Cat Tales

“Now cracks a noble heart. —Good night, sweet prince, and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest!”

–Horatio in “Hamlet” by William Shakespeare

hammiekitchenwindowI’ve had a cat in my life since the day I was born. The one I grew up with, Snopsie, was a member of the family before I was. As I was growing up I often suspected that my parents loved that cat more than they did me. Now that I’m a mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother, I know with absolute certainty that such was true. Studies have shown that people have more empathy for animals than they do for other humans. I believe it. More often than not, I am one of them.

Of course the status a pet carries in a household Bengals Boxing 001varies significantly. Sometimes they’re a pet and sometimes they’re a fur-baby. The years when I was raising a family and had a houseful of kids, the cats were pets. I cared about them, enjoyed having them sit on my lap, and did the best I could to take care of them, but they didn’t own my heart. Once I retired, however, and the kids were gone, it was another story.

ophcabinetCLCI adopted Hamlet and Ophelia in December 2006 as a Christmas/Birthday present to myself. I’d heard that Bengals were unique, lively, and entertaining and were supposed to live as long as twenty years. One eighth of their genetic material is Asian Leopard, which accounts for their distinct markings and strong personalities. They’re intelligent, curious, agile, and adventurous which, as expected, leads to lots of mischief. Over the years, property damage and veterinarian bills have amounted to literally thousands of dollars, mostly credited to Ophelia.

Mine was not their first home. Originally a young couple hammiefishtankCLCwho lived in an apartment with a preschool age son and a baby were the ones who adopted them from a cattery. It didn’t take long to realize that that was not the ideal environment for these active felines. Luckily for me, they realized this about the time I decided to get a cat.

My daughter sent me a picture of these two from her company newsletter, mentioning how adorable they were. I immediately recognized them as Bengals and knew they were supposed to be mine. They were half-siblings sharing the same father but different mothers and born a day apart at a local cattery. Soon they were racing up and down the stairs of my Houston townhome, sitting on top of cabinets and bookcases, and scrutinizing the potential meals lurking in the fish tanks.IMG_0001

couchcuddle4When I retired in October 2009 we all moved to my lake house. It was half the size with no stairs. They were clearly bored, but we all made the best of it. There was one high perch that became Hamlet’s favorite, though he also liked the top of the refrigerator or the pie safe. I’m sure they would have loved to go outside, but they’d always been indoor cats and I worried about them in the rural environment. Hammie actually got outside one time, but freaked out almost as much as I did.

windowwatchX3I never thought he would leave so soon. Ophelia was the one who nearly died a couple times, usually from eating something she shouldn’t, like a leather shoe lace and a hair tie, the latter of which required surgery. He was supposed to live to a ripe old age as an indoor cat, then gradually fade away and die a peaceful death. Instead, in what should have still been his prime, he slipped away within a relatively short time. He’d been losing weight, which wasn’t unheard of for a fourteen year-old cat. It seemed to get worse about the time the COVID-19 pandemic locked everything down.

When I finally got him to the vet, the procedures were far different. Instead of going inside the examining room with your pet, you waited in your car.

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An assistant came to get him and deliver him inside, then the vet would talk to you on the phone. Hamlet hadn’t been to the vet very much and hated the car. Then we sat there for over an hour in the hot afternoon sun before they took him inside. Upon talking to the vet, I decided to leave him there overnight for them to gather the samples they needed to make a diagnosis.

Big mistake.

In the morning he was frantic, his wild blood turning him into a snarling, spitting, angry kitty who undoubtedly felt horribly abandoned. I took him home. The next day or so I noticed that his pupils were not the same size. I called the vet, took him in again. He had a detached retina, which could be caused by high blood pressure or a blow to the head. Which I later deduced occurred when he’d been left there overnight and gotten so upset. He got through that exam better, but the tests weren’t conclusive. The doctor suspected cancer, but his symptoms fit kidney failure or possibly pancreatitis.

detachedretinaJune2020

Different sized pupils = detached retina

I took him home and watched day after day as he sat in the sunroom, staring out the window. No doubt he was now half blind, which broke my heart. For a while he still ate and drank and used the litter box. In the evening he would  usually come into the living room and sit on the couch with me, his sister, and step-sister. If he didn’t join us, I would go get him.

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The usual evening couch configuration.

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His sister and step-sister knew something was wrong.

