New Friends

Fuzzy George and Sneakers have a new friend or two.  They love to sit in the window and watch their new friends. In fact Fuzzy George wants nothing more than to go outside and play with his new friends, though somehow I don’t think the feeling is mutual.  Honestly, I don’t know if they even realize that Sneakers and Fuzzy George exist. See they are squirrels, and they have been busily stuffing their bellies full of seeds from my tree.

squirrel

Super blurry, but I think the squirrel is clear in the middle of the picture.

I’ve decided to name the new friends Bip and Bop (named after the Mutts comic strip characters) are frequent visitors around here the last few weeks.  Apparently my tree has some really good seeds this year, and the squirrels are going all out trying to stock up on the good stuff before summer ends.

S & FG looking out window

Fuzzy George takes every opportunity to watch for Bip and Bop. Their favorite branches are right in front of my bedroom window, so they get nice and close for the cats to see. While his favorite spot is looking out my bedroom window, he also enjoys looking out the picture window at them. He has been known to stare up at them while they bounce between branches. He moves from one side of the window to the other with them. He also likes to take every opportunity to look out the front door to check for squirrels in the yard.

Sneakers enjoys the squirrels, but not nearly as much as FG. Sneakers is much more interested in the giant bugs that keep landing on the windowsills around here. Now THAT is interesting.

Watching the squirrels, and watching the cats watch the squirrels has been a welcome break from reality. It has been a stressful, heavy summer for me. Watching the squirrels pick the trees clean of seeds with a quiet determination has been calming. Listening to them rustle in the trees, and watching them jump between branches has been calming. Of course having free entertainment for the cats has been great. Watching Fuzzy George’s hunter instincts kick, and watching Sneakers not kick in, has been so fun. But most of all, just taking the few minutes from the stress of life to recenter is great.

 

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Fuzzy George: Reflecting & Looking Forward

Last weekend, July 23, Fuzzy George celebrated one year of being in his home. I was oblivious, due to the many other things going on in my life, and would have missed his anniversary completely, if it hadn’t been for a memory showing up in my Facebook timeline.  Last year, on Saturday July 23, Fuzzy George left his temporary residence at the vet clinic, and came to set up camp in my basement. It was a trial to see how he did in a home and, eventually, with another cat.  As a reminder, Fuzzy George came to me via work. The clinic I work at served as a halfway home for him while he was waiting for room at one of our local no-kill shelters, after he was sprung from a high kill animal control. I fell hard for this difficult cat, mostly because I knew he would never stand a chance of adoption at the shelter. 

I remember the first night Fuzzy George came home, he was terrified. He hadn’t been in such a big space in a long time.  At the vet’s office he had been living in offices and our large isolation ward (cage free). Neither were half as large as our basement. Plus, the basement had tv. A loud tv. Unfortunately for all, the transition coincided with a particularly nasty thunder storm. Fuzzy George spent his first night curling up in laps, demanding to be as close to people as he possibly could. I have never seen my cat so cuddly, sweet and affectionate. I was concerned, because I knew he was going to show his true face to my family very soon. He did. Not long after, but we will get there.  I remember Sunday morning I had to dig him out of a hidey hole under our couch that we didn’t even know existed. I remember cuddling him and developing a horrible, horrible allergic reaction. I have never had such a bad response to anything. My face swelled, I developed itchy red blotches all over my face and arms. I had to resort to benedryl to finally stop the reaction. I had never had this response to him before, and I was terrified it meant he was going to have to go to the shelter. Thankfully, I just seem to have responded to something he got into, or to whatever extra chemicals he was stress shedding. 

Fuzzy George soon learned that there was a door the humans went through when we left him. And he wanted to be on the other side of that door.  Unfortunately, Sneakers was on the other side of the door and felt that HE wanted to be on the side Fuzzy George was on. Both were completely unaware of the other. They just weren’t happy with a closed door (still a thing. They are always on the wrong side of every door. And yes, I did just make a Cat’s the musical reference.)).  

Properly introducing cats takes time. Separating them, letting them become aware of the other cat’s presence are key. So of course my cats ignored all the rules. Sneakers, living up to his name, slipped past me and down the stairs to the basement that first Sunday. He literally ran right past Fuzzy George, who was standing on the stairs. When Sneakers got downstairs and discovered the new cat standing behind him he literally jumped an inch up and backwards.  They sniffed each other, were curious about each other, then did their own thing. Fuzzy George’s thing was to run upstairs.  So my plans to slowly, very gradual introduce Fuzzy George to his new home and feline roommate, were crushed in less than 24 hours.  Both cats paced through the house, the tips of their tails twitching frantically as Fuzzy George explored his new surroundings.

