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Sunday, January 3, 2010

One Cat Over the Line, Sweet Jesus!

Like the 70’s song, I fear, our house has reached capacity. In fact, as of Thanksgiving, we’ve got one too many cats.

This all began when our beloved resident ex-stray and tough guy, Bob, disappeared in wintry weather. Four days passed. It was very cold, and he did not return. I’d rather keep him in like the others, but there was no way Bob would submit to being a full time housecat, so my husband and I had made the best of his wandering. Now we mourned for him, thinking that even his superior street smarts hadn’t kept him safe. In fact, I was so worried I checked in at the township police station, even though I knew a wandering cat was “in violation of township regulation” and subject to a fine.

Into this emotional turmoil came my best buddy, Patti, who feeds a few of the local strays. Onto her porch, in the twilight, had come a starving orange kitten, attracted by the dish of Purina she put out every night. She could count every rib, every bump in her little kitty spine. The kitten looked up at her with golden eyes and chirruped sweetly. Patti knew she had to rescue her.

The next day, Patti came to me with this sad little creature in a carrier. She was, Patti said, to fill the hole in our house left by the death of Bob. My husband wasn’t thrilled, but Patti bravely offered to pay all the vet bills, and to get her tested for all the kitty plagues. The first thing was to flea treat her because she was polluted. I made a place for her in one room, with box, food, bedding and water. I sat down cross-legged, and the kitten promptly climbed onto my knee, purring. She proved to not only have fleas, but a host of dog ticks which had to be removed. Later I’d discover an infected wound on her left flank. When my other cats looked in at her, she hissed and growled, imitating, I think, the meanest cat she knew, the one who had bitten her. Integration of this fierce little mite into the existing peaceful feline kingdom inside our home was going to be difficult.

As people with a multi-cat household know, behavior problems erupt if there are changes of any kind, particularly at the introduction of a new cat. Hissing and fighting—even between cats that were friends—happens. It’s “the new baby” problem in spades, with jealous “siblings” and the added difficulty of interspecies communication. (I try, but sometimes I just can’t think like they do.) Now I had the new kitty—a semi-feral survivor with a septic wound and PTS who needed lots of special handling—as well as the other three who were undergoing an emotional adjustment to the new reality in the house.

Of course, you can guess what happened next. One day after the arrival of the kitten, I opened the front door and Bob walked in, with his customary loud “MA-WOW, MA-WOW.” He rubbed against my legs, and then headed toward the communal food dish. As I watched his striped backside recede, I spoke aloud. “You didn’t call. You didn’t write. WHERE the hell have you been?”

Of course, I’ll never get an answer, but I’m too darn glad to see him to be cross. I sat down beside him and patted him while he chowed noisily, dropping food all over the floor and purring like mad. I figure he lost some lives, and I sincerely hope he will be more careful of –whatever—in future!
So things continue here with one more cat than I can easily handle. The kitten has been very sick, and to the vet for surgery. She’s begun to grow nicely, but she’s still paranoid and hissing. My days are full. I’m a little old lady cat patter, vet tech, and feline psychiatrist. The patting I’ve got down pretty well. That’s a pleasure. The rest takes time. The refrain of the old song goes round and round in my head while I scrub water bowls and cat boxes. We’re “one cat over the line.”