Feral feline adventures

          

sweetie

A very skinny Sweetie when I first brought him home.

Hey gang!  I hope all you pet mommies out there had a great Mother’s Day!  My four kitties and dog got me the sweetest card, though I’m pretty sure they had a little help from Dad when it came to signing it.              

Anyway, as I’ve mentioned before, the reason I’ve teamed my animal blog up with the Adopt-a-human campaign is to bring awareness to all the fantastic qualities cats possess and how they can enrich anyone’s life, from any walk of life.  The campaign also wants to educate people about the cat crisis happening at many shelters here and around the country.  The fact is, kittens, puppies and adult dogs are all easier to adopt out than adult cats.  One thing aggravating that fact is the feral cat population, something I have a good bit of knowledge about.  If you’ve stopped by this site before, you may recall that our third cat Sweetie, was a feral cat living behind my old TV station when I found him.  I mentioned in my first blog how it was pretty hard to tame him, but almost downright impossible to get him to our house and I promised to give you all the dishy details about that two week saga.  So, here goes:               
  

Our station was moving to a new building in June of 2004, and after spending the past three years patiently feeding and taming Sweetie, I decided there was no way I could just abandon him there.  But the week before I was planning to take him home, Sweetie threw a wrench into my plans in the form of a terrible fight with another cat.  He showed up late one night behind the station, limping in pain, his right paw crooked and very swollen.    

A very fat and contented Sweetie, with his mom

At that point, I thought he’d been hit by a car and I totally freaked out.  I knew I had to get him to a vet right away, even though it was about 11 at night.  I ran inside and found one of my fellow animal lovers and told her what was going on.  As luck would have it, she had a cat carrier and some blankets in her van, so we grabbed those and ran back outside.  Now, in the best of times, Sweetie was still very skittish and cautious, even with me, and now that he was hurt, he was on high alert.  He took one look at me and my friend armed with the carrier and blankets and quickly hopped off, squeezing through a small hole in a fence surrounding one side of the building.  The fence stretched about forty feet long, but was only fencing in about a five foot width of grass.  Sweetie was crouching about halfway between the two ends of the fence and watching us warily to see what we would do.  What we did was decide our only choice was to climb that eight foot high fence and try to trap him.       

A couple of our photographers were still inside the building at that time, and had one of them by chance walked out to catch the next ten minutes on video, they would have had the next You Tube sensation.   Picture this;  I’m still in my business suit, in a skirt, with about four inch stilettos on, and there I was, climbing shakily up that fence with a blanket clamped under one arm.  My friend was at the opposite end of the fence, climbing that side with a lot more ease than I was.  Or at least I thought she was until I heard this LOUD ripping sound, an ‘oh @#$@,’ then silence, then a faint ‘I’m okay!’   I heard her drop to the ground as I climbed carefully over the top of the fence, giving anyone who happened to be watching, quite the show I’m sure.  Finally, my stilettos hit the ground and we were ready to rock and roll.  Sweetie, however, was just ready to roll.     




Is this the face of a troublemaker??
He sat tensely and watched as my friend (in her now completely ripped and ruined shirt,) came at him from one side with the cat carrier, and I approached him from the other with the blanket.  We made it to about within three feet of him and I was just getting ready to throw the blanket over him, when he pulled a move that would make Walter Payton proud.  He faked to the left, then immediately darted right, running by me before I even really knew what had happened.  Fortunately, since he was  injured, Sweetie’s speed was not up to par and even in my heels, I was able to catch up to him as he awkwardly climbed the fence.

 I lunged at him as he crested the top of it, my hand just grazing his back legs, reaching, grasping for him, but it was too late.  He slipped through my fingers, jumped to the ground and I watched in shock as he took off into the neighborhood behind the station.   I navigated the fence again, no more gracefully than I did before, and spent the next 30 minutes calling his name and shaking his bag of food, but to no avail.              

