Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Challenge And Determination

For the past week or so, my husband and I have been away from home visiting his family.  Our small pride of cats remained at home while we traveled, and are "enjoying" time on their own.  They are, of course, being cared for by a much trusted friend in our absence.  I miss them like crazy, but knowing they are fine eases my mind, and I can enjoy the rest of our mini-vacation.

Meanwhile, in Maine, my sister-in-law and her husband are guardians of many furry children... in total, there are three dogs and two cats, named Peter and Smokey.  Smokey is medium haired and jet black with huge golden eyes.  He and I made friends on the first day here, and he enjoys climbing into my lap for attention.  Peter is probably the smallest adult cat I've ever seen.  He probably is no longer than 12", and maybe stands 8 inches tall at the shoulder.  When I say tiny, I mean he's tiny!  Peter is a grey and white marbled tabby who enjoys sleeping on our bed, but avoids me at all costs.  But, I'm determined!
Before we leave Maine next week, I *will* make friends with Peter if it kills me.  I have my plan of "attack" already in place.  First, I will approach him slowly and talk sweetly to him when I see him snoozing on our bed.  This has actually already begun to work, and it seems I'm making minimal progress.  Next, I will lure him to me with treats!  I haven't seen a cat yet that wouldn't flip over and do belly flops for a treat, so this is a must!  Smokey and I have already strengthened our bond using the "food" method, so I'm just waiting for Peter to come around before I bring out the heavy artillery (read: Pounce treats!)  It will work... it HAS to!

Should I fail at this most recent goal, at least I will have the blog entry to show for my efforts, and the memory of a teeny grey cat whose will was stronger than mine.  After all, there IS always next time.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Cat Haiku, Peavy Style

Many years ago I remember seeing in my inbox one of those letters that everybody, including your mother, forwards to everyone in their address book.  This one was called "Cat Haiku," and though I don't recall exactly what the verses said anymore, I never forgot the smile they brought to my day.  

Haiku, a short, Japanese poem is characterized by three qualities:

  • The essence of haiku is "cutting" (kiru). This is often represented by the juxtaposition of two images or ideas and a kireji ("cutting word") between them, a kind of verbal punctuation mark which signals the moment of separation and colours the manner in which the juxtaposed elements are related.
  • Traditional haiku consist of 17 on (also known as morae), in three phrases of 5, 7 and 5 on respectively.
  • kigo (seasonal reference), usually drawn from a saijiki, an extensive but defined list of such words. The majority of kigo, but not all, are drawn from the natural world. This, combined with the origins of haiku in pre-industrial Japan, has led to the inaccurate impression that haiku are necessarily nature poems. Source Wikipedia.org
The English version of Haiku sometimes follow these guidelines, but it is not necessary to have the previous qualities to be considered a Haiku. Keeping this in mind, and having been recently inspired by the fond memory of the aforementioned "Cat Haiku," I have written my own little poems honoring each of the four cats we have had the privilege of calling "ours" over the past 7 years. 

Pixel's Haiku
Cute brown tabby cat
Purring sweet rumbly music 
Lulls me off to sleep

Sassy's Haiku
Sweet little kitty
Thinks I am no one special
But still I love her 

Tika's Haiku
Beautiful tortie
She was the love of my life
Now she's God's angel

Callie's Haiku
Calico princess
Fun wrapped in a silky coat
She had "Cattitude."

Monday, July 11, 2011

Beauty in Commonality

I never saw myself as the owner of a tabby cat.  Even when I wasn't so much of a cat person, I still admired the more striking coat patterns.  I had always fancied the luxury of a calico, a tuxedo, a pointed Siamese, or even a pure, jet black cat.  All felines are exquisite in my own sight, but some are just prettier than others.  My preference, and absolute soft spot is for calicoes and tortoiseshell.  I'm a sucker for the "cattitude" and beauty of these particular fur patterns on a kitty.

I recall once talking with a friend who had just picked out two kittens at the shelter.  Both were, as I thought back in the days when I was unenlightened, "plain ol' tabby cats."  I didn't say so, but wondered in the back of my mind why anyone would want a "plain ol' tabby cat" when so many more beautiful kitties were in need of homes.  Looking back, I can see the shallowness of my opinions.

Since then I have had the honor of being the guardian of three separate tabby cats.  The first one, Arista, was a grey marbled pattern.  She was very cute, but aloof and shy.  The second one, AJ, was a Maine Coon mix, brown striped tabby.  Such a handsome boy he was and he knew it, too.  Both of these beautiful babies went to good homes when our family decided to relocate across the country. 

