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7 Things That Help Me Cope with Grief After Losing a Cat

It's never easy letting go. These are things I've learned by paying attention to the grief process.

Catherine Holm  |  Apr 9th 2013

Grieving the loss of a cat is excruciating. In fact, I’m going through it as I write this. I think the grief process is one of the hardest, most intense experiences we have to get through.

It’s not easy to prepare for grief, as each end-of-life journey is different. That being said, I’ve been through this a few times and have discovered that I do certain things to help me cope. Hopefully, some of these suggestions can help you navigate the grief process.

1. I celebrate the cat’s (whole) life

At the end of life, whether it’s prolonged or sudden, it’s easy to get caught up in the sadness and intensity of that current moment. Sometimes, when I’ve found myself in this place, I realize I’m not honoring the rest of the cat’s life. What about the amazing years or months I had with the cat? What about the funny things my cat did? Or the loving bond we had? What about the wonderful memories and stories of the cat? I try to focus on the life I’ve shared with the cat, even though it’s very easy to want to focus totally on the end of life.

2. I find people who understand

Whether your cat has passed on or is likely to pass on soon, obviously you’ll want to be around people who understand. Now is not the time to take comments like “it’s only a cat” to heart. If you do run across someone who says something like this, try to breathe and let it go. You need your energy to get through grieving, not to get mad about ill-placed comments.

Instead, find people who understand and are respectful of your grief process, whether they love cats or not. A compassionate person and friend will give you the space and respect your need to grieve.

3. I take time to be alone, if I need it

Some of us like to share; others are intensely vulnerable when going through grief. I’m a little of both. Know yourself. If you need to be alone, honor that. It’s OK.

4. I understand that grief is a powerful process

Sometimes, grief reminds me of the waves of an ocean. You’re feeling fine and then WHAM, some piece of grief hits you and you’re down, or crying, or both. I’m not sure why it is, but just knowing that this happens has made me prepared for when it happens again. I try to flow with it. Everyone grieves differently. We all grieve in our own time, and in our own way. Let it happen the way it needs to happen for you.

5. I breathe (deeply)

This is a yoga tool, but it’s also a relaxation technique, which anyone can do. When you’re exhausted from stress or grieving, breathing deeply through your nose can really help relax you and restore your mind and body to a state of calmness. Even a minute or two of this has great benefits. I do this all the time during periods of stress, or if I’m grieiving the loss of a pet. From a physiological standpoint, this activates your parasympathetic nervous system (which induces relaxation) rather than your sympathetic nervous system (which is all about fight or flight). Try breathing deeply in any stressful situation or any time you find yourself holding your breath.

6. I’m good to myself and my body

I’m no good to my cats if I’m a mess. So even though it’s hard (grief is exhausting), I try to remember to be good to my body. I try to remember to eat good stuff (not junk), get outside, exercise, breathe — all good things for me. Find the good things for you and remember to do them.

7. I honor the immensity of grief

It’s a big deal, and we all get to go through it. The sadness in grief is huge, but strangely, so is the joy. Celebrate these wonderful creatures we love, whether we’re going through life with them or whether we’re letting them go.

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In these economy-strained times, the last thing folks want to do is add pet medical expenses to their already crunched budget.

Since there are over 90 million pet cats in the United States, at some point in time, your cat may need medical attention either at a veterinarian’s office or at an animal hospital.  In addition , since the average life expectancy for indoor cats is 14 years  {although the oldest known cat, Creme Puff, lived to age 38 and some cats live to 18, or 20}  the costs for their care is increasing along with their age.

Statistically, cats are prone to diabetes at age 9, and our cat was no exception. Since we had suspected, diagnosed and now corrected his affliction, this diary might be helpful for those of you who will experience a similar situation.

According to the National Pet Pharmacy, 40 percent of cats are considered to be obese! Only 5 to 10 percent of all cats can be classified as only slightly overweight. In recent years Feline Diabetes Mellitus (diabetes) has become almost a daily diagnosis in animal hospitals all across America. Our cats are at risk for a number of obesity related disorders. Documented research indicates obese cats are far more prone than cats of normal body weight to Diabetes, arthritis and a very serious disorder called Hepatic Lipidosis.  And the 40 percent obesity figure seems to be growing.

