Tuesday, March 5, 2013

My cats, Part 3

My cats, Part 3. Cats number 11 - 15. 

The cat I’m starting with tonight, I can hardly call mine since we were together so short a time. One morning as I reached work I decided to park in the street instead of the muddy, unpaved parking lot next door. I almost hit a little kitten curled up in the gutter with some autumn leaves. (I named him Autumn. I don’t remember if it was a girl of boy.) I picked him up and took him in to work with me. I made my jacket into a little bed on my desk and put my desk lamp over him to keep him warm while I worked. My work mates had to see what I was up to. One was so concerned she took off and went to the feed store where she bought a carton of kitten formula and a nurser. I got the kitten to nurse. Several hours later I was worried because he hadn’t pooped. From my experience with mother cats I knew the mother licks the kittens butt to get him to poop on demand. That’s one way she keeps the kitten nest clean and odor free, so predators can’t smell the kittens. I wasn’t about to lick the kitten’s butt! Someone said I should give him a little kitten enema. I thought he was joking but when I got home I tried to help the kitten poop by wiping his butt with a wet warm wash cloth. He didn’t. I put him in a basket with a heating pad on low under half the bedding so he could get warm or move off. In the morning he was dead. Stiff as a board. I buried him under a prickly pear. 

This reminds me of another kitten I had for one night, but with a happier ending. This was back between kittens #8 and #9. My friend’s cat had 11 kittens! This one was a runt and not strong enough to fight for a place in line for one of his mom’s limited number of milk stations. The mother ignored the little kitten and he didn’t seem to have much enthusiasm to live. My friend begged me to take it, even though I was not allowed to have a cat in my apartment. I took it over night. Every hour I got up and fed it from a kitten nurser. About halfway through the night the kitten decided he wanted to live and let me know it with his loud meow. The next day I took him to a humane shelter where they had a nursing mother cat they said would adopt him. I hope so. I hope some nice family came and adopted him when he was old enough. He deserved a chance at a good home. I count these two kittens #11 & #12. 

Squeekie got a bath after being
found on the streets.
Meanwhile, back in the country, the following summer someone at work was at a pet store picking up supplies for her four cats when a woman walked in with a kitten she found in the street. The pet store didn’t want it so my friend took it home. But she had to go out of town and didn’t want to leave the kitten locked up in the garage with her four adult cats and asked if I’d baby sit. OMG, I fell in love with that tiny ball of fur and when my friend got home from her trip she let me keep it. That was probably her plan all along. The kitten was so small and all she could do was squeak so I named her Squeekie (#13) She turned out to be the most affectionate cat. She looked and acted a lot like Chico (part 2) but wasn’t as vocal or clingy as Chico. 
Cats love to play with the
Christmas wrap, boxes and bows.
A climber.

Squeekie loved to sit on a lap but was happy to sit on the sofa like a princess if a lap wasn’t available. She slept on my bed at night and sometimes crawled under the covers. She didn’t stay under there long, I think with all that fur of hers she got too hot. She was a climber. She’d hop from desk to dresser to the top of the open bifold doors of my closet, or from counter to windowsill to the top of the tub enclosure where she’d lay down with her feet on either side and watch me read in the bath. She liked to sit up where she could keep an eye on the people of the household. She wasn’t allowed on the kitchen table or the counters, except on the peninsula part of the counter, which was her favorite place when we were eating. 50/50 was still with us when I got Squeekie and they used to have power struggles that usually had 50/50 sitting up straight with her ears back and Squeekie on her back asking for mercy. They never got in any big fights. They worked it out between themselves. 

After 50/50 died, our neighbor moved into a rest home and my dad adopted his cat. She was a long haired calico named Calico (#14). My dad had known her since she was a kitten because he used to visit the neighbor several times a week. Calico did not like Squeekie. Calico lived in the garage and outside, Squeekie lived in the house and outside. We have lots of open space so they were able to keep out of each others’ way outside. But one day Squeekie went into the garage and Calico let her have it, resulting in a $400 abscess on Squeekie’s tail end. 

