My three boys


Ollie, vanquisher of monsters
Peggy hated cats and, atheist though she is, would awaken screaming from dreams in which screeching Satanic felines were breaking into our house. When our schnauzer, Baxter, died in 2010, Peggy surprised me by suggesting that we go to an animal shelter the very next day to get a dog—after our first schnauzer died, Peggy grieved for years before she was ready for another dog. When we found no dogs we liked, we visited the cattery and Peggy fell in love with the first kitten we saw. We named him Brewsky, and he is now five. I never felt as close to him as I had to various dogs, but I enjoyed him enough that I thought it would be fun to get a second cat. Peggy argued against this for two reasons. The first was that it would mean less attention for Brewsky, and the second was that we both doubted that Brewsky would accept a second cat.

Smokie, licker of glass
In mid October, a friend died, and we temporarily cared for his two year old Persian, Smokie. I read that the best way to introduce a new cat to a resident cat is to keep them completely separate for a week, so that was what I attempted, but it made both cats miserable. After three days, I put Smokie in the laundry room behind a baby gate so that he and Brewsky could at least see one another. Brewsky’s response was to hiss (at least during those brief periods that he came out from under the couch) and Smokie’s to yowl. Given how bad things were going, I questioned the wisdom of keeping them apart to any extent, so I removed the baby gate, and within two days, they were taking naps together. I immediately turned up the pressure on Peggy to get a second cat.

She demurred but her resistance had been weakened by how well Brewsky accepted Smokie, so when we were walking around the mall two Sundays ago and came upon a new Petco store, we went inside, and lo and behold, they had rescue cats. We singled out three with whom we played for over two hours before settling on a gray kitten named Detroit Tony (so named because he and his littermates had been dumped on the side of the Detroit Lakes Highway). I would have taken him home then, but Peggy said she first wanted to visit the cattery where we got Brewsky, and it was too late to go that day. When we didn’t find a cat we liked the next day, we raced across town to Petco in the hope that Detroit Tony was still there. He was, but not by much because one application had just been rejected.

Brewsky, scrubber of tails
When we got Tony—who we renamed Ollie—home, we ignored the book recommendation about isolating him for a week, and instead plopped him down between Brewsky and Smokie and waited to see what would happen. The 2.8 pound Ollie immediately astonished us and our 16.5 pound Brewsky by walking right up to him and smelling his nose. Peggy and I held our breaths while Brewsky decided whether to open his heart or his fangs. There soon followed a regular smell fest with the two cats sniffing one another from bow to stern. When they were done, Ollie and Smokie went through a similar getting-to-know-you routine, after which the three of them played chase. By Tuesday, Brewsky was bathing Ollie like a mother and the two of them were sleeping together, often with Ollie cradled between Brewsky’s legs. (Ollie looks much bigger, and Brewsky much smaller, in the photos than in real life.)

I have become more bonded with Brewsky in the past few weeks—since first Smokie and then Ollie moved in—than in the past few years, the reason being that introducing other cats into the household has opened his heart to a depth I never knew he possessed. For instance, after he got tired of hiding under the sofa following Smokie’s arrival, he turned to me for reassurance, and his usual Stoic demeanor gave way to a touching vulnerability. I am only troubled by two things. One is that I can’t discipline Ollie without upsetting Brewsky, which means that I have to go to where Ollie is misbehaving and quietly redirect his behavior even if he’s on the other side of the room clawing the upholstery. The second thing is that Brewsky can’t discipline Ollie without upsetting me. He will occasionally pin Ollie between his legs and nip him repeatedly, causing Ollie to cry like he’s being murdered. Sometimes, I can connect Brewsky’s actions to something Ollie did, but other times, it just looks like a display of dominance. Whatever is going on, I don’t think it would be right to interfere.

Abused cats forced to sleep on minuscule bed


My only sad news is that Smokie moved to his new home in Portland on Saturday. I so wanted to keep him that I had fantasies about the two of us fleeing to Idaho. As it was I could but write a letter to his new family asking that they let me have him back if things don’t work out.

