Vanishing act


Two things managed to disappear Thanksgiving eve: a portion of my bed’s new quilt and my cat Cora.

The night wound down like it would after any successful holiday feast. I was grateful to be wearing plus-size yoga pants, which were extremely forgiving after a smoked turkey dinner and all the fixin’s. Cora hopped up on the kitchen counter, and I scooped her up, waltzing into the dining room.

I wouldn’t see her again for 24 hours.

The house was full. Matt and I were eager to entertain, our first major holiday in our new house. Guests included Matt’s uncle, his cousin and her husband, along with their adorable two pups Tippy and Coochie. In addition to our dogs Charlie and recent addition Max, this brought the total dog number up to four for the weekend.

max

Max is the newest member of our family. He has a taste for quilts.

The activity was unusual for our normally quiet household. Especially with us smoking the turkey in the yard, there was a lot of traffic in and out of the house. It’s hard to know when it happened, but sometime that night, Cora quietly slipped out into the darkness.

We consider Cora an indoor cat, but always joked that she would know how to hold her own since she has 23 legendary toes. Meaning 23 claws. The rescue we found her at said she spent considerable time on the streets before we adopted her, so we think of her as a tough cookie.

Under covers

Sometime well past midnight, I dragged myself to bed and conked out. Both of my dogs, Charlie and Max, curled up into me, a Jenga-like puzzle of paws, legs and fur. I fell into a deep slumber.

Until I heard something like fabric ripping.

I was sure it was a dream. But then I heard it again. I sat up, and turned on the lamp next to my bed. Max was down by my feet, with our brand-new quilt in his mouth. I pulled it away, only to find, not one, but two huge holes. Like the size of pancakes. All he needed was syrup. He literally ate the two holes, leaving no fabric evidence behind.

quilt

The evidence. Max was caught with the quilt in his mouth. No more late-night snacks allowed!

Having no idea of what to do, I took him outside for a potty, hoping he would barf up the fabric. I fell asleep on the recliner waiting for him to finish his business in the dark.

We felt our way back up the stairs, and I climbed into bed, carefully pushing the holes to the side of my feet. Max slept in his dog bed on the floor.

Search party

In the morning, I took note that Cora still was not around. But I soon busied myself with making two quiches for breakfast. After Matt’s cousin, her husband and their pups left, my mind returned to Cora. I figured she must be hiding because of all the activity.

I also kept a close eye on Max. I’m happy to report that he pooped throughout the day, and he ate both breakfast and dinner. My anxiety about a possible blockage from the quilt started to dissipate.

Matt jostled me out of my daydream.

“Have you seen Cora?”

cora

Cora took herself on a 24-hour adventure. She’s no worse for the wear.

I hadn’t. I checked her cat food. Not touched since the day before. Highly unusual since this cat does not miss a meal. Also, her litter box was not used in what appeared to be a day.

Matt and I split up, checking closets, the basement, under the couch, beneath the beds. “Kitty-kitty Cora!!!” we cried out, hearing nothing in reply.

“She’s got to be here somewhere,” Matt said.

As we left for dinner, I saw the weather would drop to 30 degrees this night. When she got out the day before, it was still an unseasonable 58 degrees. I imagined Cora huddling under a wet bush, shivering in the cold.

“Don’t worry, I’ll find her,” I said.

Warm welcome

When we returned from dinner, I grabbed a strong flashlight and went in the front yard.

“Kitty-kitty Cora! Mew mew mew-mew!!!”

I flashed the light in the front bushes, and up an enormous oak tree. I called out her name once more, and waited.

Then I heard something. I thought it might be a meow, but I also thought I could have imagined it. So I called out her name again. Then I heard it loud and clear: “MEOW!” She sounded about 10 feet away, and I found her on the other side of my fence in a dog run out back.

I ran into the house, and told Matt to grab a towel. “I found her!” I blurted out.

Once I walked into the dog run, I called out her name. I couldn’t see very well, even with the flash light. I pointed the light in the far corner, where I keep the temporary chicken coop from when we first moved into the house. I stood still, and gasped as Cora walked out the front door of the coop. It had rained for the last 24 hours, and she was bone dry. The coop, still filled with straw bedding from the chickens, kept her dry and warm. I scooped her up, and put her into the towel Matt held out in front of him.

tempcoop

The unused chicken coop Cora took refuge in during her extraordinary odyssey.

Once in the house, both Charlie and Max sniffed her and offered a warm welcome.

To celebrate, Matt placed her on top of the cat tree and gave her a handful of treats. She quickly gobbled them up, then casually licked at her fur, totally nonplussed by her vanishing act.

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Life at Our Furever Family


Charlie chills on the couch with his favorite bone.

Charlie chills on the couch with his favorite bone.

There’s so much to catch up on!

