Friday, January 28, 2011

NAME THAT KITTY - Part 2 on Thursday

The Cat Who Came In Through The Window

Tom says I ramble and get off track, which is true and I did, and Jeff says my posts are too long, and they are -- so I ended my last post when it got impossibly long--even though I hadn't even ever gotten to the point.  So this is part 2 and really is about the cat.  Or, at least, after a while it is.

But first, let me explain: 1) Cats who come in  and  2) The window

The first ever cat who came in uninvited did so through some door or other -- we're not sure which or when.  This feral cat, once in, did not like the inside of our house, nor the people in it, and especially the loud screams they made  and he tried desperately to get out.  The people did not like the feral cat inside the house, especially the loud shrieks he made and they tried desperately to get him out. We were all unsuccessful. The cat tore around the house screeching and shredding things and we sprinted after him.  When he holed up in the small back bathroom, 15 year old Jeff, who thought it was all much ado about nothing, volunteered to go into the room with a pillow case and capture the cat.  He proceeded to carry out his plan--without a plan.  Jeff is like that.  Shirtless, gloveless, clueless, in shorts, he entered the bathroom armed with a pillow case.  We listened, fascinated, to the uproar coming through the door.  Screaming and ouching and spitting and hissing and things knocking into others things went on for a very long time.  At last the door opened. Jeff silently emerged with a lumpy, vocal pillow case which he carried outside and threw over the fence as far as it would go. Jeff, who never spoke of it again, was ordered by his Grandmother to go for a tetanus shot on account of the cat bites and scratches that covered his body.  The cat never came back.

But there is another cat........ 
                                            And there is a window.....

We got the window because of Puck and Muck.  Puck is our animal shelter kitty that Jeff and Cyndy gave us for our wedding anniversary about 11 years ago. Elfin and mischievous  when she was tiny, like the character from Shakespeare, her name fit.  Now she is grown, and lazy and sleeps in the sun most of the time--but still is an important part of the family. She loves to pose on the deck rail, the front window sill, the bookcase, the top of Tom's recliner, or anywhere that shows off her beauty.
Please Take Me Home
Muck is one of those unplanned-for kitties thrust upon us by happenstance, because we are known to be a soft touch. A work friend called about the poor abandoned kitty who had been living in the field across from their office for some weeks. They brought it inside, but no one would take it home, so it was going to the pound, unless.......

Muck is a tortoise shell kitty, whose fur looks like it is all mucked up.  She looks exactly like Sideways Kitty, same fur, same half pint size, except that her head is sitting straight on her neck, so no one stares. She was not feral, so it was clear that someone had thrown her out into the field. She and Puck, after a few testy weeks, settled down and became friends.

I was not happy about some things though. Since the children were grown up and gone, we had pared down our menagerie to the two cats and had no more ancillary animals, such as gerbils, etc. I was ready to be less intense about animal care and less tied down to home.  Most especially, I hated, hated, hated, the mess of the litter box.  When we traveled for the weekend we could put the cat food and water outside in a bowl and that worked pretty well.  Unlike dogs, they don't eat it all up at once and it lasts the whole weekend. Because they are easier to maintain is why we have mostly stuck to cats anyway.  Except for the blasted litter box.  However, the food became a problem because of the raccoons and possums, who ate it all in whatever quantities we put out and who became bolder and bolder in their pursuit of it.  And they became bigger and bigger.

So, what to do?  I began to contemplate a cat door. I never wanted one, because I think they are way ugly and I always thought about the next person in.  How would a not-cat person new-owner handle our cat door. What to do?  I'll tell you the answer! Google it.
 The google answer is a cat window, which fits in the window like a window air conditioning unit.  That is, you push up the lower part of the window and insert the cat window contraption into the window.  No cutting a hole, and it goes with you when you go.  I was amazed that there was such a thing.  It was sorta pricey, but we ordered it and got our neighbor to help install it. (We are from the city and we went to law school.  We can't do anything useful.) Jeff's father-in-law saw it, loved it and made himself one. (He is from the country and he did not go to law school--though his daughter Cyndy did.  He can do everything useful!)  If you are of our ilk instead of his, I will be glad to share the purchasing info with you.

It took Puck and Muck a very long time to figure out how to use it.  We swung the flap back and forth. We stuck our hands through it.  We stuck them through it.  We put bowls of tuna on the other side of the flap.  We waved sardines in front of their noses and snatched the sardines through the flap as the kitties grabbed for them. Finally there was a breakthrough and it has been heaven since.  No more litter box. No more having to feed them outside where the raccoons can steal the food. They are completely independent. They are free to come and go as they please and so are we.  We can go  away for a weekend with no worries. 