Smokie’s breed is an example of human beings taking a superb product of nature and genetically altering it in ways that are a detriment to its health and abilities. In the case of Persians, the goal was to create a long-haired cat that would look kittenish its whole life long. As a result, Persians can’t bathe adequately; they have weak jaws; they can’t survive in the wild; and they’re prone to a score of  afflictions. Yet, it’s also true that they’re among the most gentle, mellow, and affectionate, of cats, and I’ll never forget the gift of knowing Smokie. The fact that Smokie can’t fly is proof that angels lack wings.

21 comments:

Elephant's Child said...

A truly lovely post for this cat ruled person.
You were lucky that Brewsky accepted other cats so well. Jazz n Jewel tolerate each other, but no more. They don't ever sleep together and are consumed with jealousy if they think the other one is getting more attention.
Jazz jumps Jewel at intervals and bites her. Hard. She swivels round underneath him, takes his ear in her mouth and chomps down - all the while shrieking 'he is hurting me, he is hurting me'. And often the only blood shed is his.

Stephen Hayes said...

I'm an animal lover and enjoyed reading this post. Maybe Smokie will come back into your life. I hope so.

Charles Gramlich said...

The title of this gives me a thought. How much the world has changed since I was little. Though we had pets and loved them in those days, we would never have referred to them or thought of them in any way as our children. I see this so often these days that I pretty much take it for granted. But wow, what a tremendous weather change in the human condition, at least in the culture we live in now.

Helen said...

Dear Snowy,

I love these glimpses into your world, makes for a most pleasing way to begin my day. Oh, I do miss all the pets I've nurtured through the years ... Casper, Snowball, Gunner, Chloe, Rocky.

Take care,
Helen

byGeorge said...

I so enjoyed reading your several posts. I once had a Smoky, gray Persian also. She was huge. Brewsky is beautiful. What colors!

Friko said...

How very lovely.

Before I stopped working (for money) I always had cats because they can look after themselves given enough space, security and food and water but took on several rescue dogs when I became free of the restraints of ‘the job’.

I am getting a bit long in the tooth now and dogs require a lot of attention, so maybe I’ll opt for cats again when my present, only dog, departs for the Elysian doggy fields.

You’ve reminded me how much I enjoyed my cats.

billy pilgrim said...

i think animals can live together as long as they agree on which one is the alpha. if two animals each consider themselves to be the boss, there will be blood. i once lost both thumbnails trying to break up fight between my 2 large dogs who never did come to an understanding on which one was the boss and they had many battles.

rhymeswithplague said...

Why do you think Brewsky is "disciplining" Ollie? Might he not be "bullying" him? And why do think it not right to interfere? Aren't you the king of your own castle? Wouldn't it be better if your pets did what you want instead of what they want? Is it perfectly all right with you to see one animal biting another? Doesn't Ollie deserve a little peace and safety too? Lastly, am I a control freak or what?

Snowbrush said...

“You were lucky that Brewsky accepted other cats so well.”

I know. My friend, Jackie, adopted two brother kittens who grew up to wage a decade long pissing war (a literal pissing war) until one of them finally gave up and left home.

“Maybe Smokie will come back into your life.”

I have mixed feelings because I would anticipate a lifetime of health problems, a fear that my vet validated based upon the fact that Smokie is a Persian. Pedigreed pets tend to be that way, but some are a lot more that way than others.

“Though we had pets and loved them in those days, we would never have referred to them or thought of them in any way as our children.”

Decades ago, my brother-in-law referred to my dog as my “child substitute” (given how his children turned out, he would have done well to follow my example). I find it impossible not to anthropomorphize cats and dogs because I have no other frame of reference.

“I love these glimpses into your world, makes for a most pleasing way to begin my day.”

Thank you.

“Brewsky is beautiful. What colors!”

Thank you, byGeorge.

“I am getting a bit long in the tooth now and dogs require a lot of attention, so maybe I’ll opt for cats again when my present, only dog, departs for the Elysian doggy fields.”

Yes, it’s good that I’ve grown to enjoy cats so much because dogs are indeed a lot more trouble. Work-wise, dogs more like children and cats are more like knick-knacks, yet, unlike fish and reptiles, cats still manage to be personable.

“i think animals can live together as long as they agree on which one is the alpha.”

