May 11th 2011 12:06 pm
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It’s finished!!! Well, almost. There’s still some fine-tuning that the Mama and Papa want to do, but they couldn’t wait a moment longer for us to experience our new cattery, so as soon as the Mama had put the final piece of hardware cloth on the gate, the Papa propped the window open so we could come out. Mama came and sat in the pen with us, so we’d feel secure coming out into the yard. Meanwhile the Papa worked on installing our catdoor into a piece of plywood, which he then installed in the old window frame. The window really needs to be replaced completely, but that’s another chore that gets shuffled down to the bottom of the list of THINGS THAT NEED TO BE DONE.
I was first down the temporary ramp – Samhain, the intrepid explorer. But to give her credit, Sleeper was the first one up to the top of our “tree” in the corner. Mama’s sorry she didn’t get a picture of that, but there will be other times in the future, and by then, there will be platforms up against the wall at various heights, plus some aerial planking for us to travel on like the wild jungle cats we are – yeah!!!
To backtrack a bit, the folks have really been hustling this past couple of weeks to get this pen ready. They kept having to dodge weather, which alternated between fits of sunshine, rain, pea-sized hail!!!, 40 mph winds, and drops in temperature, which made work conditions unpleasant. Mama really loves standing on a 10 foot rickety ladder, trying to nail hardware cloth in a 40 mph wind in 40 degree weather – NOT!!!
The Papa took advantage of the existing balcony to make the skeleton of the main end of the pen. He nailed 2x4’s into the house to establish the back of the cage, to give him the back end of the frame work to attach the bottom boards. The Mama did the gopher work during this phase, digging the trench into which the 2x10’s were sunk, plus running and fetching for “the master carpenter” – MOL! (They’re neither of them what you would call “handymen”, but even so, I think they did a great job!) About the 2x10’s – the Papa reasoned that even if the cats didn’t try digging out, something else might try digging in. Well, they’ll really have to WORK at it to get below those 2x10’s!
At the front of the pen, it was decided that there should be an area that would be open to the sunshine, so there’s an extension past the balcony which has a hardware cloth roof. The Mama had said when they discussed what would be the best roof, that maybe it would be less work to go with a translucent plexiglass roofing, but the Papa said “Well, maybe they’d like to be able to see the stars!” Cool. Thanks, Papa! In all, the cattery is about 8 x 13 square feet, or 104 square feet at the base. The area under the balcony is 11 feet in height, and the extension is about 6 feet, tall enough for the Papa to stand up in.
The tree in the corner is a story in itself. The Mama had been eyeing some box elders that had split and fallen down at the edge of the property. They are notorious for doing this. They get too top heavy and just fall over, but don’t die completely, enough of a portion still being attached to the mother tree that the limb still lives. One was laying along the ground, looking like the perfect cat tree! So the Papa took his chain saw and lopped it off, trimming most of the top part as well, but leaving a couple of side branches at the top. This was just great, except according to the Mama, the whole thing weighed a ton!!! Between the two of them, they managed to haul the limb up to the cage (before it was enclosed with hardware cloth), and with difficulty, propped it up against the side of the house at the back of the pen. Originally, the Mama had this bright idea that she was going to put it in the center of the pen, cemented in so it would be stable, and look oh-so-aesthetically-pleasing. Uh-uh. No way was that gonna work! For one thing, to have something that heavy be REALLY secure, the hole would have to be several feet deep, and the Mama wanted a TALL tree. So, even if they could have maneuvered a limb the size it would have to be, they wouldn’t have been able to get it in under the balcony. The Papa was nervous, too, that the thing was going to come crashing down through the window – a not unreasonable fear. So, instead, they left the tree leaning against the back wall, and the Mama dug a trench in front of its base to ease it down into the ground for security. As she was carefully digging closer to the limb, it decided on its own to take action – that sucker was so heavy, that as soon as she’d gotten close to it, it slid down into the trench. Slowly, thank the gods! She would have preferred to have the top side limb parallel with the front of the pen, too, but NOTHING is moving that tree now, short of a builder’s crane or a tornado (and we don’t want to say that second one too loudly…)
To finish up the story of the construction, after he had the framework built, the Papa made the gate. Meanwhile the Mama cut and nailed on the hardware cloth, which she is SO glad they chose over chicken wire, which would have been cheaper, but not as strong. Remember those 40 mph winds? Oh, and standing on a ladder 10 feet up in the air during that is definitely not her idea of fun. MOL! And word to the wise: don't EVER leave your hammer sitting on top of the ladder. Mama was very tired, and forgot, and then decided to take the ladder down. She had a small but bloody gash on the top of her head as a result, and still has a nice little sore bump. She's not making THAT mistake again!
They finished day before yesterday, and as soon as we were down that ramp, we did NOT WANT TO GO BACK IN!!!!!!! The wind had picked up and it was spitting a few raindrops, but we just couldn’t get enough of running around that pen!!! At first we slunk around the perimeter on our bellies, but pretty soon I was throwing dirt clods in the air and racing around chasing my sister up the tree. Later, she ran all the way to the top and stood on the little side branch just like Mama had imagined she would! She’s such a climber, that Sleeper! Of course, Mama was a worrywort. Sleeper did just what she’d expected and hoped, but she couldn’t help but worry about her falling. It’s not THAT high, Mama. Relax. And then when we didn’t want to come inside, she worried about us being too cold. And she worried because we were having so much fun, we didn’t want to come in and eat dinner!!! I ran in long enough to have a few bites, then was back out. Sleeper did the same. Don’t worry, we’re not going to starve!
Today we are both inside sleeping – it’s been a busy day. We even had our first visitor – another black cat. He or she sat outside the cattery and looked in, but no words were exchanged. It might have been my father, but who can say?
Mama and Papa promise when they catch their breaths, they will install some more perches and aerial catwalks; plus the whole thing needs to be tilled up again and planted with grass. The Mama will include a few cat-friendly plants and flowers, too, just for pretty. Anyway, we are two happy kitties.
