Monday, May 28, 2012

Short Legs



A Westie's legs are very short.  So short in fact the Westie breed is one of the 'little people' of the dog world.  His body is average sized; he has a big head and impressive jaws; he is in all ways a mid sized dog except for one.  A Westie's legs are very short.  

Short legs are good.  Being low to the ground gives good balance and traction.  Having a regular sized body on short legs aids in making hairpin turns.  The Westie's short legs are thick and sturdy and great for driving his powerful front claws.  Short legs allows a Westie to 'go to ground' and get into holes and burrows where varmints live.  Short legs are good.

A Border Collie's legs are very long.  So long in fact the Border Collie is one of the 'gazelles' of the dog world.  Her body is long and light and might have some Suluki ancestry which makes her fast.  Oh she is so fast.  A Border Collie's legs are very long.

Long legs are good.  Having long legs allows you to make long strides which takes up a lot of ground with each step and leap over things in your path.  Long legs and a long body allow a Border Collie to make tight hairpin turns.  A Border Collie's long legs are strong and springy and allow her to fly.  Long legs are good.

I never really thought that much about legs.  I certainly did not spend a lot of time pondering my dog's legs.  Sure the Westie had short legs, but he was totally okay with that and very agile.  He might not have been the fastest dog running in a straight line, but he could turn on a dime, a fact that used to cause our Mini Schnauzer all sorts of frustration.

Dogs like to chase things and they also like to be chased.  Unlike a human children's game, the one who is 'it' is not the one who is chasing.  The 'it' is the one being chased.  If you catch me then you can be 'it' otherwise - I get to stay 'it'.  Oh, how the dogs really, really want to be 'it'.

For the Schnauzer and the Westie the match was fairly even.  The Schnauzer was faster on the open straight path, but the Westie was able to make incredible hairpin turns, leaving the Schnauzer yipping in frustration as he shot past the turn the Westie performed.

Zoom ahead a few years and now the game is between the Westie and the Border Collie.  The Border Collie has steadily been losing the 'it' position since as a puppy she could not outrun the Westie.  He was able to outdistance her and make his famous turns to outsmart her.  What he didn't count on was that she was not always going to be a little girl.

Suddenly it seemed that everything came together for the Border Collie.  Not only could she run fast, but she had learned from the master and could make these incredible hairpin turns.  She got to stay 'it' more and more.  Since he was not able to catch her very often anymore, the Westie stopped trying very hard.  He would run for a few steps and then just give up.  He didn't seem to be upset about it, but he wasn't going to waste his time.  She could stay 'it' for all he cared.

It turns out the 'it' game is not very fun unless someone will chase you.  She would circle back after he stopped chasing her and initiate a wrestling match.  How dare he not chase her!  Then she decided she was not going to be 'it'.  The Westie was 'it' and he needed to run from her.

The Westie did not want to run and he certainly did not want to run with her chasing him.  She could catch him easily now and he did not want to admit she was better than him.  He decided to win by not playing the game.  This did not please the Border Collie, so she decided to force the issue.

We were in the garden together and the Border Collie began to run full out around the yard.  Every time she passed close to the Westie she paused to snap and wrestle with him.  This annoyed him and he began to move from the outer edge of the garden area to a center area near a large fig tree.  As the Border Collie made her circuit this time she did not pause.

This time she took aim at his long side and ran hard into him, leaping only after she had made contact.
This blast did not just knock the Westie over, it rolled him over several times and he ended up smacking into the trunk of the fig tree.

The Ufff he made sounded painful and he struggled to get back to his feet.  Since I had witnessed this heartless attack I was shouting at the Border Collie and making my way toward the Westie to see if he was okay.  He was shaken and snorting and angry, but also scared.  The Border Collie was not stopping her mad run and was zooming from one end of the yard to the other, faster and faster, oblivious to my yells.

I straddled the Westie because the Border Collie was making another pass and I could tell she was aiming right for him again.  She had a gleeful look in her eyes as she came near.  I crouched down to further shield the Westie with my arms and as she came close I swatted out at her to drive her off.

Just as I swept my arms out toward the Border Collie, the Westie decided to take matters into his own hands, or jaws as it was.  He surged forward toward the Border Collie just as I swatted at her and my arm ended up in his mouth. He bit down hard. 

I screamed and he let go immediately.  I sat down and he jumped into my lap trying to console me.  He was absolutely horrified that he had bitten me and was looking deep into my eyes trying to apologize.  Of course I told him it was okay and he was a good boy.  I picked him up and carried him inside, leaving the now tired and panting Border Collie outside.

