Saturday, December 5, 2009

Now, A Pet

Spay Day was a big success. Picked Shadow up around 5 last night and took her home. For her, it is a real home now. Except for Bella, I would be pretty happy. Poor Bella thought she was back in her position as queen. She was waiting for me at the top of the stairs, but when she saw the carrier, she knew Shadow was back. If a cat could look crestfallen, Bella did.

Mr. New Cat was hiding as usual. I let Shadow out in the bathroom but she didn't want to stay there. She seems fine, licking her stitches but OK. I dropped off a wild cat and brought back a pet. This morning she let me pet her for about 15 minutes. She feels very soft, not as silky as Bella, but nice all the same.

I just hope the three of them have a peaceful day. Last evening was not that peaceful. Bella and the male got into a fight. Her tail was enormous. She's still eating, though, and so is Shadow (also the male, but I wasn't worried about him.)

Friday, December 4, 2009

Spay Day

Shadow's spay day was bright and sunny, 60 degrees, and the animal hospital was easy to find. I must have passed it a dozen times in the past, and not noticed it sandwiched between a Western Beef and something else. If you blink, you miss it.

The receptionist, Lucy, was lovely, as I'd thought. I told her my suspicions about Shadow having asthma. I left her there not knowing if the doctor would be able to give her anesthetic or not, but no calls came all day. So I called them around 6, and Lucy said my little cat was just waking up. So, yay, she had her hysterectomy.

At home, all was peaceful. Bella was eating, and walking freely around the house in her old manner. She made it plain that she wanted to be fed in the kitchen. She's had enough of being stuck in my room. Mr. New Cat was on the windowsill when I left, listening to Spyro Gyra, and he spent most of the day there. I still haven't scrubbed the woodwork, but I did vacuum quite a bit. He was afraid of the vacuum cleaner, but he was basically OK. He had some treats as a reward for his bravery.

It was fun cleaning up all the fur behind and on the couch, but I wouldn't want to do it every day. I guess I'll have to do it once a week, like a normal person, though. I moved the entire couch all the way out to the middle of the LR, finding half a dozen cat toys. It's heavy, because it's a sleeper sofa. Quite a workout. I found some Carbona and cleaned parts of the carpet, cleared off the marble-topped table, adjusted a light, and hung a Monet print. The place looks so much better, just from my day at home.

Having a break from Shadow was like leaving a mischievous child in daycare, or overnight with Grandma. Like respite care, but also a little odd. I missed her, a little. At the vet's lives a big tiger cat. He is very friendly, but when he walked over to Shadow's carrier, she hissed and struck at him. "See," I told Lucy, "She is feisty." Her spirit has helped her survive thus far. She's been with me almost three months, and we'll see where she goes next. She is the boss of my house, which I don't really agree with. Bella was enough of a boss, before Shadow arrived. Bella and the male cat don't interact at all, which is good. Shadow is the instigator. Under the couch I found the other half of a brown paper Starbucks bag that Shadow and Mr. New Cat were fighting over the other night. I'd found one half and wondered where the other piece was.

Kitty, my sister, is coming after all. So, yay again.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Thinking Out Loud

If I thought I was over my head a week ago, I'm even more so now.

My sister may not come visit now that she knows I have a third cat, an unspayed, unvaccinated, untested male, who might have fleas, disease, worms and germs.
He is pretty dirty. He spends a lot of time on the windowsill, and now the white paint is gray. He fell asleep there last night. Looked kinda cute, stretched out with his chin on the sill. Shadow was snoring, curled up, about two feet from me on the other side of a pile of mail. Bella was in my room. I was watching CDs of Sex and the City. They like having me home. They come out of hiding and relax.

Kitty's threat is pretty much an ultimatum. She's right. She would never have permitted a stray cat into her house. I should have had him to the vet by now.

Oh, some good news. Shadow has an appointment for her spay on Dec. 3. The people at that vet (Flushing Vet Med Center) sound very nice. If she hadn't been vaccinated, they would have done it, I think included with the Friends of Animals voucher. And, they will keep her overnight. I can pick her up on Friday, the 4th. They're open till 7.

Time is getting short. My sister is due here Dec. 7. I'd better get an FOA certificate for the male and get him done ASAP. Maybe the vet can do a blood test, flea check, and nail trim while he's unconscious. They do all surgeries on Thursdays.

Meanwhile, I am going away for Thanksgiving. My neighbor Marta has offered to take care of them, just not on Thanksgiving Day. I'll leave dry food out, and lots of litter, and they'll be all right. I'll be gone from Wed. afternoon to Sat. night.

Monday, November 16, 2009

What a Menagerie!

Things are deteriorating around the old homestead. Mr. New Cat is unhappy. Last night he was on the windowsill, yowling to the outdoors. I'll bet his hormones are acting up.
Must call vet about Shadow's spaying.
Mr. New Cat is unhappy in general, because Shadow gives him such a hard time. I heard deep growling from behind the couch the other night. I am over my head with cats. Why did I take them in?
To save a life, in Shadow's case. and to get a cat out of the cold, in the case of the male. Stupid of me. He'd be happier outside.
There are a couple of bright spots. Bella seems happier, now that Shadow is concentrating on the male, and this morning Shadow let me pet her again. It is such a thrill when she holds still and lets me, purring all the while. You'd think she was a normal house cat.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Three Cats Peeing

The spay certificate was in my mailbox, only a day or two after my second request. yay, FOA!

Shadow celebrated by peeing on a pile of old mail on the living room floor, as I watched from the couch. I couldn't believe my eyes, because she's been so good about that. You're supposed to pick them up and place them in a litter box when they make a mistake. But she won't let me pick her up, yet.

I had to laugh to myself, because it made me finally throw away the mail, which may have been there for a year. Maybe she doesn't want to pee in a box frequented by a male.

Mr. New Cat did use the litter box, today and yesterday, judging by the evidence. Yay for him! I like him; he looks like Bella, white with black markings.

