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Saturday, May 9, 2020

April 8, 2020
     We'd been feeding Cleo and a gray male cat ("Ringtail"), both strays, for about three years. 


Cleo


Ringtail
     One day in early December, it was pretty cold. My husband opened the front door to feed them, and Cleo came waltzing into the living room, lay down, and shot us a look, like "It's nice and warm in here. I'm staying, so get used to it!" 
     As the days went by, she tried to make friends with Mattie and Little Debbie, but they turned their backs on her and got busy grooming themselves. She walked over to my husband who stroked her head. Next was Daniel who welcomed her back with behind-the-ears skritching. Finally, she came over to me at the computer, stood on her hind legs and patted my left arm three times *tap* *tap* *tap*. I didn't react. Again, she stood up, *tap* *tap* tap*. Again, I didn't react. Once more, she stood up, *tap* *tap* *tap*. I sighed and smiled at her while I rubbed her forehead. Satisfied, she went back on all fours and, probably inwardly smiling ("At least the hoomans like me!"), leapt up on the recliner for a morning nap. 
     We allowed her to be an indoor-outdoor cat (the gray cat seems to be her boyfriend). Every time we let her back in, she immediately headed for the water bowl. Hmm. No fresh water source in the neighborhood? She didn't come home one frigid evening in early January, so got locked out when we went to bed. The next morning, my husband found her huddled on the front porch. He invited her inside, and she couldn't get in fast enough. She has never tried to get out since then. 
     I had named her Oreo (her coat is black and white), but son Daniel renamed her Cleo after the Egyptian queen (because she acts like a queen). She cries occasionally when the boyfriend is eating a meal on the front porch, but doesn't try to get out for a romantic encounter with him. The vet said Cleo isn't spayed (we've never seen her leading around any kittens), plus is FIV+ and has a heart murmur (so spaying her might kill her) and is anemic. Our vet said she's probably 8-10 years old.
     She sleeps a lot (typical cat, 16+ hours a day) and during the day, she sometimes sleeps on my bed (hmm, warm red blanket perhaps?) or in the living room recliner or on my husband's messy desk. We don't knew where she sleeps at night because the cats are shut out of our bedrooms so they don't wake us up, crying for food and attention. By the way, she's a Hemingway cat, polydactyl.


Cleo's feeling right at home now!


April 9, 2020
     Around 3 pm, husband and Daniel were busy bringing in groceries and had left the storm door propped open. Cleo, supposedly napping in a distant bedroom, escaped and ran out (to look for her boyfriend?). She hasn't been outside since early January. It's very bright outside. Since she hadn't taken her sunglasses, she finally returned an hour later, walked right past the boyfriend whom Daniel had given a plate of cat food to, and came back inside. The boyfriend ignored her, intent on his meal. I'm betting the two of them are already tired of each other....
     Since then she has been trying to smooth down her very wind-blown coat. She's now napping next to Daniel who's lying on the floor and playing a video game. Daniel has welcomed her back with affectionate pats while joysticking.
    Oh, already she's wants a quieter place, so has shuffled off down the hall to our bedroom and to a favorite napping spot on my soft, warm blanket. 
     I hope she doesn't do this again anytime soon!

May 9, 2020
     Cleo has been maintaining correct social distancing from Mattie. A few minutes ago, Mattie walked over to a reclining Cleo and tried to act friendly. Cleo immediately scolded her, "Six feet, missy! Don't forget!" Mattie grudgingly plopped down six feet away.

That evening:

Not quite touching, but close!
     Cleo was there first and sleeping soundly atop my husband's computer table.  Mattie silently jumped up next to her and lay down as close as she dared. They napped that way for several hours. No human witnessed what happened when Cleo woke up and saw Mattie next to her. OR maybe Mattie woke first and quietly jumped down, then ran up the steps to the kitchen. We will never know!

May 10
     We're back to social distancing today.

May 11
     Ringtail arrived on our front porch, hoping for brunch. Daniel saw him and obliged. Cleo followed Daniel, who was carrying a plate of catfood, to the door, looked through the glass storm door at her former boyfriend, shook her head, and walked back into the living room. Ringtail, hungry after a cold night probably spent in some drafty garage, looked at Cleo for a mere two seconds, then attacked the generous portion of fish and shrimp.

