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©April 2006

Carol Jane Remsburg




The Way Of The Cat






I live in a house where five FEMALE felines reside.  It wasn't always the case, over the last twenty-five years the numbers were definitely smaller and the mix between males and females more equal.  However there is now a pack of them and the hierarchy is unmistakable—Pye (Pyewacket) rules; matriarchs always do.


Living with cats is always an adventure.  This isn't about catbox issues (which I am the queen of…), or feedings or bathings or medicine/vet trips, this is about cat watching in the ultimate degree, and trust me, my felines give a show worth watching, they always have.


In our house we have Pyewacket, saved from certain death due to malnourishment…to reign supreme over two males, one aging, and a younger one who would do back flips for a mere glance of approval from her.  Since her salvation and recovery, this particular feline has ruled all she has surveyed—um, that means us humans too.


She endured with good grace, the sort reserved for royalty, the shots and surgeries required to live inside our home.  She never cried, she never howled, yet she brooked no sass—EVER.  Even when Erin was seven and crying for another good night hug—after three trips for the same hug and kiss good night, Pye would come into play.  Note this:  Pye cannot stand loud noises of any sort—be it the phone, a Nextel, a whiny child, or another vocal feline.  She makes it KNOWN she's mad.  


After the fifth "Good night" and the loud calls came from her bedroom that I tried to ignore, Pye dealt with it.  She ran into the room, jumped onto the bed, onto Erin's chest and nipped her nose.  It was her, "Shut UP already, and go to sleep," way.  Astonished by this,--and know we heard all about it, and I could only laugh.  Pye then sat on kid's chest and stared at her…the kid stared back, but went to sleep--after about fifteen minutes of stillness.  Pye hopped down, ambled over for loves and rubs, knowing she'd done a good job.  She did, for Erin never tried screeching a 4th or 5th time again.  (Okay, that doesn't count the first two—but both Pye and I have our limitations on what we can stand…)


Later, old Spike passed, then recently Stinky.  During that time we've had a sudden inrush of other foundlings to save, all of them 'sister sets.'  First was the "mother" who showed up, pregnant…very friendly.  I named her Thomasina.  I was late November and very cold, it was a bitter winter that year.  Come late December, Thomasina showed up frequently and was now VERY pregnant, hubby set up a place for her in the garage and turned on a ceramic heater, the radio, and even lights.


Not long afterwards…Thomasina disappeared.  It wasn't until very early in February when Thomasina showed up again…bringing her offspring…two clones of her…little gray tabbies who wouldn't let us touch them, yet cried out for loves and attention.  Then they disappeared, as did Thomasina.  But it was SO cold outside, snow and bitterly cold temperatures.


I knew the kittens were close and food was scarce.  We put food out…it disappeared, and we had no idea where they were or how they were until sometime in mid-March.  They suffered one of the cruelest, bitterest winters for temperatures—alone.  Their mother, Thomasina had abandoned them with us.


Likely they spent most of their time, bundled entwined beneath the porch for warmth where we couldn't see them or help them.  The oldest, Missy, ventured out finally, was affectionate…but Gabby, so aptly named, refused—she's SUCH a drama queen.  For a time we weren't sure if we had one kitten or two beneath the porch, and poor Missy had been injured on her tail, which we were sure she was going to lose…the cold and her innate sense of cleanliness saved her tail—which still has a crook, but is viable nonetheless.


By mid-March, the warmer weather brought them out.  They frolicked in the tiger lilies as has all the kittens since.  They needed care, and they also needed a home.  By June, the eldest, Missy, err, had been sidetracked by a male—we had to make a move.  Three attempts to box them and get them to the vet failed—hubby was clawed pretty badly—he just refused to do the 'scruff' and carry, but I will.  Don prefers the 'cradle' mode—exposing himself to, "I'M NOT GONNA GO IN THAT BOX"—and all that comes with it.  Me, I'm the master of manhandling a cat, when I know it won't hurt them and save ME from injury.  It doesn't hurt the cat and saves ME a bunch of skin.  (Remember, I'm the one who also has to bathe them…hubby is SUCH a weenie)  Thus, we finally, on the fourth try, got them housed in a large dog cage, and off to the vet for fixing and shots and declawing.  Once home, and on the back porch, they were in heaven, they've never looked back, enjoy the porch, but home is INSIDE.  Even when I took out their stitches, not a blink or a nod—did it while they were snoozing.


Secondly, we've brought in another legacy of Thomasina's brood, Swirl.  Fudgie, sister to Swirl, also had another 'round of kittens that grew up and took up squatters rights in the garage.  The one male, Ripple, got run off into the road and was killed, and hubby mourned as did we all.  Fudgie had her own kitties and they wouldn't come, but her sister, Swirl, was a treasure but she disappeared, leaving her offspring at the mercy of Fudge AND her kittens.  Swirl had three—a gray tabby, a black, and a cream sickle orange.  The cream sickle orange was the only male—and he was savaged one night.  That was the Friday night I sat up with him on the back steps until about 2 AM when he died in my arms.  There was no taking this kitten to the vet, there wasn't, for they couldn't have saved him, only ended it.  I thought long and hard about smothering him, to end it, yeah, go ahead trash me all you want, but this tiny thing had been so abused, his pain hurt me so.  All I could do was hold him, his mother and siblings beside me on the back steps, then he passed.


