A Cat Rescue Tale: Himalayans and Persians
Skinnie Minnie, at first.
Minnie, no longer Skinnie.
The new guys hanging out.
Peke faces need extra care!
Lots of cats need lots of space!
Persians and Himalayans looove you.
I first encountered Himalayans when my wife went to the pound to adopt a dog. Instead, she brought back tales of a tiny, matted kitty. It was scraggly, malnourished, and extremely sad. She feared that no one would adopt this bedraggled little cat, so I encouraged her to go rescue it.
She left work early the next day--after explaining why to her cat-friendly boss--got the tiny cat and took it straight to the vet. It was obvious that the cat had been living outside. It's fur was a matted collection of stench and bramble. Its emaciated condition pointed to poor diet. But its weird build, blue eyes, and totally declawed state pointed to her being more than a normal alley cat.
The vet ran her through a battery of testing, but the only problem found was an excessive amount of plaque built up on her teeth. So much built up that it had ulcerated her gums and made it painful for her to eat hard food. However, since she was a grown cat weighing in at about 5 pounds, the vet told us that he couldn't address the plaque until the cat put on some healthy weight.
We brought her home, started attempting to groom her (which resulted in a horrible, horrible haircut), and set her up in one of the bathrooms, apart from our other cats. She quickly began to fill out. She was the friendliest of all of our cats, but moved hesitantly. Since she lacked claws, we feared for her safety amongst our rambunctious brood.
When she finally did fill out enough that we felt she could both go to the vet to have her teeth cleaned and mix with the other children, we found that she kept to herself. We had started calling her Skinny Minnie because the poor hair cut we gave her did reveal a sad, little cat that needed a few good meals.
To this day, her main companions (other than us humans) are Minkus, our 2nd oldest long-hair and Sydney Viscious, our long-haired baby. Since Minkus is a quiet cat who likes to groom others, they are the perfect pair. Her adoption of Syd, when my wife brought Syd home as a kitten, was that of a mother caring for her kittens. As Syd grew up and became more vicious, Minnie started interacting with her less.
Minnie is now a giant, fluffy cat who loves to be combed and brushed. The way to lure her into bed with us is to hold the cat brush and say, "Minnie, brushies. Brushies, Minnie." Once her blue eyes latch onto that purple brush, she's all attention. She'll let you brush and comb her endlessly.
Once my wife finally figured out that Minnie was a "Doll-Faced Himalayan"--i.e. one of the ones with a "normal" cat face instead of a flat face--she started reading up on them and their Persian cousins. She then decided that she needed a Persian to complete our cat set.
We are not big on the idea of pure-bred cats. Most of our cats are plain old alley cats that wandered up and adopted us. We took them in, got them their shots, and had them fixed. There are plenty of cats getting put down every day in shelters across the country, going out of your way to get a fluffy kitten from a breeder isn't an idea that really works for us. Yes, I know that breeding and showing cats can be a tremendously fun hobby (or livelihood) for some, but it isn't our cup of tea.
That said, Liz, my wife (I don't think I've named her yet), started searching for rescue sites near us. She then started watching for older Persians or Himalayans that she thought would be unlikely to be adopted. She finally found a pure-bred rescue site in the Dallas-Ft. Worth Metroplex, 150 miles east of us. They'd recently gotten a batch of both Persians and Himalayans from an elderly breeder who was having trouble keeping up with her 30 or so cats as she grew older.
Liz checked out the cats online and decided on getting a single, white "Fancy Feast"-looking cat. She took the long drive and discovered that the white cat was "nippy" and didn't like being touched. Not exactly the furry, loving kitty Liz wanted. She went to look at some of the other kitties in an unlit room (the rescue had just taken over some more space and the power wasn't on yet). She reached her hand into a dark cage and found a little cat that just rolled around in ecstasy when she started petting him; that was Peter/Peetie.
Since the rescue was concerned that these cats had been part of a large group and wouldn't do well on their own, Liz also picked out another little Persian. The pair, once they were in the light, were a blue Persian named Peter Gabriel, and a ginger tabby Persian named Rose. They were both fully grown, but tiny compared to our other cats. They were also 7 and 6 years old, respectively.
