Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Indoor? Outdoor? or Moving with a Psychotic cat

This story began in April of 2007. I am posting it in my blog since I was asked by a friend whether my cats were indoor or outdoor. There is no short answer to that question, so here it is. I hope you enjoy my writing style. I couldn't help but laugh at it myself, so I hope you find it entertaining.

After much soul-searching, many nights of waking at 3 a.m. and not getting enough sleep, I made the decision to move in with my aging father. I did not come to this lightly, nor without thinking through all the ramifications of combining two households. This was no easy feat, and brought much anguish not only to myself, but my two nearly 10-year old indoor cats.
To give you a little background on my male cat, Baby, I have to start at the beginning. When we first met he was a mere 6 weeks old. He was brought to my home unwanted and, I believed, unloved. Needless to say, that didn’t last long. I am a sucker for helpless little furry things, feline or canine, especially furry, helpless little kittens.
My daughter, Tess, had promised a co-worker she would take a kitten when her cat gave birth. I told her I didn’t want a kitten, but she begged and begged and finally won. I agreed to take in a kitten. Make that ONE kitten with capital letters. Little did I know that was the last argument I would win for a while.
My daughter went to visit her father on the 4th of July and “rescued” a kitten from his unloving home. The poor little thing had tried to use the fireplace ashes for his litter box. Unfortunately the fire had just gone out, and the ashes were still smoldering. He had tiny little burned feet. I made room in my home and heart for a tiny tiger-striped lover named, aptly enough, Tiger. I believed he was the only kitten we would be adopting. Meanwhile Baby and his litter-mates were entering this world.
Baby was supposedly a girl kitten. Tess’s co-worker obviously had some difficulty with sexing kittens. (Boys look like a question mark and girls like an exclamation point. I have never forgotten those descriptions,. Take a look some time, it is true.) I had completely forgotten about the expected kittens by this point in time and had settled into a nice routine with one kitten and an older cat. Tess came into the house on August 15, 1997, in a big hurry and thrust a kitten at me. Her explanation was mostly incoherent and involved her having promised her co-worker, weeks ago, she would take this kitten. I asked her if she was out of her mind to which she replied, “Isn’t he cute?” He was so tiny, and she didn’t have time to take him back right then, so I asked what his name was and she mumbled something in Greek. (I later learned it was Ares.) I wasn’t quite sure I remembered her mumblings later on, so I started calling him “Baby,” due to his diminutive size. Okay, so I fell helplessly in love with him in about two minutes. He was a tiny white kitten with just a halo of orange around his tail and ears. He was part flame point or some other oriental mix, loud annoying Siamese voice and all.
The reason I didn’t want another cat, any other cat, was because I already had a cat, Prometheus, a large adorable, insatiably curious 14-month-old half-Tonkinese fur person. Prometheus was probably the smartest, most annoying cat I have ever known. He wanted to be everywhere you were, and involved in everything you did. He knew doorknobs were what opened doors and constantly tried to use them. He would happily grab the end of the toilet paper in his mouth and TP the hallway from the bathroom to the living room. Once he got his head stuck in a plastic grocery bag and panicked. He ran around and around the house fleeing from the flapping plastic bag. I finally captured him and removed the object of his terror. He immediately ran back to the bag, stuck his head through the hand-hold and started running again. Obviously he had turned terror into a game of his own device. He was the only cat I ever had who jumped from the floor to the top of my bedroom door to my stomach in a single motion. Oooof!
Prometheus had already taken Tiger under his wing and immediately became obsessed with Baby as well. Prometheus took his job of nurse-maid seriously. He literally nursed both kittens until they were nearly as large as he was. He thought he was their mother. He was a loving, friendly, outgoing cat who immediately attached himself to cat-lovers and cat-haters with equal abandon. Tiger and Baby, since Baby was his best friend and adopted litter-mate, were the exact opposite. They were afraid of everyone and everything, from visitors to hailstorms. Tiger was so afraid he would hide either under the bed or in the closet for hours following either of these occurrences. He was afraid of loud noises, kids, men, and just about everything.