Nothing is ever perfect.  Though Puck--the lazy one--is not, Muck is a hunter.  I think it comes from his time living in the field on his own. He quite frequently catches things and brings them in through the cat window. (see earlier post YEECH SOME BUGS DESERVE THE DEATH PENALTY)  Usually they are not dead; in fact, they are often quite lively. I try to catch him if I see him come in with something in his mouth, but if he sees me approaching, he dashes down the hall with the garden snake, cricket, field mouse, baby rabbit, frog, or bird and decides its fate.  If it gets away, it may live in the house for several days before we rescue it or he recaptures it. Then it is released back into nature or suffers a slow death at his paws in the same way it occurs in the wild on Animal Kingdom.  Except it is our rug that gets all bloody under the bed and all. Yuck! 

This window thing has worked well for many years.  There have been naysayers.  So many of our friends have warned us of the dangers. "What," they say, "if wild creatures from the outside--raccoons, possums and such, come in through that window?  What will you do then?"  Of course, it has not happened in all these 9 years, so why should it now?  I have seen no raccoons, no possums, no deer, no bear.   Not in all these years of Muck and Puck going in and out 10 or 15 times in the day and in the night.

And then............

About a year ago, a big black cat came in that window.  This feral cat, once in, did not like the inside of our house, nor the people in it, and especially the loud screams they made  and he tried desperately to get out.  The people did not like the feral cat inside the house, especially the loud shrieks he made and they tried desperately to get him out. We were all unsuccessful. The cat tore around the house screeching and shredding things and we sprinted after him.  He clawed up the walls and slid down; he tore across the tops of the upholstered chairs; he ran up the front drapes and shredded his way down, pulling them apart as he came. Then by some miracle he found the cat window and zipped his way out.

We were all traumatized, including Puck and Muck and sat quietly for awhile, gathering ourselves until we could regain our senses and be thankful it was over.

AND THEN THE CAT CAME BACK.  Again. and then again. and then again. Mostly he comes in the dead of the night. Mostly he comes straight in and out like a streak through the cat window.  To get food and water and be gone.  Muck and Puck, who once freaked out each time, hardly blink an eye now, though they do not approach him, or even move while he is inside for those few seconds.  He has become slightly bolder.  He comes sometimes in the evening while I am at the computer in the next room, but never when I am in the den--the room with the window.  He comes more often.  I can not post a picture, because I do not have a camera with a shutter speed fast enough to catch anything more than a blur.

So, is he ours yet?  Or will he ever be?  Is it time to start trying to make friends? To start picking out a name? 

Fenster and  Sam
Among the most recent good names we have used is one by master namer Jeff for their german short haired pointer who just died after 11 wonderful years.  Fenster was the most kid friendly dog I have ever known with almost the best name ever.  We have immortalized Fenster in the law firm by incorporating his name into some of our computer passwords--though I guess we will have to change them now since I have spilled the beans. 

Some years ago Jeff's kids gifted us a bronze cat for our deck, which they and Tom together named Buck, to go with Puck and Muck.  Tom is quite anxious to be in charge of the next choice of names for any new animals.  Considering his South Park nature, I am refusing to accommodate and, still in the nascent stage of the relationship, I am wondering, what shall we name the cat who came in through the window?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

NAME THAT KITTY - Part 1 on a Sunday

The Cat Who Came In Through the Window

He is part of our family now--sort of--and it is time we gave him a name.  In our family the naming of pets is most important and the--sort of--is sort of important.

We had several pets when I was young, some Jim's some mine,
 some ours together. Our names for them often were physically descriptive or , more often, reflected their personalities. Our very first was Shorty Shorttail, a tiny turtle that Mom and Dad found in the creek in Estill Springs, which, you may remember from earlier posts,  is Mom's home town in Tennessee. He was just the right size for our pet restricted apartment and we were allowed to keep him at our young age only after earnest, down-on-our-knees oaths that we would care for him. 

We hovered over Shorty Shorttail incessantly for weeks--picked him up, talked to him, fed him lettuce, bugs, fish and turtle food, hot dogs and other more inappropriate things.  As time passed by, however, the novelty wore off, we visited his tiny turtle tank up on the mantle less and less often and Mom took over the feeding more and more. When Shorty Shorttail passed on, from natural causes or heartbreak, Mom disposed of his tiny body. According to Mom (I have blocked this from my memory), it was several weeks before she heard, one morning, the plaintive cry from me, "Where's Shorty Shorttail," and had to tell us that he was gone forever.  We were inconsolable. Clearly we were too young to accept the responsibility of pets and were not allowed to have another for a long time.

We had several pets with lovely names after that. Her Majesty Honey the Cat earned her name because of her color and because she thought she was the Queen. Her major accomplishment was to leap onto the mantle, delicately weave her way along the various pieces of bric-a-brac there, without disturbing one--an amazing feat--and, just at the edge, strike a majestic pose where she would sit for several hours. Thus her name. Our family tradition was to gift animals names of more than one word--with a last name and first, or with titles and surnames--and we always called them the full name--still do.  So, for instance, she was not called Honey or whatever, but Her Majesty Honey the Cat.  Even when I was calling her to come in, it was not "Here kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty.....", but "Here hermajestyhoneythecat,
                                   here hermajestyhoneythecat........"