May 17th 2011 6:27 pm
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The folks say there could be more to come later, but yesterday and today they worked on installing some catwalks for us, so we can walk up high around the pen. On one side, you have to climb the tree to get to them, but today the Papa put in on the other side of the catdoor, a smaller perch that we can easily jump to, and from there jump to the catwalk. Mama also dug up and planted some grass plugs and CATNIP - woo hoo!!! She will sow wheat in there, too, but thought she'd better put in the grass transplants in case the wheat has a hard time getting established. I don't care about the wheat anyway when I've got the grass to eat, but she's determined! MOL
Plus she says she's going to plant non-toxic, cat-safe flowers in there! What's THAT about?!
May 26th 2011 6:20 am
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Here's a question for all you cats out there. My mama will be taking a short trip in a month or two - no more than a week or so. But here's the problem. Since she rescued me almost 7 months ago, she hasn't been out of my sight for more than half a day. And I am SO attached to her. I've gotten used to her going to work - sort of. At least, she THINKS I have! I've got my sister here, after all, and now we've got the cattery we can go out into - at least we can when it's not 40 degrees and RAINING - GRRRRRRRRR!!! And, even more importantly, the Papa will still be here to give us lovings and food and head scritches. (He likes to hug, too, but Sleeper likes that better than me. I don't tell him that, though, 'cause I don't want to hurt his feelings - MOL!!!
But he's NOT THE MAMA. Sleeper is his baby; the Mama is MINE! And she's feeling a little uncomfortable about me being too dependent. As an example: their past days off, the Mama and Papa were both here puttering around the house. Sleeper and I were both in the cattery and she came out to play with us for a bit. Then she walked around the side of the house - I thought she was going inside, so I bolted through the catdoor to meet her inside, but she wasn't there! She'd walked out to the garden while I was headed inside. The Papa went out to tell her where she was digging vegie beds, that I was pacing up and down in front of the door, meowing my head off, looking for her!!!
The Mama decided I needed to actually see her walk towards the garden, then I would know - like when Sleeper and I watch them walk to the car to leave in the morning, and they tell us "Going to work now. See you in the evening!" Then we don't worry. So, she did that, and I settled down.
But what will it be like when she walks to the car, and then DOESN'T COME BACK?! I don't have any concept of what a week is. If she tells me she'll be back, and she doesn't come back, what then? Any one have any suggestions on how to handle separation anxiety?
June 1st 2011 4:52 am
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[SAMHAIN AND SLEEPER LIE BASKING ON THEIR SUNNING PLATFORMS IN THE CATTERY – FINALLY THERE’S SUN TO BASK IN!]
SAMHAIN: “That was some party last night at Gump’s.”
SLEEPER: “OMC! I saw this morning there were 464 posts!!!
SAMHAIN: “Too bad about those who were having all the bad weather, and couldn’t stay. I think it just missed us here – we only had the high winds. Mama hasn’t walked around yet to see if there are any more downed trees like last time.”
SLEEPER: “Yeah, I hope everyfur was OK. I would have liked to talk some more with…well, with some of the cats.”
SAMHAIN: “MOL – you mean Hunter!”
SLEEPER: “I barely KNOW him!” (blushing slightly)
SAMHAIN: “My point exactly!”
[SLEEPER HUFFS AND TURNS OVER. BOTH ARE SILENT FOR A WHILE.]
SAMHAIN: “I’m bored.”
SLEEPER: [rolling over, sighing] “Me, too. It’s so…sunny!”
SAMHAIN: [sitting up, licking her paw]“Let’s do something.”
SLEEPER: [standing up, stretching] “We could run up the tree to the catwalk and yell names at the squirrels.”
SAMHAIN: [yawning] “Been there, done that, bought the cat toy.”
SLEEPER: [hesitant] “We could write a story, you know, like…Zachery’s.” [her face taking on a smiling, dreamy expression]
SAMHAIN: [rolling her eyes] “Oh, PUH-LEAS-S-S-E-E-E! You’ve been mooning over that tomcat ever since he called you ‘cute’!”
SLEEPER: [blushing, with an obstinate look on her face] “Have not!”
SAMHAIN: “Have too!”
SLEEPER: “Have not!”
SAMHAIN: “Have too!”
SLEEPER: “Have n…”
SAMHAIN: [quickly, rolling her eyes again] “OK! You win! Besides, I like the idea…” [licks her shoulder slowly, thoughtfully, staring off across the lawn]
SLEEPER: [with a little frown of concentration] “What should we write about? We don’t know anything about the wild west.”
SAMHAIN: [leaping up and pacing back and forth] “Let’s write about escaping from the cattery.”
SLEEPER: [looking alarmed] “Oh, no! That would be too scary! I don’t want to leave the cattery; it’s safe here!”
SAMHAIN: [disdainfully] “Not for reals, silly! Just pretends. We’re writing a story, remember? We can write about anything we want to.”
SLEEPER: [eagerly] “OK! Once upon a time there were two kitties…”
SAMHAIN: “No, no, NO! That’s a baby story! We’re almost fullgrown kitties now. It’s got to be more…adult-sounding. Like… ‘it was a day like any other summer day in Michigan, hot and languid…”
SLEEPER: [stamping her paw] “I like my beginning better! Languid, what’s languid?! Why can’t we write it my way?!”
SAMHAIN: [ staring her sister down] “Because I’M the Alpha kitty, THAT’S why!”
SLEEPER: [disgruntled] “Oh, ALRIGHT!”
SAMHAIN: [ softening, putting her paw around Sleeper’s shoulder] “ We’ll leave out the ‘languid’ part.”
It was a day like any other summer day in Michigan, hot and humid. Sleeper and Samhain lay on their sunning boards, lazily slapping mosquitoes off their flanks.
