The Peace a Cat Lends to a Home


This photo of Gracie at the window on a snowy day gives me a sense of quiet, of peace. Maybe it’s the shades of blues of the late day light. Maybe it’s the warm comfort looking out on snow-draped trees, cup of tea in hand, the house quiet. Maybe its the stillness of the cat, observing.

Gracie sat at the window for some time, until the last bird departed the bird feeder, and then sauntered off, blinking her greeting to me as she passed by.

 

Gracie and the reversal of feline kidney disease

IMG_0862Gracie is an extraordinary being—calm, content, intelligent, and sweet-natured.  All this despite a rough beginning.  She came to us at eight months of age after having had a litter of kittens and being thrown from a car window by her forearm.

A man and woman found her and took her in while searching for a home for her.  Through a circuitous path, she came to us.  We’ve had her for thirteen years now.  She has been devoted and loving presence, almost Buddha-like, through moving more than once, kids, and a few rescue dogs and cats.  I love her completely.

Several years ago Gracie was diagnosed, as many cats are, with kidney disease—thought to be untreatable.  A savvy DVM  with alternative medicine training put Gracie on a Chinese herb (Ba Wei Di Huang Wan–see below), which improves blood flow to the kidneys (and therefore optimizes functioning of the undamaged parts of the kidney).  Much to the surprise of mainstream veterinarians, repeated blood work revealed that much of Gracie’s kidney disease was reversed, improving her prognosis beyond 6 months/1 year.  In addition, I also put her on low-phosphorus, low-sodium, high-protein (not low-protein) food. She regained weight and resumed a full life.  It’s been four years now, but she’s starting the inevitable decline. The herbs have done what they could.  I am resigned and heartbroken, grateful for the time we’ve had together and for her benevolent presence through these years, and I’m dreading the coming goodbye.  Gracie is nearby as I write this, snug and drifting in and out of sleep.

Info on herbal treatment of feline kidney disease:
Ba Wei Di Huang Wan ( https://www.google.com/search?q=ba+wei+di+huang+wan+1+g+buy&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8 )—500 mg. 2x/day or 1/4 teaspoon 2x a day— available online and through your vet via Natural Path Herb Company. I use the Natural Path ( http://www.nphc.ca/tips.php ) vet-ordered, high-quality version.  Gracie refused to eat it sprinkled on her food, so I bought size 4 empty vege capsules ( http://emptycaps.com/size-4-vegetarian-capsules-quantity-1000.html ) (larger-size capsules are difficult for cats to swallow) and an inexpensive capsule-making contraption that makes filling it relatively easy.  The effort has been worth Gracie’s quality life extension: https://www.herbaffair.com/cap-m-quik-capsule-filling-machine/

 

It’s Cold Out There

Dog in snow ID-100144221Please bring your animals inside.  Fur helps but doesn’t do much in icy winds and frigid temperatures.

Please, have a heart.  Bring dogs and cats inside.  They feel pain too.

 

photo courtesy of Spaniel in the Snow by Tina Phillips, freedigitalphotos.com

Ollie & Spuds – Chapter 3

Chapter 3 – With that Picture in Mind, She Can Sleep
© 2014 Carolyn Cott

Chapter 1: https://untoldanimalstories.org/2014/02/15/ollie-spuds-chapter-1/
Chapter 2: https://untoldanimalstories.org/2014/02/21/ollie-spuds-chapter-2/

red cat from free digitalSpuds had no plan. By night she hunted. By day she slept. She moved from place to place, restless.

Spuds wandered eventually into the city. Spuds learned to spot potential danger and change direction instantly. She came across a band of other cats in the park tried to live with them, but they were as prone to fighting as they were to grooming each other. She left and eventually made her home in a partially crushed box in an abandoned trash pile. It was often bitter cold, but there were plenty of mice to hunt. Water was the issue. She had to learn to drink when it rained and went thirsty when it did not. When the water froze in winter, she went without for longer periods of time. It was difficult not to crave water; sleep was the only escape from that gnawing need, but sleep was never deep and sound—Spuds learned to keep part of her mind alert for danger even in sleep.

By the late winter, Spuds’ hunger and belly had grown. One cold morning she birthed four tiny kittens, three orange, and the tiniest a pale ginger.

Spuds had never loved as much as she loved her babies. The need for food increased, so she’d leave her kittens huddled together, first communicating to them soundlessly not to move, not to mew. She held the gaze of each of them, then trotted off to hunt for her family.

She came to an area where the air was fragrant with food, women’s high-heeled shoes clicked on the sidewalk, and men’s overcoat tails flew behind them in wind. There were shiny lights and big cars along the street, and fragrant alleys and dumpsters behind the buildings.