When she was younger, Squeekie liked to hunt. Once she brought a garter snake onto the back patio, and twice she brought live sparrows into the house. When she was about 12, I noticed she was struggling to eat and had lost some weight. I think she got a foxtail under her tongue, she was always pulling them out of her long fur and I was alway afraid she’d end up getting one stuck on her tongue. I took her to the vet and he thought she had a cyst or tumor under her tongue. I said I thought it was a foxtail. Gidget (part 2) had gotten one in her mouth once that worked its way out her cheek. But I didn’t insist that the vet look for a foxtail. I figured he knew what he was doing. Actually, several vets at the clinic examined her. They gave her steroids that helped her appetite, though she still had trouble swallowing. They showed me how to hydrate her with an IV, which she hated. $1200 later I had to make the heartbreaking decision to take her back to the vet for the final shot. I could’t even bare to bring her home and bury her under the sage brush she loved to explore. I didn’t want to take a chance that a passing coyote might dig up the grave and take her body. By now my father was too old to dig in the rocky ground again and I knew I couldn’t dig a hole deep enough with all those rocks in the way. So I left her with the vet to be cremated. I’ve loved all my cats and dogs and it’s always so hard to say goodbye. They are such treasures in our lives, but I still get teary thinking about losing Squeekie. 

Calico was still with us and now was allowed in the house. I took care of her as my father was no longer able to do it. She was a comfort to him and sat on his lap most of the day and evenings. Finally, she grew thin, her long fur matted and we knew she wasn’t well. This time, my mom had the hard task of taking another family pet to the vet for the final time. 

One day, before Calico died, I heard a cat howl out in the back and I knew she might be in trouble. I went out and saw Calico standing in the yard facing the house but looking over her shoulder past a big pine tree. I walked around and there was the tallest, skinniest cat I’d ever seen. He looked so lost and hungry. I asked him if he wanted something to eat. He didn’t run away but stayed where he was. Calico ran into the house. I guess she could see she was out matched by this big cat. I got some dry food and came back out expecting him to be gone, but he was still there. He ate and drank all I gave him and he let me pet him. This cat was someone’s pet, but why was he out in the sagebrush starving? The next day he was back and I fed him again. This time he let me pick him up and put him on my lap. I called him Cheetah Cheetoes (#15) because he was so tall and slender he looked like a cheetah. And he was a short hair orange tabby and reminded me of cheetoes. 
Keeping close as I write.

Cheetah went through the winter and didn’t run away. That spring we had to put Calico down and Cheetah got to come into the house. Soon he filled out to a nice trim normal weight... 15 pounds! All my cats have averaged 7-8 pounds at their heaviest. Cheetah is twice that and he isn’t fat. He’s several inches taller and longer than any cat I’ve had before. Once, when he was laying stretched out on my bed I measured him from outstretched front paws to tip of his tail and he was 42 inches long.  

He kept my dad company until Dad died a year and a half ago. Now he keeps my mom company during the day while I’m at work. In the evening, if we’re both watching TV he can’t decide which lap to sit on. When I’m sitting at my computer in the evening he likes to lay across my arms and ask for snuggles. If I sleep in on my days off, he stays with me curled up by my pillow. Unlike some cats, he doesn’t try to wake me at six o’clock. I really appreciate that! 

His favorite prey is quail. Once I heard a ruckus in the dining room and went in to find him playing with a live quail. The quail got away and landed on top of a picture frame. It took me several minutes to shoo that quail out the front door. Then I had a lot of quail feathers to pick up. Another time Cheetah brought a juvenile quail into the house. I tired to shoo it out the back slider without it clawing or dripping blood on the new sheer drapes, then I lost track of it. Thinking it had flown out, I shut the door and forgot about it. A few days later there was a bad smell in the living room. I couldn’t find where it was, and it would come and go. Finally, it got so bad I started pulling furniture away from the walls. There, tucked under the baseboard radiator, was that poof little quail, stinking up the house. 

I worry about letting my cats outside where there are so many dangers but at the same time I can’t bring myself to deny them that freedom to explore and practice their cat tactics. The weather is warming up now and Cheetah is wanting to go outside. So far, since he’s lived with me, he’s always come home at night. Sometimes so late I’m frantic, but so far he hasn’t stayed out all night since he’s had access to the comfort of home. I hope that the year or two he spent out in the open taught him survival skills. 

Cheetah is one of the most affectionate cats I’ve had the privilege to know. He’s been with me for now for almost five years. I don’t know how old he is, maybe six or seven, but I hope he’s with us for many more years. 

Now I'll close with this photo of 50/50 which I found after posting Part 2. 

That’s Part 3 of my cat stories. I’m sure there will be more cats in my future. 

I’d like to hear about any cats or other pets that have been special in your life. 

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