Tag Archives: sweetie

Missing ‘the Kids’

Giving kisses to my oldest 'kid' Rhett

Let me say right up front that I don’t have any children and I don’t presume to know just how rewarding, amazing and challenging raising a child must be.  What I do know is that my five animals are like kids to me and the love I feel for them is pretty overwhelming itself.  And when it comes to having to leave them for an extended amount of time, I turn into a neurotic, annoying, mess.

Grandma (our babysitter) with one of her kitties, Isabella

My husband and I just got back from our annual summer vacation in the islands and as usual, it was amazing. What wasn’t amazing was the realization about six weeks before we left that our usual babysitter would be out-of-town the same week as us.  Our babysitter is my mom, or ‘grandma’ as she’s known to the animals. (Well, mostly the dog, who freaks out with joy when she hears that word. The cats, as they’re wont to do, tend to not react at all.)  Anyway, grandma only lives 10 minutes away and when we’re gone, Maho the dog gets to go live with her for a week and the cats get a visit from her every day.  Even though we miss them like crazy, it takes a lot of worry off our minds knowing that our babies are in such good hands when we’re gone.

Cut to six weeks ago when I told my mom the week we’d chosen to go on vacation and her dropping the bomb that she had scheduled a vacation that same week.  Both of us had already paid for plane tickets and such so there was nothing we could do.  Immediately, I started stressing.  I know there are many great kennels and ‘animal spas’ out there nowadays but A.) None of my animals have ever stayed in one before and B.) many of my cats are have special needs, including a formerly feral one who would have to be tranquilized just to get him out of the house.  So we scratched a kennel off the list right away.

Maho looks chill but she's high maintenance

Many of our cats, like Sweetie, have special needs

That left finding someone else to take Maho in and come check on the cats throughout the week.  I have a lot of friends who are big animal lovers so you’d think that would have been a pretty easy task. But my husband and I approached picking that person out like we were choosing a god parent or something.  The checklist was almost comically long: Had they met Maho already and did she like them? Did they have a secure, fenced backyard so Maho couldn’t get out? Did they not have any other dogs in their house since Maho is kind of a big scaredy-dog when it comes to other canines? Did they live close by so they could check on the cats often? Had they met Rhett and understand that even though he’s blind now, he may still attack them?   Did they know about all our cats’ various medical issues and could they handle them?  Did they mind having to clean out four, yes, four litter boxes? (Wow, reading that back over I realize what a high maintenance crew of animals we have.)

Even in these amazing surroundings I couldn't stop thinking about the animals

Anyway, after spending a whole evening offering up names of our various friends, then running them through our checklist, my husband and I finally agreed on the same person, and if you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ve read about this cool chick before.  She’s my friend from my old TV station that spent a night climbing fences, ripping her shirt, then getting her hand ripped up as we tried to catch Sweetie (the feral cat) when he showed up badly injured.  Thankfully, she was more than happy to take on the big job of babysitter and we took off for vacation with our minds thoroughly eased.

Louie looks as sad as I feel when I'm away from my animals

Now, that’s not to say we didn’t spend stupid amounts of time wondering how they were doing, talking about how much we missed them, postulating what they were doing at that exact moment, etc…  I even called and texted my friend almost every day just to ‘check in’, (I’m sure she loved that,)  and to say hi to Maho. And the moment we got on the plane to come home, all I could think about was opening that door and seeing the cats come running and hearing Maho’s shrieks of joy. If that’s how I feel about my animals, I can’t imagine what it must be like for all you real parents out there. How do you ever even leave the house?? 🙂

I’d love to hear about your animal love on the Adopt-a-human Facebook page.  It’s dedicated to spreading the word about getting shelter cats adopted into good homes and the more people who participate, the more animals’ lives that we’ll save. Thank you!

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Cat Olympics

kamona

Adoptable cats like Kamona will amaze you at the Cat Olympics!

The Winter Olympics may have come and gone, but fear not sports fans.  The most majestic of all games are upon us: the Cat Olympics!  Held at SPCA Tampa Bay this Saturday, June 19th, they showcase the finest feline athletes around as they do battle for the ultimate prize…a forever home. 

Watch in amazement as our top notch adoptable cats take on the Tunnel of Tuna, jump into the Leap of Faith, totter across the Cat Walk Tightrope and blaze their way through the Cat’s Meow Obstacle Course. All of that just to get the attention of a new mom or dad!  Plus, you’ll get a chance to show off your cat knowledge during our Cat Jeopardy challenge and win fabulous prizes. (I feel like Vanna White.)  Read more about this Saturday’s festivities here and we hope you join us!