May 13
     Cleo's funny. If Daniel or my husband goes out the front door to take out the garbage or to grocery shop or to go for a walk, she runs to the closed front door, then looks back at me in a bit of a panic. "Why is he leaving? Where is he going? Will he come back?" I do my best to reassure her. She slowly walks to the middle of the living room and flops down on her side, stares intently at the front door. Eventually, the missing human returns, and she springs to her feet at the sound of the door being opened. I tell her, "See! I was right! He's back!" She glares at me, and delightedly shivers as the prodigal human pats her head or strokes her back.

May 23, 2020
     Cleo is blending into our family very nicely. She loves being brushed with the Furminator. Daniel gets mouse-sized wads of winter fur off her so she doesn't throw up hairballs very often anymore. She has claimed the velour-covered recliner as her newest napping place. That way she can watch tv with Daniel (who now has to sit on the floor in front of the recliner) or catch a few winks. OR, if he's alreacy sitting in the recliner, she scrunches in next to him and gently pushes against him and forces him onto the floor. She and Mattie "talk" to each other with chirping and meeping, and then go their separate ways. They aren't friends yet....

May 26, 2020
     When my husband gets up around 8 each morning, the two cats watch him enter the bathroom to use his water-filled litter box. They wait patiently outside the bathroom door because they know their breakfast is the next thing on his agenda. He hears them chirping and meeping, probably can be translated thusly: 

     "Wonder what that old guy will give us for breakfast today? Maybe cod and shrimp?"
     "Naw, we had that for supper last night, remember? I'm betting it'll be beef and gravy."
     "I heartily disagree! He knows we love fish for breakfast. Maybe it'll be savory salmon."
     "I sure hope not! Salmon always gives you diarrhea. Then you mess up the kitchen litter box, and I have to use the one in the basement until Daniel cleans out the stinky one!"
     "Well, pardon me! And what about those hairballs you hawk up on the living room carpet, making even more work for poor Daniel?!"

[to be continued]

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

April 27, 2020

R.I.P. Little Debbie

She was down to skin and bones, had spent the weekend hungry but couldn't keep anything down, and was crying, crying, crying. Husband (whose devoted cat she became ever since he had scooped her up off the cold front porch back in 2002) decided to call our vet Monday morning. With the coronavirus running loose, we knew this would be beyond difficult.

He made an appointment for 1:30 to bring her in for her last vet visit. Around 12:30, he sat at the table across from me, picked her up, and cradled her in his arms, gently stroking her head and back. He continued this for the next half hour or so. All the while, her eyes were closed, and she had melted deep into his embrace.

The time had finally come. He set her standing up on the floor, intending to ready the cat carrier with a soft towel inside. She didn't stand, but simply flopped over on her side and lay there unmoving. He took the carrier lid off, added a towel, then gently picked her up and put her inside. She didn't move a muscle or even twitch a whisker.

He said she slept all the way to the vet (about three miles). He cellphoned the vet from his car in the parking lot; the vet met him at the door and let him in. (Remember, coronavirus -- no unannounced visitors were allowed into the building.) Little Debbie was still asleep when he lifted her out and put her on the vet's table. A PICC line was put in to avoid multiple needle pokes. She was given a muscle relaxer, and then the fatal dose was administered. Quick and apparently painless, with no fuss, no waking.

The vet had asked earlier, when my husband made the appointment to bring her in, if we wanted the vet tech to make a plaster plaque with her front pawprints on it as a way to remember her. Our reply: "Nope! Her pawprints will always be impressed on our hearts!"

We decided to have her cremated and then would set her urn on the living room bookshelf next to the urns of other rescued cats we'd loved and near the urn of our son Jeremy. And so it came to pass.

The house is quieter now. Our recent rescue, Cleo, is learning how to be a house cat and is no longer the neighborhood hooker. Her story will be told here soon.   She and Mattie are still wondering where "that other cat" is. They know someone's missing; we can see that in their behavior. But they're slowly regrouping to claim first dibs on food and sleeping spots that used to be Little Debbie's privilege.