Along with the above, a cat’s history may have a genetic predisposition to diabetes, along with a sedentary life style.  Our cat, who use to be an active, outdoor cat and became an indoor cat, LOVES to be sedentary; he was also overweight.

Like humans, who take in more calories than they burn, Goombah, our cat, had the luxury of a feeding contraption where he could graze from during the day. He was a nibbler and visited the feeding station more than he should have and was approaching about 15 pounds when he first showed signs of diabetes.

Coupled with his obesity  (the vet’s word, not mine, I love him round) and his lack of exercise, his disease became apparent while we were on vacation. We have left him before and at the vet’s suggestion -- at home --  since he is familiar with his surroundings and not farmed out where he may become disoriented and/or feel abandoned. We always left someone in charge to cat-sit, to feed and pet him. This time was no exception.

An ‘exception’ occurred the day after we departed. Our area had a forest wildfire, a devastating forest fire that destroyed 70 homes nearby and continued to char 31 square miles near our home.  Damage estimates rose to $16 million for the three-day blaze. The fire came within 3 miles of our development and neighbors tell us that ash and smoke were heavy on our street.

I’m mentioning this because the caretakers for our cat also live in our development and were anxious and preparing to evacuate if necessary. Although Goombah was being taken care of, we're assuming that anxiety was high for both humans and animals. Goombah, just adjusting from his ‘parents’ not being there, aware of surrounding smoke, unstable feeding times and anxiety were factors, we feel, in contributing to his onset of diabetes.  Our vet concurs.

When we returned some weeks later, Gombah greeted us - he was three pounds lighter -  a lot of weight for a cat to lose in a few weeks’ time.   He was thin and his gait was different, his legs were wobbly.

He was constantly hungry and thirsty and we thought as long as he was eating, he would be OK.  But, his routine had changed, too.  He no longer slept curled up with us; he would find a corner in the house to sleep curled up in a fetal position. Something definitely was not right.  He wasn’t gaining weight and he was eating and thirsty all the time.  He didn’t play much anymore and was lethargic.

When we brought him to the vet, he was checked and his sugar count was very high and after two overnight  stays, he was diagnosed as diabetic and would need insulin twice a day.  He was given a high protein diet  (40%) and no wet food as it contained too many carbs.  No more food grazing all day; he is allowed one cup of dry food a day.

The cost for blood work every 6 months - about $75; insulin for month - about $30 - needles for a month about $15.

Goombah has stabilized and now weighs 14 pounds. The hardest thing was not giving him needles, as we thought.  The vet trained us how to do that and it is not hard to do.   Goombah purrs while he is being injected.    The hardest part was rationing his food. The vet told us he wouldn’t be happy with his lowered amount and he’s not. He meowed more and sat over his bowl and stared at it.   Eventually, he got use to the routine and is not as adamant about eating constantly.

The best part is he is healthy again - we have him checked every six months.  He no longer sleeps in corners; he snuggles with us and is his affectionate and playful self again.  He is 15 years old and we hope to enjoy his company for many more.

Marie Coppola July 2015

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I am a grey, black and white tabby who was adopted when I was one year old by my persons – a Sicilian man and an American woman.   She was a pushover – she saw an adoption ad about me; he was my nemesis although she adopted me for him when he retired.    She was an animal lover; his first words were “He can’t come into the house”.  Sicilians don’t believe in sharing a house with animals.   “Animals belong outside”.  

I loved being outdoors – I really didn’t want to come into the house.  They had a grand garden complete with multiple nests of vulnerable chipmunks.  And a wonderful birdhouse where I could wait patiently for birds to gather to eat dropped birdseed.   She said, “How come Mrs. Cardinal isn’t with Mr. Cardinal, today?”   And the Sicilian quietly but sternly said to me, “I saw you – you can never do that again.  She liked that bird.”

I knew whom I had to overcome.

When a coyote attacked me one day in this beautiful garden, the couple brought me to the vet.  The vet charged them $500 and said “If you like this cat, you need to make him an inside cat.”  She agreed but the Sicilian said “Animals don’t belong in the house – he can go into the basement.” 