“I’m bored”, Samhain grumbled.
Sleeper rolled over and sighed “Me, too. It’s so…sunny!”
Little did they know that their day was about to become very exciting.
Just that morning the Mama and Papa had left for their first ever overnight stay away from the girls. The Mama had fussed a lot over them, telling them again and again that there was extra food and water set down for them, and their litter box clean and fresh. That they’d only be gone for a night and back again the next day in the afternoon. Sleeper and Samhain could come and go from the cattery as much as they wanted, and they knew, didn’t they, that if anything threatened them out there, that all they had to do was run back into the house. Nothing could get into the cattery, Mama was confident, but for sure nothing was going to get to them in the house. The Papa said, “They’ll be fine. Don’t worry.”
The girls had watched from the cattery gate as their pawrents put their bags in the trunk and then drove out of sight. The first hour or so was fun as they pretended they were two feral kitties loose in the woods. They ran up the tree; fought on the catwalk; yelled at those silly squirrels who have no business being in THEIR tree in the first place! Then they felt hot and sleepy and came back down and napped. Now that they’d woken up, they didn’t feel much like doing anything; even eating seemed like too much effort. So they lay in the sun languidly.
[SLEEPER: rolling her eyes].
As chance would have it, that week a new boy had moved into the neighborhood, and he didn’t like cats.
[SLEEPER: “Oh, NO!!! Is this true?!]
[SAMHAIN (exasperated) “Sleeper, it’s just a story!”]
This naughty little neighbor boy had seen the girls outside in the cattery and he decided he was going to go pull their tails. So he waited till his own parents had left to go shopping, and he snuck across the road to their pen. Sleeper and Samhain saw him coming, but didn’t feel alarmed right away. He was just a little boy after all, and they’d never had any humans hurt them, so for the moment they were more curious than afraid.
He came over to the cattery and opened the gate, calling to them, “Here, kitty-kitties!” As the girls got closer, he sidled his way around behind them and made a grab, first at Sleeper’s tail.
[SLEEPER: “Not MY tail! You’re the Alpha kitty – let him grab YOUR tail!!!]
[SAMHAIN: “Chill out!”]
He sidled his way around behind them and made a grab, first at Samhain’s tail.
[SAMHAIN: “There – you happy?!”]
Samhain bolted the only direction that was open to her – out the cattery gate! Sleeper, finding herself alone with this mean little bully, ran after her sister, right into the tall grass that bordered the paths her Papa had mowed through the field. Meanwhile, the neighbor boy, suddenly feeling scared he might get caught letting the cats out, ran home. The kitties didn’t stick around long enough to see this, though; they were already far from the house when he was hurrying down the driveway.
Samhain was reliving a nightmare from her kittenhood. Something was chasing her, and had caught her at one point, swiping at her head and eye. She’d gotten away, but the pain in her head was terrible, and there was something wrong with her eye so that she was having trouble seeing through it. But that was then, before the Mama came and rescued her. Her eye was fine now, and as she slowed down, she realized that it was Sleeper running behind her, not some monster from her past. She stopped, panting a little as her fear lessened; Sleeper came up beside her, shaking. Samhain bumped her shoulder, and began to groom Sleeper’s face and ears.
Sleeper was looking back over her shoulder, “Is he still chasing us?” she asked fearfully.
“No”, Samhain said, glancing back, too, the way they’d come. She could no longer see the house from where they crouched. “I can’t hear him anymore.”
“What do we do now?” Sleeper asked. She was afraid to go back to the house, even a little uncertain which way to go, not having paid too much attention to direction in her flight from danger.
“Well… I don’t think we should go back yet,” Samhain answered slowly. Sleeper heaved a secret sigh of relief.
“We could wait until the Mama and Papa come home, then it would be safe,” Samhain reasoned.
“But that’s a long time from now!” Sleeper was unsure how long a day was, and the pawrents had said they would be gone longer than that.
“What if we get hungry?” she asked nervously, nibbling her paw. The thought of food suddenly made her feel ravenous!
“We could catch our dinner!” Samhain exclaimed brightly.
“I caught a mouse once, remember? And a snake, too! And you have caught scads of junebugs. How hard can it be? – there’s got to be loads of stuff to eat out here! Come on, Sleep!” And the two of them scampered off through the grass in search of prey.
For awhile they played “cat and mouse”, switching roles as the mood struck them. It was hilarious fun, and they had the whole world to play in, with the warm benevolent sun shining down on them, and the cool grass under their feet, and no worrisome children or other creatures bothering them or telling them to “get down!” or asking sharply “what have you got in your mouth NOW?!” And there were things to catch! Butterflies and crickets! Beetles and worms! Not the bee! – Mama says watch out for those! – Samhain reminded her sister. But no mice. And now they were getting a little tired and drowsy, so they lay down under a shady tree and fell fast asleep.
to be continued...
June 3rd 2011 4:15 am
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They woke together in the waning light, when an owl hooted somewhere in the tree over their heads. Samhain shuddered instinctively, then, waking fully, relaxed. It was only a screech owl, too small to be a threat to them. Sleeper was on her feet, tensed and listening.
“I hear something,” she whispered.
“It’s only a screech owl,” Samhain yawned.
“Shhhh!” Sleeper hissed. “Listen!”
Then Samhain heard it, too – high pitched squeaking coming from a brush pile close by. They both went into a hunting crouch, slinking towards the brush.
“It’s coming from that mound of dead grass,” Sleeper murmured.
They came at it suddenly from different sides, surprising 11 baby mice. Now, as Samhain said, she HAD caught a mouse before. The trouble is, she hadn’t known what to do with it once she had it! Sleeper had no problem with this: she knew PRECISELY what to do, and was quick and efficient about it! She did save 5 of the mice for her favorite sister Samhain, however. She ate 6, which was only fair, since she did most of the work, and does weigh at least half a pound more than her sister and needs the extra food to keep up her strength! MOL! Samhain enjoyed her share, looking at Sleeper with pride and a little awe – never had she known her sister to be more assertive!
