Thursday, March 16, 2006

My Life in Cats Part Three

After Seamus died on the road (this was about sixteen years ago) and Olof and I spent the day painting the house with tears running down our faces, the house was very, very empty without a feline. So we headed over to Bridgeton, Maine where the nearest shelter was located. At the time the shelter was rather a depressing place, small, dank and crowded. (It has since become better funded and is clean, light and warm)

I don't remember how many cats or kittens were in the room because I didn't dare look at them all. I could only take one. So I aimed right for the cage with three kittens in it, picked out a cute tuxedo and said, "this one". He squirmed and wiggled and was obviously going to be a handful. That's alright, I like them that way.

But next to him sat a sweet little tiger who tilted his head to one side (doesn't that always get you?) and beamed a secret message right into Olof's brain.

"No one is ever going to pick me," the kitten cried piteously.

And Olof was a goner.

We drove home with Finnegan squirming and Brendan sitting calmly on Olof's shoulders purring. And that's the way it was.

Olof had found his soulmate and I had a terror on my hands. It was wonderful.

When we got them home we gave them a meal. A good meal. Stinky goodness. They are until their little tummies looked like golfballs and then they immediately set about cleaning themselves up to be proper house kitties, side by side like synchronized wind up toys. They both had colds but we didn't know anything about Upper Respiratory Infections so we figured they had colds and they would get over it. They did. They also seemed to understand that their status in life had gone up about one thousand percent and that was great with them.

That first night they slept on our faces. The next night on our chests and then to our feet where they stayed for fourteen and a half years.

The two of them would race up and down our wooden stairs like a herd of elephants and then do all the cute kitten things like cuddle up together. As they grew up we became a closely knit, content animal family. Finnegan belonged to me ( or vice versa) and Olof belonged to Brendan. Each night, each cat settled onto his private lap. Finnegan slept on my feet and Brendan on Olof's.

Brendan went to work in the wood shop and would sit on the table saw while Olof ran wood through it. He trusted Olof completely. One day Olof ( on his motorcycle) found him walking along our road a ways from our house. He stopped, said, "Brendan, what are you doing?" picked him up, put him in the rear saddlebag and took him home. Brendan hopped out the bag when he got home and said, " That was fun." He's always been a cool guy.

It took about five years for me and Finnegan to bond. I like a challenge, though. But as Finnegan grew (and he was still a handful), we became very close. He would come running as soon as I sat down to watch TV, or he would be waiting by my chair. I got used to balancing a plate around a large cat. After TV time Finny would dash to the bed where he sat on my side waiting. When I crawled in around him he would flop down and allow me to wrestle him in close to my side. I would lay my cheek on him and we'd purr a little. Then, when he had assured himself that all was well, he would move to my feet. But if I woke in the middle of the night I would see his great golden eyes turn to me and with a passionately loving look, he would come back up to reassure me that all was well, and he, Finnegan, was on patrol.

Finnegan was also our "cat in black" keeping an eye out the window for invaders, alien, feline or canine. Sometimes I'd wake to see him on duty, sitting in the bedroom window staring out. And he patrolled the parameters every morning to assure himself that the territory was safe for the family.

He could be a royal pain. Our outdoor rules were: after sunrise and in well before dark. This wasn't a problem in the winter but as spring approached Finnegan would try to push the clock forward. He would start with a gentle but insistent, mrrr. If you didn't respond he started in on a schedule each one getting louder and more demanding. If there was still no action he would delicately take one claw and prick the nearest human skull. This would get a reaction but sometimes not the one he wanted.

But his best morning trick was to sit on the windowsill and bat something slowly toward the edge. Once he did it with a glass of water and neither of us woke up before it went over the edge and onto Olof. Olof's glasses were a good bet for a response too.

He also had a way of running his paws down our glass door and making an awful squeaky sound. And he would dig his claws into the edges of my prized maple kitchen drawers, looking back at me as he picked little chips out of them. Yes, that got a reaction.

We decided that every family has a troubled child and we had Finnegan. It's a lesson in tolerance and love, really. He loved me and he was devoted to me. And I loved him.

He died in my arms at the vets when we decided not to let him suffer anymore after a kidney failure crash. I didn't see it coming. I knew very little about cat health at the time. I'd only had three cats before him, Gandolf who was rough and tough and went off to die alone when the time came and Seamus, who died on the road at a year and a half. I had never heard about kidney failure and the way things were then with animal care I think I was typical. I had never heard of getting a cat a dental exam. If I had, he might still be here because the vet pointed out to me that some of his teeth were badly rotted. I felt horrible about it. I held him and felt him slip away from me and it was just about the more diffucult thing I have ever had to do in my life.

But Finnegan taught me so much. Tolerance and patience and devotion. I also started trying to learn more about cat care and I got a lot of books and read about nutrition. I changed Brendan's diet and got him a check up. With an improved diet, Brendan at sixteen looks great and his fur is soft and healthy.

And when I get to the Bridge I know someone who will be there waiting.


The Meezers said...

Finnegan sounds like a wonderful kitty it's funny how non "cat people" can say things like "cats don't love people like dogs do" but I think they love people more.

Mudpuppy said...

I love reading stories about how cats work their way into people's lives. Also, I love knowing that I'm not the only person who thinks it's "normal" to have my dinner plate in a constant state of motion to keep the cats from eating my food.

I wondered if you had any favourite books about cat nutrition? It seems to be much easier to find articles about quality diets for dogs than for cats.

Scooby, Shaggy & Scout said...

Yes, share some titles if you can!
I'll read them if I don't have a cat laying across the print, that is!
sss's mom Lynne

Fat Eric said...

Thanks for sharing Brendan and Finnegan's story with us. I am glad Brendan has had such a long and happy life. He is a pretty impressive character!

Patches & Mittens said...

Lovely story......thank you!!

=^..^= said...

Finnegan is an amazing cat. Thank you for sharing. :)

~5-Cat Style

Patches & Mittens said...

Mom put up a tribute to Moses today. We all feel so bad, Mom has had water in her eyse....

Anonymous said...

Please do let us know what the best cat care books are - just like baby care, they are hit and miss - and most of us don't have time for a miss! Paul and I had three long-term cats before these three, and we though they all received love and attention and were fed, the "health care" was spotty. Granted, we were poor, we were young, we had babies, etc.

I now have three cats aged 1-2.5. I have a chance to do right by them early, and I want to. One thing that concerns me is the idea of over-vaccinating. I have three indoor-only cats. I know there are immunizations they do not need, and frankly, I've never completely trusted doctors about anything, lol, as much as I may love them, because they are generally trained for the worst scenario.

Cape Cat said...

I have a Finnegan, actually two Finnegans - Boo Radley and Moondawg Radley. They really try to be good and are exceedingly loving, but....

For books on nutrition and cat care:
The New Natural Cat by Anitra Frazier
And Natural Health for Dogs and Cats by Dr. Pitcairn.

Eponine's Cowboy said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Eponine's Cowboy said...

If I arrive to the bridge before you, know that my Ep and I will come along to get in line behind Finnegan and Fergus to greet you.