- Pets and Animals
Cats in the Cradle
A Bird, a Dog & a Clowder of Cats
Each of these cuties have a tail and tale of their own. In this hub I will describe the true stories of these super amazing pets. All of them adopted by my sister, Iris, our mother, and myself. This hub is long because our love story is long, and I hope to write it as I remember it. Thanks for visiting.
This intro photo is our very first cat Gato. We have had him for 15 years (since October 28, 2000), and he was fully grown and wily when he came to us, so we guesstimate that he is about 18 years old now (2015). In human years, he is 88 years old. He is still as cute, yet frailer.
First was Coco
My Sister's Cockatiel
Taking care of a friend's bird while they go on vacation takes on a whole new meaning when they don't take their bird back. My sister, Iris, didn't mind keeping him, he was such a delight. He would repeat the wolf whistle we taught him, then one day we changed it up. Coco whistled all kinds of accusations, but he finally got it right. And then he wouldn't shut up about it.
While Coco lived with Iris, they got along famously, as long as she provided his morning coffee and his strands of pasta in the evening. If you think that's bird abuse and malnutrition: I can tell you Coco lived for over twenty-five years and a multitude of accidents.
The worst accident happened when something startled him and he flew into the ceiling fan, was thrown against the wall then fell behind a piece of furniture. Freak accidents almost always happen during a holiday, strike or lockout. We brought him to a 24- hour emergency veterinarian. His recovery was slow and tentative, but he made it.
He had many other incidents, not as bad as that one. Which incident surprised us the most? One day he flew out the door at sunset. My sister didn't expect that he would venture out. He never did. As it got darker, Iris kept calling to him so that he'd follow her voice and he did!
Coco lived long past that last occasion; perhaps it was his pasta addiction that made him so strong. He passed of natural causes in 2010. He'll be remembered for his backward wolf whistle, his mirror box fetish and his magic cup (coffee)! Not to mention the unconditional love.
Moving into our first home was new and exciting. Each day coming home from work to shop for stuff and work on setting up our household was exhausting and fun. Once in a while a gorgeous cat came around while we were barbecuing. He would roll and roll, showing off his white underbelly.
My previous experience with cats was getting bitten and scratched, so cute wasn't cute enough for me to go touching them. Plus I was highly allergic. A few sneezes, then my eyes would turn red, itchy and watery, then my sinuses shut down and I had to leave.
I did a search and discovered that this particular cat was a Maine Coon, or American Longhair, with a history of surviving the harshest winters outdoors. One of the oldest natural breeds in North America, specifically native to the state of Maine where it is the official state cat. These cats have a distinctive physical appearance and an M marking their foreheads.
By this time we had started to notice his gentle personality and that he liked us and our yard. There were days when we would park the car in the back driveway and when I headed for the house he would jump out from behind the swing to surprise me then run away. He scared me, yet it made me laugh. It took a while before I realized that he did this on purpose to play and get my attention.
The day finally arrived when we knew he had no home. He spent his days and nights in our yard, hidden or not. He was abandoned and alone and winter was fast approaching.
Saturday, October 28, 2000
The first snow began in early afternoon. It was increasingly cold in Montreal. Then this poor creature stood up on his hind legs and started pawing at the patio door, and my husband let him in!
I was glad yet somewhat freaked out. We decided that we would find him a home. After all, we worked with over 300 people. Easier said than done.
As soon as he walked into our house my husband had a natural name for him which immediately stuck. Gato, which is Spanish for cat.
Gato checked out the upstairs then sauntered off to the downstairs playroom and checked everything there. On through to the laundry room, the workshop and several walk-in closets. Was he looking for other creatures?
In the laundry room we have a regular bathroom sink instead of a deep sink. When I came down the stairs to see what was going on, the Maine Coon was curled up in the sink and getting some 'long awaited' petting. My eyes were huge. No biting. No clawing. Just purring.
Closed the Bedroom Door for 2 Weeks
What if he Jumped on me?
He never did, of course. He pawed at the bedroom door and wouldn't give us any peace until he finally got to sleep on the bed with us. We implemented hard and fast rules about 'not on or near our pillows'.Gato gave us love first, then made us love him with his wiles and cuteness. It is not contrived. Animals don't plan things like people do. For an animal it's a natural/instinctive choice.