Pixel is the current King of the house, a brown striped tabby.  His place of honor is in my lap every evening while I putter around on the computer or watch television.  On one recent afternoon, he was snoozing on my lap, his head gently resting on my belly (I love it when he does that) and a single sunbeam was shining through the otherwise closed blinds.  The glossiness of his coat really shone in the natural light, and as I ran my fingers through his fur I really got the opportunity to see just how beautiful (yes, beautiful!) he is.  Each hair, I noticed, was banded in color, three or four different hues ranging from black to white.  The tips, depending on where they were on his back, were black while the roots were more of a cream color.  I couldn't find a single hair on him that was just one shade.  All together, these individual hairs came together to make a truly magnificent creature. 

I have learned much since the days of believing that there were "plain ol' tabby cats."  While the tabby pattern is quite common, I've discovered that these kitties are a bit like snowflakes and fingerprints; no two are exactly the same.  They are each incredible pieces of art created by the One who truly knows beauty, wrapped around a unique personality and adored (and cherished!) by many.  Long live the tabby cat!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Of Mice, Lizards and Cats

In my almost 20 year experience with cats, I've come to know that many of them make pretty good little hunters.  All of our cats are strictly indoors, but that doesn't mean they don't surprise me with gifts from time to time.  

When we moved to Florida some seven years ago, I knew the cats would be intrigued by the population of small lizards that inhabited the garden of our condo.  Known to us as chameleons, they are actually anoles, a small harmless species of lizard that thrives in Florida.  Anyone who has ever vacationed here is familiar with the little squiggly things, and I'm sure they have been the subject of many a tourist's photos.  These tiny lizards have also been on the menu of assorted household pets, though I can't imagine they would taste very good.  Then again, I'm no dog or cat, so what do I know?

Our condo had a screened-in porch, called a "lanai" in Florida, onto which the cats would descend and lounge around, sniff the air, and swat at the local wildlife (which included neighbors and their children).  One particular morning, Tika came in from the lanai with an odd look on her face.  Closer inspection revealed a mouthful of lizard, with a wriggly tail poking out of the corner of her gently closed mouth.  I had to coax her to drop the poor little thing, and when she finally did, it scooted away from her and under our sofa, where it was never seen or heard from again.  I praised her for being such a good little hunter, and she meowed happily (or I guess she could have been frustrated for having lost her catch!)

Pixel, I believe if given the chance, would either a) be a stellar hunter, or b) run away from a mouse, freaked out and scared to death.  He is afraid of his own shadow, but will stalk and hunt anything that moves (so long as it doesn't make a peep!).  Since he was a kitten his favorite toy has been toy mice, which he will carry by the tail, drop at your feet and almost beg you to throw.  The more the mouse rattles, the better.  

Not many would believe that a cat will play fetch, let alone that he taught himself how to play this game of "cat and mouse."  He is also learning to hit the mouse when it is thrown at him, like a tiny, furry baseball player at the bat.  If no one is willing or available to play fetch with him, he takes matters into his own paws, taking the mouse and tossing it in the air, and chasing it.  Each time I see him play like this, I shake my head in wonder, knowing that most people either don't give cats enough credit for being smart, or he has a screw loose in that noggin of his.  The jury is still out on that decision.  I tend to think it may be both.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Sassy and the Unattainable Red Dot

Sassy has never been one of the most active cats with whom we've had the pleasure of sharing our lives.   Overall, she's relatively lazy, extremely prissy, and has a severe superiority complex.  She seldom seeks attention from anyone, save my husband, and would rather be left alone than doted upon. 

There is one thing that Sassy desires to do, however, before she sees the kitty box in the sky... If she could speak, she would say that she wants to catch the "unattainable red dot," or laser pointer beam to us laypersons.  That is the one thing that will rouse the ordinarily subdued Sassy from her laziness and whip her into a frenzy. 

Now sure, our other felines have long desired to capture that tiny red enemy of cats everywhere, but none so much as Sassy.  She is the one who will wait for what seems like a kitty eternity for the shiny, red nemesis to emerge from under a sofa or chair, not realizing that it really didn't escape there in the first place.  When the dot races vertically up a nicely painted wall, Sassy is the one who will chase it, jumping and twisting herself in a vain attempt to capture it.  

Of course, in her older years, she doesn't do so much of the jumping and clawing, but she will still never give up the chance, no matter how slim the possibility of victory, to chase that little unattainable, red dot.  

Monday, April 11, 2011

Sibling Rivalry

Even though I'm not a "mother," per se, I do count myself as a devoted pet mom.  Anyone who has an adopted member of the family (either human, feline, canine, avian, rodent, you get the picture) realizes that in order to qualify as a mom, you need not have birthed your 'child.'  A true mom is one who provides love, nurturing, and comfort to their children, regardless of gender and/or species.

