Cats

You will always be lucky if you know how to make friends with strange cats.

--Colonial American proverb

If man could be crossed with the cat, it would improve man but deteriorate the cat.
--Mark Twain

Be-oootiful cat! Delicious cat! Exquisite cat! Cat like a soft owl, cat with paws like moths, jewelled cat, miraculous cat! Cat, cat, cat, cat!
--Doris Lessing

We currently share our house with five cats. They are indoor cats, all fixed, with their claws intact. They are all Kentucky cats (in the past, we have also had Oregon, North Dakota, West Virginia, and Ohio cats). There is something very fine in sharing space with another species, and doing so in a way in which all species are happy and are able to communicate. I also like being out-numbered by cats; it keeps me on my toes. Below are photos and wee stories about our cats, as well as some random quotations, facts, and trivia about cats. Click here for links to all sorts of catcentric web sites.

 

The boy-boys, Zombie and Banshee. Their 6th birthday is in November 2010.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Banshee was hand-raised by us starting at the tender age of two weeks. Our vet, the marvelous Dr. Taylor, told us that hand-raised kittens grow up to be "interesting" cats. As always, Dr. T was right on the mark. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Zombie, Banshee's brother, did not join us until he was 3 months old and at the cusp of being forever feral. He is a wee bit skittish, but has made remarkable strides over the years. He's not as talkative as his brother, but he's pushier when he wants attention.

 

 

 

 

 

For I will consider my cat Jeoffry.
For he is the servant of the Living God, duly and daily serving him.

--Christopher Smart, the first 2 lines of his poem "My Cat Jeoffry"

According to John Malone, cats who lick themselves after being scolded or upset are doing so as a "security lick." They are calming themselves by mimicking the effect of their mom's licks on them when they were kittens.

 

Ouija (pronounced wee-gee for those of you who never asked a board game to tell the future) is our only current female cat. Her goal in life is to make everyone--human or feline--love her, and she succeeds. She doesn't talk as consistently as Banshee does, but when she does, she has a lot to say.

 

 

 

 

 

Ouija, who rarely sleeps. She and her brother, Angel, were born under our neighbor's deck in Kentucky. There were 5 kittens in the litter; cat goddess Ginny took 2, and the amazing Dr. Taylor found a good home for the other. Ouija's mom, now known as Grace, lives with Whit, Kimberly, and 4 other cats.

 

 

 

 

 

Angel is a bit shy with folks who aren't his human mommy. In between the knee surgery that gave me my DVT (undiagnosed for a week) and the procedure to install a vena cava filter, Angel slept next to my face every night, as if he were keeping watch. He was about 6 months old at the time. We've been close ever since.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This photo says it all when it comes to Horus: he is to the manor born. Mel scooped him up off a very busy 4-lane road and he joined the house (7 other cats at the time) with an attitude that said, "What am I doing here? What are YOU doing here?!?"  The youngest and the smallest, but also the scrappiest. This tropical kitty condo has been a big hit with the cats; fearless Ouija was the first on it, but Horus immediately went to the penthouse suite.

 

 

 

"Albrecht Durer painted a cat curled at the feet of Adam and Eve. Several artists show a pair or two (different color patterns) waiting to board Noah's Ark. Jacopo Bassano painted several ark scenes with cats, one of which is owned by the British royal family. One of Mary with the newborn Child at the manger, a cat at her feet, the ox watching from its stall, can be seen in the fifteenth-century cathedral of St. Omer at Pas-de-Calais in France . . . " --Virginia C. Holmgren, Cats in Fact and Folklore

Poem

by William Carlos Williams

As the cat
climbed over
the top of

the jamcloset
first the right
forefoot

carefully
then the hind
stepped down

into the pit of
the empty
flower pot

Legends about Cats:

     A Chinese legend has a monkey seducing a lion and the resulting progeny is a cat. This cat has the best qualities of each of its parents, and is happy to live with humans as well.

     Western legend tells us that there were no cats on Noah's Ark until Noah, overrun by mice and rats and running out of food because of them, asked the lion--king of the beasts--for help. The lion sneezed out two miniatures, our modern cats, who saved the ark by reducing the number of rodents.

     An African legend has three wise women of a village overrun with rodents going for help to the wisest animal, the lioness. The lioness will help, but does not want to be seen helping humans by the other animals, so she coughs something into a leaf, and tells the women not to open the leaf until they are back in the village and all the villagers are there. They do so, and out jumps the first cat who, like Noah's cats, saves the village from doom by chasing off the rodents.

Loki, our North Dakota cat, checking out her new digs in the new (her second) Oregon house. She died of old age-related illnesses about a year later. One of her many claims to fame: Loki had her photo in the Grand Forks Herald as a runner-up in the newspaper's Socks Clinton look-alike contest.

 

 

 

 

At last! A body worth choreographing for! 
--George Balachine, about his cat Mourka

 

This is Ishmael, our Ohio cat, and our first cat. He was really only ours for one summer, and then (no pets in the dorms!) he went to live with my parents.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ishmael as an adult.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fog

by Carl Sandburg

The fog comes
on little cat feet.

It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.

"Everybody Wants to Be a Cat!"--song title from Disney's The Aristocats

This is me with QE, our Mississippi cat, who was adopted as an adult, and later moved up to West Virginia to live with Mel. Like most of our male cats, QE was huge and sweet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monster, our West Virginia cat, taking a well-deserved siesta. He was another stray we took in as an adult, and was named for his size--he was a huge cat, and all muscle.

