We had dogs and cats while I was growing up, but I managed to avoid pets until I moved to
Vermont in 1993. A year or two later, I got my first cat, a Maine Coon Cat, from the
pound. I went there with a friend to get a cat for her, but then wanted one for myself.
The cat I chose was pretty, but the staff said that it had been unfriendly with everyone
who had approached it. We put it in a room, and I sat there, watching it roam around and
explore. After 5 minutes or so, he came over and sat on my lap and went to sleep, so the
decision was pretty simple actually.
Since he was a Maine Coon Cat (MCC), I figured I should call him Einstein, for the
"em see squared" thing. He was an extraordinary cat, with unique body language, and the
ability and need to take dog-like walks with me. We would walk down the road together,
or in the woods, neither one straying far from the other, just enjoying nature. Often,
he would sense things that I could not, and I quickly learned to walk slowly and quietly
and watch him. Occasionally, I would see things that he could not, usually because I
was taller, and could see over things. Those walks are what I miss the most about Einstein.
He loved to sit next to me, on my work chair, so I ended up buying a very narrow keyboard
so that I could continue to type while he slept next to my thigh. He had wanderlust,
even after getting neutered, and after a few times when he disappeared for a while, he
disappeared for good. He could climb trees, but could not get down, and that might have
been an awkward combination for a cat who wanted to run wild.
Here is Einstein, in his most classic pose, regal, arms crossed
I wonder why cats have "green eye" when the flash goes off, rather than "red eye"?
Maybe it has something to do with their ability to see so well in the dark.
After Einstein disappeared, it was a year or two before a stray showed up, eating
the pancakes we had thrown out into the snow. She was a bit nervous at first, but
quickly warmed to food and affection. She had long and sharp claws, and so I dubbed
her Clawdia. After a while, it turned out she was pregnant, and after a somewhat
uncomfortable pregnancy, she delivered four kittens, one a tiger like her, one all
black, and two with mixed up coloration.
The most interesting moment I had with Clawdia was when I looked up to see her
outside with a racoon. The raccoon was eating bird seed that had fallen from
the feeder; Clawdia sat to the side, demurely, watching. From time to time,
Clawdia would nibble on a blade of grass, as if to say "I'm just sitting here
eating: don't mind me!" After a while, Clawdia became bored, and walked towards
the house, on a diagonal. This brought her closer to the raccoon before she started
walking away from the raccoon, which had the raccoon feeling a bit defensive.
It puffed up and turned sideways to Clawdia. Clawdia just walked on by, calmly.
Up until then, I'd never seen the two species interact. I was much less nervous
about the cats being out with the raccoons after that. I've seen raccoons squabble
loudly and angrily between themselves, but never seen them bother a cat, or vice versa.
When Clawdia would climb up on the bed with me at night, I would stretch out my arm
and curl it just a little bit. She would curl up nestled close to my arm and go to
sleep. We had a system. No cat has done that since, not matter how often I have hinted.
This is what I miss about Clawdia the most.
The story of how I acquired Roo is too involved for this page. Suffice it to say that
he was foisted upon me by circumstances, and Clawdia was none too pleased at the addition
to our family. Roo was calm and friendly, but Clawdia was antagonistic and angry.
They never fought: Clawdia just attacked poor Roo. Roo's name came from his previous
owner, and probably had something to do with the plaintive cry he made frequently,
that sounded quite a lot like "roo".
When Roo arrived, he had come from a home where there were perhaps a dozen cats.
Food was available in tubs, but he was very thin. I've often wondered whether he
felt that he could not bulk up, or eat, because of his position in the "pecking order".
I say this because after he arrived at my house, he began to become heavier, topping out
at about 25 pounds, even when fed diet food. In the early days, he was quite the leaper.
I remember sitting in bed one night, and watching as he jumped from the bed to the
top of the door, some four feet above him, and about an inch across. He did this
without thought or plan: it seemed to be easy for him.
I tried many things to get Clawdia to accept Roo. I spent the night locked in with one
cat each night, and then the other cat the next. None of those things seemed to work.
Strangely, Roo instinctively curled up at my feet, while Clawdia curled up at my chest.
The two cats were fighting enough that I decided to lock them out of the house while I
went away for a week, so that Clawdia couldn't corner Roo too easily. I left food and
water and let them at it. When I returned, Clawdia was nowhere to be found.
I never saw her again.
