Cinco de Mayo is a celebration held on May 5.
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 we let him come into the house ~ he now owns it.
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
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
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.
Like human diabetics, pets food choices need to be changed. Gombah was prescribed a high-protein diet (not less than 40%) and limited (once-a-week) wet canned food as it contained too many carbs that would turn to sugar. No more food grazing all day. He is allowed one cup of dry food a day which was later reduced to 3/4 cup a day because he is so sedentary.
The cost for blood work done every 6 months – about $75; insulin for month – about $150 a month, including disposal needles. Gombah slowly stabilized and now weighs 14 pounds again.
You would think the hardest part for us would be giving him the needles. We thought it would be. The vet trained us how to do that without pain for the cat and it is easy and simple to do. It does not hurt him and Gompah actually purrs while he is being injected. He is such a routine cat that when it is time to give him his shot, he sits and waits by the place where we administer it.
The hardest part was rationing his food. The vet told us he wouldn’t be happy with his lowered amount and he sure wasn’t. He meowed more and sat over his bowl and stared at it. Often. For long periods of time. It is difficult not to feed your pet when you think he is hungry. The vet reduced his food intake to 3/4 of a cup but eventually he did get use to the lower amount and is not as adamant about nibbling constantly. There are times when he will find one of us, meow and put his paw on our leg and we know that he is hungry. We give him a rationed amount of treats to tide him over, but we know that in order to keep him healthy, we can’t keep feeding him like we did before. Besides, the vet admonishes us if he goes over 14 pounds. We do indulge in wet food once a week because he gets so excited when he hears the ‘snap’ opening.
The diet part was easier to help bring him ‘back’ to his prior self than it was to bring back his personality. He was traumatized by our absence and the fire. t was a long haul to win his trust again that everything would be all right. He slept in corners with his back protected for 6 months. It took him that long, too, to finally jump on the bed and cuddle us again. We were joyful when he came in one night and jumped up like he had never stopped. We gave him a big welcome and Nello reached out for him first. That started a new precedent that Gombah seeks out Nello first when he joins us in the pride’s den. He switches sometime during the night and is always on my side in the morning. He was finally back!
The best part is he is healthy again – we have his sugar levels checked every six months. He no longer sleeps in corner and he grooms again and he snuggles with us. He is even more his affectionate and playful self again. Maybe that’s what attracted him to a female feral cat who befriended him.
TBC…..Chapter 7…Gombah Makes Friends with Feral http://expertistas.com/2012/09/23/gombah-meets-feral-his-new-friend-chapter-7/aboutme
Approaching his 13th year of living indoors, Gombah is very content, somewhat too plump, extremely affectionate and thinks we are his parents and we share a 'pride'. Nello actually pats the bed and invites him to join us when we get ready to retire. He probably doesn't remember his "he can't come inside the house" remark. Gombah is one of us; he watches TV with us, dines whenever we do and sleeps when we do. He has his own room (the guest room) because it is sunny and when the sun moves around the sky to another room, so does he with it.
He has more toys than we do, and a wonderful contraption the size of a Frisbee, with a changeable cork board which he attacks with a vengeance to keep his claws sharp. Sometimes he sits on it and whacks the ball attached to it or sometimes lays down and naps on it He loves when we occasionally put catnip on it. It is his favorite possession.
Although he is aggressive with his toy, he is the most gentle of cats, and wraps his body around yours to cuddle. He especially likes to cuddle with Nello and still sleeps on his stomach. I suspect sometimes he is brown-nosing Nello (to let him stay in the house) although his nose is pink.
Yes, we let him keep his claws. It’s for protection if he ever finds himself outside by accident. He has never scratched or clawed our leather furniture. I think that Nello probably sat him down and gave him the rules of the house. I also suspect that Nello speaks Italian to him and the cat understands it. The cat never jumps on tables or counters and turns his nose up at table food. He is the best behaved cat I have ever had and don’t all cat lovers say the same thing?
We had a pet door installed to our adjoining screened-closed in porch, complete with many plants, and Gombah spends many hours in this room, his favorite room, most likely reliving his experiences of once having been an outdoor cat. This pet door is one of the best things we purchased for the cat. He spends 50% of his time on the porch where the windows slide up so he has the full effect of being outside – only separated by screens.
He watches Nello garden from his chair on the porch, and Nello brings him fresh grass from outside to chew on. We even grew seeded cat grass in pot so that Gombah would have his own stash.
Like humans, who take in more calories than they burn, Gombah, whom we spoiled and doted on, put on added weight more than he should have ~ having had the luxury of a feeding contraption where he could graze 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 loved him round) and his lack of exercise, his disease became apparent while we were on vacation one tragic year. TBContinued…..Chaper 5.
