Posts Tagged ‘cats’

Life has this way of sneaking by, and before I realize it, the moments have passed before I have had the chance to reflect on them.  It’s been a while since I’ve shared on this blog…

My attention has been elsewhere.  Roger and I are striving to become better human beings and partners to each other.  Continuing lessons include staying focused and keeping our commitments to ourselves and to one another… Being in the now does provide momentary relief from the lessons life constantly provides.

It’s been nearly five months since Chewie’s “Great Escape and 11-day Outdoor Adventure.”  It’s as if he never left, and he seems quite content to live the indoor lifestyle.  But we will not be tricked into complacency!

And, Roger has kept his word to Chewie:  We have not one but three tricked out warm water tanks!  In addition to five felines, we are now the caretakers of a variety of warm water fish, two crawfish and two albino African clawed frogs (Pinky and Peetie) .  Yes, we have quite the menagerie of fins, flippers and furbies.  And, yes, I do have an admiration for alliteration…  The tanks are Roger’s primary new hobby.   And all the cats do enjoy their new live “television” experience!

And life has gone on for our kitties.  Throughout all the changes and the passing of time, they remain as they are—beacons of hope, reminders of the present.  Still fighting and cuddling.  Still puking and peeing.  And still remaining lumps of irrepressible love.

My promise is to resume posting regularly to this blog.  This artistic outlet is one of many varied, creative lifelines anchoring me to this world of color, texture, taste…to this sensual life, brimming with joy, love, grief and sorrow.  But a full life, nonetheless.  And I’m not yet done…there are still a few items left on my bucket list.  But, first, I must find and pet a kitty.

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The last month of 2011 has turned out to be quite the odyssey.  An emotional rollercoaster of regret, sadness, irritation, hope…and gratitude.

The Monday starting the second week of December began like most any other.  Chewie, transparent as always, woke up Roger with a little kneading and cuddling—with the ultimate goal of earning an early morning snack.  After snacking all our furbies, Roger kissed me goodbye and was about to leave for work.  And, then…

He just bolted.  Chewie got underfoot while Roger was fiddling with the front door, leaving Roger in a daze and Chewie off to God-knows where.  We looked for him for most of that Monday, through the neighborhood, hoping to see a glimpse of him hunkering down…but nothing.  We were so fearful he ran too far he could not find his way home…or that he met his fate with some other beast or vehicle.

By that Wednesday, we posted a lost kitty ad on Craigslist and affixed flyers around our neighborhood.  We looked for him continually and hoped to lure him home with treats…but nothing. Was he scared?  Upset with us?  Lost and hurt?  Or…did he just prefer the life of a street kitty??

This turn of events was disheartening but not surprising.  Of all the indoor cats, Chewie was the one who expressed the most interest in exploring what was beyond that front door.  I guess his curiosity, desire and need to investigate outweighed his desire for safety, comfort and love from his hairless beings. 

Then, by the end of the first week, our regret and sadness turned to irritation.  On Thursday evening, we caught a glimpse of the fur beast just lounging outside our back door!  But when we went to let him in, Chewie bolted…again!  What the  F*%^&*$?!  Now we felt incensed and exasperated.  Ok, he was not hurt, alone or lost, and we felt relief over that.  Now he just seemed to prefer the outdoors?  Was Cheiwe afraid to approach the front door because of Sylvester or Orange Kitty?  Were we just trying to come up with answers, anthropomorphisng our ten-pound headache, in the attempt to understand the changing circumstances?  Even his two older half brothers, Junior and Blackie, eventually returned home after several unscheduled excursions.

For nearly a week, I feel asleep praying that Chewie was ok and trying to understand why he wouldn’t come back.  Of course, Roger felt horribly guilty for not paying better attention and vowed to make our home more inviting for Chewie by refurbishing the fish tank and stocking it with more fish for the viewing pleasure of all the kitties.

