Sunday, September 20, 2015

Confessions of a cat lady...........

Well, I've tried writing a new piece, and then something takes me off on a tangent, so I think you'll just have to wait for more insightful pieces than this.

I have two cats.

If you don't like cats, then please, stop reading now and move on to the next blog. I'm rather dotty about cats and always have been. They have always been good company. As a child, we had a dog, and then my brother brought home a really sickly little kitten who we called Sugar. She had a bad dose of cat flu, but survived and lived a long and happy life. Then my parents got Cleo, a little black and white cat with a penchant for biting my nose.... why she chose mine I really don't know.

Then I left home and went catless for a few years until I met the husband and took on Charlie, not the friendliest cat and I can't say we bonded deeply, but I did miss her when she died.

I was working full time, and one of my staff said she was moving and had two cats who were going to be put down if there were no takers. Well that did it, and that very weekend saw the husband and I going to pick up Mr T and Duchess, both black cats. Mr T was a big cat, and when we met him he was dragging a Yorkshire Terrier, who had a hold of his back leg. I knew then he would be a lot of fun to have, and he was, climbed a tree, got stuck so had to be rescued by the husband, and threw his paws round his neck, first time he went out into his new garden, having kept him in for  a while, he immediately ran to the bottom of the garden, and when I went to rescue him, he ran straight through the small garden pond - without sinking.....

Duchess, on the other hand, lived up to her name by treating T, as he was affectionately known, with disdain, and expected to be treated according to her rank, but she was a sweetie. My garden and house became a visiting hub for the neighbours cats, and they could often be found in the garden. Mr T sadly left us to early and that broke my heart, and Duchess, for all her disdain, really missed him. By this time, Amber and Biscuit had moved into the area, and were constant visitors. Biscuit disappeared, but Amber visited constantly, we were never sure if she was trying to get away from the two little girls she lived with or if she really liked us, but she could often be found curled up on a bed during the day.

By this time, Duchess was getting old and crochety so was a little on the grumpy side, (she was coming up to 18)  but she would put up with Amber. In fact, I swear she handed over the care of the house and us to her one day as this doddery old cat walked out onto the back deck, walked up to Amber and had a long growly conversation with her, and then walked off. That week it was time for her to leave us, she was losing weight and was nearly unable to stand, so off to the vet we went.

Amber would visit every day, waiting outside every morning for the back door to be opened, and in she'd come. If the door wasn't opened in a timely fashion, she would jump halfway up to the window - it was a stable door with a small window in the top half - and peer through the window. I never fed her, she knew where to find her real home, but I enjoyed her company. Then they moved taking Amber with them, so I was catless again.

Then came the Big Move across to Canada.

After a couple of years, Bobbin arrived....via my neighbours. He had been found wandering outside the office where my neighbour worked, and taken in. A beautiful ginger and white cat. She took him home, and he promptly hid in some insulation and wouldn't come out until the children had gone to school, and only then to eat. Well, it didn't make him too popular, so I begged the husband to take him in, and within a few days he was carried over, and had a new home.

He was a very polite cat, never pushy and the first night he was here, he learnt how to do stairs, so we figured he came from an apartment. There were no reports of a missing cat, so we thought maybe he'd been abandoned. He had every luxury imaginable, and would burrow under the blankets every night and sleep. I used to worry that he would suffocate, but not a bit of it, he would snore away and in the morning there was the feeling that something was looking at me very intently..... at 6.30am. I tried so hard not to open one eye, as I knew all was lost if I did.

He was a beautiful cat as you can see, and then developed skin allergies, which resulted in him losing a lot of his fur, puffy eyes, and just generally very unhappy. He was an indoor cat and happy to be so, so off to the vet, and then referral to an animal dermatologist - I've never said I was sane - and she eventually got him sorted out and then his fur grew back and he started looking like the beautiful cat we had but then he got sick and there were tumours etc. He was kept in for observation at the vets, and would only come home if he ate something. 

Animals are a lot more intelligent that we give them credit for, as he did eat, so he came home. He walked in and ate a little more, and then lay on a bed. It was sad to see him lie there and the vet rang every day to see how he was. Bobbin knew he was dying, but wanted to be home. Sadly, we had to take him in to have him put down. As we arrived at the vet, with Bobbin wrapped gently and in my arms, I had another growly conversation, I swear it's their way of communicating that they love you and they want to tell you.

"That's it'" said the husband' "we are never having another cat!"

Lasted five years, then we took Leo.

Now, I have to say he's not the brightest bulb in the box, but he is completely adorable.

My friend picked him up and stuffed him in her knitting bag as a tiny kitten from a farm that she was visiting. It's ok, she knew the people whose farm it was, and there were plenty of barn cats running around. So Leo, as he was eventually named, comes home, and takes up residence with daughter no.2 who is at university. By this time, they already had two cats of their own, Pong and Ping, and daughter no.1 had a cat, Bliss, who is a real princess.

Leo goes off to uni with daughter no.2 and is an indoor cat. She comes home, and he then becomes an outdoor cat, as it is impossible to let two cats out and keep one in, and the children, nos.3, 4 and 5, were much younger too, so not really getting that he should be indoors.