Every mother also knows that unless there is one child in the family, there inevitably will be rivalry.  Human children do not hold ownership on sibling rivalry, even though they may well have patented the idea.  What pet parent hasn't had two fur-children who just won't quit their squabbles, no matter what is done to calm the little savage beasties?  I'm guessing quite a few pet guardians deal with this very issue on a daily basis.  Our family is no exception.

Sassy is now the older of the two remaining "children" in the household.  She got her name by no accident.  She is an eleven year old Himalayan mix with a superiority complex and the tenure in the "pride" to back it up.  She is mild-mannered for the most part but head strong and very stubborn when she sees reason to be so.  She is a typical Alpha female cat.  She's beautiful, regal, and spoiled.  

Pixel, who was previously mentioned as my official shadow, is the young, daring antagonist in the family.  A spry five years old, he often has delusions of grandeur and a bravery that he only shows to Sassy.  Pixel can be extremely argumentative with her, which results in much hissing, spitting and growling from both of my little lovelies.  At other times, he's goofy, clumsy and extremely cuddly and the picture of manners.  Unfortunately he is also a typical Alpha male cat, dominant, strong-willed and HEAVY, outweighing Sassy by a good ten pounds.

Like human children, these two critters scuffle on occasion and are peaceful with each other most of the time.  But I have to admit it would be easier to break up two fighting children than these two knuckleheads when Pixel gets it in his head to make Sassy's existence a living nightmare.  If we don't hear them fighting (if we're not home) we can always tell by the fluffs of cream-colored fur on the carpet that things weren't exactly peaceful in our absence.  While Mom's away, the cats will play, or fight in our case.

We are trying a new gimmick (I call this a gimmick because I haven't gotten enough information to know if it will actually work) to calm the cats enough to keep the peace.  We invested in a diffuser that looks like a small plug-in air freshener but emits a cat's facial hormones.  We are hoping that this little device will be effective.  I will not post the name of the product, as I am not endorsing any specific brands on this blog unless I have found them to be of proven use and I believe in them strongly enough to post a testimonial.  But I will keep my readers updated from time to time as the month passes, and the cats' behavior changes (or not!)

Pixel is taking a time out to recharge.
Sassy, being... well,  Sassy.


Friday, April 8, 2011

The Best of Birthday Gifts

As another birthday comes to a close, I would be remiss if I did not talk about the best birthday gift I ever received.  This particular year was the first birthday I got to celebrate with my new husband, and as such he wanted to get for me something I would love.  We never suspected it would come wrapped in a long, silky fur coat.

Let me rewind a bit, and also warn my readers that this post will likely be the length of a small novella, but the story bears telling in its entirety.  At the time, my hubby and I had but one "fur child," my three year old calico, aptly named Callie.  And though I loved and raised this cat from a wee kitten, she chose to love my handsome new partner.  I was feeling quite snubbed.  What is that old saying?  Oh yes, you're nobody until you've been ignored by a cat.  Well, in Callie's case, I must have been President.  

One of the things hubby and I did on occasion was to visit the kitties at the Humane Society, not because we were necessarily looking to adopt a new family member, but because it was about halfway in between destinations on a back country road we traveled almost daily.  I was impressed with the set up of the cat room.  Though the cats were caged, everything was clean and well kept.  On this particular day, April 4, we happened to be passing by and decided on a whim to stop in to visit with the cats.  

On a typical day, there was an over-abundance of cats sheltered in the lobby of the facility, in addition to the cat room.  We waggled fingers at the twitchy feline noses that yearned for attention as we passed by.  We were informed by the attendant on duty that a family of cats had recently been surrendered by an elderly owner's family who had passed away.  She showed us to the cats that were included in the group.  My heart immediately melted for the uncertainty these kitties surely faced.  What would happen to them?  Suddenly, I felt as though I was being watched...

I turned to see a young tortoiseshell cat with huge gold eyes staring me down.  She continued her unnerving stare until I walked to her cage to talk with her.  The coloring on her chin gave the illusion at first of a severe under-bite, as though she was a bull dog.  I distinctly remember telling her, "You don't look like a very nice kitty," and walking away toward another calico who was part of the abandoned clan.  This cat's relentless stare continued until I could almost feel her gaze penetrating my skull.

Intrigued by the tortie with the golden eyes, I walked back to her cage and stuck my finger in between the bars.  She immediately started to rub against my hand and the bars that separated us.  Hubby noticed I seemed to have found a friend, so he joined me in the exchange.  I quickly discovered my first impression of her couldn't have been more off-base.  Hubby and I decided to spend some time in the visiting room with her, to attempt to get to know her better, determine her personality, and if nothing else, give her some love and attention.