Well, we did catch sightings of Chewie several more times.  But in the end, Roger resorted to trapping our furbeast with one of our humane traps.  Yep.  After 11 nights out-of-doors, Chewie came home—a little skinnier and rumpled, but he’s home now.  And within an hour of his homecoming, he came out from hunkering underneath the bed and rubbed against his hairless beasts as if nothing had happened, no time at all had passed.  And of course our hurt and annoyance just evaporated into wellsprings of gratitude. 

Maybe in his mind, no time had really gone bye.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful to truly and whole-heartedly live just in the moment?  One moment you’re inside—woo hooo!  The next moment you’re outside—woo hoo!  No recognition of the passage of time, and no regret for what is not happening.

We higher-level beings are the ones who suffer—perhaps, even by choice—when things do not seem to go our way, or when we do not understand why something is occurring.  If we could truly live in the now, would there be any place for suffering, regret and shame?  Would we take for granted life’s impermanence and the gifts of love, kindness and friendship?

Chewie and Junior Relaxing

Chewie has now been home 9 days.  He has had to re-earn the title of kitty goodwill ambassador….when he was gone, he left quite a vacuum and the power hierarchy among the four remaining felines began to shift…The first to melt was Junior, after a day, but Puffy and Tigger were still quite vocal with their displeasure.  But after a week, Roger caught a glimpse of Chewie and Puffy cuddling, and I have witnessed the beginnings of Tigger wanting to again play with the Chew-butt.  Blackie still keeps to himself…

Roger now owes the cats one tricked-out fish tank—the first resolution 2012!

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“August, die she must,
The autumn winds blow chilly and cold;
September I’ll remember.
A love once new has now grown old.”

–from April Come She Will by Simon and Garfunkel

The cool, crisp air brings relief to summer’s heat.  Leaves turn from green to a vibrant palate of reds, oranges and yellows.  Autumn has always been evocative, poignant time for me, a time of transition from the summer’s radiant energy, foreshadowing the slumbers of winter. 

It was this time of year, four years ago when we said our final goodbye to Frisco—an elderly male Himalayan who lived to age 18!  Frisco was primarily Roger’s cat, but he did come to accept me, and I grew to love him.  He was the solo kitty (imagine that!) from 2001 to 2007.  When his kidneys finally gave out, we took him to the vet so that he would no longer suffer.  The old coot was ornery til the end.  One moment he was there, hissing at me (I inadvertently touched his paws, and he never liked that!)… and one final heart beat later his pupils dilated and he no longer was…

Where did he go?

Sometimes it doesn’t seem fair that our feline companions live for such a  short time. You are just getting used to their company when they opt for transition.  And there you are, left with memories of joy and feelings of grief and loss.  They give so much and burn out so quickly.  Is this heartache the price we pay for a few years of joy spent with these lumps of love? 

I have lived with a handful of cats that no longer are…except for my memories of them.  Sometimes they passed due to life’s circumstances; others, of natural causes. My love affair with striped tiger kitties started with Lilly in 1988, when Lilly adopted my ex-husband and me as her official caretakers…  It was during the cool of autumn in 1993 when I realized my first marriage was over and I initially left my ex.  We were quite cordial in the division of the marital assets…Lilly stayed with him—partly out of guilt and as a consolation to the breakup of our marriage… I hope she had a good life, a life filled with warmth and love.

There were other felines that I had to say goodbye to…I was with my friend, Sondra, when she had to make the most extreme decision to put down her Millie, her kitty stricken with an oral cancer who was slowly starving to death yet still wanted to live.  It was a two-step process by a vet who came to Sondra’s home…a peaceful transition, but one that is still heart wrenching to think of years after I was witness to it…

And more recently, nearly half of Slug Mamma’s brood are gone, so young and so soon.  Pumpkin was Junior’s littermate, a short-haired white and orange spotted goof who was so personable and friendly. The last time we saw him was an evening in June 2009.  With one grainy photo, I went to local shelters to look for him…but to no avail.