Once the Border Collie discovered this new way of 'playing' with her pal, she wanted to do it again and again.  We intervened when we were outside and chastised her for this action, but we couldn't be there all the time and she learned to do this when we were not there to put a stop to it.  But eventually these bashings did stop.  We were worried, but it turns out we didn't need to be.  The Westie had a plan.

The Border Collie is running and barking at the edges of the yard but then she pauses.  The Westie looks up and I look up and it starts.  The Border Collie begins to run full out.  As she starts to zoom down the path way the Westie starts to run toward the patio.  He knows that depending on where he is when she starts the chase he may need to change course several times.

He must not be in the open when she comes close.  He must not be broadside to her nor can his back be turned to her.  He is in the middle of the garden when she starts and he runs to the orange trees and places his back to them.  She zooms close on her first pass and he turns and makes a fake lunge toward her as if he will chase her.  He must make it look good so she will make a full circuit away instead of circling back too soon.  The distance from the orange tree to the patio is long and completely open.  Once he commits to it he will have no cover.

He snaps and starts to chase her which delights her and she takes off the opposite direction.  Seeing this he makes a hairpin turn and uses his momentum to launch himself toward the patio.  He is running full out but his short legs don't cover much ground.  She is at the back of the yard and turns, seeing him in the open.  She streaks across the yard and leaps over a garden bed to gain ground.  She is running full out.  She is not just running toward him, she is running at him.  She will hit him if she can.

He is running harder now, sensing her approach.  He must make it.  He is almost there. 
He. Is. Almost. There.

At the last moment he darts under one of the patio chairs.  He fits under its seat perfectly and does not even have to duck.  Safe at last.  She on the other hand has to put on the brakes.  She cannot fit under the chair unless she gets down on her belly.  He has won; he is still 'it'. 

According to the Westie's rule of life, if you cannot change something then you should learn to cope with it.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Cat-a-blog: Part 2



So now we come to the current cats and hopefully I will not have to update this log with any other additions for many, many years.  Unfortunately, applications are still pouring in.  If only the people in our neighborhood could get a grasp of what happens when you don't neuter your pets.

Here is a 'cat math' equation.  Take one female cat.  If she is not neutered then she will have a litter of kittens when she is 9 months old.  After her first litter, she will have another litter in six months.  I am going to say she will always have a litter of two kittens, a male and a female.  I am also going to presume that each of her female kittens will always have a litter of two kittens, one male and one female.  Now this scenario is not life like in that cats routinely have litters of many more than two and many of those kittens would be female.  However, it is life like in that many of those kittens will not reach adulthood, so by and large this is somewhat accurate, given the high mortality of kittens and young cats.  We will call this a minimalistic equation.  The actual totals could be much higher given adequate food supply and minimal predation or accidents.


From 1 to 53 in 39 months
This chart shows how one female cat can have five litters in 39 months.  If each litter produces just one fertile female then in 39 months the total number of litters from all cats will equal 26.  Providing that two cats from each litter survive, the total number of cats in 39 months will be 53.  

The good news is that if you love kittens then lucky you!  There are several instances where litters of kittens are born in the same month or just a couple of months apart.  In fact on the 39th month there are 5 litters born at the same time!  That is why I ran it out to 39 months because I didn't want to leave those five mothers all about to burst with kittens.  And just to think - this chart is inaccurate because the numbers are actually too low!!!  There would in reality probably be lots and lots of more kittens!!!

So really, please - for the love of God neuter your cats.  If you have a little bit of extra money then neuter a stray cat.  Most cities will have a 'trap, neuter, release' program where for very low cost you can bring in feral cats for neutering.  Some cities have programs where it won't cost you anything.  If you take just one female cat out of the breeding pool then you have reduced the population of homeless cats by a minimum of 53 in just 39 months.

And don't just think that it is only the females causing the problems.  We have a very tough time with our cats because of wandering tomcats trying to stake out territory.  You would think since all of ours are neutered the tomcats would leave them alone.  Apparently the un-neutered male cat doesn't care and harasses our females anyway.  This leads to fights, nasty cat pee sprayed in our front porch and loud cat altercations at all hours of the night.  Unaltered male cats don't live very long - estimates say they last about 2 years.  They are typically suffering from abscessing injuries and have poor immunity to various cat diseases.  Considering the sorry state of many tomcats I see in our neighborhood I think they are responsible for much of the disease transmission in cat populations.