Once we were in the visitation room, this kitty that the shelter had named "Luna," turned into a completely different cat.  I am convinced to this day she saw the uncertainty in our faces and did all she could to make us fall in love with her.  She covered me in sandpaper kisses, purred so loud I thought all of the town might hear her, and rolled over on her back for tummy rubs.  The attendant told us what she knew of Luna's past.  She was surrendered and adopted out.  She bore a litter of kittens, which we understand the other owners kept, and Luna was surrendered and spayed.  Over the course of a half hour, I became smitten with this cat, and I knew I needed her.  Hubby and I placed her on hold for 24 hours while we discussed the impact of bringing another cat into our home.  How would she and Callie get along?  

We sat up into the wee hours of the morning, discussing Luna's fate in our family.  At one point, we decided to not bring her home, but it weighed heavily on me.  I cried, agonized by the argument between my head and my heart.  Finally we slept on it.  We would make a decision in the morning.
When we awoke the following morning, I had already decided I could not live with myself if we didn't at least try to bring Luna home.  The wait for the noon opening was torturous.  Knowing we were making the right decision, we drove to the shelter and were there pretty much when it opened.  We walked into the cat room and saw our red "Reserved" ticket on the front of her cage.  My heart sang with delight!  In just a little bit, she would be ours!  A little boy, there with his parents, poked his fingers into her cage.  I noticed she was not at the front of the cage this time, but huddled in the back looking withdrawn and maybe a little sad.  When the boy moved, I walked over to the cage to see her.  As soon as she heard my voice, and saw me she was on her feet and looked so very happy!  If I was looking for a sign, that was surely it.  

To this day, Luna, who we renamed Tika, remains the best gift anyone has ever given to me.  Tika was part of our family for 12 1/2 years, until cancer ended her life in November of 2010.  I won't say that celebrating this birthday, my first without her, has been easy.  But she is with me in spirit, and I know she's watching from Rainbow Bridge, waiting to see me again someday.

I miss you Munchkin, and still love you so very much.  Wish you were here.

 Tika Marie
October 25, 1995 - November 2, 2010

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Happy Birthday, Princess Sassy!

Birthdays are a pretty big deal around our home, and the cats' birthdays are no exception.  Over the years, we've only had the privilege to know with certainty the exact birthday of two of our many cats.  Abby and Arista were born to the neighbor's cat in the middle of the night, so they alone had a known date of birth.  All of our other kitties, most of them rescues, have had their birthdays assigned to them, according to their age, and what we felt was a good, remember-able date.  

My very first cat, a calico beauty named Callie, shared a birthday with my late grandfather.  Tika, who was approximately 2 1/2 years old when she adopted us, was given an October 25th birthday.  For Miss Tika, we placed 30 numbers in a hat (minus the 31... she was a black and orange tortie, and I didn't want a Halloween cat), and drew 25.  Sassy, who decidedly bonded with my husband the night we rescued her, shares my birthday, April 8.  This is the most ironic of all birthday pairings, as this cat shows me absolutely no affection unless she is hungry.  She is most certainly my husband's baby.  Pixel, who came to us two days before Thanksgiving, has a September birthday.  He doesn't have the luxury thus far of an official "date"... we just celebrate his birthday in the middle somewhere.  Poor guy!

I really don't mind sharing a birthday with the cat who shuns me on a daily basis.  She is the cat, after all, that my beloved Tika decided to love before she laid eyes on her.  Sassy's adorable devotion to my husband warms my heart, and she makes me truly happy.  She is the true princess of the family. Sassy is prissy, sweet, and in her own Sassy way, she really does love me, I suppose.  So to my littlest birthday partner, I say... Happy Birthday Princess Sassy!  I hope we have many more with you.


Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Pixel, My Official Shadow

Today, I was searching for something to do, so I decided to pull out some cross-stitching that I had started about 3 years ago.  Pixel, my 5 year old brown tabby, wasted no time inspecting all of my paraphernalia that I had strewn about our den while looking for my scissors, threads, hoops, and my actual stitch project.  He's so curious about everything I'm doing, every moment of every day.  Pixel has been my little attachment since we lost my beloved Tika in November, as if he was waiting to take her place, that coveted spot on my lap, the place of honor.  Once I had gathered all my sewing supplies, I headed to the living room, where the light was just perfect for seeing my work of art of thread and aida cloth.

Now, I should have known better than to expect my lap to be empty, a place to put the metal sheet and magnets that hold my spot on the stitchery pattern.  I should have known with certainty that my furry shadow was going to lay on my arms the second I planted myself in my recliner.  Which he did, in record time.  And then, in his ultimate cuteness, he stared up at me as if to say, "What?"  He promptly snuggled into my lap, his 20 pounds securing my hands under his warm, furry belly.  Somehow, I did manage to free my captive limbs, assuring him I was not going to split my attention with a scratch on his chin.  His loud, rumbling purrs signaled his approval.  

So much for cross-stitching.