I think she likes him. At least they're not fighting. I saw him this morning, coming out of my room! How did he get in there, and when? Was he there all night, behind the bed?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Definitely a Male

It was interesting being home all day yesterday. Can't do that today; I have plans. But since I never saw Mr. New Cat until nighttime, my being home all day didn't seem important. Shadow will tyrannize him anyway. Well, he is definitely an unfixed male. He urinated on the bathroom rug, but luckily there were newspapers down, because that was the spot where I had put the extra litter box. Too bad I covered them with the rug, a decorator touch that Mr. New Cat must have appreciated.

Now the box is back there. He may want to hit the same spot, find the box there, and figure it out.

Either he doesn't know about litter boxes or Shadow wouldn't let him reach it, where it was in the living room. I'm not crazy about having a litter box in the LR, but was willing to try it because it's closer to the couch. Shadow spent most of her time behind the couch, too, when she first came. Her litter box has been there ever since, till I moved it to the bathroom on Sunday for Mr. New Cat. Looks like I need a third litter box. Bella uses the one in my room, and so does Shadow if I leave my door open. I could also use an extra door here, to separate the cats. Another room would be nice.

I hope Shadow doesn't go into heat with a male loose in the apartment. "Keep them separated," one of the women at the ASPCA told me. Another "duh" moment. I have to get her spayed. I'm also worried about her breathing. She sounds like she's snoring sometimes. I hope the vet can give her anesthesia in that condition. One step at a time, Barbara. You don't even have the spay certificate yet.

At that meeting, they said feral cats really do prefer to live outdoors. I believe it. Shadow spent a lot of time yesterday on the windowsill, watching the leaves fall from the trees. It's her first autumn, and falling leaves must look odd to her. We are on the second floor, so anybody on the LR windowsill has a good view.

Mr. New Cat was on the windowsill, too, wistfully breathing fresh air and looking out. He showed himself last night, walking from the kitchen. I was not aware he even went to the kitchen, but when he saw me, he ducked under the hutch. He's pretty fat, and he had a hard time fitting. He hid pretty well. Shadow didn't even know he was there. His move to the windowsill happened later, and I gave him a saucer of food on the sill. He didn't eat much.

Oh, I know why I missed his appearance: I was doing laundry, in another building.

This all makes me think of Lucky, who we got as a kitten when my daughter was in kindergarten.

She was a beautiful tuxedo cat with deep velvet fur and roaring purr and we had her 12 years. She had the best cat life. She went outside almost every night and came in in the morning, sometimes in the wee small hours. We'd hear her yelling, clinging to our bedroom screens, especially if it was raining. I'd go up on the porch and call her, but she wouldn't want to get wet by running through the rain to get to the front door. Many time my husband or I would have to go out in bad weather, detach her from the window screen, and carry her inside. I'd towel her off, till she purred. It's strange how sweet the memory is, even though it was terribly annoying at the time.

Poor Lucky died shortly after we moved here to Queens. She got out, and I wasn't too worried, but it's true what they tell you, not to let a cat out in a new location because they can get disoriented. Lucky must have. I kept going out and calling her. Finally I looked in the street and saw a black body. It was her. I hate to think she was hit by a car while running toward my calls, but she may have been.

Some people suggested she killed herself out of unhappiness at being cooped up in an apartment. She was depressed. She was certainly not feral; she just loved being able to go outdoors and hunt, climb trees, run around, whatever. She often followed us when we walked the dog in our hilly suburban neighborhood. She'd be with us the whole way, sometimes.

Ali offered to come over today and see if we can get Mr. New Cat into the bathroom, where he can at least eat, drink and use the litter box in peace, if not freedom.
I don't want to cancel my plans, so I guess that makes me irresponsible. Ali may come over tomorrow night, after work. Hope so.

Uh-oh. I have buried my lede.
Shadow let me pet her last night. It was pretty late, about midnight, and I had just turned off the TV. She came to me and rubbed around my ankles. I reached down and touched her gently on the side. She let me, so I stroked her there a few more times. I also touched her on top of the head, and rubbed behind her ears. She purred.

What am I going to do with these animals?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Are Three Too Many?

I've done it again. Ali brought me another survivor from the colony in Richmond Hill. This one is a male, we think, but so far I have not seen much of him. We intended to put him in the bathroom, which I had prepared for a wild cat, having learned from my experience with Shadow.

I'm going to call the new cat a male, until verified. He has a large face, tomcat like, and no name yet. He's pretty, white with gray markings, I think. He arrived Sunday night, same as Shadow, and now it's Tuesday, my day off. This would be the day to take him to the vet, except he is hiding behind the couch.

Shadow has turned into a little tyrant, chasing him and hissing. She's keeping him pinned behind the couch. Wish we had released him in the bathroom, so he'd be confined and I could see him. That was dumb, but we were eager to see how Bella reacted.

She was actually fine. Her ears were in "Happy Cat" position, and there was no hissing or striking out. She looked interested, and he looked calm. He went to an empty spot on the bottom shelf of the bookcase and sat there for a long time, until after Ali and his girlfriend left.

I was out late last night, not a good welcome for the new cat, but I attended a meeting at the ASPCA office in Manhattan. I thought it was worth going to, because the topic was Community Outreach and managing feral cat colonies. Not that I have one, except in my living room, but it was great to see all these interested people. Most were women, and nobody looked like a "crazy cat lady." There was one man, pretty cute and about my age, in my row, but I didn't speak to him. Belatedly it occurs to me this might be a place to meet someone special. Anyone who cares that much about animals must be OK. I was very impressed with the group and the presentation. They're real Do-ers. And, pizza and beverages were served midway through.

This morning was rough. Shadow's running around like she's had a shot of Red Bull. For some time now, her breathing has sounded bad. I called the vet this a.m. and also Friends of Animals to see where the spay certificate is. They said they sent it first class mail, on Oct. 21, a day after I had ordered it. Now they're sending a replacement.