The next night she moved her kittens, one at a time, in her mouth, waddling as fast as she could through the streets, to their new home.   She nudged the kittens beneath a stack of wooden pallets. There was no cardboard to tuck into and the concrete was cold, but food was available. There were always trade-offs.

Spuds would jump easily up and into the dumpster, emerging with delicious tidbits she’d present to her kittens. Once the kittens had eaten, she would do so, and then they curled together, the whole lot of them purring. This was her happiest time.

As the kittens grew, Spuds couldn’t keep them sequestered, so they wandered around together with her searching for food. Twice she had to fight dogs to keep them safe. Once the smallest ginger-colored kitten barely escaped the wheels of a passing truck.

Spuds sensed the time was drawing near when the kittens would wander off and start their own lives. When they settled down to sleep together, she sent them mental pictures of the life she hoped they would lead: images of a warm fireplace, kind hands setting down bowls of food and water, a soft place to sleep, and safety, safety, safety.

to be continued…

Chapter 1: https://untoldanimalstories.org/2014/02/15/ollie-spuds-chapter-1/
Chapter 2: https://untoldanimalstories.org/2014/02/21/ollie-spuds-chapter-2/

photo by Dan courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

 

Ollie & Spuds – Chapter 1

There is a lane I recall, somewhere deep in dim memory.  I see it snow covered and winding and edged by black trees.  It is the way home.  I never returned there.
© 2014 Carolyn Cott

He lifts his nose to the wind and sniffs.  Something new.  With his head still resting on his paws, he opens his eyes and sees a flash of a ginger-colored cat, skinny and in pursuit of something, at the far end of the alley. red cat from free digital

Ollie climbs out from under a pile of rags and cardboard and stretches, keeping an eye on the cat.  The cat pounces and misses as the mouse leaps into a small hole in the brick wall and disappears.  The cat saunters into the one ray of sunlight angling between the tall buildings, sits down and begins washing herself.  The sun sparks on her ginger-colored fur.  Her movements are measured and deliberate.  Her eyes are slits, but she sees, she knows he is there.  She is watching.

It’s been three days now that the cat has appeared in his alley.  He thinks of it as his alley because he’s been there how long now?  Maybe two months, maybe four.  He remembers coming there.  There was snow.

The man had hunched over the steering wheel, his jaw set.  Ollie wanted to enjoy the car ride, but something was very wrong.  The kids weren’t there, although the back seat smelled vaguely of peanut butter.  The woman wasn’t there.  She had cried and stroked his fur before the man unchained him and yanked him toward the car.  The woman had whispered something to the man, who swung around toward her, his teeth clenched, saying, “No.  No.”

The man stopped the car on a deserted street.  He looked both ways before opening the back seat door, pulled Ollie out by the scruff of the neck, and sped off.

Ollie ran after the car as it moved farther and farther away, turned, and was gone.  He memorized the place where the car had turned.  It might be important.  Panting, he sat down, only then noticing the coldness of the snow.  He looked around.  The sun had just risen, casting chilly light on the faces of the buildings.  There were no people.  A tattered awning blew in the wind. A spear of an icicle crashed onto the sidewalk.

For two days Ollie ate only snow to quench his thirst, but it made him shiver.  He wandered the streets, looking for a familiar landmark and searching for food.  Then he found the alley.  It smelled of garbage and food.

Ollie tucked himself behind a stack of wooden palettes and waited.  A man in a stained apron pushed his way out a door and heaved a luscious-smelling bag into a dumpster.  When the door clanged shut behind the man, Ollie scampered up a pile of cinder blocks and bricks, dropped down into the dumpster, tore at the bag with his teeth, and ate.

He fell into a routine, wandering the streets in the night and returning to his alley in the early morning when cars and people came into the streets.  He had learned it was not good to be out when people were on the streets.  There was an afternoon when the boys chased him: chubby-cheeked, dressed in blue uniforms, with book bags dragging behind them, they ran after him pitching stones at him.  Most whistled past, but one hit.  He yelped and slowed down, and the boys laughed.  They were almost upon him when he ran again, cutting across a busy road and turning a corner to lose them.  Returning to his alley exhausted and thirsty, he went to the low depression in the concrete at the base of a downspout looking for water, where a small puddle remained.  Then he curled up into the tightest ball he could, and slept.

Ollie & Spuds…to be continued

Chapter 2: https://untoldanimalstories.org/2014/02/21/ollie-spuds-chapter-2/

photo by Dan courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

The Stray Black Kitten

I saw him again the other day, the black kitten that is growing into adolescence and toward adulthood.  He made it through the 0 degree Pennsylvania weather.  I hope that he found some place to shelter and was not, as I feared, huddled against a tree trunk with icy winds whipping around him.