Living in the basement wasn’t bad.  It was warm and cozy and I was allowed upstairs to sleep on the sofa only if the Sicilian let me sleep on his stomach.   “No sleeping on the furniture”.   The sofa was leather and I was allowed to keep  my nails, so that was OK.   I really had my eye on the bed in the guest room.

When the woman wasn’t around, the Sicilian told me “No jumping on counters or the tables; no scratching furniture or rugs”.  No sleeping alone on sofa or in bedrooms.  Animals don’t belong in houses.”    She was a pushover; she let me sleep anywhere I wanted.  But I had to win him over.  It could turn out to be a good deal.  Plus, I was curious why she was so easy and he was so hard.  

Then he had a hip replacement.   He had to rest a lot and not move around for a while.   This was my long-awaited opportunity.   Patience runs in my family.   I watched him with soulful, sad, beautiful green eyes. (She told me how beautiful they were).  He would pat his stomach and I would jump up and cozy up to his neck while putting my paw around his shoulder.   She would say, “The cat is comforting you.” He would fall asleep and I revved up my purring.  

Not long after, he was in the garden again, and I was jumping around after him.  He gave me a name – he called me Compagno – sounds like ‘Goombah’ – she told me that meant companion or partner;  he started to like me! 

They took me on vacations and sometimes they left me at home with a pet sitter.  One day while they were away, there was a forest fire in the woods behind us and the pet sitter could not get near the house.  I was really frightened.  Alone.  Lots of smoke and ashes.   A kind neighbor had the key and came by to get me – the neighborhood was being evacuated.   My persons came home two weeks later and I felt strange and different.   I was still scared and slept rolled up in a ball in the corner of a room for six months.   I did not jump on my persons’ laps or want to do anything but sleep and eat.    I lost 3 pounds.  I ended up with diabetes.    

My persons took me to the vet who said I was traumatized and needed insulin shots twice a day.   My woman cringed, but the Sicilian took over my care – giving me shots twice a day.  He was so attentive to me, that I could sit by the ‘shot site’ at my given times and he would always be there on time to administer to me.  

When I started to feel better, I jumped up one day onto his stomach and purred loudly and they both cheered.  I purred louder.   When I gained my weight back and ate my high protein food, I was feeling good again.  I slept in my bed by the fireplace, but one night, the Sicilian whisked me up and brought me into the forbidden bedroom.   He put me at the foot of the bed and said, “He can sleep here.”  

And I still sleep there today – I’m 15 years old now – 75 in person years.   I’m high in their routine – we eat at the same time, I sleep on their laps while they sit in the living room, and he still picks me up to bring me to bed.   He gives me my shots, changes my kitty litter, brings me for my check-ups, has me blessed at church on St. Francis animal-blessing day, and makes sure my stash of insulin, special high-protein diet, catnip and fresh water are in place every day.    He’s even added glucosamine for cats because I was walking arthritic-like.    I feel GREAT.    He’s my BFF.   My Compagno.

The woman loves me like her baby – she cuddles me and talks to me all the time.   I wake up in the morning next to her and she cuddles me.   I fall asleep at night next to the Sicilian and he puts his arm around me.   I follow the sun around the rooms during the day and bask in its warmth.  

The Sicilian put in a special pet door for me so I can go to my ‘apartment’ on the enclosed porch and get fresh air.  They speak to me lovingly like I’m their child.  I love my life.  The Sicilian used to say, “He can’t come into the house.”  And, now, I own it.   And have servants.   I purr a lot – just to think, I have eight more lives to go.   

Marie Coppola Copyrighted April 2015

 

Charleston, West Virginia's City Council has a new law governing just how many baby chicks a person can buy. The new law amends a law that had been on their books for five decades. The prior ordinance had stated it was unlawful to sell baby fowl, such as chicks, ducklings, goslings, or turkeys, in lots of fewer than six. Now businesses and breeders can sell just one young fowl.   There was a time when families bought a dozen baby chicks as an Easter present.   No more.

