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The Rescued Calico Cat

Updated on January 21, 2015

Mali, the calico cat comes home.

This is the story of Malibu, (Mali for short) our calico cat who came to our lives unexpectedly in the year 2000. My son brought her home one evening exclaiming, "Mom, I brought home a cat." I had just gotten over the loss of our 12 year-old Maine Coon cat, Fluffy, who was taken away by feline aids. I swore I would never own a cat again. This all changed that evening when Mali came home.

My son found the scrawny, dirty and hapless kitten wandering aimlessly in the parking lot of a go-kart raceway in Northern California. Jim was resting in his car after a long bout of video games in the arcades. He heard the tiny meowing of a kitten in the dark but was not sure if those were sounds coming from the busy amusement park or not. When he went to look around his car, he noticed a long-haired calico kitten cowering behind the bushes. It was raining and getting late in the night and Jim could not bear the thought of leaving the cat behind. He approached the shivering and terrified kitten, scooped it up, put it in the backseat of his car and drove the 45-minute drive home. The rest is history.


Mali's first week home

First visit to the Vet

When the terrified kitten came home, she hid in the Booda Dome litterbox for half the day. I managed to coax her out with some dry cat food, but only momentarily. She immediately retreated to the litterbox for safety.

The next day,Mali had a bad case of diarrhea. I brought the kitten for her first visit to the vet. The prognosis was that Mali was not used to eating cat food because she subsisted on bugs, spiders, leaves or whatever that kept her alive in the parking lot. Mali was prescribed a small dose of Kaopectate for 7 days. She weighed a mere 4.7 lbs. and was malnourished. She was given all her required shots, general checkup, flea dip, and most importantly, an official name and a cat license.

While getting her flea dip, I was told by the vet's aides that Mali was the only cat they had ever encountered who purred while partially submerged in water. It was as if she was saying " Thank you I need this bath". But Mali's fluffy and bushy tail, held up high at all times masked her tale of survival.

When I came to pick up the cat, the young girls begged me to give them the kitten in case I changed my mind. I knew that moment on that there was something different about this rescued cat.


This calico cat is not afraid of water.

Please turn on the tap!

Living in a parking lot during the rainy winter months may have tempered Mali into a water-loving cat. She may have been accustomed to the harsh rainy weather and drank from dirty puddles and running street water. Every morning, Mali looks forward to playing with the tap water in the bathroom sink. Mali would gingerly step into a basin full of water and play with the drain.

Her great-great-great grandfather must have been a tiger.


So what is a calico cat?

The good luck charm

A calico cat is not a breed of cat but a color pattern. To be considered a "calico", the colors must be present: black, white, and orange. That is why the calico cat is also known as the tri-colored cat.

Mali's fur is distinctly cinammon orange all over with splotches of black and a white chest and paws. Her orange color resembles that of a tiger.

Mali is also a female calico cat. Nearly all calico cats are female. And why is that? The answer is in genetics.

First for a quick lesson in basic biology: Female cats are formed when each parent donates an X chromosome. Male cats are formed when the mother donates an X chromosome and the father donates a Y chromosome.

Part of the genetic anomaly that gives calicoes their unique coloring is linked to the X chromosomes. In calicoes, one X chromosome carries the gene for black fur and the other X chromosome carries the gene for orange fur.

Since males only have one X chromosome, they rarely become calico cats. The very few male calicoes usually have genetic abnormalities (such as carrying an XXY chromosome pattern). They are almost always sterile and may experience other health problems as well.

The calico cat is considered the "lucky" cat or "money cat" by some cultures. Japanese sailors often carried calico cats on board their vessels because they believed the cats would bring them protection at sea. These felines were also believed to bring good fortune to any home lucky enough to have one.


A calico cat with a purr-sonality

Mali is not just a stunning cat but is a low maintenance cat. Her long silky fur resists matting and stays shiny and well-groomed. A quick brush in the morning keeps her from ingesting the loose hairs when she grooms herself.

She has an extremely mellow disposition and a sweet cherubic face with the vocals of a kitten rather than an adult cat. With one look into those large expressive eyes and cherubic face, Mali will steal your heart. I know, because she stole mine and everyone else's.

Mali's striking pallete of orange, black and white is her most recognizable trait. Her long bushy which is always up resembles a feather duster. This must the sign of an eternally happy cat. The black markings behind her furry hind legs make her look like she is wearing knee-high boots or trousers. This is very apparent in the YouTube video I posted of Mali taking a walk in the garden.