It was precisely because of a cat math problem that we came to our current cat situation.  Back in 2008 we had our lowest number of cats in years.  Just two which was a welcome relief from the masses we had been caring for prior to this.  I have already shared the story of Wilbur in Cat-a-blog Part 1, but Dory came to us in 1998 due to an un-neutered female cat.

Dory


14 years ago Dory arrived as a stray.  His feral mother brought us two litters of kittens, both to buildings in our back yard.  Her first litter we got acquainted with rather late in their lives when we found them living under the floor of our shop.  We made friends with the kittens, but the mom would have nothing much to do with us.  To our horror, in about a months time after meeting the kittens when they were about three  months old, they all disappeared.  We know one met its fate on the road in front of our house, but the others just vanished.   Mom cat stopped hanging around and we put the whole sad affair out of our minds

A few months later we found a second litter of kittens in a shed behind our house.  We found these kittens when they were just days old.  The mom was no where to be found when we first met the litter.  There were four of them and one of them had something wrong with his back leg.  The leg seemed to be turned the wrong way.  I picked him up and adjusted his leg back into the correct direction then left him with his siblings.  Mom cat must have not liked that we touched her kittens because when she returned she moved the kittens to a new location.

A couple of weeks went by and we found the kittens in the shed again.  I found them because one of the kittens was crying very loudly.  It was the one with the bad back leg and he was about half the size of his siblings.  My guess was that he was not able to get to mom as well as the others.  I found him under a shelf area in the shed and the rest of his siblings were in another part of the shed.  I put them together and planned on checking them every day.

To our horror, the very next day we found the mom cat dead in the street in front of our house.  Another victim to traffic.  We brought the kittens inside and began trying to care for them.  They were old enough to eat wet kitten food and feeding them and tending to their needs became our full time task.  We became quickly overwhelmed with their needs and gave the three largest to a humane organization to foster and find homes for.  The little guy with the bad back leg I did not let go because I feared they would take one look at his puny size and his lame leg and decide to end his little life.

He was so tiny he fit in the palm of my hand.  He was solid grey, blue eyed and very loud.  Every few hours I would give him a tablespoon full of wet kitten food and he would then spend about a half hour doing his best to eat.  He used mouth and front feet together so he was a mess each time.  We kept him in a laundry basket and our two Schnauzers would look over the top adoringly at him.  Every day I would turn and massage his little leg and foot and exercise it as well.



We named him Dory, and he grew stronger and larger by the day.  His leg began to work normally but I made sure to massage and adjust his little ankle each day.  He played with our Schnauzers and I am pretty sure he considered himself a dog.  At first I was reluctant to let him outside unsupervised since I felt his back legs were weak and I was worried he might not be able to run fast enough if he encountered danger.  One day when he was out he suddenly decided to climb a tree right next to our back porch.  Up he went blindingly fast then onto the back porch and then the roof.  I panicked thinking he would not be able to get back down so I was hunting for a ladder when suddenly he was by my side.  Then he ran and scrambled back up the tree, porch, then roof again.  So much for his lack of speed.

After that he spent much of his time outside on the roof and via an open soffit vent, in the attic of our house as well.  His arboreal years gave him a strong muscular upper body.  He still has his upper body mass to this day although he now spends much of his time in the space under the porch or under various items we have next to the house.

 

He still likes dogs more than cats.  When our Schnauzers were alive he loved them and they were very affectionate with him.  It took him some time to warm up to the Westie, but that was because the Westie loves to chase him.  They get along great and are super friends, but if Dory ever runs then the Westie is hot on his tail, snapping at him.

Now the Border Collie is just rude and always putting her nose where it doesn't belong.  She would love nothing more than to herd him around and Dory wants nothing to do with her.   



The Front Door Cats
Now one might think it strange that we would divide the cats into a geographic location seeing as how cats tend to go where they please.  This however is the case at our house in that our 14 year old guy is the undisputed owner of the entire back yard and our four others are content with hanging out near our front door.

Ike


Ike is from the original litter that started us down the multiple cat business trail again.  He arrived as a skin and bones urchin with his mother and sister in June 2008.  It was obvious that he had never been around people before because he was very timid and at first would run if he saw us.  Food overcame his fear and eventually we were able to pet him if he was eating. We did not call him Ike, but rather Beaner which was a take off on his mother's name Bino (pronounced Beano).  Typically we name strays the first thing that pops into our head.