 The next morning I called my vet and told him what happened, (he had the good grace not to laugh at my fence-climbing antics,) and he came up with a new plan for me.  He gave me some cat tranquilizers and told me to keep an eye out for Sweetie.  He said since it appeared I was Sweetie’s only source of cat food, he was sure Sweetie would eventually show up at the station again, even being hurt and likely traumatized from our ill-fated attack.  I kept the pills in my desk over the next two days, frequently running out back between anchoring the news to look for any sign of him, (and to any of my former managers reading this, yes, I’m well aware this was not how I was supposed to be spending ‘company time,’ but come on!)   I had just about given up, when late on the third day of his disappearance, my fence friend came running up to the anchor set, yelling ‘He’s here! Sweetie’s back!”  

sweetie louie

It took some doing, but Sweetie now chills with his siblings.

Of course he’d come back right when I was in the middle of the newscast and could NOT, under any circumstances, get up to go try to tranquilize a cat.  I told me friend where the pills were and begged her to put them in his food and have the cat carrier ready to go when he finally gave in to the sedatives.  She took off on her mission and for the next 30 minutes, I sat anxiously on the set, reading the news without really even comprehending it, worrying in my head that this wouldn’t work and he’d be lost forever.

Finally, the newscast done, I bolted to the back door of the station and opened it just in time to see my poor friend closing the cat carrier door on a snarling Sweetie, her arms scratched all to hell and bleeding.  Turns out, even with enough sedatives to fell a big dog in him, Sweetie’s feral fight instinct was strong enough to overcome them.  He was definitely woozy but still alert enough to put up quite the fight as my friend’s arms could attest.               

Now, this saga doesn’t end here, not by a long shot, but I’ll save that for another day.   Suffice to say, Sweetie made it through and made it home to my house, where he’s been living quite comfortably for the past six years, snoring loudly in our bed every night.  As for my fence friend?  I think I still owe you a drink for your troubles.  And probably a new shirt.               

 So what are your feline adventure stories?  All my fellow cat addicts at Adopt-a-human’s facebook page would love to hear about your funny, sweet, keystone cops-like dealings with your cats.  Write about your antics in the comments section under today’s blog.  Tell your friends too, since the more cat fans we have, the more cats we can spread the word and save cat’s lives!                   

  

     

                 

   

National Pet Week

Me and part of my brood-Maho, Rhett and Louie

Unconditional love is a beautiful thing.  I get big doses of it every day from my five animals and I never take the joy their love brings to me for granted.  I’m sure all you pet owners out there know exactly what I’m talking about, but since this is National Pet Week, I’d like you to take a special moment to really think about and appreciate the happiness your pets have brought to your life.  Ahhhhhh, that was nice, huh?

Now, that said, I admit having five animals running around the house can be a lot of work.  Consider the shedding issues alone, especially now that it’s springtime and they’re all losing their winter coats.  I can run the vacuum every day (and I have, like three different kinds of vacuums being the neat freak that I am,) and still I find hair.  It’s on the floor, on the couches and chairs, on the sheets, and don’t even get me started on our clothes.  I probably keep those tape roll people in business from just rolling hair off my black clothes alone. (Why do I still buy black? Why, oh why??)  Then, there are those tumbleweeds of hair that collect on the stairs and under the beds and seem to multiply faster than bunnies.  I don’t have enough arms, or vacuums, to keep up.  You’d think the daily brushing I give the animals would help, but even though I have enough hair left over to form a whole new cat after grooming just my Persian, there still seems to be plenty left over to drive me crazy.

