Thursday, March 7, 2013

Blogger help with Paws with a Cause with author Allison Kraft

Apologizes in advance for the long post and rampant abuse of parentheses.

I'm one of those people who, if left to my own devices, would probably end up with a zoo in her house. I love animals, but aside from a short phase where I had 4 ferrets (we all experiment in college, right?), cats are my go-to pet. I have no doubt that 30 years or so from now I will be that crazy old lady with the house full of cats. I've accepted and embraced this as my future. I even look forward to it, because cats are awesome, and I believe one can never have too many. (As long as you can take care of them, that is. Animal hoarders make me sad.)

Right now, I have 4 cats, the most I've ever had at one time (a tie with those aforementioned ferrets). This is mainly because I acquired said cats in pairs. The first pair came a few weeks after the death of my beloved Ginger, a fat, sassy tortoiseshell who passed at the ripe old age of 17. I found them at a veterinarian's office and instantly fell in love. They were sisters and looked nearly identical, and they just so happened to be named Kate and Ana-Lucia, after characters on my then-favorite TV show, Lost. They were 7 months old, and because they were so bonded to one another they couldn't be separated, the office staff had been having no luck finding them a home. Not many people want two cats at once, especially ones that aren't cute little kittens any longer. Seeing them in that cage together broke my heart, and I had to take them home with me. (The vet tech even gave me a two-for-one deal on adoption fees since they were so relieved I was willing to take them together!)

Kate and Ana were very skittish at first, but quickly warmed up to us and I have never regretted getting them instead of a kitten. They're beautiful (their coloring is called diluted tortoiseshell, which is a regular tortie pattern but in grays and peaches instead of black and oranges) and very adorable with one another. It's obvious how much they love each other, and for the first few months we had them, the only time you'd hear them meow was if one lost sight of the other. Once the missing sister answered, all was right with the world again. They have their own personalities, which are eerily similar to their namesakes - a big reason why I didn't rename them, despite Ana-Lucia being my least favorite character on the show. If you're familiar with Lost, Kate (both the character and cat) is bold and adventurous, while Ana-Lucia is more guarded and moody. If you hear a cat grumbling in our house, it's most likely Ana getting annoyed at one of the other cats invading her personal space. We wonder sometimes if they think they're dogs: they wag their tails when they're happy and Kate is a relentless beggar, especially at the dinner table. Kate is also a lap cat, but only with me and only when I'm sitting somewhere that wouldn't be comfortable for an extended period of time, like the floor or a barstool.

I don't know where Kate and Ana came from before the vet, but I suspect they may have been feral kittens at one time. In addition to their skittishness, they eat like the food won't be there later (which usually results in one or both of them barfing it up shortly after) and they're very quiet. I've read that feral cats don't meow because their mothers teach them to be quiet - making noise can attract predators, after all. Ana squeaks from time to time, and will sometime let out a mournful cry for no apparent reason, and Kate only meows when she's got a toy in her mouth. We call it her singing toy. We also call her our sidler (after the guy in that episode of Seinfeld) because she sidles up to you so quietly, you don't realize she's there until you almost step on her. Not the healthiest habit, but we've learned to watch our step around the house.

Ana (the one on her back) sure loves her sister.

More snuggling. They do this just about daily.

About a year after adopting Kate & Ana, a feral cat showed up at our house with two male kittens. We watched from our windows as she raised them, until my soft heart got the better of me and I started to feed them. I named them Fuzzy and Piglet because Fuzzy had long hair and Piglet was a glutton with food. We tried names for the mother, but in the end she was always Mama to us, and that's what stuck. Original, I know. Names have never been my strong suit, which is why its one of my least favorite parts of writing.

Their favorite sleeping spot: up on our garden wall.

Piglet is the one with the white face. Fuzzy is all orange (and fuzzy). As they got to know and trust us, they would come into the bathroom to eat. Just look at those faces!

Over time, the cats grew used to us, to the point where I could sometimes get Fuzzy to sit on my lap. They were wild, though, and couldn't live indoors. It's illegal to TNR (trap, neuter, return) in my county, so all we could do was hope Mama didn't get knocked up again. Alas, a year later, she did. And this time, she had four kittens: two orange tabbies like her and the boys, and two black that turned out to be tortoiseshells. Their father, a neighborhood cat we've dubbed Bubba, was a black-and-white longhair. We're pretty sure he was owned by someone who let him out to roam the streets: ridiculously irresponsible, in my opinion, since they didn't have him neutered. He wasn't afraid of people like ferals are, and was always clean and looked very well-fed. I haven't seen him in a while, so hopefully they wised up and brought him indoors full-time. I'm not just guessing he's the father, either: I saw the two canoodling outside our window in early January, and two months later (the gestation period in cats is about 60 days, give or take)... kittens!