He continued to fail, losing weight and strength such that he was very wobbly on his feet. Before long he no longer had any interest in looking out the window. He sat on a cushion in my office, half asleep. He’d drink water, but was unable to get into the litter box. When he wet, he would move away from the puddle. I knew it was time, but it was 4th of July weekend. I couldn’t take him in to be put out of his misery until Monday.

I agonized at the thought of taking him in. He hated the car and would yowl the entire 20 miles. Whether I could be with him was in question due to the COVID-19 procedures. He might even die on the way from fear, given his weakened state. Not exactly a peaceful, humane demise.

Fortunately that drive wasn’t necessary. He passed away Sunday night around ten o’clock on the couch beside me where he’d spent every evening for the past ten years. Ophelia watched, instincts telling her what was happening. It was heartbreaking and intense but only took a few minutes and he was gone. At least it had been in a safe, familiar place with me doing all I could to comfort him.ophiehonorguard

I called my wonderful neighbor, Heike, who’s a fellow cat lover. She came over to help me wrap him in a blanket. We laid him on the futon in the sunroom where he’d always loved to sleep until the next morning when we would dig a grave to bury him. In the morning when I got up and checked on him I found his sister sleeping next to him for the last time. Talk about a tearjerker. But she knew he was gone. If I’d taken him to the vet she never would have known or understood in the same way. One of Heike’s cats typically shunned her for a while after making that dreaded trip to the vet, apparently blaming her for the feline family member who never returned.

grave07062020Heike and I, two women in our 70s, dug a hole in the rocky, Central Texas ground and laid him to rest by my shed in the shade of one of my oak trees. I’m still deciding what to plant on his grave. The rocks you see around it all came out of the hole itself. We got as deep as we could until the rocks were too big to remove. In the next few days I’ll make it prettier and a decent memorial to an awesome cat.

catblanketThe house feels so empty. Up until the past few months his presence was always known. He was very vocal and his climbing antics legendary. I’m so glad I took so many pictures over the years. Like they say, photos may not seem important until they are all you have left. Ophie has been in my lap much more than usual. Hammie was never much of a lap sitter. Actually, he was too big to get comfortable. If I had a blanket on my lap he would get under it and become the “undercover cat.”

One thing that touched me deeply was the response I received on Facebook. The post of his death got 152 likes and 96 comments and the post of Ophie beside his blanket-wrapped body got 59 likes and 124 comments. I’ve never had a response like that to anything before. Pet owners share an important bond, that of loving our fur babies like family. Their compassion and support meant so much, even though most of them are otherwise strangers.

In closing this memorial to my sweet Hamlet, here are some parody lyrics dedicated to all pet lovers for those difficult times when you say goodbye. Sing it to the tune of “All the Girls I Loved Before”, either the Julio Iglesias or Willy Nelson version, your choice.

hammysnooze3To all the cats I’ve loved before
Who traveled in and out my door
I’m so glad they came along
To them I dedicate this song
To all the cats I’ve loved beforemoochinghand

 

To all the cats who shared my bed
And never did a thing I said
I love and miss you, oh, so much
And miss your fur beneath my touch

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The Rainbow Bridge you may have crossed
But in my heart you’re never lost
Your sweet spirit lingers on
And will never be completely gone.

RIP Hamlet

March 17, 2006 – July 5, 2020

“Now cracks a noble heart. —Good night, sweet prince, and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest!”

–Horatio in “Hamlet” by William Shakespeare

A Cute Christmas Short Story

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Okay, this review is a week late and a dollar short, so to speak, but worth putting on your list for next year. This cute short story is perfect to read aloud with the family during the Christmas season, especially if you have a cat.  It’s well-written, has characters you can relate to (especially Mildred, the cat), and enough of a plot to give it substance. I laughed out loud at some of Mildred’s opinions of the dog and loved the innovative ways she tried to intervene and make sure everyone was happy. Highly recommended for a cozy read by the fireplace.

Pick up your copy on Amazon here.

The “Purrfect” Read for International Feral Cat Day

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Malcolm Gatta’s touching backstory transported me to a fantasy world I’ve not visited in a long time. I lean more toward science fiction and thrillers, not being that much of a vampire or zombie fan, which seem to dominate the fantasy genre of late. But as a cat lover and someone who has often envied my housecats’ idyllic existence, the idea of a cat shifter was intriguing, so I couldn’t resist checking it out. It’s the prequel to a trilogy which I have not yet read, but will probably add it to my reading list after experiencing this beautifully written, albeit heartrending tale of loss and renewed hope.