[SLEEPER: (beaming) “Gee thanks, Samhain!”]
[SAMHAIN: (giving Sleeper a sisterly nip on the face) “Don’t mention it, Sis!”]
Mama Mouse came back during dinner, and left without them seeing her. Not that she didn’t feel anything seeing her children be supper for a couple of cats, but this had been her fourth litter this season already, and she knew there’d be more before winter. It wasn’t the first litter she’d lost to predators either, but it most assuredly would be her LAST if she stayed around much longer! She shrugged her tiny shoulders philosophically and went on down the hill.
After a brief grooming session, during which time the sun had fully set, Sleeper announced that she was thirsty. As the wind was in the west - blowing across first the lake a mile away, and then, closer to home, the marsh – Samhain could smell the moisture on the air. The two girls headed down the hill towards water.
They’d never been there, never seen it, but they could certainly smell it! It smelled a little of stagnant water, decaying vegetation, and…animals! Lots of them and of all sorts. And it was full of music – insects chirping and the high trills of tree frogs mixed with the low bass of bull frogs. Plus other less recognizable sounds, huffs and snorts; once a high-pitched scream which cut off suddenly, as did all the other calls for a few beats…then they started up again. Instinctively, they both sank down, lowering their profiles. On the mowed path now, they crept cautiously, alert to possible dangers.
Abruptly the path ended at the border of a vast meadow, freshly cut for hay by their pawrents’ neighbor who kept horses.
[SAMHAIN: Thanks, Mama, for the little extra touches of information! ]
[THE MAMA: Don’t mention it, Samhain.]
From here they had an unobstructed view of the marsh. They hunkered down in the grass by the edge of the meadow to watch. Directly ahead they could see a Mama Deer grazing with her two twin fawns. Sleeper found herself fascinated with the fawns. She could tell they were just babies, but they were HUGE! She glanced back at Samhain, whose attention was focused further away on the marsh, then forward at the closest fawn who also was regarding her with wonder and curiosity. Almost against her will, Sleeper stood up and walked over to the young deer, touching noses. Simultaneously, Samhain’s and the Mama Deer’s heads shot up. Samhain let out a sharp whisper-hiss “SLEEPER!”, and Mama Deer’s head went down and she gave a loud snort. Neither made any further moves…yet.
Sleeper put up a paw and patted the baby deer’s face. “You’re so BIG,” she whispered. The fawn snuffled Sleeper’s head, then gave her a little lick on the top of her head. Mama decided this was quite enough interspecies interaction, and giving another snort which required no interpreter to convey the message “Leave my baby ALONE!”, moved forward quickly, stamping her foot and shouldering her young one back.
Samhain, by this time, had pushed Sleeper away towards the marsh. They sprinted towards the water, coming to a halt a little ways from its edge. They both looked back for pursuit, but Mama Deer had lost interest, as had the twins.
“Did you SEE that?! That baby kissed me! How can a baby be so BIG? Are there other creatures out there so much bigger than us? I want to see EVERYTHING!” Sleeper was excited with the newness of it all!
“You should be more careful,” Samhain warned with a frown, rapidly grooming her left shoulder. She was less enthusiastic about discovery of creatures bigger than herself. Sleeper didn’t realize that all animals weren’t friendly.
Now that they’d reached the water, Sleeper realized how thirsty she was. She took a step and several frogs plopped into the marsh in front of her. She made to pounce in their direction, and immediately jumped back, shaking her paws – it was all mud! Gingerly, she set her foot down again in the spot which looked driest. She wrinkled her nose as the ground squelched under her paw. To her astonishment, a small brown furred animal swam up at that moment, and seeing her dilemma, lisped “Like thith,” and proceeded to leap up out of the water onto the nearest grass hummock, skipping from mound to mound till he was on dry land.
“Thanks,” Sleeper said to his retreating tail. “Pleathed to be of thervithe!” was the reply.
Sleeper and Samhain hopped as nearly in his previous path as they could, bending down to the water’s surface for their drink. Sleeper was inclined to complain about the duckweed floating in the water, and kept fruitlessly pawing at the tiny plants, dredging up more mud and flinging some of it on herself and her sister. Samhain was about to tell her to cut it out when her attention was diverted by the intrusion of another creature just her size with a masked face and striped tail.
“Out of my way!” he hissed, baring his teeth. He was followed by another, obviously his sibling, so alike did they look. Samhain arched her back and bared her own fangs, unsheathing her claws. Still, wisely, she retreated, pulling Sleeper with her.
“What WAS that?” Sleeper asked in a low voice as they made their way around the edge of the marsh.
“I think I heard the Mama call them raccoons. She said once they can get bigger than us and pretty mean. I don’t think those were full grown.”
“Well, they’re certainly RUDE!” Sleeper gave them a backward shoulder lick. Samhain giggled.
They spent some time then playing at chasing frogs by the water’s edge. They were never able to catch any since they were unwilling to follow them into the muddy water, but it was fun anyway. Once they were confronted by a rather large, scary-looking turtle with a horny shell and long neck. It had a spiky tail almost as long as the rest of him, and he stank something awful! They decided it was best to avoid him, or maybe it was a her? He/she was laboriously digging in the sandy bank, not much interested in two young felines.
Suddenly, a billed face attached to a long black neck loomed up out of the reeds, honking in a truly menacing way.
“YOU DON’T BELONG HERE!” it blared. It startled Sleeper so badly, all her fur stood up till she looked twice her size! They both took off running, but stopped a short distance away, Samhain giggling and chortling, “You should have seen yourself! You looked like one big furball! He he he…”
“Well, I didn’t see YOU stopping to tell her off!” Sleeper felt a little embarrassed now, but it HAD startled her. Just then they heard off in the distance a sharp yipping cry, followed by another and another. This time, both their furs stood up. They exchanged looks of alarm.
