Fur babies, Kitten, Lost pet, pets, Travel

Eat, Play, Love

Recently I’ve been walking with a friend on the Atlanta Beltline where there are loads of people out with their dogs. With no dog of my own going on nearly a year, I’m on a “soft” hunt, stopping walkers with cute large dogs that smile at me to learn where they got theirs.  One such golden retriever encounter sent me to a website where I saw similar smiling pups and cats, too, and I soon landed on an image I couldn’t unsee. 

I’ve already got Bo, an oversized big-hearted orange tabby who recently lost his buddy Louie, also a ginger, but who now seems bored living with just us humans. Adding insult to injury, the vet suggested he slim down and switch to wet food, so his days sans kibble have grown noticeably duller.

If you cast your line out, that cork is eventually going to bob, and while I do like fishing, be careful what you fish for. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say the kitten became an obsession, and of course I emailed Jessica, owner of the kitten’s mama who, as it turns out, lives on a farm several states away in Pennsylvania. Obviously, that wasn’t going to work, but from our exchange I’d learned that the kitten is super sweet, great with people and dogs, and in a week will be weaned and ready to go. Despite the highly impractical deterrent, my husband agreed this was one cute cat. Fast forward a few days and several thousand SkyMiles later and we found ourselves on a plane to Baltimore.

ATL => BWI

My suitcase held a collapsed cat carrier, a dish tub litter box, small bag of litter (which security flagged) and other assorted kitten things–toys, towels, food and water bowls–and in my carry on some reading, a toothbrush and change of clothes.  With so much already invested, in flight my brain kicked into worry mode: With Samantha sleeping outside, what if coyotes get to her before I can? Or as many new adoptive parents fear and experience, what if this family changes their mind? 

Typical Annapolis street

Putting worries aside, we landed and made our way to our Nissan Rogue. The way back held luggage, the middle seat, which I draped with a shower curtain, was dedicated kitten land, and the humans called front. We made our way to Annapolis, Md., every bit as beautiful as I’d heard, and walked around past old houses and the waterfront, which felt equal parts Virginia and New England, all of it quaint, historic and oozing charm.

Faidley’s, Lexington Market

Next stop was Baltimore and lunch at Lexington Market, home of Faidley’s famous crab cakes and every type of seafood imaginable. The baseball-sized crab cake we each ordered was delicious, not too eggy and with barely any filler, and we stood at one of the small round tables to eat, airport style. 

After lunch we headed to Millersville, Pa., passing rich farmland with stripes of green, brown, and gold rolling hills and into Lancaster (pronounced “LANG-ki-ster”), the oldest inland town in the U.S. We stayed at an inexpensive Airbnb in Bird-In-Hand, Pa., and our room was in one of several non-descript buildings behind a pretty Victorian house. Simple enough, it had a double bed, a Bible on the nightstand, two bars of soap the size of foil wrapped pats of butter, and zero Wi-Fi. Driving in we noticed an Amish-owned market selling pies, but arrived too late to sample any. We did see several Amish families traveling via iconic horse and buggy, tops up and wipers going in the mist, and with surprising bright red blinking turn signals illuminating the rainy road. 

Former train depot now Lititz Welcome Center

Dinner was in an adjacent town, Lititz, and we struggled pronouncing it: Le Tits? Luteetz? Leatitz?  I asked a woman on the street who could only offer that she knew it had “tit” in its name, but shrugged her shoulders saying what did she know, she was from Jersey. (It’s LIT-itz by the way.) Lititz was a cute town that reminded us of Decatur, Ga., where the parking meters stop running at 6pm and there are blinking crosswalk lights so cars stop and let you cross. The 18th- and 19th-century houses and shops are well-kept, the restaurant menus fresh and modern, and there are even local wines from Pennsylvania vineyards, so dinner was surprisingly good.

Vines overhead enclosing brunch patio

We got up early and checked out, which meant putting our room key in a bowl on a desk in the main house’s living room, where it seems no one ever goes. A few steps to the car and it was on to Lancaster for breakfast. Google gave On Orange 4.7 stars, so we put our name on the list and waited on Orange Street for a patio table. Swedish oat pancakes, peasant omelets, and attentive, amicable staff made it a memorable spot. Afterwards we saw the Soldiers and Sailors monument in Penn Square and peered inside Central Market, the oldest (1730) continuously running public farmers’ market in the country, but unfortunately, it’s closed Sundays.