I admit I am bad with mail and might have missed it, but I have really been watching for it. Have resolved to completely clear unopened mail off my dining room table today. Maybe I'll find the spay certificate.

Meanwhile I hope Mr. New Cat can get to the litter box. And knows what it is for.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Shadows Are Changeable

It was another Squirt Bottle morning, vs. Shadow, after she tried to scratch Bella right in the face. She gets this nasty attitude, hissing and striking out for no reason I can see.
I put food out for them and it must have touched off the jealousy fuse somehow, again. Shadow's was in the kitchen, and Bella's was in my room, as usual. It looked to me like they wanted to switch.
Bella had not eaten anything in a while, so I tried to give her one of her appetite stimulant pills, but I couldn't get her to take it. Later, she was in the kitchen nibbling dry kitten food. So that's some relief. I have to go out for more food, for the cats and me.

I spent some of my day off listening to my new Roseanne Cash album, "The List," which seemed to relax the cats. Shadow is sleeping or at least reclining, on my bed, while Bella is hiding somewhere.

I really should be cleaning, but I've been on the Internet all day.

Yesterday morning was much better. I woke up to bright sunshine and a gentle tapping of a paw on my left elbow, which was sort of hanging off the bed. Bella was on my other side, so I knew it wasn't her, even thru the haze of sleep. The little feral initiating physical contact again! Pleasant physical contact, tapping as if to wake me up. It was quite sweet.
How can she be such a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde personality? and when is that spaying certificate going to get here, so I can move on to the next phase of Shadow's life?

Monday, November 2, 2009


Shadow discovered catnip this morning. She was scratching at the cardboard pad, which came infused with catnip, and is in a wooden frame. Wish I had a picture to post, but please imagine it.

The scratching thing is in the hallway. She had flipped the cardboard part out of the wood frame, and it landed upside down. A pile of catnip fell on the floor. I picked some up and scattered it on the cardboard scratching pad, which I replaced in the frame, and left for work. The rest I left on the floor.

Now I'm at the office, imagining her stoned out of her mind. And Bella is missing all the fun, closed off in my room with her food, water and litter box, like a prisoner.

Dog's Best Friend told me it was okay to pick up the little cat the other day. He even said to keep doing it, so she gets used to it. Well, good. I will. Maybe it wasn't a move too soon, after all. My intuition has to count for something.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

A Move Too Soon

Shadow continues to rub against my ankles every morning and at other times, too. Last night she was purring, loudly, a real purr, as she continued physical contact. She looks at me more, too, I think. Eye contact has to be good, right?

She still bothers Bella, though. There was a spat in the middle of the night, and this morning, also last night when I got home. This a.m. I had to resort to the Squirt Bottle. Fed them separately, usual procedure now, and I closed the door so Bella could eat in peace.

A few minutes later, I was at the computer when I heard Bella mewing to come out, so I opened the door. Now I'm at the office, and I have to trust they are doing okay together.

Made a mistake yesterday a.m. by picking up the little cat when she rubbed against my ankles. She squirmed desperately, so I put her back on the floor, and she ran as far from me as she could get. A move too soon, on my part. Still, at least now I know I can get a hold of her to take her to the vet for spaying, if that certificate ever arrives. And, she didn't bite me or scratch, just wriggled. She is becoming tamer. I would love to pick her up and cuddle her, but not yet.

I need a book on feral cat behavior and how to tame them. Can anyone recommend one?

Friday, October 30, 2009

A wild cat now runs into my house, on purpose

We had a situation the other night. I went to the movies with my friend Shani, to see "Capitalism," the Michael Moore film, and when I got home about midnight my downstairs neighbors met me at the door. They were upset, and understandably so, because water had leaked from my bathroom into their bathroom. That was Tuesday. I was up till 2 a.m., watching movies & trying to calm down. Men from the co-op came on Wednesday, another day off for me, and took down my neighbors' bathroom ceiling. They found the problem, and it wasn't my fault. It was nobody's fault, so the co-op had to take care of installing a new tub drain, and trap, or something. Turns out I share it also with my UPSTAIRS neighbor, and three people live in that apartment, vs. one in mine and two downstairs. I had to take the whole day off today for the plumbers.

They came before 9 a.m., as I was getting up. I was about to feed the cats, but the men started making a racket before either one could eat her breakfast. The kitties were freaked. Even Bella hid in the closet. The plumbers had a heavy-duty drill that broke thru my drain and even the tile floor. The one working downstairs was drilling, too. The whole floor was vibrating. The little cat disappeared early on, I think behind the couch.

They were done about 11, and it's been nice and quiet since. Both cats are circling around, not fighing. Last night when I came home from an art gallery reception, it was pretty late, too, about 11. Again, Bella was waiting by the door, so when I opened it, she ran out. I thought I saw Shadow, too, but you know how shadows are, you're never quite sure what you see. Bella stands out, being mostly white, and she was on the lawn, eating grass, but there was no sign of the little one. I told Bella "In the house," and in she went, as she does (such a good girl). As she walked up the brick steps to the front door, the little dark one ran really fast, in the door and up my stairs, thus proving she had, indeed, been out. That's amazing.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Squirt Bottle

I've had to introduce the squirt bottle to Shadow. It's really a plant mister, with a top that has two settings, mist and stream, like Windex. It contains plain water in a bulb-shaped blue plastic jar. The stream setting works better for my purposes.

Shadow launched one of her attacks on Bella this morning, and I had the Squirt Bottle at the ready. I got her, and she ran under the crib, but I wanted her out of my room completely, so I got her again, in the side. Success! She is the ultimate moving target, though. I am surprised I hit her at all.

Bella long ago learned the purpose of the bottle, so if she is doing something bad, like biting the calves of my legs as I walk down the hall, on scratching on my wooden closet doors, I squirt her. Usually she runs away at the mere sight of it. Also, if I say, "I'm going to get the squirt bottle," and open the linen closet door, she stops and regards me with extra-huge green eyes. She knows.

