Should Have Named Him”Houdini”

We have five cats. Not on purpose; it just happened that way. They all came to us for good reasons, and amazingly, they all get along—mostly. Nala, our one female, came from a house with a dog, and she spent most of her days in the cellar to avoid him. When we adopted her, she was the only cat in the house.

Some months later, I read about a local animal shelter who had several “Desperate Housecats” who had been there for over six months and needed homes. I fell in love with an all-black male named Pagan. I adopted him, and as I got to know him, I changed his name to Pookie, which suited him much better.

Then there were the two stray cats we fed for months and then adopted; Plumpy-Nut and Tinker. We still don’t know to this day if anyone ever owned them, but we finally just took them to our vet, and had them neutered and micro-chipped. They both fit in well with Nala and Pookie.

When the time came when Dad could no longer take proper care of his cat, Bailey, we brought him home with our gang. Later on, Dad moved in with us as well, so now we are all one happy family!

Living with five cats is at once fun and unpredictable. We recently found out that Tinker has some serious skills. The other day was a hot one for this time of year; it was about 85 degrees. Most of the cats were lounging on the back porch, Tinker included.

I happened to look out of the kitchen door, and to my horror, the screen door on the porch was open! Bear in mind that all five cats are indoor only. So hollering to the Crankee Yankee that he forgot to close the damned door, I went flying out to round up the cats.

Bailey and Nala came running in; they really aren’t too keen on the great outdoors anyway. The other two cats, Plumpy and Pookie, were already in the house. That left Tinker, who has never forgotten the joys of being outside.

As we went looking for him, the Crankee Yankee swore that he did not leave the door open. We found Tinker strolling in the back yard as if he owned the place. We got him inside and the Crankee Yankee said, “y’know, I really think that Tinker knows how to open that door.”

I rolled my eyes at him and said that was nuts; how could he? But we have noticed that Tinker always likes to scratch on the wooden frame of the porch door; in fact, right beside the latch.

And you know what? I think he figured out how to open the door. He is tall enough to reach the latch, and all he would have to do is to push it in, and the door would open. So now if any of the cats are on the back porch, we lock that door. (So far he hasn’t figured that out—yet.)

So we now call him Tinker Houdini, the feline escape artist. Good grief—what next?


Just Ask a Cat

If while  enduring a snowstorm you should wonder where it’s at

Just stop wondering and simply ask your cat.

Pick him up and hear him purr,

He has no worries, fears, troubles—just fur.

He’ll blink at you through sleepy eyes

As if to say, ‘oh, c’mon—just lighten up, you guys!

You humans get upset at the drop of a hat,

You ought to just be mellow and happy; like a cat.

Life may be short or long

So don’t waste time worrying if you may be doing it wrong—

Chances are, you’re doing your best,

So move on, have a nap, keep your cards close to your vest.

Life’s easy if you take a lesson from we cats

Because we know what is what and where it’s at.

Pilling a Cat

Anyone who has had to wrestle a pill down a resistant cat’s gullet knows what an ordeal it can be. You can sneak it into tuna fish, peanut butter, regular butter, deviled ham; whatever. They will eat every scrap and leave a bare naked pill behind.

Same with crushing it up and putting in chopped chicken, ice cream, etc. They will take a lick, and nine times out of ten will fix you with a filthy look, turn tail and stalk away, tail up straight in the air as if to say, “you’re not fooling me one bit and I hate you.”

So what’s a cat parent to do? I’ll tell you what; you get sneaky. You have to treat this as a war room sneak attack on one of God’s wiliest creatures, a house cat. You may have to resort to plain old cat wrestling, too.

Our boy, Pookie, had a kidney infection the other day and when we took him to the vet, we came home with a few cans of special food, a bottle of tiny pills and a tincture to give him twice a day. All well and good, but even sick this cat is a fighter.

At the vet, Pookie had already had the tincture and one pill, so all he needed was the second pill. Of course, he had already prepared himself for this and had dug himself deep into my closet, right behind the shoe rack. As I only have one good knee right now, I had to go into ballet-mode; one leg out straight and the other bent so that I was balanced on one foot.

I reached in and hauled him out and up on the bed, praying that I wouldn’t lose my balance and lose my grip on him. I fished the pill out of my pocket, and with one hand pried his jaws open and poked the pill as far in as I could. Of course, this also meant clamping his mouth shut so that he had to swallow it.