“Let’s get out of here!” Samhain exclaimed.
“Go, Go, GO!!!” Sleeper yelled, putting action to the words.
They raced back to the path and headed up the hill. Behind them they heard the shrill yipping magnified by the walls of the valley, but they were sure the cries were closer!
They passed the spot where they had first entered the path, but kept on up the hill; the house must be up this way! Out of the darkness to their right, a black shape burst through the trees.
“Follow me!” it rasped in a gruff low voice. Samhain was brought up short, but Sleeper immediately adjusted her path to follow in the strange cat’s footfalls. Samhain felt she had no choice then, but to follow her sister and protect her from whatever came next.
There was no doubt now, the hunting cries were right behind them! Ahead loomed the rotting hulk of the shed, which in some time long past, horses had been stabled. And perhaps…chickens? The Mama had never determined any other use for the small two foot high doorway which was open on one side. Into this space the trio ducked, just ahead of the pack of coyotes which was now right on their tails!
to be continued...
June 4th 2011 3:46 am
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The shed’s roof had long ago begun the slow process of disintegration. Most of it was caved in, and over the years different owners had thrown some junk in there that perhaps they weren’t quite ready to part with, but didn’t want cluttering up the yard. The pawrents had unfortunately carried on this tradition [MOL], storing some chicken wire and other fencing materials there, as well as some old garden pots and other equipment. The place was no longer safe for humans, but it offered this dividend for animals – it was defensible. With the gate closed on the other side, no coyote was going to be able to get in through that one small ground entrance when there was one, or in this case, three scared and angry felines guarding the fort! Very soon, the pack saw there would be no sport from this quarter, and took themselves off in search of other prey.
When it seemed certain the danger had passed, the three exited the shed, first slinking out cautiously, testing the air and listening. They could hear the pack back down in the valley now, far from where they stood.
Sleeper turned to the dark stranger, “We can’t thank you enough – I thought they had us for sure!”
“They very nearly DID,” he replied as he walked them back towards the cattery, which they could see now appearing through the trees on their left. Samhain said nothing, glancing suspiciously at the rangy black cat who she recognized now as the silent visitor who had been hanging around outside their pen ever since the pawrents built it.
“How did you know to come?” she questioned, watching his face closely.
“I’ve been following you two all evening,” he answered quietly, “as soon as I saw you weren’t in your pen, and the gate was open.”
“Why would you do that?” Samhain pressed.
“Let’s say I take a…disinterested interest in the two of you.” He smiled, a not altogether comfortable smile, “ I’m curious about you.”
“Are you Samhain’s father?’ Sleeper blurted out.
“Sleeper!” Samhain snarled harshly.
The stranger smiled again, this time in an almost apologetic way. “Yes,” he said.
“You’ve been eating our leftovers,” Sleeper spoke again impulsively.
“SLEEPER!!!” Samhain spit out through gritted teeth. “Will you SHUT UP?!”
Papa waved his paw in a sweeping motion. “It’s alright! Yes, I’ve been eating the food your human leaves for me. I figured it was yours, I could smell and taste you both on it. There’s no shame in that. I’m an opportunist – I take what comes. It’s called SURVIVAL,” he added pointedly, staring at his daughter. Samhain flushed.
They had reached the cattery, and the girls hesitated in front of the gate. The wind had picked up and was starting to blow through the walnut tree. The gate swung a little in the breeze. Papa looked up and off to the west where the prevailing winds swept up the hill carrying the scent of possible rain. “You two better get on inside; I think there’s a storm coming.” Sleeper stepped through the gate, but Samhain hung back. Abruptly she turned about, and glanced at her father swiftly then down at the ground. The words tumbled out: “Why did she leave us?”
Of course, he knew which SHE Samhain meant – her mother, her biological mother.
Shadow, as he thought of himself, sighed. He turned first to Samhain’s sister.
“Sleeper, is it?” Sleeper gave a little nod.
“Sleeper, with you it was the luck of the draw. When whatever it was that startled your mother [THE MAMA: “It was me!”] made her decide to move you to a new location, Samhain just happened to be the closer to her and she grabbed her. If she thought about it at all, she probably meant to come back for you. But…the weather was changing; taking care of two late kittens at that stage when finding shelter and food for herself alone was soon going to be a likely problem, it seemed best to leave be. And as luck would have it, your humans intervened to keep you from starving and freezing to death.” He shook his head, wonderingly.
“With you, Daughter,” he put emphasis on the name, and Samhain flushed again.
“Her name is Samhain,” Sleeper interjected helpfully; Samhain glared at her.
“Samhain…I like that. Samhain, with you the problem is as I just stated it. Winter was coming; survival was the issue. You’d been attacked. Oh yes, I saw it happen,” he added quickly when he saw Samhain tense and start to speak.
“I was there. And no, it wasn’t me!” he overrode Samhain’s protest again.
“In fact, you could say I saved your life. It was your uncle, my brother. We look pretty much alike; I know it’s what you’ve been wondering. You’ve looked at me at times like you were remembering what happened that day.” Samhain didn’t say anything to this; it was true.
“He’d wanted my mate - your mother - and you were in the way. He tried to kill you, but I chased him away, not before he’d gotten a good swipe at you, unfortunately. I see your eye’s healed up completely,” he looked at his daughter appraisingly. “Good for you!”
“The Mama and Papa put medicine in it,” Samhain mumbled reluctantly.
“Yes, well – humans! I suppose they have their uses,” Shadow mused.
“Do you want to come in?” Sleeper asked politely. She was ready herself to go in and have a bite to eat and relax after all the excitement, but she wasn’t quite sure if it would be proper etiquette to simply leave.
