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

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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

Lexie loves salmon!


Lex gobbles down a bowl of salmon kibble.

Lex gobbles down a bowl of salmon kibble.

I’m proud to report Lex is not only eating regularly, but she’s eating with gusto!

When our wee pup Charlie recently grew old enough to become a dog, we graduated him to big boy food. We studied our choices for months in anticipation of the switch.

We made our final decision at Costco, when we found Nature’s Domain: Salmon meal & sweet potato formula for dogs (Kirkland Signature brand). It had never occurred to us to feed fish to our dogs. But Matt had heard fish oil was good for a dog’s coat, so his eyes locked on the bag of salmon kibble.

After we brought it home, we filled both dog bowls up with kibble. We decided to include Lexie at least on the first bowl to see if she would give it a go. Every since she was diagnosed with kidney failure last summer, her appetite has been fickle. We finally settled into a routine of feeding her wet holistic dog food (sometimes by hand) and occasionally supplementing with a kidney-friendly can of dog food. It wasn’t a kidney-perfect diet, but most days she would entertain us and eat a bit. She no longer was skin and bones, sitting at death’s door.

Lex has a ball!

Lex has a ball!

So we filled her bowl to the brim with salmon, and watched. She quickly sniffed something new in the air, and checked out her bowl. Lex grabbed a piece of food and thoughtfully chewed it up. She looked back over her shoulder at us, then lowered her face back into the bowl. She didn’t resurface until it was empty.

Lex now repeats this ritual twice a day, almost like she’s a normal dog again. When we forget dinnertime, she’s quick to gently bite our hands, or rambunctiously whine until we feed her. In full disclosure, we still dress up the bowl with dog treats to get her started, but once she’s eating she finishes the bowl on her own.

Could there possibly be a negative in this joyous situation?

I rarely get to sing the “Eat your nummies!” song anymore.

Now that Lex is eating regularly, the physical transformation is undeniable. Her eyes are more alert and her fur is super shiny. She hops up on the couch and her special chair with ease. This after months of me lifting her up.

Lex STILL has a ball!

Lex STILL has a ball!

And best of all, her energy level is at an all-time high. This means she gets to play, and play hard with Charlie. She trots out into the back of the yard, then rushes back full-tilt, running like a puppy.

Not bad for a gal who will turn 15 in a few months.

She’s also started playing with toys again. In particular, she loved these teeny tennis balls made specifically for dogs. She plays catch in the house, and races Charlie to retrieve the ball from the hallway. She also will carry the ball around the house, rolling it around in her mouth.

She also recently developed an affection for Charlie’s deer antler. She’s taken it from him a few times, but then has no idea what to do with it. She’ll sniff it and mouth it, but she’s really lost the dexterity to actually have a chewing session.

Still, it’s cute to see her try. I do believe Lex has got her groove back.

FurFamHORZNTL

Addressing anxiety


Matt distracts Charlie as a tech readies to give him a shot.

Matt distracts Charlie as a tech readies to give him a shot.

We recently brought Lex and Charlie to the vet to get them up-to-date on their shots.

For Lex, this was old hat. She calmly waited for her shot, and didn’t even try to hop off the exam table.

Charlie, however, was another story. He wiggled and whined and twisted and turned. The vet tech told us not to fret, that she had it under control. And then Charlie would break free. Matt stepped in to help calm Charlie, gently rubbing his nose and telling him he was such a gooooood boy.

I took this opportunity to speak with the vet about Charlie’s anxiety. I told her about his destruction, the couch cushions, the window sills, the Thundershirt. His insistence upon pooping in the house, even though we have a dog door.

She suggested leaving him for short periods of time, and seeing how he reacts. Rewarding good behavior, then leaving him for longer periods of time.

Other alternatives tossed around include consulting a behaviorist, purchasing a special collar and anxiety medication.

We’ve opted to introduce neighborhood walks, in addition to our running games in the back yard. Also, we have increased the number of times and length we leave him alone. For extended periods of time (for example eight hours or more) we have opted to board the dogs at Camp Bow Wow, which they love.