I, at one time, had a roomer. She was loud, and walked like a herd of elephants. Tiger often hid in my bedroom, and rarely came out. One day, when the “kittens” were about two years old, the roomer found Tiger laying in the living room. She spoke to him, and he didn’t budge. She discovered he was dead. She later told me what had happened, and I feared she had done something to him, since she wasn’t especially fond of my cats. A short time after she told me about it, I was in the kitchen lighting a candle when I heard a funny noise. I turned my head toward the living room just in time to see the changer on the CD player going out and back in, and I saw Prometheus jump back, totter a couple of steps and fall over. He died shortly after, despite my attempts at CPR. I locked Baby in my art studio and made sure there was no way the CD player could ever kill again. It was a short in the electrical system. It gave a whole new meaning to the words, “Killer music.” My heart was broken, and so was Baby’s. He was more than a little psychotic after all this happened. He was afraid of virtually every loud noise, and every stranger who entered our world. He was however more attached to me than he had been.
I spent a lot of weekends with my best friends, Joann and Dan. They were the original owners of Prometheus, his siblings and their mother Dusty. Their hearts were heavy for me as they shared my grief. They had two cats, Tweety - named this because she looked like Sylvester, and Koala - Prometheus’s little sister from the next year’s litter. They encouraged me to take her home with me. She had always been more attached to me than to them, and Tweety made her life miserable. I told them it was too soon, but I would take her when I was ready.
A couple of months later I had surgery and was really depressed while I was convalescing. My roommate took it upon herself to go to Joann and Dan’s and pick up Koala. I was not thrilled she had taken it upon herself to do this, but I was as happy to see Koala as she was to see me. Fortunately we eliminated the annoying roommate shortly after.
We settled into a love hate relationship. Baby loved Koala and she hated him. After about a year she would stop hissing at him at least part of the time if he came near. After the end of the second year of their cohabitation she would occasionally allow him to be on my lap or the bed at the same time she was as long as he didn’t touch her. Now after seven and a half years together she puts up with him. Most of the time she doesn’t growl or hiss. Sometimes she even rubs her head on him, or lets him rub his on her. And occasionally she even plays with him.
Baby started to try to control my life when he was around three. He suddenly decided he was the alarm clock. He usually goes off about five minutes before the alarm is due to ring. He turns immediately into a snooze alarm, but with a much more annoying rate of return, and he refuses to turn off and let me go back to sleep. He had also started telling me when to go to bed. I paid attention to his annoying instructions for a while, but after a few months I decided to stay put in the living room until all hours of the night. I don’t think I really won, I think he just decided it wasn’t worth fighting over. Besides, if we went to bed later it was a lot more fun to chase Koala out of his favorite spot on the bed. She was a lot crankier when she had been asleep for a while. It wouldn’t have been so bad if he had a concept of days off and how much I would enjoy sleeping in once in a while. His annoying Siamese-type voice can be painful first thing in the morning.
My cats are not spoiled. They are just well-loved, and seriously pampered. They have their own kitty drinking fountain. Koala is obsessed with running water, so the fountain is the perfect solution. The water runs down a little slide in the front. It is filtered and has a reserve tank, which means they have plenty of fresh water for a day or two. They sleep on my bed, and now they have two slaves, my Dad and me.
In preparing to move here, I knew the toughest part would be moving the cats. We were only moving 12 miles, but it was a much larger move emotionally for all of us.
Dad moved into the smaller of his two bedrooms, and the cats and I were moving into the larger bedroom. In a bedroom roughly 11’x11’ larger is a term I use loosely. I was trying to prepare for the immediate necessities. I had purchased two cat carriers and had left them in the house for two days. The front of the carriers were open and I had placed an article of my clothing in each one, hoping for a friendly welcoming smell. Baby immediately went into his to “check it out.” Koala avoided both of them.
I spent the next couple of days figuring out what I needed to take with me right away. I still own my home, and plan to keep it in the family. I packed my clothes, jewelry, and laptop computer. The Mac and the rest of my stuff will have to come as I have time and room. I, a confessed packrat, have to eliminate a lot of my stuff. I plan to keep my art supplies, my pie bird collection, my Noah’s ark collection, and my favorite books. I have no idea what else I will bring besides photos, DVDs and CDs. I will probably have to get a storage unit to be able to sort through things and try to sell the stuff I won’t be keeping.