“Sleeper – no!” Samhain exclaimed involuntarily. She knew there was no way she would allow this scary-looking, flea-bitten tom in her house, her MAMA’S house. But she also knew, with a sinking feeling in her stomach, that if he chose to come, there also was no way she would be able to stop him.
Shadow chuckled. “No need to be concerned, Daughter. I wouldn’t accept anyway. Domestic life and me are sworn enemies!” With that he cuffed Samhain on the shoulder affectionately. He looked at Sleeper, touching his paw to her face.
“You’ve got an attractive sister, little Samhain, he said in a low growl. Samhain returned it with bared teeth.
“You stay away from my sister!” she said angrily. Sleeper blushed and stepped back uncertainly.
Shadow just chuckled again. “You don’t have to worry. She’s pretty, but no offense, I prefer my women with – how shall we say it? – all their parts intact!” he added wryly.
There seemed to be nothing more to talk about after that, so Samhain backed into the pen, saying awkwardly, “Well, uh…see you around, I guess.” A great gust of wind blew up the hill at that moment, banging the gate home.
Shadow laughed. “I’d say that’s my cue,” he pronounced, almost gaily. “You girls take care of yourselves!” And with a final jaunty salute, he was gone, like a shadow, as swiftly as he had come.
Sleeper stood at the catdoor, frowning after him. “I’m not at all sure that I like that cat. He’s scary!”
Samhain was looking off into the darkness where he had vanished, and answered slowly, “I’m in complete agreement with you.” But Sleeper didn’t hear; she was already inside at the food bowl. Samhain lingered, pondering the strangeness of fate.
“Why us? Why are we the survivors? Why aren’t we out there, feral kitties, or worse – dead?” As no answer was whispered to her from the surrounding Darkness, she unconsciously (and ironically) mimicked her smaller sister, Mama Mouse; shrugging her shoulders, she turned and went into the house.
In the morning, the girls were outside watching the squirrels chase each other through the tree when they heard a car pull up the drive.
“They’re here!” Samhain exclaimed joyfully.
“That doesn’t sound like the Mama’s or the Papa’s car, Sleeper said, with a little frown on her face. It wasn’t, and the girls waited uncertainly to see who had arrived.
The car stopped and three women got out. These were three friends of their pawrents who had been hearing about the cattery and, as they were in the neighborhood, thought they'd stop by for a look. Sleeper had met all three, though two of them, Pam and Karen, she’d only seen when she was a baby, and the memory was very vague. Samhain didn’t know either of these two, but the third, Mary Ann, she recognized as someone who had come to visit in the time before the cattery was built.
“They did a great job!” Pam was saying as they walked up to the cattery. Karen, a skilled craftsman, was nodding as she looked it over appraisingly. “It’s a good size, and it looks strong,” she said. Mary Ann had spotted Sleeper and Samhain, “Oh, look! There are the girls!”
“Sleeper’s gotten so big!” Pam exclaimed.
“And look how pretty and sleek that Samhain is,” Karen was saying.
This was all Samhain needed to decide it was time to disappear. She turned tail and was up the ramp into the house in a flash, with Sleeper right behind her!
“We scared them away!” Mary Ann lamented. Pam said, “That’s exactly what they should do when something unknown enters their world. Go to safety.” Karen was nodding agreement. “Those are two very smart kitties!” she said.
Sleeper looked at Samhain where they were hiding just behind the catdoor. “We ARE very smart kitties…NOW!” she giggled. Samhain grinned.
At this point, Karen was at the gate and noticed something odd.
“The gate’s not latched,” she said with a puzzled frown.
“Oh, my – do you think they left in such a hurry they forgot to latch it?” Mary Ann said with a little laugh – she was well aware of how long it had been since the Mama and Papa had taken any time away from their babies and work!
“That doesn’t seem likely,” Pam said, coming over to inspect the gate.
“Well, it SHOULD be latched,” said Karen, decisively, and threw home the bolts. Thus, order was restored to the Sleeper and Samhain’s tiny universe.
Later that day, another car pulled into the driveway. This time it WAS the Mama and Papa! Happy greetings were had all around. Finally, the Papa stood, cradling Sleeper in his arms the way she liked, and the Mama was crouched down by Samhain, running her hands down her flanks, giving and receiving numerous headbonks, and scratching Samhain under her chin in just the right spot, and saying, “So how was your day without us? Any excitement while we were gone?”
Sleeper and Samhain looked at each other, but didn’t say a word. They just purred!
June 11th 2011 10:41 am
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It came to us this morning as we enjoyed our Fancy Feast Grilled Chicken, and the Mama read to us diaries of some of our friends, that an acknowledgment needs to be made. We’ve all been hissing and spitting a little lately about “fleas” and unreceived messages, but the truth is, we wouldn’t be receiving ANY messages if it weren’t for the Catster staff. They have made it possible for us to establish friendships with all you most excellent kitties, not only here in the US, but across the world! Now that’s pretty amazing, really. And I don’t know about the rest of you, but it seems like they have fixed most of the fleas now, too.
So, we happily raise our catnip tea to the brave and stalwart cats of Catster for making this all possible! Cheers!!!
Oh, another thing. Zachery Kolohe' Rider , you've started a trend. Check this out, furs: Trucker Kitty the story (Part I) . A good beginning to what promises to be a great story!
So, as DA TABBIES O TROUT TOWNE would say: OK, then.
June 23rd 2011 2:29 pm
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It was inevitable. The Mama went into this knowing that sooner or later we wouldn’t be able to resist using that sandpit as a litter box. What she hadn’t known was how virtually impossible it was to clean our waste out of that sand! It’s not like clay litter – it just doesn’t clump neatly, especially when it’s already moist from rains. Anything liquid just washes through, permeating the entire pit. Which is OK at first, as the liquid mostly sinks down to where the soil starts, and further rains help to wash it down.