My only criticism is that I felt the sprinkling of expletives was unnecessary. There were probably only three in the entire story, but they were biggies, didn’t add to the story or characters, and such that I would hesitate to gift this story to my grandchildren. It’s not that I’m personally offended by such language myself. After all, my father was in the Navy and I worked at NASA over 20 years around engineers and such, plus have to admit I drop a few myself from time to time. There’s no question that some situations are best expressed through an expletive. Furthermore, sad but true, coarse language is now a part of today’s popular culture like never before, a possible symptom of what the world has become. However, there are still some who wish to avoid it and/or don’t want to condone much less encourage it. There are also creative ways to include such words in a story without actual use.

I feel crossing the PG barrier can cut off readers from an author’s fan list, which most can ill-afford. It’s apparently still enough of an issue that on sites where books are rated such as MyBookCave, inappropriate language is pointed out along with content related to sex and violence. I didn’t mean to go off on a total rant about it because this story really was outstanding, but it would have been even better to me without the bombs which seemed out of place with the smooth, even poetic, narrative as a whole.

You can pick up a copy on Amazon here.

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Global Cat Day

 

 

“Watch RWISA Write Showcase Tour” — Day 13

RWISA TOUR (1)

CRAZY CAT LADY

by Amy Reece

CAT SITTER NEEDED

$50 CASH—One Night ONLY

Apply in Person

653 Silverwood Ln Apt B

Rita looked from the folded newspaper to the small adobe duplex in front of her. Well, here goes. My chances of getting murdered or sold into a sex trafficking ring are pretty good, but I need the fifty bucks. Need might be overstating it, but she wanted to go to the concert and she didn’t have the money for the tickets. Her meager paycheck from her work-study job didn’t stretch much farther than covering the bare essentials. If she wanted any fun money, she had to find other ways to acquire it. She’d done it all: research studies, selling her plasma, modeling for art studio classes. Answering a jinky ad in the college newspaper was nothing. She had left a note in her dorm room telling her slumbering roommate where she was, so at the very least maybe they’d be able to recover her body. She shook off the dark thoughts and approached the house.

A tall, thin elderly woman answered the door. “Yes? How can I help you?”

Rita held up the ad. “I’m here about the cat sitting job.”

“Oh, my dear, yes. Well, come in.” She opened the screen door and stood back to allow Rita to enter.

Amy Reece

Amy Reece

The living room smelled musty but looked tidy, with sagging, old-fashioned furniture covered with bright, hand-crocheted afghans and doilies. Several cats raised their heads from where they snoozed on the cushions, then lowered them disinterestedly. A tray with a flowered china teapot and matching cups was set on the coffee table.

“Have a seat and I’ll pour you a cup of nice hot tea. It’s so chilly out this evening, isn’t it?”

Rita sat and accepted the cup of steaming tea while she frowned at the woman. “Were you expecting someone else?”

“Oh, no,” the woman said breezily. “I was expecting you.” She smiled as she sipped her tea. “Or someone like you. I put the ad in the paper and I knew someone would be along presently.” More cats of every color had wandered into the room. There had to be nearly fifteen cats winding their way around her feet, perching on the back of her chair, and leaping into her lap.

“Oh.” Rita nodded dumbly and fumbled with the handle of the delicate cup, spilling tea into the saucer.  “So, when exactly do you need the cat sitter?”

“Well, tonight, of course. I need to go visit my sister in Santa Fe. I’ll be back soon after breakfast tomorrow. Now, let me show you where I keep their food.” She reached forward to set her cup on the table.

“But, but,” sputtered Rita, “don’t you want to know about me? About my qualifications?”

The woman laughed lightly. “It’s only feeding a few cats, dear. It’s not rocket science. Come along.” She stood, shooing the cats from her lap, and led the way into the kitchen. “The dishes are here.” She pointed to a row of small ceramic bowls lining a dish drain. “And the food is in this cabinet. They like to eat around nine and then you can wash up.”

“Okay.” Rita nodded and counted the bowls. There were only six. “Do they take turns eating? Should I refill the bowls after the first group eats?”

“I think you’ll find one round is more than enough. Most of these are ghost cats, of course. Poor dears.”

Rita stared at her blankly. “Ghost cats?”