It seems that people buy the fluffy, adorable little chicks and forget that they can grow up to be big, pecking chickens or roosters. A chicken more than doubles it's weight every two weeks until it's full grown. The Animal Shelter in Charleston said that someone brought in a chicken that was given as an Easter gift. Sometimes people dispose of them especially if they are bought in larger quantities because they really only wanted one. It is not recommended to buy more than one since most people don't have the space to keep them. And it saves unnecessary disposing of baby chicks.

Our dad bought us a dozen baby chicks one Easter when I was 12; it was common for families to get them for the kids' pleasure for Easter. Our baby chicks survived the fondling and squeezing that younger kids excel in doing and the chicks more than doubled in size quickly. Dad had to erect a chicken coop in our yard to hold 12 mature roosters.   We had a large wooded lot in the back and if anyone in our development minded the cock-a-doodle doos early in the morning, no one complained. At least, not to us.

I was given the task of making sure the coop was locked every night against predators such as weasels and/or foxes. Although I was conscientious about this, one night, my younger neighbor next door asked if he could play with them and he would lock the coop for me. I said OK, but unfortunately, the young 9 year old forgot to do so. At dawn, the next morning, we found that none of the chickens survived the night invasion, except for one lying motionless in the driveway and the smallest one of the group who had run away, but came back that next morning

I was devastated and guilt-ridden. My mother, who grew up with chickens herself, said the most humane thing was to 'pull' the chicken's neck and put him out of his misery. I begged and pleaded as only a 12-year can do, and my mom, God bless her, said I could stay home from school and see what I could do for the fallen rooster.

The poor thing kinda flopped where he lay and had very little life in him. He could not stand, and couldn't or wouldn't open his eyes. Food was not even an option; he could not have eaten or even put his head up and try. I made a little bed with rags for him - and wrapped them around him as he could not be lifted; I was afraid he would die from the move. Since he couldn't eat, I tried to find some bugs and other things like corn or bread that he liked, but he had no interest at all.

The only thing I could think of was oranges. We always had lots of oranges, and I squeezed some in a bowl. To 'feed' the rooster, I had to nudge his head up and put his beak into the orange juice. He had two choices: he could pick up his beak and gurgle it or he could drown in it. He gurgled. For the next few days, he was given orange juice in this manner. Again, my mom, let me stay home another day, but said I had to go back to school on Monday - that gave me 4 days in total to juice the rooster.

Mornings I would get up before school, juice the rooster, dash home and juice again and then at night. Eventually, the rooster got stronger and was standing - although wobbly - which was cause for a family celebration. When he finally walked, he was given his regular food in addition to the orange juice - and even though he walked somewhat lopsided like a crab, he could walk. He never ran as fast as his brother, but he wobbled along nicely beside him. Always - on a slant, but almost catching up.

Eventually, the two brother roosters were able to inhabit the coop again and I never forgot to lock the coop again. The greatest moment for me was one morning, as usual, the brother rooster would wake us up for school about 6:30 am with his perky doddle doo. A few minutes later, there was this very throaty, uneven, bizarre cock-a-doodle-doo which could not be made by any other animal except a once-wounded rooster. In true Walton Family Style, you could hear everyone laughing from their bedrooms and clapping and shouting that I, indeed, did fix the rooster. My mother never had to remind us to drink our orange juice after this; we learned first-hand the benefits of Vitamin C.

Vitamin C is required for life. The nature of our modern diets leads to a serious lack of this essential nutrient. This situation may be a leading contributor to much of the sickness and chronic disease that the population of the earth suffers.

A study in the Journal of Epidemiology (May, 1992) was reported to show that people who have high blood levels of vitamin C live 6 years longer than those who have lower blood levels. Ref: http://www.cforyourself.com/

You don't have to convince me. I found out first-hand at age 12 just how potent Vitamin C is. It is life sustaining and most necessary nutrient. An animal was nurtured back from imminent death; sustained until strength returned and made an almost full recovery.

© Marie Coppola  March 2014

 


It is difficult to remember when he took over and tried to possess me.

I paid him little attention when I first met him; he had a rather menacing look about his eyes. They were green in color – maybe attractive on someone else, but illuminating and piercing on him. He had an air about him that was disconcerting. At once furtive, and just as quickly attentive with an intense stare.