She also saw Edwin, a large Seal-Pointed Himalayan with a Peke (squished) face and extreme underbite. His bottom fangs stick out all the time. The folks at the rescue told Liz that he was a notorious biter. His cage had multiple signs on it warning you that he was, indeed, a "biter."
Like Minnie, Eddie stuck in Liz's mind. She was afraid that being another older cat, labeled as a "biter," the likelihood that he would or could be adopted was low. She'd had a good visit with him and they got along fine. She told me about Edwin, asked if we could add another cat to the menagerie, and we decided that she had to adopt him.
Although getting up to 9 cats, when the original intention was only to go to 7, was a pretty big leap, I agreed that Eddie sounded like a basket-case who needed some love. She got back in touch with the rescue and arranged the adoption of cat #9. The rescue, too, felt Eddie had little chance of finding a good home and waived the adoption fee.
I went with Liz to pick him up. He was matted, not as badly as Minnie had been, put pretty badly. He stank--his excrement was stuck to his fuzzy bottom--and was shy. The folks at the rescue game him a belly and butt shave, to make our grooming (and the trip home) a little more bearable. During the shaving he had a total freak-out and ran around the room. The only other freak-out he had was about a week later when Liz put a collar on him.
Since then, he's been a sweet cat. He's never tried to bite anyone--cat or human--since he's been home. The three of them together just moved in and assumed that everyone else would love them. They acted like this had always been their home after about a week of getting acclimated in a spare bedroom.
While their introduction did cause some stress amongst our other kitties, everything quieted down rather quickly. The main problem, I think, was that the new cats really did come in and act like they had been here forever. They hopped right in bed with us, which displaced the kitties that were our traditional bedmates. It took a few months for our old friends to get used to the new ones enough that they would hop up in bed with them. While they're not all sweetness and light all of the time, we have caught them all grooming each other at one time or another.
The main problem that we've found with our new flat-faced buddies is their snuffly noses and weepy eyes. The vet assures us that she can "laser" their nostrils and make them larger to alleviate much of the snuffliness. Wiping their eyes and brushing them are daily...well, not exactly chores, but...happenings that they really, really don't like. While Minnie will let you pull on tangles and groom her endlessly, these guys take a couple of minutes and say, "that's enough." The little ginger, Rosie, will turn around and gently nibble on you to explain that, "that's enough, thanks."
Cleaning their eyes, with some eye-wipes we got at the pet store, with a warm damp towel as the vet suggested, or with a dry cotton cloth is something that none of them like. Generally it takes both of us--one to pet the cat and assure it that everything's ok, while the other person swoops in and cleans their eyes. The nasty, nearly bloody-looking mucus appears again within hours. It looks like we neglect them, but they have worse allergies than I do. And that's saying a lot.
We work to keep the allergens down--using air cleaners in various rooms, double-filters on the HVAC system, and vacuuming up the vast amounts of hair everyone sheds--but both Himalayans and Persians with the squished faces are quite prone to allergies and nasal infections because of their tiny noses located right between their eyes.
As I said before, I'm not a big fan of going out to buy a kitten or cat when there are basically cats on death row in every pound and shelter across the country, but I have to admit that these guys are quite engaging. They really do seem much more interested in interacting with us than most of our other cats. The way they made our house their own is rather funny. No one else ever felt quite that comfortable. It may merely be that the three of them already knew each other, but I think it has more to do with their basic temperaments.
Other issues to be concerned about with these guys: they are prone to bad joints. Peter has some sort of floating patella issue and Minnie often seems arthritic when it is cold out. Luckily for all of us, we're in a fairly warm part of the country. Hairballs are always an issue with any long-haired cat. We have to trim Minnie's neck fur periodically to keep her from "eating her face" when grooming. Nothing's nastier than pulling wet fur out of your cat's mouth. It'll get long enough that it'll actually be down her throat, yet still threaded through her teeth and out to her body. Both breeds may have the gene that causes Polycystic Kidney Disease. Their main issues are related to their Peke faces--breathing difficulties and drippy eyes.
Basically, like any other pure-bred animal, they suffer from more genetic issues than the normal cat population at large. They are the inbred, mountain-men of cats. Luckily, they will never ask you to "squeal like a pig" or attempt to turn you into a tasty bit of BBQ. Or will they? They haven't tried yet, but I'm bigger than they are!