Sunday, May 30, 2010


We have a new addition to the family!  He is a beautiful cat, white and brown with a cute mustache (I'm not sure if the markings have a name.)  He came with the name Romeo, and we like it well enough that we're just going to keep it that way instead of changing it on him.

He is a very large cat - part of that is that he is extremely overweight - we will need to put him on a diet.  But he's also just a big cat.  It's not too obvious in the picture above, but you can get something of an idea in the next picture:

How did we come to this decision, to adopt a fourth cat?  People who didn't think that I was a crazy cat lady before probably do now!

Well, Jeff and I had been talking about adopting a second greyhound, but finally admitted to ourselves that we simply do not have the space.  It's not just about the sleeping crate, although that's certainly part of it.  It is amazing how much space a single dog can take up in a room, even without trying.  We would need a larger house to accommodate a second dog, or perhaps a ranch-style house without all kinds of up and down stairs.

So...  we decided to adopt a cat instead. I've been agitating for awhile to adopt a fifth animal.  One of the little known facts about living in the city limits of Pittsburgh is that by law, you are limited to five animals.  I have apparently decided to interpret that as the only acceptable number to have, and couldn't rest with only four!

I was completely sold on the idea of adopting a BLACK cat.  I'd read that statistically, black cats are the hardest to adopt out; people aren't drawn to them as often as they are to other cats.  And the local shelter, the Western Pennsylvania Animal Rescue League, was bursting at the seams with unwanted black cats - mostly middle-aged males.  I found two that I felt most sorry for on their website.  Xander and Redman.  Both had been found as strays, but had already been neutered, so had clearly had homes before ending up on their own.  Xander was up for adoption at one Petco, and Redman was at another.  I'm always eager to adopt animals that no one else wants - this is why I generally like to adopt adults instead of kittens, though the kittens are so dang cute. 

Well, we met both cats (and one other black cat named Chase)  and none were suitable for our house. Anyone who knows me knows that it would have been a very difficult thing for me to walk away from an animal in need - but none of them were good with other cats. at ALL.  And we're not just talking aloof - they were actually very confrontational, even violent about it.  We have Bit, a playful Maine Coon, who would take the brunt of their rage most of the time, because she doesn't have the common sense to leave well enough alone. And we have Charlotte, who is the dominant one in the house, but is also terminally ill and therefore shouldn't be put in a position where she is going to be continually challenged and picked on.  We decided it was in the best interest of the household to pass these cats up.  Hopefully someone with no cats (and with Xander, a firm hand and a lot of patience) will adopt these cats soon.

We were trying to decide what to do at this point - do we look at the other  (non-black) cats at the Petco, or do we hold out for a black one and visit the animal shelter itself?

We decided to get Romeo.  He was lying on the floor in the back of the cat enclosure, looking glum.  He responded well if we paid any attention to him, but didn't seek it out.  He seemed kind of depressed...  all we knew is that the owner had surrendered him due to allergies.  He's a large cat, and didn't fit in the cage so well.  He was seven years old, so would probably be difficult to adopt out.  People generally want kittens, and if they're willing to get an adult, want the youngest adults possible.  I do understand... you want to keep your pet with you for as long as possible.  But the older ones need homes too...

On the way home, we found out some disturbing news when I looked at his online profile on my iPhone:  the owner had NOT surrendered him due to allergies, as we had been told, but because he had stopped using his litter box.  Yikes?    According to the owners that surrendered him to the shelter, their new baby had upset Romeo so much that he stopped using the litter box. They'd had him for six years.

After sheltering and caring for an animal for SIX years, why in the world would you get rid of it? (With the exception of allergy sufferers, or those with an animal that becomes threatening.)

I have to admit, I was a little nervous about the litter box thing.  I mean, NO one wants their house to smell like cat pee.  If a new baby upset him so badly, how was he going to do in a house with three other cats and a greyhound? 

We brought him home and put him in isolation:  there is no sense in forcing a confrontation with our horde until he's more settled in.  He has the guest room, a pan of litter, and some food and water all to himself.  And... he uses the litter box just fine, even though his world has been turned upside-down.  Whew!   This  makes me think his former owners are big fat liars.  I guess saying that he was having litter box issues sounded better than "Well, we had him as a placeholder for a child, and now that we have a REAL child, we don't want him anymore."  Never mind that such a serious behavioral  issue COULD have just gotten him euthanized instead of placed in another home.