Usually, with Bella, I don't need to use it more than once or twice a year, but now it's on my dresser, like a small blue sentinel.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Away for the Weekend

It's a week since my last post, and things are going well. I got an envelope from Friends of Animals, but it contained their magazine, not the the spay certificate as I hoped. Now Shadow is looking suspiciously fat. I hope she's not pregnant. It could have happened while she was still in Ali's neighborhood, I suppose. Maybe she's just growing.

Last week was pleasant enough. No fights of any magnitude. Thursday night I did laundry, and in bringing it inside, I left the door open. Bella walked almost out, and Shadow followed. I was like, uh oh, she's gonna run away and I won't be able to get her back. But, I called Bella. Bella turned on the threshold and came in, Shadow following. Whew! I had Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday (yesterday) off, for a trip to see my daughter, and, as it turned out, my sister, tamer of feral cats. She gave me a laser light pet toy.

My neighbor Marta had agreed to feed them while I was gone. I warned her not to try to touch the little one, and everything went fine, apparently. I called her the first night, feeling as I had when my kids were little and I called the sitter to check on them.

"I saw the little cat," Marta reported. That was better than I expected. I thought Shadow would hide when someone new came in.

Got home in the late afternoon yesterday. Bella was the first one I saw, at the top of the stairs as usual. We touched noses, our homecoming ritual. I fed them both, and there was a little chasing, but no fighting. At one point, both cats were lounging on my bed. Bella slept with me all night, purring and kneading her paws on my side as she often does. I left my door open, but no little cat invasions. It was peaceful.

This morning, Shadow kept rubbing up against my legs, even though I had just put food down for her. She was not saying 'I'm hungry;' it meant something else. Dare I hope she was telling me she missed me? She sat on the foot of my bed while I was listening to WNYC and sipping coffee for 15 minutes or so. She looked so relaxed, and I felt flattered. She's been with me a month and a half.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Dinner a la Crate

Shadow wouldn't go into the carrier, even though she hadn't eaten all day and I put a saucer of freshly opened canned food inside. But guess who did: Bella!

It was the funniest thing, to see the big white cat slowly and suspiciously walk in.

Usually she hates the carrier, and, when I first got it out, she ran into the little crack in the couch where Shadow used to hide. Then she came out and walked around the crate, sniffing the food inside.

I was watching TV, unconcerned about who went in, but thinking if Shadow did take the bait, I'd take her to the expensive vet, just to get the spaying over with.

Bella nibbled a bit, came out, sat on my lap, I petted and praised her, she got back down and went into the carrier again, and ate some more. "Looks like you found a safe place to eat where nobody will bother you," I said.

Spaying, Part I

Shadow has an appointment at the vets' tonight, but it remains to be seen if we will get there. If she goes into the carrier, I will take it as a sign, and bring her in.

If not, I'll get the spay/neuter certificate from Friends of Animals ($65 for a female cat). There's a vet near me who participates in the program, only charging $35extra for pain meds when she goes home. They do ferals on Thursday, not handy for me this week, and the girl at the vet's office warned me the certificate takes a long time to come in the mail. And don't ask me how I would give her pain meds.

My vet does not participate in the program, and for two nights' boarding, plus surgery and everything else, they will charge $345. It's a big difference.
If anybody wants to check the FoA, it's

The kitty is still wild, but funny. This morning I heard her scratching at something that turned out to be my rubber rainboots, the stretchy part on the side. No damage. She rubbed against my ankles in the kitchen again. Oh, my neighbor agreed to feed them while I am away this weekend. I warned her about the feral, but I am sure Shadow will hide when she sees Marta. Hope she doesn't bite her, like one of my sister's cats did when a neighbor came in to feed him. His name was Buster, and Kitty always described him as a "barn cat."

Kitty's neighbor had to go to the hospital, and Kitty paid the bill. I really hope that doesn't happen this weekend!

Barn cats generally have no manners. In a house, they don't know how to behave, jumping up on tables and stuff. However, some cats raised in a barn have an innate sense of how to act in a home.

I am pretty sure Shadow is a barn cat. She did jump on my desk, as I could tell the next day when I saw papers and my glasses on the floor. This morning she ran around my apartment with so much energy, I wished I could let her out to run and climb trees. Our barn cats used to climb ladders to get to the hay mow. They really had the life.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Ali Pays a Visit

Worked with Ali today, and his next-door neighbor was our minor. They knew Shadow months ago, of course, since Ali and his father saved her.

Ali drove me home, and I asked them in to see Shadow and Bella. What a nice visit! Shadow was stretched out on the couch, although she hid when she saw them. Bella had been in my room, and she came out when she heard us. She turned on the charm, and I was so proud of her. We played with the Cat Dancer toy a little, I knowing she was thinking, You faker! You never play with me unless we have company. Unfortunately, this is true.

After they left, I fed her -- in the kitchen, hurray-- then watched the last of Penn State's victorious Homecoming game, reheated the ratatouille from last night, then watched "Sex and the City" episodes with Bella on my lap. She felt very relaxed, which made me happy.

Who's the Alpha Cat?

It's 9:15 on Saturday morning, and I am at work, waiting for our daily assignments. "Dog's Best Friend," an obvious pseudonym for the guy who sits next to me, is an expert on animal behavior. He's had Dobermans, Rotties and now a single pit bull, whom I've met. She seems very sweet.

I love to talk to him about animals. I told him about the two cats lying peacefully on my bed last night. He was pleased, but not particularly surprised. I told him Bella had the position of superiority, up by the pillows, while Shadow was more toward the foot. He figured as much, but said something I'd been thinking, too. As she grows bigger and more sure of herself, she is going to try to become the alpha cat. Then I'll see either fur flying or Bella giving in.

This morning it was more of the former. Lots of running and chasing, and me trying to figure out where to put the cats, where to put their food. I think they put on an act for me, hoping I'll stay home to referee. They are just going to have to work it out, or else. As the vet tech said when he handed me Bella's carrier after her anorexic episode, "Deal with it, Bella."