Then there were Blackie’s littermates: Minnie Me, the female version of Orange Kitty.  She was just a year old and had grown into quite the “maxi me,” full of life and vigor.  She was struck and killed by a vehicle January 2010.  That loss was wrenching, since she was mostly socialized and Roger and I could have brought her inside….like Elton John’s  Candle in the wind (ok, this is a post for old song lyrics), her life force burned bright but oh so briefly.  I miss her and think of her nearly every day.  And within a week of her death, Tawny, the third littermate, went out and about and was not to return….

The ending for all of us—cat, human, all living things—is ultimately the same.  We are here for only the briefest of moments.  How do we spend those moments, those beats that pass with the ticking of the clock measuring each breath taken?  Do we spend this precious commodity of time in shame and regret?  Or do we share our essence—our love and joy—with those that matter most?

My cats have been and continue to be a wonderful teacher of staying present to the present.  And a reminder of our most precious, enduring commodity: love.  As in the words, attributed, in part, to the Dances of Universal Peace: “All I ask of you is forever to remember me as loving you.”

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As cat owners, we expect to pay for pet maintenance such as food, vet visits, toys, perhaps an occasional grooming… but when do these lumps of love become too costly?  Is that even a fair calculation?  They are so loveable, yet at times they wreck such wonton destruction!

I have found their crimes fall into main categories:  inorganic and organic transgressions. Tigger is a chewer of inorganic materials. When he gets nervous (which is often) or wants attention, he chews…my computer cords, the plastic slinky on my desk.  And the most expensive offense: I am now on my 4th hands-free ear piece for my landline phone!  And all the cats like to sharpen their claws on the couches.  And the continual peeing by Junior and Blackie have cost Roger and me plenty in laundering time and purchases of drop cloths and carpet cleaner.


"Crime Scene" Photo

And these cats are thieves of all types of organic matter!  On a number of occasions, we have found half eaten food strewn about the floor, evidence their petty crimes.  Just last week, one of them wrangled an organic zucchini out of my shopping sack and chewed through more than half of it, leaving a broken and tattered carcass in its wake.  I  was tempted to draw a chalk line around it…I suspect it was Puffy, who has been caught chewing through plastic bags to get to onions and lemons…who knew he had a sweet tooth, as well?

Sometimes I feel I reach my limit on patience, especially when I am cleaning the same covers three days in a row…But, truly, there is no internal score keeping in terms of which cat is more challenging to maintain.  Because in the end, that score is meaningless.  As forever parents of our five cats—a responsibility, joy and obligation we’ve freely and whole heartedly taken—our felines are priceless in terms of the love they give and the lessons we learn about ourselves and life. 

I’ll readily admit that last week was just a particularly trying one for me in terms of their destructive powers, which seems to multiply geometrically since there five of ‘em.  If I come across one more soiled blanket, I feel my head will explode or spin a-la Linda Blair in The Exorcist…but then I take a deep breathe, sometimes a primal scream, and all is well.  Now, where’s a kitty when I need to pet one?

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Sluggo during her "modeling" phase

Maybe I should be  jealous.  She’s cute, small yet has quite the big personality.  She’s looking svelte after a plump phase…and my husband dotes on her whenever she appears. Which, to Roger’s chagrin, is not as often as it used to be.  She’s his furry girlfriend—the other woman.  And there is a lot of history tied into that small bundle of energy known as Sluggo, Slugg Mamma or just…The Slugg.

If you were to look for a definition of a feral cat, you would have seen her picture and a description:  a wide-eyed tortoiseshell calico, wiry, looking for a quick handout and a place to raise her many litters of young.  Yes, for nearly two years this diminutive female was one major kitten-producing machine.

At first, we did not know how to deal with her—which, we actually thought a him, given the cat’s demeanor towards the other ferals: quite the ball buster who took no attitude from other felines or …dogs.  Aptly named Sluggo, at first we didn’t realize that the saggy belly was NOT due to extra fur.  We were so unschooled in handling pregnant cats, and we didn’t realize she was “with kittens” until the first litter: Pumpkin and Junior.  Then the second…Tawny, Blackie, Minnie Me.  Then the last…Chewie, Puffy, Bear and Corrina.