I met him at my friend Carly’s house. Carly, bless her, has all good intentions, but sometimes, bad judgment. I know she was trying to lift my spirits, which were down a lot lately. Like the song, ‘breaking up is hard to do’, it’s true - that it was. But it’s been four weeks already, so I was hoping I was over the worst of it. Tired of kind of dragging around, I really had no desire to go out and meet new people or even talk a lot. So I hesitated when Carly suggested staying by her for the weekend, she was planning on having some friends in I had never met and we could go tag and garage sale hunting, etc. She is very bubbly and very insistent. I don’t know why I agreed to stay with her, but I guess that was a good sign I was feeling better.

He was at the house when I arrived at Carly’s. His swarthy, somewhat weathered look added to his ominous nature, yet even in my funk, I had to admit he was quite attractive. He was as aloof as I was intimidated, so after introductions – his name was Tom – we kind of migrated into our own part of the room. Which was fine with me. I wasn’t feeling very friendly or interested.

When some of Carly’s friends started to come by one by one, the room became a little crowded. I noticed that Tom had slipped out of the room into the kitchen. Maybe he’s having heart trouble, too, I mused. Looking back, I did not notice him anymore that night until much later.

Carly’s friends were upbeat, and although I tried to mingle and make an effort, my heart really wasn’t into it. After a couple of hours and a couple of glasses of wine, I feigned a headache and said I needed to get some sleep. They all protested, of course; they were kind people, but I suspect they were getting a little tired of me, too.

Carly showed me to my room on the second floor – nestled in the back of the house. At least I was away from all the laughter and good times downstairs. My room was really delightful. It had a queen bed (surprise!) and a small TV on the dresser. There was a small bathroom adjoining it. Carly loved Victorian, and she did it up quite nicely with lots of lace, flowers and frills. No man fitting in here, I thought somberly. Isn’t that fitting?

But I wasn’t going to be alone for long.

I sat on the bed for a while, listening to the fun times downstairs and became melancholy. It seemed like a long time since I felt like that. The best thing to do would be to go to sleep; forget TV or reading. I changed out of my clothes and put on my pj’s. After brushing my teeth in the tiny bathroom, which also had ruffles and frills, I shut the light and slipped into bed. After my evening prayer, I turned off the bedside lamp. My mind was turning over events of the past few days. So into my reverie, that it was a few moments before I realized that there was an almost imperceptible movement in the room.

Now I was at full attention. I had shut the door and knew that it had not been opened since I did that. Nervously, I flipped the light back on. Nothing there, I must really be uptight or something. Or too much wine. I leaned back and shut off the light and my eyes. Then I heard and felt a rustle on the further side of the bed. My throat tightened up and my heart started throbbing. Who was there? The sound was so close to me that I couldn’t bring myself to turn and flip the light back on. I was afraid to turn my back on that noise. Afraid that would make me more vulnerable. If I screamed, would Carly and her friends hear me above the music and laughter?

I felt and heard the movement settle on the other side of the bed. My palms were sweating. Someone was there sitting on the bed. I could hear breathing. I was holding my own breath, as if by doing so, I would be not seen, not heard.

And then, even in the dark, I saw the eyes. Those green eyes were staring and bearing down on my face. They came closer and I could feel breath on my face.

Warmth and weight leaned into my body.

When Tom started to purr loudly, I picked him up and deposited him outside my door.

© Marie Coppola Revised March 2014

 

According to a National Pet Owners Survey, 69 million households own a pet in the U.S. - 63 percent of ALL households. This breaks down to approximately 73 million dogs, 90 million cats, 139 million freshwater fish, 9 million saltwater fish, 16 million birds, 18 million small animals and 11 million reptiles. The positive aspects of being a pet owner are too numerous to list here; the biggest negative is that that their life span is shorter than humans. We feel the empty void when they leave us.

Have you ever wondered what happens when a pet dies; and if he or she go to Heaven like humans do? Why did God make animals? In Genesis 2:19-20, we read: "And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof. And Adam gave names to the cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field…" Chronologically, God created the animals before He created Adam… God’s first task to Adam was to name each of the animals. God saw them as individuals and important enough to have them named accordingly.