My mind often wanders back to watching my husband gently cradle a deeply sleeping Little Debbie a hour or so before she arrived at the Rainbow Bridge. We -- and especially my husband -- will miss her greatly! 



Friday, May 3, 2019


We miss you terribly, Jeremy!
05/30/1975 - 05/04/2018

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Hmmmm, Wonder What’s For Dinner Tonight at the Little Red House?
         
          "I'm tired of trying to see the good in people,” Sally Skunk sighed as she waddled over to a serviceberry bush where Peter Possum picked plump purple pomes. 
         “What people?” Peter mumbled, his mouth full of fruit.
          Sally sighed again. “The people living on this block. Nobody puts out cat food anymore. People used to let their housecats go outside during the night and would put out paper plates full of Fancy Feast or 9Lives for them in case they got hungry. The cats nibbled a bit but preferred catching and eating fat mice, so would leave most of the cat food for me and some of my friends. But no more.”
         A thread of purple saliva dripped from Peter’s rapidly-moving jaws and onto the brown grass. “What changed?”
         “The nice cat people, the GOOD people, died or moved away, probably to old-people colonies in a place called Florida. Then dog people moved in.”
         “So what? Don’t dog people put out dog food for their dogs? You could eat that instead.”
         Sally sighed a third time. “You’re so oblivious to what goes on! Dogs aren’t let loose outside like cats are. Dogs live indoors unless their people take them outside for walks. That means dogs eat inside a house, not outside!”
         “So do like I do -- eat berries!”
          “No, thanks. I’m hooked on cat food. Did you know cats are obligate carnivores? That means they HAVE TO eat meat, not stupid berries.”
          Peter shook his head. “Pardon me?! ‘Stupid berries’? Eating only meat sounds like a terrible diet! How do they get their day’s supply of vitamin C? Plus some cat-food makers sneak cornmeal and other carbs into the cat food. That’s probably why you’re so chubby!”
          “I’m chubby?” Sally huffed.
          “Just teasin’ ya. Don’t get upset. If anyone needs to eat cat food and carbs, it’s me,” Peter sighed as he turned sideways to show Sally his too-thin body.
         Just then, Ricky Raccoon barreled his way in between them. “I couldn’t help but listen to your whiny voices. Haven’t you two losers heard about the little red house?”
         “What little red house?” Sally and Peter chorused.
         “It’s the only little red house on the next block. It has bushes all around it. You can’t miss it.”
         “I know the house,” Peter volunteered. “Cats live there ‘cause I see them sitting in windows, but I never see them outside.”
         Ricky chuckled. “The people who live there started feeding two feral cats. You know the cats as Oreo and Ringtail.”
         “I thought those two cats hate each other,” said Sally. “Now they hang out together at that little red house?”
         “They’re still enemies, but they’ve agreed to work together At six sharp every evening, Oreo sits near the back door, stares at it, and waits. Meanwhile, Ringtail sits on the front porch, stares at the door, and waits.”
         “And…?” Suddenly Peter sneezed, spattering tiny bits of purple berry skin onto Ricky’s chest.
         “That’s disgusting!” yelled Ricky as he raised a muscular arm. ”Do that one more time and you’ll be very, very sorry!” 
          Sally turned around and lifted her tail toward Ricky. “Watch it, bully boy, or you’ll be the one who’s sorry! Let’s get back to the ‘work-together’ thing. What happens once the cats are stationed at the doors?”
         Ricky hastily brushed off his fur before the bits dried on. “The doors magically open. Out of one door comes a woman-people who sets down a plate of cat food. Out of the other door a man-people comes out and does the same thing. Then they say complimentary things to Oreo or Ringtail (*snort* like cats need to be complimented…) -- ‘Such a handsome boy’ or ‘What a sweet face you have’. The woman-people even sings to the cats sometimes ... sheesh!”
         “Aha!” exclaimed Sally. “Then the cats eat just a little bit to keep the people happy and also because they know they will soon begin the night’s hunt and want to be hungry enough to eat their kill.”
         “So there are lots of leftovers for us!” Peter grinned broadly. “The little red house is the place to go!”
          "Not so fast there, berry-breath," Ricky scolded, making the no-no sign with his right-front paw." You too, Sally. Wildlife has to be given permission to eat there. We don’t want fights to break out."
          "Given permission?" Sally and Peter asked in unison.
          "We don't need anyone's permission. We are wildlife. We roam wild and free, We know how to get along," Sally stated emphatically.
          "That's right," Peter agreed. "We go where we want and we eat what we want. Isn't that right, Sally?"
          "Right as rain, Peter. Ricky, who are you to tell us where we can go and what we can do? You're just an ordinary raccoon."