Louie giving 'high ten'

Now, my cats may not be able to pull off a Cat Walk tightrope, but some of them do have some serious skills and tricks up their sleeves.  Louie the Lump, so named by my  Mother-in-Law, will shake off his lumpiness once in awhile and decide he wants to high five me.  This started not long after he grew out of kittenhood and could actually focus on one thing for more than 20 seconds. 

I was putting on my make up in the bathroom and as usual, Louie was keeping me company by lazily hanging out in the sink. But what was unusual this time, he actually got up, ambled over to me, sat up on his hind legs and started pawing at me with one furry foot.  He obviously just wanted some attention, (Louie the Persian wanting attention?? Color me shocked!) But it looked like he was high fiving me, so I said, “Louie, give me high five,’ and smacked his foot with my hand.  If a cat can look delighted by something, Louie certainly did.

But you have to trick Louie to high five outside the bathroom

It has since become a ‘thing’ I can get him to do on command.  I just have to put up my hand, snap my finger and say ‘High five, Louie!”  Nine times out of ten, he’s right there, smacking my hand, and as a bonus, sometimes I even get a high ten!   But here’s the rub.  He will only do this cat trick in the bathroom. I’ve tried in vain to get him to do it in any other room in the house, but he flat out refuses unless you ‘trick’ him by holding a cat toy up in the air.  So it’s not so much a parlor trick as a bathroom trick.  And that kind of takes the coolness factor out of it, no?

My oldest cat Rhett is also my smartest cat and it’s no surprise to me that he’s pulled off a cat trick or two in his long lifetime.  His need to show off showed up early on when he displayed the decidedly dog-like attributes of fetch and catch.  I was a young, pretty poor college kid (weren’t we all?) and using a balled up piece of paper to amuse my new kitten.  I tossed it and suddenly he reared up and snatched it right out of the air mid-toss.  I had grown up with all kinds of cats and had never seen anything like it before.  I spent the next 30 minutes throwing that ball, and Rhett never missed it once.  It was like having a puppy in a kitten’s body. 

Rhett used to do cat tricks to please me...now he pleases only himself.

The next time I went to play with Rhett, I discovered another of his talents.  I threw the paper ball, waiting for him to snatch it out of the air, but he just watched it sail by him.  I was disappointed, but only briefly.  Rhett waited for it to land, then briskly trotted to where it had landed, picked it up in his mouth, ran over to me, and deposited right at my feet, looking up at me expectantly.  I threw it again and Rhett repeated himself.  My baby had added fetch to his repertoire and I couldn’t have been more proud!  This fun, carefree period of cat tricks and pleasing mom lasted, oh, about six months and then Rhett determined he had to please NO ONE but himself and I’ve never seen him perform those tricks again.  But at least I know he’s capable. Sigh.

Lucy Jane waits until you're asleep, THEN screeches!

As for the rest of the cats I’ve had in my life, it’s a bit of a stretch to say they can do tricks.  Sweetie, my feral cat, has the ability to ‘disappear’ if he even senses someone other than me is about to enter our house.  Our deaf cat Lucy Jane does this just awesome trick where she knows exactly when we fall asleep and then lets loose with her insanely loud yowling.  And I had another Persian growing up named Alexander who could vomit on command, always on my mom’s favorite, very expensive Oriental rug, whenever he got mad.  Talented bunch, wouldn’t you say?

If you’ve got a cat with fierce capabilities, we want to hear about them. Leave your cat ‘tails’ on our Adopt-a-human Facebook page and you’ll be entered into a grand prize drawing at the end of June!  Remember, the more people who know about the Adopt-a-human campaign and take part, the more cat’s lives we can save. Thank you!

Happy Hug-your-Cat Day!

isabella

Have a super cute cat pic like this one? Enter it in our Hug-your-cat Day photo contest!

 

 It’s a holiday weekend, time to celebrate!  No, I’m not talking about Memorial Day.  This is much bigger.  And slightly more dangerous.  For all you feline neophytes, today is Hug-your-cat Day and the folks at SPCA Tampa Bay want to see who you’re hugging.  As part of their Adopt-a-human campaign promoting shelter cat adoptions, they’re holding a Cutest Cat Photo contest.       