Meet the parents: Bubba and Mama (it's hard to see, but she's actually pregnant in that shot). Also, you can see how the pattern of white on Bubba's face is nearly identical to Piglet's. We're pretty sure he's the father to both litters.

One of the first days the kittens were all out where we could see them. Yes, we built a shelter for the cats outside. We're suckers. (They loved it, though.)

I decided I couldn't just sit and watch these kittens grow up into more feral cats, especially when chances were at least one was a girl (two were, in fact, as torties are almost always female). If left un-spayed, one feral cat and her offspring can produce thousands (or more!) of cats over her lifetime, and I couldn't in good conscience let that happen here. I had waited too long with the boys to do anything, so this time as soon as they were old enough to be weaned, I set out to catch the kittens with the intention of socializing them and later finding them homes. Unfortunately, my first attempt was less than successful, and ended with Mama attacking and biting me. We then had to catch her and take her to animal control to be quarantined for rabies, and once she cleared quarantine, they spayed her and put her up for adoption. She was only on their website for a day, so I choose to believe someone gave her a home. She was a beautiful, sweet cat (I can't blame her for protecting her babies) and from what I've been told, it's very rare for an orange cat to be female.

The kittens were orphans for a few days after that while we tried to come up with a new plan to catch them, which was made more difficult because my botched attempt to capture them had made them more fearful of us. Their brothers took over watching them, and for the most part they didn't seem to be too upset at their mother's absence. I still felt horrible about taking her away, but that spurred me on even more to catch them and get them inside. A few days later, we finally managed it by leaving an open cat carrier outside and quickly closing the door once they were all sleeping in it. Fuzzy even helped by sitting outside the carrier door so they wouldn't run out right away, something they'd done every other time we tried to close them in.

What I call the "mini me" shot: Piglet and Sawyer eating side by side. Sawyer was about 5 weeks old.

I'd accomplished my original goal of getting the kittens inside, only to be faced with the reality of raising them the rest of the way on my own. What seemed simple in theory was a lot harder in practice. They had to be kept apart from Kate & Ana until they could be checked out by a vet and cleared of any contagious diseases, and they were incredibly skittish after the ordeal they'd been through. Thankfully, there are a lot of good tips online for socializing feral kittens, the best of which is Gerber stage two baby food, chicken flavor. It's like kitten crack. They lived in a puppy cage in my bathroom at first, then later in my bedroom when they were old enough to wander free. Socializing them was hard work, as they were initially still fearful of people. One of the boys (Sawyer) and one of the girls (Buffy) warmed up more quickly, with the other boy (Hurley - I kept the Lost theme going with the boys) not far behind. The last girl (Princess, the runt of the litter) was the toughest nut to crack. She's still afraid of everyone but those of us who live in the house with her, but she's a total sweetheart and quickly became my favorite. Also, she snores, which is just about the most adorable thing ever.

How Princess got her name. She's the one hogging the bed while her siblings sleep on the floor around her.

Getting anything done in a room full of kittens is nearly impossible. Pictured: Buffy on my arm (the black one), Hurley on the keyboard and Sawyer on my lap.
If you have some time, this is a video from the early days of socializing them. At this point they were a little more used to me, so I was able to sit in the room and play with them. For the most part, the only way I could touch them was by sneaking up on them while they were playing, or by distracting them with baby food. Buffy was the exception - she warmed up to me pretty quickly.

Eventually they were old enough to leave the nest, so to speak. The only problem? I'd been with them every waking moment outside of work for weeks and had grown ridiculously attached. Kate & Ana had grudgingly accepted them, they slept with me (and in the case of the boys, ON me) every night and felt like my own babies. How could I give them up?

Six cats in a house with only three people was too much. I'd have kept them all happily, but got out-voted by the rest of the family, so a compromise was eventually made: we'd keep two. We decided on the girls, and I found myself in a similar position to the people I got Kate & Ana from: I had two brothers who adored each other and I couldn't bear to have them separated. It didn't take long, however, to get a nibble on my ad. Someone was not only interested, but she was open to adopting them both. She came to the house to see them, watched them play with one another for a little bit, and agreed to take them home. (Really, I would have dared anyone to watch those two for more than 30 seconds and not fall in love.)

