The common wisdom seems to be that you should wait some time after the death of a pet before introducing a new animal. Get some distance, that kind of sensible stuff. Which is fine, except that within a day of Pumpkin's death, I was feeling anxiety beneath the grief. I needed another longhaired ginger kitty--not to replace him, that can never be possible, but to help me and Kody cope. And so, while my mother bred the loveliest Siamese cats when I was a kid, I turned to the places I always get my kitties from: shelters. Well, the virtual version thereof: www.petrescue.com.au
That's where I found this photo of a little boy named Amal:
I decided right there and then he would be mine because a. he was a longhaired ginger kitty and 2. he looked like trouble, and I like that in a cat. I equivocated all day (was I silly to rush in?) then sent off a mail to the foster carer that evening. She sent me back an application form, I filled it in and we agreed to a meet-and-greet the next weekend. Oh, and BTW, the kitten (between 3-4 months, no one knew for sure because the litter had been dumped) had just been neutered that morning and turned out to be Amalie, not Amal--would that be a problem? Although all my cats as an adult had been boys, I figured a little girl might go down better with Kody Cat.
Long story short, I couldn't see the kitten until 2 weeks after, during which time I tried to keep it together while obsessively checking Amalie's page and muttering (ok, yelling) "Give me the kitteh!!" Finally we made the 80KM trip to the rescue place and oh, the kitties! I wanted to take so many, including Amalie, her sister and a lovely longhaired blue cream girl about a year old. I would completely be crazy cat lady if I had the finances to look after them all, but I don't and so Amalie it was.
We put the tiny little thing in a big cat carrier and she curled up in a corner and didn't make a peep until we got her home. More common wisdom is that there's a proper way to introduce cats (keep them separate, let them smell each other under the door, gradually introduce, etc, etc) and I agree with that for adult cats. But I knew Kody Cat wasn't aggressive with other cats, especially not kittens, and so set Amalie on the sofa--where she promptly went stiff with fear at the big white cat watching her from the windowsill, then scooted under the sofa.
Figuring I'd give her some time to get used to her surroundings, I lay down on the sofa to watch some TV. 5 minutes later she jumped up on me and went crazy smooching all up and down my arms and face. Obviously, she'd decided I was her person.
She also decided Kody was her cat. He took a little longer to win over but they were soon cuddling.
She was good for him, making him perk up. He followed her around, eager to see what she was up to next. Toward the end, though, she (now named Libellule, French for "dragonfly" because 1. I love the way it sounds, 2. she has markings on her back that remind me of dragonfly wings, and 3. her coat shone in the sunlight like dragonfly wings) was too rambunctuous for him. Three days before he died, she disconnected from him--his breath smelled bad and she knew something was wrong. Instead of cuddling, she just watched him. If she missed him after he died, I didn't see any signs of it.
Why I got a plastic tree and ornaments last year.
Still, I knew she wouldn't be happy on her own, so I was back on www.petrescue.com.au the next day, this time looking for a deaf white cat. Yep, definitely a case of "Hey! Let's get the old gang back together!" but also because some people are reluctant to take on deaf cats. I figured, since I'd raised 2 of them to 17 and 18 years of age, I had some experience and would take on a cat that might be overlooked. I didn't find any deaf white cats. Instead I found this:
Pumpkin anyone? I know I'll spend the rest of my life trying to find that cat again.
I called the rescuer and we agreed to a meet-and-greet the next day. Armed once more with the carrier, we hit the road, though this time to a suburb in Melbourne's east where Alex told us Mr. Kitty's tale of misery. He'd belonged to a family a few doors down, a rather loud, dysfunctional family with several cats (some produced by Mr. Kitty himself), who'd moved out about a month earlier. Mr. Kitty had been in hiding that day, so the neighbor had asked Alex and his father to throw some food out for him and they'd come back in a few days. Except they never did, and so for the past weeks, Alex had been slowly convincing this outdoor cat to come in, then whisked him off to the vet to make sure he could no longer reproduce.
He was a friendly cat, Alex said, but very wary of strangers. I could hear him from where he was contained in the bathroom, crying to get out, so we sat still while Alex brought him out. I fell in love with his wide eyes and big lion head immediately, but didn't want to rush anything so settled in for a chat and to watch him. He made himself comfortable about ten feet away and I kept an eye on him while not making direct eye contact so as not to threaten him. He was such a big cat--and only recently de-tommed--that I was a little concerned about how he and Kitten would get on. But he was very much a presence and very much in need of a permament home, so into the carrier he went.
Well! What fun we had. I did the common sense thing this time, putting Mr. Kitty (who I quickly named Redford because he looks and moves like a lion and Robert Redford is a Leo, so…) in the bathroom and closed the door. I left him with some food and came back later to find him with his face buried in the corner, where he stayed all day--a very sad "If I don't look at you, maybe you'll forget I'm here" boy. That night when I took him into the bedroom, he dove beneath the bed and stayed there for the next week, courtesy of Libellule Kitten, who stalked him constantly. Except at night. Then he, outdoor cat that he'd been, prowled through the apartment, crying and whining while the kitten craned to watch him from the bed. After a few sleepless nights, I stocked up on the Feliway and shut the place down so it was as dark as possible, and Redford began settling in.
