Still Life, With Cats

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The infinite pieces of my heart

A couple months ago I was called to the center to pick up a super tiny little kitten, only about a day or so old.

She’d been found, abandoned, in someone’s back yard. They tried feeding her but she refused, so they brought her to a rescue, in the hopes that someone else would have more luck. It was clear she was brand new – still had the umbilical attached, and her eye slits barely visible. She was a tiny little thing, but apparently her lungs were well developed, because that wee baby was LOUD.

I took her home and named her Feuilletine (it’s a baking thing, go look it up) and tube-fed her a couple days, until she finally decided that latching onto a bottle nipple was a more acceptable method of obtaining food.

Her eyes opened and she grew.

And grew

And grew.

She hit the super chompy stage that all kittens reach, so we got her a playmate, Praline.

She and Praline became the absolute best of friends. They charged around the house together, regularly chomped on each other’s faces, and were constantly snuggling during naptime.

Today these two adorable buddies were adopted, together.

And I am so happy. This is why I foster, so that they can grow up and thrive, and go on to fill someone else’s house with purrs and snuggles and love.

‘Tis the season for Holidailies.

Oh hi again

Woohoo, it’s December, which means it’s time for Holidailies again! This is the 24th year, and we’re still running it, and every year I’m so happy to see all the familiar faces (plus some new ones) logging back in to their somewhat dusty spaces on the internet to update us on their lives.

Not a whole lot has changed around here since last year. We’re still fostering kittens, I’m still singing with the vocal ensemble, we’re still both working from home, and I’m still doing a lot knitting and baking.

So speaking of cats and kittens, for the past 12 or so years we’ve put up a tree but not bothered to do much in the way of decorating, because ever since we got Rupert and Ingrid, we’ve had cats in the tree and there was just no point in putting anything on it since they were going to climb up and whap it off anyway. We have joked that our tree has been self-decorating, and last year we even leaned into it and basically decorated the entire tree with sparkle ball toys, which the cats then industriously knocked onto the floor and scattered all over the house throughout the month of December. It was highly entertaining for everyone involved.

This year, however, we are trying something different. This all stemmed from me stumbling across this a while back, and on a whim, I posted to Facebook ‘Who do I know who can build this for me?’

Fast forward a couple months and a string of emails with an awesome guy who does woodworking as a hobby and was happy to take on the challenge for a little cash, and here is our new Christmas tree.

It’s multiple wood pieces that can be disassembled for storage. There’s holes in the outer edges of all but the bottom tier, so we can hang ornaments (or in this case, jingle bell cat toys), and there are pieces of carpet scratching material on the main sections of each tier so the cats have something to grab onto when they’re jumping up. Plus we still have a ginormous bag of sparkle balls from last year so I spread out a dozen or so among the shelves.

The cats weren’t too sure at first, because it was different and new, but after a couple days, now we occasionally hear bells jingling and see paws coming up to whap at the toys, or hear someone thunk onto a level in order to steal yet another sparkle ball from the ‘branches’.

We’ve still got our fake tree, so maybe some year we’ll go back to that, but since it’s basically been a seasonable climbing structure for over a decade anyway, now we’ve made it official. Plus it makes the house feel a little more festive, without shedding little plastic needles everywhere, and it’s entertaining the cats, so I call it a win.

‘Tis the season for Holidailies.

It’s beginning to look a lot like…

This morning we finally put up the tree. The box itself has been sitting in the living room for the past week but we just haven’t had the time or energy to deal with it, especially since Richard has been sick. But this morning I had to get up early anyway to change the incontinent kitten’s diaper, so I cajoled him to wake up with me, and after the round of our usual chores, we finally set it up.

Guffaw was extremely helpful.

A grey cat with wild eyes sitting on top of the base of a Christmas tree

He had to make sure we’d assembled it correctly by inspecting from the outside…

Two grey cats staring at a Christmas tree

…and from the inside.

A grey cat peering from inside the Christmas tree.

We’ve ordered this year’s ornaments, so there’ll be an update picture early next week. We’re still finding ping pong balls and googly eyes from last year’s decorating scheme, since Guffaw made it is his (successful) mission to remove Every Single Ornament from the tree, and I suspect this year’s theme will have similar results.

Tis the season for Holidailies.

The other side

This morning when I went to check on the foster kittens currently residing in our bathroom, one of them was dying.

This isn’t the first foster kitten I’ve had die, and I know it won’t be the last – when you take on the fragile ones, you have to go into it knowing that not every little one will make it. But it is hard. Every single time. Because I second guess myself. I question everything I have done. What did I miss? What was the magic bullet that, if I’d only seen it in time, would have saved them?

Sometimes it’s because they’ve been sick (there are horrible things that wee little kittens can get, and there is only so much modern science can do) and sometimes it’s because they were too compromised before they ever came into our hands, and their little bodies just didn’t have the strength, no matter how much care and medicine we provided. And those deaths are hard, even though I knew the reason, because my goal in fostering is to save them, not to lose them.

But this little one – this was one of the ones that are the hardest. Because there weren’t any signs. Just…alive one night and dying the next morning.

There are so many things that can go wrong during development, and I know, logically I know, that especially this time of year, when the momma cats are on their third litters and their bodies just aren’t capable of giving those poor babies everything they need anymore, that sometimes those little bodies just aren’t capable of making it anyway.

But logic doesn’t matter when you’re holding a tiny, frail body in your hands, watching them die, doing everything you can, knowing that it won’t matter, but doing it anyway because maybe, just maybe, this time it might be different. Just this once.