Yes, and the same is probably true of people. I see in myself a tendency to go along with what others want unless I’m deeply invested in having my way in which case I’m sure I appear obstinate, tact not being my strong point.

“Why do you think Brewsky is "disciplining" Ollie? Might he not be "bullying" him?”

I meant to suggest that either or both are a possibility (I wrote: “Sometimes, I can connect Brewsky’s actions to something Ollie did, but other times, it just looks like a display of dominance”), but even if I knew it was sheer dominance, I still wouldn’t interfere because I’m a human and they’re cats, and I’m so far removed from their reality that I would worry about causing more problems than I eliminated.

“And why do think it not right to interfere?”

Because I’m fearful of causing Brewsky to resent Ollie as an interloper, and if Brewsky ever reached that point, all joy, harmony, and safety would be out the window. When I told my vet how loving Brewsky is to Ollie, he was astounded. My thought is that I have something rare and precious happening here, and I’m going to do all I can to avoid mucking it up.

“Aren't you the king of your own castle? Wouldn't it be better if your pets did what you want instead of what they want? Is it perfectly all right with you to see one animal biting another? Doesn't Ollie deserve a little peace and safety too?”

You might think I’m a strict disciplinarian if you could see me when I think it necessary to stop a cat from misbehaving (Peggy thinks I go overboard, and I think she doesn’t go far enough), but Ollie isn’t being harmed; he and Brewsky go back to playing or bathing as soon as the episode is over; and Ollie is a very bold cat who takes astounding liberties with Brewsky all the time. It’s hardly a case of a cowering kitten being repeatedly assaulted by an oversize bully. I wouldn’t even be surprised but what Ollie grows up to be the dominate cat.

“Lastly, am I a control freak or what?”

I’ll leave it to your wife to answer that question.

Sparkling Red said...

Welcome to the family, Ollie! Wow, your Brewski is the most soft-hearted kitty I've ever come across, at least when it comes to befriending other cats. Napping together within days? I had brother-and-sister cats, and even they wouldn't snuggle together after they grew out of being kittens. Brewsky is indeed a special guy.

Saheed uthman said...

Hmmm its really funny and strange to me how you enjoy the companies of animals so well.

Am not a fan, maybe because am still young. I never keep a pet, not even one. But your posts suggest that there are wonderful experience attached to keeping pet.

I hope to learn that someday.

Snowbrush said...

“I had brother-and-sister cats, and even they wouldn't snuggle together after they grew out of being kittens. Brewsky is indeed a special guy.”

The books say that the best bet for lifelong harmony is for cats to grow up together, but there was the pissing wars I mentioned (in a previous comment) between the two brothers and then your own experiences. I already imagine that I see a waning of togetherness between Brewsky and Ollie, but I don’t know what it means. I had thought that kittens sleep a lot, but Ollie is a ball of energy most of the day. Last night, he was driving Peggy and me crazy by running across the bed, attacking our toes, playing games under the covers, and so on, and there wasn’t much we could do about it since he was, after all, only playing. We were relieved when he decided to go roughhouse with Brewsky, but there soon emitted from the far part of the house a series of piteous screams following which Ollie came back to harass Peggy and me. Brewsky is a better disciplinarian than we are.

“I never keep a pet, not even one. But your posts suggest that there are wonderful experience attached to keeping pet.”

The worst part is about pets is that they tie a person down. In the case of cats, they also represent a potential 20-year commitment, and Peggy and I are at the point where 20-years is doubtful (I would be 86 and she 83). Even if we’re still alive, we might not be able to take care of ourselves much less cats. Both of us grew up with pets, but neither of us had parents who put much value upon those pets. In Peggy’s case, her father was in the Air Force, so her family moved a lot, and simply gave their pets away in preparation for moving. In my case, my family never had a fenced-in yard or took an animal to the vet (they needed their money for family survival), so my dogs tended to get killed by cars at a young age. Our own attitude toward pets is very different. For example, our cats never go outdoors, we relate to them daily, and if they’re the least bit sick, they go to the vet at a minimum average of $100 a visit, although we have spent over $2,000… I want to say here how much I enjoy and admire you. Just as I give you a new perspective, you give me a new perspective. In all honesty, the dominant impression that most people have of Nigeria is that it’s the home of spam, and that’s as far as they ever get.

