Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Zen Master Yukon

Ah, Yukon. Yukon is our Zen cat. He is a great watcher and will stare at you intently for long spans of time. He is slow to react and you can tell when he is thinking things through. When he does move, his gate is deliberate and lumbering, like a big cat in the hot Sahara. A big beefy boy, my big hunk of mancat, he’s a short haired brown tabby born without a tail. He has a stub that seems to be made out of cartilage with a few vertebrae. His lack of tail makes him that much more boxy in the hind end, like a dump truck, or an SUV, thus the name. The stub moves a little bit, like when he greets, it’ll poke out from his rump, or if he is agitated (mad would not be Zen), it might move back and forth an inch.

We’ve seen him sitting on his rump with his legs splayed apart, holding onto the stub with both paws to wash it. He can get vocal when we touch it, but a couple of times he’s let us, so I know it doesn’t hurt him. He’s just particular.

Yukon is two years old and looked like a woolly bear when we got him. I tried the name Bear on him for a bit, but along with Mack (for Mack Truck), we thought it was too common.

We’d been looking for a bob-tailed cat and he caught DP’s eye because of his intense stare and chirpiness. There was a mother and two kittens at the shelter and when the mother sneezed, DP knew they’d all be euthanized. This one little guy was bold, yet pleasant (essential energy for our growing household), and he loved to touch noses. That’s what saved him. We wanted to save every cat and kitten that came to that shelter but, short of opening our own, which we’d love to do maybe one day, we have to be realistic. Yukon came home, got an Upper Respiratory Infection, but played, ate and snarfled his way to incredibly good health without missing a beat.

Yukon is a wonderfully full, frontal face cat, and still loves to rub our nose with his, but only when he is in the mood. We can grab his head and plant kisses all over it just about any time we want, and he starts purring. Grooming probably fills most of the time he’s not meditating (sleeping) or eating. When he’s finished grooming himself, he grooms any cat who comes along and has turned out to be quite a nurturer.

A strong shade of orange fills the inside of Yukon’s black outlined nose, equally eyeliner black lips give him striking facial expressions. All of his whiskers are white dipped in black, and are lined up inside perfect rows of black dots on his light brown face. The striped markings around his head are sharp, but they faze out along his body underneath a light coat of ticking, making him look woolly. He reminds me of a little boy in a gray and black striped shirt, the way his markings line his legs. His brown tummy is spotted and appears to have a seam down the middle. He’s the contemplative one in the gang, who looks like he should be the bully.

When he is not in his meditative zone pondering the universe, he’s vying for the favor of Stanze (Stahn-zee), our female German Shepherd. Where Stanze is obsessed with BJ, Yukon is in love with Stanze. It’s karma in action.

You can often find Yukon laying next to her bed (but not next to her), rolling and purring at her. If she is in her crate, he will lay just outside it, gazing in, waiting. If he’s in his lovey mood, he’ll rub and rub all over her, or the crate. She mostly doesn’t mind it, but if Yukon gets too zealous, he might open his mouth for a love bite, so she is cautious (as are we), and doesn’t let him linger too long. Sometimes we hear Stanze give a couple of warning barks in the middle of the night. We know that Yukon has gone too far and she’s telling him to back off. We’ll take his face rubs just about anytime he’s willing to dish them out, even at 2:36 in the morning. His motor starts running and he slowly walks up our sleeping bodies and will lay right down on me and rub his nose on mine. If I don’t pet him, and even when I do, he opens his mouth for a love bite. Yeowch, when you’re half asleep.

Because of his boldness, yet slow response time, it took him longer than any other kitten to graduate from fulltime kittenhood in the office (where we keep them out of harms way overnight or when we aren’t home). We had to be confident he could accurately read the dogs’ body language. He is one of those cats who weaves and bobs around our legs while we walk, arching his back so high while he stands on his tip-toes to rub against us, and anything thing else nearby. He has a very strong cat scent, though he is by no means dirty. Yes, I bury my face in his side…because he lets me.