I think Shadow has done Bella and me a lot of good. For me, she brings back memories of the farm. This morning in the kitchen, she rubbed against my ankles again. It's becoming a regular thing. She only does this in the kitchen, where the food comes from, but she'll do it when the food is elsewhere, as it was today--hers in the living room, Bella's in my room. I was barefoot as usual. I'm not afraid of her, and she knows it. I heard something like purring, but, as I told my co-worker, not real cozy, relaxed purring, but sort of a frantic purring, purring that was asking for something. All of a sudden I remembered the cats at the barn doing the same thing. They were pretty wild, too. My sisters and I were told not to pick them up, and with a few exceptions, we obeyed.

It was my grandparents' farm, but my uncle Donald did most of the outdoor work. My grandmother did not allow animals in the house, but she made exceptions for certain dogs like Butch, a faithful German shepherd, and Teddy, who came later, a boxer. We have a picture of my sister Kitty, wearing summer pajamas and leaning back on Teddy as if he were a backrest. I remember Nana feeding him Cheerios with milk out on the back porch.

All of our dogs and cats were dropped off sneakily by people who saw that the farm looked like a good place, and it was. It's actually what I wanted to do with Shadow, but nobody in Hope has a dairy farm anymore.

Another big exception to Nana's house rule was Gus, the gigantic tom who my uncle particularly liked. He was the only cat I remember being in the house at all, although I do remember my grandmother shooing some out the kitchen door with a broom,when they tried to come in from the front porch.

Donald watched Westerns after dinner in the beat-up green armchair, the kind with tassles on the edges, his feet on the ottoman, smoking Winstons with the enormous gray and white Gus on his lap, relaxing after a day of hard physical labor.

"Gus, you old reprobate," Donald used to say, rubbing the cat's head fondly as the cigarette smoke curled up through the lampshade. I see it perfectly in my mind, and I am glad.

I think now that it's possible Donald identified with Gus, or wanted to, and that's how I learned the meaning of the word reprobate. I was probably 6 or 7. Gus would disappear frequently, and sometimes came back battered, with a scratch down his face or a torn ear. Nana thought he was filthy and full of fleas, which was probably true. She couldn't very well defy her son, though, since he did most of the heavy farm work. (Grandpa did some milking and haying, but he had heart trouble.)

Nana and Donald must have reached a truce on it.

I do not remember any veterinary care for the cats, no shots or spaying. Kittens appeared and disappeared. Cats got hit by cars in the road that bisected the property. We didn't even get upset, because they were nameless and there would always be more. They ate rodents nightly in the fields and probably in the barn, too, and snakes as well. It was a win-win for humans and felines.

My uncle poured them two pie pans of milk after the morning and evening milking, and the felines were always very eager for it. Now, my vet says giving them milk can cause diarrhea. Considering how long I have been around cats, there is an awful lot I don't know.

The ways in which Shadow's presence has helped Bella are, 1., she gets more exercise and...I don't know what else, but there must be more. It must be waking her up more, activating her brain.

Friday, October 16, 2009

National Feral Cat Day, Oct. 16

Who knew? Maybe Shadow and Bella knew, for they have been very good since a bad spat this morning, as I was getting ready for work. I took an emergency annual leave day, because I thought "I've got to get a plan going" for the feral.

I was a little panicked last night when my daughter called the situation "untenable." It kind of is, but you should have seen them today. They love it when I'm home. The little one enjoys music. She lay on the couch like a regular cat, a first. While I was going through my piles of mail, I played old CDs. She's a folk cat, I thought, remembering Phoebe, a tiger striped cat we had in the 1970s, who especially loved Joni Mitchell. I was home all of today, except for going to Rite Aid to get a flu shot. It was nasty out, cold and rainy. A good day to be indoors. Lucky little feral. It's really Ali she has to thank.

I called my vets' office again, to see if I could cancel Shadow's Tuesday appointment for spaying, in case I found a cheaper place. They all seemed like a hassle, though, and Bideawee wasn't much less than the price my vet quoted. The woman I talked to at Bideawee told me Shadow has bonded to me! Can you imagine? I told her S. was lying at the top of the stairs for a long time, and then on the couch. Oh, the other night she greeted me at the top of the stairs, but that was only because Bella was confined to my room.

I've gone in my room twice in the last hour, and both cats were lying quietly on my bed, an unimaginable first. Celebrating National Feral Cat Day, no doubt.

One one of the Websites, I found out today is National Feral Cat Day. On another, Friends of Animals, I learned that Priscilla Feral is the president of that organization. It has spay certificates that may be purchased online, and certain vets honor them with a discount. But not mine, I found out when I called. They are already offering a 10% discount for any services to strays.

The Mayor's Alliance has a Feral Cat Initiative, and a beautiful, rich Web site. Maybe I'll vote for Bloomberg after all.

I did not cancel Shadow's appointment, but they said I could on short notice, like if I can't get her in the carrier, and it wouldn't be a problem. They're very nice over there at Astoria Veterinary Group. (Might as well give them a plug.) The plan now is that I'll take her over there on Monday evening, they'll do the surgery Tuesday, and I'll pick her up Wednesday evening after work.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Fingers and Toes

It's been more than a week since I wrote here. Things are pretty much status quo. Some nights we play musical feeding dishes. One night, I made no effort at all to feed either of them; just sat on the couch watching TV while the two cats roamed around, munching dry food. There was no hissing, no fighting. Another night, I put on gardening gloves to protect my hands, just in case I had to pick up a certain kittycat.

The day I took Shadow to the vet, which was Sept. 15 (hey, a month ago), she scratched my finger as I tried to grab her out from under the heat register in the bathroom. I put hydrogen peroxide and Neosporin on it right away, and a Band Aid, but sitting in the vets' waiting room several hours later, I noticed it was really sore.