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We had received warnings that coyotes were in our area; how could this be? We lived in a built-up suburban area 13 miles from New York City and there were coyotes in our sparse woods? Yes, they were, and one day, Gombah was injured by one. It wasn’t a large injury, but it involved a trip to the vet, x-rays, antibiotics and follow-up visits to the tune of $500. When he recovered, he was anxious to get outside again, but having become over-protective and nurturing caregivers, we very reluctantly let him go.
Not long afterwards, he was attacked again, this time more seriously. He became infectious, and involved another trip to the vet, more x-rays, antibiotics and follow-ups, and another $500. The vet suggested that if we wanted to keep him as a pet, that we should consider making him a full-time indoor cat.
The vet had explained about the dangers of outdoor cats. He could suffer another wild-life attack or disabling cat fights, fleas, and/or ticks. Cat collars which do not provide stretch releases have killed many cats who literally get hung up on them. There was always the danger of him getting hit by a car crossing the road. There are diseases they can carry indoors, like ringworm or ticks that may transmit Lyme’s Disease.
He also told us that the average life span of a totally outdoor cat is about a year and a half, while a totally indoor cat is expected to live upwards of 15 years. And there are diseases for which there are not effective vaccines for such as Feline Leukemia and Feline Infectious Peritonitis. We also knew and had read that cats are subject to mean persons who can poison them or abuse them. We went home and thought about all these things.
This second time when we brought him home from the vet, Gombah was “allowed” to come upstairs from his apartment where we could watch him better; and we referred to his home-care as ‘intensive care”. We had spent some weary days watching Gombah cuddled in the corner shivering from his infection and sleeping almost all the time. One day, I went in to check on him and saw Nello covering him with a blanket. Another day, I was surprised to see Gombah napping and covered nicely on a bed in the guest room. Nello had been sold on pets in the house. We decided together that we were quite attached to this pet and Gombah officially became an indoor cat.
Once he mended, Gombah was not very happy at first that we would not let him go outside. He would sit by the deck sliding door which was the most used door to the outside. It was also the door where in the past Gombah liked to display his hostages before he let them go.
He would look outside and then turn just his head with the most pitiful of looks and then meow so sorrowfully, I swear he had tear-filled eyes. This went on for about 2 or 3 weeks and then he tried the resentment treatment. He would act cool and aloof, but he is so lovable, he couldn’t keep it up for long. And he would look outside less and less.
For awhile, he did get lost sometimes on our bay window which was filled with plants; it was probably like being outside for him 🙂
Now he was settled in and Nello never again said, “He can’t come in the house.” He and Nello resumed their afternoon naps on the couch and do so to this day. TBContinued….Chapter 4
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Gombah thoroughly enjoyed the outdoors and Nello’s company. He loved prancing around outside and monitoring the garden, chasing chipmunks, squirrels and anything that moved. I would watch him from the deck running a marathon around the yard and dashing up a tree and down again – so high, I would imagine having to call the fire department. Occasionally, he would bring us a mouse dangling from his mouth or a bird flapping it’s wings but then he would meow and in doing so, would drop his prey which would run or fly away in much haste. Gombah was on the chase again.
By the time that first winter approached, I was retired, too, from a downsizing and we decided to spend it in our condo in North Carolina by the beach. Gombah experienced his first travel venture which was 12 hours in the car. And he was a trooper. It was in December and cooler that year than we expected. We decided that instead of the expensive ‘house’ we bought for him to sleep on the screened porch, Gombah would be allowed in the condo. “Temporarily”, added Nello. “And only when we are down here”.
At first, Gombah, was hesitant to do anything in the condo. He obviously knew that Nello was not comfortable having him inside. He didn’t know where to sit or lie down. Nello liked to take afternoon naps on the couch, so he patted his chest for the cat to join him – since he didn’t want him on the furniture. (Nello was still not sure if the condo was the same as our home and if the cat should be in it). The cat did not hesitate and so began the afternoon naps of the cat sleeping on Nello’s chest. And a strong bond was formed.
The ‘boys’ taking their afternoon siesta. They became buddies that winter. I would remind Nello that although it was not our home, it was a home dwelling for us and the cat was in it. Nello said that we had no choice – “It is cold on the screened porch” and another milestone was reached. He cared about the cat. But, when we went home, I was reminded once again, “The cat goes back outside.”
After that, once we were home again, when the weather was bad, Gombah was allowed to come in through the breeze-way’s side door to sleep in the warm basement which we referred to as his ‘apartment.’ At first, Gombah was wary of going down in the basement, but became accustomed to his bed down there, and the nice warmness, but still avoided coming up into the house. I’m suspicious that Nello reminded him from time to time in no uncertain terms that this was temporary. The cat was OK with this but as soon as it turned warm, he slept outside again at night. This cycle continued for a couple of years. Summers in New Jersey and winters at the condo in North Carolina.