Once that was done and he had shot under the bed, I put a spoonful of his “special” food in his bowl and pushed it in after him. Of course, this food is strong-smelling, which meant that the other four all came tearing into the bedroom to get some.

It took some doing, but we managed to herd them all out and push the sliding door closed. The four of them looked at me as if Christmas had been canceled. Well, you know, you try to explain the whole thing to them and they are not having it at all. They are used to everyone getting the same thing at the same time, and Heaven help you if you deviate from that formula.

But finally everything settled back to normal (or what acts as normal in our house, anyway). Pookie ate some of the food, and I cleaned the bowl out and brought him his usual; what everyone else was eating.

So far, peace has reigned. But we will undertake this whole song and dance tomorrow. As has been said before, cats were once worshiped as gods in Egypt. They have never  forgotten this.

I know ours never will…..



“Uncomplicated” Cats

Cats by nature are uncomplicated. They come with all the basic features:

  • four legs and a tail (or not)
  • eyes that can see well in the dark
  • ears that turn like radar dishes for sounds that we can’t hear
  • whiskers that define how wide a space a cat can get into
  • all the standard internal gadgets
  • a vast curiosity
  • an affinity for small animals, birds and bugs to chase and catch (and often, eat)
  • a melodious purr, meow, chirp, growl, trill, wheeze, etc.
  • an attuned sense of entitlement

There’s more, of course, but these are the regular bits. Beyond that, cats form loyalties according to their own system of likes/dislikes. They can be couch clawers, toilet paper unravelers, curtain climbers, snack stealers, counter jumpers, bed hogs and comforters.

Cats do not pretend to be anything but themselves; they instinctively know that their worth is immense and that people who have them should feel very fortunate. As has been said before; cats in ancient Egypt were once revered as gods, and they have never forgotten it. Their sense of superiority is locked into their genes; that’s just how they are.

If a cat likes you, consider it a huge compliment. If a cat is cool towards you, it’s hard not to want to charm him/her into liking you. It’s sort of like having royalty shake your hand. One of our four cats was initially quite standoffish with me. If I approached him, he would hiss and sometimes swat at me. Nothing I did seemed to change his mind.

So I finally stop trying to make him like me. We went our own ways; I fed him, kept his water bowl clean, brushed out his long fur when he needed it, and presented various toys to him. Most often he would pretend not to notice me.

One night I woke up hearing a nearby purr. There he was, curled up on the edge of my pillow, snuggled between the Crankee Yankee and me. I patted his head and whispered, ‘well, it’s about time, buddy!’ Since then, we have been pretty happy with each other.

Anyone who has adopted a cat will tell you that cats are basically pretty uncomplicated creatures. They are by turns affectionate, aloof, cranky, feisty, adorable, fussy, unpredictable and infinitely loveable. It isn’t your job to figure them out; it’s your job to serve them. As long as you know these things about cats, and keep them well fed, groomed, comfortable and most of all, safe—life is pretty terrific with them.

I don’t care what anyone says, even the so-called cat experts—cats have their own way of dealing with us. Even the stray cats we always feed have an attitude of entitlement; that is, that is our pleasure and privilege to feed and shelter them. Their stance on the subject is that it is we who should be grateful that they show up at all.

Ah, well, what are we to do? The Crankee Yankee and I realized a long time ago that we are merely the feeders and keepers of feline contentment and entitlement in our home. We adore them, and they love us in their own way.

Seeing things from their viewpoint, cats are indeed pretty uncomplicated. It’s up to us to deal with all that “uncomplicatedness” that cats bring to our lives. It is also up to us to realize that we form our own lives around their lives, not the other way around.

If you have cats, you’d better get used to the idea—quickly.

“I’m a Cat”

I’m a cat, and I want to go out

Go out right now, or I’ll gripe and pout—

Once I’m out, I want to come back in

‘Cause I’m a cat, and you know I’ll always win.

I’ll win you over, because I’m so dang cute

You always forgive me, even when I pooped in your boot.

Because I’m a cat, I want food right now

Not at breakfast or dinner time, but when I meow

Which is pretty often, and I make those big kitty eyes

You know you can’t resist, ’cause I’m a cat, I tell no lies.

