrating with that group, so we brought him here. He is super-friendly, but has issues with social cues, and he offends the other cats by ignoring the social greetings and being over-friendly. He currently lives in an outdoor condo with Tortie, a long-haired tortoiseshell, probably about 3 years old, who came from my place of work. She showed up there about two years ago, very semi-feral, but the vet discovered that she was already spayed. She and Pop get along really well. She’s still semi-feral, so the outdoor condo is the best for her with that long coat. She needs regular brushing, and there’s no way I could keep the mats at bay unless she’s confined.
The last two are The Butter and Basil Cowper. The Butter, maybe 6 years old, showed up at the same friend’s house about 2 years before Pop-Up. Butter also has issues with social greetings. He has a head-tilt and a concentrated state, and, although he’s friendly, he doesn’t send that message to other cats. Basil came to live here in the woods about the same time as Pop-Up. I set the trap for two years before he finally went in. I can’t know how old he is, but he seems to be geriatric. My friend named Butterscotch but called him The Butter. I named Basil Cowper for a historical figure during the revolution who actually owned property about 20 minutes away, but it was confiscated after the revolution because he was a British subject. He was from Scotland, so let’s guess he was a redhead, and Basil the Cat is also a ginger.
How did you come to provide this space for the cats?
In 2002, I started working part-time for a luxury boarding kennel. I worked all the positions, including the front desk. I met so many people who would moan that they loved animals so much, and they wanted to have a farm or a bit of land in the country where the animals could run and play. So I would reply, “Then you should do that.” They would respond with something like, “Oh I can’t”, or “My husband is allergic”, or “I’d have to sell my house”. So I’d pop off back to them something like “Why not?” or “Your husband can take allergy shots” or “So sell the house if that’s your dream to help animals.” You can imagine that this didn’t sit well with some people.
In 2006, my father died, and I got a little inheritance. I thought I should put my money where my mouth was, and buy a bit of property with that money. I didn’t want to spend that money on bills or a vacation because that money was the result of a lifetime of my dad’s work. I wanted to honor him and that money. I looked for a bit of property for months, not a house lot in a subdivision, with specific wants, like trees, few neighbors, in the country, with room to start small and develop if possible. I found 1.52 acres facing south, all wooded, in a rectangular shape with road frontage on east, south, and west. The south and west frontage is a dead-end road about a mile long with maybe 7 little houses. The east frontage is also a two-lane with a little more traffic but not much.
Another concern in this area is hurricane evacuation. The money went towards the down-payment on the property, five-foot-high chain-link fencing for the eastern ½ acre, septic tank, well, electric connection, and a 25-year-old RV to use for evacuations if needed. I also had a large, house-like 12’x18’ shed built for storage.
What is their routine like?
They live their best life. They are fed twice a day. Early on, I fed them dry like Friskies or Nine-Lives, and wet like canned Friskies pate. As they got older, I was able to upgrade their food to ProPlan, both canned and dry, but occasionally I use Merrick or another mid-range food.
They do cat stuff, like lounge around and wait for meals. The cat condo with Pop and Tortie have lots of climbing shelves so they have vertical space, plus outdoor furniture.
Georgia, Sue, Joey, and Jersey eat at the picnic table inside the fence. There’s a mid-size dog crate there with the food bowl inside to protect the food from the elements. The picnic table is near the well and water connection, so I wash their dishes there and store them in a dish drainer.
The Butter and Basil basically live at The Treehouse, which is a platform with a roof over it between two mature pine trees outside the fence. Their platform has water and food bowls, and a smallish dog house with hay. They can climb up to the roof, which is nothing more than a sheet of metal roofing, and lounge up there.
Who else lives on the property and how did that happen?
Right now, only the cats and any wild animals like raccoons, opossums, and birds live there. There was a flock of chickens that moved through here almost every day, eating all the food in The Treehouse. They couldn’t be touched, and I don’t know where they came from, but we started buying chicken scratch and chicken feed to put out. They are voracious feeders, and the cats stay out of their way.
Also, randomly, a lone black hen moved in inside the fence last year. I named her Robirda. She started laying eggs, and we learned a lot about hens and egg production.