How Ike got his name is a story with the kind of drama that seems to surround cats in our life.  Just a few weeks after these kittens were getting comfortable with us an approaching hurricane caused us to have to evacuate to higher ground.  The reports of this hurricane predicted a 25 foot storm surge and since our house is just a little over 20 feet in elevation we packed our valuables and left for my father's house in town that sits at a respectable 50 feet of elevation.  Our valuables included our dogs and cats and we intended to take our three strays as well.  They however had plans of their own and were nowhere to be found.

On the last trip from our house with the storm winds already howling my husband found little Beaner wide eyed and nervous by the front door.  He had just about got his hands on him when a strong gust of wind rattled the eves and Beaner ran off.  We spent the storm devastated that we were unable to save our little wild trio and were certain they would not survive given the predictions of high water.  Low and behold when we finally made it back to our house two days after the storm, little Beaner came crying out to greet us, dry and safe.  He was renamed Ike in honor of surviving the storm.



Ike has become our front door big gun.  Perhaps it is because of his starved beginnings, but if we let him he would be willing to be one of those 30+ pound cats.  His very bright ginger color with his beautiful orange eyes match his bright and sunny disposition.  One of the more distinctive things about him is his tiny little voice.  You will hear this high pitched 'meew' and expect to see a small cat, but there he is the incredible hulk.  His one obstacle between looking truly large is his very small head.  When he is at a more appropriate body size you don't notice his tiny head, but when he gains weight his head remains tiny like some sort of shrunken cat head. 

Sandy


Sandy is the other original kitten of Bino's who arrived so tiny and skeletal I was almost certain she would not make it.  It was very touch and go, especially since any slight movement or noise would cause her to scatter away from the food we were providing them.  I can remember creeping up on a window that overlooked where we had placed the food and holding my breath while I watched this tiny little thing who was only about half the size of her brother.  I really did not hold out much hope that she would survive.  But she was a lot tougher than she first appeared.

She also started out with another name, Beanie, which was just another derivative of the mother cat Bino's name.  She was really attached to her mom and that was one of the reasons we never took Bino in to be neutered.  We were afraid this would cause little Beanie to disappear.  She was slower to warm up to us than her brother, but once she did she became quite affectionate.



After hurricane Ike rattled our cages about these cats we were somehow more invested in them due to the anticipatory grief we had suffered while contemplating their demise in the storm.  The fact that they survived sort of sealed the deal with us accepting the fact they were ours now.  I renamed her Sandy because, let's face it, Beanie is a pretty lame name and since Ike got a new name I felt it only fair that she get one too.  She really likes her name and will come when called.

Her best qualities are her amazing little body that is only the size of a six month old cat.  She is like some sort of miniature cat except she too would love to become a very fat cat.  I owe it to her early starvation.  It is harder to keep her in good weight because what is a normal portion size for a normal size cat is way more than she actually needs.  She sometimes gains so much weight she looks like a little football with legs.  She also has this exquisite little voice that to me sounds like she is saying 'meep, meep' when she cries.


Her favorite thing to do is push open the front door any time it does not latch completely.  She has absolutely no fear of the dogs and in fact pushes her head boldly into them so they can 'pet' her.  She likes to sit with me when I am at the computer and she loves to play with my hand when we are lying on the bed.  Her idea of play is to 'bite' and 'kick' my hand and dare me to try to take my hand away.  Her bites and kicks are deliberately mild unless I tense my hand or try to disengage.  She also increased the amplitude when she gets excited.  This means our 'hand play on the bed' usually ends with scratches.

Zoe


Zoe is one of the kittens born to Bino during hurricane Ike which makes her a half sister to Ike and Sandy.  Her mom was very reluctant to let us see these kittens.  My husband had spotted one when they were about six weeks old and he said it seemed to glow.  I think it must have been Zoe who was solid white when she was little.   We did not actually see her until she was about 10 weeks old and in fact we though that Bino only had 2 kittens.  Then suddenly there was this white kitten.  We kept waiting for the other shoe to drop thinking that Bino might have God knows how many kittens she was hiding from us, but thankfully it was just the three.

I was enchanted with this little white kitten which gave proof to my belief that Bino had siamese heritage.  Not only was this kitten white she also had blue eyes.  I must admit that we had a different name for her at first due to not knowing if she was male or female since we saw her so seldom.  Her original name was Bart (just another one of those 'first thing that pops into your head' kind of names).