 

 

 

 

Monster with his human Mommy. He died of feline leukemia, which was an epidemic in WV. He was our last indoor-outdoor cat, and our last single cat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We got Doppel and Eerie at the Cabell County Humane Society in Huntington, WV. They were brother and sister.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mel with the new kittens. As of September 2010, we still own that sofa (it's been reupholstered). 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eerie as an adult. She was a very girly cat. Diagnosed with arthritis in her hip at a young age, she was never very active, but she always looked good. In spite of arthritis and other ailments, she lived to be 16.

 

 

 

 

 

Doppel as an adult. Eerie was a Daddy's girl, and Doppel was a Momma's boy. He died a few years before Eerie. We hadn't yet found the amazing Dr. Taylor, so we do not know what disease he had, but he was very ill and could not eat (our vet at the time had no idea what was wrong). He was as rough-and-tumble as his sister was prissy.

 

 

 

Celebrating the concept of cats as solitaries, Rudyard Kipling described the cat who walked by himself, waving his wild tail in the wet, wild woods. In fact, however, even when spread out . . . cats are highly social. If they weren't, they wouldn't need the vast repertoire of vocalizations, scent glands, or tail and body postures to convey an almost unlimited number of emotional impressions to other cats.

--Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, The Tribe of Tiger

 

In the year 999, a white cat gave birth to five pure-white kittens, so precious that they were cared for as if they were princesses. They are believed to be the first pure-bred white cats. --from Cat Calls

 

Agatha had been dumped in the park we lived next to when we first lived in Oregon. She had an infected wound, was mostly deaf and could not see well, and was elderly. After getting her the help she needed, she moved in with me, Mel, Doppel, Eerie, and Loki, and even made the move to Kentucky. She died of kidney disease 9 months after the move. She was our first long-haired kitty, and very sweet. Her last two years were good ones--lots of sleeping on pillows and quilts.

 

 

 

 

Our first Kentucky cat and our second long-haired, Yowie came to us after Agatha and Doppel had died. He had been abused and then dumped into a feral colony, and had kidney disease. It took him a while to feel safe with us. He was especially good with Banshee, teaching him valuable cat things. Here, he inspects the start of Mick's I Spy quilt.

 

 

 

 

Little do these three--Yowie, Loki, and Eerie--know that in just 2 months, one 2-week-old kitten will join them. Then his brother. Then a sister and brother. Then Horus. Or maybe they do sense something, and are resting to gather their strength and patience.

 

 

 

from Cat Calls:

In Luca Giordano's 18th century painting of the birth of the Virgin the only chair in the room is occupied by a serenely sleeping cat . . . 

Robert Southey, UK Poet Laureate, had a tabby cat named Dido.

Florence Nightingale had 60 Persian cats during her lifetime.

T.S. Eliot thought all cats should have 3 names: one for its human, one for its feline friends, and one known only to itself.

 

Banshee as a baby.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another girl (finally!)! Ouija as a baby.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The sibs Angel and Ouija share a windowsill. Horus has his own sill. Loki is curled up on a piece of cat furniture.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ouija and Horus.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Names of Our Cats

Ishmael: We were nerdy English majors, what can I say? Plus, I liked telling people that when he was a kitten, I looked at him and asked, "What should I name you?" and he answered (you know what's coming), "Call me Ishmael."

QE: Mel named this cat. The QE is actually QE II, as in the ship. QE was a big, regal cat.

Monster: One evening, Mel and I sat on the front porch with a friend of his. Suddenly, this man said, "Oh, my God! A baby cougar!" No, it was just Monster rounding the corner to be pet. His size led to his name.

Doppel: His name is short for Doppelganger; Doppel was as much a sweetie as Monster.

Eerie: Mel and I had decided to go with supernatural names. Eerie wasn't creepy, but she was supernaturally beautiful.

Loki: Perhaps the most aptly-named cat ever. Loki was always a mischief-maker, just like the Norse god she was named after.

Agatha: Because we knew so little about her, she was mysterious to us. Therefore, naming her after Agatha Christie seemed reasonable.

Yowie: He was part-Persian and all black; unlike most cats, he had no other color in his fur. Plus, he was very frightened when he came to us, and preferred to stay under things, like chairs and the sofa. So we named him Yowie, after the god of the Underworld, according to Australian aborigines.

Banshee: Like his Irish namesakes, Banshee made a lot of noise as a kitten. He still does.

Zombie: We were very shocked to find Zombie at three-months-old. That winter had been very cold and brutal, and we assumed Banshee's siblings were dead. So Zombie, in a sense, came back from the dead.

Ouija: aka Little Miss Sassy Mouth. Ouija had a few other names, but it became apparent rather quickly that she was the boss of her siblings, stemming from her "I know it all" attitude. Since people consult Ouija boards because they know everything and can answer everyone's questions, the name Ouija stuck.

Angel: He was very protective of his younger siblings (we are referring to birth order here--Ouija was obviously the first out of the womb) and just generally angelic.

Horus: He also went through a few names. However, once put into the general population, Horus tried to establish his "cred" by bullying the 7 other cats. He would also snuggle up to them. Hence, he is named after the Egyptian god of war and play.

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