Furry Friends

I grew up with cats. As a baby, my first word was “kitty.” My favorite animal has always been cats. When Mom, my brother, Dave, and I went to Adams County Library in Gettysburg, the books I typically picked were about cats.


We had cats as far back as I can remember, plus some. I specifically remember Onyx and one of her kittens Frosty. We also had two outdoor cats: Fuzzy and Chips, who was a stray. Chips was always getting hurt in fights, causing him to get eye injuries. He let Mom put medical ointment in his eye. Somehow, he figured out that the cream made him feel better, and he permitted it. Fuzzy was a long-haired cat who had a slight limp, and was one of Onyx’s kittens. She disappeared twice that I can remember. The first time, we actually found her weeks later, on a road south of our house, by the woods. We “named” that part of the road “Fuzzy Lane.” She disappeared a second time, but was never found.


I longed to pet Frosty and Onyx for a long time, but they would always stay out of my reach, plus I was allergic to them! I had a number of plush cats over the years, but that wasn’t the same. I remember one time when Mom, Dave, and I were leaving from a haircut appointment to go home, and Mom said that maybe someday they would find a cure for asthma or create a non-allergenic cat so I could be around cats more. Finally, in 1994, I was able to win Onyx over. I was twelve at the time, and she discovered that she liked when I petted her. When we moved to our current home, I once carried Onyx into my bedroom to show her my room. I carried her around, and told her about different things I had in there. Normally the cats were never allowed in the bedrooms because of asthma that my dad and I had developed.


My grandparents also had a cat for a little while when I was a very young child. Her name was Muffy, and she was a big, fluffy, gray Maine Coon cat. One day she seemed to simply vanish from their home. Then Grandma took me to a green house in Gettysburg where relatives lived, to visit the cat. Muffy got new owners probably because of the asthma that my grandfather, my dad, and I all had.


There was a period of time in the mid-nineties where we had no cats. We really missed them.


Our next two cats came in 1999 from my cousin Brett and his wife, Kerry. They had a cat named Girl Cat, who had a litter of kittens. We went to their house to see the kittens, and had a chance to hold them. One of the kittens was a primarily gray kitten that also had peach and white fur. This kitten was the only female cat in the litter. I also held an orange kitten. We decided we wanted two kittens, and we easily picked the gray kitten since Mom wanted a female, and the orange kitten since he seemed to bond well with me. I named the gray cat Alyssum like the small flower that is used as a ground cover. The orange cat was named Flash, since we thought he moved fast, and my brother gave him his middle name, Luigi, like the Mario Bros. character.


In the Fall of 2000 and during all of 2001, I was away at The Commonwealth Technical Institute at the Hiram G. Andrews Center in Johnstown. I came home most weekends. When I got home, both cats were always leaping to greet me. They seemed to be genuinely happy that I came home. When I had my suitcase open on the kitchen floor on the day I was returning to college, Alyssum would jump in on top of my clean clothes. The joke was that she wanted to go with me back to school.


Both cats had an opportunity to try lobster. My dad bought lobster one time, and cooked it at home; I gave a small piece of it to the cats. I knew they would enjoy it, as cats tend to like seafood of all kinds, and knew that they probably wouldn’t have many opportunities to try lobster, which I consider to be one of the best seafoods. They gobbled it up, as I would have expected.


Alyssum had some interesting quirks. Cats are obligate carnivores, which means that they only eat products that come from animals. Right? Wrong, though that is the way it normally is. Alyssum loved pretzels. If I had the little pretzels in a dish, and Alyssum found the dish, she would knock one out with her paw, and eat it. She also loved trying to sneak into my bedroom. Alyssum seemed to absolutely adore me. She would sit there for a very long time, and gaze at me with her pretty green eyes. Sometimes she’d reach up and touch my face with her paw. She was intimidated by our large dog, but played with his tail like it was a black feather toy.


There are plenty of Flash stories as well. Firstly, Flash had the softest of fur. He could be told apart from Alyssum in the dark by the softness of his fur. He also liked our dog. Cats and dogs are normally known for not getting along, though they are not considered mortal enemies. Flash and our Newfoundland, Grizzly, enjoyed being near each other. Flash would repeatedly seek out Grizzly, and lie next to him. We have plenty of pictures to back this up. Grizzly seemed to have no problem with it. One time Flash got sick with urinary crystals around Christmas, and had to be in the animal hospital over the holiday. With prior permission, my Mom and I went to the vet’s office on Christmas Day to visit our cat. When they brought him out to us (we were sitting in an empty exam room), he instantly perked-up. I think we made a big difference in his life that day. We were there a couple of hours.


Flash could also be very vocal. When I went into the bathroom, he would stand outside the door and meow. Eventually, I decided to let him just come in with me. It was nice to know that I was that important to him, and it made me feel good. If he wanted to be petted when everyone was in bed for the night, he would stand in the hallway outside the bedrooms and slowly go, “Me-ow, Me-ow, Me-ow.” I would then get out of bed, go into the hallway, sit on the floor, and pet him for a little while before going back to bed. With his craving for petting fulfilled, he stopped meowing, and let us sleep. My brother Dave, also started to let Flash sleep in his room with him, as Dave wasn’t allergic to cats. The two of them built a stronger bond.