The first few weeks with these two was rough. I could never tell if Fuzzy George and Sneakers were fighting or playing, or both. Fuzzy George adapted decently, but he soon showed his naughty side. Stalking feet at night when we got up to go to the bathroom. Taking Sneaker’s favorite cat tree and NOT sharing. Suddenly becoming noise reactive and trying to bite faces off at the sound of high pitched noises. Yeah, he was trouble. There were more than a few times that I highly doubted Fuzzy George would be staying with his. Many a nights I was too stressed to sleep, too worried about these cats. 

Playing.


Over the past year Fuzzy George has made enormous strides. He loves people, especially men. He loves snuggling in blankets and soft things. He and Sneakers are BFFs. They sleep together on my bed at night, and can frequently be found tussling. While Sneakers can be a bit rough for Fuzzy George, he knows when to say “enough” (if only Sneakers would listen….) They can frequently be found sitting in their matching cat trees, staring out the front window of my bedroom. 

More than anything though, Fuzzy George helped me. By showing this cat love and affection, giving him a chance at a happy home and a chance at life, I healed something inside me.  Unconsciously I wanted to know that “broken” creatures can be loved and be happy.  When he displayed serious behavior issues, I neeeded to know that I could fix them. I needed to know that I was as good with cats as I think. I also needed to know that just cause the going was tough that he wouldn’t be abandoned. I find working with and socializing cats to be theraputic, because I understand the fear and anxiety they are going though. I understand not feeling like you can trust anyone around you. And building the trust of a terrified animal is the most beautiful thing.  So, by “fixing” Fuzzy George, I was also fixing a part of me. 

These days Fuzzy George prefers my dad to me. He follows my dad around the house and sits in his face. They have conversations too, Fuzzy George emitting loud squaks in response to my dad. It’s adorable. I am totally jealous. Fuzzy George sleeps with me most nights, usually right in the middle of the bed.  Last night he decided to pounce on my limps every time they moved. It’s hard to sleep when you have a tiny killer trying to kill your body limps.  He still bites, just me though. And not nearly as much and not nearly as hard as he used to.  He is still crazy. You can find him sitting on a chair with a distant gaze in his eyes and its instantly clear that no one is home.  But he snuggles next to legs, and he purrs his giant motor of a purr that makes his whole body vibrate.  He makes everyone laugh with his antics. He is a wonderful cat, with a few loose screws, who just needed a chance to see what a cozy, loving, safe home looks like. 

Learning and Loving with Feral Cats

Caring for feral cats can be super hard. It can be rewarding and fun, but it can be super hard.  One of the hard parts that no one prepared me for, was coming to the end. I have been caring for Mama and Little Black for almost 9 years (Mama showed up fall of 2008). At the time I trapped them, started caring for them the common thought was that feral cats don’t live much longer than 3 years. Well, I can tell you that is not true in all cases.  Yes, some of my colony has disappeared and most likely have crossed the Rainbow Bridge. But not all of them. I still have my two girls. Mama with her cautious ways and Little Black who is bold as brass. In their own separate ways, they have exemplified two ways of surviving “in the wild.”

Mama 16 (3)

Mama waking up after her sedation last year.

Sadly, my girls are getting old now. As they get older they are facing new obstacles that their street smarts won’t help them with-declining health. Last year, after much struggle, I trapped Mama and took her to the vet. She had been vomiting something awful and was the most likely suspect for the pudding-like poop I was finding. She was sedated for a full exam and the vet determined she most likely has Irritable Bowel Disease (IBD). Without doing full labs, an ultrasound and possibly getting a sample of the tissue, we won’t know for sure. Thankfully (and somewhat miraculously) she tested negative for fleas and parasites.

I can’t get near Mama, so there would be no way to medicate her. She is feral and an accident could happen at any time, so a major work-up was not worth the stress (to either of us) nor the money. The vet and I discussed euthanasia, but I decided I wanted to give her some more time. I worried about the decision, was I sentencing her to suffer declining health? It’s been a year now since that visit and she is still kicking.Bless her heart, she is still going strong.  Her fur is scraggly and she constantly gets mats the size of my hand. She is getting skinny too. The vomit and the poops never really cleared up either, despite some time getting B12 supplements. She is happy though. She is the first to greet me at mealtimes. She even got close enough to sniff my fingers the other day! She plays with catnip when I provide it.

