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Archive for the ‘Cat Tails’ Category

Story time for Max

The little boy walked into the children’s room at the Great Lakes Rec Center to participate in the Words and Whiskers program – Love on a Leash’s latest children’s reading program. He hid behind his mom with his hoodie drawn, peaking out at the visitors to the base.

Max gears up for another reading program - this time at Great Lakes Naval Base.

Then, he saw Max. A big smile spread across his face and his eyes lit up. Soon, he was dumping his hoodie and the safety of his mom to sprawl on the floor with Max the cat. Two friends, reunited after several months.

It was the first night of the new program and our first guest was the same little boy that read us the great haunted house story at the library last fall around Halloween. With a twinkle in his eye and his own books in tow, we went off to the media room for reading time. I don’t know who was happier – our young reader or the fluffy purring kitty sprawled out next to him.

Several reading programs have cropped up around the country using animals. Since many kids have trouble reading out loud especially if they are struggling, the dogs and cats in the programs make a great audience. They just listen and enjoy the attention and scratch behind the ears. No judgment – no critique.

The program is apparently paying off for our little reader. He brought a copy of “Hop on Pop” and a story about a Moose. In the months since he last read to Max, there’s been a great improvement in his reading. On thing hasn’t changed, we still got great sound effects and descriptions of the pictures in the book as only a first grader could describe to his four-legged friend. I do have to say, I think it’s the best rendition of “Hop on Pop” I’ve ever heard.

Too many cats. . .

If you walk into any shelter that takes in cats, it doesn’t take long to notice how many cats are in their care. How many adult cats that once had a home, a family, a warm place to sleep to call their own. It is just overwhelming…

Sun Pacific is a senior cat found wandering the streets of Chicago. She is waiting at Tree House for her forever home.

Why are there so many kitties? The economy and aging population play a very small role in this. The sad answer to the question is this – although cats are America’s favorite pet, outnumbering dogs by 15 million (according to the AVMA), they are the most likely to be relinquished to animal shelters. Too many people don’t get that the cute little kitten could be a 15- to 20-year commitment and in our disposable society dump them and move on.

Here’s another staggering number for you. Tree House Humane Society is in the midst of a trap neuter return program in Chicago’s Humboldt Park. An astounding 65 percent of the cats they trapped last year are friendly strays – 65 percent. As they’ve canvassed the neighborhood, someone has usually been able to pinpoint where the cat used to live before being dumped by his or her family. Even the folks at PetSmart Charities that are providing the grant money for the program were shocked by that statistic.

Many TNR programs do just that – Trap, Neuter, Return. For Tree House, feral cats fall into the TNR part of the program, but strays do not. They are given a second chance and finding a permanent home. The organization took in 300 cats off the streets through its TNR efforts last year.

Yor came in through the TNR program at Tree House and is looking for a home.

Those 300 cats were fortunate to have been taken in by a no kill shelter that considers them “Tree House Cats” for life. That means they will live there until they find a home and will come back if the need to find another home. It also means that those cats didn’t end up at Chicago Animal Care and Control or another open admission shelter where adoption prospects are dim and where many adult cats especially don’t make it out. Tree House is working on building more partnerships with foster homes and boutique pet shops to help more kitties find homes.

My goal this year in this blog and in the Examiner has been to shed more light on the plight of cats in our community. As the cat lady of my neighborhood, I’ve failed on that front so far in 2012.

The dogs have taken over – with pit bull controversies, parvo and puppy mill stories – for the first few months. But, that is changing. Next week I’ll be focusing on a new suburban group that is working on FIV education/adoption and rehoming black cats. We’ll also look at TNR efforts in Lake County and update you on events in the city.

In the meantime, please forgive a typo or two on my blog – like may animal lovers I get all kinds of furry help when I write…and the cats never did too well in editing class. So, meow for now. The Blog is back and check out my stories next week on the Examiner.

Just a little cat-itude…

My best friend has abandoned me…gone over to the darkside…given me the cold paw.

Yesterday was kitty dental day and we loaded up Max and Ellie bright and early to drop them off at the vet. Max sensed it was not a normal field trip (like therapy cat day) and actually went under the bed. I eventually corralled them in the carriers and hit the road for the vet.

Ellie hates to go to the vet. I know that is typical for a cat. But, when her first family abandoned her, the animal control was a vets office and I think she kinda wonders if I’m leaving her for good when we go. So, she sang all the way there.

When they came home later in the day, it was payback time. First, Ellie hid from everyone. Then, she’d run up to me like it was going to be lap time – stop short – give me a look and then go away. She totally skipped lap time during my designated lap hour last night and went to hang out with my husband.

At bedtime, she started to curl up next to me like all was forgiven – then a little light went on in her head – oh  yeah, I’m still mad at you – and she switched sides of the bed.

I thought all was forgiven this morning….but I was wrong. She did breakfast and then promptly hid in the center of the cat condo. A little birdie told me she came out as soon as she heard the garage door go up.

The late Scarlett used to make me pay for an hour our two after any trip to the vet.  However, the cat that really had it down to an art was Smokey Jo – the cat I had growing up. When I would go away to college, she’d make me pay for a good 2-3 days every time I’d come home. I’d need a week-long break at least before she’d begin to act like all is forgiven.