In many ways, the last year has been a blur. I had a hysterectomy and somewhere in my recovery I decided I wanted chickens. Our new cat Cora has settled in, and has taken to pooping in the bathtub. Charlie learned how to snag Scooby snacks off the counter when we aren’t looking.

Jilli in front of the recently completed chicken coop.

Jilli in front of the recently completed chicken coop.

A good portion of the last year has been dedicated to researching chickens and building the coop. I write about our experience in the blog Chicken Scratch Fever. With absolutely no building experience, Matt and I constructed what I consider the most beautiful chicken coop I’ve ever seen.

We will pick up three chicks March 17 from a hatchery in Ohio. They will live in a brooder in our basement until May. I am so excited, and can’t wait for people to start calling me The Chicken Lady.

Cora visits the loo, I mean bathtub.

Cora visits the loo, I mean bathtub.

Out of nowhere, Cora decided to start pooping in the bathtub. I keep a pretty clean litter box, so I was stumped about why she chose to switch it up. I tried cleaning the box every day. I put in all new litter. I added a second box.

I found only one approach 100 percent successful: Closing the bathroom door. Laugh all you will, but in a house with two busy people, it’s hard to remember to close it every time. Somehow during the Christmas season, we managed to keep it closed for several weeks. We were vigilant. Then we accidentally left the door open once, and she ran in to relieve herself.

Sigh.

The evidence.

The evidence.

Charlie has never been one to beg. Well, maybe a little bit. He might gently place his snout on my lap while I’m eating dinner, looking up with his sweet feed-me eyes. But he’s never grabbed at food or barked.

Until we had pizza one night. He skipped begging all together, and waited for us to zone out in a post stuff-our-faces haze. We heard a loud noise from the kitchen, like something falling. I chalked it up to the cat knocking something over. A few minutes later I walked into the kitchen to discover Charlie had managed to grab a couple slices and had a pizza party for one.

Bad Dog. But Charlie got a slice, so I’m sure he would argue Good Dog.

Charlie and Jilli all snuggled in bed.

Charlie and Jilli all snuggled in bed.

I just found this photo on my phone tonight. No doubt Matt saw a moment of cuteness and snapped it. There were three photos in all, but I will spare you the others. Pictures of me sleeping are not for the faint of heart.

All in all, the last year was a huge success. Charlie and Cora continue to surprise me every day, and we can’t wait to expand Our Furever Family in the spring. I know great challenges and victories are just around the corner, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

FurFamHORZNTL

 

A normal cat? Delightful.


Yep. That's a cat in a bag.

Yep. That’s a cat in a bag.

Cora has exceeded our expectations by simply doing what she does best: acting like a normal cat.

She hides in a paper bag. What cat does that?

Cora saunters into a room and makes her presence known with a loud “MEOW!” Really? She’s interactive?

And don’t even get me started on the red laser dot.

After five years with my last cat, Pink, I’m realizing I had a skewed idea of how cats act.

At best, I could describe Pink as a loner cat, who slowly learned to warm up to her humans. So much of her personality really was not her fault at all. I rescued her from a hoarding house. Her former owners had abandoned the home, leaving Pink behind, hiding in piles of boxes.

Three weeks later, my friend spotted Pink in a window, and grabbed her. Within days, I decided that in spite of my allergies I would bring her home and become a kitty mama.

At the time, I had two dogs, Lili and Lexie. While they welcomed the new addition, Pink was unsure of her new housemates. So she spent about three years hiding in the rafters of my basement.

I bought her feathery toys, but they made her scurry away in terror. She would let me hold her, but only for a few minutes. She’d rather be on her own. After a while, I just started to think that’s how cats are. Anti-social. Scared of people and toys.

So imagine our surprise when Cora confidently strutted into our house, chirping along the way. I had heard rumors that cats like boxes, so I placed on on the floor of the front room. Within minutes Cora was inside, calmly peering at us from her new perch.

windowAt least once a day Matt and I find ourselves marveling at our cat. Forget that she has 23 toes. What really makes her special is that she likes to sit in window sills.

Seriously.

While we certainly loved Pink, it’s been fun discovering this new kind of cat. The best part is that she and our dog Charlie are best buddies. They chase each other up and down the stairs, and gently nuzzle each other. Especially since Lexie now is gone, it’s been reassuring to see Cora and Charlie take such good care of each other.

After all, that’s what family does.

FurFamHORZNTL

Cat Cora: Battle Homecoming


Cora studies the front room from the comfort of her box.

Cora studies the front room from the comfort of her box.

I worried about finding Cora the right toy to comfort her as she settled into our home.

But in the end, it was something simple that brought her the most pleasure: a cardboard box.