I have been experiencing medical issues that have prevented me from being as actively involved with Charlie as I would like. I’m hoping to get this resolved by summertime.

I think Charlie would like a new walking partner.

FurFamHORZNTL

Birthday boy


Charlie sniffs out his birthday pupcake, then almost chokes trying to swallow it whole.

Charlie sniffs out his birthday pupcake, then almost chokes trying to swallow it whole.

Today we had a birthday to celebrate.

Charlie has turned 1 year old!

To mark the occasion, I picked up a couple of pupcakes from the Cupcake Station. Lex took hers on top of a bed of salmon kibble, while Charlie somewhat patiently posed for a gazillion birthday photos. Before Matt snapped the perfect picture, Charlie snatched the cupcake, prompting me to scream. The poor pup spit it out, and tried to hide under a table.

Yeah. Smooth move mom.

I lured Charlie back to the table with the pupcake, and soothing words. When Matt said it was OK for Charlie to eat the treat, he excitedly grabbed it and swallowed it whole.

It wasn’t a grand birthday celebration, but it was officially the first time I’ve ever marked the birthday of a pet. In all honestly, I’ve never known the exact birthday of my pets. I’ve gotten close before. Like I’m pretty sure Lexie was born in June or July almost 15 years ago. But a specific date? You got me.

It’s quite a milestone for Charlie. Turning 1 means he graduated to adult dog food. I’m hoping it also means he’ll quit pooping in the basement. And the library. And chewing the couch.

You’re a big boy now, Charlie. I really want to think your teething and potty training days are behind you.

One year ago, Charlie’s mom gave birth to him and a brother, named Dalton. Somehow they ended up at a kill shelter in Kentucky, and right before they were to be put to sleep, they were rescued by the True Heart Min Pin Rescue. Dalton found a loving family in Kentucky, and we think of him often.

The rescue organization drove Charlie up to us in Michigan last June, and the rest is history.

It’s been an amazing journey so far, loving Charlie as he grew from a young pup into this fine dog.

Even if he still poops in the basement.

FurFamHORZNTL

Snow, sleep and kittens!


Charlie surveys his first snowfall.

Charlie surveys his first snowfall. (Photo by Bryan Bogater)

Special note: We got caught up in the holiday excitement, and just realized we haven’t posted a blog in a while. Today’s entry should get us all caught up. Happy New Year!

Christmas came a day late for Charlie, but he says it was well worth the wait.

Mother nature delivered his first snow.

In all honesty, my brother has ordered up the storm. He flew in from Ft. Lauderdale earlier in the day, and had specifically requested a sizable amount of snow. He told me if he had to be in freezing temperatures while visiting me, the least I could do is provide a scenic snowy backdrop.

So once we returned from the airport with Bryan, snowflakes began to fall. Charlie hopped up on the couch, and watched through the front window. His eyes grew pensive, as he pressed his brown nose against the glass.

Charlie romps in the snow.

Charlie romps in the snow.

What is that white stuff falling from the sky?

It was dark by the time we had several inches on the ground. Matt and walked out back with Charlie to see his reaction. He pranced through the yard, occasionally stopping to grab a mouthful of snow. As we pretended to snatch him up, Charlie ran full tilt, losing traction in the snow as he tried to replicate his usual tight corners.

Lex stepped delicately in the snow, and did her best to avoid Charlie as he flew by.

With the snow came some interesting developments.

First, our sand-in-the-house problem instantly disappeared! We now can walk barefoot inside, and no longer build sand castles on our couch.

Second, dog toys started disappearing. Then reappearing … covered in snow. At first it was a collection of squeaky toys. The hedgehog and the chipmunk, specifically. They were gone, then a day later reappeared as a snowball on the couch. Interestingly, Charlie switched it up to include his Nylabones and a deer antler.

Apparently, he prefers his chewies chilled, thank you very much.

Lounging Lexie

It seems that Lex has fully recovered from her vertigo scare. And while she has not had any more dizzy spells, she spends most of her time sleeping, these days. Her favorite spot has become a high-back chair in the front room, closest to the heat register. When she curls up on the chair, I cover her with a blanket, and she’s instantly out.