“Yes. They seem to be drawn to me. They just can’t move on quite yet. They’re not like dogs, you know.”

Rita didn’t know. In fact, the only thing she was sure of was that this woman was obviously insane. Ghost cats? What the hell? But fifty bucks was fifty bucks, and if she had to placate a crazy woman to get it, she was glad to. “Great. No problem.”

“Now, feel free to help yourself to anything if you get a little peckish.” She led the way back to the living room, where she picked up a small, old-fashioned train case Rita hadn’t noticed before. “Be sure to lock up after me. Have a good night and I’ll see you early tomorrow.”

Rita stood in the middle of the living room and watched her leave. “Wait! How do I—” she wrenched the door open to ask her final question, but the woman was gone. She stepped onto the porch and looked upon and down the street, noticing red taillights at the stop sign at the far end. She must have had a cab or an Uber waiting. She shrugged and closed the door, locking it as instructed. Then she turned to address the room. “Well, cats and kittens, I guess it’s just us for the rest of the night. At least she keeps this place clean. With this many of you it could really reek.” She’d eaten an early dinner at the cafeteria so she wasn’t hungry. The remote was on a side table, so she grabbed it up and found a cat-free cushion to sit on. The woman didn’t have cable, but Rita managed to find a rerun of a show she enjoyed and sat back to while away the hours until feeding time. The cats, for the most part, minded their own business and left her alone. A few finally crept close enough to sniff her, but then stalked away. She’d never been much of a cat person, so she took no offense. Feeding time went off without a hitch and the woman had been correct: the six bowls were more than enough. Cats came and nibbled, but none cleaned out their bowls. Many of the cats simply came and stared at the food without touching it. Weird. Maybe they are ghost cats.

She got hungry around midnight, but found nothing but a few stale crackers in the cabinet. She took them with her to the couch, pulled one of the crocheted afghans over her legs, and fell asleep watching an infomercial.

The key in the lock woke her the next morning. She sat, rubbing sleep from her eyes.

“Good morning! I’m sorry I woke you. How did everything go last night?” The woman set her train case by the door as she walked in.

“Um, fine. Yeah, everything went great.”

“Oh, good.” She rummaged in her purse for her checkbook and a pen. “Now, I’ll let you fill in your name. Here you go.” She handed her the check.

Rita glanced down at it, noting the spindly handwriting, but satisfied that it was indeed for fifty dollars. Sweet. Easy money. She sat up and folded the afghan and laid it across the back of the sofa. “Thanks. Well, have a nice day.” She waved awkwardly as she let herself out of the apartment. I’ll just swing by the bank and cash this, then stop to buy the concert tickets on my way home.

“Can I help you?” The voice came from the house next door. “What are you doing?”

“Huh?” Rita turned as the woman marched down her front path to confront her.

“Were you in that apartment? How did you get in? That door is supposed to be locked! Oh, I’m going to kill my husband! He never checks!”

“Excuse me?”

“What were you doing in there?”

“No-nothing! I mean, I was watching that lady’s cats for her.” She realized she’d never asked the woman’s name. “She paid me. See?” She held up the check for the other woman.

The woman glanced at the check and frowned. “I don’t know what kind of game you’re playing, but you better get out of here before I call the cops!”

“What are you talking about? I didn’t do anything wrong! I answered an ad in the paper to come and watch that lady’s cats for the night. She paid me fifty dollars. See?” She showed the check to the woman again.

The woman snatched the check from her hand. “Nobody lives there! The woman with all the cats died two years ago! We’ve had a heck of a time getting renters to stay because they swear it’s haunted or some nonsense! Now, if you’re not here about renting the place then I’m going to ask you to leave. Now. Before I call the police.” She glanced down at the check, laughed briefly, and handed it back to Rita.

Rita took the check and looked at it to see what could have made the woman laugh. Her eyes widened as she saw it was not a check at all; it was nothing more than a piece of torn newsprint. It fluttered to the ground as she ran, the woman’s laughter echoing behind her.