Sweetie chowing down, making a mess

And what’s up with the sloppy eating habits?  I don’t own any pigs but I might as well.  Every single one of my cats and even the dog have a certain way of eating and apparently it’s designed to make sure as much of their food as possible will fall on the floor.  I’ve studied this people, and it’s just not right.  They’ll pick up a mouthful of food from the bowl, then STEP AWAY from the bowl to start chewing.  Meanwhile, half the kibble they picked up is now falling out of their mouths and scattering everywhere.  They’re literally ingesting only about a third of the food they put in their mouths.   Do I have a bunch of animals with eating disorders?  Did I accidentally call them fat one day and now they have a complex? Whatever the reason, I do know where you’ll find me after each feeding time: on all fours, paper towels and Clorox cleaner in hand, gathering up food bits and crumbs, only to then turn around and CRUNCH! Yep, another piece of food squashed underfoot.

Louie, Ally and Rhett at the 'trough'

Then, there are the lovely litter boxes to handle.  We have three boxes placed strategically around the house.  Two are upstairs and one downstairs so the cats can easily find them no matter where they may roam during the night.   But, either they’ve all taken a blood oath or there’s something magical about the box in the back bedroom, because it’s basically the only one they will use.  When I go to clean them each day, (and it’s always me, never my husband, go figure) two of the boxes are pristine and the other one is…well, you can imagine with four cats using it.  As clean as cats are, I can’t fathom why they all want to muck around in just one, stinky box.  I’ve tried luring them to the other ones, even going so far as to pick them up and put them in front of the boxes, saying loudly and slowly, ‘This. Is. A. Clean. Box. Use. It. For pete’s sake!’   But for some reason they still haven’t gotten the message.  I guess I should should just chuck the other ones and submit to their will, but call me an eternal optimist.  I live for the day when I find cat poop in another box. (Wow, that’s sad.)

So between the hair, the messy eating and the lone, dirty litter box, my animals keep me hard at work.  But would I have it any other way?  No way.  For every tumbleweed I capture and couch I vacuum, there’s a sweet kiss and a lick of my hand.  For every backache I incur from cleaning litter boxes, there’s a soft purr that lulls me to sleep.   For every time I clean up their crumbs, there’s the warm feeling of them snuggling in my arms.   It’s that unconditional love thing I was talking about.  You just can’t beat it, no matter the cost.

What would you like the world to know about your animal during this National Pet Week?  Leave us your thoughts and stories in the comment section of our Adopt-a-human Facebook page at http://bit.ly/adoptahumanfacebook .  And if you’d like to experience the amazing love that animals can bring to your life, please consider finding your new friend at SPCA Tampa Bay, http://bit.ly/spcatampabay.

Kittens, Kittens, Kittens!

They’re tiny, fluffy and adorable.  Who doesn’t love kittens?  Unfortunately, this time of year, there are just too dang many of them around and most of them wind up at a shelter like the SPCA Tampa Bay.  We’re officially in the midst of kitten season and the call is going out for foster parents to take care of them until they’re old enough to be adopted.   Think of it this way: you get all the fun of playing with and taking care of the little fur balls without the long-term commitment.  Plus, you can’t beat that heartwarming feeling of knowing you helped make sure a young kitten survived long enough to be put up for adoption so they can find a loving, forever home!  For more information about becoming a foster parent, visit http://bit.ly/spcatampabay after you finish today’s blog.  You’ll love it, I promise! 

Mr. Rhett-all grown up

 

I know a thing or two myself about taking care of itty, bitty kitties.  I mentioned last week that the first cat of my own came into my life when I was in college.  It was a belated birthday present from my boyfriend and if I didn’t impress upon you before how not especially bright that boyfriend was, let me do so now.   Besides thinking it was a good idea to give up law school for an acting career, (in his late 20’s no less,) he also thought it was smart to take a five-week old kitten away from its mother as a way of making up for forgetting my birthday.  This happened while he was delivering pizza by the way, not acting. 

