Waiting for Mia

Miss Mia Milk Stout
Not amused by flash photography
The danger of writing a blog post a day is that you start to see everything as a metaphor for everything else. So it is with the arrival of our newest member of the family. Miss Mia Milk Stout came home late Thursday morning. That’s our perspective, anyway.  From her perspective she was taken from the warm comfortable home where she was very happy, thank you very much, and taken out into the cold and taken to a completely strange place. A strange place where there are two other cats and very, very few familiar things.  There were cats and dogs where she was before, but she knew them.  These are different cats. There have been many disruptions in her short life, and now there’s another one. We know this is the last one. We don’t know how to tell her that.

We are in a time of waiting. That picture over there is the only one we’ve managed to get since she came home. She’s in the space between the head of the bed and the wall in our guest room. It’s pretty much where she spent Thursday. We had the room prepped before she came home. Food. Water. Litter pan. She explored some when Carla was in the room. She hid when I was in the room. We kept the door closed to keep Porter and Dunkel out, but they were remarkably blasé. Normally shutting the guest room door is a crisis. Not this time.

Yesterday we pulled the mattress back to we could see her down in the gap. We could tell she’d used the litter pan and there was plenty of reason to think she’d explored in the night. Throughout the day Carla and I would go in and talk to her and pet her.  Carla picked her up and took her on a tour of the condo. She seemed to enjoy herself. While being very shy, she sure didn’t mind the attention. When I’d stop reaching down to pet her on my visits, she’d reach a paw up to attract my attention. Early in the afternoon we decided it was time to open the door and see what happened.

Porter and Dunkel have both seen her. They’ve seen us interacting with her, so they seem to know at some level that she’s OK.  Porter is a little skittish.  His tail will get all puffed up, but it really seems to be more an effort to figure out what’s going on. “Are we going to have problems here?” Her response is, well, nothing. So he eventually walks away looking not just a little confused.

If there’s any awareness on Dunkel’s part that Mia is his littermate, we’re not seeing it.  Then again, Dunkel isn’t exactly a complicated cat.

“Play with me!”

Um. Not right now.

“No, play with me!”

Can’t, dude.

“OK, then just pet me. A lot. I demand nothing of you other than your complete attention.”

Do I have another choice?

“No.”

What has been interesting is that Porter seems to be a bit protective of Mia, skittish as he is. Dunkel can play rough. When Dunkel got his first clear view of her, he didn’t charge at her, but he started approaching her cautiously. Porter hissed.  At Dunkel. And Dunkel backed off.

Last night I couldn’t sleep. This is the part where the metaphor comes in.  A couple of times I heard Mia crying, just a little. Her vocalizations are completely different from Porter and Dunkel.  There’s not a chance this wasn’t her.  She was exploring. At one point I’m pretty sure she came into our room. But I have no idea where she went.

I’m finishing this post about half an hour before it goes up.  As I write this I have no idea where Mia is.  We haven’t left the house since the last time we saw her, so we know she’s here somewhere. We haven’t heard a peep. She’s small and clearly likes tight places to hide.  None of our cats have been hiders.  

We clearly have one now.

I’ve done a bit of a search with no luck. Porter and Dunkel are showing no curiosity whatsoever. We’ve had cats long enough to assume there’s no place she can get into that will be much of a danger to her. Carla keeps telling me that she’ll come out when she’s ready.

So we wait. There’s a lot of waiting going on in my life right now. I can’t really talk about that. It’ll come out when it’s ready. But I can talk about the cats. I’m OK with that.

(I’ll update this post when there’s a sighting.)

UPDATED: Under our bed. Her camouflage is very good. 

Home is where the cats are

We’re finally both home.  Our one week of vacation turned into two weeks of dealing with stuff as it came up. The good news is that Carla’s dad is doing great and we were able to come home. Last night Carla slept in our bed for the first time since New Year’s Eve.

Miss Mia Milk Stout
Miss Mia Milk Stout

The cats were, of course, waiting for us to scold us for abandoning them. That is their job, after all. We are their staff and they don’t like it when we leave them to fend for themselves against the cruel world stocked with large amounts of fresh water, food and multiple litter pans all inside a house that’s kept warmer than it would be if there weren’t cats in residence. But that is the nature of cats. I admire them for how quickly they deign to forgive us. In all seriousness, we miss the boys terribly when we travel. It’s always good to come home. We tend to come in and get some cuddle time in before we go out and unload the car.  Priorities.