Thank you for supporting this member along the WATCH RWISAWRITE Showcase Tour today!  We ask that if you have enjoyed this member’s writing, to please visit their Author Page on the RWISA site, where you can find more of their writing, along with their contact and social media links, if they’ve turned you into a fan.  WE ask that you also check out their books in the RWISA or RRBC catalogs.  Thanks, again for your support and we hope that you will follow each member along this amazing tour of talent!  Don’t forget to click the link below to learn more about this author:

Amy Reece’s RWISA Author Page

 

Meowing at the Solstice Moon

hamletportraitprofile

I have two Bengal cats, Hamlet (shown above) and Ophelia (below), who are half-siblings and ten years old. This isn’t considered old for a breed that supposedly lives to be 20, but both have developed hyperthyroidism. Symptoms included weight loss, increased appetite, throwing up and somewhat erratic behavior. While I learned on PetMD.com that hyperthyroidism was relatively common for cats over 9 years old and therefore the likely cause, as a responsible pet owner I nonetheless wanted it confirmed by my veterinarian.

ophiefishtank

So I started with Ophelia, who had gotten especially skinny. Somewhere in the vicinity of $1400 later, I was told she had hyperthyroidism. <sigh> She is now on medication that costs more than mine, her lab work is in normal range, but she still hasn’t gained weight, even though she’s eating about 50% more than before. I should be so lucky to increase my intake like that and lose weight! In my dreams!

So, as my budget allows, Hamlet will be next. For now, I have him on an herbal remedy I found online for hyperthyroidism. In spite of the fact they claim it has “bacon flavor” it smells like a distasteful herbal remedy. I put 50 milliliters in his food twice a day, which of course annoys him since it apparently makes it taste funny. If you have a cat, then you know how they are about strange smells and tastes. The good news is since they’re hungry all the time, he eventually eats it. The bad news is that I’m now feeding these two four times a day instead of twice. The even-worse news is that sometimes their midnight snack doesn’t hold them long enough so breakfast occurs on demand at 6:00 or 7:00 a.m. As a retiree, trust me when I say those times are now considered in the middle of the night.

hammiefishtankCLCBengals are typically 1/8 Asian leopard, giving them some wild blood. This accounts for their interesting spotted and marbled patterns and coloration, plus their behavior is different than the usual garden-variety feline, too. For example, Ophelia will fetch her toys like a dog. She has a propensity for tight places, which has resulted in numerous near-emergencies over the years. They can jump like you wouldn’t believe, love high places, like on top of cabinets, and they’re quite vocal. Even as I write, Hamlet is standing in front on my computer monitor meowing for his afternoon snack. This is often not a normal “meow” but more of a howl-yowl-growl medley that sounds downright creepy to the uninitiated.

ophcabinetCLC

And that sound at o’dark:30 is pretty grating. Upon exiting dreamland, my first response is usually to yell, “Shut-up, Hamlet!” That works for about ten seconds. He persists, and when I still don’t get up, he starts to play dirty. He starts digging on my top-down/bottom-up window shades which are quite vulnerable to his claws. That gets me out of bed, and usually in a less than happy frame of mind, as I stumble into the kitchen, haul out a can of cat food, and dish it up. Usually that shuts him up and I get to go back to sleep for a few more precious hours.

So a few days ago, I wake up to the usual howling and notice it’s still dark outside. I check the clock: 5:15 a.m. I am not a happy camper. We exchange the usual dialog with me finally serving their breakfast along with various uncomplimentary comments. I go back to bed, just get comfortable, and the yowling starts again, punctuated as usual by molesting my blinds! OMG! I am furious! How dare he complain about the food at this hour? He persists, I get up again, do some more yelling and even give him a well-deserved swat so he jumps down from the windowsill and away from the blinds.

At which point I notice that it’s amazingly light outside. Really bright. What the heck was out there? I push up the shade and get a brilliant blast right in my face. The Full Moon, listing toward the western horizon. I live in the country where it’s dark and it was an amazing sight, especially over the lake, where it was reflected in what can only be described as incredibly breathtaking. I enjoy it, awestruck, for a few magic moments, then finally go back to bed.

Bengals Boxing 004Later that day, in complaining to my neighbor, a fellow pet lover, about Hamlet’s antics that morning it suddenly all made sense. Hamlet wasn’t asking for breakfast at 5:15. He was telling me to look at the Moon! Stupid human! Of course I felt horrifically guilty for yelling insulting names at him, to say nothing of that swat on the behind. I’d never seen anything quite like that Solstice Full Moon before and neither had he.

He’d been pouting under the coffee table all morning, so of course I gave him a profuse apology accompanied by a peace offering of some fresh catnip from the yard.

But I still felt incredibly guilty.