Emma Springfield said...

People tested pets are the best pets to have as far as I am concerned. As you show in your post they are loving and personable. To pay an exorbitant amount of money for a pet when there are so many that need good homes is foolish.

Ginny said...

I loved this post! Derek is not a cat person so he won't let me get a friend for Bosco. I find that separating the cats for a week usually doesn't work. Maybe for a night but usually the cats know and just want to actually see and sniff the other cat face to face.

Snowbrush said...

"I loved this post!"

Thank you!

“Derek is not a cat person so he won't let me get a friend for Bosco.”

Only women say that their spouse “won’t let them do something.” Although it was true that Peggy refused for years to have another cat in the house, as a man I never would have said that "she wouldn't let me." However, she used to use that phrase about a lot about things that she wanted and I wouldn’t agree to, and it drove me crazy because people would look like me as if to say, “You jerk!” She doesn’t do it anymore, so maybe it’s more common among young women. In all honesty, she used to be a lot more pliable regarding my wishes, and although I wanted her to be more assertive (I even bought her “Ms Magazine” in the early ‘70s), now that she is, I sometimes feel that she’s a bit “in my face” about things. In other words, there has been—in my perception—a loss of tact that I often see in older women. In case you think I’m putting Peggy down behind her back, I should mention that she reads every post and every comment, so we'll probably have a horrible fight about this, and it'll be all your fault!

“To pay an exorbitant amount of money for a pet when there are so many that need good homes is foolish.”

The main positive aspect is that you have a pretty good idea of what you’re getting in terms of size, looks, abilities, and disposition, and this can be essential if you’re looking for a working dog (bloodhounds, for instance, have a way better olfactory ability than other breeds). Of course, all of this comes with a significant downside in terms of other creatures having to die because their lives are considered valueless and also in terms of health problems from interbreeding. Speaking of pets, one of my pet peeves is the Westminster Dog Show that airs every New Years Day and makes pedigreed pets look so desirable. I watch it because I love terriers, but I deplore the message it sends. It’s ironic to say that one loves dogs or cats and then act in ways that harms some and causes others to die.

Snowbrush said...

PS to Ginny. Just in case there's any doubt, I WAS kidding about Peggy and me having a fight or about you being responsible. After nearly 44 years of marriage, we're pretty knowledgeable of one another. Also, she will understand that all of the women who read what I wrote will know instantly that I don't have a clue what I'm talking about and that, and that what fault there is will lie entirely within myself. As for the men, they will, of course, agree with me, but would have known that I felt this way even without me saying anything, so such sentiments cancel themselves out, and it makes no difference whether or not I express them.

Helen said...

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=xulXFB3-A3c

Oh my .. Found a five + minute video of the best clips from the film you referenced. So glad I never had the pleasure of seeing this film ... though watching Janet Leigh pick up that rifle and shoot the killer rabbit was a treat!

Snowbrush said...

"Oh my .. Found a five + minute video of the best clips from the film you referenced."

I initially thought you meant the chicken film, but you meant the rabbit film. Actually, the chicken film is better. In fact, it's very good:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AlcocVRQAaI

Helen said...

Funny guy ~~ not before bed!

All Consuming said...

He's beautiful. They all are! I can imagine your heartache at letting smokie go, but I'm so, so pleased Peggy decided to give the go-ahead for a new cat, because he sounds like ideal company for Brewsky, and the two of you as well. More love to be shared around.

Jim said...

I'm glad Smokie will have a nice place to stay. One can get carried away and have too many pets.
Mrs. Jim has a Rule # 301: If it dies or is put away, or leaves, we won't replace it or them and it or they can't come back. That goes for me also she said.
Each of our five kids have come back to live for from a couple of weeks to almost a year and we somehow got two more dogs and a cat, all presents from someone close who died or couldn't take care of them anymore.
Cats scratching the upholstery. When our Farah learned to climb the curtains and wouldn't stop, she became an outside cat. She did real well outside, we were glad we hadn't declawed her.
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