Cat update (this is the clowder so far)

Back in February, we said farewell to our beloved eldercat, Grimoire, who was with us for more than seventeen years, ever since the stray who’d shown up at our door in Wales, Eostre, surprised us with three kittens. We had intended to wait until after Ken went on a trip in March to adopt again, but within two days I was looking at cats online. I hated being home alone. Hated it. It was just too weird and sad.

So off we went to Animal Aid, a shelter that specializes in special needs animals. We went to look at one cat in particular, but we had no chemistry with him. Soft-hearted Ken was willing to take him anyway, but I said, “Let’s just meet some other cats,” and asked the volunteer who she’d recommend. She said, “Come meet Clara.” I stuck my fingers out for her to sniff, but she was having none of that. She bonked right into my fingers for scritchies. And she stole my heart right then and there.

We were told Clara didn’t like many other cats, but she did get along with Max, who had been rescued from the same hoarding situation as Clara. So we met Max, and that was that. We scheduled to have them delivered after I got back from a workshop in early March.

Now, five months later, it’s hard to imagine life without them.

Their size difference isn’t clear here. Seriously, he’s nearly twice as big.

Clara (aka Clara Bug, Little Bug, Pudge) is a short-haired dilute calico and Max (aka Maxamillion Purrs, Maximus Cattius, Snuggle Bug) is a long-haired white and brown/grey calico. I suspect Max has at least some Maine Coon in him, given the shape of his furry head. They are like the Mutt and Jeff of the cat world. Clara is pudgy (the vet says she’s at a healthy weight, but she just looks round) and has short legs and a small head, and because she’s mostly deaf, screams as if she’s being tortured to let you know she’s lonely and doesn’t know where you are. She also makes an adorable, indefinable, almost-cranky noise when you wake her up, and purrs really loudly. Max, on the other hand, has long legs, a long body, a long tail, and an enormous head. His head is at least half again as big as Clara’s, possibly almost twice as big. He has a gentle little miaow that he uses sparingly, a quiet purr, and he moves silently; we are often startled to discover he’s levitated on a sofa or the bed or my desk. Whereas you can hear Clara’s every little thumping footstep, especially when she’s running up or down the stairs.

The shelter thinks Max is about 6, and Clara about 8. It’s especially hard to tell with Clara because most of her teeth had to be removed. She has only her little front teeth, and even when she’s unhappy with you, she barely bites you, and immediately comes back to snuggle with you because she can’t hold a grudge for more than a nanosecond.

Worse, her previous owners were neglectful and her claws grew so long they embedded in the pads of her feet, and two claws then started growing in wrong. Sadly, we had to have them surgically removed because they were causing her pain. Even though I know it was medically necessary, it broke my heart, because declawing is mutilation. Then she had to have a second surgery because the ends of the bone were pressing against her skin and causing her pain; her two middle toes have now been amputated and she walks on the center pad and her outer toes with a little limp. She also looks like she’s flashing the rock-n-roll devil horns, which is appropriate for a cat in this house!

Max, although young, is already in early stages of kidney disease. Right now all he needs is special food, but we’re prepared to do subcu fluids and whatever else as things progress. Cats can live quite a long time with kidney disease, so we expect many years with him. He has a flea allergy and lost a lot of his fur before we adopted him, and it’s pretty much all normal now. As I suspected from the outset, he has an extremely fluffy tail.

But the story, my friends, doesn’t end there. Oh no, it doesn’t. Because before we adopted these sweeties, we were debating between getting an older cat (because my heart breaks for elderly cats who get left at shelters) or two bonded pairs, because the house is big, y’know?

Good thing we only got two cats, because more were coming…

In June, a friend of ours was moving in with her new partner, into a household with a dog, and couldn’t take her beloved 15-year-old cat with her. We here at Casa Dermatis-Meese (aka The House That Needs a Name, Dammit) have a No Cat Left Behind Policy, so of course we took Goose.

Is this an angel or a devil on my shoulder?

Goose is named after the Spruce Goose but we are just as likely to croon, “Goose, you big stud…” He’s also known as the Silly Goose, of course.

Goose is lanky and orange with a triangular face, bigger than Clara but only a pound heavier, and not as big as Max. Goose is not a lap cat. Goose is more of a lie-across-your-boobs cat. Or a drape-around-your-neck cat. His goal in life seems to be attempting to force his nose and, eventually, his entire head into your nostril, or occasionally your ear, all while purring madly.

A couple of days after we adopted Goose, I texted his former owner, “Um, did you forget to tell us your cat is a vampire?” Because Goose also likes to jam his face against your neck and knead your neck like he’s a phlebotomist trying to get your vein to pop up. Turns out he was a bottle baby, so his humans are the same thing as Mom. She did, she said, train him to not actively suckle, cutting down on the number of hickies she had on her neck and face for a while.

Goose may be 15, but you wouldn’t know it. He’ll jump from the floor into your arms with a little encouragement. He’s the most talkative of the three with a wide range of miaows and sounds, including one low sound, when he’s separated from you, that sounds like “Hello?”

We were slowly integrating them until the heatwave hit, at which point we bought a window AC, installed it in my office (which is upstairs, along with the master bedroom), and said, “Okay, cats, you now all live together in the safe temperature zone. Deal.” There’s still some hissing, a bit of yowling, and the occasional tussle, but they’ll all sleep on the bed with us, and it’s the happiest feeling in the world. In fact, today while watching TV, I had Clara on my lap, Goose leaning against my left thigh, and Max against my right calf. All within inches of each other. (Of course, there were unhappy noises later when they were all hungry and cranky and in the stairwell, which is a choke point, but still. Triple snuggles!)

We’re already planning on cat #4, a super-sweet, friendly outdoor cat that some friends have been caring for. Lydia has some behavioral issues but we’re confident we can work with her. We just don’t want her to have to fend for herself in an apartment complex parking lot anymore, you know? So that’ll probably happen in September or early October (since I’ll be away for a week at the end of September).

We have wonderful, snuggly, loving, purring cats, and the house is a home once again.

This is the clowder so far… Top: Clara; left: Goose; right: Max

If you’d like to get this sort of information—and more!—directly in your In Box each month, you can sign up for my newsletter. Each issue has publication news about stories, collections, novels, and other fun stuff. BONUS: you get a free short story every month! What are you waiting for? Subscribe today!

Want to chat about this post? Join me on Facebook or Twitter.