What does the Bible tell us about God’s relationship with animals? In Genesis : 9: 13-17: "(12) "And God said, "This is the token of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations." In God’s Love for His animals, they are mentioned in many places throughout the Bible: In Matthew 6:26: "Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them." God looks after and tends His animals as He tends His children.

Psalm 136:25 tells us …"Who gives food to every creature. His love endures forever."  "Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God." Luke 12:6.   ‘And I saw Heaven opened, and behold, a white horse…" Revelations19:11 The Old Testament makes comparisons between the eventual destiny of humans and animals. Ecclesiastes 3:19 declares, "Man’s fate is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath; man has no advantage over the animal." And in Job 12:7-10: "You have only to ask the cattle, for them to instruct you, and the birds of the sky, for them to inform you. The creeping things of earth will give you lessons, and the fish of the sea provide you an explanation: there is not one such creature but will know that the hand of God has arranged things like this! In His hand is the soul of every living thing and the breath of every human being! These Bible verses, our communication with God, show that animals will not be forgotten; I believe they will be there with us in Heaven. The last book of the Bible - Revelation 5:13 tells us "And EVERY creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and ALL that are in them, heard I saying, "Blessing, and honor, and glory, and power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the lamb forever and ever." "And the wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed, their young ones shall lie down together, and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice’s den. They shall not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountain, for the (Heaven on) earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea." Isaiah 11:6-9

I haven’t read any Scripture that tells us that our particular Fluffy or Fido will be reunited with us, but since we all think our pets are extraordinary, it’s a ‘given’ that we will love and bond with any animals that may be there. What do you think? © Marie Coppola, Revised July  2017

 

Like most pet owners, our family has settled in to be good housekeepers for our cat, Gombah. He lives quite nicely and enjoys a pampered life. He is fed first in the morning, after his dishes have been cleaned. Nello, who didn't want him in the house, cleans out the litter box every day which is kept on the adjoining porch. That area is called 'Gombah's apartment', since he lounges in there most of the time. He has 24/7 access to this room, through the special cat door we bought for him. The porch abounds in many plants and warm throw rugs. (There are dual fans for hot days).   He has pet cushions on all the chairs and a stash of 'cat grass' for snacks.

Nearby is his grooming table, and yes, Nello does most of the brushing each morning before we ALL breakfast. The grooming is essential as cats do not groom like they did when they were younger and it keeps his soft rabbit-feel fur clean, soft, free of tangles and dander.   And less hair all over the house.

After grooming and a few petting marathons, we ALL breakfast in the breakfast nook.  Gombah eats only 40% protein food due to his diabetes, with a few catnip treat bites thrown in.  He looks forward to Saturdays when he gets 'beef with gravy'.

After breakfast, Gombah retires to the porch to meditate looking through the panorama windows, 'his' backyard to make sure no creatures are evading his territory. Not that he would or could do anything about it. Birds and nearby ducks from the pond sometimes wander by and Gombah practices his 'do not walk on my lawn' meow to them.

Once a salamander evaded his porch space, and Gombah - out of practice with predator skills, 'pawed' it, and the salamander latched onto the cat's paw and his dragon spikes appeared on his back.  Gombah's blood pressure which normally is about 2 over 1 shot up considerably if the size of his enlarged eyes was an indicator.  He tried to shake the 'monster' off to no avail, and I had to intervene.   That was his last stand against the 'jungle out there on the porch'.

After some romps on his toy contraption, and batting the ball a little, he 'naps' on it for awhile before he takes turns in the guest rooms following the sun around the house.

He snacks during the day but stays within his 14 pounds quota and is quite healthy from the 2 shots a day insulin Nello gives him. He and Nello still take their afternoon nap together.

When we first made him an indoor cat, he would fly away whenever anyone visited and not be seen again until they left. Now, he hovers and purrs when anyone ~ even the pest treatment person ~ comes in and Gombah begs to be petted. We suspect he has a Petting Addiction.

Gombah is not without his 15 minutes of fame.   He was shown on a TV news short about indoor/outdoor cats pros and cons and  he was featured on the front page of a local paper's "neighbor's pets".  Of course, he is always, 'our star'.