 Think your kitty is the coolest thing in town?  Head over to Adopt-a-human’s Facebook page and submit your cutest/silliest cat pictures and be sure to spread the word to all your friends.  The top 10 photos that receive the most positive comments and likes on their photo status will then be forwarded to our judges: WTSP Studio 10’s hosts, Holley Sinn and Jerome Ritchey.        

 They’ll announce the top three photo winners on Studio 10 on June 2nd between 10am-11am.  And get this: the top winner and their photogenic feline will go live on Studio 10 with me, Holley and Jerome on June 9th to showcase your winning photo.  You’ll also get a special Cat Basket from the SPCA Tampa Bay Boutique filled with cat toys and accessories.   So start digging up those adorable cat pics.  (But, of course, finish reading my blog first!)          

louie

Louie likes a good cuddle, even from a box!

 

 Now, it’s only fair that I show you who I’m hugging today. I’ll be giving out four big embraces with varying degrees of success. Cat owners know, it’s not always the easiest thing to do to wrap your kitty in a big hug. Dogs? Sure. Most of them would accept a hug from anyone, even the mailman. Cats? Not so much, depending on the cat’s personality, mood and motivation. The easiest one by far for me, will be Louie.    

 If given a choice, I think Louie would opt for a lifetime-long hug. In fact, many times, I have to pry him off me, foot by fluffy foot, just to get things done. My mother-in-law calls him ‘Louie the Lump’ and for good reason. As soon as he senses me sitting down somewhere, he’s there like a flash, (those short little legs are deceptively fast,) climbing up into my lap and stubbornly settling in for the long haul. It’s very cute and sweet. For about the first three hours. Then, even this crazy cat lady has had enough.      

On the opposite end of the spectrum you have Sweetie.  Don’t get me wrong, he’s incredibly affectionate and quick to hand out a lick and a purr.  That is, when he’s on the ground.  Once he’s airborne, he turns into a wriggling, windmilling, wailing mess.   Since he spent his first few years living the feral life, he never got used to someone picking him up and no matter how much headway I make with him in the trust department, being held remains firmly on his no-no list.  I guess he’ll just have to do with a mental hug instead.  It saves him a lot of stress and me, a lot of scratches.     

rhett

Rhett has mellowed with age.

 

  My oldest cat hasn’t ever been much of a hugger either, though Rhett’s hands-off rule stems more from macho cat-itude than fear.  When he was younger he’d suffer through a short cuddle, sighing loudly to make sure you knew just how darn annoyed he was at this terrible indignity.   But maybe Rhett has mellowed with age because now I can hold, kiss and cuddle on him and feel totally confident, (well, mostly,) that he’s not leveling a crazy cat-voodoo curse on me.   If I suddenly turn into a toad, I guess we’ll know I was wrong.     

lucy jane

Don't sneak up on Lucy Jane when she's sleeping unless you want a slap in the face!

 

 My last hug will be handed out to Lucy Jane, the little stray who is deaf.   Lucy has no problem with the hugging itself since she craves affection at an almost Louie-like level.  I just have to carefully consider how to deliver the hug.   If I ‘sneak’ up on her, she’ll be hanging from the ceiling before I can even get my arms around her.   

 I often forget about Lucy Jane’s disability and her aversion to surprises and end up scaring her to death by approaching her from behind or when she’s asleep.  Word to the wise if you ever visit my home: unless you want to incite a flurry of punching paws accompanied by ear-piercing yowls, make sure Lucy Jane sees you well before you touch her.  

You have until May 30th to submit the pictures of who *you’re* hugging to Adopt-a-human’s Facebook page.  We already have close to 50 submissions so be sure to get yours in on time and spread the word to your family and friends to vote for you.  Good luck!

The Name Game

maho

She's named after a beach so Maho loves to surf!

What’s in a name?  Well, when it comes to our pets, a lot. Most of us put a lot of thought and time into picking out just the right name for our animal. Unlike with our children, it’s our chance to let our creative freak flag fly without fear of them one day being traumatized by the playground bully. Name your child something weird or silly and they’ll be paying for it for years to come. Name your dog or cat something off the wall and their playmates couldn’t care less. (Now, put them in sweaters or bows, and that’s a different story.) But as much work as we put into picking those names, have you noticed that many of us promptly stop using them in favor of crazy nicknames or even downright gibberish? I’ll give you an example. Actually, I’ll give you six of them. 

rhett

He's as dashing and debonair as the real Rhett Butler, no?