My ex-son-in-law, Brian, helped me get my “immediate needs” moved. This involved moving my dad into the smaller bedroom and into a hospital bed. We gave Dad’s mattress and box springs to my youngest granddaughter, Cassie, and rearranged the larger bedroom to give me the most usable space. I had to make room for my bed, a computer desk, and my drawing table. I wanted it to seem like more than a bedroom, and feel like I had a little of my own space. To accomplish all of this, I needed help. My daughter, Tess, moved the furniture around while Brian and Kori (Tess’s step-sister) and I loaded my bed and other things into Kori’s minivan. I also knew this was the time to pack up the cats, their drinking fountain, their cat food and litter box. After they had left with the bed and the rest of the stuff, it took me about half an hour to coax Baby out of the closet. I figured he would be the tough one to capture, so I talked to him in the bathroom with his crate. He walked right in and I quickly closed the door. I thought I had it made. Koala, the easy, friendly, affectionate cat would be a piece of cake. NOT!! I took Baby’s crate to the living room, probably not such a good idea. He immediately started meowing, and he never stopped. For nearly a week he didn’t stop. Koala, sensing there was something to be afraid of, tried to escape me. However, she is a sucker for petting and scratching. I grabbed her and started to cram her into her carrier. She became a bundle of legs. Straight out to the sides legs. Legs that refused to get through the door to the carrier. Then she scratched me and escaped. I tracked her down after chasing her around the kitchen for a few minutes. I then grabbed her front feet in one hand, and her back ones in the other. I flipped the crate on end, and unceremoniously dropped her into the crate head first, along with my arm. Somehow I accomplished this unscathed, and she joined in the caterwauling (now I know where they got that word). I toted the litter box and both crates to the car. I talked to them, rather loudly so they could hear me, all the way to my Dad’s house. Twelve miles is an awfully long distance when you have two cats screaming in discord.
Upon arriving I shut both cats in my room while we carried in the rest of the things I had brought. I put their litter box in the bathroom and when everyone had left I let them out. One at a time, I showed them the litter box, food and water. I had put the litter box in the bathroom, right next to my room. I put the food and a water bowl in my bedroom in case Baby was afraid to come out. Koala immediately started to wander around her new abode. She found my Dad entertaining and a gentleman. She figured out right away she now had two adoring humans to do her bidding.
Baby was a different story. He was terrified. He hid in my bedroom under the dresser for the first several hours. His terror was verbalized periodically in tones loud enough to wake the dead. When Dad went to bed at 9 p.m. I thought Baby would realize it was quiet, and he would feel free to explore. Wrong. He was still terrified. He came part way down the hall, and did a u-turn into the bathroom. He immediately opened the cabinet under the sink and disappeared into a plumbing access hole behind the shower. He never came to bed. I slept kind of restlessly from midnight until around 2 a.m. in spite of the meowing. Then it got worse. He carried on so much I gave up around 5 a.m. and got up. Me, who usually stays up until midnight and gets up around 8 a.m. By the time I had made coffee, I noticed the meowing had stopped. I thought, finally, he is going to settle down and adjust to his new home. I had the day off. I was so tired from all the meowing I fell asleep sitting in the living room. So did Dad. He said the cat didn’t bother him, but I can’t imagine he got much more sleep than I did. By the time I went to art class that night I was more than a little worried about him. I hadn’t seen him all day. I was really starting to worry. My friend asked if he could have gotten out some way. I was pretty sure there was no access to the outdoors.
Baby WAS outside!!! He did get out through the plumbing access. I lured him out from under the mobile home’s skirting at around midnight. I fumbled around in the dark, cut my hand, and I had to go back inside and find a flashlight. They should have named it a flash dark, it was so dim. But I did manage to find a little spot I could get a hand hold in, and finally managed to pry up a spot I could reach him through. And guess what? He started the whole thing over again as soon as I got him inside. Do you know any sure cure for an insane cat? I put a 31 pound bucket of kitty litter in front of the cabinet door. I figured I would go to Ace and buy hooks to latch the cabinets in the morning. Guess again. He meowed even worse all night. He meowed so loud I thought I would lose my mind. He also became interested in the washer and dryer. Sometime around 5:30 a.m. I gave up and got up once again. He was finally starting to explore his new home, but he was very vocal about it. He was looking under the kitchen sink for an escape route. Sometime during coffee making, and eating breakfast he managed to push aside the bucket of kitty litter and, once again, escaped.
I went immediately to Ace Hardware and bought hook and eye latches with little snap down things to prevent the large white pain in my butt from escaping. I took off for work, worrying about how I would lure him out this time. The only thing I could think of was albacore tuna. It worked. He loves the juice from albacore tuna, and I lured him out during the daytime. We were headed for the front door when the neighbor called to me. Between struggling with a squirming cat, fighting off the shredding claws, and desperately trying to keep him calm, I lost my grip. The only thing that stopped him from disappearing under the trailer was the albacore tuna which he stopped to eat. I once again grabbed him, and headed for the front door while informing him of the necessity of getting inside. He no longer had his access to the great outdoors. I might have latches on the bathroom cabinets, but he was still meowing. My next plan was to find something to calm him down. I got on the Internet and checked out herbal remedies, and “Googled” moving with cats.