Anyway, Rhett obviously hadn’t been weaned and was so tiny he easily fit into the palm of my hand.   I had been raised with all kinds of cats, but never one this young so I wasn’t quite sure what to do or what to feed him.   Though I’m loathe to admit it, the internet had yet to be invented, so I had to do some investigating to figure that out.  After talking to my vet and doing some reading I got some kitten milk replacer and dry kitten food at the pet store and took turns bottle feeding him the milk replacer and feeding him moistened kitten food.  Holding him in my hand and watching him suck at that bottle was about the cutest thing I’ve ever seen to this day.   His litter box literally was just the top of a shoe box turned upside down with some clay litter thrown inside it.   I took the other, bigger part of the box and turned it into his bed.  Or, at least I tried to.  Rhett had *other *ideas when it came to bedtime. 

Remember when I mentioned that he hadn’t been weaned yet?  Guess who turned into momma cat? It would take him a solid 20 minutes but every single night, Rhett would climb out of his little box next to my bed, then painstakingly use his little kitten claws to climb my bedspread.  Once on the bed he would then snuggle up between my ear and my shoulder and contentedly start sucking on my t-shirt.  Talk about a great way to be lulled to sleep, especially after a long, stressful night of cramming for exams.  That nightly ritual continued for a couple of months and I admit, when it eventually stopped, there may have been a tear or two shed by yours truly.  They grow up so fast don’t they? 

So handsome, even at 18 years old!

 

Actually, Rhett kind of had to grow up fast.  I shared an apartment with another girl and it being college and all, it wasn’t the quietest place in the world.  Or the most organized.  Or the most sober.   Rhett definitely got three square meals a day, but at times, dinner would be served at 2 a.m.  And if my roommate’s boyfriend had anything to do with it, it would include some beer.  He also had to deal with parties and the many strangers invading his space that those included, along with the exact opposite: long stretches of solitude when my roommate and I would spontaneously decide to stay somewhere else or take a last-minute road trip. (Ah, college. Those were the days, huh?)   But I’ll tell you, all that made Rhett the cat he is today.  He’s a tough guy, the unequivocal leader of the house, the cool cat, the one everyone is afraid of and looks up to and who always gets his way with both the animals and the humans in the house.  At 18 years old, he’s seen me through some of the best and worst times of the my life and I couldn’t love or respect him more than I do.   He’s my ‘first born’ and they always hold a special place in your heart, ya know? 

So what about your ‘first borns?”  I’d love to hear about how they came into your lives and how they’ve changed your world.  Head over to the Adopt-a-human Facebook page http://bit.ly/adoptahumanfacebook.  Once there, leave your stories in the comment section so everyone can enjoy them.  Remember, the more people who interact and spread the cat love on our Facebook page, the more shelter cats whose lives are saved!

I’m back!!

The 'crazy cat lady!'

I’m back!! For those of you who don’t know me from my 10 years at Bay News 9 in Tampa, Florida, welcome to the musings of a ‘crazy cat lady.’  Actually, my crazy extends to all animals, but somehow I ended up with a home full of stray, feral, medically unstable cats, so ‘crazy cat lady’ fits the bill best.   I recently got out of  TV news and now I’ve teamed up with the great folks at SPCA Tampa Bay as their new Social Media Consultant and one of my missions is to promote a wonderful initiative called Adopt-a-human.  The goal is simple: to let people know that cats are perfect companions for everyone, from college students and young families to lonely senior citizens.  Unfortunately, there are far more cats than dogs at SPCA Tampa Bay waiting for that forever home, but *you* can now help spread the word and find them those homes.  I’ll be writing a blog each week for the Adopt-a-human Facebook page about the five cats that have adopted me during my adult life and how much love, fun, and general merriment they bring to my life.  I’d like you all to join me!  Write *your* cat story  on the Facebook page and tell the world how being adopted by your cat has changed your life.  Or, if your cat insists, let them write the blog so they can brag about how much joy and happiness they brought into your heretofore sad, pathetic lives. (Their words, not mine!)  It can be be a long story or short one, cute or sentimental, we just want you to help us spread the cat love! Be sure to invite your cat family friends to join us as well and have them become a fan on Facebook at  http://bit.ly/adoptahumanfacebook and http://bit.ly/spcatampabayfacebook .