But eventually, there is a point of saturation. The Mama, upon her first attempt to clean the pit was hit with a flash of realization. Well, OK - what she was hit with were the fumes wafting up from where she’d dug into the sand with the litter box spoon! Down below that innocent surface was the makings of a kitty cesspool.
She wasn’t able to get in there immediately to fix the situation, and so far the temperature was cool, and off and on rainy, keeping the problem under control. But Tuesday, she and the Papa were out there with shovels, first digging the stinky sand out of the pit, then replacing it with fresh sod. The weather was so obliging as to rain right after they’d planted the sod, helping to set it, and also driving us girls into the house and away from our digging around the edges of the muddy sod blocks. Something I especially seemed to be enjoying!
By the time of this sand relocation project, we were neither of us using our inside litter box, so it worried the Mama a little how we would react when the sandpit disappeared, but she hoped since it had really only been less than a week, that we would easily go back to the former.
Sleeper, always easy-going and taking the path of least resistance, immediately switched back. Me, the Mama wasn’t so sure about. She didn’t see me use the box – only Sleeper, and she couldn’t tell if there was any place else in the dirt of the pen that looked more scratched up than usual. (We had dug a few small holes, but she had seen mole trails through the pen and thought we were digging after those. Can you imagine the nerve of those moles, digging through OUR pen?! And I couldn’t catch one, darn it!!!) So if I wasn’t using the box, and she didn’t know for sure that I’d relieved myself somewhere else in the pen, where HAD I gone, or worse, was I holding it in?!
There was great rejoicing this rainy morning, when the Papa said, “I think Samhain is in the box!” Sure enough, they could both hear the scritch-scritch and it wasn’t Sleeper, because there she was asleep on her blankie on the other side of the Mama’s table. I, of course, accepted their lavish praise as no more than I deserved for being the most excellent kitty that I am. And as far as they know, there are no surprises under sofas or at the back of closets. My lips are sealed on this subject.
June 27th 2011 1:54 pm
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We are 9 months old today (give or take a little), and the Mama and Papa have decided this is our Coming of Age day - we are all grown up now. Hurrah!!! And now I have to alter this diary to say this is a-MAZING!!! By some strange crossing of stars, I am CAT OF THE DAY, too!!!! How did they know, those Catster Cats?!
Anyway...wow - this is cool - in honor of this special day, we’ve made up another story. This one starts out pretty much like the other. We are lazing around in the pen after the Mama and Papa have left us on a trip out of town........
It was hot and sunny, a beautiful day in Michigan. Samhain and Sleeper were stretched out on their sunning boards; Samhain was grooming her sister after they’d spent the morning chasing each other up and down the tree.
The Mama and Papa had been gone less than thirty minutes. As usual, the Mama had fussed for an hour setting up extra food, water, and a second litter box, thanks to Ingen's suggestion, out in the pen where they’d covered up the sandpit. She was, however, even more obsessive about it than normal since this time they were leaving for two days instead of one. They had an appointment to look at a large collection of books on the other side of the state, and they were going to tie it into a library book sale the next morning in a town halfway in between.
“Since you two are so mature now, and handled being left alone so well the last time, we know we can trust you not to get into any trouble if we’re gone just a little longer,” the Mama said, giving Sleeper a chin scratch and Samhain a headbonk. She and the Papa had never found out about the girl’s wild adventure on the pawrents’ last trip away from home. The little neighbor boy who had opened the gate to tease the girls had never worked up the nerve to come back, and the pawrents’ friends who had closed the gate later after the girls were already back in the pen, never told the Mama or Papa about it, not wanting to embarrass them, as they thought, for having accidentally forgotten to latch the cattery.
So, the girls were relaxing, a little bored, once again not imagining how exciting things were shortly going to become.
“WAKE UP you two, "I need your help!" a raspy voice suddenly boomed at them from outside of the cattery. Sleeper and Samhain were on their feet and halfway up the ramp when Samhain realized it was her father, Shadow, who was yelling at them.
“What do YOU want?” Samhain said with a touch of irritation. She didn’t appreciate being startled into flight like that. It was embarrassing. Sleeper had come back down the ramp as well, and stood timidly a pace or two behind her sister.
“Hello, darlin’ – you’re looking plump and pretty!” Shadow purred to Sleeper. Sleeper just blushed and didn’t answer.
“And you’re looking pretty fit, too, daughter. They feeding you good?” Shadow gave Samhain an appreciative once-over.
“We’re FINE - now what is it you want?” Samhain asked, annoyed, lashing her tail a little.
“Girl, you should learn some manners. Aren’t you going to offer your old Dad a bite to eat? Sleeper, luv, fetch me a bite, won’t you, please? There’s a good girl,” he said as Sleeper scampered up the ramp into the house, returning quickly with the remains of her breakfast, which she dumped through the wire mesh of the pen.
After Shadow speedily bolted the food, he licked his paw and proceeded to clean his face. “Sleeper’s father has been kidnapped,” he said casually between licks.
Samhain, who’d been chewing a bit of nip to calm her nerves (her father always seemed to have a less than happy effect on her), choked and coughed noisily, spitting bits of nip around.
“Wha-a-a-t?!” and “Oh, NO!!!” Samhain and Sleeper exclaimed simultaneously.
“Of course, maybe kidnapped isn’t quite the right word…” Shadow mused thoughtfully. “But if you say ‘catnapped’ that gives a whole other connotation, doesn’t it? Maybe it should be ‘KIT-napped’?”
“Do you have to take lessons to learn to be this irritating or do you come by it naturally?” Samhain asked sarcastically. “Just tell us WHAT HAPPENED!”
Sleeper was wringing her paws in distress. “Yes, please! Do you know where he is? Is he OK? What can we do to help?!”
“I was getting to it, daughter, if you’ll give me a chance. Geez – just like your mother - a sharp-tongued harpy that one is!” Samhain harrumphed, but made no other comment.