We never intended to keep 'Bart' or her other two siblings.  I even made up quite an attractive poster of her that had several pictures of her as well as listed her outstanding qualities.  I displayed this poster at my office and tried to encourage people to adopt her.  I felt certain that her siamese markings and blue eyes would make her an easy 'sell'.  No such luck - not even any interest.  It was probably due in part that we were not able to offer these guys up for adoption early because we had to tame them first.  They were already months old when we first got to see them and it took a couple of more months before they accepted handling and being inside the house.



When it became apparent that there was not going to be another home for Bart we accepted our fate as owning another cat and renamed her Zoe.   She has a quirky personality that is quick to be irritated.  You get exactly two pets with her before she screams in irritation.  She loves to rub up against walls and hates to be picked up.  She is definitely Miss Bossy Pants and is always getting into arguments with Sandy.  She really is disgusted with the dogs and lets them know it.  All in all, Zoe has served as a reminder to me that you can't judge a book by its cover.  She looks like a dream and you just want to pet her, but she insists that life be lived by her terms.

Mini


Mini is the direct sister of Zoe from Bino's second litter.  She was the first of the kittens we routinely saw because she was very attached to her mom and wanted to go with her everywhere.  Since we saw her more than the others she was warming up to us and we felt destined to be very friendly.

Unfortunately tragedy struck early in her life.  At some point when she was only about four months old she received and injury to her back leg.  We did not know exactly what happened to her, but it is likely since it was cold that she made the mistake many cats and kittens make.  We feel certain that she must have been sleeping on a car engine and was injured when the car was started.



We went from seeing her each day to barely seeing her at all and each time she saw us she ran away on three legs, with her back leg held at an awkward angle.  We were anguished over how to help her and the best we could do was to provide her a warm place and food since she was too wild to handle.  There are few things more helpless than having to witness the suffering of some creature you have come to care about and being powerless to help.



Apparently the injury to her leg was not as grave as we first thought and in a couple of weeks she was holding the leg normally, but still putting very little pressure on it.  She eventually recovered fully except that she remains very skittish and easily startled.  There really was never any question in our minds about finding her a home once she was injured.  We realized that her socialization was seriously affected so we resolved to keep her with us. 

She is quite a complicated and smart cat.  She is always the last to arrive when we are feeding the others and she would much rather we pet her than she is interested in the food.  But she wants the affection on her terms and runs if we move too suddenly.  She also refuses to come into the house and will have nothing to do with the dogs.  She has a very suspicious nature which makes it hard for me to do things like apply flea treatments.

Temporary Cats

I felt it only appropriate to list the cats that have passed through our lives as temporary family members.  In some cases we know the end of the story and in others we just have to guess.

Bino


She was responsible for this whole big multi cat mess we currently have, gave us two litters of kittens, would not let us do more than barely pet her and then she was gone, never to be seen again.

Bronson


He was a tomcat, but a very mellow and friendly guy who did not harass nor beat up our cats.  He and Bino had a thing for one another and I suspect he was the father of her second litter of kittens.  We only got to know him for a few weeks and it was obvious he was already a veteran of many cat fights.  He might have been about three years old, but they were a hard three years.  We were saddened to find him one morning in our backyard, lifeless on top of our compost pile.  He is another sad reminder that un-neutered male cats do not live very long.

Toby


Toby was a goofy Manx cat who decided we needed another cat at a time we were already caring for eight.  He was friendly as could be which made us feel certain that he had another home.  Whether that was the case or not, within just a couple of weeks of coming around he just stopped leaving our place and became a permanent fixture.  Our cats did not mind him and he was not in any way aggressive with them, so we just let him hang around.  He was a type of Manx who had no tail at all.  I read up about them because I was curious about his anatomy.  I found out that often these tailless Manx can have all sorts of digestive troubles and this seemed to be the case with Toby.  He got sick one day and seemed listless and then within a couple of days developed a skin infection.  We took him to the vet and it was decided that he was too far gone with too many issues so we had him put to sleep to end his suffering.

Mike


This was the third kitten from Bino's second litter and thankfully we were able to adopt him out to a wonderful home.  Mike is now named Tigger and he shares an inside home with two older cats.  His new mom adores him and he sleeps with her each night.  He is huge like Ike except his head fits his body.  His mom says he weighs about 15 pounds and loves to sun himself on a back screened porch.