Now that the weather has shifted, I will resume trying to humanely trap him (when I know he will not be sitting for hours in the trap, freezing, before I can get to him) and deliver him to the SPCA.  I hope that I can do so before he has sired kittens—all of which will be homeless, feral, and lead shortened lives.

When I saw the kitten the other day, he was sniffing around for food by the water saucer on my patio (since most animals do not eat ice or snow, I bought an outdoor water heater and placed it in a large plant saucer).  I stepped outside with the Mason jar of cat food I keep by the front door, walking slowly and speaking softly to him, but he ran off.  At the blue spruces at the edge of our property, the kitten turned around and looked at me.  I stood still, regarding him and looking into his wide, green-golden eyes, and I swear I saw him soften a little.

I poured the food into a tidy pile, plucked a leaf from the water saucer, looked at him again—his eyes had never left me—and went back inside.  He did not come right away, though later he did.  I can tell when the food has been eaten by a cat or a raccoon.  Raccoons hoover up every molecule of food, while cats eat only until they are full, sometimes leaving a small ring of food from which they’ve eaten away the center.

Once I trap and deliver the kitten to the SPCA, here is what will happen:  he will be euthanized.  I do not have qualms about this.  I think it’s infinitely preferable to the life he’ll lead in the wild—hungry, thirsty, scared, fighting for scarce resources, exposed to the elements, mistreated by some humans, and sooner than later, injured and diseased.  A feral cat typically lives only a few years, and they are not easy years.

There are approximately 40,000 million homeless cats in the US alone, though many think that number is a gross underestimate.  According to the University of Washington, each breeding pair of feral cats can produce between 100 to 400 kittens in seven years that live to reproductive age and subsequently reproduce, with each of those 100 to 400 mating and producing 100 to 400 kittens that live long enough to reproduce.  Given this exponential growth rate, it’s no wonder there’s overpopulation, and with overpopulation, the species as a whole and the individuals in it suffer.

Some humane societies are mandated to do feral capture, spay/neuter, and release.  I am vehemently opposed to this.  Some dedicated Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) proponents provide food, water, and shelter for the neutered/spayed, ear-notched, and returned cats in their area, but this is rare.  More often, the cats are returned to a life of less-than-subsidence living.  While TNR can reduce overpopulation, which is good for the species as a whole, it does absolutely nothing for the suffering of the individual.

The black kitten will be given a humane, painless death by caring hands.  He will not be adding to overpopulation, and he will not go hungry or suffer.  I’m okay with that.


Humane trap:  http://amzn.to/1hLd1In

Outdoor water heater:  http://amzn.to/1ezfeU4

Animal-Speak and Other Joys

IMG_2134 At the close of the year, I sit quietly, a cup of tea in hand and two cats nearby, and reflect back on the year.  What has been steady and true for me throughout the year is my family, my dearest, oldest friends, and my animals.  Each brings joy, peace, and comfort in their own way, and I’m deeply grateful for them.

The ones I spend the most time with—because I work at home as a writer—are my cats, Gracie and Mr. Bean.  Mr. Bean, who was infamously IMG_1924chronicled in the four-part “I Was Born on an Amish Farm in the Middle of Winter,” https://untoldanimalstories.org/2013/09/13/i-was-born-in-the-middle-of-winter/  blog post (several posts down, September 2013), is transforming gradually from over-the-top rambunctiously biting and playful to a more dignified, loving version of himself.  Even Gracie tacitly approves of him from time to time.

Gracie, though, I think she might be something akin to enlightened.  She is consistent in her loving behavior, and she never says an unkind word, so to speak, to anyone.  I suspect she sees things as they are, and despite what others might do, she acts unwaveringly in alignment with the principles of kindness, acceptance, and generosity of soul.  IMG_0072

IMG_0882A home with a pet feels different from a home without pets.  To me, homes without can feel spacious, but the space has a stillness and emptiness.  A home with a pet feels friendlier, fuller, as if the very air has love in it.  Animals give so much.  There are the antics, which amuse; the unconditional affection, which satisfies; the steady presence, which brings comfort; and, of course, the opportunity to do animal-speak.

If you don’t have a pet and are reading this, you’ll think the lot of us are certifiably nuts.  If you have a pet, I’m willing to guess that you do animal-speak:  the animal does something, and you provide the narrative of their thoughts and actions, in a slightly different voice than your own.

