Cat Tales

The Lucky Ones

posted July 15th, 2008 by
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Story by Camille Hulen

When the floods came to Coffeyville last year, a lady had a pregnant cat named Pantera.   

It is unfortunate that the cat had not been spayed, but, at least, she was loved.  Although homeless herself, the woman found shelter for her cat.  Pantera was a Lucky One.

  Two weeks after she was given shelter, Pantera gave birth to five lucky kittens. The birth occurred within one hour early on a Saturday morning.  Pantera knew just what to do: cleaning all of the kittens and herself to be presentable to the world in less than four hours.  For the first two days, she rarely left their side, nursing and cleaning constantly.

By Tuesday, Pantera would leave the kittens briefly, only to feed herself and use the litter box.  Although a litter box was in the cage with her, she chose not to use it, but to wait until she could go to one further away.  Perhaps this is instinctive behavior to protect kittens from predators who might detect the scent.

On Wednesday, one eye of one kitten peaked open!  This was sooner than I ever imagined.

By Thursday, mama cat had become a little restless, and moved the kittens within the cage.  I would move them back to their soft nest, and she would move them again.  Once more, this is probably instinct, to keep them safe from predators.  Pantera never considered me a predator, but kept a watchful eye if one of the kittens squealed as I held it.

Kittens certainly grow quickly!  At the age of one week, they had doubled in size.  They were no longer little wieners: they were big fat sausages!  At one week, they were no longer constantly at mom’s nipples and began to feed individually and mill about more.  Most had their eyes squinting open.

By the following Wednesday (ten days from birth), they began to get curious and tumble about, almost playing with one another.  A couple of days later, they were wrestling, vying for position to feed.  One would even hiss when startled. They continued to gain strength and by the age of two weeks, they were attempting to climb from their nest.  A clumsy attempt it was, for they could still not focus their eyes.

Then, at three weeks, the world was theirs!  They began to focus their eyes, and displayed their baby teeth.  They wanted to investigate everything.  Pantera would leave them, but be back at the slightest whimper.

At one month, they began to eat solid kitten food occasionally and use the litter box.  Both of these behaviors they learned from imitating mama cat.  At that point, although they did not physically need mom, they purred contently whenever she was near.    The experience of witnessing a mother cat’s love and care was truly remarkable.  

How does one duplicate this care as a foster mom?  What do you do when you find kittens in a dumpster, thrown away like yesterday’s trash?  This was the case of the four beautiful orphans in this picture. 

They came to me flea-ridden from their dumpster environment.  Since they were too young for chemical flea  products, the only remedy was bathing, lots of bathing. Two of these kittens came to be known as Duncan, (because we dunked him so often), and Dipsy, as we dipped her equally frequently.  

The orphans were hungry, very hungry.  One thing you appreciate quickly is that mama cat can feed all of her babies at once, continually, but as a human you must feed them one at a time, while the others clamor for their share.  You haven’t lived until you have had 80 little claws, sharp as needles, climbing your legs!  As a foster mom to tiny babies, one does not get much sleep, for they must be fed every four hours, night and day.  If they are newborn, it is every two hours. The reward is little purrs, for bottle-fed babies purr in response to their human “mom,” just as normal kittens purr contentedly next to mama cat.  And, believe it or not, the little ones also need to be burped, just like a human baby.  

On the other end, Mama licks kittens to stimulate them to urinate and defecate, then keeps them clean all in one action, so what does the human do?  Rub their little bottoms with warm wash cloths to stimulate them and then use lots of tissue.  When old enough, kittens follow mom to the litter box.  Fortunately, orphans, too, will use the litter box quite naturally, when they are old enough to stumble into it. It takes a while, though, for them to learn to clean themselves, so foster mom must bathe them.

Although they still enjoy the comfort of nursing, curiosity causes kittens to follow mama cat to food and water. However, bottle-fed kittens do not learn so quickly.  It takes a lot of coaxing to convince them to drink from a saucer or to even try moist food.  A messy process it is, so that means more baths!   Guess what?  Kittens like this learn to love water, which carries into adulthood, when they try to take a bath with you.  No spray bottles for discipline with these guys either: water is fun.

So it was, with patience and love, and a lot of fun, over the course of three weeks, the “dumpster babies” grew and flourished.  They were ready for their permanent homes, and, like Pantera’s kittens, they were the Lucky Ones.

Now in the heart of “kitten season” again, we can only ask, “What will happen to the many kittens abandoned in a park or thrown from a car on a country road?  Will they be among the Lucky Ones?”




 






   

The Comfort of Cats

posted April 15th, 2008 by
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Story by Camille Hulen

Pat was a single lady whose cats were her children.  