Yukon doesn’t really meow as much as he squeaks and squawks, not in a bad way, but in a bird like way. He’ll sprawl on the living room floor and try to catch my eye when I’m in the kitchen. If I don’t notice him in a timely fashion, he starts to squeak at me. When I look he squeaks louder and bobs his head at me, telling me to come over and give him some love and kisses. I do.

Yukon likes to eat anything, anytime, anyplace…including throw-up. As a kitten he licked the plate from spicy hot enchiladas and I once gave him tiny bits of pineapple which he gobbled up. He especially loves oatmeal and popcorn, and every time I make either one, I’ll find him sitting near me staring with confident expectation that I’ll give him some. I do.

The eating throw-up thing, he got from our dogs. If any cat begins that rhythmic tell-tale sound of throwing up, everything in the household stops, and the dogs go running to catch the delightful treat which will be ejected like a pez dispenser. Yukon learned to come running too (he can move if he wants to), but he’s no where near as fast an eater as the dogs. He is also a chewer who will seek out the dog’s Nylabones to chomp on. He loves it when I bring home a new bunch of bananas so he can gnaw on the rind-like tips. If the quirks mentioned above aren’t enough, he also loves sour things, including the supposed spray-on deterrents called “Fooey” and “Sour Apple.” He licks them up. I once gave him a slice of fresh lime which he licked cautiously. I’m not sure he really liked it, but most cats would never go near citrus.

I think Yukon is pretty dominant in his quiet way. He’s not afraid of visitors and will come out to greet them, if he even bothers to get up at all. He’s not fond of the vacuum cleaner, but I think he is more annoyed by it than afraid. He seems secure enough to prefer laying on the floor at central vantage points, rather than up on heights or completely hidden. When he appears to be in Zen mode, I’ve learned that he is actually on high alert. If I sneak up behind him and touch his back, he zooms off a few feet before regaining his composure and sitting back down with his ears slightly twisted. I think he’d be more athletic if he didn’t eat so much, but he’s generally pretty good at jumping up for the flying feather wand, being graceful with a thud. He loves group games, but other than that, he doesn’t play by himself. He mostly likes to wrestle other kitties for fun.

Yukon is well mannered enough to be allowed forays into the bedroom overnight, but doesn’t usually make it through to the alarm. Anywhere between 1:30 and 3:00, he’ll come walking up on top and start rubbing our face with his purring nose, asking politely if we’d open the door. This is why we let him in the first place.

I hope you’ve enjoyed meeting Yukon. I’m sure I’ll feature him on Mancat Mondays. ~Lisa Co9T

Thursday, September 24, 2009


Dreamy Angus has the softest eyes of all our cats. Though they are the same olive green/yellow as most of the others, they look at me with a certain extra appreciative affection.

His pale pink nose is underscored by a tiny smear of gray on his upper lip, emphasizing his mouth, and he has long white and gray patched fur. Two years old now, he came to us as a foster kitten along with a slightly older female kitty. Angus, whose original name was Parris, did not like being confined in a kennel, crate or shelter show room window, so he did not look friendly to potential adopting owners. While recovering from an eye infection and staying with us, he play-fought a little too rough with our older cats, but eventually they taught him to lighten up. His long white fur seems to furrow at his forehead making his expression look angry and he walks with the stomping gait of a bulldog due to an unknown kittenhood leg injury. These attributes made calling him Parris seem a bit silly, so we first started calling him Harris, but I kept trying out the name Angus, and for me, it seemed perfect for the little bruiser boy.

A change in the shelter’s policy forced us to bring Angus (and the female kitty) back in before they were ready for adoption, but on that day, staff members discovered an outbreak of calici in the cat population. Unfortunately, they do not treat this horrible virus, they euthanize the afflicted, so our fear led us to a confrontation with the shelter’s director and, breaking the rules, we brought them both back home (we never actually took them inside the building). After a reasonable amount of time after the outbreak had been contained, we finally conceded and returned Angus so he could find his forever home. I remember so clearly Angus looking at me as I handed him over to a shelter staff member, and she placed him in a window kennel. Tears welled up in my eyes as I made sure to point out his favorite toys from the bag I’d brought with him. I made it out the front door of the shelter, braving a last glance at Angus as he watched me walk away from inside his window. We had seven cats at the time, wasn’t that enough? I ran a couple of errands, went home, spoke to DP, burst into tears, and then we both went back to the shelter that afternoon to bring him back to his forever home and adopt him. By the way, DP also helped the female kitty find her forever home.