Of course, I’ve seen the “cat trap” memes showing cats shoving themselves into shoeboxes, but it never occurred to me that Cora might enjoy one herself. Pink was never into boxes at all. So after I heard her plaintive mews from the spare bedroom, I put a small box on the bed.

She didn’t even give a second thought before walking right in and curling up.

Cora greets a curious Charlie from the safety of a box.

Cora greets a curious Charlie from the safety of a box.

We let her stay in the box as we introduced her to our dogs, Charlie and Lexie. (The dogs were eager to see what the hubbub was all about, until they realized: “Oh, it’s just a cat? Huh.” Their nonresponse was a great, unexpected victory.)

Once Cora acclimated to the spare bedroom, we brought her out in the box, and introduced her to the front room. After a while she hopped up on the couch with Matt, and watched the traffic fly by on Nine Mile.

Then she climbed on my lap, just long enough for me to count six toes on her front left paw, and seven toes on her right. I also discovered her sweet spot: right at the base of her tail. A couple scratches there started the purr machine.

At this point the dogs are operating like everything’s normal, and Cora is holding court in her box, along with a handmade blanket and toy provided by Shelter to Home, the cat-focused rescue where we found her.

Miss Cat Cora has arrived, and she’s the cat’s meow. Especially with her many, many toes.

Cora settles on on top of my sewing table.

Cora settles on top of my sewing table.

Earlier in the day, as we wrapped up our adoption, the volunteers at Shelter to Home lined up to say goodbye to Cora. She had been with them almost a year, and it was clear she would be deeply missed.

Shelley, who personally fostered Cora and her four kittens, told us about how Cora also mothered orphaned kittens once her own babies were adopted. It was a bittersweet day to see Cora leave the shelter, she said.

But just as Cora has been so generous with her love, we hope to return the favor.

FurFamHORZNTL

Meeting Cora … and her 25 toes


Cora strikes a pose in a sunbeam.

Cora strikes a pose in a sunbeam.

Cora is a cool cat, from head to toe — all 25 of them!

We met this Hemingway polydactyl (many-toed) cat on Saturday at Shelter to Home, a cat-focused shelter located Downriver.

The trip in itself was a big deal because it was my first big excursion since a hysterectomy two weeks ago.

I had spotted Cora’s profile that morning, but didn’t say anything to Matt. It was a big enough deal that he was looking at cat profiles completely unprovoked. Pink has been gone for six months, and as much as we both agreed we would never get another cat, somehow the house seems incomplete without one.

We came upon Cora when we walked up the stairs of the Victorian home that houses the shelter. She greeted us from her spot in the upper landing’s window.

We counted at least seven toes on this paw.

We counted at least seven toes on this paw.

Cora was the first cat we saw, and our hostess wanted to keep the tour going since there were at least 14 more cats to meet. But we sat down with Cora, and let her climb on our laps. She purred as we touched her feet, the base of her tail … even her belly. Oh, what a lover.

Then Matt picked her up,

I couldn’t hear a thing through the purr machine.

Finally we broke away from Cora, and continued with the tour. We told the shelter worker about Lexie, our almost 15-year-old dog, and Charlie, our energetic 1-year-old pup. We mentioned the dog door, and emphasized that any cat we adopt will be an indoor cat. The worker seemed happy with this, and even told us about enclosed tents designed for cats if we did wish to bring our cat outside for supervised fun.

Since it was difficult for me to bend down, Matt stopped to pet a few of the felines, and played with a shy calico in the hallway. But once we got downstairs, he asked about Cora.

We started out the day looking for a high energy youthful cat who likes dogs. Cora’s energy level is best described as “chill” and it’s unclear if she’s ever seen a dog. Matt usually gravitates toward big cats, and Cora is on the teeny side. She’s also a mum who recently gave birth to four kittens.

Not exactly what we had in mind, and yet she feels the perfect fit.

This has got to be the coolest animal shelter we have visited.

This has got to be the coolest animal shelter we have visited.

We took an application, and said we would be in touch.

As we walked to the car, a smile creeped across my face. This was definitely further than I got with Lola the tortie cat.

When we got home Saturday, I filled out the application.

Of course once I was done, Matt got cold feet.

“I’m not sure. I’m not ready. I don’t know if Cora is the right cat,” he nervously said.

I signed my name at the bottom of the application, and let him talk. The next day, I disclosed my plan of action.

Before we make a final decision, I want to bring Charlie in to meet Cora.

Matt agreed.

So now I will send in our application and wait.

We’ll be on our toes, and ready to go.

FurFamHORZNTL

Close encounter


After thinking on it for a week, Matt and I packed Charlie in the car today and drove up to PetCo for a meet-and-greet with Lola.

The tortie kitten was sleeping in her cage when we arrived. I poked at her back through the cage bars, and the rescue volunteer came up to see if we needed help.

Lola, a sweet tortie.