There was Morris, the oldest, a big orange Tabby every bit as handsome as his namesake in the cat food commercials.  Morris was now nine. Next there was Lucky, age six, a grey Tabby so named because he was lucky to survive when injured and lost his tail.  Then a friend had asked her to come see Sarah when she was a little kitten, and Pat couldn’t resist, adopting both Sarah and brother Sammy.  So now there were four cats living a happy life together.

When the war in Iraq began, an opportunity presented itself for Pat to serve her country, not as military, but as a civilian government employee in Iraq.  It was difficult, but Pat left her cats with a caretaker, promising to return in one year.  Email made life bearable, as she learned of their adjustment and their regular antics, along with the latest pictures.  Strangely enough, Lucky and Sarah had now become buddies, replacing the sibling relationship of Sammy and Sarah.  She made a visit home for Christmas, and saw that they were happy.

Then misfortune struck, when one day Pat detected a lump in her breast.  She was given a leave of absence to seek medical care, and the diagnosis was not good.  Her cancer from years past had returned.  Her foreign service curtailed, she returned to work in Tulsa.  As she underwent surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation, the cats were there for her.  How many cats can fit in one recliner?  The answer is at least four, because the cats were always by her side.

As her illness progressed, Pat became concerned about the long-term welfare of her cats, and made arrangements for their adoptions, because she knew she would not always be there for them.  However, it was most important that they stay with her in this troubling time.  We have all heard the story of the nursing home cat who comforted patients in their last days.  Animals know when they are needed.

Only when Pat left Tulsa to receive final care with relatives, were the cats removed from her.  Still, she received regular phone calls to learn how adoption was proceeding.  She was most concerned about Morris, for some thought he might be “too old” for adoption.  Guess what?  He was first to find a home, displaying his gentle loving ways.  Then Sammy, who was a “talker,” found a home.  But what about Lucky and Sarah?  They had become fast friends while “mom” was overseas, always grooming each other and sleeping together.  They needed to go together, and it is not always easy to find a home for two cats.

As Pat grew weaker, she talked less and less during the phone calls, but she always asked about her cats.  Finally, the good news came!  Sarah and Lucky had been adopted together!  She could no longer speak, but her nurse said she was smiling.  The next day, Pat died.

Choosing the Right Person

posted January 15th, 2008 by
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Story by Camille Hulen

The cat chooses the person, the person does not choose the cat, as these two stories illustrate.
Case #1 – laila

Why would anyone want to give up such a beautiful cat?  She was a full-blooded Siberian for whom they had probably paid $700.  “She bit one of the kids and she doesn’t like my husband much either,” the lady said.  So Laila was put up for adoption.

A young couple took her home.  They loved her dearly, but, it seemed, she developed this bad habit of urinating on their bed.  They tried different kinds of litter, they took her to the vet to have her checked for a urinary infection, and sought all sorts of advice, but the problem continued, so they brought her back to the shelter.  They cried when they left her.

Laila was checked once more for physical problems and none was found, so she was placed in foster care at a kennel for observation. There she always used the litter box, and never had an accident.  She was very loving and sweet, and even got along with other cats.  However, she did demand a lot of attention. She seemed to prefer women over men, and liked quiet time devoted to her alone.  Perhaps that is why she didn’t do well in a family setting, and, perhaps she was jealous of the couple’s relationship with each other.  She wanted a person all to herself!  Based on this information, it was suggested that she would do best in a home with a single woman.

Sure enough, the right person came along quickly!  She did have another cat, but felt that she had ample time to devote to two cats.  So Laila went to Home Number Three.

The following is quoted directly from the new “mom.”  “She is such a loving wonderful girl and gets sweeter every day as our bond grows closer and she continues to become more trusting…I am so happy with her and I love her and can’t imagine how anybody could have given her up.”  Need I say more? 

Case #2 – harley

Harley was the victim of a divorce.  When she came to the shelter, the man said that she was a sweet girl, but all she did was hiss, growl, and bite the volunteers.  Everyone was afraid of her, so she went to foster care.

At first, she stayed in her cage and growled.  If a human tried to pet her, she struck back.  This cat required a lot of patience, so she was left undisturbed, but allowed to observe other cats.  Hmm, this wasn’t such a bad place: those other cats seemed to be having fun.  They were relaxed and liked to play and be petted.  “Maybe I should try that,” Harley thought.  (Yes, cats do learn from observing other cats.)  So she ventured from her cage, but then quickly darted back when a human came near.  It turns out that Harley wasn’t mean: she was just afraid.  Two humans had previously adored her, but now she had no one.

Eventually, she allowed one person to pet and brush her, just a little at first, but then more and more.  The real breakthrough came when she relaxed enough to play.  She actually lay on her back and batted at toys.  This was a new found trust.