Bulldog walking, tough guy Angus is the first one to run and hide under the bed when anyone comes to visit. No one else has ever seen him except in pictures. He is pretty much a big fluffy cream puff we’ve nicknamed Puffy or Puff. He waits at least a half hour after company leaves to come out of his hiding place, and he runs through the house growling under his breath when the neighbors play rap music too loud. Although he appears to exude a fraidy cat innocence, he expects to get what he wants and will soon be pushing things off the desk or bureau if he’s ignored. He’s also the first one to tease Moseley and will park himself outside Moseley’s door to taunt him.

Angus loves to come in the bathroom with me when I shower. He chirps and meows and wants to be petted during this time. When I’m up for it, I let him in with me and give him a long petting session before I actually get myself under the showerhead. Then he’s pretty happy just to lie on the rug and wait for me. When he occasionally takes a stroll between the plastic and fabric shower curtains and meows at me, I give him a cheek scratching through the plastic while he licks it. He definitely a licker who loves to lick us and our hands as we pet him. Where the other cats might also include a love bite (some harder than others), Angus will only lick. At some point I started to call him Shpankle (with a Yiddish twist) as a nickname. He seems to know it and comes to it too. When we call his name (Angus or Shpankle), he chirps and looks, but is then immediately distracted by something else. If we’re persistent, he will eventually stomp over to us for a quick sniff and a lick.

Irresistible tuffs of white and gray fur wisp sideways from Angus’s gray ears adding to his puffiness. He can look quite handsome when he is sitting for a pose, but he can also look rather bulbous when he flattens out on his side to sleep, fur fluffs sticking out all over. We are grateful he is a fastidious groomer. Okay, I’ll admit it, Puff is an overweight boy, but he is not as fat as he looks! Most of what you see is just overly fluffy fur.

In general he isn’t food motivated, doesn’t eat most treats, and isn’t a Moo Club member, but unlike most cats who enjoy cat nip, Angus goes wild for anything minty. I think part of his attraction to hanging out with me in the bathroom is the smell of toothpastes, mouthwashes and mint-flavored floss. He’ll chirp and paw at me until I pull my toothbrush out of my mouth and let him take a sniff. He tries to lick it but I pull it away just in time. He is very good at opening doors…as long as he can pull it open toward him…so cabinets and closets are a favorite. Another reason why I let him in the bathroom with me for a shower is he’ll work and work to open the bathroom door on his own. Of course, the problem is he can’t close the door after himself so I end up freezing.

Despite his name and size, Angus has the highest, shrillest voice of all our kitties. He can let it screech out long and loud if he wants, but generally he communicates in short chirps. He also has a wonderfully loud purr, especially when he kneads and suckles on his favorite green blanket…our green blanket…on our bed. It’s that chenille, velour type material and he can’t resist it. Most mornings we have to tuck it inside the sheets to keep him from chewing on and soaking the whole thing. Most of the cats start kneading when they walk on the green blanket, but Angus is the only one who roots around his nose and starts to suckle. Yes. He is a “wool sucker,” as they call it, but none of the other cats make fun of him for it.

Angus is not very athletic and has always had trouble jumping up onto things. After many falls as a juvenile, he has learned his height limitations and unless he’s flustered by being chased, doesn’t go for the high jumps like some of the others. Besides his wool sucking his biggest quirk would have to be his anxiety when he is being teased by one of the younger cats. He scampers away a few steps then suddenly stops to lick himself feverishly, then runs another few steps and stops to lick again in another spot. His back ripples with itchy nerves, but we think it is just a reaction to being teased. When a visitor pulls into the driveway and the dogs sound the alarm, Angus simply runs under the bed and hides. No rippling itchies or stops for licking, so fear and anxiety have different effects on him.

Angus loves to play and carry toys around with him to the best spots in the house.