Gato Guards his Yard
Adoption & its Fallouts
Many people do not think of adoption when they decide that they want or need a pet.
When I was 26 I went to the pet store with my son and we selected a tiny puppy that fit in the palm of my hand. We never regretted having Sandy as a pet dog; part spitz and cocker spaniel. A delicate and dedicated dog, to say the least.
Princess, a farm collie, was given to my mom as a gift from my dad, before I was born. She was a gentle and obedient dog who lived with us for 17 years and we loved her dearly.
Also, over the years that we lived with our parents, we often took in injured birds. Chickadee, Starling, Nighthawk. Some died, many more were set free again.
When our dad found Fin-Fin on a rainy day in November the finch was on the ground in our garden dying. Our father took him in, but it was obvious that the bird would not make it through the winter. So our dad made him a big glass cage outside their bedroom window. He made the top with a screen and another window on top to be able to shut out the cold in winter. Inside he installed a big branch as well as bowls of food and water. This Canadian Grospeak Finch had it all and he lived a long and happy life with us.
Things have changed over the years, to the point where animals, beautiful animals, are being put down or abandoned on a daily basis because of housing rules, life changes and changes of heart. And because there isn't someone for them, the winter is very long and painful.
When a Dog Chooses a Person
We had heard on the news that over 50 animals were saved from freezing to death and fostered by the ARN (Animal Rescue Network) during the 1998 Quebec ice storm.
Our mom was considering a pet dog so on March 28, 1998 we brought her to visit the Laval humane society facility where many breeds of dogs were housed in rows of cages for adoption. It did not smell good in there, but we took our time. She spoke to each dog who noticed her. She even took a white one outside to check his behavior. This particular one was too unmanageable for our mother to adopt.
It soon became apparent that we would be leaving without a pet, then as we were walking toward the exit doors one dog caught my eye. I did not know he was a hunting dog. He looked like an overgrown Beagle to me. We agreed that he looked smart and interested in us, but he was also trembling and throwing up in the corner. Was he in poor health or just in a bad place after a bad experience?
I went to get my mom just the same. When she crouched down in front of the cage and asked if he would like to come home with her, he actually put his big paw through the bars of the cage to touch her. We were a bit awed. He was the only one who did that of the ones she had asked.
They Adopted Each Other
Just like that ~my mom made her decision and headed for the offices. This dog started vomiting again as soon as she started walking away. His huge sad eyes looked devastated.
We were set in a room alone with him while my mom paid the adoption fee and got his paperwork. Once, he stood on his hind legs, put his front paws on my sisters shoulders and looked her in the eyes. Another awesome moment.
When we got him on a temporary leash, he led us out of the building, across the street and made a beeline for my sister's jeep. My brother-in-law rushed to open the hatchback and this bundle of joy hopped in like he had done so all his life.
On the way home we stopped to purchase food and other doggie goodies. At my moms home she named him Brandy at the front gate. He let us wash him in the Jacuzzi, dry him off with towels then brush him. He actually rolled over so we could get every part of his fur.
Brandy wasn't a Beagle we soon found out. He was a pointer, a hunting dog. The American Foxhound is a breed of dog that is cousin to the English Foxhound. They are scent hounds, bred to hunt foxes. But he was quite content chasing squirrels instead.
In the years that followed he was perfectly happy as our mom's companion, sleeping by the fire in winter and romping in the yard. They took great care of each other. Brandy also stole Iris and Patrick's hearts with his undying affection, and he often took them for walks at the nearby wooded parkland. Who knew it was difficult to control a hunting dog in the woods? But getting back into the jeep was fun, and going back to our moms house was always a priority.
Brandy passed away in my moms garden 10 years after we brought him home and all of us who went to adopt him from the SPCA were present. He was cremated by a special animal care facility in Ontario and his ashes remain on the mantle in Iris and Patrick's home.
Brandy in his New Garden at my Mom's
Life Without Love
Every Animal Should Have A "Person"
All animals which are bred to be domestic "pets" depend on us to provide for them. Because they are not 'Wild'.