He still is. He went from beneath the bed to into a little shelter I made him at the end of the bed to guiltily perching on the bed to hanging out on the windowsill behind the bed to (now that it's cooler) sleeping near my legs. It took him probably a month before he'd come into the living room (but only if the French doors were closed) then another month or so to come in when the doors were open. Then he sat by the door then he stepped out (but ran back inside the instant he heard a noise) and now he loves to be out there--but only if Kitten or I am.
He freaked out every time he saw me with the broom (until I left it beside his food bowl and he started to associate it with nicer things--now I can sweep right under him), freaks out when I use the vaccuum cleaner and dives beneath the bed whenever someone buzzes the front door (while Kitten dives under the sofa). He stays under there until they've gone, too, even if it's a 5-hour visit. The only time he didn't was when Jenny came to stay for a few days and he had to come out for food--then he figured she probably wasn't going to hurt him and curled up on the bed.
It still surprises me that such a massive cat (he's so solid that he almost sounds like a person walking on the wooden floor) is such a big sookie-la-la. He's relaxed with me, except if I move too quickly, but he's dead scared of strangers and noise. It's a real change from 2 very confident, relaxed, people-friendly cats that I didn't have to worry about to 2 scaredy cats who freeze when they hear people in the stairwell. They're very bonded to me, so I'm concerned at how they'll deal when I (finally) go on vacation. I knew with Pumpkin & Kody that they'd be pissed but got used to it and glommed onto whoever was feeding them. Still, it makes for some funny moments, like the time I emptied ice cubes into the tray: Libellule jumped, Redford jumped over her and they ended up leap-frogging their way along the corridor, while I was doubled up with laughter.
Speaking of bonding, I decided to get an older cat after Kody died, in the hopes that if something happened to one, the other wouldn't go downhill so rapidly. And while Libellule made Redford's first 2 weeks in residence hell, judging by the way their tails intertwine as they head for their bowls each morning, that plan has backfired. They don't do a lot of cuddling--yet--but they play-fight-play-fight, and the only time I've ever heard a full-throated cry from Redford was when he realized Libellule had "abandoned" him by escaping the courtyard.
And speaking of cuddling, I've never met a bigger cuddle cat than Libellule Kitten. As soon as I sit down at my desk, she's curling up in my arms, inviting me to rub her belly and making her funny little "buk!" sound when I don't pay her enough attention. And if I *really* don't pay her enough attention, she puts her little face right up in mine and either frowns at me or paws at my chest or gives me kitten kisses by rubbing her nose over mine. She is, in a word, adorable.
She's also very, very busy--in fact, I've never met a busier cat. Her little bell jingles as she makes her way from one curiosity to the next. And I've long stopped worrying about her being smaller then Redford. Any time he nips her, she gives him a "what the hell?!" biff--same with me when I tease her. She screams like a stuck pig when he jumps on her--then two seconds later is back for more. She's clever and sweet and such a baby. Last week, I accidentally closed the front door on her, leaving her in the building foyer, and a few minutes later I hear tiny, quavering "Hello? Is anyone there?" calls, that turned into "Why, hello!" when I opened the door.
Redford is just as lovable but more complicated. He grumbles under his breath a lot--almost as though he's always been told to shut up, and is scared to be any louder. Or maybe he just likes to whine. He's the champion of low-decibel, highly annoying whining; he also makes broughing sounds, like a big cat.
More and more lately, he's indulging in manic playfulness, leaping into the air with his favorite toy. He's a nipper, too--whether it's little love bites for me after a good cuddle session or nipping at Kitten's heels when a. she's pissing him off or b. she's snuggled up with me and he wants his turn. He's still an outdoor cat at heart, which is okay now that it's colder weather and the apartment's closed up, but I suspect will become a problem next summer when I like to open the french doors on warm evenings and he's feeling bolder about his environment. The territorial wars are already under way. The night I moved into the apartment, Kody was out in the courtyard and the cat next door (named The Kitty), obviously not used to cats on my side of the building, leapt the fence. He and Kody crept up to each other, sniffed noses then The Kitty backed down and hasn't been to visit since. When the new crew arrived, The Kitty spent a lot of time outside my glass back door, just watching. Then he peed against the door, which prompted Redford to smack the wooden blinds and scare the hell out of him. I haven't seen him at the door since. Now, during morning romps in the common courtyard area, Redford likes to walk up to The Kitty's back door and smack it, just to let him know it's still on.
Freaky thing? I see Pumpkin in Redford's reflection.
Now that the introductions have been made and I feel like I'm caught up, it's back to your regularly scheduled programming, with little or no cat posts.
Heh! Sometimes I amuse myself no end ;)