His favorite toys are rabbit fur mice. He knows what drawer they are kept in, and will ask us, quite loudly, to get them out for him. He only plays with them a short time because he pretty much gives right in to any other more assertive cat, frequently walking away from a toy when someone else approaches. He will stay and watch the other play, and occasionally steal it back should it come his way. All the other cat has to do is take one step toward him, and he takes three steps away from the toy and lies down.

His favorite group game is the laser light. It is hysterical to watch him chase after the red dot zig zagging across the floor in slapstick speed. Unfortunately, he does seem to tire easily when he plays group games. He’ll push himself to his maximum and ends up panting while the other kitties are still going strong. If we don’t stop the game for a few minutes to let him rest, he just keeps going. Angus really is just our lovable big fluffy puffball.

I hope you enjoyed meeting Angus even though he’ll never brave coming out to meet you… ~Co9T

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Pretty Penny

Penny is our only girl. She was the first kitten we raised together, and we are so very proud of her.

Penny’s name reflects an old wives tale that tri-colored cats were deemed rare and valuable if male. We called them money cats regardless of whether they were female or male. I’m not quite sure how anyone was supposed to make money from a tri-colored male cat, but that’s what I recall from my childhood. DP started calling her Penny pretty much the day she got her from the local shelter as a foster kitten. Within days we knew we’d keep her. The shelter notes said she was found alone on the street at five or six weeks old. She was so dirty when she came home that DP nearly scrubbed the little black smudge off her nose before she realized it was a permanent beauty mark.

That was three years ago, and we decided Penny would remain our only girl.

Penny is a very sweet natured girl…for a calico. Anytime she is sleeping we can give her a single loving stroke and she’ll break out purring. Even if she doesn’t fully waken, stretch and yawn, she purrs a loud, sidesplitting purr, her ribs move in and out so forcefully. When she’s awake and kneading “in the zone,” she squints her eyes at you with all her affection. Sometimes she includes a little high pitched trill within the purr – so endearing. She’s afraid of visitors, but if they stay long enough, she will come out for a peak and sniff, staying low to the ground.

She has a couple of curious sleeping habits. When it is cold, she has learned to slip herself inside the made bed, between comforter and blanket. There can be three or four cats curled up or stretched out in various ways on top of the bed, but if we look a little further, we’ll find a little lump in one section. The only way to know for sure if it’s her, is to touch her from on top of the comforter. She’ll start purring. The other curious habit is that if she’s not curled up in a ball, she twists her body – tail and hind legs going one way, head and front paws going the other, giving her the nickname Twisty-Girl. We also call her Penny-Paw-Two-Two and Pretty Girl.

Penny is one of our most athletic kitties. A consistent 9.3 lbs for two years now, she’s a sleek and skinny girl who makes some fantastically long leaps. We’ve seen her launch herself off the end of the kitchen counter and land in the middle of our living room. From a sitting position, she can jump over a two and a half foot baby gate without touching it and she loves to run from one end of our house to the other in her favorite game – chase. Penny usually leads the morning cavalry as soon as she hears “Kitties out!” She sails silently over the baby gates leaving the others in her dust.
Generally, she likes to watch our group games and doesn’t participate unless the toy comes her way. Then she’s enthusiastic for a few seconds, but she won’t go after it into the playing field. She is a tough girl who does like to tussle with the boys, but she’s quick to run off and escape any strong-arming. Her speed and agility certainly make up for her lack of bulk, but she usually gets what she wants from the boys. If she wants the big basket under the office window and Nick is sleeping in it, she’ll jump right in next to him and after a few licks will start biting him for it. He either leaves or shares it, which is actually the two of them pushing their back feet against each other until they fall asleep.

When I look at her vibrant yellow, black and white markings, it reminds me of a young girl in the 1920’s who is wearing a black and orange striped fur cape draped around her white shoulders. Her head even has a few patches that look to me like one of those flat-to-the-head hats tipped on an angle with black lace covering one eye. The backs of her legs are dark yellow, prompting yet another nickname “Butterscotch Pants.” Her solid black tail has one single ring of orange in the center, and looks to me like it was plugged onto her hind end as a last minute thought because they ran out of matching tails. Since she has a lot of white, we are glad she is a clean kitty, unless, of course, she has “can-head.” Can-head is a condition she gets after she licks Moseley’s empty can of wet food in the evenings. The gravy gets all over her head, sometimes in an actual ring around her cheeks. Licking up gravy off an empty can doesn’t seem dignified, but I think she sees it as her sovereign right and privilege. It delights her so much, she uses the trill purr while she’s licking it. She maintains a dignified posture, appearing quite regal while sticking her nose inside a sticky tin can.

