Sam's Story continued
Sam's Story - Winter '09
The exciting days of watching the leaves fall are over, the summer birds have flown away and the winter birds have begun to find the feeder. These are the days of sleeping in a sunny window and thinking about ways to add a layer of fat for the long cold winter. While I might like to be doing that myself, I’m talking about Sam and Scamper. On cold, stormy days, they look at me like they think I’m crazy for getting up and leaving the house when staying in bed with them would be the only sensible thing to do.
Sam “talks” to Scamper, in spite of the fact that cats supposedly don’t communicate with each other vocally, but with his humans he usually communicates in soft chirps, purrs and mmmmurrrmmerrrs. When he began addressing me in a more direct fashion, I decided I’d better call the animal communicator and see if we could figure out what he was telling me. It turned out Sam was concerned about my hip. He didn’t say which one, or why, but I do occasionally have some hip stiffness. In my mind I’m still 39, but in truth I’ve passed an age when a lot of humans begin to creak and groan. Later I went for my annual visit with my naturopathic doctor, who does cranio-sacral therapy, by which she determined that I have an imbalance in the area of my hips! I’ll be going for a physical in March, so we’ll see if we can find the reason for Sam’s warning.
Anyway, I thanked Sam for his concern and asked what else he had to say. He said Scamper is very annoying. But “don’t send her back”. He clearly gets annoyed with her when they’re watching me get their food ready and she keeps head-butting him and brushing her tail under his nose. Refined gentleman that he is (despite being a former barn cat), he wants to spend that time washing up. She MUST dance and run laps around the kitchen island, or get up on the counter and “help”. He also gets annoyed when he hasn’t left her much room to curl up in the basket with him and she ends up on his head, or tries to “make bread” on his belly. This is extremely entertaining for Bill and me, much to Sam’s chagrin. When he’s suffered all he cares to, he moves to get her off him, which gives her the opening she’s looking for. Most of the time they’re curled up together, sleeping, washing each other or playing together. I’m sure Sam would appreciate her being a little more independent, although underneath his gruffness he really does love her. He’s a bit of a curmudgeon.
Scamper said she wouldn’t know what to do without Sam – in the literal sense that she watches him to learn how to behave. Her previous home in a rescue situation was with thirty or so other cats, so she didn’t really learn how to live in a home with only one other cat and two humans, and she really does want to behave herself well. Since that conversation, Scamper has become increasingly independent, playing more with me or by herself. She loves the little furry “mousies”. First she bites off their tails. Then she flings them around the room and chases them or plays hockey with them on the hardwood floors. She will carry them from room to room – I never know when I’m going to find one in my shoe. She’s also discovered the joys of a pile of tissue paper for diving into. She’s doing a little more exploring on her own, which is good since Sam is much more of a sleeper than an explorer, and a cat of Scamper’s age really should be an explorer. Possibly even a troublemaker! She does come and clearly ask for someone to come play with her when Sam’s sleeping. She’s very fond of the “Cat Dancer” – cardboard bits on a long wire. I waggle the cat dancer on or preferably under the tissue paper. It gives her a chance to utilize her hunting instincts, get some exercise and interact with me. At first she wouldn’t chase it within three feet of me. Now she’ll chase it right up to my knee and I have to remember that she’s focused on the toy and could unintentionally dig her claws into me. For Christmas we got a remote controlled mouse that keeps her entertained for a few minutes before needing to be recharged, and a not-so-remote controlled stuffed dog – the control is a plastic covered wire leash – that Scamper thinks is a new friend to sit and chat with. Sam sits next to it and studiously ignores it.
Back to Sam being a former barn cat – Concord just had a night with an official low temperature of -22 degrees. The last time I remember the temp being far below zero was when Sam was still a barn cat and we had two or three nights of 15 to 17 below zero, about six years ago. The first time we hauled him into the house overnight was in 2001 when he got neutered. The cold snap was the second time. We used to let him put on some fat for the winter, and he had a fleece-lined box in the barn, but that was just way too cold to leave him out there. We left him indoors with a litter box that he used, but he shoveled a good bit of the litter out onto the floor. (He would still do that with a low-sided litter box.) Now if it’s below 40 degrees when he asks to go out on the porch, he stays about 30 seconds and comes back inside complaining. Although he always seemed quite content in the barn, he sure has taken to the comfy indoor life!