I bought an $18 bottle of herbal calming drops at the pet store, and he went to sleep along with me. BUT, he started incessantly meowing at 4:15 a.m. I gave him another dose of his “medicine,” but it didn’t work, so I had to come up with some other solution. First I tried shutting him in the bathroom, the object of his obsession. Unfortunately, it is right next to the head of my bed so his volume was enough to kill me. I then tried shutting him in the coat closet in the living room and he was still so loud I couldn't sleep, even with earplugs. I finally gave up around 5:30 a.m. and got up. I was not functioning very well at this point. Exhaustion was really beginning to take its toll.
I wrote an email to my friends and asked the following: Do you know any way to silence an insane cat, or do I just need earplugs? I think I had had a total of about 11 hours sleep in the past 72 hours. Somehow that is not on a par with my usual 7-8 per night. Is sleep deprivation terminal? He is now obsessed with the dryer vent area.
He had discovered a new exit. The dryer vent hole, I didn’t even think he would fit in the hole. He shredded the vent and out he went. By now I had run out of new ways to fool him into coming out. The neighbor’s cats were circling around the spot I had pulled him out of, and I was seriously starting to think he might have to become an outdoor cat. Don’t ask me how, but I tricked him into coming out without tuna.
I then sequestered him in my bedroom for the next three nights.
While I was checking out the information on moving with cats I had read about a product called Feliway on the internet. "They" said it was practically foolproof, and a sure cure. After paying, gasp, $39.95 for it. I actually got 7 hours sleep. The next night however was a different story. He let me nap until about midnight, then slept until 4 a.m., at which time he turned into the alarm clock again and meowed a lot so I put back in the earplugs. By 6 a.m. I couldn't even doze through his meowing with the earplugs. My Dad had gotten up and had turned on the heat (about 75). Sooooo, I got up.
My former son-in-law, Brian, was going to repair the dryer vent on his day off. I really wanted to let Baby out of my bedroom, but I couldn't let him out until his escape route was blocked. I had bought one of the metal vent pipes and a big PVC flange, so Brian would have a choice of products to use. What the heck after the $40 Feliway I figured it was only money. At this point in time I just wanted the madness to end. Hopefully he would leave the dryer vent alone. AAAARRRRGGGGHHHHH!!! I never realized how important sleep was.
Amazingly enough, I got home to a quiet house. I let Baby out of the bedroom, and he immediately jumped behind the dryer. He pawed at stuff and meowed a lot. He then sounded like he was having difficulty getting back to the top of the dryer. I figured if he was stuck it was his own fault. Eventually he came to the living room to look for me. He pawed at the cabinets under the kitchen sink, and disappeared in there. Little did he know there was no way out.
He came to accept the cabinets in the bathroom were not available to him and left them alone (most of the time). He was finally only checking the dryer vent about once a day. I don’t know if he thought it would revert, or if he thought I might change my mind. He was captive and adjusting. Well, one of us was.
He now lets me sleep until about 6 or 7 a.m. I just might survive this move after all. Now I have to figure out how to get enough sleep in six to seven hours. Guess I will have to try going to bed earlier. I really hate the thought, but I guess I could learn to do it if I have to.
Signed: Rita
Two weeks into my captivity and I am afraid I may survive. I am devising an escape plan. Koala doesn’t think it will work, but I have to try it! Don’t tell the natives, they think they have me whipped into submission.
Signed: Baby

The next installment of this little tale finds us as we are now. Koala is an outdoor cat, due to her refusal to use the kitty litter box. Instead she has been known to use the corner in the hallway, or one of my shoes. So needless to say she is now a strictly outdoor model unless some unknowing idiot lets her in. Baby is an indoor / outdoor model. He spends most of the night in. From around 10 pm until about 6 am. He then insists on going out, and I enjoy sleeping enough to let him. He comes in and out all day, if I am at home it begins at around 11 am and continues in about 10-20 minute intervals until bedtime. I gave up, he won the great indoor / outdoor war. I enjoy sleeping enough to realize I just can't force the issue and survive. He is currently sitting in my comfy chair and gloating.

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