Next, we headed to Jessica’s in Shippensburg, Pa., over an hour’s drive, but passing more picturesque farmland. We drove down a long driveway to the back of the house where we saw little faces inside peering out at us. Jessica and her daughter came outside, the daughter holding the tiny kitten they had named Samantha. Mom and daughter both wore long dresses, and on her head, Jessica wore a sheer white net stiff cap which appeared to be in the Amish Mennonite tradition. I read that “The Beachy Amish and Amish Mennonites are the car-driving, outreach focused cousin of the more broadly known horse-and-buggy Amish” (www.beachyam.org), and I thought I’d spotted a Honda Odyssey in their driveway. Her menagerie of cats and dogs greeted us too and Jessica, a mother of five, reminded me of my friend Martee with her similarly pretty face, relaxed countenance, and warm heart she wore outside her body.

Kitten backseat snuggling with stuffed cat

There was no catfishing going on here, and the kitten looked just like her photo. Haphazard patches of orange, black, and white fur wrapped her tiny body accented with a miniature pink nose and pads. We attempted to let Samantha’s cat mama have a final moment with her baby, but instead she walked away tired in the way mothers sometimes do. Samantha slept most of the 9-10-hour drive next to a stuffed cat I got her, which had a battery beating heart inside. Her wake time was typical cat–nibbling on kibble, playing, and even breaking in her first litter box, which “gift” we promptly disposed of. Riding along the highway at night with the inside car light on and me twisting around to observe and applaud our barely 1lb creature’s first litter box elimination, we screamed new kitten parents, but in that moment, I was a proud mama.

The Wild West

To better acclimate Samantha to life at home with Bo, I’ve been watching videos from Jackson Galaxy, an internet cat behaviorist my son’s girlfriend told me about (www.jacksongalaxy.com). His “Eat, Play, Love” approach to successful feline introductions recommends that both cats stay busy and entertained, eat well and get plenty of love and attention. The introductions need to be strategic and slow so each cat associates positive feelings around the other, which Jackson marks as one giant step toward successful catification. By letting them eat together with a door initially between them and then a screen, they’ll realize that spending time near the other brings good things, like tasty meals. Orange tabbies are usually males and calicos usually females, so at least Bo and Samantha have that in common. When the walls eventually come down, to avoid a standoff you should give each a fun focus, distract the kitten with toys and the adult cat with a special treat. Soon there will be a face-to-face, but for now, these cats will snack and stare, a screen between them.  

My sister has remarked, “I can’t believe you’re doing this,” and in many ways neither can I. The house is cluttered and under renovation and things aren’t settled, yet the nagging feeling my current cat is bored out of his mind is disconcerting. What if I occupied a home as the only human surrounded by cats and besides, losing two pets in nine months has left a gaping hole and the house, achingly quiet. 

I weighed 1.24 lbs. at the doctor today!

Only a few days in, I alternate being ready for this sweetheart to grow out of her infant kitten stage and just snuggle with Bo already, to her sidling up beside me and rubbing her sweet face against my leg, and me melting there on the spot. These early new pet days don’t feel the same as when the kids lived at home since their excitement camouflaged the extra work. Instead, it feels a little what dating after a divorce or death might feel like–a little premature, contrived, and unusual to be hanging out with a stranger–but Samantha’s friendly nature and face, which I can hardly take in for all its striking beauty, has won me over and soon will Bo as well. 

Did I need to travel all this way to find a kitten? Absolutely not. Did I need to hurry and barely three weeks after losing Louie go and add another pet to this house? Again, no. None of this involved logic, just extra love that needed somewhere to go. Welcome to our house, Samantha. 

hope, Lost pet, pets, Uncategorized

Cat Tales

Our cat Bo got out last night. Of our two orange tabbies, he’s the more convivial one, the one I’ve taught to shake, and sit, and lie down. He’s the dog in a very large cat’s body. The one who needs to stick around long enough to enjoy our renovation when it’s complete. Why did we even start work on a screened porch if not for Bo?

Disney World for cats

Every escape, he runs out the door, darts left and ends up in the crawl space. Of course on the morning when it’s cold and rainy and a Monday no less, not this time. Last night I searched, really searched. With my husband’s old sweatshirt on and his sweatpants wrapped around me, drawstring pulled tight, I crept army style in our crawlspace hovering wherever there were breaks in wires and ducts and furnaces. I kept thinking, please don’t let some creepy black widow spider fall on my head and just then reached to find the sweatshirt came with a hood. Thank you, God. While subterranean, I phoned my son who always has success pulling this escape artist from the rubble. He gave me some pointers – just move around the perimeter and the minute you see him continue to track him. I know it’s a horrible job, but we know he always goes down there. Do you want me to come over?” Oh how I wanted to say yes, but he’d just left hours earlier to return to college and was settling into his dorm. I declined but feeling the love from my above-ground cheer section was boost enough, though it didn’t produce the cat I was after. 