Omar


This was the last of the 'joiners' we have had to deal with.  At first from afar we did not even notice there was another cat because his coloration was just like Ike.   Up close it was obvious because he was much smaller than Ike, the other cats did not like him, and he had extra toes.  This gave him his first name 'Poly' which was short for polydactyl.  We were not amused by the addition of another cat after we had worked to bring our number down to five.  He was however a very friendly guy which spoke of him having another home.  Yet, here he was very skinny and very, very hungry.  Either he had gotten lost from his first home or else his first home had decided he no longer needed to be fed.  What were we going to do?

Thankfully his multi- toed condition made him more interesting to potential adopters and that along with his beautiful ginger coat and light blue eyes sealed the deal and a friend adopted him.  She gave him the name of Omar and he is very happy in his new home.

Now hopefully that will be all of the cat updates I will have to make for a while.  If the universe is listening I would like to say - yes, we understand that for some reason we need to have a whole bunch of cats, and yes, we are not making anymore pronouncements of 'getting out of the cat business'.  We would just like to ask could you please stop sending these guys our way?  Certainly by now there must be some positive cat karma built up enough that we can stop at five cats for a while.  Thanks. 

Monday, May 14, 2012

Cat-a-blog: Part 1



I thought it was time for an update regarding our cat situation.  When I last spoke of the cats I talked about the origin of our 'Front Door' cats and how they came to us at a time we were pretty sure we were getting out of the 'cat business' - more specifically, that my husband was 'over' having cats because he felt they led such 'miserable lives' and that he couldn't bear to be a part of the whole fur covered drama.

I think sometimes that the universe is just waiting for us to make these kinds of declamatory statements in order to prove just how ironic life can be.  "Oh," the universe says, "You are 'over' cats?... because they lead 'miserable lives'? Well let's just see you turn your back on this little drama."  - and then it drops starving kittens on your doorstep.  Yeah, okay FINE!  We get it.  We are back in the cat business.  Please forgive us for ever considering not having cats.  No - seriously, there is no need to have that same mother cat produce another litter for us to adopt.  Look, we got them all fixed so there won't be any more.  You can STOP now!  Quit bringing us more strays!

So, the number of cats we had in 2008 quickly rose from two (a number that was our lowest in years) to five, then up to eight, then down to seven then up to eight then down to seven, then six and finally five... then briefly to six and now back down to five.  Oh, please, please let it stay at five.

Unfortunately we have not been strangers to multiple cats.  I arrived in the relationship with my husband with four cats.  It takes a certain kind of guy to take on a crazy cat woman but he didn't flinch so we managed to work it out.  Those original cats have long since passed, but I wanted to record their lives in this story because I consider them 'foundation cats' who had rather unique personalities.



Khym


This was one of my original rite of passage into adulthood cats.  I adopted him and his sister when they were just six weeks old.  I took on this responsibility at a time when I was not sure where I was going to live, so for a brief time all of my worldly possessions and two kittens lived in a pinto station wagon with me.  Khym was my nomadic buddy and we moved together over a dozen times during his long life.

Other than cats I had as a child I was closer to Khym than any other cat.  He slept curled up next to me each night - he was the 'cat love' of my life.  I was not very knowledgeable about cats in those days and did not get them neutered.  He got into quite a cat fight once and ended up with an abscess on his face.  He came home after being missing for a couple of days and literally fell into my arms with one half of his face swollen and oozing.

I took him to the vet and although his face got better, he kept getting thinner.  It finally dawned on me that something was wrong with him and I brought him back to the vet.  It was not good news.  The vet said that he had something called feline infectious peritonitis and that his blood count was so low they usually would have begun transfusions by now.  The vet also suspected Khym had feline leukemia, even though the test came back negative.  He suggested I put Khym to sleep to end his suffering.

Well, I was not having any of that.  I told the vet that although Khym was thin and feeling poorly he was not suffering and I was not about to put him to sleep.  The vet said there was one thing we could try and I should bring him back twice weekly for shots of 'imuno-regulin'.  Now at this point in my life, the idea of spending $15 per injection twice a week on my cat was more than I could fathom, but the vet was kind and let me start a payment plan so Khym could begin treatment.

I brought Khym home and decided I was going to help him get better in the only way I knew how.  I created special four course meals for him twice a day consisting of cooked chicken liver, dried fish, ground beef and chicken breast.  I also read to him from the Louise Hays book of healing affirmations.  I would look up one of Khym's symptoms and read the affirmation as I held him on my lap.  Between the bi-weekly injections, the food and the affirmations, Khym began to respond.  After several months he was doing great.  The vet was impressed with his recovery.  I never shared with him my food and affirmation part of the deal, so he thought it was just the injections.  The total for Khym's treatment came to nearly $1000, which took me a long time to pay off.