Last year, I was diagnosed with DCIS, a form of breast cancer, and I moved in with a friend to help take care of me. After a lot of treatment, I’ve just had my first annual post-op checkup, and things look fine. The cats have managed really well, doing what cats do best, and I’m planning on staying with my friend.
What is the funniest thing the animals have done?
The Butter and Basil are the funniest without even trying. Their platform is like a little stage where they have “conversations”. Admittedly, the conversations are created in my head based on photos that I take of them. Sometimes, The Butter lies on the platform and hangs his head over the side like he’s recovering from too much catnip. One time The Butter and Basil were on the roof of The Treehouse looking over the edge, like they were getting ready to water-balloon the chicken gang.
What is the most surprising?
The most surprising and interesting thing is how they separate themselves into groups. The Butter and Basil took over The Treehouse, which was started as just a safe place for cats to go if they ventured outside the fence. Pop-Up and Tortie live in the condo because that’s where they need to be for their own safety. The last four, Georgia, Sue, Joey, and Jersey, live in the general area of the picnic table. There are multiple places for them to sleep, inside and outside the fence. We made what I call the Dormitory outside the fence in the woods about 15 years ago. Sometimes the wild animals sleep there, but the kids here now don’t use it any more.
I take those large Rubbermaid totes, cut a hole in the end, and stuff them with hay or straw for sleeping quarters, so of course they like to lounge on the tops of those. There’s also nesting boxes in the shed, and they have access to the old RV.
Sometimes Jersey, Joey, Sue, and Georgia come outside the fence to visit The Treehouse, but that’s usually just at feeding time because I tend to feed The Treehouse first, and they try to snag a bite and encourage me to hurry to the picnic table to feed them. I have a car trunk full of dry and canned food, and other supplies.
What about your background prepared you for all this?
I’ve always been interested in animals. When I was in 4th grade, I wanted to be a veterinarian. That was not to be in my future, but I have had vet tech training and worked for several vet practices.
Working at the luxury boarding kennel showed me that some animals get better treatment than others. I’m interested in group health and shelter environments and creating a place where animals can exist.
I have a degree in business management, and I hope to create a non-profit status in order to help more cats/dogs/people.
Ruth will stop by here in case you have any comments or questions for her. I’ll be here, too. Right now I have eight cats in the house, but it’s just temporary because I’m babysitting the feline grandkids.
On Friday, April 1, (or thereabouts) Tiger Queenie Princess Mimi Josefina turns 18 years old. Her feistiness has calmed down, but she’s still pretty agile. She lies on the back of the recliner, for instance.
The other day we had a little pearl-draped photoshoot for the Queenie Princess. Here is our resident royalty on her throne.
And here she is looking so adorable on the fake fur on the piano.The fur that matches her green eyes.
And, finally, here she is at rest after a grueling modeling shoot.
People who know Maine Coon cats often think Perry is part Maine Coon. It’s his face shape, the tiny tufts on the tips of his ears, his long fluffy tail, and his affectionate, intelligent, and very chatty personality. So when I was feeling really bad about losing Pear, Felix, and Izzie, I bought a DNA test for Perry as a present for myself.
DNA tests for dogs always made more sense to me than ones for cats. There is such a wide variety of dog breeds, and it can help to know what the needs are, depending on what combination of breeds make up your mutt. DNA tests for people make a lot of sense for me because I love family history and genealogy, plus I’m such a Nancy Drew that I like investigating things. The gardener calls me “Sherlock.” That is in addition to all the other nicknames.
So maybe it’s that curious streak thoroughfare that runs through me that made me want to see the results for Perry.
Soon after the kit arrived, I gathered Perry’s spit, packaged it up, and sent it off. This is the activation notice I got on the website for Wisdom Panel, the company I used.
I was prepared to wait for a month or two because that’s how long it took for human and dog DNA I’ve sent in. But I got the results in just a couple of weeks.
This is a Maine coon cat, by the way, so you can see what they look like.
You could have knocked me over with a cat sneeze when I took a look at Perry’s breed mixture.
