Friday, April 12, 2013

K - The Kismet Kittens

When I was a kid my mother had adopted a cat named Cassie. Cassie's mother was Cleo, the cat of a
man my mum was dating. She disappeared within her first year with us and we never saw her again. Eventually mum decided that I needed the companionship of cats again (this was not long after dad moved out and they divorced). So she took me to the Humane Society to adopt another.

I was just 9 and had taken a small doll with me. The doll accompanied me as I went from cage to cage looking at all of the cats. One special little calico came forward and started chewing on the doll's feet. She was an adorable kitten in a cage with her litter mate, another little calico. When I called out to mum that I had found the right kitten, she came, looked over my shoulder, and uttered the most magic of words:

"We'll take them both."

The cage was opened and the kittens loaded into my arms. They had been taken from their mother too young, so they were barely a handful apiece. I carried them to the desk where mum was filling out the necessary paperwork and paying the adoption fee. The second kitten noticed the gerbil cage on the counter and before I could stop her she did a face plant on the glass side of the cage and fell to the floor.

It was kismet. I was now smitten with both felines. For the moment. When we got them home we found a problem with our new family members -- they had been taken from their mother before they had learned a very, very important thing from her. Neither one of them knew how to use the litter box. We entered into a round of cleaning up piles and hunting them down behind the furniture, and trying in vain to teach them to use the box.

There was no question that they were home to stay, despite this little hitch. I was given with the task of naming them. The first became Ramona Felicia after two of my favorite books at the time. The second received the name Tabitha Samantha after my favorite television show. (Yes, I'm old.)

They sorted themselves out between the two of us. Ramona adopted mum and would sleep with her at night. Tabitha would sleep with me. She loved to tuck herself into my left armpit and pretend to nurse. I spent the next couple of years wandering around with a soggy armpit. Thankfully she eventually outgrew that habit. She also never meowed for about the first five years. Apparently it took her that log to have something to say.

A gray and white stray showed up outside the back door. A godsend, though we didn't know it at first. She started getting a big belly and I implored mum to let her in, pointing out that she must be pregnant. So we took her in. That night the young man who rented our spare room made the mistake of looking away from his dinner. One of the kittens stole a chicken leg from his plate. He dove under the table to retrieve it, knowing full well that he couldn't eat it now. Once he had it he jumped to his feet and dramatically said he wasn't going to let that poor cat starve out there. There was some confusion as he ran for the door and we tried to stop him because that poor cat was now inside. In his rush the kittens went outside and still received the chicken leg.

This cat I named Amanda Victoria because it meant "lovable victor."  One of the most lovable things about her was that she taught the kittens to use the litter box within a day. She never managed to teach them to cover it, but we could live with that part (by constantly cleaning the box).

The kittens lived long and healthy lives with us, and eventually with me. Tabitha lived to be 17 and Ramona lived to be 18. Strangely we kept calling them "the kittens" until they were little old geriatric cats. They started a long parade of cats in my life. Each cat is a tribute to all the cats who came before.

"Cats rule. If you don't believe me just ask the cat." -- fridge magnet.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Hamster Haven

When I was about 11 years old my mother bought me a couple of hamsters on a whim. She bought two so that they could keep each other company. Instead one declared war on the other and we ended up having to keep them in separate cages that we kept sitting right next to each other.

One hamster was sweet and gentle while the other was hell on earth. So you can guess which one was the aggressor in their relationship.

At the same time we had a cat, Cassie, who was terribly lonely when we were out at school and work. Cassie would curl up to purr herself to sleep on top of the cages so that she would have some company. She never tried to get the hamsters, they never crossed her radar as prey.

The interesting part of this story is that the sweet and gentle hamster somehow learned to purr from her. If you held him up to your ear you could hear a tiny, hamster-sized rumble.

Both hamsters died while I was at summer camp and the cat disappeared a short time later.  The next year we replaced Cassie with two more cats but we never had hamsters again.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

The Great Catmunicator

My cat is learning to become a very effective communicator, now that she has figured out just how
stupid I am. Obviously, if she just sits and meows at me, I'm at a total loss. I have to ask her to use her non-verbal skills -- though I'm no genius at interpreting them at times either.

Naomi has always wanted to curl up on my head and it took us several years to work out a way for her to get what she wanted and for me to still be able to breathe. I lie on my left side and she sits on my left arm. She wraps around my neck and has the upper part of her body on my head. She does this most often right when we go to bed and occasionally in the wee hours of the morning.

A couple of years ago she did this, then got down. Then repeated. Then she did it again, very quickly. I finally got it. She wanted me to turn over so that she could have the warm spot. So I rolled over. She curled up in the warm spot and went to sleep. That part of my training was complete.

Last night I did not go to bed normally. Instead of turning out the light and crawling into bed so that she could curl up on my head for a bit, I left the light on and laid down on the made bed. She came up and curled up on my head for a few moments and then moved on to curl up next to my butt. She didn't stay there either. She would come and stare at me, meow and then climb up again. I finally realized that she was concerned. She has somehow come to take the regular routine as how she tucked me into bed before she would jump into the linen closet over the bed to go to sleep herself. (Never fear, she does not have leave to mess my clean sheets and towels, I have made a cozy bed for her in one spot so that she will leave the clean stuff alone.)

Much to her relief I got up, turned out the light, and went properly to bed. She came and cuddled me one last time again. Minutes later I could hear her leap into the cupboard over the bed happy the she had finished her business for the evening.

My mother passed away last year. It is nice to know that there is still someone looking out for me and willing to tuck me in at night.