Certain people believe that pets can learn to fend for themselves and thrive in the wild. But they can't. Those that do, because they've been abandoned, have very short lives. They suffer with mange, ticks, fleas and painful ear mites. Many starve because they have had their front claws removed and can't hunt for food. Some are unable to hunt or find enough food and water to survive. Others are the victims of the elements. And each and everyone of them die in fear and with a broken heart. Alone.
Some of the tougher, stronger pets do become feral in order to save themselves. These animals adapt in any way they can. Eat anything they can to survive. Those who are on their own the longest are the hardest animals to revert into pets. They are afraid of people so they hide and live a pseudo life. Sometimes relying on each other. Or not. They have much shorter life spans.
Unfortunately, we can not adopt every abandoned cat that comes along, like the cat in this photo. It is easy to see that he is on his own, coming to get any scrap of food we can offer.
We Didn't Want Another Cat
When my husband and I saw Blackie for the first time, he was a big black cat sleeping at the base of our neighbor's tree. We sensed that trouble was brewing when he started showing up and hanging around as the season changed and it got much colder. Then the deep snow came and it was crazy to see him walking that precarious walk along the top of the chain-link fence to get to our balcony. He would disappear for two or three days, then return. We scoured every bulletin board in the neighborhood. He was obviously on his own.
We named him Blackie because he was black, go figure.
In the above photo Blackie is sitting on top of the house we built for him. His fur isn't dark and shiny like it became after he came into our family.
As the winter wore on, poor Blackie lived outdoors, through the worst -20 degree Celsius cold and snowstorms, but I was afraid of letting in a young male cat that was larger than my Gato. I would put some bread or left over pasta out “for the birds”. I didn’t want to draw him to us, yet Blackie ate a lot of it.
The House we Built for Blackie
In March we installed a little pet house we made out of cedar and vinyl siding on our back balcony. We put picture frames on each side to make the windows and made the top flat so the cat could sit on it. We draped the BBQ cover over the entrance as an overhang, because it rained for days on end.
Blackie spent at least a month in it as his shelter. When other cats were drawn to spray it, and he no longer wanted to use it, we finally had to consider getting rid of it. When we put it out with the garbage, years later, someone took it right away. We were glad. If someone reads this who has this house, we still have the shingles and corner pieces we never got to install.
By Invitation Only
In mid May, I was getting ready to go for a job interview. This handsome black cat sat in front of my patio doors staring at me through the pouring rain. The thing that won me over? We had installed Gato's swinging pet door, which allows him to go in or out whenever he wants. This black cat sat on the garbage pail next to the pet door and watched us eat breakfast, yet he never entered. It occurred to me that he wanted an invitation.
Before I left for that job interview (my husband was home at the time) I opened the patio door and asked him in. He walked in. Gato and Blackie looked each other over. Nothing happened and I left. When I returned, still in the rain, peace ruled in the house. No, I didn't get the job.
Blackie stayed with us almost 4 years. The veterinarian said he was about 6 years old so he was 2 when he joined our family. During that time Gato barely tolerated him, but they slept butt-to-butt on our bed and sofas. Blackie was big and cuddly: a real sweetheart, who forgave us for leaving him outdoors through the worst of winter.
After the second year of our adoption of Blackie, a neighbor told us that there had been a fire two blocks away from us. I remembered the fire in one unit of the housing complex. According to him, when the fire broke out the owner was not home and his two cats broke out through a window. It is difficult to believe that a cat could break through a window. But if Blackie did, I'm glad. It was not his time. The man never came back after his initial search for his cats. He should have. I would have given Blackie back to him.
'Tis better to have loved and lost. Than never to have loved at all - Alfred Lord Tennyson (English poet) (1809 - 1892)
It was THAT day and I never knew it.
On November 22, 2008 Blackie slept at the foot of our bed. Curled up and cozy. At a quarter to five he went through the cat window to go out, while I was making supper. Like an alarm clock, he knew exactly when my husband was due to come home. He would wait for him to park the car, then follow him into the house. That was the time we fed our cats the saucy soft food they loved best.
Blackie never came in to get his food that evening. He must have made a mistake and gotten into the handyman's van that was stationed in the lane, then ended up in another town. We put up posters, went to the animal shelter every two days and scoured the neighborhood. In my heart, Blackie's journey did not end with us. But it was so darn cold that night, it breaks my heart that he didn't get his supper or his milk before he had to go. We miss him still.