Something the extra travel meant was that a family reunion has been delayed. Another cat is joining our family. Mia is Dunkel’s sister. She was part of the litter born in the attic of a doctor’s office that also included Dunkel.  She’d been adopted, but it didn’t work out. The wonderful family who fostered her when she was a kitten had arranged to take her back if something like that happened.  When we heard about it we pretty much knew we were going to take her. Porter has really come out of his shell in the last six months or so and has become much more affectionate and a bit more outgoing. Dunkel is still a hirsute ball of energy. He can get a little rough sometimes. We had begun playing with the idea of a third cat merely to split Dunkel’s attention.

She has been Mia from when she was adopted. Given that she’s 2.5 years old, it seems to be a little late in the game to give her a new name. We have, however, a pretty strict rule about beer names for cats. Her markings are remarkably like a Holstein cow. That is reason enough to name her Miss Mia Milk Stout.

She will be joining the family on Thursday. We can’t wait.

 

A riddle: How is our cat Dunkel like Times Square?

Answer:  They both made it 23 days into the new year with only one ball dropping.

Someday we’ll have two healthy cats around the house. Maybe by next week? That’d be nice. Porter’s back to his old self. He talks, he purrs, he rolls over on his back to beg for belly rubs (feet preferred, but hands are OK).  He does this yoga stretching routine when he gets up and he attacks the scratching posts (and furniture) with much gusto. I guess I never mentioned it here that the vet called and his blood work was fine.  “Perfect” is the word she used, and I’m never going to argue with that. We kept the painkillers going until yesterday and I’m not seeing anything in his behavior that makes me think he still needs them. I did the thing this morning where I dug under the bookcase downstairs with the long spoon to dislodge what’s been put under there.  There was a healthy supply of twist ties.

Picture of cone
As a medical device it makes a great cat toy.

Dunkel, on the other hand, got snipped yesterday.  Unfortunately for him, one testes didn’t descend and they had to go into his abdomen to get it. He handled the surgery just fine and the anesthesia didn’t seem to bother him.  There was no throwing up or anything. It wasn’t really obvious until this morning, but he was clearly still pretty doped up when he came home yesterday.  He’s moving around pretty stiffly today, to say the least. He was licking his incision, which was OK, I guess, but he was also biting at it. Carla went back up to the vet’s to get a cone-of-shame which wound up being almost, but not entirely, useless. We have a hard enough time keeping a collar on the little guy. A cone? Not gonna happen. There hasn’t been much of an issue since the drugs wore off.  Porter isn’t the roughhousing type, really. He’s more the “chase me, chase me, chase me” type. Dunkel is sore enough today that getting into a position to bite at the stitches isn’t really something he can do. He’s definitely been slowed down by all this.  He’s walking gingerly and he doesn’t like jumping onto things. Stepping gently is more his speed.  Except he’s managed to get up to the top of the tower. That’s pretty impressive. Sure hope he’ll be able to get down.

I want to make sure I mention that we knew going into this that we’d likely be dealing with this. Typically pets you get from the shelter are already fixed. We knew he wasn’t and why and we were fine with it. We got a voucher to cover what the cost of a typical procedure would cost, which was nice, but we would have taken him anyway.

The cold weather is holding on and I’m looking forward to the day we can just snuggle with our cats rather than running a feline health clinic. Of course, so are they.

 

Blessed are those who mourn

Porter Alone

I’ve been struggling for the last couple of days to write a post that has nothing to do with cats or anything terribly serious. I’ve not been having much luck. I’ve got a post started. I’ll eventually finish it. Today has been hard, though. It appears that Porter is in mourning. He’s pretty much done nothing but sleep since yesterday. He’s always been a talker and he’s not had much to say. He’s lethargic. He does seem to be eating and drinking, so that’s good.

It really makes sense. From Porter’s point of view there was a lot of confusion a while ago and he saw us take Bock away in the carrier.  The carrier came home, but Bock hasn’t. We leave for a while sometimes, but we come home. Dunkel has been a distraction, but it’s pretty clear that Porter is ready for Bock to come home. And at some level I think he knows that’s not going to happen. We talk to him. We pet him. We make sure there are plenty of twist ties around for him to play with. He’ll half-heartedly paw at them. There’s a bookcase downstairs that most of them disappear under.  I use this long plastic spoon to dig under it and get them out and that’s turned into one of our little games. Even today he’ll come right over if he sees me by the bookcase. He’ll bat at the spoon while I’m digging around with it. But there haven’t been any twist ties under there today.

Dunkel is a pretty smart kitten. Last night he wanted to play with Porter and Porter was having none of it. He was sleeping at Carla’s feet, which is where he spends most nights now. This was more than the usual teaching moment; It was clear that Porter might have actually hurt him if it had been allowed to continue. I came out to the living room and slept on the couch knowing Dunkel would hang out with me. A couple of hours later I woke up and saw Dunkel walk over to me, yawn and stretch. “Hell,” I said to him, “if you’re sleeping, what the $%@% am I doing on the couch?” So I went back to bed. All day Dunkel has been treading pretty lightly around Porter. Porter, for his part, has been perfectly willing to have Dunkel get close as long as he doesn’t want to play.