          "Not so, my fellow wildlifers. I am the Third Assistant to the Senior Representative of the DuPage County's Woodland Residents’ Protective Association. All people-administered dining venues in this part of the county come under my authority.”
          "Oh, sure. You’ve always been a bully and pushed us around, Ricky," sneered Peter. "Show me your badge of authority. I demand to see proof."
          Ricky ignored him and continued talking. “It is my responsibility to see that every wildlife creature gets a fair share of people-catered bounty. Sadly, I have yet to sample the cat food. Those good people at the little red house have distracted me by throwing dog biscuits and uneaten pizza crusts out into their side yard.” As an afterthought, he added, “By the way, Sally, you are quite overweight. I do not grant you permission to eat any food at the little red house, front door or back."
          “What?!” shouted Sally.
          "You, Peter on the other hand, look pale and slightly undernourished... and your ribs are showing. Your cheeks are sunken and your nose is too pointy. I’m making it official -- you now have back-door privileges at the little red house. Enjoy!"
          "Thank you, Ricky," Peter said, ignoring Sally’s distressed pacing. "You said the little red house is that way?" he asked, pointing toward the west.
          "Yes, Peter. Remember to look for lots of bushes. Hey! Just a minute there, fatso," Ricky called to Sally who was waddling westward. "Where do you think you're going?"
          “Where do you think?” *grumble, grumble*
          "No grumbling, Sally. If you want to lodge a formal protest against my ruling, you have to fill out Woodland Form FGH 1289 and file it in triplicate with Wesley the Owl at his arboreal headquarters.
          Just then, Cody Coyote trotted up to the group. “I heard the tail-end of your comment, Ricky. Wassup?”
          Ricky stood on his hind legs in order to be face-to-face with Cody, cleared his throat, and put on his most superior expression. “I was explaining Wildlife Rule #5 to these two beggars.”
          “Rule #5? Rules, schmools! Not even Wesley the Owl gives a hoot about rules, despite his lofty position.” All conversation stopped when Cody started gagging and coughing, After a half minute or so of this, a small brown feather shot out of his mouth. “Sorry about that. Must be left from lunch. Feathers and fur don’t digest well.”
          “Ewwwwww!” Sally, Peter, and Ricky chorused.
          “So,” Cody continued, ignoring their disgust, “what brought on enforcement of Rule #5?”
          Ricky slowly and painstakingly explained to Cody the situation at the little red house and how Rule #5 figured in. “Sally is a fat slob who waddles everywhere she goes, and Peter needs more meat on his bones. Peter and I will finish the cat food every evening until Sally shapes up. So let it be written, so let it be done. I have spoken!”
          Cody looked thoughtful for a minute or two. “Did you ever hear stories about that king named Solomon and how wise he was? We coyotes learned all our wiles from Solomon. His wisdom has been handed down by coyote parents to their offspring from generation to generation, from century to century, from millennia to millennia.”
          “Cut the lecture, Cody. What are you trying to say? I’ve already made the decision that Peter and I eat at the little red house and Sally doesn’t.” Ricky yawned. “I hear a hollow tree calling me, Time for a nap.”
          Cody’s grin was almost gloating. “Apparently you haven’t heard the news. Because of my considerable wisdom, last night I was made the new Senior Representative of the DuPage County's Woodland Residents’ Protective Association. I’m your new boss, Ricky. Let’s you and me head over to my den so we can talk a bit about decision-making. Oh, and before I forget -- Peter and Sally, I give both of you permission to eat leftover cat food at the little red house. Now I’m the one who has spoken—and my ruling trumps Ricky’s! Tie on your virtual bibs – it’s nearly 6 o’clock.”
          Around 6:30, Cody trotted over to the little red house to make sure Peter and Sally were enjoying their dinner. “How’re you doing, Sally?”
          “Mmmmmmmmmmm!,” Sally nodded, her mouth too full to say more.
          Peter heard Cody and Sally chatting, so strolled over to them from the back of the house. “These good people amaze me with their generosity! Oreo had left plenty on the plate by the back door -- a huge helping of turkey and giblets alongside a mound of minced beef. I’m stuffed!”
          “Ringtail left a lot on the front-door plate – there was so much whitefish and tuna with generous dollops of ground crab and lobster,” Sally enthused.
          Peter and Sally craned their necks to look behind Cody, “Where’s Big-Bad-Bully-Boy?”
          Cody chuckled. “You don’t have to worry about Ricky anymore. He’s history.” Just then, Cody was seized by a fit of violent coughing. Soon a wad of gray fur shot out of his mouth onto the porch of the little red house.  