I consider it quite the deal since Khym lived for a happy and healthy 18 years.  I first held him when he was a six week old kitten in May of 1985 and held him in my arms for his last breath in July of 2003.  



Solo


Solo was a surprise in many ways.  First of all, I was surprised to learn that cats, especially cats from feral origins go into heat at about six months of age.  These were the cats Khym and his sister Hilfy who were Solo's father and mother.  I had gone out of town for the weekend and apparently they had quite the party when I was gone.  When I finally figured out Hilfy was pregnant I estimated she was just a couple of weeks along because her belly was so tiny.  Then just a couple of days after this realization I was falling asleep with Hilfy on top of my chest.  As I was drifting off, my mind kept asking me a question.  "What is important about rhythmic breathing?"  Hmmm, I wondered as I was just about asleep... rhythmic breathing ... And then I was bolt awake in time to witness Hilfy give birth to Solo right on top of me. 

He was a tiny little thing and the only one, which gave me the idea for his name.   Hilfy was an awesome mom in many ways, but at the time I was living in a two story apartment whose stairs did not have a back to them.  I was downstairs a couple of days after his birth and out of the corner of my eye say Hilfy on the stairs about halfway down.  I then noticed she jumped down from that height and turned to find that she had dropped little Solo as she had attempted to move him from his upstairs nest.  The drop seemed to have no ill effect on the little guy but as the days passed I noticed he was not using his back legs, but rather pulling himself along by his front legs only.  He finally began to use his back legs but was always a little tottery in his balance. When Solo was two, I decided to change his diet to something healthier.  Solo decided that he was not going to eat anymore.  After about three days of not eating and not using the litter box I was panicked and took him to a special cat only vet.  She was quite a character.  First she told me he couldn't be just two years old.  "Look at his teeth," she said pulling back his lips, "These are the teeth and gums of a ten year old cat."  I told her I knew for a fact he was two since he had been born on top of me.  When I told her his parents were brother and sister she said "That's it!"  and proceeded to tell me how Solo got the short end of the genetic pool.  "He won't likely live very long," she said sadly. She got him through that episode and admonished me about changing his food.  She told me something that I have remembered to this day.  "Cats are creatures of habit and ritual," she said.  "They are so stuck in their ways that the habit of the ritual can over-rule their instinct to live.  Your cat didn't like the food so he stopped eating.  The new habit became not eating and he was willing to starve himself to death just to keep up the ritual."  I don't know if this is true, but she was wise in the ways of cat and I have taken it to heart. I also took to heart her pronouncement of Solo being not long for this world.  With his tottery legs and his tendency to ritualize himself to death I decided it was probably his last year.  I had many, many last years with Solo.  Every time he would take a turn for the worse, I would tell my good friend, "I think this is Solo's last year."   And then he would rally and go gamely on. In all, Solo had 16 'last years'.  He took his first breath right on top of me in September of 1985 and he took his last breath in my arms in May of 2001.

Jake


Jake came into my life as a full fledged adult cat whose owner had a new girlfriend who was allergic to cats.  Although you can't really judge it from this photo, Jake was a monster of a cat.  He was very muscular and lean, but topped the scales at over 12 pounds.  His front claws were black instead of white/clear and so sharp that he once scratched several grooves into a sliding glass door.

Jake was a very dog like cat in several ways.  He answered to his name and he loved to fetch.  If you threw something he would bound after it, pick it up and bring it to you, dropping it at your feet so you would throw it again.  He also had a stuffed dragon that was almost as big as he was that he liked to cuddle with and would also fetch it.  Unfortunately for him he had asthma and died as a result of his condition in 2000. 


Sunny


Sunny came from the same household as Jake and I was never sure of her exact age except that she was older than Jake by several years.  She was a very vocal cat who would answer to her name but only if you said it exactly the right way.  My husband used to test her and call her name in a very sweet voice and she would answer back.  He would then call her name in a much less sweet voice mimicking the villain in a movie.  Sunny would not answer back.

She had a strange habit of drinking water by dipping her paw into it then drinking off of her foot.  She lived quite a few years with me then died of apparent old age in 1999.

