Friday, November 7, 2008

Shelter Cats (sorry it's long, but do read!)

In honor of National Animal Shelter Appreciation Week, which draws to a close this Saturday, I thought I'd honor animal shelters by appreciating our two shelter cats, Owl and Miss Lemon. But here's a picture of the other two, just so they don't feel left out. :)

The two cats in question are a study in contrasts. When we adopted Owl in January of 2003 from our previous abode's pound, the place had yet to undergo a nasty little scandal. There was a tall gate with barbwire along the top, and the kitty cages were small. All the cats were antisocial--most hid in the corners of their cages and several growled at us! In all honesty, I didn't even see Owl, who was doing an excellent job in not being noticed. Not being noticed could have ended poorly for him, however: He'd already been scheduled to die once, but the pound workers thought he was so cute that they stayed his execution. But his luck was running out, and he was scheduled to be put down the next day. Fortunately, my eagle-eyed mother spotted him, and it was narrowed down between him and the world's largest barn cat. The barn cat growled at us. Little Owl's life was spared.

Owl was my first pet in my first apartment, but he was not everything I'd hoped for and more! I now know there's a term for it: semi-social. Though I expected a lap kitty, I got a very scared and upset little lump of a cat. He'd hide in his warm little cat house all day and only come out at night. Then at night I'd noticed that he would talk a lot, and I realized, "He's lonely!" When Chris traveled home for a funeral, I said, "Bring Trent back with you." Trent gave Owl the best friend he needed to open up to us. He's still not a lap kitty, but he no longer hides all day. He can still be pretty scared of people--strangers, certainly--but now he loves pets so much that he'll get bushy from all the love, and he can knock an adult over with his powerful kisses! That's a shelter kitty who's come a long, long way.

One of our most shocking discoveries about Owl is his breed. He was billed as a black domestic shorthair (but he was also billed a girl, so that may explain a lot), but we were quick to notice something different. First, perusing the cats at Texas Siamese Rescue, we noticed the uncanny resemblance between him and the black Orientals on the website (compare the picture of the cat on the first page, Isabella, to the picture of our Ooly). Then we noticed he fit the description of an Oriental: he rarely spoke, but when he did it was clear that his voice was not that of a typical cat. He had an unusually long trunk and legs and the thickest, most velvety fur. The final straw was his tail: a "crook-tail" is a very typical genetic defect in purebred Oriental and Siamese cats. My guess is that his previous owner was a disreputable dealer who tossed him out for having that defect. As Owl is the funniest, sweetest, most beautiful cat we have, I say the dealer's loss is our gain.

We returned to the pound in June of 2007 in a fit of madness that told us another cat was a perfectly good idea. What attracted us was something on the pound's website: kittens with extra toes! What we found there was most pleasant: the barbwire was gone, the cages were roomy, the cats were happy to see us. Even the ones labelled "feral" who were there most likely to be neutered and released were big friendlies! What we discovered, I think, is a real credit to us as pet lovers: we were much more interested in adult cats than kittens, and we knew in our hearts that the kittens would find homes while the adults might not.

In one extra-large cage was a beautiful pair of Siamese cats. They were seal points with wedgie heads, and they'd just been brought in two days ago by their owner. (This is a good example of what wedgie head and seal point means, but these cats were older. Siamese cats change colors as they age, and these were dark brown and black, not cream and brown/black.) I had my limits, though. Four cats is pretty insane, but five is worthy of straight jackets and padded rooms. There was a white oriental with beautiful blue eyes ... a youthful orange cat who wouldn't shut up ... a cat who looked like Trent Jr ... and the ugliest Siamese cat I'd ever seen in my life. Her fur was matted and missing in spots, she only had pale blue eyes and not deep blue ones like the Oriental and the Siamese duo, she was small and unhealthy looking, she was lactating because she was the mama of the polydactyl kittens, she looked like she'd lived on the street her whole little life, and she was named "Monkey" because she looked like one. My heart was calling to the duo even though they weren't an option, so Chris pointed at the ugly cat and said, "Well, she's a Siamese too!" So we asked to see her, and we got to hold her and pet her, and she was so nice and sweet. Monkey ended up being adopted before any of her kittens. Monkey turned into Miss Lemon.

Lemmy pulled a real fast one on us after she was spayed and came home. We were prepared for her to do what the typical cat does in their new home according to Siamese Rescue: disappear under the bed and not come out for a few days. Shortly after being let out of her cage, she went under the bed ... then came back out five minutes later, jumped on the bed, demanded pets, kneaded the blanket, curled up, and fell asleep. Owl's polar opposite. Here's what she looked like the day she came home (sorry, I don't have old pictures of Owl!):

Brushing eventually got the matting out of her fur, good food helped it grow in soft and thick. She lost the creamy-whiteness of the young Siamese cat and has gotten darker--she'll eventually look like the Siamese duo at the pound, but with tabby stripes. Here she is now:

When one becomes accustomed to laid-back kitties who don't run around a lot and behave well most of the time, the feline version of Usain Bolt with a penchant for biting comes as a real shock. She took some getting used to, but she's calmed down quite a bit. Like another crazy, ill-mannered cat from my past, she attached to me. (My parents are nodding their heads and thinking of the dearly departed Zo, who was mean, not to be trifled with, and putty in my hands.) When I just look at things in terms of numbers, I hate having that fourth cat. But when I look at the four I have, there's not a one I'd part with--most certainly not my Lemmy-Pie!

So that's my bit for National Animal Shelter Appreciation Week. Go love up on your shelter pet if you have one, and if you don't, think about getting one!!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Love those cats, and love that "cover" they're pictured on too.