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

 

The biggest cat tree in the world!!!


Frolicking feline.

Frolicking feline.

Tonight we decided to surprise Cat Cora with what appears to be the largest cat tree on Earth!

At 6 feet tall, and with three perches, it towers in the front room. Matt sprinkled some catnip on each landing, and moments later Cora appeared. He placed her on top, and she rollicked in her newfound carpeted getaway.

Cat tree: For The Win!

(Found at Costco for $67.)

How do I get to the top?

How do I get to the top?

Hey, I could get used to this!

Hey, I could get used to this!

I really like my new tree, but please let me keep my cardboard scratch box. This thing rocks!!!

I really like my new tree, but please let me keep my cardboard scratch box. This thing rocks!!!

The mysterious pooper


The scene of the crime.

The scene of the crime.

The first time it happened, I almost didn’t notice.

I had come into the bathroom to gather towels, and was leaving when something caught my eye.

It couldn’t be. Was that a cat poop in the bathtub?

I ran out into the front room, searching for Cora. I was ready for an interrogation. She looked up at me from her interrupted nap, and meowed.

“Well???” I demanded. “Is it yours?”

My pup Charlie dug his nose under a pillow and tried not to move.

Cora lifted a leg and began preening herself.

My line of questioning was going nowhere.

So I pulled out my computer and promptly Googled “cat poops in bathtub.”

I was somewhat relieved to see I was not the first cat owner to experience a cat refusing to go in the kitty loo.

I found many theories, ranging from a dirty litter box to a urinary tract infection. One person even suggested that cats sometimes like to crap in the tub because it’s considered one of the cleanest places in a house. Seriously.

After more reading, I decided to add a second litter box in the library and see what happens.

About a day later, Cora pooped in the new box. I rejoiced, and wished I had confetti to toss about. Instead, I rubbed Cora’s ears and told her how she made her mama proud.

But then the mysterious pooper returned.

Even worse, the poo placement seemed aggressive. Cora started leaving pretty impressive pyramids right on top of the drain.

Quickly I took inventory. Both of her litter boxes are clean and have fresh litter. She has easy access to both. Could Charlie be interrupting her privacy? Does she feel less exposed in the tub?

Seeing that my best sleuthing would not solve this pooper scooper mystery, I decided to make an appointment with the vet. Cora is due for her shots this month, anyway, so we’ll be killing two proverbial birds with one stone.

In the meantime, I’m going to keep my fingers crossed and the bathroom door closed.

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

Hide and seek


Lex takes a nap after a rough night.

Lex takes a nap after a rough night.

Some days it’s hard to believe Lexie is almost 15 years old.

Other days, I can’t deny it. She struggles.

I’ve especially noticed her doggy dementia has progressed. Recently when a friend stopped by, Lexie growled and the hair went up on her back. This was surprising, and new behavior for her.

As we were setting up the spare bedroom for our new cat Cora, Lex had wandered in. Moments later, I found her stuck in the corner, unable to simply turn herself around.

Then something truly shocking happened.

A few days ago, we started watching Matt’s mom’s dog. The house felt like a zoo (three dogs and a cat, oh my!!!) but everyone seemed to settle in. Lex seemed nonplussed by the visitor, and chose to slumber most hours of the day.

In the bustle of activity, I must confess to not keeping tabs on each animal every second of the day. But sometime last night Matt and I discovered something awry.

“Did you hear that?” Matt said. I did. It sounded like three thumps coming from the side of the couch. I looked behind my recliner into the little corner cave where the dogs love to hide out. Charlie was stretched out on a dog pillow, twitching to a good dream.

“I think Charlie kicked in his sleep,” I offered.

Matt peered over the end of the couch, down at Charlie. “Hmm.”

We went back to watching TV.

About five or 10 minutes later, we heard some muffled dog noises.

“Is Lexie stuck behind the couch???” we both cried out at the same time.

Matt jumped up, and we both took an end of the couch, frantically pulling it from the wall. Lex stood there, somewhat bewildered and blinking in the sudden shift of light.

We guessed she had only been back there about 10 minutes, but that was enough to scare us and, no doubt, our confused pup.

When Lex initially was diagnosed with dementia, the vet told us there’s a medication that might be helpful. I put it off at the time because it all seemed so quick; I hardly believed the diagnosis to be correct.

But now I think I’m changing my mind.

This morning, I found Lex sleeping on her throne, with her paws tightly pressed against her eyes … as if playing a game of hide and seek.

My sweetheart is slowing down. I reached down to rub her ears then softly ran my fingers down her back.

She needs her sleep.

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