Roo was quite a handful that night, and I was so busy with post-trip stuff that I put
him outside for the night. I woke the next morning around 5:30 to a huge altercation
in the woods. I ran downstairs to hear him howling. I ran outside, and something ran
off into the woods. I went down to see if Roo was OK, but he kept howling. As I approached
him, he hissed at me, so I ran back inside to get some leather gloves. I picked him up
carefully and brought him to the house. He continued to make noises, but was unable to
stand on his feet. I called the vet, put him in a box, and drove the 30 minutes to the
vet's office. He almost died that day, despite the lack of obvious injury. Something
had bitten him on the head and neck, and the vet patted herself on the back for saving his life.
When Roo returned home, a few days later, his neck was very sore: he could not turn
his head at all. He tried to act normally, but after tumbling down the stairs,
decided to just sit. I petted him and fussed over him for days. After about a week,
he went up to the cat scratching post and started to scratch. That was the first sign
that he would be OK.
Unfortunately, his trials were not over. A few months later, he began to scratch the
top of his head, to the point where there was a 1" diameter patch of raw flesh. The
vet had nothing useful to say. We took biopsies, tried topical steroids, but nothing
worked. He did not seem too upset, but I had trouble watching him scratch himself to
blood. Eventually, I decided to put an "elizabethan collar" on him. These are
normally used for a week or so, when an animal won't leave a fresh incision alone long
enough for it to heal. I kept him in it for six months. During that time, he never
complained, and always tried to do the normal cat things. Sadly, this involved his
banging the collar into things fairly frequently. Even so, it didn't stop him from
climbing and jumping, as this photo shows.
Roo lived with me for quite a few years. One night, he went out around my bed time and
never returned. That seems to be the way of things out in the woods. As sad as it makes
me to lose my friends, I figure he had a choice, and he took it. The cat door was
available to him, if he had wanted to come in (although at 25 pounds, entry was not
instantaneous for the poor guy).
Roo, as a young juvenile, slender and athletic.
Wearing the elizabethan collar, but not letting it inhibit him.
In his 25 pound glory.
I was driving into town one day when the car in front of me swerved to avoid
something in the road. As I approached, I realized it was a kitten. I pulled
over and tried to catch it, fearing that it might run into the road as I drew
near it. It held still and let me pick it up. I took it into the car and held
it, at which point it started to purr. That was it. My plans for the day had changed.
I immediately asked friends what I should name the new cat. Many ideas were rejected,
but when someone came up with "Kanga", to go with "Roo", I liked it. Somehow it
became Kenga over time.
Kenga spent a week in a room by himself, after a trip to the vet to get rid of fleas.
Roo was curious about what was going on, but as usual, he was calm and polite. When
Kenga finally came out of the room, Roo was a bit taken aback. Kenga walked right
over, started to purr, and rubbed up against Roo. Roo looked a little horrified, but
started to lick Kenga. From that point on, they were pals.
Kenga was a kitten, and his energy was astonishing. Everything was to be batted at or
bitten, especially my toes when I was in bed, and the patience that Roo showed around
Kenga was amazing. Kenga would attack Roo, bite his tail, bat at him. Roo would just
lick Kenga until Kenga calmed down. How Roo was such an instinctive father will
always puzzle me.
The two of them were getting along well when Rodney entered the picture (see below).
At some point, Kenga just disappeared. Whether he was annoyed, and walked off to a
better circumstance, I can't say. The three cats were not really fighting at the time,
but Kenga may have felt threatened by the newcomer. Kenga's addition to the family was
painless; not so for any other new cats.
I was visiting a local farmer on business when a cat came up and rubbed up against my
leg, purring. I said "Nice cat" and the farmer said "Want him?" It turns out the farmer
was leaving town, and the cat was a stray, so he would have no one to feed him. I brought him home.
Rodney Dangerfield had just died, and in honor of him, I named the new cat Rodney.
Rodney was all skin and bones, and ate voraciously. He seemed to have a flatulence
problem, and often coughed as if he had a hairball, but never brought anything up.
I think the other cats were suspicious of his health. Over time, Rodney put on weight
and became more healthy.
After Kenga disappeared, Roo and Rodney got along reasonably well, occasionally
hissing and fighting, but then curling up together and licking each other. I'll
never understand cat psychology or interaction, even after having read a number
of books. I think most of the books are hogwash.
I build a new house about a mile from the old one, and moved the cats over one day.
Roo took it hard, peeing in corners and generally hiding. He seemed to have gotten
over the move just about the time he disappeared. Rodney became a bit more
affectionate at that point, and hardly goes outside at all, unless I'm out. Maybe
he knows something about what lurks in the woods. You don't know how many times
I've wished that my cats could talk.