I’m sure this will pass. There’s no rushing it. Just like Porter accepted Dunkel in the house because his innate curiosity took over, I’m sure his playful nature will eventually overcome the sadness of losing his lifelong companion and he’ll form a bond with Dunkel.  A different bond, but a bond nonetheless. It’s an adjustment for all of us.

I just wish there were a way we could help him understand.

Give the people what they want: Cat pictures

We don’t have the holy grail yet, the photo (or video) of Porter and Dunkel playing. The only reason is because when they start playing, they’re moving too fast. I’m kind of in the mood to write about something else, but people have been asking for more pictures of Dunkel. So when he came up to snuggle on the couch this morning I went ahead and grabbed a few. I might write something else later, but … well … cat pictures.

Some random thoughts about Dunkel:

  • He sounds like a Tribble when he vocalizes. Given how furry he is, he kind of looks like one, too. All that fur makes him look almost twice the size he is. He has these muttonchops that make him look a bit like a lynx or a bobcat, but when you look at just his face you realize what a kitten he still is.
  • Curiosity and innate playfulness won the day yesterday. Porter has always been the ‘”I want to play: chase me!” cat and Dunkel is a rocket-powered fur delivery system. Yesterday afternoon Carla saw them both stalking some air pillow packing material we left out for them to play with. Later she found them both resting on the bed in our guest bedroom — on opposite sides of a suitcase. Within a couple of hours they had graduated to a game of tag. There is no better sound to me than the one of two cats tearing up and down the stairs. They’re still getting to know each other, but they’re well on the way to bonding.
  • We had to chase them both — together — off a kitchen counter. So Porter is taking his big brother duties seriously.
  • A soon as the Boone County Animal Shelter takes a new class of volunteers, we’re so there. They’re first-class folks doing amazing work. It will be a privilege to help however we can.

Yeah, I know. Enough with the words already.  Here’s your Sunday morning shot of cute:

IMG_2394 IMG_2393 IMG_2396 dunkel4

Mr. Porter and Mr. Dunkel. #FTW

It couldn’t have gone better without it being a Disney movie.

We picked up Dunkel about 6 PM last night. After talking to the amazing woman who, along with her whole family, provided Dunkel’s foster care (and still provide care for a number of homeless animals), we ditched the idea of isolating Dunkel for the night. He was used to having the run of their house and locking him in a bathroom would have been confusing and more like punishment than anything else. We decided to introduce Dunkel to Porter slowly and see what happened. We always had isolation as a backup in case Porter really freaked out.

We kept Dunkel in the carrier we brought him home in so Porter could see and smell him. There were a few hisses and low growls from Porter, but his body language was showing some curiosity, too.  Dunkel really wanted out, but when Porter got really close to the carrier he settled into his bed. We did this for about half an hour and then got a big bath towel that we could have used to throw over them if we needed to separate them. We let Dunkel out and took him to the laundry room where we put the carrier with his bed in it.  It’s also where the upstairs  litter pan, food and water are and we figured he could track his own scent to the bed and find it. We closed all the upstairs doors and the basement door at the bottom of the stairs so their range was somewhat limited. Then we watched.

The next hour or so was Dunkel ripping around the house and sniffing everything. He was born in the attic of a Doctor’s office that was being worked on and apparently the whole litter had some respiratory issues due to the insulation. That’s what we figure makes him snuffle so loud when he sniffs. And he was sniffing everything. He kind of did this constant circuit around all the areas we had left open. Porter would follow him. He’d hiss if Dunkel got too close, but no swiping or attempts to make physical contact. After an hour of this, Dunkel started jumping up on the back of the couch and snuggling with us. It was at this point Carla and I looked at each other and said out loud that we had a new cat. Before we went to bed we went ahead and opened up the basement door so either of them could get to the finished part. No cats are allowed in the unfinished part of the basement since there are cleaning chemicals and just things that we don’t want cats in.

Then we went to bed.

Dunkel came in to visit us, but then disappeared for the rest of the night.  Porter slept in his spot at Carla’s feet. About 4:30 this morning Dunkel meowed and Porter was off like a shot. Dunkel came in, then left, then Porter came back and left. This went on until 5 AM.

We decided to get up. It’s Saturday. Naps are not only allowed, they’re encouraged.