Gombah was getting to be a seasoned traveler. Every spring when we returned home from North Carolina , Gombah was happy to be in his outside element honing up on his predator skills and terrifying the smaller population. He was especially fond of chipmunks and we frequently spied him dangling one from his mouth in mother-cat fashion. The chipmunk’s heart could be seen pounding from his chest and we would say, “Let him go, Gombah.” Gombah would meow in return (probably in protest) and the chipmunk would escape with Gombah on his tail. He knew every chipmunk hole in the yard and would sit by them for hours waiting for them to come out to chase them. Gompah had a good two years in his beloved yard and woods. At heart, he loved being an outside cat. (TBContinued.. Gombah the Cat is Attacked ~ Twice ~ Chapter 3)
If we add pets to the statistics of memorable joys, a recent National Pet Owners Survey reveals there are over 90 million pet cats in the United States purring in 69 million households. I’m sure you all know people who love their pets and treat them like family members. Lots of love, joy and remembrances abound here. And we all announce that we have the ‘smartest cat.”
I had pets all my life. Many stray cats and discarded dogs all found their way to our home coaxed along by my siblings or me. Not everyone has had pets in their life. My husband is Sicilian, and his culture is quite different in that it frowns on “bringing animals into the home”. Many Sicilians believe animals are best left outside ~ animals are a helpful aid out in the countryside, but not welcome within the home walls.
Fully understanding this concept when my husband retired, I nevertheless wondered if he would enjoy the company of an outdoor cat while he worked outside in his garden which is his passion. He spends a lot of time in his gardens. Since I was still working, I thought, wouldn’t it be nice to have a pet to keep him company. It so happened that right after his retirement, there was a post on the company bulletin board that a one-year old male cat was up for adoption. He was an ‘outdoor cat’, who was also used to people and affectionate. Perfect.
He could keep my husband company while I was at work all day. My husband, Nello, was surprised when I came home, pet carrier in hand, with a beautiful tabby cat with black and white markings. His eyes were deep emerald green outlined by black markings. A very handsome cat, indeed.
Nello, was less than thrilled when I told him the cat would be his garden companion. His first welcoming remark to the cat and me was, “He can’t come into the house”. I assured him that this was an outdoor cat, used to the outdoors, and happy to be so and would not be invited inside.
Nello scowled, reluctantly put him in the garage and said, “Leave him in here or he’ll run away”. This was a good sign. He didn’t want the cat to run away. The cat immediately flew to the beams in the garage and we did not really see him again for a week or so, but knew he was in there. The food was eaten, the water dish was emptied and the kitty litter was used every day. There was no sign of affection or people-oriented traits. There was no sign of the cat, period.
After the week went by, Nello said, “Now he can go outside”. It had taken a long time to convince the cat to go into the garage – but it wasn’t hard to convince the cat he could go outside. He didn’t hesitate and flew out the door. We did not see him for days. But the food we left outside was always eaten and the water disappeared. Just like in the garage time.
I almost forgot that we had the cat because we never saw him. Life went on and the food and water always disappeared. Nello would occasionally mention that the ‘dog followed him around in the garden’ and of course, he meant the cat.
About a month later, I received a chatty phone call. It was such a beautiful spring day, I went outside on the patio and sat down on the bottom step. While I was chatting, the cat appeared. I was sitting down and on his level about 10 feet away. He started to eat, but instead, stared at me and moved away from his food. He meowed at me. It was so startling to actually see him and then hear him meow for the first time, that at first thought he had to be hurt or had contracted rabies and was rabid. Why else would he approach me?
He started to prance and dance around – coming two steps toward me and then retreating two steps. He continued ‘dancing’ and I thought that there was something very wrong with him. I hung up the phone and went to the front of the house and he followed me. I went to the front steps and sat down, again on his level. He kept up his ‘dance’ and meowed. Did he have rabies? I had copies of all his papers and he was given all his shots. A little afraid myself of what he would do, I hesitantly put out my hand to him and he came closer.
He was as hesitant as I, but ventured closer and closer. I left my arm and hand extended and he came closer and jumped up into my hand with his head; I petted him.
He stayed awhile while I kept petting him. He apparently had been socialized in his former surroundings and was use to being petted. When Nello appeared, I said, “Look who’s getting friendly” and Nello, not surprisingly said, “He can’t come into the house.”
The days turned into fall and Nello was in the yard a lot digging up his dahlia bulbs and the cat was right behind him. When he wasn’t following Nello, he was leaping in the air – literally – and running up trees and enjoying his freedom or tormenting the smaller residents of the garden. He would even venture up to the deck and indulge us in playing with some ‘toys’ from his former life.
I heard Nello call out to him one day – he called him Compare. Compare is Italian, means Godfather and with the Sicilian dialect, it sounds like Goom bah’.
The cat was named. This was another good sign. (TBContinued ~ Chapter 2)