Archive | August 2013

My Life with Cats

We always had a dog while I was growing up.  I love dogs but when I decided to get myself a pet about 20 or so years ago, I was working full time and long hours at that.  A dog needs more time and attention than I was able to provide so I opted for a cat.

My first kittie was a rescue cat who came with a French name “Virgule” – which translates in English into “Comma”.  What a strange name for a cat!!  Virgule immediately became “Max”.  He was about 3 years old and a lovely striped grey tabby.  Max and I were learning how to manage a cat together – they sure aren’t like dogs!!  Here Max! – usually resulted in the opening of one eye and a sultry look as if to say “say, what…..???”.  I learned that, with cats, the sound of the can opener or shaking the treat bag does the trick.

After about 4 months, Max had his first episode – it was like a very strange and frightening seizure during which he became first very still and then he flung himself at me and bit!  Let me tell you, a cat bite is nothing to sneeze at!  Immediately after the “event”, Max would return to completely normal.  After I while, I realized that these seizures were often triggered by too much stimulation – if he was over happy, over mad, over playful – the result was not good.  He was a very large tabby and many of my friends were scared of him.  Other than the episodes, he was a very loving, friendly, cat and I loved him.

The vet was very interested in what was going on with Max (now known as Mad Max) so she consulted with the folks at the Guelph Veterinary College and learned that Max had what was called “Conflict Behaviour” – some wires in his little brain would get crossed every now and then and the result was a seizure and attack behaviour.  I got pretty good at getting something between us.  He didn’t need to bite me, he just needed to go through the motions – so a hit on a pillow or a magazine was just fine and then he was back to “normal”.  Options were to keep him sedated – I chose not to do this.  What good is a pet on drugs and dopey??

When Max was about 12, he started to lose weight.  Blood work was done – but because of his “attitude”, he had to be sedated for this.  Things went downhill from there and before the diagnosis could be finalized (it was a thyroid problem), Max went into a thyroid storm and his heart gave out.

I was devastated.  I cried as if I’d lost my very best friend.

Three weeks later I was poking on the internet and looking at various breeds of cats.  I came upon a Chantilly Tiffany up for adoption – in Kingston.  I headed out, cat carrier in hand – you can be sure I was going to come home with a cat.  Olivia was her name – 1 year old – all chocolate brown –even her nose and the pads on the bottom of her feet.   The breeder was willing to let her go since her mother, for some reason, wouldn’t tolerate her, they were constantly having to rescue her from harm – and her hair wasn’t quite long enough for “show”.  My cousin, Steve, actually purchased Olivia for me as a retirement gift.  Everyone likes Olivia.  She is graceful, quiet, and gentle (or so I thought at the time).

About 5 years later I thought another cat would make good company for Olivia.  Everyone told me cats do well with “others”.  Somehow I was talked into taking 2 foster kitties – not just 1!!  Axel Rose and Pink Floyd became Blaze (an orange tabby) and Herbie the Love Bug (a pint-size version of Max – a grey tabby).  They were just 4 months old when I got them and Olivia didn’t seem to pay much attention to them at all.

Then I moved to a new house and everything changed.  Olivia felt some strange need to assert her dominance in this new place.  She wasn’t at all intimidated by little Herbie – but Blaze – who has turned out to be a very large cat – and who doesn’t have a mean bone in his body – is another question.  He just has to look at her the wrong way and, without warning, she goes after him.  He can run pretty fast for all his large size – but she runs faster and usually comes away with a tuft of orange fur!!  Also – if Blaze and Herbie are playing, she seems to think they are truly fighting and jumps in to break it up!!  I never thought she had it in her to become a complete she-wolf in a nano-second…..but SHE DOES!

There has never been any blood spilled so I have learned to ignore all of this.  Non-cat people who are visiting are aghast if a flurry takes place under their noses – but that’s life with cats.  I think all 3 of them play games with me to see who can get me to react.

Breakfast is their favourite meal.  They don’t allow me to sleep in.  It starts with one, or two, cats walking across the bed.  I give up when I have a 23-lb orange tabby sitting on my chest.  Blaze has spoken.  They each get one ounce (basically a tbsp.) of wet cat food in addition to some dry kibble.  I rarely put my hearing aids in until after breakfast because the noise the 3 of them make is astounding.  You’d think I never feed them!!  Complete cacophony until the bowls are served.

They do have their idiosyncrasies.  Blaze loves to play with hair – particularly hair on which product has been applied – so watch out if you have gel or hair spray in your hair – it’s safer to sit in a chair with no back on which 1 large orange cat can sit.  Otherwise, you will be “groomed”.  Blaze “plays” by carrying a ball around in his mouth making all sorts of strange noises.  After all, when your mouth is full, all noises sound strange.

Olivia loves ice cream.  I can go to the freezer ten times in a day – but the minute the ice cream comes out of the freezer, she somehow knows it and turns up, even out of a deep sleep, and looks at me with that woe-begotten look on her face.  It’s actually a helpful thing – I save the ice cream for major treats and only on a once-in-a-while basis.

Herbie plays catch with himself.  He throws the little balls into the air, or down the basement stairs, and then chases after them – and will do this over and over.  He will actually bring a ball back to you if you toss it for him – but he never gets tired of this – so be careful what you start.

They are a constant source of amusement – and sometimes frustration – and they are always good company.  Seeing a cat in the window watching for me to come home and having at least 1 of the 3 (and sometimes all of them) greet me at the door when I come in – it’s a nice thing.  They do make it more challenging to travel or to do things on a spontaneous basis, but I can’t imagine a house without a pet.

Life with cats is a good thing.