Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Five Is Not Too Many

     I wish I could say it was all on my husband, but it isn't. I would argue that at least one of them picked us out himself and moved in, rather on his own. I always felt 3 was a bit much and that we were really pushing things at 4. But it was when the 5th one moved in this summer that I sort of felt we had crossed a line.
     My sister has a steadfast rule of thumb, you should only ever be at plus one. If there are two humans living in your residence, that means you should really only have 3 cats. One human in the home, limit is 2 cats, and so on and so forth.
     When we got married, we were a blended family. My husband had two male rescue cats from a shelter near his mother's home up north. Taz and Munch were litter mates and brothers, peaceable companions. I had my little orange shrieking Princess Nala, also a rescue. She has always been small and fierce. She enjoys her humans but reigns mercilessly over the other cats, always huffing and puffing and hissing at them if they get near her.
     Overall, we were a happy little family and enjoyed each others company, aside from the occasional spats and swats from Nala. She enjoys playing with her humans and her assorted feather fishing poles, but if she thinks another cat has even dared to cross her shadow's path, she tends to lose it.
     But, as with all creatures, age sneaks up, even on stealthy cats. Our boys ended up with kidney disease, and we lost Taz to complications from a tumor 3 years ago. 2 seemed so much less than 3 as we all adjusted to his loss.
     Several months later there was a call from our vet. An elderly lady living in a near by senior apartment complex had found a stray hanging about on her patio furniture. She called our vet and asked if they knew of anyone that would provide a loving home. She already had 2 cats and that was the limit for her complex. We agreed to meet him, but through miscommunication she ended up calling an animal shelter to come get the kitty, so then we had to go through them and apply to adopt this magnificent boy.
     Simon joined us at the end of the summer. He had lost weight and had a sort of kennel cough by the time we got him home. It was a bit rough as we had to give him pills and keep him isolated the first few weeks. He was also clever and would hide the pills under his tongue and spit them out later. He has always been a bit too smart for his own good.
     And so we went on happily for the next year, content with 3, at our happy maximum again. In our neighborhood there was also an outdoor cat that wandered happily from home to home. Surprisingly friendly, he would sit on our front porch with my husband, back when he used to sit outside and smoke and read. For years, every evening they would sit there companionably . Then my husband quit smoking, but he would still sit outside and read so Squeaks could come visit.
     Squeaks would often come stop by when we had company. He would run over and actually interact with people as they got out of their cars and walked toward our house or as they left. They would pet him, scratch his ears, and he would chatter, as if asking questions after their health and well being.
     He was a mighty hunter and would often leave gifts for us by our garage door. One time he left a pair of perfectly splayed birds wings, as if he had placed them there gently like our own little guardian angel.
     We took to leaving our garage door open, so in winter he could hop up on a lawn chair and curl up for a nap. He still seemed like he belonged somewhere else, so we never tried to force the issue.
     Then there was the chilly November day when he was curled up tight in the chair and did not respond when we called his name. Ordinarily he would come running from across the street if you called out his name.  We tried calling his name repeatedly. He sort of opened one eye, but it seemed to roll up in his head. I called our vet right away and they took him right in. He had a massive infection because several of his teeth were broken, maybe in a fight. He already had ragged ears. We got him the antibiotics he needed and the vet removed the infected teeth. We brought him home to heal. We alerted the neighbor that seemed to be his original owners and they were fine with him staying with us. We always joke that Squeaks picked us for his retirement home and that he chose wisely!
     So, that was it for the next 2 years. I was a little embarrassed when people would ask, do we have pets and would hurriedly explain how we ended up with 4 rescues, hoping if I talked quickly we could just move on to the next subject.
     And then my husband mentioned his coworker was in a tough situation and would have to move to a different apartment and would not be able to take their cat with then. He said they all tried to find other options but that he agreed that we could at least take this cat temporarily. I was not thrilled. I could already imagine other people's judgement. I was a little afraid they would be true when saying we had lost it. I really didn't want to be known as the crazy cat lady of the family. I shouldn't have been concerned. My brother said, no, I wasn't the crazy cat lady, I had just married the crazy cat lady. This made me snicker and opened my heart up a bit more to the situation.
     And so, that is how Jerry, as he was called, came to live with us. I never would have picked him out as he is a domestic long hair and we already have enough issues with lots and lots of cat hair in our home. But he was so elegant with his giant gold/green eyes, black velvet nose, and black fur with a thick white under coat . Our vet says it is called being smoked or smoky. His under coat is so thick it is almost as if he has two coats of fur.
     I renamed him Vader because he seemed so regal and coolly detached. Nala can hiss and spit at him as she does with all the boys. He is not phased. He just sits down next to her and curls his tail around himself, sitting quietly with her until she stops puffing herself up and growling. When I am working in my office, he will carefully crawl up on my lap and sit, purring in his soft, soothing way. He has helped alleviate a lot of the stress and anxiety that I feel in association with my work.
     If I had been asked, I would have said we did not need another cat, not even a rescue. I would have been wrong. And really, in his own way, he has brought as much comfort to me as we  could ever bring to him.

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