Monday, 26 March 2012

A mission of mercy

 My sister has a way with cats.  This is an ironic twist from our childhood days when we thought that cats were definitely not to be had as pets.  After all, we were a dog family! 

I don’t remember the first dog our family had, as I was a baby.  There are photographs of my older brother, myself as a baby and a dog in an over-stuffed chair.  Charming. 
The next dog we owned was a white Alsatian named Fluffy.  She was wonderful—loved children, was very gentle with us and very clever.  However, the neighbourhood children were afraid of her because she had a tendency to jump up on them and knock them over.  So we had to find her a new home. 

Then there was Humphrey, a mix of German shepherd and something else.  He was a medium –sized dog, also extremely clever.  One day, while Humphrey was still a puppy, a kitten showed up.  She was grey-striped and I actually convinced my Dad to keep her.  I named her Tiger.  She loved to get drinks from the bathroom sink.  She was a cat that thought she was a dog—and I think that in part was due to the fact that we raised her with Humphrey.  They were best friends.  However, right before we moved from California to Indiana, Tiger was poisoned.  I was very sad. 

In 1970, we had a wonderful Christmas.  My dad brought home a tiny puppy, whom he had already named Mini—because she fit in the palm of his hand.  She came home with him in his jacket pocket.  The red bow around her neck was bigger than she was; her diminutive size came from being a rat-terrier/pincher mix.  She was all black, with tan eyebrow, and feet, with a white spot on her chest.  She had been born on Halloween.  We had her the longest of any dog we owned—15 years. 

All this to say that for the most part, our loyalty lay with dog ownership.  That is until about 10 years ago when my sister purchased a tiny yellow kitten and named him Syeman.  You should see him now—at 18 pounds!  

Now there are 11—yes eleven—cats in the flat.  This gets back to my sister having a way with cats.  Syeman was a playful, intelligent fellow.  He would even go on a leash; this was helpful when Mom and Sissy began taking trips to Florida as they prepared to move from Indiana’s cold winters to Florida’s year-round warmth.  One day they stopped at a rest stop, and acquired another kitten.  She was named Maggie.  She had a very rough beginning, so she was shy as well as skittish.  But Sissy & Syeman nurtured her, so that she eventually relaxed into the family. 

After buying a house on the west coast of Florida, Sissy found a local vet.  It was through the local vet that Livia was acquired.  Mom was adamant—she didn’t want another cat!  Well, so much for what Mom wanted, as Livia—who became “Little Bit” (and eventually “Bit”) decided that she was going to be Mom’s companion.  As you know, cats pick their people—and Mom was “Stuck” with Little Bit.  It didn’t take much winning over.

As time went by, Sissy became aware of feral cats in the neighbourhood.  She began feeding them and over a two-year period, she befriended a tuxedo cat, whom she named Preacher.  The first time she saw Preacher, all she saw was a pair of green eyes and a white spot.  Then she heard him meow.  Sissy was gentle, soft-spoken and patient, intent on being able to touch him—stroking and petting him.  Eventually she invited him into the house.  Preacher had been on the streets for good while.  His defencive, survival-instincts eventually mellowed.  Now he is a love sponge—giving as much as he gets.  He lives up to his name, acting like a pastor to all the cats. She calls him the "Godfather".  :-) 
Along with Preacher, a tiny black cat gained Sissy’s attention.  Because she was so small and young, Sissy named her Bambina—because she called all her cats “Baby”.  Black as coal, with deep emerald eyes, Bina used to make sure the other cats kept their distance by giving them “The eye”.   That look was scary even to me!  She rarely came out from under the bed except to eat, or lay on top of my sister for affection.  And Sissy was the only one who could touch her.  In the last year she has mellowed to the point of being genial, and allowing me to rub her tummy. 

Just about the time Sissy thought she was done, two neighbourhood cats learned how to use the cat flap to get into my sister’s home.  Gracie and Charlie came right in and made themselves part of the family.   Gracie was a grey tiger-stripped, with an unpretentious and funny disposition.  She was always good for a laugh.  Charlie is a black tuxedo cat as well—maybe one of Preacher’s progeny.  Charlie can shows signs of jealousy when she wants affection.  And she tends to be a bit of a loner.  Yet she is a loyal little girl.  I was with her at the time, and Charlie adopted me!  Boy was I surprised, as I’d done nothing to encourage her.

Although they were “owned” by a family down the street, they preferred being in my sister’s place.  My sister moved from that house into an apartment.  When we moved, we tried to return Charlie and Gracie to the other family.  But they never settled back in—so we brought Charlie to the new place.  However, Gracie was spooked by carriers, and we just couldn’t get her.  From the last we knew, Gracie went back to being feral.

In November 2009, Sissy & Mom moved into the current place.  Last year Sissy began feeding a colony feral cats.  Very slowly she began building a relationship with the cats—naming them. 

In October, she brought in a tiny ginger kitten, who had a respiratory infection.  She named her, Sethra Rose.  After three weeks of being sequestered in the bathroom, Diane let Sethra out.  She is  all kitten, running, climbing, playing and making us laugh at her antics!  Hannah loves playing with her.  
Sethra’s brother is Jeb Lee, a slightly bigger version of Sethra.  Their mother is a mottled coloured cat named Brendal.  CC is a grey tabby cat, who is very laid back.  Sissy seems to think CC may have been previously owned and either abandoned or he’s gotten lost.  Miss Kitty is a tiny grey tabby cat as well.  Miss Kitty has had at least two litters of kittens in her very short life—and Sissy managed to get Miss Kitty into a carrier and take her to the vet before she had another.  And finally, there is Blue—an dark grey who is kind of a smoky-blue colour, with huge yellow eyes.  This month Sissy has managed to get Jeb Lee, Brendal, CC, Miss Kitty to the vets for spay and neutering.  Blue and Sethra are next on the list. 

While she loves all these cats, Sissy knows that the practicality of keeping eleven cats and one Chihuahua is expensive, emotionally and hygienically stressful.  So our project is to get photos of the newest foster kitties to put them up for adoption.  It will be heart-breaking to say good-bye as they are all loveable characters with their own idiosyncrasies.  But Sissy knows it is best for them.

I plan to post photos of some of the cats in the following days.  

Serving Jesus, Author of our faith,
"Lady Helene" 

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