Anyway, I will not rip into them - I don't know them.  Maybe they actually did have a compelling reason to surrender him to a shelter.  I doubt it, but you never know.  

Most of the time, he stays under the guest room bed, and refuses to come out.  But he's been coming out more and more often to sit on top of the radiator cover and gaze out the window.  Getting a glimpse of his new kingdom?  While he's up in the window, he welcomes petting and purrs and makes the little "happy feet" massaging motions with his front paws.  But once he's under the bed, he wants to be left alone, and will NOT come out for anyone. I suspect that eventually he'll be a very loving, cuddly cat, though.

Right now, we have two baby gates set up, one on top the other, so that there is a nice, tall barrier between him and the rest of the household but also lets him see out into the hall (and the other cats can see in, to satisfy their curiousity.)  It seems to be working pretty well - the other cats are intensely curious about him, but don't seem to have much animosity towards him. They were all gathered around the gate, Romeo on his side and the "girls" on the other, and they were all hissing at each other.  Which is a normal part of cat introductions, so I'm not particularly worried.

I have no idea of how he'll react to Argos, because so far, the two have not met, interacted in any way, and probably have not even seen each other.  That's an introduction that we will have to proceed with carefully, and I'm perfectly willing to put that off for a bit until Romeo gets his feet back under him.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Going Away

I never dreamed that leaving behind my animals would be so hard... even for just an extended weekend.  Don't get me wrong, I had a wonderful time with my family out in Missouri, but my "kids" were on  my mind an awful lot.

My very generous mother-in-law agreed to come in and take care of the cats twice a day each of the days that we were gone.  (With normal cats, once a day would have been more than sufficient, but Charlotte needs lasix twice a day for her heart condition.)

However, we couldn't ask her to take care of Argos as well - that would involve two daily walks, and given that he's eaten a washcloth before, I just felt better knowing that he wasn't in the house unsupervised for much of the time.  So to a boarding facility he went - The Golden Bone Pet Resort. 

I couldn't keep myself from doing it - I called them on Saturday to see how Argos was doing.  And it was a good thing that I did, too.  They'd had a thunderstorm, and had found out just how scared of them Argos gets.  They were supposed to get more, and I gave permission for them to give the poor guy a benadryl to help him sleep through them.

When we got home Monday afternoon, we went to the boarding facility as soon as we could - straight from the airport.  He was sooooo happy to see us.  He was shaking and sniffing us all over, and then practically towed Jeff out the door into the parking lot.  I totally do not blame the Golden Bone for this... it is a great facility, run by people who understand and love greyhounds, and I'm sure he was totally pampered the entire time we were gone... it was just the first time that we'd ever left him for more than just the workday, and definitely not for four nights!

Once home, the cats ignored us for awhile, I guess to show us that they were NOT happy with us, but before long I had Annie on my lap, and Charlotte kept coming in to watch me.  Eventually, she started purring and let me pet her.  Bit was the one that sulked the longest, but she did eventually make an appearance.  I think she's actually still somewhat miffed with us.  I was sleeping in the guest room last night because I have a horrible cold and needed to sleep propped up all night.  Usually when I do this, she's snuggled up to me all night.  Not so last night... though I noticed that she wasn't going to let me out of her sight.  She slept in a laundry basket of clothes next to the bed.  Every time I got up to blow my nose or go to the bathroom, she'd go with me.

Hopefully today they'll realize that we're not going anywhere.  I'm glad that I took the day off!  It will help reassure the animals AND give me time to recuperate from this stupid bug.

Sunday, May 9, 2010


Our cats are terribly bossy lately, I've noticed.  It's like they decide that something has to be done at a certain time or a certain way and they do NOT LEAVE OFF.