I like to lie where you can trip over me,

So you’ll feel bad and go get a treat for me,

It’s all part of a cat’s great plan

‘Cause I run the house, and you know it, Sir or Ma’am!


Black Cats Bring GOOD Luck

I have a weakness for black or part-black cats. I’ve had five of them (not all at the same time, of course) over the years. When I lived in San Antonio, TX, my little gray cat Billie whom I’d moved with me from New Hampshire, had died a few months back and I was missing her terribly. I began visiting the local shelter, ostensibly to bring food and donations, but I was looking for a new friend.

I fell in love with an adult female black cat in the *local shelter. She was over four years old, and had been in that shelter nearly all her life. Her name was Blackie. She had one crumpled ear (born that way) and two very long front incisors. The shelter owner said that no one wanted her because she looked ‘spooky.’

When I walked in to look around, Blackie was on a ‘cat walk’ just over my head. She bent down and bumped her head against mine and purred. I was sold, and asked to fill out paperwork for her. Unfortunately, it was the weekend before Halloween. Most shelters will not adopt out all-black or all-white animals during that time–let’s just say that some groups have some strange rituals around Halloween.

Because of the timing, I could not bring Blackie home yet. I certainly agreed with the shelter’s policy about Halloween, and left without my new buddy. After a week, I called to see if I could pick her up. The shelter owner told me that there had been a kitten virus (a lot like the common cold; sneezing, coughing, etc.), and for the health of all the animals, they dosed them all. This meant at least one more week to wait.

In the meantime, I bought cat food, cat treats, cat toys, a big round soft cat bed, a litter box, catnip and so on. My bedroom was huge and adjoined the master bathroom. I thought that Blackie might feel more comfortable staying there while she got used to the house and me.

Almost two more weeks went by, and finally I was able to bring Blackie home. It was absolutely wonderful to have a cat again, and Blackie was sweet, very shy, and ultimately very loving. For days she hid under the bed, so I kept her food, water, toys and litter box nearby, and gave her time. I talked to her each day, and petted her when I could. She seemed to enjoy the attention, but needed time to adjust from shelter life.

One day I came home from work and found her standing transfixed in front of the toilet. It was a sunny day, and the white porcelain acted as a mirror. Blackie was convinced that there was another black cat in the house! It took her a while to realize it was only her reflection.

Long story short, we became close and dear friends. She was a loving and sweet companion, and every night she curled up under my right arm. If I turned over, she pawed at me until I turned back to her. For some reason, she preferred my right side!

I had Blackie through the years featuring the end of my first marriage, a divorce, two moves; the final one moving back to New Hampshire. By then, the Crankee Yankee and I were engaged, and had rented an apartment in NH. In 2007, we moved into our present home, along with Blackie. By this time, she was quite elderly. Her long front teeth had fallen out, and she had developed harmless but large water cysts on her head (we would go regularly to our vet to have them painlessly drained). Shortly after that, she had a minor stroke and became blind. She could eat, use the litter box and walk, but carefully.

We moved things around in “her” room to keep her away from heights and out of danger. At night, I carried her into bed with us, and as usual, she cuddled up to my right side. She slept more and more, but still had her strong and hearty purr whenever I picked her up and patted her. I hated to admit it, but her time was winding down, and I didn’t want her to suffer another stroke or be in pain. She was declining rapidly, so I called my vet and asked her to come over to put her to sleep.

I held Blackie on my lap for the last time. I kissed her repeatedly and told her how much we loved her. When the drug loosened her limbs and closed her eyes, she slipped peacefully away. My dear old friend was 21 years old, and I like to think she had a good life with us.  We certainly did with her.

Blackie was my first black cat. Since then, we have had Baby, a black and white “tuxedo” cat who lived next door to us. His owner had brought home three little yappy dogs, and Baby was not happy. He kept visiting us, and during the cold months, we began leaving food, water and a warm bed for him on our porch. Long story short, he ended up with us.

When he passed on, I adopted Pookie, an all black male cat, from a local shelter. Later on, we were feeding a big black and white cat with a fluffy crooked tail who kept coming to our house. After months of caring for him, we took him to the vet and found that he wasn’t neutered nor did he have a microchip. So we took care of both those things, and adopted him; this was Plumpy-Nut.