The Great Jimmy Piersall
My favorite pet name when I was little was my last cat's. She came along at a time when my Dad and I were big Birmingham Baron fans.  They were a farm team for the Major Leagues and we went to many a game together. I was in heaven. I liked the hot dogs, drinks and pop corn at least as much as I did the game.  Being on an adventure with Dad and being in the know about the team was also very cool. My favorite player was Jimmy Piersall, a shining star of the team, lightening fast outfielder and great hitter, who went on to star in the Majors. He became famous and had a movie made about him for other reasons--but that is another story.

So as I planned out the name of my new kitty, Jimmy Piersall was a major player.  She was one of a litter of 10 from Mitzi, our next door neighbor's cat. She was a fuzz-ball new born. Having lived under the house for a time during her early life, she had fleas.  My last name (pre-Turnipseed) was Davis.  All that rolled around together in my head and came out
Fleabitten Butterball Piersall Mitzi Jr. Davis


I loved her.  I loved her name.  I loved to say it.  I loved to call her.  
"Here  fleabittenbutterballpiersallmitzijrdavis............

                  Here  fleabittenbutterballpiersallmitzijrdavis.........."

My grandkids love her name now!!  We play a game of trying to see who can say it fastest, who can call her the best.  I expect the ghost of Fleabitten Butterball Piersall Mitzi Jr. Davis to come flying in the door now just as she used to do back then.

Our children have carried on the tradition of giving careful consideration to our pet names, sometimes more creative and sometimes not so much.  During a particularly busy and stressful period of our lives, when we were in the midst of a political race or something, we had some simple names, Bicky and Licky -- which were short for Big Kitty and Little Kitty

G E R O N I M O !
Jeff was always the best namer.  His black cat was GeronimoGeronimo liked to hide somewhere--behind the couch or door, on the top of the shelf, and, when you passed by, he would spring up in the air with his back arched and bounce at you on little cat feet.  If he were able, you can be sure he would have been screaming "Geronimo." 

Most of our pets have been found, like Sideways Kitty. When he came up out of the back woods, he had multiple problems, all of which the vet cured. The most problematic was a ferocious ear infection.  When it finally stopped draining and the swelling was gone, he appeared
Sideways Kitty
healthy, except that his head leaned way over to the left side in quite the unusual way. The doctor assured us that he was well, but could not predict if he would ever straighten up, or if his balance would be permanently affected.  Well, no, yes and no.  He never straightened up, but forever after walked with his head way sideways, like he was trying to catch raindrops in one ear.  At first it upset his balance even after the infection was gone, I think just because he was having to look at the world sort of cattywampus, as it were. He sort of wobbled when he walked.  Once his eyes and brain got adjusted, his equilibrium did too and he was fine, except for his sideways head.  It was very strange to see Sideways Kitty jump like any other cat though, and strangers were quite unnerved by the sight.

We had several other no-name kitties, not named because they were not really ours long enough. One was a bedraggled, white kitty found in the bushes, close to death.  Jeff and Jeny were frantic to keep her, but I refused to add her to the 2 cats and 1 dog we had at the time.  We did take her to the emergency vet (it was on a Sunday) and spent a vast amount of money to save her life.  The doctor, bless his heart, agreed to split the cost of the treatment (in other words, I guess he charged us half price) and agreed to find her a home.  We visited her and kept tabs to be sure that truly happened, to be sure she didn't end up in the place where the unadoptable kitties go.  Had we kept her, I would have called her Expensive.

Our dog was the only pure bred we ever owned.  He was a poodle.  We never had him poodle cut and, in fact, rarely had him professionally groomed, so only an expert would have known he was pure poodle. Augie Dawgie was a delight, though pretty scruffy looking, and we wanted to honor his heritage by having him registered.  We thought it would enhance his self esteem to have papers.  Since it was their idea, I leaned on the kids to prepare the papers, which required gathering an infinite amount of detail about his health, his family tree, his measurements, his daily routine and the name he was to be registered under.  

Imagine our surprise when Augie Dawgie was rejected.  The powers that be returned the application the kids had sweated over, not because his lineage was faulty or lacking, but because the NAME WE SUBMITTED WAS INAPPROPRIATE. Jeff's children love to hear what he and his sister decided to do about this setback. This is their favorite family story.
We put our heads together and decided to come up with a name that would pass muster in the snooty world of pure breeds and show dogs.  We submitted it and it was accepted.  That was how he became....
   but he was always just Augie Dawgie to us.

  (to be continued)