In the beginning, I thought Mali might be a ragamuffin cat. So I sent her picture to a breeder in Austria and I was told that her nose was not scooped enough. But she has all the other traits of a ragamuffin cat. Being a ragamuffin dropout nevertheless made Mali even more endearing and special.


Cats get feline acne?

No more plastic bowls!

Once Mali developed blackheads on her chin, some of which were irritated and swollen. A visit to the vet revealed that Mali had feline acne. These blackheads or comedones actually look like dirt under the chin. A gentle cleansing with hydrogen peroxide with a cotton swab took care of the problem.

I was advised to get rid of Mali's plastic feeding bowl and switch to glass, ceramic or stainless steel bowl. This is because plastic bowls are porous and trap bacteria, which is then transferred to the cat's chin. It has also been suggested that an allergic reaction to the plastic food bowl is a cause.

The exact cause of feline acne isn't known. There are other possible causes including stress, food allergies, poor grooming habit, and over-active sebaceous glands.

Cats gravitate towards sunny places.

There is always time for a catnap.

Cats are known to sleep from 16-18 hours a day. While cats are sleeping they remain alert to the slighest stimuli.

Mali's favorite napping place is just about any place that is warm, cozy and quiet.


Even an indoor cat needs to go outside.

It's a big world out there!

Being an indoor cat has made Mali even more curious. Her docile and trusting personality makes her an easy target for outdoor cats and racoons. For this reason, Mali's romps in the garden are strictly surpervised. On two occasions, I made the mistake of leaving her alone outside and went inside the house to answer the phone. When I came back out looking for her, she was nowhere to be found. I looked all over the backyard calling her name and there was no sign of Mali anywhere. Two hours transpired and still no cat. Then I heard a very soft meow from under the deck. It was then I realized that Mali had crawled under the deck through a tiny gap and could not find her way back out. Thank goodness for the trap door outside the deck. Mali came out swathed in spiderweb and dead leaves but nevertheless, a very happy cat.


Cats and their urge to scratch

Marking her territory

Mali has a scratching post inside the house but does not like using it. Instead she prefers to scratch off her old front claw sheaths on the bark of her favorite yellow marguerite. Sometimes she would chew the sheaths from her back claws.

Cats also have scent glands in their paw pads, so in addition to removing claw sheaths, scratching a surface leaves the feline's personal scent signature to let others know that the item or space is his. Humans can't detect these scent signatures, but another cat can. Marks left by clawing also let other cats know by sight who owns a given object or area.

Mali, the calico cat takes a walk in the garden. - Does this look like a broken tail?

One of Mali's favorite weekend pastime is taking leisurely walks in the garden. The path she takes in the garden is very predictable. She stops to smell the yellow marguerites, munches on tuffs of grass, chases lizards, and chatters at birds.


Mali's best friend

A brush with friendship

Mali's bestfriend is a resin boot brush resembling a cat. When I brought home this adorable garden shoe cleaner from a nearby plant nursery, Mali balked and avoided it for the longest time. It must have been an indoor cat's sense of preservation. These two felines are now inseparable.

Mali enjoys being in high places. - Watching the world go by

This is Mali's favorite perch high up on the railing of the backyard deck overlooking the garden below. She has a good vantage view of cars zipping by, people walking their dogs, and often does some semi-serious bird watching.


Mali, a cat with more than 9 lives

Forever immortalized

According to Brewer's Dictionary Of Phrase & Fable, a cat is said to have nine lives because it is "more tenacious of life than many animals." The inquisitive feline has a knack of dodging death by a whisker. Cats are intrepid explorers and fearless acrobats.They always seem to land on their feet after a fall. Another theory is that the cat-headed goddess of Egypt was blessed with nine lives, and all other cats followed in her fortune.

Mali is now 10 years young. She has been immortalized on a mural in our powderroom wall. Visitors who use the powderroom always come out with a smile on their faces. This idea struck me one day to paint Mali on the wall facing the toilet. I took my favorite photo of Mali with her signature bushy tail and projected this on the wall with my Artograph tracer projector. After tracing the image on the wall with a pencil, I completed the image with Winsor and Newton acrylic paint. They say a cat has nine lives. I say that Mali has a 10th life as she has been forever immortalized.