Year of the Cat
My mom had a difficult year with cat fights in her yard nearly every day. It seemed that well fed cats conspired to keep a scrawny stray cat from 'their' territory by attacking him repeatedly. My mom chased the villains away yet they kept coming back. She finally started feeding the stray she called Min-Min, healthy portions, so he would buff up and defend himself better.
The following spring 2010, a small female cat appeared out of nowhere. She was skittish and clearly very hungry. She ate Min-Mins leftovers, then ran away. She had two collars and a couple of pennies hanging from the pink one, but she wouldn't let us near her to look for a phone number on her collar or tags. We searched the Internet, posted 'found' flyers, but no one claimed her. Finally I told my mom those collars had to come off or they would strangle her as she grew in size. We tried to catch her, offering her cat treats, to no avail.
One day in July I arrived to find that Minou, as my mom called her, had no more collars. My mom had successfully removed the white flea collar and the pink leather collar with the two pennies. There was no name or number, just two copper pennies. My mom was now regularly feeding both Min-Min and Minou and they were growing in size.
When my son and his fiancé visited, Minou was comfortable going into my moms house to eat. The kids took one look at her and said Minou was pregnant, and we finally saw that they were right. Her belly was protruding at her sides. And just two days later she approached my moms chair huffing and displaying her distress. Minou had her babies in a secluded corner of the basement.
When Iris and Pat went down to find her, four tiny wobbly kittens had been born. They fixed up a box with a blanket and settled the cats in it in the laundry room upstairs. My sister obtained information on how to care for them, and together with my mom, helped Minou with her little ones.
The Kittens - 15 ~Photo GalleryClick thumbnail to view full-size
With a French Accent on each e
With the white side of his nose and those beady little eyes: Iris and I called him Bebe Zorro. Soon after the kittens were born we saw a big male cat in the yard a couple times. Obviously he was Bebe's father. Who knew a female cat could conceive from two different males? Around the same time we saw another male cat which resembled another of the kittens.
I entered Bebe in a contest when he was almost a year old and he figured in the top 10 out of hundreds of entrees. He is such a cute grey bundle with white paws. He is the most affectionate of the four kittens; always climbing up onto my mom's lap for snuggling and petting. A big, lazy longhair cat, yet an avid mouser. He either moves very slowly or super fast.
The Contest - Bebe was a contender!
Boy or Girl?
It took months before we realized that Beckii was a male, with his pretty face and white-tipped tail. That is when I changed the spelling of his name. When people ask, I say he is German. LOL
We had all of the kittens fixed in February 2011, first the boys then the girls. On the way home from the vet. after their procedure, some distracted driver plowed into the back of our car. We were scared when we opened the hatchback where Bebe and Beckii sat in their carrier. They were shaken up, but luckily not hurt. They rode the rest of the way home in the back seat with me. They were extremely glad to be home, so they soon forgave us.
Beckii was the first to go outside when he was nine months. I had him on a leash and he would crawl on his belly to sniff the grass, and check out the flowers, but he was very afraid. After 4 or 5 afternoon trysts in the garden, first Beckii, then Bebe, we removed Beckii's leash. We waited days longer before removing Bebes leash, to be sure that their mother, Minou, was able to coax them back to the front door.
Beckii's first summer fun was jumping off the roof of the house. He is much bigger now, but still does it. Once he jumped off the garden shed onto the gazebo. Unfortunately it ripped and he landed on the bars of the swing. Needless to say that, although we replaced the gazebo's canvas roof, Beckii hasn't done that since.
The cats pass by the side of the house and go hang out in the lane. It's lush and peaceful back there and they're free to roam.
The White One
For some reason everyone wanted the white one. She is a longhair breed, like Bebe, and she appeared to be wearing a dark wig when she was a kitten. My mom called her Peruke (means wig in French). My sister changed her name to Perruche (means budgie in French) when the two female kittens went to live at her house: The boys and girls had to be separated until their spaying and neutering. Iris and Pat got attached to the girls and decided to keep them. It was at this precarious time that Coco passed away of old age.