Resigned, I went to bed, knowing his crawl space antics would run their course and his sweet face would peek out at me under the door in the morning. Up early to light rain outside I returned to the door. No Bo. Back inside to dress in the sooty sweats I’d left in a heap at the door, I crawled some more. Still no Bo. Started coffee and at this point my poor husband got the news, sick since the escape occurred on his watch. 

Have You Seen Me?

Next it was rallying whatever and whomever I could. Texted neighbors, posted to the neighborhood list serve and NextDoor, knocked on doors beside and behind me. Met several neighbors I didn’t know and it dawned on me, most people are really nice. Another sweep of the yard and crawl space entry and back in for more coffee and to craft verbiage for a sign. Which picture would I use to depict this sweet boy? Which one to tug at heartstrings and push someone to actually search their crawlspace? Found it! The one of him lounging on my mom’s old rug. The ultimate pampered and well-loved ginger cat. Who is lost. 

On to the FedEx store where I printed and laminated signs and then to my old neighbor’s house to borow her staple gun. Again, people are so nice and genuinely want to help. My husband called me with an update: he’d crawled into our new cellar and noticed something which had the distinct appearance of recent cat elimination (a highfalutin way to describe it but I’m trying to spare you gross). But for those with human and fur babies, think about how often we discuss such things? When their kids are little, parents ask each other, Did he poop? Was it normal? When did it happen? The parent returning to the nest overjoyed of course to greet the freshly diapered child who’d produced a perfect poop. With pets, it’s more of gathering intel before a dog walk: Did she go when you last took her out? Or with cats who left a horrible mess in their box, one wonders, should I switch his food? Or to find a little present deposited outside the box only to Google an afternoon away poring over what psychological or physiological distresses would bring such behavior. But this wasn’t simply evidence of a cat doing its business on a rainy Monday morning. This was something.

People genuinely want to help.

I made 12 signs and drove the walking route from earlier when I’d knocked on doors. The rain was falling but I worked quickly stapling them to poles, envisioning which were in the ideal location for passing footpath, car path too, since surely my yellow highlighted action items – please search your crawl space, please call me – would get notice however you passed.

Back home inside to drop off my things and head back out armed with tuna, a flashlight and my phone. Around the corner past the condensing units, I saw his sweet face, a fluffy copper visage standing on the side yard’s damp moss bed. We exchanged glances. Him: Where have you been? I’m ready to come in. But because I’m a cat, we have to do that thing we do. I have to walk away out of reach and you have to follow. Me: Get over here you rascal. I’ve been sick with worry! I have tuna, solid white in water. Doesn’t that count for something? The cat and human game moved inside the crawlspace, past the first room, around the corner to where the furnace is. I could tell he wanted a rest, but I had to work for it. A few more feet of crawling and I had him in one arm, my flashlight and tuna in the other. We made our way out and he squirmed a little, but I held tight. 

I have tuna, solid white in water. Doesn’t that count for something? 

Not the least bit ashamed of himself

Once inside, he disappeared, deservedly embarrassed about his antics or appearance, to take a bath and regroup. I needed a warm blanket or drawn bath or something to soothe. I chose coffee, this time with a little sugar. My treat for all that trouble. 

I feel like I won an Oscar and I have a host of people to thank. The lady at FedEx who taught me the lamination machine, took one look at my beautiful cat on my sign and gave me a sympathetic nod letting me know she also has a cat. The guy three doors down who I clearly interrupted, answering the door in his robe and who genuinely tried to help, pointing out areas around his house I could look. The people on NextDoor who commented, cheering on my victory. The neighbor behind me backing down her driveway stopping to hear my story, offering me her yard to explore and eyes full of empathy telling me she’d read my NextDoor post. She passed me later in her car as I climbed the hill walking back toward my house, her daughter’s face pressed against the car window watching the cat lady clutching tuna in the rain fade from view. 

Supervising mealtime

And then there’s my husband who worked all day from home and had to get into the office too, yet seeing my lack of steam, made me dinner. The best leftovers he fashioned from our fridge contents: crisped up Publix chicken tenders sliced atop a bed of kale and cucumbers, and a little parmesan, with a light drizzle of Caesar dressing overtop. And a side of my lentil soup to finish off the pot I made a few days back. Cold and warm, crispy and soft. It all tasted divine and I ate it in bed with Bo at my side. 

Three cups for the day and I’m tired and wired, alternating falling asleep with looking at the clock and trying to determine what to do with the remains of the day since I blew my morning on cat detail. As I do in other emergencies, I bargain with God, Please let Bo be okay and help me find him. Or the bigger recent plea, please let me stay healthy. I promise I’ll be a better person. I’ll eat better, stress less, exercise more. This is my reset if you could just help me this once. I mean it. It seems God is listening. 

Can you spot the distinctive M shaped marking on his forehead?