He is our joy, companion and housemate. One of the family, he is treated accordingly with respect and good manners and he has rewarded us with the same in return. All pet owners 'know' their pets understand everything they say and are humans in disguise. And we are no exception. He is our child in retirement; our kids are jealous and tell us how spoiled he is. They say this while they are petting and cuddling with him. He also has a Cuddling Addiction.

He is 14 now and not only did he we let him come into the house ~ he now owns it.

~~~~~~~The End~~~~~~~

Marie Coppola © Revised February 2014 div id="counter24">

Living in a tourist, beach area that provides fun and entertainment for visitors, I have been told by more than one vet, that families come to our area and 'adopt' a kitten for a short duration. There's always 'free kittens' signs that may lure the kids in their families to beg, borrow and steal that it's 'only for a short while'. The parents may say OK, knowing it's for a 'short while'.

After everyone is tanned, relaxed and fun-filled, it's time to load the suitcases and the car and head home. Uh, oh, what do we do with the kitten that we have petted, loved, fed and made a family member for 2 weeks? It was only for a short while, and we can't take it home. So they, and many like them, go for a drive and drop it off in a 'nice' development because 'people there will probably feed it and take care of it'.

Wrong. People in most developments have one or two dogs and even one, two or three cats themselves. So the disoriented kitten, who was pleasantly socialized and fed and cared for now lives in an unknown area where its hunger and survival mode pushes it into the 'feral cat' category. A feral cat is defined as an unowned and untamed cat separated from domestication. Feral cats are born in the wild and may take a long time to socialize or may be abandoned or lost pets that have become wild. They should not be confused with the wildcats which are not descended from domestic cats.

The 'chosen for dropping-off development' frowns on these cat-trusions. Their dogs want to chase them; the cats are viewed as disease carriers - many never received rabies shots. The once-loved animal soon learns that he or she is not welcome here. They get a ragged look and are usually very hungry and thirsty.

When our dropped off kitty, Feral, appeared on our patio, there was a risk of fleas. Gombah was liberally protected frequently.  Eventually, we did the same by petting Feral with flea ointment.  We watched her grow from a small kitten to an adult cat and she remained an outdoor cat.  Although she did allow us to pet her when we fed her, she never got beyond the few strokes stage - she was independent and feisty. She slept on the patio and communicated in some way with our cat and they were friends.

Only once did Gombah and Feral occupy the same space. She was on the patio as usual and someone inadvertently let Gombah out. We feared they would sojourn into the woods never to be seen from again. Instead, they quietly walked side by side to the shade of a peach tree, and lay down side by side. His big body next to her smaller body. They just lay there for about a half hour (talking?) and then he came back into the porch and she took her post next to him on the other side of the screen.

They spent a lot of time just sitting or laying together between the screens on the porch. When she would appear, Gombah would 'yowl' his "She's here", and Feral would helium balloon meow back. Once she ventured into the porch when the door was open, but preferred to hang around outside. It worked for both of them.

She was his friend for one and a half years - the space of time the vet told is the average life of an outdoor cat. One day a large raccoon was on our patio. After he left, we never saw Feral again.

Gombah continued to look for her - he would survey the patio and especially the barbecue - but to no avail. Occasionally, he would yowl very loudly and mournfully, but she never returned.   TBContinued:   Gombah Today...Chapter 10

Marie Coppola © September 2012 div id="counter24">

Once he spotted Feral on our patio rubbing against Gombah through the screen, Nello  suggested I not feed her because "once you feed a cat, they will become a permanent fixture."  She was so small, and always hanging around. Despite the fact that I watched her catch insects and eat green salamanders whole, I felt obliged to give her water.  Her helium meow then coaxed me to give her some cat food. She was ravenous. And she did become a permanent fixture.    Well, at least ~ for one and a half years.

Located on our patio directly in line with our breakfast nook windows is our barbecue. Feral took to jumping on top of the barbecue and peering relentlessly and meowing her helium meow while we breakfasted.  PS - The 'fuzzy' pics were because they were taken through the window screen - at first she was too shy for us to approach her.

 

Sometimes Gombah would join in unison to let us know that she was out there. When we got up to get her food, Feral would jump off the barbecue and meet us at the screened porch door ready for breakfast.  Cats like routine and she definitely did.    At times, she would nap on the barbecue waiting for the adoptive parents to awake and give her breakfast.