I count on Penny to remind me to feed Moseley his dinner. Beginning at 3:30 in the afternoon, I’ll find her at my side wherever I am in the house, and wherever I move, Penny’s there, keeping an eye on me for can-time, sitting, squatting, and sometimes rolling on her back to get my attention. If I’m in the kitchen, Penny will lay on her back, fully stretched out, in the middle of the walkway to Moseley’s room. Should I take two steps towards her (towards Moseley’s room), she bolts to her feet and leads me to his door, looking back for me and rubbing on things along the way. Lassie couldn’t do better.

One thing that’s a bit disappointing about Penny is her turn-of-the-head aversion, when our face gets too close to her. She can come sniff my nose at her discretion, but if I move my head within twelve inches of her, she turns her head away. She might even get up and walk away if I push it. She loves being petted, and on rare occasion will sit on your lap, but kisses must be captured quickly, before she runs off.

Penny loves her tail. She loves to chase it. She will go round and round in a circle on rare occasion – her true love is to chase her tail through the holes in the cat tree. Sometimes she’ll weave in and out of the bottom legs of the tree chasing it while laying down, pulling herself around the carpeted posts. Mostly she loves to hang upside down through the hole on the top shelf of the tree and look for her tail, which is straight up in the air. The tip will, ever so casually, bend forward just enough for her to see it from below, and off she goes around the outside and down through the hole again after it. Every other round she’ll stop to check in with us and make sure we are watching her.

Miss Paw-Two-Two is so very well mannered that she is one of only a couple of kitties that are allowed to sleep on the bed with us overnight. She’s usually the only one who can stay all night without causing any disruption. She does sometimes like to position herself in the crook of my legs, which can make for an uncomfortable night for me. I find I sometimes have to scoot her to one side or the other just so I don’t get a cramp. She takes it in stride, barely moves, but always starts purring.

I hope you’ve enjoyed meeting our precious, pretty Penny.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Sir Wizard of Dairy

Wizard is a long haired gray fellow with cream points highlighting his face, chest and belly. The cream is almost peach in spots and he would be strikingly beautiful if cared to bath himself properly. He does a good enough job, but he requires frequent brushing, and one day soon we plan to pop him in the tub for a real bath. The flatness of his long gray fur reminds me of a suit of armor, battle worn and not well polished. His big olive eyes give him the quintessential Puss-in-Boots look, though I do see him more as a slightly tarnished hero, the “thief with a heart of gold” sort.

Wizard started off with DP as a two year old foster who’d been stuck at the animal shelter, unadopted, for four months. She was told he spent some time out on the streets before his arrival there, but when she brought him home he was full of nervous energy. His name was Sake at the time and he didn’t seem to understand boundaries. As soon as he laid eyes on one of DP’s older cats, he instantly attacked him, literally scaring the poop out of poor old Barnum. When he saw the dogs he rushed over to them and attempted to rub on their legs. It was as if he’d been with dogs before, but much more friendly, cat loving dogs. Not Jack Russell Terriers with personal space issues. When the terriers told him to back off with a snarl and a growl, he took the threat seriously and attacked them. DP never knew when he might attack the dogs and in his nervousness attacked her twice even though he seemed to be regretful afterward. She tried to give him some time to calm down and acclimate, but tension around the house was building. She had just about decided to return “Sake” to the shelter until an incident changed everything. One afternoon DP saw him stare at one of the dogs, jump down onto the floor and walk right over to him, when the dog snarled a tiny bit, he stopped, looked at the dog, then for the first time, turned away and trotted off in another direction. He jumped up onto a chair and settled into a an observer position.

She actually witnessed this guy thinking it through…”Oh, yeah, this guy isn’t friendly”…and working it out. He's been fine ever since. He made an amazing transformation, hence the name Wizard.