This evolved into a visit two days later to my doctor, who told me to always see an M.D. when a cat scratches you. She said it was infected, and I must soak it in Betadine solution for 20 minutes, several times a day. Bacitracin is preferred over Neosporin, she said, so the cut stays open to let it drain, if it needs to drain. OK, that was taken care of without need of antibiotic.

When I got to my doctor's office, her assistant volunteered her opinion of my feral cat: Have her euthanized. I was pretty shocked, and, no, I am not planning to kill her.

The other night Shadow got me on the side of one toe! It wasn't her fault. I unintentionally sneaked up on her when she was eating in the kitchen, she sensed or heard me coming (I was wearing rubber flip-flops, pretty quiet, if you ask me, but she has really good hearing.) She did a panicked run, her claws scrabbling on the tiles. For a second I thought she was going to run between my feet, but one nail grazed a toe on my left foot. It hurt a little bit yesterday, so this a.m. I poured some peroxide on it. It foamed up, so, I guess there were some germs, but nowhere near as many as she had a month ago.

I so admire the little feral. One morning I was in a hurry to leave for work, but had to move my son's girlfriend's car for alternate side parking. I had been in the midst of cleaning Shadow's litter box, so I left it on the wooden chair by the front living room window, through which I had glimpsed the empty parking spot right in front of my apartment. Rushed off to catch the bus, forgetting to set the box back on the floor.

That night, I found she had used her box. I couldn't imagine how she had managed to balance, in the box, on the chair. Such a good girl! I praised her a lot.

This morning when I left for work, after three glorious days off, little Shadow jumped up on my bed and made herself comfortable. I was pretty fearful of what Bella would do, but left the house anyway because I didn't want to be late.

I work for the City of New York, and they make a very big deal about punctuality.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


Got home about an hour ago, having stopped to get Fancy Feast on the way. My house was dark and cold; the wind was blowing pretty hard all day and I left the windows open. So, I closed windows, turned on lights, and opened cat food cans.

The little one was in the living room, and Bella was in my room, where I had left her all day with a light on. I could see her shadow under the door, so I opened it, out she came like she had missed out on all the action all day.

Feeding them was interesting. It's after cat-dinner now, and Bella's back in my room, and yowling. She wants to come out. They seem to enjoy fighting, but I hate it. "Can't we all just get along?" I asked them.

Bella ran down the stairs, followed more slowly by Shadow. It may have been her first time on the stairs. Nothing much happened. Shadow came back up, then disappeared into the closet. I gave Bella her food in her old spot in the kitchen, while Shadow stationed herself under the rocking chair, where she has a good view of the kitchen, living room, hallway, and anything that moves in between.

Holding Shadow's food, I wondered where to put it. I took it over by the couch, where she ate for the first week that she was out of the bathroom/prison. Not interested. Meanwhile, Bella was eating well in the kitchen. No more mime of covering food with litter. Of course Shadow stalked her and chased her out of there. Bella ran into my room, so I brought the rest of her dinner there, too. God, this must be really boring to you readers. I moved Shadow's food to under the dining room table, and I see that the saucer has been licked clean.

I knew this conflict would happen, as soon as I found out the little feral was a female.

Bella's trying to defend her turf, and Shadow is challenging her. Shadow goes after her with such vigor, speed and athleticism, I have to admire her. Bella's built for comfort, not for speed. And, she's a lot older.

One of the vets in the group I go to told me the first time I brought Shadow in that keeping her would shorten Bella's life, because of the added stress. Another vet in the same practice told me if Bella accepts her, living with a companion cat will help her live longer.

Just peeked at Bella's dish, and it, too, is clean. Good.

Now she came out and scratched her claws on the cardboard thing in the hall. Little cat heard her, and came racing. There was spitting and chasing, but no attack. Ha, exercise for Bella. Maybe I should look at it that way.

Bella goes up on my bed for refuge, or maybe it's military strategy: to claim the high ground to repulse the invader. I don't think Shadow would dare get on my bed, at least not yet.

Maybe this will work out, and both cats will be better off. I'm just not sure how much time to give it. Or if I should keep them separated at night, or what. I know I don't want them fighting. I never did like confrontation.

A Chunk of Fur Gone

I was off yesterday, thank goodness. Got home late, due to a union meeting after work. We had the usual upsetment over feeding dinner, so I gave Bella hers in my room. She does this scratching thing, as if dinner is shit, and she's trying to cover it with sand. It's very insulting to me, as I tried hard to give her a nice meal. (It was canned chicken cat food, with real cooked chicken from the fridge mixed in, and a little mashed sweet potato, too.) The little one ate hers up.

I got up early yesterday morning 'cause the cable guy was coming to disconnect my cable box, which he did, at 8 a.m. Too expensive, especially with all these vet fees. I made myself bacon and pancakes, with coffee, fed the cats, cleaned their boxes, looked around my living room at the piles of unopened mail, and went back to bed. Slept till noon. I'd closed the door, and Bella was snuggled up against me looking so calm, it was wonderful. Then I noticed what I thought was a cut on her leg. It's actually a pink spot, where her white fur was removed, but the skin is not broken. I wonder who could have done that?

Poor Bella. She is really getting the worst of it. I can't believe how feisty this new cat is. Again this morning, she rubbed up against my legs in the kitchen. It's becoming a regular thing. She has such potential! I'm getting messages on Facebook, from three friends, to the effect that they bet I'll keep the little feral. "You're an old softie," one of them said.

I am meeting my friend Shani later at a bar on the Bowery, for a beauty sample event, of all things, so I will get home late again tonight. And tomorrow I am not off, after all, but doing overtime. Looking forward to Monday, the Columbus Day holiday, and Tuesday, my regular day off. That'll be nice.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Social Time at Home

My tame domesticated cat, who sleeps with me at night, is anti-social. My new wild cat is more social. I find this really hard to accept, or do anything about. Where is the Pet Psychic? She used to write a column in The Jersey Journal; I'll have to try to find her. But she was all about Bach flower essences, which are expensive. Heck, it might be worth it to see those two kitties eating out of the same dish.