Oyyy…we feared the cat population growing exponentially.  And since we did not want to become the neighborhood cat maternity ward, Roger began to feverishly research ways to humanely trap her for spaying. Yes, you could rent or buy these specialized traps, but Roger just did not like that idea. Our first attempt was a failure: Roger constructed this large, cage-like area on the property.  But the idea was too unwieldy and I was not available to help at the needed crucial moment to close the door—so she escaped and hurt her ear in the process.  Now permanently bent, we both felt really bad over that fiasco. 

That slice-of-life experience was a great looking glass into how available I am and have tended to be over the course of my relationship with Roger.  Sometimes the image reflected back is not very pretty.  

In my mind at the time, I was busily preparing to travel for paid performance gigs south of Denver, in Colorado Springs.  Couldn’t this trapping wait another day or week? I had a week’s worth of early rising, and I had to be well rested for the drive and to perform optimally.  But in my husband’s mind, this was the perfect opportunity to catch this kitten bearer.  And she got away—and stayed away for nearly three months—due, in part, to my not being available.

Sluggo Today

While we both realize we should have done something to curb the kitten producing from the outset, Roger took this lack of forward movement as a personal reflection of his inability to handle life’s circumstances.  And my not being available to help when he was so close to resolving this issue just added to the emotional maelstrom…  As a life partner, I should have realized that my sacrifice in rest would have been greatly offset by  my contribution to marital accord.  Hindsight is always clearer…

POSTSCRIPT:  Roger finally did catch Sluggo—with another type of trap “box,” researched on the internet—and had her fixed late fall 2009. 

 And partially out of guilt and to make amends, somewhat, I’ve continued to indulge my husband’s predilections for wanting the do the right thing…  That is why I agreed to bring the partially feral  Blackie inside the home after Minnie Me died..which created quite a bit of havoc with the cat hierarchy.  But I put my foot down—literally and figuratively—when he started campaigning to bring Sluggo inside.  Seriously?!  A nearly 100% feral female into a home with one woosy poosy and four half brothers?  Roger will just have to be satisfied with feeding his furry girlfriend out in the courtyard.

Just for fun, the cat timeline:

August 2007: Tigger born

November 2007: Adopt the Tiggster from Dumb Friends League

May 2008: Junior and Pumpkin born

December 2008: Blackie, Tawny and Minnie Me born

June 2009: Pumpkin is gone (doesn’t return)

June 2009: Chewie, Puffy, Corrina and Bear born; August they make their debut

September 2009: socialize the June brood; a friend adopts Corrina and Bear

Late fall 2009: Roger trapped and had Sluggo spayed.

January 2010: Minnie Me dies (hit by car) and Tawny is gone

June 2010: Take in Blackie

August 2010 – June 2011: caretake Fuzzy (in courtyard and garage throughout the winter)

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I am under the false notion that I actually chose Tigger.  Nope.  I knew he was running this “adopt me, adopt me” scam the moment Roger and I walked into the kitten room at the Denver Dumb Friends League (animal shelter) in November of 2007.  It had been two months since Frisco, Roger’s elderly Himalayan, had passed—and the only time our home was cat-free and relatively clean…  It was time; we were ready for another kitty.  But I wanted to experience a kitten.  Specifically, a striped tiger kitty…oh, they’re so cute!

There he was, lounging in his cage, just daring you to look at him.  And of course we did.  It was Kismet: In the small private room where humans and animals evaluate each other for compatibility, Tigger (who, at the time, was named Sabrina.  Yep.  Too funny), a three month old male, brown striped tabby kitty, immediately climbed me like a tree—baby claws digging into my back and head for balance.  And then I knew.  I just knew I had to have this small bundle of energy.