Wizard is British. He’s the only other cat who has a voice (see BJ’s blog). It just seems to fit his eyes and his mannerisms. He’s got that knight-in-not-so-shining-armor thing going for him and he’s very dignified...most of the time. Even when he begs for cheese he’s usually very polite about it – as long as you respond to his request. He sits on the counter across from me and lifts his right paw in the air curling it under as if to say, “Please, Mother Lisa. Will there be cheese tonight?” He loves all things dairy and especially milk and cheese. He knows the sound of the refrigerator cheese drawer and comes to help me make dinner and get cheese tidbits thrown to him. He is the official leader of the Moo Club, a group of the cats who line up on the kitchen counter every evening to receive a spot of milk. It’s a nightly ritual that began with Wizard.

However it works in the cat hierarchy, Wizard is for the most part the alpha male of our colony. He is always the first to use the litter boxes after we’ve done the big cleaning (complete change over and comet cleaning of all the boxes all at once). If we do anything with the cat food, open new bags or refill the feeders, he is the first, if only cat, to show up and supervise the activity, taking a test munch from every bowl. If we put a feeder in Moseley’s room, Wizard sits a vigil outside his door seemingly concerned about it’s misplacement. He always greets visitors and is usually the first cat to come out. He never moves when I’m vacuuming, even when I put the vacuum hose on him, there’s not so much as a quiver. Though his ears go back and he looks at me as if to say, “Why do you persist in trying to arouse my fear, by placing that annoying device on my haunches?” I back away, slightly ashamed for disturbing him with my pre-school antics. I’ve read that an alpha cat will always walk through the middle of a room, but lower ranking cats will walk closer to the walls and this also holds true for Wizard, but it does for some of the other cats too. My understanding is that the alpha status is fluid within cat hierarchies, but Wizard is the only one to behave consistently in those few things. If ever there is vermin to be caught in our house, Wizard is the one who has caught it. Though we’ve rarely seen signs of any rodent lurking in our living space, Wizard has come up with four mice and one mole since we’ve lived here. I think he's actually caught a couple of those outside from within our cat enclosure, but kindly brought it into the house to show off.

Wizard has a grovelly low, but nasally meow, more like a short and quiet roar that starts with his mouth closed and still sounds muffled even when his mouth opens…like, “mmmnnngggaow.” His purr is barely audible, and can be felt more than heard, and I’ve never heard him chirp. He used to be quite resistant to having his claws clipped, but using positive re-enforcement with treats has made a huge difference. He is still not fond of being brushed anywhere near his whole back end, tail and private parts especially, though he’ll purr when brushed elsewhere. Sometimes called Wiz-Bang, you can easily get his attention when you call out any variation of Zizz! "Waz-up Wizard?"

Wizard loves to leap after the flying feather during group games. When the field is clear enough, he can make some elegant twisting leaps. However, he will have nothing to do with the laser light, and seems to become disgruntled when everyone else goes crazy for it. If we point the light near him, his ears go back slightly, but his eyes look at it and then look away as if to say (in a British accent, of course), “It’s a light. I know I’m never going to catch it because it’s not real!” Just the other night, we had the light looping around the living room, with several kitties in tow, when like a flash of gray ghost, Wizard ran through the middle of the crowd from one side of the room to the other. A few moments later he ran back through the crowd in the opposite direction and then again a third time as if trying to break up this nonsense and show them something real fun like chasing him!

Playing on his own, Wizard will bat around a soft filled toy, but doesn’t seem to go for plastic toys or rabbit fur mice. He loves to play with the wrinkles on the couch throw and digs wildly at them in fits of silliness, and he’ll also try to get the buttons in the upholstered chair. He’s been known to dash out the front door, but will stop short a few feet from the house and roll over on his back as if he is just teasing us. We easily scoop him up and bring him back in. Mostly he is present, wherever anything is going on. He is stealth itself and we’re always surprised when we turn our head for a moment and zwing, he “apparates,” like a wizard, onto the nearest surface to observe (and hope for cheese).

I hope you've enjoyed meeting Wizard. Co9T