Lex snags one of Charlie's frozen Nylabones.

Lex snags a frozen Nylabone.

When she’s awake, Lexie has amazed us with her energy. She’s eating well, and consistently, and often has enough energy to instigate a wrestling match with Charlie.

When Matt spoke with our vet for the vertigo follow-up visit, she said Lexie’s kidney values are within healthy range, but on the high end of normal. She said this meant we did a great job with her special kidney diet, but that we have to keep a close eye on her. Considering Lex had one paw in the grave just six months ago, I call this a victory.

In the last couple weeks, Lex has really turned into a snuggle bug. Now that she can hop up on the couch on her own power again, she will tuck herself tight next to Matt or me. When she’s wanting to melt hearts, she’ll gently place her snout on my chest and stare up at me. Awwwe.

Smitten with kittens

In the last month or so, when Matt and I go to PetSmart or Petco, the first thing I do is make a beeline for the cat display. Both pet stores provide space to local rescue organizations for cat adoptions.

After losing Pink last fall, Matt and I both agreed that we would not get another cat. For 10 years, we said.

Some ginger cuties I spotted at Petco.

Some ginger cuties I spotted at Petco.

It’s funny how looking at those sweet fuzzy faces can makes our resolve dissolve.

I’ve secretly been taking photos of cute kittens for a couple months. And now I can’t disguise my excitement when it’s time to see the kitties. Matt always indulges me, but tonight a certain little kitten stole our hearts.

He was a small grey and white striped kitten, full of spunk and spasms. He saw us looking at him, and put on his best cute kitten show. We fell hard, and Matt noted he’d probably get along with Charlie.

“You should see if we can have a visit with him,” Matt said.

I almost fell over, but ran to a store associate before he changed his mind. It ends up the rescue organization only has meet-and-greets on the weekends, so we’ll have to come back.

The little fuzzball may the the one. Or maybe not. But I cannot lie. I’ve got kitten love in my heart again. Meow.

FurFamHORZNTL

Vertigo


Lexie shakes off the dizziness. She's ready for another nap.

Lexie shakes off the dizziness. She’s ready for another nap.

It’s amazing how quickly things can fall apart.

Lex had just hopped up on the couch, and collapsed in my lap. The toxic smell of charcoal fluid washed over me. I leaned over, and could smell it all over her back. When I quickly put her on the floor and ushered her to the bathroom for a bath, she stumbled, and pulled her front left paw into her side. Her head jerked, and violently turned to the side.

Something was terribly wrong.

I frantically washed her, but discovered the fluid was only on her back, not in her mouth. I was terribly confused.

“We have to get her to emergency vet,” I told Matt, as he held her up.

We rushed her to the vet, and I silently wondered if I would return home without her.

The vet instantly ran some blood work, and came back with an unexpected development. Her kidney levels were healthy, all within range. When I explained how she was diagnosed with kidney failure last summer, and that she almost died, he said she most likely had acute failure. And this is something a dog can recover from, which apparently she has.

Then the vet offered his diagnosis. Lexie had vertigo, an intense dizziness that causes stumbling and twitchy movement. It’s unclear what caused the condition, but he said her dementia may have played a role.

Also, the charcoal fluid was a red herring. She most likely had a dizzy spell and fell on the bottle, which I had left on the ground.

Lexie paced the small vet room, as the doctor explained treatment options. She leaned into the wall, and walked all four corners, over and over again. The vet gave her a sedative so she would get some reprieve from the pacing, along with an antibiotic and a motion sickness medication.

Several hundred dollars later, we were headed home, Lex nodding off in the back seat.

Today, she is exhausted, and still experiencing the effects of the sedative. She had trouble standing on her own, and needs to be carried down the stairs so she can go outside.

It’s hard to know if she’ll come out of this, or what our next steps are. Lex is 14-and-a-half years old. She’s a gracious elder pup, who has lived a phenomenal life. She’s excelled as a big sister to Charlie, and a teacher to everyone around her.

As quickly as things fell apart, I’m desperately trying to piece everything back together.

I believe she’s still got something to give, and I still have a lot to learn.

FurFamHORZNTL