“You see, it was like this. Siddhartha - that’s your father, Sleeper - you never met your father, did you, luv?” Shadow interrupted himself. Sleeper shook her head.
“Well, your father was a pretty special cat, a real prince of cats. He’s what you call a bilateral, furcated, hemi-striated, royal spotted tabby. There are only a few like him in the world, and he was companion to His Royal Highness, the Maharaj of Katni. One pretty rich and powerful dude; made his fortune on the Indian railway, but is putting the money into a new hybrid auto that may be on the market soon. And he loves cats! He especially loved your father, and in his honor, he is naming the new auto:
the City Cat Car which runs on nothing but compressed air, can be refueled at "air stations," and has a top speed of 68MPH and a range of 125 miles. Unfortunately, some Somalian pirates - very bad men, got wind of this hybrid auto and wanted a piece of the action, so they stole Sidd intending to hold him for ransom. They weren’t counting on Sidd’s resourcefulness. Sidd jumped ship and swam till he found a floating piece of driftwood. He was on that plank for two days before a Yemen freighter picked him up. Happily they were all cat-friendly; even had a couple of sailor cats on board. The three of them had a high-old time singing sailor songs that week that they were at sea. And the fish were outstanding! Sidd was really missing the maharaj, though, and didn’t know how to get it across to these Yemen merchants that he wanted to go home. So when they set into port, he skidaddled!”
Shadow paused in his story and looked with amusement at the two spellbound girls.
“You’re probably wondering how he ended up here in Michigan, when he was way across the world in the Middle East, aren’t you?” They both nodded; even Samhain was too caught up in the story to make a sarcastic remark.
“Well,” Shadow continued. “So fine a tabby as your father was, it wasn’t long before he drew the attention of the Sheik Ali Ahmad Al-Zumor’s third wife Selam, who was looking for a way to win favor with her husband. And here was this handsome tabby cat walking around without a collar (the Maharaj hadn’t believed in them), and Selam knew the Sheik adored cats – it was a perfect match! So, the next thing Sidd knew, he was in the harem eating saltah and yellowfin tuna on pita bread and washing it down with some Yemeni buttermilk.
"The Sheik was delighted with Sidd! And Sidd had learned some fine ol’ salty songs from the two sea-cats, so he sang those for Al-Zumor, and the two of them had a great time. But your father was still anxious to get back home, and he tried as best he could to relay this information, but he just wasn’t getting through.
"Interestingly enough, the Sheik had recently purchased another cat, a rare dark chocolate spotted Arabian leopard, which is on the endangered species list. He was buying it on the black market, but as his intention was to release it back into its native land after it’s re-acclimation to the wild, he felt justified in dealing with the smugglers who offered it. The thing is, the smugglers were here in the US. In fact, they were right here in Michigan! And they had recently been given the heads-up that they were under observation by the officials of CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora), so they were afraid to make a move for fear of being busted. It was necessary for Al-Zumor to come to them.
"Well, that was no problem – he had a private jet, and the kind of contacts that allowed him to fly “under the radar” so to speak. He was so enjoying Sidd’s company, though, that he decided to bring him along. To cut this long story short, the officials almost caught him in the act of completing the deal with the smugglers, because Sidd had once again 'jumped ship' as soon as they landed at the little airstrip in Mecosta. It was necessary to load the leopard quickly and leave Sidd behind. Al-Zumor was sad, but there was no choice. So THAT’S how Sidd made it to Michigan!”
“Wow…” Sleeper murmured. “So he met my Mother here after he escaped from the Sheik? And I’m part…fur-cat, hemmy-something royal tabby, too? That is so COOL!!!”
“So, when you said he’d been kidnapped, you meant… when he was taken from the Maharaj?” Samhain was trying to work it out.
“Oh, no, he’s been kidnapped SINCE then,” Shadow answered airily, batting at a butterfly who had that moment, unfortunately for it, flitted by him.
“Who has him NOW?” Samhain asked impatiently, gritting her teeth. Sleeper was back to wringing her paws.
“Well, now I’m afraid he’s in the hands of some rather unscrupulous kitty mill dealers, who want to use him for stud.”
“OH, NO!!!” Sleeper and Samhain cried in unison!
To be Continued…
June 30th 2011 5:30 pm
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When we last left our cat heroines, they had just learned that Sleeper’s long lost father, Siddhartha (Sidd, for short) had been kidnapped for the SECOND time! And was now being held in an undisclosed kitten mill right there in Michigan!
“Oh, this is so terrible!” Sleeper wailed. Samhain was frowning at Shadow.
“What is it you think WE can do to help? Do you even know where he is?” she asked her father.
“Not precisely. We figure it’s one of three places in the state. This is where you two come in - you’ve got contacts all over the country through Catster. We thought you could network with your friends to try to find which of the three, and then we strike!” Shadow pounded one paw into the other in emphasis.
“Who’s this ‘we’?” Samhain asked suspiciously.
Shadow coughed, and muttered nervously, “your mother.”
“NO!” Samhain pushed away from the fence grill, preparing to go back into the house.
Sleeper caught her paw and pleaded tearfully, “Please, Samhain – it’s my father! We have to help him!”
Shadow pressed up against the fence, calling after her, “She said you might have this reaction! You don’t have to see her, if you don’t want. It’s why she sent me. I can get the information from you and go after him myself. She won’t be going into the mill itself with me; it’s too dangerous.”
“Well, WE’RE going!” Sleeper said firmly, stamping her foot on the ground.
“Darlin’, didn’t I just say it was too dangerous? No way am I taking you with me. Besides, how can you go, you’re locked in the cattery!”
“That’s easy! See that slide bolt? Just grab the end in your mouth, push up and then pull to the left; it’ll open,” she said matter-of-factly.
Samhain and Shadow stared at her, and then at each other.
“Is she normally like this?” Shadow questioned, bemused. Samhain shook her head.
“This is new,” she answered.
TO BE CONTINUED...
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