 The first cat I ever owned as an adult is Rhett. If you’re a ‘Gone with the Wind’ fan you know where that moniker came from. I had just discovered the dangerous, dashing character of Rhett Butler thanks to a boyfriend addicted to old movies. I was completely swept away by the rocky romance of Rhett and Scarlett and couldn’t wait to bestow that name on my cat. (On a side note, I was so enamored of the movie that I also named my hamster Scarlett. Unfortunately she passed away many years ago, and no, it wasn’t at the hands of Rhett.) But as much as I love that name, I found myself calling him almost anything but Rhett. It started with ‘Boots,’ thanks to his little white feet. Somehow that degenerated into ‘Booter’, then, ‘Bud’, then ‘Budrow’ and finally into ‘Bubba lou.’ Try following that chain of thought.

That trend continued when we got our second cat, Ally. I’m not ashamed to admit we named her after the character Ally McBeal. (Come on, it was a huge hit and you KNOW that dancing baby was hilarious!) Anyway, since she was such a sweet girly cat, so dainty and petite, I almost immediately started calling her ‘Girls.’ Then I added princess to it, as in ‘Princess Girls.’ She was also known to respond to ‘Princess feet’ or ‘Girly cat.’ Yeah, I know, clever nicknames are not my forte.

louie

Louie, the Heavyweight Champion!

Now, those of you who know me from my time in television news may not believe this next one, but my third cat was named in honor of a boxing champion.  I know I don’t look like the typical boxing fan, but trust me, put me in a bar with 100 men watching two men duke it out and I’ll be the one screaming for blood the loudest.  Just about the time my favorite heavyweight, Lennox Lewis, was enjoying huge success, we got our Persian kitten and I decided to pay homage to the heavyweight great by naming the new kitty after him.   I thought Lewis was a tad formal for the kitten’s silly, smushed face, so I shortened it a bit and voila! We had Louie.   Over the years, Louie has turned into ‘Lou Lou’, ‘Lulu-belle’, Boo, Booie, Boozer and Booher.  I’m just assuming that’s how they’re spelled since, as far as I know, gibberish cat nicknames are not included in a dictionary.     

  Next came Sweetie, who I’ve mentioned before, I didn’t actually name.  One of my fellow crazy cat ladies at work named him that when she discovered him living in the woods behind the TV station.  Since he was used to it and would actually respond to it when we’d call him, the name stuck.   It turns out, it fits his sweet and loving personality perfectly.  Even so, it wasn’t long after I took him home that I started in with the nicknames.   ‘Sweets’ came first, then “Tweeter”, “Tweetie” and finally, just plain “Tweets.”  (I’m wondering if I can claim some naming rights money from Twitter since I came up with that, like, six years ago??)     

lucy

Lucy Jane with her ugly yellow cast.

By the time I found our soon to be fifth cat, injured in a CVS parking lot, I was running a little low on creative name juice.  But as I sat with her in our ‘cat rehab’ room while she recuperated from surgery on her foot, a light went off.  I should skip a step and give her a name that’s already a nickname. My dad, who passed away many years ago, always called me ‘Lucy Jane’ when I was growing up, so I figured I would pass along my childhood moniker in his honor.   Now, occasionally, I’ll call her ‘Lucy-cat’ or ‘Little girl’, but since her name means so much to me, I mostly stick to calling her Lucy Jane.  (Ironically, the ONE cat I call by their given name the most is the deaf one, and can’t even hear her name!)      

maho bay

Maho Bay, St. John, U.S.V.I.-our dog's namesake

As for our dog, I gave her naming honors to my husband, and I must say he did quite well.  He named her Maho, after our favorite little beach on the Caribbean island of St. John where we hope to retire someday.  Not that it really matters, since I started calling her crazy nicknames right off the bat.  Maho is, at various times, known by Mee-maw,  Meems, Mi-mi and Mims.  And like the good dog that she is, she responds to all of them.  Especially when there’s cheese involved.      

I know I’m not alone in my nickname-itis.   What silly, bizarre nicknames have you bestowed upon your animals?  I’d love to hear them and share them with our fans on SPCA Tampa Bay’s Adopt-a-human facebook page.  Head over to our facebook page and leave us your thoughts in the comments section under the blog.   And be sure to check back with my blog next week, when I’ll have details about how you and your animals can win some cool prizes and even a chance to strut your stuff on TV!

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!