Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Seizing cat, circling cat

Himmers resting in the sun/Tad Barney photo 

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Over the 20-plus years we've lived here, my yard seems to be the repository for sick, diseased and orphaned cats, which is funny, given I am allergic to the furry creatures. I'll be the ONE in a room full of people the cat immediately snuzzles, purring for petting.

That has not kept me from bringing in a few in along the way, finding homes for and, sadly, taking a few to the no-kill shelter.

They must have radar for the one with the weakest defenses, the human they know can't resist their big-eyed-kitty charms. Or do they have an elaborate underground communication network that, in some symbolic way, tags a cat-friendly yard? During the Great Depression, tramps had markers for food-friendly homes, I figure cats do, too.

I learned the hard way not to leave food out. Someone had warned me I’d be asking for trouble, but my big heart wanted to feed ALL of the hungry cats. I did not anticipate they’d fight for the food, mark their territory and leave an awful mess. That only lasted a few days and then I adopted this motto: If I feed, I fix.

Three marvelous strays have become our house cats. One was lost and stuck under our deck. I crawled part-way under with a flashlight, rescued and fed her. She continued to hang around and the older companion that had escorted her to our yard soon disappeared. We referred to her as Girl Kitty because we weren’t keeping her … well, not until some neighborhood girls tried to take her twice. We had her for 15 wonderful years, though she began to glower when the second housecat arrived.

Him Kitty (my young niece named him to go with Girl Kitty), affectionately known as Himmers, survived most of a winter sitting butt-to-butt like bookends with his clone on my front-porch wicker loveseat.  Early one spring morning, he meowed at me in desperation and I fed him; his partner was nowhere to be seen. Soon, he was living inside. Himmers is now somewhere between 17 and 18 and doing fairly well, except for his idiosyncratic circling to the right in the kitchen.  I think it’s the attention and loving he gets daily.

Buffalo, our third indoor pet, got a real name because my daughter, Autumn, insisted. She had not been around when the first two arrived. Him and Girl really were my first two children. They also taught me how to de-stress and relax. You can learn a lot observing, holding, petting and caring for cats.

We’ve held Buff almost since birth. He was born in our detached garage with four siblings. We managed to find homes for the rest and hung onto him. He’s a big, beautiful Maine Coon and a youngster compared to Himmers.

In between these three, two very sick cats have come to die in our yard. Both, I held, fed and cared for until, at the very end, they crawled off to leave this earth. In a strange way, I was honored that they showed up for their final days. Guess the cat message got around.

I have a small studio in our garage and, while I have loved sharing it, fleas and cats dying in the rafters have been unwelcome guests. I once found one frozen and flat in the back alley.

More recently, Patches, has been living in our yard. Years ago, Tad caught him in a raccoon trap and carted him off to the vet to be neutered and immunized. We did that with three, thinking they could survive on their own; beats euthanasia. Patches had been cared for by the neighbor across the street, who is a mega cat lover. Her health prevents that now. One morning not so very long ago, I discovered him holed up in a corner of our deck. The same corner Himmers inhabited the weekend we think he had a stroke. Naturally, I believed he was ill. He wouldn’t move. We fed him for a couple of days and he seemed fine and, eventually made his way back outside. Probably scared inside by an intimidating animal. We now feed him regularly and I know Betty appreciates it. It’s one less worry for her. She had warned me he had seizures. I thought, perhaps, it was her illness talking. I’d spent a lot of time with this cat and never witnessed one.

Tad did over the weekend. I had never mentioned Betty’s diagnosis, so he tried to help, then went to get a box to drag him to the vet. “How did you get that close to him (Patches does now let us pet him on the head)?” I asked. “He was in no shape to argue,” Tad said.

Fortunately, Patches recovered rather quickly and was back to his normal self. But I was so touched that Tad, who pretends he doesn’t care, would schlep this wild cat off, once again, to the vet.

Somehow, I think we’ve adopted Patches if only on his terms (to live outside, but provide food and winter shelter) and to ease Betty’s mind.

What is it about this furry creatures that is so enduring and alluring … enough that I fight my allergies to be with them?

• What’s my best cat story?
• How has a pet transformed my life?
• What have I learned from animals/pets?
• Where do I feel pets belong in God’s kingdom?
• Why is it easier, sometimes, to care for a pet than a person?

bad day,
cranky attitude
no matter what is it

my cats always have
time for me

well, not that
they have a choice

and their mere
calms me,

whatever I was
feeling into
a warm peacefulness

how can God
not be near?

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