‘Tis the season for Holidailies

The sweetest things

So I know technically I am not the one who made these, and also technically it happened yesterday, but I am going to use this anyway.

Friday we picked up a very pregnant, extremely friendly little foster cat. Late last night I went in to check on her and noticed that she was having contractions. So for the next hour or so, I sat on my bathroom floor next to her (occasionally offering her pets because in the beginning she kept shoving her head into my hand) and watched her give birth.

After all these years fostering, I’ve only managed to catch a glimpse of the birthing process once before. It was amazing, and disgusting, and holy crap did my lady parts cringe in sympathy at how quickly a momma cat can go from normal to fully dilated (we’re talking minutes here). Also the sound of the mom eating the afterbirth is….not pleasant. At *all*. But it’s all part of the process, and momma and her five brand new babies are doing great so far. And best of all, I get the bonus of having super tiny foster kittens without the usual work of bottle feeding, because they’ve got an excellent momma to do all the heavy lifting.

Momma is named Valentina, because she is the sweetest, friendliest little cat who is desperate for all the love, and we named all her babies after the different types of love (in Greek).

You can follow their progress at House of Floof (look for the hashtag #LoveLetterKittens) if you want to watch them grow.

Making a thing a day for Thingadailies.

We can all agree this was inevitable

What do you do when it’s February and you have committed to making a thing a day, and you have a bunch of random cardboard boxes plus a giant roll of duct tape and minimal construction skills but lots of enthusiasm?

You build your cats a tank, that’s what you do!

And then if there happens to be, in the house, a cat named Sherman, you *know* what the next step had to be.

You’re welcome.

Making a thing a day for Thingadailies.

Grey tiger, burning bright

In September of 2009, fresh from the loss of both Tangerine and Sebastian within the space of just a couple weeks, Richard and I went to adopt a kitten. We’d seen a picture of Ingrid on Petfinder, and fell head over heels in love with her from that, but knew that she would need a friend. When we went to the rescue to meet her, there was a little black and grey tuxedo floof who was pretty cute, but already pre-adopted, and two little grey tabbies, who were careening at top speed around the room, literally running sideways on the walls. We picked one of the little grey tabbies as the second kitten, and we can’t really claim to have been all that surprised by what he turned out to be.

A small grey tabby kitten sitting in a cat tree
Rupert, aged 6 weeks, 2009

Rupert was extremely active, and also extremely intelligent. Every time we didn’t think a kitten could get somewhere, he would find a way. That first Christmas he scaled the tree like it was just another giant toy, and ever since then our ornaments have been the self-placing kind. He could jump incredible heights – to the top of the fridge in kitchen, to the top of the curtain rail in the bathroom – there was really no such thing as a Rupert-safe zone. We invested in a number of cups with lids, which we referred to as Rupert-safe cups, because when he was younger he absolutely delighted in tipping over water glasses. A friend mentioned, based on her own grey kitty that Grey Ones Are Trouble, and it became Rupert’s calling card. We used to look at each other over those first few years, and jokingly comment that he would calm down when he was older. It was only in the last few months that he ever did.

Two grey tabbies sitting next to each other
Rupert with his newest minion Guffaw

He turned twelve this past August, which doesn’t seem old enough for anything to happen, but life doesn’t always work the way we wish it would. Suddenly things started taking a turn for the worse. Without exploratory surgery we won’t ever know with 100% certainty that he had GI lymphoma, but all the symptoms fit, and it was clear what we had to do. The vet came over this afternoon to help him go.

We’re going to miss you so much, Boo.

Eye spy

Why yes, decorating a Christmas tree with a whole bunch of lightweight plastic ornaments in a house with a quartet of extremely energetic kittens who all like to scale the tree and view ping pong balls as one of the Best Toys Ever was a BRILLIANT decision, why do you ask?

I’ve picked up at least 20 so far and I keep finding more as I walk around.

Last night when we were decorating, Guffaw was going absolutely crazy, charging up and down the tree and smacking ornaments off as if we’d basically given him the Coolest Toy Ever (which, admittedly, we did). So I have a feeling that every morning we’re going to have to make the rounds and collect and rehang a whole bunch of ping pong balls (or else alternatively we could just put them in a bag and then perhaps by the time the tree needs to be put away again for another year, he might have single-handedly (single-pawedly?) removed all the decorations for us.

‘Tis the season for Holidailies.

The return of the self-decorating tree

We finally put up the tree. We’d actually been dithering about whether we wanted to do any sort of decorating at all since Thanksgiving, considering the state of the world (waves hand vaguely), and also the number of excitable foster kittens still in residence, but then we came up with An Idea (which I will talk about tomorrow), and so tonight the tree went up.

Foster kitten Chantilly and resident cat Guffaw took on the roll of Tree Inspection Brigade as we attempted to unpack the pieces.

Once completed, foster kitten Pickle joined the Inspection Brigade to make sure that the tree was assembled correctly.

And then we sat back and waited. Want to take a guess who was first up the tree?

Nope, it wasn’t who you think.

Yes, that would be Timmie, the largest cat in the house, who launched herself halfway up the tree. There are many reasons why we are glad we switched to a fake tree lo, those many years ago, but one very important reason is that they are extremely sturdy.

Don’t worry, though. Guffaw made *quite* sure to live up to our #GreyOnesAreTrouble lifestyle.

And thus, the self-decorating tree continues for another year.

‘Tis the season for Holidailies.