Perruche is wily, yet well behaved. She will walk with my sister to and from my mom's house, on the sidewalk and across two streets. She likes riding in the car and is finicky about her food choices. She wants salmon and only salmon. But if there's shrimp, that's okay, too. None of that other smelly pate, please.
French for Hishhhh
AKA Miss Grumpy, Moustache's coloring looks like Bebes ~in reverse, but with even more beautiful eyes. Half his size, with short darker fur, and extremely sharp and playful. She spent most of the nights bringing Iris and Pat bugs and other fine treasures. She remained distant from the cats at my moms, but was very close to Iris. Especially at nap time and when it was time to go for a ride in the car.
Mousse was the tiniest, a lithe dare-devil, but some adventures can lead to tragedy. Proven so April 2012. We spent 5 days looking for her, scouring the neighborhood, putting up posters, talking to neighbors. A new resident just a few backyards away recounted finding her in his half empty pool. We were devastated. Iris was inconsolable. Moustache was just 21 months old.
The Outdoor Cats
Min-Min was evasive yet got along famously with my mom's and my sister's cats, but he never wanted to enter the house. It seemed to cross his mind in really cold weather, but he found other accommodations; possibly under the back balcony. At one point he was seriously disfigured by an attack from another animal and could no longer eat. My mom nursed him back to health with Carnation milk every day until he could eat again. He disappeared before Christmas 2012, never to be seen again.
Toutoune (pictured here) is not ours. She is one of my mom's neighbors cat. A pretty little girl with pink lips and pinched ears. But I believe she adopted my mom in a way. Since summer 2012 she would spend her days in my mom's garden. We know there are two other cats in the neighbors house, yet only this lady got to go outside.
She and my mom's cats gave each other a wide berth. There was no fighting otherwise my mom would not tolerate it. No hunting and chasing birds is permitted either. LOL But a mouse in the house is fair game!
At first Toutoune would just taste Min-Min's left-overs, but once he was gone she begged my mom for food. Perhaps she preferred Purina cat food to that which her person was feeding her? She slept on the balcony chair since my mom put her chairs out in early spring.
In June the neighbors sold their house, and on moving day they went into my mom's garden to get their cat. Poor Toutoune seemed to know that she would not be back to her beloved garden. We were saddened to hear that she escaped her new digs and is nowhere to be found. She is out there now and in our hearts with the others we miss.
Slideshow - ~19 PhotosClick thumbnail to view full-size
All They Want
They Want to Live in the House with Us
If a pet is abandoned, lost, or just plain out of luck (like Blackie was after the fire) anyone who will help them is welcome. Some pets could be the best companions in the world, but if they aren't pretty: they're out of luck.
Lost animals are strange; they check each and every house and person, trying to remember. Trying to find their way back home. We are all strange in that sense.
Adult animals do not trust as easily as the little ones. Most people who encounter a lost animal in their yard try to help them by bringing them to a shelter. Not all shelters can provide adopters or preserve the unclaimed or unwanted animals. Though I know many individuals provide foster care, volunteer care and 'love'. Donations or petting; just plain being there for them. I'm sure many persons fall in love with their proteges and end up keeping them. Kudos to you all!
All You Need
A PERSON has to be able to provide shelter, food, water and a litter box. AND replenish these on a daily basis as well. Toys are a plus, but not very useful if you do not play with them. If you are only home a few hours a day, it's tough, yet still better than starving or freezing or 'the shelter' where adoption may not be an option.
A real person provides all of the above, plus love, talking and petting. If there is puke, deal with it. It happens to us, too. Do not punish. Help! They do not like messes or dirty spaces either.
Adopting Farm Animals is also Rewarding - Rescued Ducks
These grown ducks had never been in the water. See how they react when they are brought to a pond for the very first time. From terror to elation. Their joy indescribable. See it to appreciate it :~)
My mom & Princess: The dog I grew up with
New Photos Summer 2014Click thumbnail to view full-size
I'm sorry to say that my beautiful cat Gato passed away(died) on December 4th 2015. It seems like he's been gone for the longest time.
I can't explain it. He 's only been gone 3 months and a yet I imagine that he's waiting for me each time I come home. I put my key in the lock and open the door.....
© 2013 Carol Houle