My own Rhett Butler

So, I’ll start this week with some background info on how I came to be adopted by each of my kitties.  I grew up in a very loving home where taking in strays was a common occurrence, so it was no surprise that I developed an incredibly strong stray-dar. (I totally made up that word and here’s my definition: someone who draws strays to them like metal to a magnet.)  My first homeless friend came to me in college, courtesy of a loser ex-boyfriend of mine who had showered me with, um, NOTHING, on my birthday.  He knew he was in the doghouse, so what better gift to get him out of it than a little tuxedo kitten he stumbled across while delivering pizza?  I gave that boyfriend the boot not long afterward but happily kept Rhett around.  He’s named after Rhett Butler from ‘Gone with the Wind’ and much like his namesake, my Rhett is dashing, debonair and a bit dangerous.

Ally-cat

Ally came into our lives next.  My husband, Nick and I were involved in a long-distance relationship and I thought a sweet little stray from a shelter would help keep him company between weekend flights to see each other.  Ally caught Nick’s eye immediately and though she wasn’t the sharpest knife in the bunch, she was clever enough to hide her neuroses long enough for us to fall in love with her and sign the adoption papers before she completely lost it in the car.  (That is a whole other story for another day.)   I’m incredibly sad to say that Ally recently passed away, but happy that she spent 15 wonderful years with us and left us with countless good memories to remember her by.

Pretty persian dreams

Our perfect little Persian, Louie,  joined the family a few years later thanks to the perfect storm of an incredibly bad day stuck in a news live truck for hours with only an old newspaper to banish the boredom.  Flipping through the pet ads, this smushed little face jumped out at me with the tag-line “Free Persians to a good home.”   A pleading phone call to the husband, a long drive to what I’ll charitably call ‘the country’, and an instant connection with a ball of fur with eyes that wouldn’t stop trying to climb my leg, that ‘good home’ was found.

He may have a mangled tail but Sweetie's gorgeous green eyes make up for it!

At that point, my husband drew a line in the sand saying  ‘NO MORE CATS.”  I sweetly agreed while surreptitiously feeding and taming a feral cat that was living behind the TV station.   Sweetie (named by a fellow crazy cat lady at work) had been dubbed the ‘dumpster cat’, since he was pretty bedraggled, scarred up from fighting and missing half his tail hair.   Of course, that just made me love him even more.   So when the station announced we were moving into a new building, I knew I had to take Sweetie with me.    Selling Nick on a feral cat with a mangled tail was pretty hard.  Even harder?  Getting Sweetie to the house.  I’ll spare you the details for now but I will tell you it involved tranquilizers, a ripped shirt and a big ol’ fence.

Lucy Jane says thank you for saving me!

At that point even I figured we were done, with four cats keeping us plenty busy.  But I should have known better.  My ‘stray-dar’ seemed to call to every maimed, mauled and malnourished cat around and it didn’t take long for me to attract Lucy Jane to our household.   It was a rainy, ugly night, just after midnight as I drove home from work.  I had planned to stop by our local CVS, but because of the nasty conditions, I figured I’d just go home.  But my cat fate stepped in as I started to drive by the entrance, and I found myself hydroplaning into the empty CVS parking lot.  Mind you there was not another car in that lot.  Yet somehow I pulled into the spot where a wet, dirty little cat was huddled and shaking, holding an obviously injured right paw up in the air.  Right then, I made a mental deal with myself:  if the cat would come to me and let me pick it up, I would take it home.   As if she had heard that bet, Lucy Jane practically launched herself into my arms, securing her place as the fifth cat in our posse.

With four cats running around, (and a dog chasing after them,) there is never a dull moment in our house.  I’m looking forward to sharing my cat stories with you each week here at Adopt-a-human and I’m looking forward to hearing all about the fun hi-jinks that the Bay Area’s cats get up to.   Also, if you know of a human looking to be adopted, please send them to www.spcatampabay.org, where many wonderful cats are just waiting to find that perfect match!