That's all that the little feral wants. (Her name is Shadow now. Cinderella was too ridiculous.) I feel quite sorry for her, as she peers around a corner at me with her big green eyes when I stand in the kitchen. Did I tell you that the other day she bestowed upon me her first voluntary touch? I was in the kitchen, opening cans of cat food, when Shadow walked up to me and rubbed around my ankles. I was pretty thrilled. She hasn't been with me even a month yet. Maybe she's not as wild as I thought.

Ali tells me that mealtime was also playtime for the cats, when they lived in his backyard. They crowded around him to the point that he had to push them out of the way of the dish, a big aluminum pan. The cats would push each other, too, and then play-fighting would ensue. No wonder Shadow misses that interaction. She's lonely. Maybe I should adopt a kitten she can play with. Bella is a lost cause, but I still feel loyal to her.

Bella must keep eating, but if I feed her in her usual spot, the little one tries to join her, and there is hissing and bad feelings. It's going to stress Bella out, and I don't want her to land at the vet's again. So now I feed her in my room. At least she eats.

This morning I heard crunching coming from the kitchen. I put the dry food dispenser back on the floor, and what do you know, Shadow was eating a piece. Her mouth must have healed. I can't wait to be off tomorrow, to spend the day with them and see what happens.

Friday, October 2, 2009

The Greatest Secret in the World

Bella came home last night. The vet gave her an appetite stimulant, among other things, and said she is fine. I just have to make sure she keeps eating and drinking, duh. I paid $500 for this advice, which I knew already. I don't mean to sound so grouchy about it. They did do a lot of other stuff to check on her, and of course I am grateful that she is OK. The vet even deducted the cost of one of the X-rays ($125), which was considerate.

When I brought her home, I put Bella in my room and closed the door, but she wanted out. When I let her out, the little cat was the boldest she has been so far, meowing as if to greet my older cat. I think Cinderella missed her! She is social! What a surprise.

My grandparents had a dairy farm in Hope, N.J., a pretty little town with many stone buildings dating back to the 1700s. It was founded as a Moravian community. My friend Lin lives there, and she looms large in my hopes to find a better home for Cinderella, who is mis-named, by the way.

If anyone ever starts following this blog, please send me some ideas for a better name.

Anyway, several years ago Lin and I went to Hope's annual holiday craft fair, where I bought four wooden blocks, shaped and painted to represent various buildings in the town. One is the arched stone bridge, another the distillery, the Christian church that became a community center in my childhood, and the little red toll house that stands at the upper end of the bridge. There use to be a one-cent charge per cow driven over the bridge. Anyway, I was checking Cindy's litter pan and found the old stone bridge face-down in it. I was horrified, but no damage was done, it's easily cleaned. I put them all up higher on the window sill, a safer place. Through the evening I heard her playing with the dangling cords to the shades, so I put them up, too. Bella used to do that when I first got her.

I remembered a story my grandmother in Hope told me about her mother. When she was a young girl, she went to a county fair. She had 25 cents to spend for the whole day. She walked around the carnival, looking at what she could do or buy with this money.

There was a tent, with a sign outside saying "Learn the Greatest Secret in the World," for only twenty-five cents. How could my great-grandma resist? Her name was Barbara; I was named for her. So, she pays her twenty-five cents, goes inside the tent. The crowd sits down in folding chairs in the dim light. Pretty soon a lady comes out with a cutting board, a loaf of bread, and a knife. She demonstrates slicing the bread.

"Always cut from you; never cut toward you," the lady said. This, apparently, was the greatest secret in the world. At any rate, it became a family story, and probably saved many of us from slicing our fingers off. Many times when we cooked together, Nana told me that story, always with a little laugh and a twinkling eye. I just knew Barbara Coppersmith had shared that story with all her daughters.

Always make sure your cat is drinking water. And eating. Feed moist food rather than dry. Charge: $500. Could this be the 2009 equivalent of 25 cents in 1800s rural Maryland?

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Cinderella eats raw liver

Just got home from work, a moonlighting job, which happens very rarely. I was thrilled to see that the little feral had eaten the raw chicken liver I left in the kitchen for her. It's the first time that I know of that she has eaten in the kitchen; I always put her food at the end of the couch because that's where she lives, behind it. And Bella eats in the kitchen. I'm sure she thinks it's her place.

Bella is better. The vet's office called while I was at my other job to say I could pick her up, but it will have to wait till tomorrow. Glad to hear she is better, and wondering what it will take to keep her healthy. Bella would never in a million years have eaten raw liver.

I was glad to see the little cat did, because it tells me she has her instinct for raw food. I could also see that she had dragged it off the saucer, by the bloody marks on the floor (which I promptly cleaned). I hope this means the sores in her mouth have healed somewhat, and I also feel more optimistic that she could live outdoors, if she had to.

I have not yet told you what I named the cat. When I took her to the vet, they asked me her name, and if I wanted to list her as "stray." No, she was now living with me, so she's no longer a stray. I called her Cinderella, because of her dark color and because of her deprived early life. I pictured the irresistible ad I would write seeking a new home -- Cinderella is waiting for her prince, or something.

She doesn't seem so much like a Cinderella now; she seems more like a Spooky or Dark Shadow. She darts around like a rat, if I may say such an awful thing. Often I see only her tail disappearing into the crack between two sections of couch.

I wish I'd started writing this log earlier. Cinderella has been with me since Sept. 13, about two and a half weeks. There is so much to catch up on, like her visit to the vet. The vet found her negative for FIV and leukemia, excellent news, but when he examined her, he told me her mouth was very badly injured, from ingesting a toxic substance, like antifreeze. Feed her soft food, he said, and we'll see. Cats are resilient, they have nine lives, and "if she heals, she heals."

