Up until today, this About Me page was devoted to my love of cats, my work with ferals, and my transition to creating The Pampered Kitty. I’m taking a departure now to talk about my family-run business partners – six cats who have shared my home for as little as 7 and way up to 17 years.
A year or so ago, two of my oldest cats – Shawnee and Precious – lost their lives to kidney failure, within five months of each other. Both of these cats, 17 years ago, were plucked out of a feral colony in a semi-industrial business area – my first association with ferals. Before their rescue, however, kittens from this colony were trapped, socialized, and adopted. Some of the adults, too, were trapped, neutered, and re-released. I remember one particular winter, with over a dozen inches of snow on the ground and car travel impractical, I slogged my way on foot for nearly a mile with a shovel, to dig out a storm drain where these cats hid during the day. It turned out . . . they weathered the snow storm quite well. In fact, they were in much better shape than me at that point, and I still had to make my way back to the house!
I’m not sure why I was determined to rescue these two particular cats. But rescue them I did . . . and learned a lot about socializing a feral in the process. Of course, I very much believe in T-N-R (trap-neuter-return): most ferals are perfectly fine where they are in the outdoors, provided their lives are not threatened, and they are sterilized and caretaked. After a lengthy socialization process, Shawnee and Precious settled into wonderful indoor-only cats, though always with a bit of wariness with anyone but me. Their decline during kidney disease, even with medicine and subcutaneous fluids for support, was expected and so their eventual passing, as sad as it was, was not surprising. Both cats had a great, full life.
Which brings me to Muzzy, my over-sized male orange tabby. Shockingly, he had to be put to sleep, due to uncontrolled seizures, presumably a brain tumor. Muzzy was only seven years old, and I thought I had many more years of him around to drive me zany with his antics! When I think back to all the reprimands of “Muzzy, don’t do . . . this,” or “Muzzy, don’t do . . . that,” I wish I had just cherished him for what he was – a cat who wasn’t happy unless he was driving us crazy! He very much tested everyone’s patience, mostly the other cats at home. Muzzy was much too young to now be gone. So I’m still suffering over his unexpected death, and a tribute to him is a fine way to honor such a curious and unusual cat.
To have known Muzzy was to know he was one of a kind. His quirky name, taken from one of the House Mouse Design mice, was purr-fect, even though at the time of his naming I didn’t know how well suited it would turn out to be. I’ve been told orange tabbies have “big” personalities, are very curious, dominant, self centered . . . if that is true, then Muzzy very much lived up to his orange tabby persona.
Muzzy, along with two other kittens, was rescued by me from a house of 30+ cats and kittens in a rural town in western Pennsylvania. Here was a case of someone who said she loved cats, but did not have the means to properly care for them and yet did nothing about getting help for what was obviously an out-of-control situation. While the cats were fed daily and given water, that’s about all that had been provided. None of them were sterilized or rabies inoculated or treated for worms or fleas or any other ailments. Luckily, I knew someone in the area who did T-N-R, even though many of the cats were routinely indoors. She was a life-saver. This woman stepped in, took over . . . sterilized most of the cats, provided quality food, and flea, tick, and de-worming medication. It was still far from an ideal household, primarily because of the sheer number of cats, but at least they were in much better shape.
So Muzzy did not have a particularly great start in life. He spent a fair amount of time after his rescue in and out of vet hospitals, for coccidia, upper respiratory, and other ailments. Even after kitten-hood, Muzzy was at the vet clinic more often that the other cats. I used to joke with my veterinarian that Muzzy wasn’t happy unless I was spending money on him! And yet his blood-work was routinely normal. So, too, were X-rays. And he always bounced back. This time that did not happen, and there would be no bouncing back.
There was never a dull moment with Muzzy around – the lone male in a household of five female cats. I would say the females were rather unimpressed with the aura of Muzzy, especially since he liked to impose his will on them. He very much needed to be in control. When he wanted to be groomed, Muzzy simply sauntered up to one of the five, thrust his head into the other cat’s face, and insisted that grooming take place NOW! I was always amazed how the other five complied. He was constantly jumping up at imaginary bugs on the walls, loved to scratch the kitchen cabinets, and had a real thing about human toes. I can’t tell you how many times I nearly killed myself, as I walked through the house barefoot, tripping, as Muzzy is licking my toes. Fingers, too, were a delight. Obviously, Muzzy was a cat who loved digits!
The kitchen countertop was always a constant battle – my trying to keep him off, and his insistence that the cool slab of granite was where he belonged. After many “Muzzy, get off the counter” scoldings, he quickly got into the habit of quickly jumping to the counter, then to the refrigerator, and then to the highest kitchen cabinet, even before I could utter a word, where he would wedge himself in the small opening between the cabinet top and kitchen ceiling. It was impossible to pry him out of this space. Far too many times I would go through the house, calling his name, thinking he was lost somewhere and in trouble, only to find his head draped over the side of the cabinet, watching the frantic goings-on, with an amused look that clearly said “try looking up sometime!” The counter also served as a place to find any food that didn’t make its way immediately to the frig. Butter was a favorite. So too was bread. If I forgot to put any of them away, I could expect that Muzzy would be on the counter the moment I stepped out of the room, gobbling up whatever bread or butter was around: many slices and pats were tossed in the trash.
I’m a big fan of jigsaw puzzles – particularly those with 1,000 pieces by White Mountain. I generally have a card table set up, with a puzzle in the works. Never, ever, could I leave a puzzle unattended with Muzzy around. Every inch of the puzzle had to be covered with paper and then weighted down with books. Muzzy was extremely adept at finding puzzle pieces that did not quite get covered. If I was lucky I would find the pieces somewhere on the floor the next morning . . . otherwise, they’re forever lost in the recesses of the house.
From a cat who really understood the game of ‘hide and seek’ to a fascination with unrolling toilet paper, flushing toilets, nail files, and his water bowl, Muzzy’s boundless curiosity, and energy, knew no limits.
And so our household seems a little lost – and very quiet – right now. We’ll get back on track soon, but Muzzy will be missed for a long, long time.