This week ended with about as many tears and disappointments as the week of the ” least happy Happy Hour we’ve ever had.” So once again, I will revert to a topic of guaranteed happiness: my cats.
It is National Pet Adoption Weekend 2013! Whoo kitties gone wild! Leading into National Be Kind to Animals Week so it seems appropriate to tell the origin stories of my four best furry friends. This may serve the dual purpose of also garnering your votes for my babies on the Cat Welfare Calendar page. Help me, help an animal shelter. Win-win. https://www.360photocontest.com/page/viewInd/secure/on/id/38656/contestid/188
My handsome panther boy Miles was an adoptee from Cat Welfare in 2009. I went to the shelter to pick up some candles for a fundraiser and walked away with 12 pounds of one-year-old, chilled out black kitty. Miles was his shelter name because he was so laid back that he actually was not getting enough food at his former home because other cats were more aggressive. The name stuck for me. He’s so Miles Davis, not so much Miles Standish.
He was immediately comfortable at my house, but my resident princess and “old lady”- she would have been 10 or 11 at the time- Bella Luna was not pleased. An early video of Miles, shows him checking out the living room as Bella stands in the middle of the room screaming and hissing at him. He was completely oblivious to her furry rage. In fact, he desperately wanted to be her friend. He tried to groom her and she was horrified! Other cats do NOT touch the Bella! Miles tried to play with her and it was like the world had ended! Given, he was all kitten energy and Bella was all “I have arthritis! Get off my lawn!” She did not see the allure of Miles barreling down the hallway, t-boning her, and sending her rolling in a cranky, spitting ball.
Miles needed a fur-ever friend more his age.
Months after his adoption, when it became clear that Bella was not going to soften up to him, I decided to check out Colony Cats & Dogs http://www.colonycats.org/ because some of my students had volunteered there during the school year and it was about 5 minutes up the road from me hilariously (at least to me) located in a former photo studio run by a guy I work with. Selecting a pet is a time intensive process. I wandered around picking up cats like I was inspecting vegetables at the grocery store. Age? Sex? Appearance? Personality? It’s a lot to consider. Kind of like dating, I guess, except relationships with pets tend to last a lot longer. Plus I was basically shopping for a cat, for my cat. What did Miles want in another cat? Someone whose face he could lick? Someone who liked to wrestle and race at top speeds through the house?
I was drawn to a thin white female cat with unusual spots of tiger stripes dotting her back and tail. As much as I was interested in her, she was interested in ignoring me. Cats can be stuck up; it’s their nature and she was working this for all it was worth. Would she snub my brave, sweet boy if I took her home? I also met and cuddled a little buff colored boy who was just coming back from foster care. Would Miles want another boy around or would this trigger some kind of aggressive marking territory male behavior in one of them?
So many things to consider. I left cat- less after putting in my application to adopt someone. Someone to be determined at a later date. I was still debating whether being a 3 cat household would be a feasible plan. It was also July and I had a vacation scheduled. I couldn’t adopt a new animal only to leave him or her alone in a new place with strange cats and stranger cat sitters. Also the process of applying made me nervous. I had always considered myself to be an excellent pet owner, visiting the vet regularly and doing anything within my power to make my cats comfortable and happy. There was some self-doubt that the shelter would find me lacking and call to tell me that I was an unfit cat mother. However they never called which, of course, led my brain to decide that I was so unfit that Mona who heads the shelter couldn’t even bring herself to talk to me about it. In reality, my application was fine and she remembered that I planned to return after my vacation and so had not called.
On my second visit to Colony Cats, I packed a cat carrier; someone was going home with me that day, but it would not be the beautiful snob. On my previous visit, I had been tailed by two tiger girls: Juliette and Gina. They followed me room to room and were often only a step behind me whenever I turned around. Again, as I revisited other cats, Juliette and Gina were watching my every move. Gina in particular followed me with gigantic anime eyes, but she was terribly shy. She wanted to be noticed but not noticed at the same time. Classic kitty emotional conflict. Her foster folder confirmed this about her personality, but she socialized well with other cats and had the softest, plush fur when I picked her up. Let’s be honest. If we’re lucky, our pets choose us and we’re smart enough to recognize it when they do.
Gina the tiger came home with me in July 2010. I set her up in the spare bedroom to let everyone adjust to her being in the house and immediately started polling people for new cat names. I was initially fine with Gina until I talked to anyone who had ever seen the movie 40-Year-Old Virgin. G-EYE-na soon became Sookie as in Sookie Stackhouse from the book and television series.
Sookie needed a quiet approach and coaxing to interact with me. She was extremely skittish and any bumble on my part would send her into hiding. It did not help that a very concerned Miles was on the other side of the door demanding to know who was monopolizing my time and why there was now food going into this room. Shouldn’t someone have consulted him about the food?
When I left the house to go on a run for Sookie supplies, Miles got his chance to find out. If pushed on by a 12-16 pound cat, my spare bedroom room door will open. Really, if you whisper at it, the stupid door will open. I understand this now. However when I returned that day, I was surprised to find the door open, Miles in the room eating all the food he could find and Sookie impossibly wedged between the wall and a filing cabinet. From that point, I had to jerry rig the door to keep Miles out, but started short play dates.
Two days later, there was no point in me even being involved. I had adopted a cat who kind of liked me until she met my other cat.
Miles and Sookie stood at opposite ends of the spare bed, staring at each other, manically kneading their separate ends of the fleece blanket, and purring. I didn’t know what to do with myself. I’ve always wanted cats that actually liked each other and here it was! I think I squealed a little when Miles advanced, held Sookie down and gave her the most elaborate face bath ever. Three years later, I still get the same warm happy fuzzies when I see Sookie walk up to him, dip her head, and get her bath.
Acclimating a new pet can be a drawn out process. Sookie had proved that she was litter box competent and clearly her relationship with Miles was good beyond any expectation I could have had. (Side note: Bella is generally annoyed by everyone and will only grudgingly admit today that Sookie is sort of okay.) It was now time to let her out of the spare room to explore the house as a whole. My mom was visiting and attempting to sleep on my couch at this time. We let Sookie out in the early evening and watched the bizarre process that followed.
Meowing is something that cats basically use on humans. I’ve heard studies that suggest a cat meow is similar in frequency to a baby crying and therefore we well trained humans respond with food and comfort and whatever will make the damn baby shut up for a while.
Cat meow: “I’m hungry! The world is ending because I’m hungry! There is only one piece of food in my bowl! What the hell?! What the hell?! What the hell?! What the hell?! What the hell?! What the hell?! What the hell?! FEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEDDDDDDDDDDD MMMMMMEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!”
When cats talk to each other it is more like purrs, chirps, a few Scottish burrs and some squeaks. When we let Sookie out of the spare room, Miles was waiting to begin the tour. Through a series of chirps, he led her to the Happy Morning Sunshine room and sat at the edge continuing his narrative while Sookie sniffed and nosed through the scents of the room and furniture. From there, he moved her into the living room and repeated the process, patiently waiting and explaining the attributes of the room as if he had just gotten his realtor’s license and she was his first client. It was strange and sweet and my mom thought she was going to be able to sleep through it.
Mom assumed all felines would pile into bed with me. Bella did, but Sookie and Miles spent the entire night looking at the house through Sookie’s eyes and apparently talking about it the whole damn time. Not ideal for someone sleeping on the couch in the middle of an open floor plan.
So I bought my cat his own cat. He takes good care of her. Bathes her, shares his food with her, possessively cuddles her and rough houses until she smacks him. They are my vote for Cutest Couple.