So, from November 2007 through August 2009, Tigger—also known as Tiggy, Tiggersaurus Rex, the Tiggster, Tigger Goose and sometimes even The Godzilla of Tiggers—was our first and only kitty.  The entire house was his territory.  He must have had a basketball player as a baby daddy, because he grew from this small, three-pounder to this rather large-ish cat with this long body, long legs, a soft saggy belly (extra fur, primarily) and this nearly freakishly long tail.

September 2009.  Who are these mewing, crying baby lumps of fur in the middle of my territory?  Why are they trespassing?!!  Hrmmmph!  Sluggo had had yet another litter, and Roger and I decided we were going to socialize the brood.  We researched the web, and Roger built a socialization cage in the middle of our front sunroom.  After catching these four small, wily missiles (a two-day event!), I spent the next two weeks feeding them human baby food and making them adoptable ready…more on their story in future  posts.

After two weeks of self-imposed confinement to the back of the house (mainly my office, bathroom and master bedroom), Tigger hesitantly slinked back to the sunroom to check these interlopers.  After a few moments of hissing to let then know who was boss (ha ha), Tigger decided all was well. For the moment.  They just looked back at him, curiously.  Then they returned to playing…

(We kept two out of the four kittens [the remaining two have a good home with a friend].  And in the nearly two years since, we’ve also taken in two of their older half brothers from prior litters.)

Poor Tiggy… the advent of the kittens marked a significant change in lifestyle—beginning a pattern of self-imposed isolation and retreat.  Roger and I realized early on that he would probably have never lasted as a wild kitty on the savannah—he just doesn’t have the cajones.  In terms of dominance, Tigger is on the lower end.  He is extremely lovable and quirky—quite the “Mommy’s cat, actually—but his temperament is more suited to that of a solo kitty. We quickly discovered that he would rather retreat than “fight” for his meals.  Since we didn’t want our “woosy pussy” (an apt description; thank you, Sondra!) to starve, we now feed Tigger separately, in Mommy’s office.  Oh, he just loves this special attention—especially when he plays coy and Mommy has to chase him down to eat… Hide and seek and skiing across Mommy’s desk, papers a-flyin, is so much fun!

Tigger is a prime example of adapting to life’s changing, ever-evolving circumstances.  While it may look like a retreat, perhaps it’s just a quiet time of growth and reflection until a new and better step evolves… So, for nearly two years, Roger and I have taken great pains to make our Tigger as comfortable as possible.  In addition to the special feedings, Roger built a wire mesh folding door to protect the Tiggster from the two older bullies—hissing matches, mostly. When needed, we can latch that door to close off the back section of the house.  Tigger can now poop and eat in relative peace.  And to give Tigger alone time with us (mainly me) overnight, we gently evict the other furbies …to the remaining sections of the house.

He adapted, so we adapted.

But with change, growth is emerging: Starting in the spring of 2011, Roger and I have begun to witness Tigger slowly taking back his home—with sightings in the kitchen, greeting me at the front door, lounging in the sunroom.  And if he’s feeling especially brave, he will check out the den and even spend some quality time on the dryer—as long as Mommy is there.  Ohh, that open window can provide a fabulous vantage point to check out those yapping birdies.  Meow.

I think Tigger will always be a woosy pussy, but I am glad to witness this evolution in demeanor.  In a small way, his story gives me hope that change is possible—no matter how small and incremental the steps.  As long as they are forward moving,


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Hello world!

Thank you for visiting, and welcome to Life Lessons from Lumps of Love—hereinafter referred to as LLFLOV. I love cats—my husband and I both do!!  They are amazing (ok, sometimes gross) furry, purry creatures who have impacted, influenced and changed our lives in ways we still have yet to realize. With this blog, I will share what I’ve learned about life and living from being the human companion and caretaker of these wonderful creatures.

This is my very first foray into blogging, and this blog will serve as a motivation and inspiration to write regularly. My ultimate goal is to publish a book—that these musings will coalesce into something coherent.

 Well, let’s begin!

 Upcoming posts: meeting the cast of kitty characters (yes, I have a thing for alliteration…lol).

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