I just need to figure out which spirit she’s channeling and I’ll know how to react.

Sorry to miss the Meow Monday blog post – see what I was up against 🙂

The Late, Great Rhett the Wonder Cat

He was the goofiest kitten I’d ever seen. His ears were way too large for his head. His body was scrawny. He had this enormous fluffy tail and his back legs worked faster than the front. So, he ran funny. When I first saw Rhett at the Tree House Humane Society nearly 20 years ago, it was hard to image that he “belonged” to the beautiful, puffy little kitten next to him in the cage. She was so purr-fectly proportioned – he was far from it.

The two kittens came home with me that day and today’s post is about the little kitten that got into loads of trouble. You see Rhett didn’t so much move into my Wrigleyville apartment as he invaded it. He climbed, attacked, bit and partied when everyone wanted to sleep. He got into so much trouble that first year, he answered to Booger – as in – “You little Booger!”

It may look as if Rhett's relaxing - it's just a ploy to plot his next move.

Each time he got into trouble, he looked at me with his silly little look and purred so loudly that I though a Harley was speeding through my apartment. I talked to my vet and behavioral people at Tree House. Still, the little booger kept reeking havoc in my life. They say in the cat books that male kittens settle down after they are neutered – not Rhett.  Kittens with a buddy get into less trouble – not Rhett.  My kitten was too busy getting into trouble to read any book.  I eventually had a roommate move in with a little male cat – Tin-Tin – and once the two of them started re-enacting the WWF – Rhett settled down a tad.

There was another strange thing about this cat. His first birthday came and went and he kept growing. The vet said he could have some Maine Coon in him and that would explain the continued growth spurt. When he finally stopped growing, he had developed into one of the most handsome cats I’d ever seen.

Rhett as a handsome adult cat.

His head and ears finally matched and the tail complimented his body – he also ran like a normal cat. He still didn’t act like one.

When the cats and I moved into our Edgewater condo, something strange happened each day. I’d leave the house in the morning and the throw rug would be in front of the door. At night, it would be under the front window or in the kitchen. The mystery was finally solved one weekend. Rhett and Scarlett would take turns running down the hall and jumping on the rug – it would slide a few feet – they’d repeat until they hit a wall. So, this cat rode a magic carpet, jumped furniture in a single bound, and worked hard to keep us safe from invisible invaders. Just call him Rhett the Wonder Cat.

Rhett felt that company came to see only him and would jump on anyone’s lap, especially those who he sensed didn’t like cats. When my husband-to-be and I first started dating, Rhett jumped up on Tom’s lap, put his paws on his shoulders and sniffed him out nose to nose. Tom, who wasn’t a cat person at that time, asked if this was normal behavior for a cat. Of course it wasn’t, but this wasn’t a normal cat.

From then on, the boys were inseparable. They wrestled and played games and when Tom’s Jeep pulled up in front of my condo, Rhett was waiting for his buddy to arrive. When we got married and the cats moved with us to a house on the North Shore, he started to shadow Tom’s every move. Yes,  Darth Cat had gone over to the Dark Side.  Tom taught Rhett how to sit and shake hands and Rhett taught Tom how to turn on the water in the sink in the master bath at 3 am by knocking items off the counter and into the sink.

Rhett was all wet after drinking out of the sink.

Rhett loved life and loved most company. But, he didn’t like little boys – even when they grew up into teenagers. He’d growl and hiss and dive under the bed with the nephews came to visit. At an early age, they all joked about the “mean, scary” cat and wisely  left him alone. Since Tom isn’t overly fond of children, it gave them both another reason to bond.

At one point, my sister-in-law came to feed Rhett and Scarlett when we were out-of-town and called me in a panic. Rhett had met her in the hallway and let out a cougar scream before going into hiding. She didn’t know what set him off because she’d left the boys at home.

Well, kind of.

She was eight months pregnant at the time with my future godson Anthony – Rhett must have sensed that there was a little boy in the house and wanted everyone to know that wasn’t fine with him.

Eventually, the senior years took over and Rhett slowed down, jumped less and ceased to get into much trouble. During the summer five years ago, he lost his appetite and eventually ended up in the emergency room. In the middle of the night his true closest friend Scarlett, let out the saddest howl. When the phone rang, we learned his time was almost over.  He died five years ago today at the age of 15  and the house was too quiet for the longest time.  After being called so many nicknames through the years, he has just one title now he’s gone off to the Rainbow Bridge – the Late, Great Rhett the Wonder Cat!

Rhett and Scarlett relaxing in the bathroom

Tom and I had both loved and lost pets growing up. Nothing was as difficult as losing our first true rescue as adults. It took us a long time to recover and when we did, we ended up with another bonded pair and a cat just as goofy as our Rhett (much more on those cats in future posts).  In recent years, I’ve also been active in the animal rescue community helping with public relations, community outreach and education. While volunteering, I learned the craziest thing – people actually return cats for all the reasons I listed above. Seriously!

You know what, the thought never once crossed my mind. To this day, I just can’t imagine what my life would have been like without the late, great Rhett the Wonder Cat! As the little nephews say – R-I-P little buddy!

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