Little Black bald legsRecently, Little Black has lost the majority of the fur on her legs and belly. I think she is over-grooming herself, possibly from fleas. Though, she goes catting around and gets into who-knows-what, not to mention all the mice she brings home, so it could be just about anything.  She is getting super skinny too. Once things settle down at work (the vet’s office) and in my personal life, I will trap this little girl and get her in to the vet.  Thankfully for me Little Black LOVES to go in the trap. I have caught her at least 5 times over the years, and there are many a cat who has gotten away because she set the trap off first. She is still her spunky, sassy self so I am not too concerned about comfort level. Still, I know she needs to get in. Hopefully it will be something as easy as a flea treatment to get her to stop over-grooming herself.

I was sitting outside one night last week watching my girls and thinking about all this. They are old. Their coats are looking rough. There is constant vomit and gross poop to clean up. And there is almost nothing I can do for them. More than anything I have gone through with these girls, this breaks my heart. I am great at medicating cats and I could easily slip drugs into their food. Unfortunately, I can’t trap them and get them in for regular vet care/re-checks. I can’t get them in for routine blood work, or for a yearly refill of their medications. And it kills a little part of my soul to not be able to do this.

I know that routine trips to the vet would be too stressful for them, particularly for Mama. And I know that I gave them a huge gift by providing them with regular meals, a safe space to live, shelter in the winter, and so much love. I gave them so much when I trapped them and got them spayed at a relatively young age. All those kittens they didn’t have to raise! It still breaks my heart that I can’t give them the best health possible in their golden years.

When I started out on the crazy journey of TNR 8 years ago, I never expected to still be caring for my girls. And I never, ever expected that the hardest part would be the end our of journey together. Of all the hard things in my life because of them– all the fights with my family and neighbors; all the hours of trapping; all the vacations and risks I never took–I never imagined the hardest thing would be saying good-bye. They have changed my life in ways I wasn’t prepared for. I am glad I wasn’t prepared for this though. If I had been, I may have never started out, and then where would we all be?

Selfie Sunday: Sneakers in the Sun

I’ve been trying to decide on the best shot to use for Selfie Sunday for so long, that I keep not posting.  Then I got this perfectly timed photo, and knew I had my shot.

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Sneakers and I are enjoying the setting sun and some quiet time together. Life has been busy, which means we haven’t had nearly as much quality time as he would like. I feel bad that I can’t give him as much attention as ge would like. At the same time though, I’m excited that he does his flirty kitty routine with me again.

For months he has been quiet and less enthusiastic when I came home from work. I had been replaced by Fuzzy George. I missed my days of Sneakers tripping over himself to see me when I got home from work. I missed having him waiting for me when I came home. But worst of all, I felt guilty because I took it as a sign that I really had been letting Sneakers down all that time he was an only cat. While it was nice to know that Sneakers had a friend to keep him company during the day, and that he wasn’t lonely anymore, I did feel a pang of regret for the excited cat greetings after a long day of work. Though, it is hard to play with a cat who immediately runs under the couch when you try to play with him (he wants me to chase him. He’s an odd duck.)

Then I worried for a bit that I had replaced Sneakers with Fuzzy George. Fuzzy George was getting a large amount of my attention, being a high-maintenance cat after all. It took us months of work to get the biting to subside, to get him to calm down. Not to mention his constant runny eyes and his dirty, acne covered chin that needed cleaning. Maybe Sneakers hadn’t replaced me with Fuzzy George, maybe I had just replaced him.  When introducing a new cat to the house, I know the inter-cat dynamic changes; I didn’t think of the cat-human dynamic changing. 

Thankfully we seem to have come to a good place. Fuzzy George has his human buddy, Non-Fuzzy George. Sneakers has me. I have gotten better about balancing my time between the two of them. It is nice to know that Sneakers still values me, even if most of his flirting is only to ask for kibbles. It is good to know that the three of us, Fuzzy George, Sneakers and myself all have each other.  The boys have settled into their daily routines now, they have their time with their favorite person. I make sure to balance attention out when I am home (which is never enough). And we all sleep in a big pile on my bed most nights.  It is good to have a routine. It is good to feel needed and loved. My thoughts, but I am sure thoughts my boys echo. 

Now if I can just get Sneakers to stop going under the couch. 

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