He had to sedate her in order to examine her and take the blood to test. He thanked me for telling him in advance that she was wild. Some people don't bother, so when the vet or assistant opens the carrier, the animal pops out and literally climbs the walls. He also gave me the "You can't save them all" speech and suggested that I take her for a ride into the country and let her out near a nice looking farm. After being spayed, of course. I am tempted, but it's getting cold now, and how would I know what had happened to her? I have more than $200 invested in this cat, as well as my own desire to see if I can tame her.

The vet was concerned about her, and asked me to call him two days later, which I did. "Is she eating?" was his first and really only question. Yes, she was, and she has been a good eater the whole time.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Bella's sick

Last night when I came home from work, Bella was not waiting for me at the top of the stairs as usual. I couldn't find her anywhere. I called her name, again and again, but she didn't come out. My apartment is not large, but there are plenty of places for a cat to hide. I decided to eat dinner. This was around 6:00 pm, and she didn't come out (from the closet) until 9:15. She looked all right, not limping or injured in any apparent way, but she hadn't eaten her canned food all day.

The last I saw of her yesterday morning, the little feral was chasing her. It didn't make me happy, but I know Bella has done the same, so I wasn't particularly worried. Now I was.

Bella spent all night in my room, on the floor behind the bed, and wouldn't come to me when I called her. That's very unusual. This morning, she was still hiding but at least I could see her. She felt limp when I picked her up. I brought her food into my room, but she wasn't interested. Of course, I had the day off so it would be another day off spent at the vet. To my surprise, I was able to get her right into the carrier, called for an appointment, and off we went.

The vet is very kind, and he explained the right thing to do was check her blood and X-ray her. But that's expensive. Still, I wanted to know what was wrong. She had been to the vet twice before this year, for dehydration. A saline injection fixed her up, both times. But we want to know what's causing it.

I blame myself, for bringing in a new cat that I know caused her stress. But the vet said she might have gotten this condition anyway. What he found in the X-ray was disturbing -- her whole stomach and intestines were filled with air.

"Can't she just fart?" I asked him. He said no. She might have to be force-fed, and all this other stuff. When I had my C-sections, I had gas, but they made me walk around till it passed. I guess this is different. She might have pancreatitis, and that would be very serious. Her condition is serious, as it is. I'm going to call the vet in a little while.

Monday, September 28, 2009

How I got my latest cat

Hello out there...
I adopted a young cat this month, the next-to-last survivor of a bunch of strays my friend Ali fed all summer. This isn't the cat I meant to get: those were two matching kittens, and both died of antifreeze poisoning, administered, we think, by one of Ali's neighbors. Some of them had complained about the cats hanging around. I knew the cats were strays, but when I saw them one day in August, they looked completely tame, relaxing on Ali's patio, some in the shade, some playing in the sun. There were eight or nine of them. He fed them a mixture of Cadillac canned food and rice. I went there to bring the two youngest ones home and have them checked out by the vet, and hoping to find homes for them. But when Ali's father picked one up and dropped him in Ali's old rabbit cage, he ran around in circles like a mad thing, then poked his head through a loose place in the cage, quickly squeezed through, and took off.
I had my cat carrier with me, so I left it there, asking Ali to call me if and when he caught the kittens.

Ali called me on Friday, Sept. 10, to tell me one of the kittens was dead and the other was paralyzed, still breathing, eyes open, "but he can't move." He wanted advice. I could give him none, except to take the cat to a vet, but we both thought it was too late. We didn't know if they had gotten sick or what. Both had come to his back steps, seeking help from the only humans they knew and trusted.

By Sunday night, Ali's father had caught a dark calico. I got the call, and went to get her. Ali had said she was banging around inside the the carrier, trying to get out, but by the time I got there, she was just lying on the carpet padding looking calm as could be. Ali had gone out for the evening, and his father handed me the cat carrier. As he did so, he told me she had never been touched, as far as he knew. As in, by a human. He got her into the carrier by putting a paper plate of food in it; she walked in, and he shut the door.

I wanted to say, Forget it! I can't take a feral cat home. But, I didn't have the heart.

On the way home, I talked to her and made sure nice music was on the car radio. I think she enjoyed the ride. At least, she did not complain.

I already have a cat, Bella, who is a beautiful, spoiled, black and white domestic longhair. She is about 11 years old. I've had her for ten. She was a rescue cat herself, and a little skittish at first, but nothing like this this one.

Twice before, I have attempted to adopt a companion for her, but it never worked out. She is territorial, and used to being the sole cat. Sure enough, when I opened the door and she saw the carrier, she must have known it had a cat in it. Her ears went back and she hissed. Then she turned and ran. "It's OK, Bella, she won't be here long," I said.

"She's our guest. Be nice to her."

As I've said, that was Sunday night, Sept. 13. I brought her into the bathroom, and opened the door to the crate. I put a night light in the room, closed the door and said good night. Then I went to bed and snuggled with Bella, trying to reassure her she was still my number-one cat.

I had left a litter pan in the bathroom, but when I went in there in the a.m., I discovered that the new cat had no knowledge of such things. She had pooped and peed on the carpet scrap, and boy, was it stinky. No wonder Ali's neighbors had complained. The cat herself was in the bathtub, discouraging me from taking a shower. So, I disposed of the carpet scrap, first taking bit of poop out and placing it in the litter box. I put the crate away, left food for the new cat, and went to work, unshowered.

When I came home that night, the bathroom had been trashed. All my cosmetics and skin creams, even my toothbrush, toothpaste and Softsoap were on the floor. Nothing had broken, but a bottle of scented oil was on its side. About half of it had spilled. Instead of smelling like poop, my bathroom and indeed, the whole apartment, reeked of scented oil, probably not the cat's favorite.

But, the litter pan had been used. Such a smart cat, I said, as I picked up all my stuff and moved it to other rooms. It looked like she had been running around ON the walls. We now had an appointment at the vet for the next day, Tuesday, Sept. 15.