Lola, a sweet tortie.

I explained we spotted Lola last week, and that we wanted to see her up close and personal. Also, we brought our dog to make sure they were compatible.

The man opened the cage door and grabbed Lola by the nape of her neck. He pulled her in close to his chest, but invited me to pet her.

We chit-chatted. I told him that we were expert cat owners. I shared about Pink, and how we lost her to kidney disease last fall. I explained Charlie loved Pink, that they often played and even slept together.

Matt lifted Charlie up in the air and gently pushed his snout toward Lola. Both of them seemed nonplussed. No big deal at all.

I reached in and rubbed Lola again. I was wondering if he was ever going to let me hold her. I pushed my hand  between her and the adoption guy, and he pulled her closer.

“How about if I put her down so Charlie can sniff her?” he asked.

I thought it was odd that he clearly didn’t want me to hold the cat, but that he was going to let Charlie and Lola interact.

He put Lola down, and Charlie hid behind Matt’s knees. No signs of aggression at all.

The man encouraged us to fill out an adoption application, or to do it online when we got home. I felt odd about filling put an application for a cat I never got to hold. How would I know if she would cuddle me??

We agreed that we would think about it.

As we walked away, we were surprised to see Angry Eyebrows run up to him. We wondered if she had told him about our dog door.

On the drive home, we discussed our options. Matt was upfront. He didn’t think we were ready for a cat.

You’re about to have surgery,” he said to me. “I have concerns about the cat jumping on your stomach, or even about the cleanliness of another animal in the house as you recover.”

I understood. I wondered if it would be too much transition right before I was out of commission for six weeks. How fair would it be to get a cat (that I wanted) and to expect Matt to care for it while I recuperated? Not that Matt wouldn’t want to care for Lola, but I believe if I’m going to get an animal, it should be a joint effort to care for it. And if I know I’m going to be down-for-the-count for six weeks, why not wait until I am healthy enough to coparent?

We would not be adopting Lola.

This decision made me sad, but in the end I felt it was the best for this sweet kitten.

I know the right cat will come to me.

And at the next close encounter, I will be ready.

FurFamHORZNTL

Smitten kitten


So we needed puppy treats. I swear.

Lola wonders what's taking us so long. "Adopt me, already!"

Lola wonders what’s taking us so long. “Adopt me, already!”

And that meant we got to see the cats on display at PetCo. Matt and I both walked right up to Lola, a 7-month-old tortoiseshell kitten. She was curled up in a ball, snoozing away. We stuck our fingers through the cage and ruffled her tri-colored fur.

Lola sleepily tossed her head over her shoulder and looked me over with one eye. She slinked her body a few inches so she could get a better look. I slid my finger under her chin, and rubbed. She closed her eyes and purred.

This was one smitten kitten.

“She’s cute,” Matt said. “I bet she’d love playing with Charlie. She’d probably keep him in line!”

I imagined Lola running through the house, maybe batting Charlie in the face then scurrying off to hide. I’m sure Lexie would be nonplussed.

It’s been five months since Pink died. At the time we swore we wouldn’t get another cat for 10 years. So much for promises. I can feel our resolve slowly giving way.

We couldn't get Lola to look straight at us for a photo, so this is a pic of the profile photo on her cage.

We couldn’t get Lola to look straight at us for a photo, so this is a pic of the profile photo on her cage.

The adoption papers indicated Lola was with a family until one of the children became allergic to her. What caught our eyes the most was the following comment: “I love to talk, as most torties do.”

I wondered what this meant, so I Googled it. Apparently, tortie cats are known to be especially verbal,  through meows, purrs and hisses. I looked at Lola in that cage. I couldn’t elicit any sort of sound from her. I was curious about what her meow sounds like.

I also found out that tortie cats are believed to be good luck, and sometimes are referred to as  money cats. Seriously. Can anyone give me one reason why we shouldn’t consider this cat??

I thought about her curled up on my lap, especially as I recuperate from my upcoming hysterectomy. She looked like a total snuggle bunny. Since I’m guessing the dogs most likely won’t be welcome anywhere near my lap, a little kitten sounds like the perfect recovery buddy.

As Matt took dozens of photos of Lola, I scribbled down the contact information for the adoption agency. I leaned in close to take a video and … oh my, WHAT’S THAT SMELL???

Lola casually gave us a look that reassured that it was not her. She did not just take a humongous poop while we were fawning over her. The tenants downstairs are an embarrassment, she said with her green eyes.

We peeked down below, and the black cat seemed pleased with himself.

Once we got in the car, I looked up Lola’s profile on the adoption agency’s website. I’m nervous about possibly adopting another cat. But I am curious about this one.

It looks like the next step is to fill out an application to set up a meet-and-greet.

We’ll keep you posted.

FurFamHORZNTL