Wilbur


Wilbur was the first of the 'cat math' equations that played itself out after my husband and I were together.  Cat math is how you manage to attain more cats even when all of the cats you currently own are neutered.   At the time he decided to come on board we had the four 'foundation cats': Khym, Solo, Jake and Sunny.  I had created an enclosure in the greenhouse for my indoor only cats in order to help transition them into outdoor life.  Wilbur sensed the 'cat vibe' and was drawn in.

Our neighborhood has had an unfortunate situation in that some of the residents are cat collectors.  Now a cat collector is someone who begins to feed strays, but never neuters them.  Soon they have a growing colony of many cats and kittens living inside and outside their homes.  This seems to afflict people late in life and at some point their living situation changes, such as they have to go into assisted living or move in with a relative.  At that point the collection of cats no longer has a home or consistent food and they disperse into the neighborhood en masse.  One day there will be a normal amount of cats around and the next day the place will be thick with them.  Much of the time these cat colonies will be related so they will have very similar colors or markings.  One year we had lots of tabbies around then another year we had lots of black and white cats roaming the neighborhood.

We found Wilbur up in the attic of our shop after one such dispersal.  I looked up and found this black and white cat looking at me.  He did not seem wild, but he was very quiet.  The next night he was still there as if he had not even moved.  I decided to get involved and brought over a ladder and took him a bowl of water.  He let me pet his head but otherwise did not move.  Another day came and went and he was still there so I gave up and brought him some food.

Around his neck was a elastic ring of plastic beads and it was somewhat tight so I took it off.  His neck was totally bare under the necklace as if he had some allergic reaction to it.  He also had what looked to be a bite mark near his tail.  He was friendly enough but not at all interested in leaving.  I took pity and began to bring him food and water each day.

Here is what we pieced together through the various clues as we discovered them.  He looked to be an adult cat somewhere around 8 to 10 years or older.  He seemed totally clueless as to how to conduct himself outdoors and when we finally did get him down from the rafters he liked to press himself close to your chest as if giving you a hug.  This coupled with the plastic necklace around his neck had us thinking he was one of the cat collectors prized pets.  Perhaps he was one of the first or from one of the first litters.  He was obviously used to being held and cuddled.

The bite mark on his back end told a different story.  Perhaps he had been an inside cat and when his original owner left he was thrust into the cold cruel and tomcat filled world.  A fight had ensued and he got bitten and ran, finally climbing up into the rafters of our shop.  Here he had found sanctuary and here he was determined to stay.

Even though he stayed in the rafters most of the time we found he was a very clumsy cat.  The evidence showed that he routinely fell off and knocked things over on his way down.  We never witnessed such an event, but we did find all the things he knocked down.  There was also the question of where his 'litter box' was.  Unfortunately it turned out he decided it was fine to use a corner of the attic and this brought him into contention with my husband who did not like his shop ceiling smelling like cat pee.

A couple of weeks of this brought a battle of wills with my husband trying to chase the cat from the shop each time the cat tried to do his business in the attic.  One day it came to a head.  Wilbur had just used the bathroom in the attic when my husband was in the shop.  My husband began to bang the ceiling with a broom to scare him off and the cat made a leap trying to get back to another part of the shop.  His leap was less than what was needed to make it up onto a shelf.   Both my husband and I witnessed Wilbur attempt to pull himself up and then he just stopped and let himself sort of hang there with his feet on the table and his paws on the shelf.  His body language said it all.  Clearly he was saying, "Go ahead, you win.  Do what you must but I am not leaving.  I don't have anywhere else to go."  It was the most mournful set of slumped shoulders I had ever seen in my life.  My husband looked at me and we both just cracked up at the drama.  We picked him up and cuddled him and from then on he was ours forever.  



Wilbur had the strangest set of eyes I have ever seen on a cat.  Perhaps this was another thing his original owner liked about him.  One of his eyes was green with brown mottling and the other was green with three brown spots.  Sometimes the spots were larger and sometimes smaller.  I could never find that there was any medical significance to these spots.  He was very tolerant of our Schnauzers and very intolerant of the Westie.  He also did not like other cats very much.  He loved to go into the garden with me and watch me pull weeds.  We first met him in 1998 and he delighted us with his sweetness until he passed from kidney problems in 2009.


Now this ends the log of the ghosts of cats past.  It is a tale of love and drama and exemplifies our dedication to seeing our little loves through to their passing.  I am glad that most of them had very long lives and most of them passed away at home in familiar surrounding without suffering.  It was bitter-sweet remembering them.  With a cat's potential lifespan of 18 to 20 years, you have a long time to build a close relationship. 

Coming up next - the current cats...