Sunday, March 26, 2017

O is for -- Outside.



This is Oreo ("the black-and-white cat").


This is Ringtail ("the gray cat").

Both live somewhere in our neighborhood, probably in a shed or garage or under a porch, and are mostly feral. They visit us at least twice a day, usually at breakfast and at suppertime. When rain or snow is expected, they may drop in more often for extras in case travel conditions become risky. 
We wish we could put little video cameras on their foreheads to see where they go and what they do. We hope that they, like most indoor cats, find a warm and comfortable place and nap most of the day. We've debated trapping them in our Havahart kindness trap and adopting them (after a vet visit), but Mattie and Little Debbie recoiled in horror when we mentioned this to them. So, the debate goes on. Meanwhile, my imagination worked overtime, and I wrote a story about them and the wildlife any uneaten food attracts. That's the February 2018 entry.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

N is for -- NO!

"No!" I shouted at Mattie and Little Debbie, "You cannot have a pet! We have no room in this tiny house for any more animals, You saw on the video that Joanne's cat Maxine frolics with a chipmunk OUTDOORS. You two don't go outside. No chipmunks will be allowed indoors. Enough said. I don't want to hear any more about it!"

FYI, readers, here's the video that started all the fuss:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AcFkLplCEhU

I watched the two very unhappy cats amble over to the recliner, jump up on it, curl around each other, and pretend to nap. I could hear enough of their chat to get the drift of the conversation.

Mattie: Did you see that privileged cat, Maxine??? Joanne allows her to have a PET!

Little Debbie: Yeah, and Maxine even carries it around like its her kitten.

Mattie: And did you watch the two of them romp around the yard? If we had pets like that, you'd sure lose a few pounds with all the romping you'd do!

Little Debbie: Hey! You said the magic words: "pets like that"! Let's think this through. What kind of pet was that?

Mattie: A chipmunk.

Little Debbie: And where was Maxine's pet living?

Mattie: Outside. So?

Little Debbie: What lives right outside our front door and under the porch? What animal does staff feed sunflower seeds and dried fruit and assorted kinds of nuts to?

Mattie: A chipmunk. Or two. Or even more.

Little Debbie (frowning at Mattie): AND??? Make a connection, girl!

Mattie (light dawning): Oooooooooh, we have chipmunks in our yard, too, just like Maxine does!

Little Debbie: Bingo! Staff won't let us have hamsters. And they spayed us so we can't have kittens. Chipmunks are available and FREE! No purchase necessary!

Mattie: Instead of the chipmunks coming indoors, you and I can go outside and play with them just like Maxine does with her chipmunk!

Little Debbie: Now you're talkin'!

Mattie: But wait. The front porch is close to the public sidewalk and the street. There's not much grass for romping. We'd be better off in the back where there's lots of room.

Little Debbie: Interesting idea, but that won't work for me.

Mattie: Now what?

Little Debbie: I haven't been outside for at least fourteen years. The last time, I was lost and cold and hungry and scared and it was starting to snow and I couldn't carry on much longer, but then staff saw me on the front porch and fed me. I came back each evening for a week. By then, it was snowing every day, so staff just scooped me up, took me to a nice kitty doc-doc who said I was about six months old, and then brought me back into their nice, warm house where I've been ever since.

Mattie (playing an imaginary violin): So?

Little Debbie: If I go outside, I might get lost again!