Sawyer & Hurley as babies, when they were still outside. Seriously, who can resist that?

It took a little time, but Kate & Ana soon accepted the new girls. (Buffy and Ana)

At that point I discovered I am not cut out to foster cats. I don't remember the last time I cried as hard as I did after Sawyer and Hurley were gone, but despite the heartache of giving them up, I know I did the right thing for them. Their lives are a million times better as well-loved pets as they would have been living outside, even with the mild winters we have in Florida. I heard back from the boys' new owner a few times in the early days: she renamed them Sweeney and Todd, and it didn't take long for them to start sleeping on her head as they once had on mine.

The girls settled in wonderfully, and all four are now a happy little kitty family. Sure, they fight sometimes, but they always make up. Buffy is a pistol, always looking for trouble. We call her "the barger" because she loves attention and is always barging in on one of the other cats when they're napping, cuddling up next to them whether they like it or not. Princess is stil the most skittish, making it nearly impossible to catch her without bloodshed when it's time to take her to the vet. When peole come over, she hides behind the bed until they leave, but when it's just us, she's very friendly and loving. She sleeps by me nearly every night (as do most of them, leaving my queen-sized bed rather crowded), loves to drink out of the kitchen faucet and has an adorably annoying habit of sitting right in front of me when I'm trying to watch TV at night. SInce they grew up feral, they're just as quiet as Kate & Ana, so it's very rare to hear any meowing in the house (the exception is when Kate has her singing toy). Buffy squeaks when she wants attention or wants to go out by the pool. Princess is the quietest, only squeaking occasionally, and even then it's more like a soft cough than an actual squeak. It's hard to explain, but it's cute. Piglet has the same coughy-meow, so it must run in the family.

As for the outside boys, Fuzzy disappeared a few years ago. We don't know if he found new territory or if he was taken in by a neighbor (he was gorgeous, and pretty docile for a feral cat), or if the worst happened and he was killed by a car or illness. Piglet is an old man now by feral cat standards, at almost 7 years. He still comes by for food at least once a week, but he's been moving more slowly these days, and we suspect it won't be long before we stop seeing him altogether. Whenever he's here, though, Buffy and/or Princess is usually there to watch him from the other side of the window. We can't help wondering if they remember that he's their brother. I'm sure it's naive of me, but I like to think they do.

Some extra shots:

A shot of how tame Fuzzy eventually become (and how pretty he was). That's my knee he's leaning against.

Buffy in my lap, as a kitten. (Same pants, different day. They were my favorite lounging pants back then.)

My favorite shot of Princess. She has the biggest, brightest eyes. When she was younger we'd call her Gizmo, because she was all eyes and ears, like a gremlin.

Thank you for reading about my babies!
Allison Kraft, where I found Kate & Ana, and where I found a home for Sawyer & Hurley.
Alley Cat Allies, a charity dedicated to helping the millions of feral cats living on the streets in the U.S.
My website | Destined's BPR review | Destined on GoodReads | Destined on Amazon

Paws With A Cause® enhances the independence and quality of life for people with disabilities nationally through custom-trained Assistance Dogs.

PAWS® increases awareness of the rights and roles of Assistance Dog teams through education and advocacy.  Founded in 1979, Paws With A Cause is dedicated to helping its clients who are challenged by many disabilities, such as Cerebral Palsy, Muscular Dystrophy, Seizure Disorders, and Hearing Disorders to name just some.  Each of our dogs are trained to meet the specific needs of our clients. Tasks may include opening and closing doors, picking up objects, pulling a wheelchair, turning lights on and off, and alerting a person to particular sounds like a telephone, doorbell, smoke detector and many others. Our dogs change lives by enhancing the independence of our clients. By just opening a door, a dog opens up the world for a person with a disability and your donations will go to making that happen.  PAWS thanks you so much for your donation and allowing us to open more doors.

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  1. Wow, I have to say I loved reading your story. I love the cats and applaud what you did for them. Their lives will be so much better being loved and cherished. Thank you for sharing!!


  2. That was a great post. Loved the story and the pictures.

    1. Thank you! I'm always happy to share my babies. :)

  3. Fab story and pics - absolutely gorgeous cats... Can understand why you would be upset letting the boys go!!

    Hope Fuzzy was taken in by someone and that Piglet is still around for a while!!!

    What a band of lucky mogs!!


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