Sunday, December 13, 2009

December 14, 2009 - The Cats of the Shady Rest


Another Day At the Shady Rest tends to focus on the pugs, but there are other residents. Three and a half cats help keep things interesting too, and it's always fun to watch them interact with Freya and the pugs.  In spite of all you hear about "fighting like cats and dogs," the Shady Rest is a mostly peaceable kingdom, if you will, with very few interspecies spats.

Okay, I know, you're wondering about that "three and a half" cats thing, so let me explain that before I introduce the permanent feline residents. To cut a very long story as short as possible, about two and a half years ago, a friend's teenage son, Zach, moved in with us for a while.  While he was living here, he went to visit a friend, and called us from there.  There was an abandoned litter of tiny, maybe-four-week-old kittens at the apartment complex, and it was getting cold, and he REALLY wanted one, and we had cats anyway, and he just KNEW we'd love her, and he promised when he moved out he'd take her with him, and she would be HIS cat and he'd take care of her, and, and, get the idea.l  This nearly-six-foot burly male had been reduced to a gibbering five-year-old, already firmly wrapped around the tiny paw of this kitten. I sighed deeply and said, "Okay, bring her home." 

When he arrived, one hand was cupped and nestled in the palm was an amazingly small kitten. (She remains one of the smallest adult cats I've ever seen.) She looked like a gray-stripe-and-white cotton ball with eyes.  Yet, those eyes were open and very alert, and she appeared to be otherwise healthy.  And that's how we first got acquainted with Riddi-kitty. (He'd wanted to name the cat Riddick, from the movie, but found she was female, so she became Riddi.)  It took the teensy terror only moments to take over the whole place.  Oddly, her best friend, mentor and advocate was Freddie, our then 19-year-old senior cat.  If one of the other cats looked at her funny, she'd run to him.  He would actually bestir his old, creaky bones and play with her, rolling and pouncing like another kitten.  Nobody could mess with Freddie's food, except Riddi, who got first dibs on his plate while he watched benevolently.  He was like her instant grandpa. 

Flash forward a few months. Zach's moved out and did indeed take Riddi with him.  Freddie has gone to the Rainbow Bridge to chase butterflies and bask in the sun without the troubles of old age to trouble him any longer.  The phone rings again. Riddi needs a place to hang for a few months, for many reasons which I will spare you, most involving an emergency relocation to a new apartment with an allergic roommate with a big, cat-hating dog.  Can she stay here until February, when the lease runs out and he'll be able to take her back?  "Sure, why not?"

So, with our resident three Shady Rest cats - Thor, Kali and Spare - Riddi is the "half" cat, not really ours but rather like a favored niece. Thor hates her, but then, he hates most other cats. Kali ignores her, but she ignores just about everyone, and Spare tolerates her well, so it's good.  The dogs don't have too much problem with her. Sammie likes to chase her, but she eggs him on, so I think it's a game, not a dispute.  I'm fairly certain George would be unimpressed, if he could find her.  She's too quick, though, and sometimes amuses herself by hiding, poking him in the head, then running off.

Now, back to the introductions. In order of arrival, there's Thor, a solid black mama's boy. He was named for the Norse god of thunder for his deep, rumbling purr, because his meow, when it manages to come out at all, is a high-pitched squeak.  Given his druthers, he'd never touch the ground at all, much preferring to be held 24/7 and squacking in protest when put down. Eating and snuggling are his favorite activities. Thor is not overfond of the dogs, or the other cats, but he is terribly affectionate (to the point of being a pest sometimes) with his humans.

Then there's Spare. Spare, a former feral neighborhood stray, got his name from when we first met. He would come to the deck to eat the cat food we left out for the wildlife and would run when he saw us even move inside the house.  Gradually, he became accustomed to us and would hang around while we refilled the bowl.  We started referring to him as the spare cat, as in "Honey, did you put out food? The spare cat is here."  By the time he moved inside to stay, he answered to Spare and we just left it. Figured it's better to be the Spare cat than the Homeless cat.  Spare is the most Zen cat we've ever met - laid back, tolerant of all, the soul of patience and calm.  We suspect he may have been a Buddhist monk in a past life - he has those thousand-year-old eyes.  He loves his dogs as much as the other cats and the people, often rubbing up against a seated pug and purring his head off.

Last is Kali (Callie, when she came) an amazingly, shy cat taken in when her human was diagnosed with terminal cancer.  She came with her brother, Freddie. The owner was going to have them both put to sleep, but not because she didn't love them.  She did, too much to have them end up dying in a shelter among strangers, and she couldn't believe anyone would want them.  She felt a quick, painless death with someone familiar and loved by their side was a better fate, even though the decision broke her heart.  Freddie's age at the time - 16- was certainly a deterrent to adoption, and Kali was so shy and fearful that anyone wanting a cat for a companion would look the other way.  Well, you know the Shady Rest likes seniors, and most days I don't like people much either, so we told her we'd be happy to take them in.  The owner was beyond happy to have them in a loving home that didn't mind their quirks at all.  Freddie made it to 20, and Kali's still going at 11.  She's still the shyest cat I've ever met (we have no idea why - her previous owner had had her since she was an eight-week-old kitten and she'd gotten plenty of socialization and handling. She loved her owner, but NO one else.)  She spent the first two years here either under the futon in the family room or under the bed. We never saw her. We just put down food and water, left a litter box near her latest hidey-hole and left it at that.  For year three, she moved to the half bath and started coming out some, when it was quiet and the dogs were locked up for the night.  She comes out more now, and seeks some attention from both Cj and me, but she'll probably never be as clingy as Thor or as friendly as Spare, but that's okay. She's fine just as she is, and as long as she seems content, she's welcome to be as much of a hermit as she likes.

So, those are the cats of the Shady Rest. Y'all take care now!

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