The two who were left, Stripes, the little gray, and Salem, the black one, remained.  About two months later, their mother Swirl, just didn't come home.  Fudgie, had a litter of her own…a lot of them…started beating up on the orphans.  Stripes disappeared for about two weeks, we had to bring in Salem to save her from being bullied and driven away.  Then, after about a week, right after bringing Salem back from the vet's….Stripes showed back up—we had FIVE, count'em FIVE cats in this little house.  Stinky, Pye, Missy, Gabby, and Salem.  There was absolutely, positively NO WAY a sixth was coming in.  Keeping in mind, we had a FULL house at THREE.


I just couldn't, wouldn't, couldn't…..the summer passed.  Stripes kept far away from Fudgie and family firmly who were ensconced in the garage.  Stripes hid behind the garage and took shelter where we could provide for her in an oversized PVC conduit.  Erin spent her summer afternoons in a chair with Stripes in her lap, reading to her.  Then came the fall, the chill that came with it.  The tube was held no respite or warmth.  One Friday night I was met at the back door by both Hubby and teen—with a chagrined look on their faces.


After months, and I mean months, of harried pleas, hubby had caved big.  Stripes was on the porch and inside.  What could I say?  Apparently not much, for she was such a sweetie and vying with Stink for Erin's loving attention.


Not two months later, Stink fell ill, and passed, leaving Stripes as the front runner for Erin's sole attention and a salve for her enormous grief over Stinky's passing.  Moreover, Erin goes nowhere without Stripes, she's always there, more than Stinky ever was…more dog than cat, this feline is a human shadow for Erin. 


To round out the remaining others, we have Pye, who hubby 'saved' which she never forgot, who was supposed to be MY cat---simply rules all and sundry in the house and sleeps at Don's feet every night.  She takes her due as it should be, nobody, and I mean NOBODY crosses that little calico furball.


Then there's Missy, the eldest of the first twins, my personal shadow.  She loves me because I'm her mother, always have been.  She sleeps with me, cuddles with me, and is second-in-command ONLY to Pye.  Then there's Gabby…the malcontent.  She's her Daddy's whiner..oh, and she WHINES, cries, babbles, and stirs UP trouble-cuz she's got SUCH a bad temper.  Like the irritant in an oyster that creates a pearl, this house wouldn't be the same without her constant whining and nagging…and SHE DOES nag.  Hubby and I have long ago decided she was the most APTLY named of any of our pets—Gabby is certainly is.


Stripes is all Erin's, her shadow, as I mentioned, but Salem, our little black baby, is all her Daddy's, she worships his every move.  She carries around her toys, her "ninny" ones of the plastic bell encased in a plastic all, or her squeaky mouse, and only plays with her sister Stripes.  Salem is the "baby" who is totally innocent and will never grow up. 


But normally, it's, well—a madhouse around here most times.


Now, after I've given you ALL this background, what happened this morning may make a bit of sense—if you are feline inclined.


Why do you ask?


Well, Gabby got OUT on Friday morning, off the porch and into the backyard, just as I was about to leave for work and take Erin to school.  I didn't have time to chase her down, but I did try to make her come to me---she was just too full of herself to do it, nothing surprising there.  It was time to call in the reinforcements, only Don could get her in….he's the animal person (guru, you name it—all animals love him—go figure), and Gabby adores him too.


My plea yanked him out of the shower and dressed in no time, I left him to deal with it.  About 15 minutes later, just before getting to work, I got a call from him telling me that he had Gabby inside.  Further, he pronounced, NONE of the cats were going to be allowed on the porch until he deemed otherwise.


Fast-forward to Sunday morning.  Friday night passed—no cat on the porch.  Gabby cried continually over it.  Saturday they DID get to go out, but Gabby was whining, because she was in a foul mood.  Gabby continued to whine and grouse and in general be a pain in the butt—until Sunday morning.


On Sunday morning, this morning, I got up at just before 7 AM, enjoying the quiet to sleep in.  Yes, I showered, made coffee, scooped the cat box, filled their food, and opened the back door to the porch.  Meanwhile Gabby cried, whined, and was annoying—as she had been for the last three days.


By about 8:30 AM, hubby was up and we were enjoying coffee and CNN news together—there came a scream and the thundering of galloping cats into the room.  Gabby was running with fear and Pye, smaller than Gabby, was in HOT pursuit.  Pye had finally tired of the whining and complaining.  She cornered Gabby right at my feet and pummeled her but good.


Further, when Gabby left the room, Pye corralled her into the living room and put her into a "time out" for about five hours—and wouldn't let her leave.  About three hours into it, they both went to sleep, but before that, it was a face-off.  Pye NEVER loses.


So, the next time you wanna face off with a matriarch, give it a bit of consideration.  Be it in the feline world or the human world, we old biddies can only stand so much.  (As a sidebar, every OTHER feline in the house creeped around and was VERY quiet…none of them wanna make our Pyewacket mad either.).


Now if I could just focus her attention back on Erin


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