Animals have a different sort of wisdom than we do—one that is un-derailed by thinking and believing our own thoughts.  They trust their instincts above all else, seeing clearly beyond any veil of pretense and delusion to the heart of the matter.  These “lesser” beings, to some, have much to teach us.IMG_1873

Lars

by Keith Barnaby*

securedownloadMy name is Lars. I used to be an outdoor cat. My people would let me out to roam my domain, explore, and hunt. Over time, other outdoor cats came and went in my neighborhood. I was friends with some, especially Shadow, another young male. We played and teamed up to defend against other cats who entered our lands.

One day Shadow disappeared, and his people brought home another cat, an unspayed female. She had many kittens, the kittens had kittens, and their ranks grew exponentially. Pretty soon there were lots of cats. Unlike Shadow, the young males didn’t like me and my life changed.

Now when I crossed onto Shadow’s and my old lands, I was the one being attacked. I fought but was bitten badly. My face swelled and my people took me to a man who made me feel better.

Why I returned to Shadow’s lands, I do not know. Why I stood my ground and fought the cats instead of avoiding a fight I could not win, I do not know, but I did so repeatedly. And this time I was hurt worse than ever before.

Once I healed, my people kept me inside. They made a new room for me on the side of my house with soft walls through which I can smell and see birds and passing cats. One day a cat came too close. I hissed and lunged, forgetting about the see-through wall. I bounced off it backward. The cat was so surprised he ran away. I acted like I meant to do it, and licked my paw in a dignified manner. Taught him!

I don’t mind being an indoor cat. My people put a little swinging flap in the front door so I can go out to my special outside room any kitty DSC01014time. When I see a bird, I crouch low, stare, and think, “One, two, three…gotcha!” Then I curl up and go to sleep.

A 2013 Nature Communications study estimated that outdoor cats kill more than 1.4 billion birds annually.  To protect wildlife—and your cats—please keep them indoors.

*Keith Barnaby owns www.youreldercare.com and helps seniors and their families save money, time, and pain with a flexible, customized elder life plan.

He Wasn’t Much of a Hunter

He closes the door of the red pick-up truck, repositions his gun over his shoulder, and sets off into the woods.  Despite trying to ease his weight onto the twigs and leaves, toe first then heel, his footfalls snap and crackle and echo through the pre-dawn forest.

A doe lifts her head from foraging, her button-black nose twitching with scent-taking.  With noiseless ease, she lopes off, her white tail high.  A groundhog stands on the crest of his mound-home squinting into the distance, his forepaws tucked up to his heart, his teddy-bear ears angled forward.  He squeaks and retreats inside his burrow.  A flock of quibbling sparrows wheels off into the sky.  Only the cat remains.   She is motionless except for the white tip of her tail.

The hunter walks on, pausing from time to time, looking around, then moving on.  The cat follows, unnoticed, at a distance.

When the sun has climbed well above the horizon, the hunter sits down on a large, sunny rock.  He opens a thermos of steaming coffee, crinkles flat the wax paper covering his sandwich, and munches thoughtfully, his head angled to the side.  Sun-warmed and drowsy, his shoulders relax and he closes his eyes.

The cats comes closer, soundlessly.  She sits a few feet in front of him and looks up.  The hunter opens his eyes and startles, then feels foolish.  He mutters something about cats—he’s never liked cats.  He glares at the cat and looks into her gold eyes.  She holds his gaze evenly.  He sighs, then he breaks off a small piece of cheese from his sandwich and tosses it on the ground.  The cat eats it and looks up expectantly.  The man breaks off a larger piece and holds it out to her.  She gracefully leaps onto the rock, and with one paw on the hunter’s leg, she gingerly takes the cheese from his hand.  The hunter slides his broad palm down her back, then offers her the rest of his sandwich.

After a while, he gathers his things, slings the gun over his shoulder, and sets off.  The cat jumps down and follows.  Twice he looks back over his shoulder.  He opens the truck door and sweeps his arm wide in a welcoming gesture. The cat jumps in, settles herself on the passenger seat, and washes her face.

Two seasons have passed since I found my hunter.  He wasn’t much of a hunter, really—I could read that much in the way he moved.  It was plain to me that he wasn’t really interested in hunting as much as he was playing a role.  It was also plain to me that he thought he didn’t like cats.  Most people who give cats a chance find they like them after all.

These days I wait by the window for my hunter.  He comes in with a blast of cold air.  I jump down and wind my way around his legs.  He stoops to pet me and says a word or two.  Then we pass a companionable evening in silence.  His gun is in the attic, tucked away forever.

 

• • • Have you ever rescued an animal?  Please tell us about it: Untoldanimalstories@gmail.com