So, here we are today with Nala, a torti-tiger tabby who had been re-homed several times but has been home with us for years. We still have Pookie and Plumpy, and last year we adopted Tinker, a big yellow tabby whom we fed and sheltered outside for months before adopting. I never in my life thought I would ever have more than one cat at a time, but I have to admit that life is a lot of fun with the Fab Four!

I stand by what I said in the beginning: black cats bring good luck, not bad. Our days have been brighter, happier and more fun with black cats, as well as the others. When I see a black cat and he or she walks across my path, I consider that good luck. So if you are considering adopting a cat, give a black cat a chance. They have always been lucky for me!

*By the way, that shelter was of the nicest I’d ever seen; three tremendous adult cat rooms, a big kitten room, plus an indoor/outdoor room (fenced in wire of course) where the cats could come and go as they pleased. In the middle of it was a fairly tall tree (and yes, the wire mesh went over the top of it) where the cats could climb and perch.

Cat Leverage

Cats are quite smart. They know how far they can push you by using their own special brand of cat leverage. For example, the other night I got to bed late; 11:45pm. ‘No problem,’ I thought–‘I’ll just sleep in tomorrow.’

But noooooo. Nala, our one female, chose 4:05 am to make that noise that is absolutely guaranteed to wake any cat owner; that distinctive “hucka-hucka-hucka–gloooOOOOoorp” medley that is the two-second warning for cat vomit to follow. And she did it right beside my ear on the sheet. I suppose I should be grateful that she didn’t throw up on my hair.

So, up we got, the Crankee Yankee getting the cat dishes of food and water ready (of course, by then Nala had an empty stomach and was meowing loudly for breakfast; the three males just looked put out that breakfast was late). I stripped the bed (with my eyes still closed), then cleaned up the mattress (please note that this is our new mattress we’ve had for only seven months; this is the first time it’s been vomited on. Thank you <popular cleaning spray!>). Eyes still closed, I started the wash, then put new sheets on the bed.

And this is only ONE example of cat leverage. There is also the ‘poor hungry kitty’ look (this always comes after they’ve eaten–they just want more): their eyes get large and limpid, they cock their heads in the cutest way possible and make little “meorrow” noises that are pretty appealing.

Then there is the classic cat ploy of “whatever you’re eating, I get some, too.” Whatever it is; hummus on pita chips, a salad, a turkey sandwich, a piece of toast with peanut butter on it, a fruit smoothie–they need to inspect it. And if it passes inspection, they want a taste. Or two.

We have a nice back porch that the Crankee Yankee designed. Even though the finishing touches are still to be done, it’s a great roomy area with lots of light as well as screened-in panels. The cats love it. On good days, we find ourselves doing the doorman shuffle as cat after cat decides to sun themselves on the porch. Naturally, they all won’t do it at the same time, nor will they come in at the same time. Sheesh.

Here’s my take on cat leverage. You may go to a shelter and pick out a cat you like, but here’s the reality–THEY pick YOU. They can read us humans like a book. They can suss out an easy mark faster than a pickpocket in Grand Central Station. They do know a sucker when they see one. So we fall for them, as they know we will. They may put up a big fuss on the way home in the car, but in the back of their tiny little minds, they know they have the upper hand. To a cat, humans are ridiculously easy to train.

They have tricks to make us do their bidding that you wouldn’t believe. For example, there is the sympathy ploy. While you are deboning a lovely roasted chicken, the cat will sneak up behind you. You won’t have seen him, so of course you will inadvertently step on his tail, eliciting a heartbreaking “MEEEEOOOOOW!” You feel like the worst person alive; you have hurt your precious kitty. So you pick him up and cuddle him, kissing his head (and his tail, if you can reach it), telling him how very, very sorry you are and is he all right?

‘All right?’ You bet he is. He knows that you are going to give him a few pieces of that delicious chicken to make it up to him. It all works out–you feel better and he feels full of chicken. And there are so many more cat tricks! These tricks are embedded deeply in cat DNA. Just when you think you’ve figured out your cat, he is always miles ahead of you. We humans don’t stand a chance. Heaven help us all if cats develop thumbs!

As has been said before, long ago in ancient Egypt, cats were revered as gods. Cats have never forgotten this.