She finishes uni, and I am then asked if he can board with me, as he causes havoc with Pong and Bliss. (Ping got run over, a hazard living in the country), so, he moves in, but is free to come and go, and visits next door on a regular basis, coming home to sleep. She then goes off to college and I am now told that I can have him for another year, if that's ok, as she can't take him with her to her digs.
My friend leans over and says that means he's here permanently. 

So begins a new chapter in his life. He is a sweetheart, and all that fur can be quite troublesome, especially now as the velcro burs are beginning to appear, and as he picks up anything that's going, it's quite a problem. He came in this morning trailing a twig, so I have to try and catch him and remove it, no mean feat when it gets twisted in his fur. So brushes every day are a welcome relief for him.

Living in the country, there are any number of cats wandering around. It's not unusual to see them wandering along the edge of the property as they are wandering off from some barn somewhere.

This past winter, Leo made a friend. I had seen a little black and white cat wandering around the garden, and eventually, it would start walking past the front of the house, and as the weather got colder, it took up residence next door, by the hot tub. He would then appear every morning at the back door waiting for Leo to go outside after his breakfast and they would trot off together.

The weather got colder, and I started to feed him once a day, so he would appear at 5 in the afternoon, ready to eat, and boy, could he eat. The snow got deeper, so it was a question of feeding him to survive as I wasn't sure what he was eating, and I think he was now living in our car port. Leo would go out and sit in the car port, he's not fond of walking in snow or rain and Patch, as I called him, would wander off for the day. One afternoon, there was a real blizzard, and all I could think about was this poor little cat being out somewhere in it. So I donned snow pants, coat, boots and hat, and went out calling him. I don't know if you have ever been out in heavy snow when everything is silent, it really is very beautiful, there was no traffic and not much wind although the snow was blowing, and I'm calling for Patch. I thought he was next door, up a tree, and several other places as I could hear him answer every time I called I just couldn't find him ,when all of a sudden, I saw this little cat struggling through thick snow and from completely the opposite direction.  I scooped him up, brushing the snow off the top of his head, and put him inside my coat and brought him in to warm up a little. The husband said he's not staying and I could have an outdoor cat and that was it, "no." 

The temperature hit -41C one night.

The husband said "We can't leave him out, he'll freeze to death."

So..... in he came.

Leo was thrilled. He chirruped when he saw him, and so Patch was put into a bathroom with litter tray, food and a hastily made bed. Never have I seen a cat so happy, he ate voraciously, snuggled in his bed and used the litter tray. The next morning, I fed them both as it was obvious to me, and also to the husband by this time, that he was not going to be thrown out into the cold again. Leo was beside himself with delight at having a friend in the house and was happy to show him the ropes. They both trotted outside after breakfast, and when Leo came back, Patch came too. They settled into a happy relationship of play fighting, chasing each other and enjoying each others company, although I have yet to see them curl up beside one another. Patch has never tried to take over, waiting to be offered  the high seat on the cat post, and Leo taught him to play with toys, as he had no idea what to do when a ball rolled towards him.

Patch was very much the hunter. As we have no clue as to his background, one can only imagine what you have to do to survive.  He ate anything and everything which I will not detail. And so it was that we settled into "family" life. 

So all was well with the world. Just before I left for England, Patch wasn't well, couldn't put my finger on it, but said to the husband, if he's not better by Monday, take him to the vet. The grand Pooh Bah of the quilt festival and I were going to the Festival of quilts in Birmingham, so we were dropped at the airport, had a good flight, when it eventually took off, delayed due to a bad storm, and landed in Heathrow. Logged on to the free wifi, as you do, to find an email form the husband saying he had spent the night at the emergency vet in London as Patch was very sick.

It would appear that he got home to find that he was having trouble breathing and couldn't stand upright without falling over, and his head tilted to one side. So he rushed him into London. I called home.

It would appear that they couldn't really say what was wrong as it could be any number of things such as viral meningitis, toxoplasmosis or something else, but blood work came back negative for anything major so the husband was sent home with capsules and strict instructions, he wasn't allowed outside, no rough housing with Leo, a quiet peaceful environment.

The husband then saw our own vet, and Patch was treated for Toxoplasmosis, and given a course of antibiotics for 28 days twice a day. You can imagine how popular I was, as I was away for 18 of those 28 days. So the neighbours helped through that time.

Leo was an absolute star. He realized that Patch wasn't well, and was very gentle with him, but the husband said he looked like a lost little boy outside as he was on his own and not with his best friend.
I call every day, and am glad to say that he improved greatly and I was then in charge of giving him his two pills a day, which, incidentally, had to be cut into four as they were too large to do in one hit, when I got home.

Once he finished, back to the vet. She said we will probably never know what caused it, but very likely he ate some animal which had the parasite and it then infected him, so although he is bright and very alert, his head is still tilted to one side, and he does have the occasional wobble and will now forever be an indoor cat. He has adapted well and makes no attempt to go out. We were not sure how his vision would be and if he took off after something, whether he could find his way home again. The house is filled with toys as we have to keep him active, and I keep a strict eye on his diet as he is not running around so much.

I love this photo, it looks as if Leo is laughing at a joke that Patch just told him!

Leo comes in often, and they play as if there was nothing wrong, but I notice that Patch's head is always slightly more tilted afterwards, which makes me think that he might be quite woozy.

So, if you'll excuse me, I have to go and play............