One morning when they let me sleep in, I woke up to find Sam in the window watching the birds and Scamper curled up on the quilt near my hip. I put my hand out to rub her ear, and she rolled on her back and playfully took hold of my hand in her sharp little claws and teeth. My first thought was that she was in a position to do a great deal of damage to my hand, but then I thought if I want her to trust me, maybe I should trust her, too. She was very polite with her little weapons, and we played very gently for a few minutes. It was another baby step in Scamper’s increasing trust. She’ll be with us two years at the end of February. Seems like a long time, but patience is paying off and she really has come a long way. She’s wised up to the get-picked-up-and-get-a-cookie routine. She doesn’t want the cookie that badly, and besides, there are other ways to get a cookie! And she’s still very good at avoiding me when she knows I’m thinking about picking her up, but when I do manage to snag her, she no longer panics and flails. It’s just not as scary as it used to be. I’ve even been able to cuddle her into my shoulder for a few seconds before she starts to struggle. It didn’t take Sam very long to settle in when he first came home from the barn, but we’d all been working with him for three years by that time, so he’d already gotten over a lot of his fears and timidity, had been manhandled a good bit, and had already developed a fair amount of trust of humans.
Both cats are in pretty good health – Sam still has occasional ear issues and I think I’m narrowing in on a dietary cause. Scamper still has her squinty eye, which sometimes gets red and gooey. The mullein tea seems to be helping that. She gets the recommended dose of .5 ml twice a day in her food. She did have a flare-up when she wouldn’t let me put any drops in her eye, so I put some echinacea and goldenseal (which is quite bitter tasting) in her food. She ate about half, and then politely but clearly explained to me that something was wrong with her breakfast. So for the next meal I tried adding about a teaspoonful of chicken baby food along with the herbs. She licked the plate clean. Some cats won’t touch baby food, so I’m very glad that both of mine think it’s the most wonderful thing. Makes it a lot easier to get things into them! I can pill Sam if I have to, but with Scamper we’re just not there yet.
Sam is much perkier on the St. John’s Wort. He had an itchy spell and I stopped the St. John’s Wort just in case that was the cause. While he was off the herb he was grumpier with Scamper and was not interested in playing or much of anything other than eating and sleeping. After being back on it for about a week, with no recurrence of itching, he definitely showed more energy, and we’re back to having races through the house and beating the tar out of toys. One Sunday we had four friends over for dinner and to play cards. Scamper hid, but Sam spent the entire time quietly watching from his favorite spot when anyone’s at the table – next to Bill’s chair. Even our non-cat-loving friend, Robert, admits that Sam is one handsome animal. Robert and Sam have kind of a mutual respect going on, admiring each other from a distance. Sam probably slept pretty well that Monday after being up five hours straight when he would normally be sleeping soundly. Thanksgiving dinner was at our house as well, with nine around the table, and two more for dessert. Same routine – Scamper hid in her little tent under my drawing table while Sam kept his eye on all the activity and especially the turkey!
Both cats enjoy watching the Christmas tree, and this year nobody even took off a single ornament. Sam is just not a climber (in spite of the fact that I saw him walk across the top of a twelve foot fence when he was an outdoor cat), and since Scamper watches him for what to do, she hasn’t expressed an interest in climbing the Christmas tree either. She does like to sit under it, though. She sees that the humans walk carefully around the tree, so under it is a safe place to be and a good vantage point for watching whatever’s going on.
For next time, they will have come to see Dr. Kathy for their annual exams.
I really like to get them in twice a year, but it just didn’t happen
this year. Sam will have his annual bloodwork, and while I won’t go
so far as to hope for bloodwork on Scamper, I am hoping for a real, out-of-the-carrier
exam. I’m especially anxious to have her eye looked at. Holding onto
her for the exam and then getting her back into the carrier will be the challenges!