It seemed that Nello had the inside track with pets since Feral did allow him to pet her. She was more reluctant with me, although I did get in a few pats on her head (while patting her, I also applied flea repellent on the back of her head).   Each morning after she ate, Nello would go out the porch door and walk around the house to get the morning paper, and she always bounded after him and waited for him and then followed him back.

Feral gave lots of attention to Gombah, who took a mature, reserved big brother stance with her shenanigans ~ rubbing against him through the screen and rolling over on her back playfully. He never showed much attention back; he just sat and stared at her. But when she wasn't around he would jump on the window sill in the breakfast nook and look for her, meowing loudly when she appeared.

After she was around for a few months, I noticed that she was getting a full-rounded look. I also started to be concerned if the toddler next door tried to pet her, he would get scratched. The odds were that she had no rabies shots or other important shots. Since we kind of took ownership of her, it was our responsibility to make her safe for our neighborhood. And she probably wasn't spayed. I had visions of litters of kittens perched outside our screened porch and hearing my Sicilian husband chanting, "They can't come in the house." .

The reasonable thing to do would be to bring her to a vet. But how? She was a feral cat and not likely to be picked up and carted off to a vet.  Bless him, Nello agreed that we needed to bring her in. He started to put her food in our cat carrier and placed it on the patio and within a week, Feral was going in there to eat. Then he concocted a string to close the door while she was in there. And it worked the first time! Feral was not happy but we had prearranged to bring her in to the pet clinic.  She was spayed and given her immunity shots including rabies. They kept her overnight and we brought her back the next day.

The vet said to keep her 'indoors' for a week to prevent infection and we said we had no indoors - we only had an outside shed. So we put food and water in there with the carrier and its door open and skedaddled out of there before she came out.  However, she never lasted the week.  After just one night in the shed, she clawed her way through the narrow screened window opening and was perched on the barbecue the next morning while we had breakfast. We were more than a little surprised. She bounded around like she had never been away or had 'surgery'.  TBContinued:  Chapter 9 ~ Feral and Gombah Get Together

Marie Coppola © September 2012

 

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Although Gombah is happiest when he is settled at bedtime between his 'parents', he sometimes gets excited when another cat is outside. The porch that Gombah inhabits most of the time is completely enclosed with window panels that can be opened upward so that you can have the effect of a screened-in porch. This is the scenario that the cat enjoys the most. When the windows are all up, Gombah goes out there and breathes in the fresh air and monitors the whole side and backyards almost like he is outside. He especially likes to sleep out there at night so he can hear the crickets at night and the birds early in the morning. We suspect it gives him memories of his early life.   We have plants out there and sometimes he can't be seen for napping among them.

Can you find Gombah straight ahead on his chair in the porch?

Occasionally a cat will wander by and Gombah will be sociable and meow to them. His meow is different when he hails hello to his feline friends. And one day, Feral came into his life.

We don't know how she came to be a homeless kitty, but Feral was just that. She may have been a kitten of a feral mother, or maybe someone dropped her off in our neighborhood. She wasn't socialized.

She was striking looking - a tuxedo cat - with yellow eyes. She was all black with a white ring around her chest and white-tipped paws. She was small; I'm guessing about 5 months old when she first peered into the porch where Gombah was sitting. She was small in body as compared to Buddha-shaped Gombah. She took to him instantly and rubbed against the screening while he was just looking her over.   I started calling her "Feral" so I wouldn't get attached to her.

She had a tiny helium- balloon meow. Gombah acted nonchalantly, but in truth, he went out there looking around all the time which he never did before.  He would always nap on  the chair before but he then started sitting by each of the windows and she always showed up.  Before long, she was an every-day visitor to the patio beside the porch.   She would rub against the screens and then flop over on the patio and sun bathe on her back,   Occasionally, we would see her chase a salamander, catch it, and eat it live.   I don't know what Gombah made of all this, but she definitely had his attention.

Feral brought back music to Gombah's life.

Marie Coppola © September 2012 

TBContinued Chapter 8 ~ Feral Becomes Our Outdoor Cat

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