Since the night had passed without any major incidents, we decided that it was time for them to work things out for themselves. There’s been a little hissing on both sides. There’s been a little shadowboxing. There was one adorable moment when Dunkel and Porter pawed at each other through the bars of a dining room chair. There have been nose-to-nose sniffs with no drama. Things have sort of settled out where they’re keeping their distance and not getting in each other’s way. The upstairs litter pan has been used by Dunkel and Porter’s made no move to block him from using it or anything like that. For the most part we’ve settled into a détente where both sides are curious about the other.

Dunkel has handled himself well, but he came to us directly from a home where there were a lot of other animals. While being only six months old and a full year younger than Porter, he’s probably clocked more time with other animals than Porter has. I’m extremely proud of Porter. From his perspective, his lifelong companion and playmate just up and disappears. Then there were a couple of days of getting all the attention.  Porter liked the attention. Bock, rest his soul, was an attention hog. In that way Bock was really the alpha cat (though Porter could make Bock do anything through the strategic use of grooming). Porter and Bock wrestled all the time and Bock was so much bigger than Porter. Porter could take Bock down, though, so I have no question in my mind that Porter knows good and well that he can take Dunkel down anytime he wants. He doesn’t want, of course, because he’s a sweet cat at heart. But Carla and I are making sure we give him a lot of attention. Porter’s a talker and I make sure I answer him. His favorite thing in all the world is getting rubbed on the belly with a foot (preferably bare) and I’ve made sure he’s getting one every time he asks.

We’ve already declared the experiment a success. This is technically a trial adoption with a 7-day length, but we’ll likely make it final on Monday when we take the carrier back over for the foster family.

I’ve thought a lot about Bock today. There’s no question I wish he were still alive. He’s not, though, and given that’s the reality of things, I think where we are right now is pretty awesome. We’re a two cat family again.

With no further ado, here’s your multimedia extravaganza!

Here are some stills:

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And here is some video of what happened when Dunkel found the catnip pouches last night. Sorry for the dark video.

Well, here we go …

I have two reasons for writing today. The one that I’m probably the only one to care about is that I’m trying to establish writing at least a little bit every day. Over there on the right I say that this is the place where I write whatever the hell I feel like. I fully understand that just because I write it doesn’t mean you want to read it. I’m grateful to those who do and hope you get something out of the experience. If you don’t, you aren’t going to insult me by not reading. You should only do things when you get something out of it. Even if it’s just a sense of smug superiority. I decided a long time ago that the purpose of my life was to serve as a cautionary tale to others. I’m OK with that.

The main reason I’m writing, though,  is because I completely understand if your reaction to yesterday’s post was “Yes, yes, yes, journey of self-discovery and heartfelt self-disclosure, blah, blah, blah.  But what’s happening with the cats, man! That’s what I want to know about!” You have a point.  There are priorities, after all.

So here’s the deal. Porter’s essentially OK, but he’s not quite getting the level of overstimulation he’s used to. Like the rest of us, you can tell that there are times he starts looking for Bock and then realizes he’s not here. He’s clearly enjoying getting our undivided attention and he does seem to amuse himself just fine.

A first photo of DunkelThe big news is the little guy over to the right. He doesn’t know it yet, but his name is Dunkel. He’s going to find out sometime this afternoon. We went over to the mind-blowingly amazing Boone County Animal Shelter last night and were introduced to him. He’s six-months old and is in a wonderful foster home with other cats and dogs.  He’s great with them. You see the white fur behind him? That’s a cat who’s lost the use of her back legs. Dunkel has become attached to her and routinely grooms her. Since coming into the shelter can be a bit stressful, the foster caregivers thought he might do better with a buddy around. I could see Porter doing that.

So many of the descriptions of his personality sound like Porter. I’m going into this optimistically, but I’d be lying if I said Carla and I aren’t a little nervous. It’s unrealistic to expect love at first site — we’re talking about cats here — but am I going to see a side of my sweet little boy I’ve never seen? We do know that Porter’s littermate and sister Chunk (who owns the woman who introduced Bock and Porter into our lives) is pretty accepting of other cats and dogs, so I’m not worried about genetic predisposition. This is probably just pre-first-date jitters. I remember those. All my old dates probably do too. Their worst fears were realized, after all.

So the plan is that later on this afternoon we’ll meet the foster caregivers over at the shelter and do the paperwork for a trial adoption. We have this elaborate plan involving keeping Dunkel in Carla’s bathroom (well appointed with all the comforts a cat could need) and rigging things so that Porter will be eating and using a litter pan right outside the door. The idea is to get them used to the idea there’s another cat and get them accustomed to the smells. Then, starting tomorrow, we’re going to wing it.

I’ll let you know. I’m excited.  I’m scared.  And I’m still a little sad. But I’m mostly excited.