Misty is our current cat. She came from the SPCA. I have always felt that Misty has a unique “kind of wild” look to her. When we first got her, I wondered if she was part pet cat and part wild cat like Savannah cats are. She also had a special call she would make, “A-wheel,” which led to us saying to her “A-Misty, A-Misty.” By now she resorts to normal meows. I don’t know why she changed them, but I wonder.


Misty has a unique eating habit. Throughout her whole life so far, she has always preferred a person to be in the same room with her when she eats. Misty has always been like that, and I wonder if she had a bad experience as a young kitten where she was scared when eating, thus feeling safer having us watch over her back as she eats. Misty also likes to have her food moved around in the dish after a time. Due to losing a bunch of her teeth, she now eats wet food which needs to be refrigerated once opened, so she still needs someone in there with her when she eats to pick up her food when she’s done and refrigerate it.


Misty likes salmon. When I open a packet of salmon, Misty will often run out to the kitchen, meow, and look at me. This is her way of letting me know that she wants a piece of salmon. She doesn’t need to worry though, if she is lying in her bed in Dad’s office and misses me preparing my salmon for lunch, I will take a piece and look for her, to make sure she gets a piece before sprinkling on my seasonings.


People train dogs, but cats train people. Misty has a strict schedule of when she wants to eat. She comes upstairs sometime around 7:00 AM most mornings, and meows until someone (usually my dad) goes downstairs, and gets her breakfast. She will perform a similar trick throughout the day when she wants to eat. She always has some issues when her stomach doesn’t adapt to the time changing in the spring and fall.


Misty is really good at communicating other needs of hers. If I come downstairs into the family room and she’s in there, she leaps up on the coffee table, and meows, and stares at me. This signifies that she wants to be petted. Though I haven’t mentioned this earlier, the kind of petting I do is what I call “scratch-petting” which is a combination of scratching her back, and the top of her head, while also petting her. All of our cats from Alyssum onward seemed to respond well to this. Misty apparently also doesn’t like it when we go to bed at night, as she is alone. She stands out in the hallway outside a bedroom door, and meows into the darkness. One time when I was still up, I came out into the hallway, talked to her, and then said, “Goodnight, Misty,” before going to bed, and she quieted down. Time will tell if this technique works, or if it was a fluke.


In July of 2011, Dave moved to Taiwan to teach English to children. I remember one time when I was visiting him, he stopped outside a pet store, and was talking about liking to watch the cats in the window. Dave really was attached to Flash at home; but as a child, he was always a “dog person.” Dave did something surprising; knowing that a dog wouldn’t fit his lifestyle, he adopted a kitten which he named Richard. Richard is similar looking to Misty, but as a kitten his huge ears seemed disproportionate to the rest of his body. As he grew up, he “grew into his ears.” When I’m in Taiwan visiting my brother, Richard really seems to like me. I can tell he also remembers me even though I don’t see him often. He is definitely Dave’s world, and Dave is his.


Another story with Richard involves when Dave and I returned to Taiwan from a weeklong trip to Japan. The next day the cat-tending service brought Richard home at the end of Dave’s lunch break. After Dave brought him in, he had to leave right away to return to work. Richard appeared upset, and started to run around the apartment meowing, looking for Dave. I tried talking to him and scratch-petting him to no avail, but eventually calmed him down through singing country music songs to him. Later Dave came home to a happier cat than the one he left! I did tell Dave that Richard really missed him.


When I’m in Taiwan I’m also the one who usually feeds Richard his moist food in the evening. When Richard starts racing around the apartment, it’s time to give him his nightly snack. As per the vet’s orders, I always put the wet food in the water bowl as Dave showed me to do. Apparently, Dave was told that extra water intake would help keep Richard from developing crystals like poor Flash had years earlier.


Through being in close quarters with Richard and having no asthma problems, I began to discover that I might not be allergic to cats anymore! Dave’s apartment was smaller, and he didn’t have all the filters we have at home to control allergies. Dave jokingly came up with the idea of me not being allergic to Richard. After going to a new asthma doctor that was accepted by my insurance (my old asthma doctor stopped participating), I discovered by the updated allergy tests that I wasn’t allergic to cats anymore, which was one of the biggest miracles in my life! One of my greatest dreams actually came true. Losing my cat allergies didn’t happen due to getting rid of asthma (though it seems to be much better than it was at one time), and wasn’t because an allergy free cat was developed. I lost the allergy. I won’t ask how, as I don’t want to look “a gift horse in the mouth.” Misty our cat, certainly got the advantage of this, as I am able to pet her more than I could before; although on the side of caution, I don’t want to take a chance of having her in my bedroom —unless I give her a tour!


I have always been a cat person, and the reader can see why. Cats were simply around for most of my life, and I was exposed to them from the time I was little. For a reminder of my next post please subscribe, and you can visit my blog at URL www.Tomstidbits.net.