Playing Dressed up

Pretty in Pink

Cats usually do not like to wear clothes. Because cats like to move freely and not feel constricted. I must confess that Mali owns a reversible pink outfit with a matching belt. It was really for a puppy and was just too cute to pass up.

I took Mali out for a walk on a leash with this pink dress and a neighbor stopped and exclaimed, "Now I have seen everything."


Say Cheese


Mali broke into an unexpected big yawn just as the camera shutter button was pressed. This was one of those candid shots which will be hard to duplicate.

I marveled at Mali's teeth which I have never seen before in a panoramic view. It was always a tug-of-war just to pry her mouth open to check on the health of her teeth or pop a pill. To keep those choppers and gums healthy, Mali has her teeth cleaned at the vet every year. This will help prevent gingivitis and tartar buildup which is a common dental condition among housecats.

Cats have 30 teeth (12 incisors, 10 premolars, 4 canines, and 4 molars), each specially adapted for a specific job - such as stabbing, slicing, and biting. The small canine teeth are needle-sharp for grabbing and killing a prey. The molars work like scissors to cut the prey into bite-size pieces. The small front incisors serve to separate meat from bones and to carry things, prey or kitten, for example. Because the cat cannot move its jaws sideways like a human do, it is unable to chew its food with its mouth closed.


Important Links you should read

Keep your cat healthy and happy.

Common Symptoms of Dental Disease in Cats

How to spot common symptoms before it is too late.

Keeping Your Cat's Teeth Clean

How to clean your cat's teeth

Gingivitis and Stomatitis in Cats

Sometimes this can develop when the cat is very young.

A calico cat has distinct patches of white, orange and black.

In a tortoiseshell, the three colors are mottled or brindled and do not form distinct patches.

A tortoiseshell may have significant portions of white, but the remaining colors are blended.

This pattern is called a tortoiseshell and white.

This cat loves her stuffed mice.


Mali has a basket full of toys. But her favorite ones are the green, pink, orange and brown stuffed mice. It does not matter how deep these four mice are buried in the basket, Mali will collect these four-some and leave these outside the bedroom door as presents. It may be that cats are slightly colorblind, but this one seem to know her colors. Most likely, these stuffed mice were picked based on their scents.

This is Mali after sniffing catnip. She rolled on the deck, rubbed her chin and cheeks against the boot brush statue for 5 minutes or so and then became sedated.

Catnip is a perennial herb and a member of the mint family Labiatae. It is also a distant relative of marijuana and known to make most cats high. The active ingredient in catnip is called Nepetalactone and will elicit a change in a cat's behavior when sniffed or eaten.

A cat will roll on its back with paws extended, run around a room, rub its cheek and chin against the spot where the catnip has been sprinkled,

or just settle into a contented pose and become immobilized for a while.

Catnip Effects on your healthy cats.

Watch Mali's silly antics after sniffing catnip.


Mali takes a walk.

Yes, cats can be trained..

Mali was trained to walk on a leash as a kitten. It came with a price. A battle of wills and lots of patience on my part. During the first two weeks, Mali just sat down and refused to move as soon as the harness was on her. Then I allowed her to wear it around the house until she got used to it. On many occasions, Mali squirmed out of the harness. This is because cats are such expert contortionists and can squeeze out of tight situations.

Taking the cat for a walk? Check out these links.

How to Leash Train Your Feline.

Important tips on leash training. The proper type of harness is important.

wikiHow -Steps to train your cat to walk on a leash.

A lot of patience on your part will pay off at the end.

Watch Mali take a leisurely walk.

This cat has me well-trained!

Mali kneads a little love. - A contented cat

Mali loves to knead her favorite soft fleece blanket while purring in contentment. It is really a joy to watch. She would move her front legs up and down exerting downward pressure with her paws, opening and retracting her claws, ever so gently grabbing the blanket.

Many theories abound as to why cats knead. One may have originated from the cats' wild ancestors who had to tread down grass or foliage to make a temporary resting place. Another belief is that kittens instinctively knead their mother's belly to encourage the flow of milk.

My Personal Recommendations from Amazon - Your cat will love you even more.

Snuggle Safe Pet Bed Microwave Heating Pad
Snuggle Safe Pet Bed Microwave Heating Pad
This freesbie-looking disc, when microwaved for 5 minutes, will keep you pet warm for 12 hours during the cold winter months. I used this as a foot warmer during the winter. Worked great! I bought two of these, one for the kitty and one for myself. Your dog will love this too!

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