Mattie: Naw, you won't get lost again. I'll keep an eye on you.

Little Debbie: But what if I'm romping with my pet chipmunk and it scampers into another yard and I follow it and my chipmunk disappears and I can't find my way home again? Then I'll be LOST!

Mattie: Worry wart! Okay, how about this? Staff builds a roofed glass playroom for us. It'll be grassy with cat condos and carpeted ramps and lots of cat toys and will be heated in the winter. It'll have a southern exposure so staff could install solar panels for heating and a small a/c unit for cooling, as necessary. Like this:


Little Debbie: How will we get into it -- and out of it?

Mattie: There can be an enclosed hallway from Daniel's room to the playroom. Staff can make a cat door with a flap on it to keep chipmunks out of the house.

Little Debbie: Hmmmm, from what Joanne said in the video, a flap wouldn't discourage cunning little chipmunks. And another problem.

Mattie: Is that all you do -- bring up problems? Sheesh. I'm surprised staff has kept you around all these years.

Little Debbie: The chipmunks are under the front porch. The playroom will be in back. How will the chipmunks know where to go to find us? And how will they get in and out of our play area?

Mattie: Silly girl! There'll be a chipmunk door into the playroom. Then staff will have to come up with a way to keep chipmunks out of the house. Not our problem. Oh, and there are even more chipmunks in the backyard. I heard staff wondering where they're all coming from. And bunnies, too.

Little Debbie (squealing in delight): BUNNIES????

Mattie: Yeah, and 'possums and 'coons and a fox and a hungry coyote or two.

Little Debbie: Uh oh. I think I sense a rescue effort ahead. The back yard is really wide and deep. Staff should build a BIG play area for us with enough room inside for rabbit warrens and chipmunk burrows.  Then the little critters would be safe from marauding coyotes.

Mattie: Good grief! There won't be any room to play! We'll break a leg when we accidentally step into a hole.

Little Debbie: But we have an opportunity to put staff's money to good use and to make life better and safer for others! What's wrong with that?

Mattie: Sounds like you "Feel the Bern"....

Little Debbie: Huh?

Mattie: Bernie Sanders. Never mind.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

M is for -- Merry Christmas!


"Well, I see our staff is starting to put up Christmas decorations again," Little Debbie snorted. "Didn't we just go through this a few months ago?"

"Nope," Mattie sighed. "That was all of a year ago. The older you get, the faster time passes."

Yeah, yeah, I'm getting old. You don't have to remind me. It seems like only yesterday when our male human scooped me up off the front porch. I was shivering so much and was so hungry!"

Mattie closed her eyes, remembering her own rescue. "Our lady human had been feeding me and my sister out on the back stoop for about a year. One day the lady got sneaky and put the bowl of food inside in the back hall. Of course, I went in, was just too hungry to think about consequences. Before I could run back outside, she had closed the door behind me, trapping me in the back hall. I camped out under a sewing machine table for a couple of weeks until it felt safe to check out these new digs. So much better – I NEVER want to be outside again!"

"What about your sister?"

"Several times they tried the same food trick with her, but she was too smart. I've never seen her again. And then I heard my humans mutter that coyotes had moved into the area." Mattie bowed her head in grief. "I fear the worst. That's why it's so important for us strays or ferals to find humans who will adopt us and open those little cans of food and love us."

Mattie sat up straight on her haunches, whiskers twitching. “And that’s exactly why no-kill shelters are so very important and even necessary. Places like that find and rescue and take in strays and ferals and abandoned kitties and lost fur babies who will be loved and cared for until they find their forever homes.”

“Exactly!” Little Debbie punched the air with her paw, then began to carefully lick all sides of it. “And that’s why it’s so important for humans to donate to animal shelters, especially to cat shelters. I hope our staff will gift one with a Christmas check!”

“Me, too. Now! Ta da! It’s naptime. I’ll curl up on the loveseat and you head for your blankie. See you at dinnertime.”

Psssst, this is the lady who tricked Mattie into the back hall. I was fortunate to overhear the above conversation and have sent a personal check to our local cat shelter. I too want kitties to be safe and fed and loved until they find their forever home. Please find it in your heart to volunteer and even donate!

Merry Christmas!