Then one day, the “right person” came to see her, interested in adopting her.  Harley immediately trusted this lady, for she was quiet and kind: she let her brush her and play with her.  This looked like an ideal match!  However, after giving it much thought, the lady decided that her current living situation was just too uncertain to assure Harley a good home, for she might be moving soon.

At the adoption center, Harley stayed to herself, and mostly hid in the storeroom.  But, guess what?  That nice “right person” could not get her out of her mind and came to visit her often.

Then, after a long time, it finally happened!  The lady decided that she was ready to take Harley home.  The adoption was approved immediately, since everyone had seen the bond between cat and person.  It had previously been a struggle to get Harley in a carrier, but this time she went right in, and when she reached her new home, she came out eagerly.  She stretched out on the floor and rolled around.  That first night she slept in the lady’s bed, and every night thereafter.  Home at last! 

Clearly, Laila and Harley chose the right people. 

Good Dog?

posted October 15th, 2007 by
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Story by Camille Hulen

Why would “Cat Tales” be titled “Good Dog?”  Read on.
It had been a dark and stormy night, and Bentley the dog hesitated to go outside as was his habit every morning before breakfast. Sure, since this Golden Retriever was still a puppy at one year old, he usually liked to play in the water, but this was ridiculous!  It had rained for days.  Reluctantly, he finally went out.

When he came back, what a surprise Bentley had for his owner!  Quite coincidentally, it was the owner’s birthday, but she did not expect this present!  Bentley always had at least one toy in his mouth, so, at first, she didn’t think much about it.  Then, it squealed.  

What was that dangling from Bentley’s mouth?  A rat?  A possum?  A baby skunk?  All that could be seen was a tail.  Bentley obediently dropped his prize, and there it was: a poor bedraggled white and black spotted kitten.  He had carried her gently in his mouth so that she was totally unharmed.  Good Dog!

Bentley was a rescue himself, adopted from the Bartlesville shelter.  Now he was saving another animal.  When he had previously been around puppies, he had loved them, and acted protective like a mother dog, even though he was a male.  When he had seen cats, though, he had usually just sat and looked at them, not knowing what to think.  This time he had taken action.

When Bentley dropped the kitten, it began to cry and toddle around.  The owner immediately went for towels to dry both Bentley and the tiny kitten.  As she cuddled it, the kitten began to suck her hand: it was so hungry.  It was probably only three weeks old, and barely had baby teeth.  The owner could find no stray cats or other new kittens in the neighborhood, so she called a friend for help.  This poor little thing needed to be fed, for she was too young to eat on her own.

When the kitten reached the home of her new “foster mom,” she drank hungrily from the syringe, and adapted quickly.  She grew and prospered, but she did have a case of ringworm that required treatment and isolation for some time.  After that, she loved the human attention and was eager to play with other cats.  When she met the big family dog, she was not afraid. There were many suggestions for names, but somehow “Lassie” seemed appropriate:  a little twist on all the “Lassie” rescue stories we watched as children.  Besides, she was a beautiful little lass.

Everyone who saw her admired her fluffy beauty, but two young girls, in particular, fell in love.  “Mom, can we take her home?” they pleaded.  “We already have two cats,” said the mom, but she was secretly in love as well.  As Mom agreed, she was careful to explain that this was the last kitten they would ever have, for she would be with them for a long time, probably longer than they would live at home.  They would be grown up and perhaps have children of their own during this cat’s life.  The kitten was not a toy; it was a lifetime commitment.

Needless to say, Lassie now lives with two little girls who adore her.  The oldest cat in the household ignores her, and the younger cat has a new playmate, and Mom has one more litter box to clean.

Bentley

posted July 15th, 2007 by
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Story by Camille Hulen

It was love at first sight when Jean saw the picture of the Maine Coon with his quizzical face.   Then, as soon as Bentley met Jean, he began talking to her, and she fell further in love.  He had such a unique way of expressing himself, not with purrs, but with squeaks and grunts.   “He has issues,” the counselor warned her as she filled out the adoption papers.  (It seems that Bentley had been adopted twice before and returned.)   However, Jean felt that every cat deserves a loving home, and this cat was special.
Bentley investigated every corner of his new home immediately.  Soon he became very active, tearing from one end of the house to the other.   “Don’t you think I’m adorable?” he said, as he jumped from chair to sofa to bookcase. “Who said you should walk on the floor?  It’s much more fun up here!” And then he would come and whisper to his new owner, endearing himself further, “You didn’t really like that antique vase, did you?”