When Charlotte wants milk, she bellows at us from the kitchen... even if we are upstairs sleeping. Even if it's 1 AM.  What kind of cat bellows, seriously?  But she's bossy about other things as well.  She is very attached to me, and will frequently join me in whichever room of the house I am in.  But she has an innate sense for when I'm out grocery shopping.  She will be waiting for me at the door when I return... if we've left the main door open, I can see her, staring through the glass, just waiting for me to come up the walk.  But don't think that it's all affection for me... her eyes are not on me when I come to the door, but on the BAGS.  And then she follows me to the kitchen, making little gronking, scolding noises until I put the bags down for her to sniff.

Bit is also bossy, though sometimes it is a little difficult to know what she is trying to get you to do... she's terribly non-specific.  But there is one thing that she is very clear about - and that is Petromalt, which she adores.  Petromalt, as I have explained in past posts, is a flavored paste that you can give to cats that are susceptible to hairballs.  But as a maintenance product, you're only supposed to give it to the cat twice a week.  So we give it to her Wednesday and Saturday nights.  But EVERY night she leaps up onto the bed as soon as we go upstairs, demanding Petromalt.  Over and over and over again.

The rest of the time she follows one or the other of us around, crying constantly, as if she wants something.  I don't always figure out what she wants.  Attention?  No, as soon as you give it to her, she runs away.  Food?  Sometimes that will work, particularly if I'm cooking chicken.

Annie is even getting kind of bossy, and she's supposed to be the shy one.  She jumps up onto my lap, purring, wanting attention.  To the point that she sits on my laptop so that I don't have any choice in the matter.  This can happen several times a day, so it never gets old for her.  If I'm walking around when she wants attention, she will run in front of me and THROW herself to the floor, crying.  My choices:  step on her or stop and pet her.  You can probably guess which result she is aiming for.

Argos is the only animal that doesn't boss me around.  He asks.  He's not above showing you that he is excited - as shown whenever I walk too close to the leash.  He wants you to see that he's ecstatic about the leash and about going outside so that you'll feel guilty for not taking him out.  He's actually gotten a couple of extra trips outside this weekend using this technique.

Yes, I'm a big softie.  It sure doesn't take animals long to figure that out...

                                       My box, bitch.  Back off.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Household Discoveries

The cats are old hands at the normal, everyday things that happen in the house.  This doesn't mean that they don't occasionally flip out on me:  Bit still refuses to even be on the same floor as I am if I'm running the vacuum, for example.  But they don't even react to music, television, etc.  Fans in the window?  Bit likes to lay between the fan and the window screen, because she likes getting caught in the cool breeze.  Either that or she likes the idea of filling the entire house with her dander...

Argos is still learning the house, and its various noises.  He's finally stopped being worried when we play music or sing - in the beginning he had NO idea of what was up, and was fairly certain that he didn't like it.

He stares up at the ceiling fans once in awhile, but doesn't seem worried about them anymore.

But sometimes his reactions surprise me.

Take yesterday, for example.  I was using the shop-vac to clean up some of the corners in the living room - even if I try to keep the floors clean and swept, they tend to gather tufts of animal fur pretty quickly.  My shirt must have ridden up a little, because all of a sudden I felt something dripping on my lower back.  I looked over my shoulder to see a panting Argos LOOMING over me, curious about what I was doing.  I held out the vacuum nozzle for him to sniff, surprised that he wanted to be near the loud, roaring thing.  He not only sniffed it, he stuck his needle-snout INSIDE of the nozzle, then jumped back, eyes wide, when he felt it try to suck his nose in.  Hah!  But that didn't seem to give him a life-long fear of the shop-vac, which is good.

Today, on the other hand, we were all upstairs lying on the bed when the wind (it was storming outside) blew the box fan out of the window, crashing to the floor.  It startled ME, but it scared Argos witless.  I soothed him a bit, got up and righted the fan, turned it off, all of that jazz, but just left it sitting on the floor so that the wind didn't surprise us all again.

Argos spent the next five minutes staring suspiciously at the fan.  He finally lay back down, but refused to turn his back to it, and every few minutes or so would raise his head and crane his neck to see over the bed to make sure that it wasn't going to move again.

He's definitely making me look at things differently.  I now consider everything that we bring into the house:  is this going to freak the dog out?  Is it something that I can leave him alone with, or will he just eat it?