81% American Domestic cat. That’s not surprising. But wait. The next breed listed is NOT Maine Coon. He’s 11% Sphynx cat!!!!!!! 11% means that one of his great-grandparents was a Sphynx.
Sphynx cats are bald!!! They are extremely intelligent and are also one of the most dog-like cats in personality. So now we know where Perry gets his neediness :).
More information from Perry’s DNA suggests that he is white and one other color, has a long tail, and is long-haired. The best part of the test is that he tested negative for the 49 health issues that Wisdom Panel tests for. He happens to be blood type A like his human mama and papa.
Now he can relax! Perry says HAPPY HANUKKAH on this first day of Hanukkah!
On my last post about losing all the kitties, Linda Raha suggested I make scrapbooks for the kitties. She knew that that would be right up my alley. What she didn’t know is that I was already making something to remember my dears by.
Using my art journaling supplies and a carton that cat food comes in, I made this so that all the kitties (including Mac who I lost in 2015) are together, right where I can see them all the time.
The cat bed and bowls are dollhouse-sized. The kitty on top was a gift. Here is a close-up of the kitty pix.
Upper left is my heart Pear, then clockwise, Mac, Felix, and Izzie.
Monday I had the vaccine booster shot, and I felt fine yesterday morning. But then I started to get sick with a 101 fever and then painful lymph node swelling under my arm, reaching into my chest and back and down to the tips of my fingers. I had finger cramping last night, but not this morning, so maybe I will be getting better soon.
Well, i wanted to share with you my little cat nicho. Make it a great rest of your week. XOXO
This has been such a difficult three months for me. On the one hand, I am blessed that I am not recently mourning any of my human relatives or close friends. But two of our long-time kitties and one of our kitty grandkits have passed away–one in July, one in August, one in September. Isabella Rose, or Izzie, was my daughter’s cat, only 11 years old, and I used to babysit her alllll the time. I loved babysitting her. She would walk in as though she owned the place. She had the other cats convinced of just that. We had Felix for fifteen years, and he was such a gentle, sweet soul. He endured chronic GI problems for years, but we set up a camera over his litter box and monitored his “schedule” for two years. I didn’t mind at all because I loved him so much.
If you are a regular reader of my blog you will know that the latest loss is my closest friend, my heart, Pear Blossom. She was 21 1/2, but that only makes it harder because we were together for so long. So many of my people have known her over the years. And with her kind and helpful personality, she touched so many lives. Pear and Felix were from my first group of three cats. They were very good friends–the three mousketeers. Macavity passed away in 2015. If you would like to read the story of how Mac, our first cat, came to be a part of our family–and how the gardener changed from a self-avowed cat hater–you can read this story: My Own Cat Hero or a Loss Upon a Loss
Why do kitties always take a turn for the worse on the weekend when one is least likely to find one’s vet available? Izzie passed on a Sunday, and both Felix and Pear on Saturdays. And yesterday, on Saturday, Tiger got sick!!!!! I took her to the ER after calling them and making sure. But when we were getting checked in, the vet called in sick. They sent me to another ER across town. At that one, the vet was just going into surgery and the wait would be hours. I was concerned that Tiger could have a urinary blockage as she had been running in and out of the litter box, unable to pee. By this time my vet was open (only open mornings on Saturdays) and although they were completely booked up, she let me drop off Tiger so she could be examined between patients. Luckily, Tiger turned out to have a UTI, not a blockage.
Being there at the euthanasia of three cats in three months has made me feel like the Angel of Death. I’m a benign zombie, not fully in the moment. The couch is soooo lonely without Pear next to me, even if another cat comes to me. I can only sleep at night with the little blanket Pear used in the last few weeks of her life.
Of course, life keeps on happening, right in the face of grief. But I’m trying to go easy and not push myself right now.
I had posted the following pic on Instagram in September 2019, while I was babysitting Izzie. I felt like Snow White with the 7 little cats–so happy to have them all together in my home. But now it’s easy to see the devastation.
Don’t worry: Tiger and Kana still make me work hard with all their needs. And Perry needs lots of attention because he’s grieving more than the other cats. He is at loose ends much of the time, with a sad look on his face.