A week later when the adoption center called, they did so with trepidation, afraid that he would be coming back again.  They breathed a sigh of relief when they learned that he had a permanent home.  You see, his new owner was willing to work with him, in spite of his “issues.”  She had made a commitment, and it was for life.  Besides, Bentley made her laugh! 

Everyday held new surprises.  Sometimes Bentley would take a mad dash across the room, climb the door jamb, then slide down like a fireman on a pole. Over and over, just for fun, of course!  The other cat in the household just watched in amazement at this unruly fellow. 

One never knew where you might find him.  One day he was lost for hours.  Where was Bentley?  Aha, in the cupboard over the refrigerator.  Of course, when feeding time came, he was in the refrigerator.  Bentley was always hungry, for a cat with this much energy needed lots of  food.  He was not at all fat, for he burned off the calories with all of his antics.

At home, Bentley could watch his food being prepared, but when he went to board at the kennel, it was done in an adjacent room.  When he heard action in the food prep area, he would repeatedly bounce three feet in the air, as if on a pogo stick, to look through the window.  The other cats waited patiently, but not Bentley.

At the kennel, he refused to be caged.  He would first trash the cage, then manipulate the latch until he got out.  This is not unusual behavior for a Maine Coon, but Bentley was better at it than most.   Next, Bentley deftly demonstrated how to open the screen door separating two sections of the kennel, earning the nickname Houdini.

When the owners adopted a black Lab who showed up on their doorstep, this was more entertainment for Bentley: another animal to tease.  Why not deposit cat toys in front of the dog, let him eat them, and then watch him throw up?  Why not sit on top of the dog’s crate and drop things on him?  Why not shred papers for the dog to eat?  (Bentley had already been outlawed from the office for unnecessary paper-shredding.) 

As you can see, there is never a dull moment with Bentley around.  So, how does one describe Bentley?  

Words from “The Sound of Music” come to mind.  Like Maria, Bentley makes you laugh.  As the song says, he truly is “A flibbertijibbet! A will-o’-the wisp! A clown!”

Rescuing Sugar Ray

posted April 15th, 2007 by
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By Camille Hulen

He had lost his mom and siblings, a young girl had rescued him, but he was still hungry. 

Unfortunately, although she tried, the young lady did not know how to care for a kitten so young. Her mother wanted to help, but she didn’t know what to do either.
They gave the kitten dry food, but he longed for the warmth of mother’s milk. Finally, the girl’s mom asked a friend to intervene. The friend took the kitten to a foster home where the lady had cared for many small kittens.

When the kitten arrived, it was determined that he was at least a month old, but he weighed less than seven ounces.  You could see every bone in his tiny body! He was also flea-infested: the foster mom gave him a bath and the water ran red with flea feces, the worst she had ever seen.  But the water was warm, and so was the kitten formula that she fed him with a syringe. At last the kitten fell asleep. However, he awoke in two hours and cried again, for he was hungry.  Night and day, every two hours, the lady fed him, and he fought to survive.

Then the kitten paid his first visit to the vet, who treated him for parasites that frequently accompany fleas. However, the vet did not offer any particular words of encouragement: this kitten was very malnourished. But he was a fighter,the vet said. The kitten continued to eat, but could not quite absorb all of the new food which was foreign to him, and he developed diarrhea, so hewent to visit the vet again.  This time, the doctor stuck him with a big needle and gave him fluids to combat dehydration.  His foster mom continued togive him lots of fluids, and he fought to survive.

He ate and ate, and new medication helpedhim to overcome the diarrhea.  He would now diveinto a can of Fancy Feast™ and absolutely wallow in it, eating to his heart’s content.  Next a new problem developed: an abscess at the site of thefluid injection required antibiotics. The wound healed, and as it did, he had this funny spot on the side of his body, a brighter color than the rest of his fur. Plus, he began to lose all the fur on his faceand forelegs, even his whiskers! You see, because he got his face so covered with food every time thathe ate, he had to have many baths. Because he suffered from malnutrition, his fur was fragile, and it just washed away.  What a funny looking cat hewas! But he was a fighter, still trying to survive.

At last he began to respond. He was still skinny, not a cute round bundle of fur like most kittens. He even began to play. But, would anyone want him? He was awfully scrawny looking. What should we name him? He certainly wasn’t a “Fluffy” or a big bold “Tiger.” No, he had to be named after a fighter, because that he was. Thus, he was called “Sugar Ray,” after two great boxers named Sugar Ray.

As Sugar Ray grew, he was still thin, and notparticularly handsome, but his hair grew back and he developed an endearing personality.  He was“quite a character,” someone said. Well, it so happened that the person whosaid that he was a “character”could not resist “the character,”and adopted him. Sugar Ray now lives with his new family of twoother cats, a dog, and two humans who love him dearly.

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