Cats, cats, and more cats

Brewsky is the tabby, Ollie is gray, and Scully is the kitten

I’m up for the day, sitting here writing while listening to Ollie and Scully wrestle within the folds of the shower curtainthe bathroom is but one wall away. Ollie always liked the tub and, when he was a kitten, enjoyed watching people shower. He never joined in, but he didn’t mind getting splashed a little.

Kittens tend to be more vocal and have a wider range of sounds than grown cats, so I keep hearing Scully miaowing in a way that sounds more like a dove than a cat. Cats being creatures of routine, Brewsky is no doubt in the living room looking out the window. If I’m lucky, either he or Ollie will soon come and sleep in the chair beside me and into which I put one of my bed pillows every morning. Cats appreciate luxury every bit as much as humans do, so they bond with those humans who provide it. This works well for me because I’m just naturally attentive to the needs of others.

My cats know I love them, and I trust that they love me. It’s hardly like the love of a dog because cats are more subtle, which means that when they do give of themselves, it’s easy for their humans to be unaware of the gift. For instance, I’ll be sitting here writing and will suddenly realize that one of the cats had come into the room and asked for attention, only to leave when he or she didn’t get it.

I had experienced a lifetime of dogs, so when we finally got burned-out on the work of having dogs and got Brewsky, I wondered if I would ever feel close to him. Peggy’s cat-person sister, Pam, warned Peggy that we had made a grave mistake. As she put it, “You are dog people, and a cat is not a dog!” We still laugh about this, but she was right in that if we had gotten a cat thinking that it would be like a dog, we would have been sorely disappointed. Another friend said that the best thing she could say about her pedigreed Siamese was that it was midway between having a dog and not having a pet at all. Fortunately, we were not complete strangers to the ways of cats, so the question wasn’t whether Brewsky would be like a dog, but whether we could find it within ourselves to love a cat as a cat.

My enjoyment of cats got a real boost when we got our second cat, Ollie, because we not only had a total of two cats, Cat A and Cat B, we had a third entity—C—which consisted of the way Brewsky and Ollie related to us and to one another. When we got Scully, things took off even more, and I started to understand how people end up with a houseful of cats. The way cats interact with one another is a good bit more interesting—to me anyway—than the way dogs interact, and because cats are less work, I can imagine myself slipping into the mindset of, I already have ___ cats, so what’s one more?. Fortunately, I have Peggy to put on the brakes because while I know we don’t need a fourth cat, the temptation remains. 

Our vet, Sean, has been in practice for a lot of years, yet he can scarcely believe what we tell him about our cats. Specifically, that Brewsky so readily accepted Ollie despite Brewsky having been a solitary indoor cat since he was a tiny kitten, and that Brewsky and Ollie so readily took a female kitten into their hearts. Worst of all was his dismay when we told him that Ollie—at 14-months of age—is still nursing Brewsky, a six-year-old 15-pound male. Peggy mentioned this in the hope that Sean could tell us how to put an end to
Ollie’s nursing, but he instead asked what it was, exactly, that Ollie nursed and mentioned Brewsky’s tail as a possibility. Peggy assured him that, no, Ollie is a tit-man all the way, and it was then that Sean’s eyes got so big that we wondered if he believed us.

I wouldn’t find Ollie’s nursing so disgusting if he didn’t slurp, but I haven’t been able to discourage him from nursing, and when I try, he just leaves the room and goes back to nursing when I’m not around. Peggy and I are convinced that Brewsky doesn’t like Olli
e’s nursing either because he will look at us when it’s happening as if to say, “God but I wish he wouldn’t do this, but he seems to really need it, and I don’t want to hurt his feelings.” I have had to give up on even trying to put an end to Ollie’s nursing except when the five of us (Peggy, Brewsky, Ollie, Scully, and me) are having our morning cuddle. This and the time that Peggy and I spend trying to read in the evening while Ollie and Scully gallop about the house like tiny horses are the most precious times of my day—those and the time I spend writing. And then there are the ways that Scully moans, coos, yowls, chirrups, miaows, and screams! Before getting cats, I had no idea how varied their vocalizations could be, and how often they sound more like birds than cats. Unfortunately, the older they get, the less they vocalize.

When Ollie was Scully’s age, he and Brewsky would play the way that he and Scully now play, and Ollie would scream like Scully now screams. I soon came to trust that Brewsky wasn’t really killing Ollie, but Peggy never stopped worrying. If you could see a little gray kitten full-out roughhousing with a male tabby five times his size, you could understand her anxiety. Ollie never held anything back, and it would look for all the world like a fight to the death, what with wide-open mouths filled with glistening white daggers. I became completely trusting that, no matter how bad things looked, Brewsky wasn’t really going to kill Ollie, and his patience and compassion confirmed my faith in Brewsky’s ability to give Ollie the kind of love and nurture that he, being an only cat, had never received.

I regard Brewsky as our wise and loving adult, Ollie as our exquisitely sensitive and emotionally vulnerable adolescent, and Scully as our dominant and intellectual girl child. A person who has but one cat is deprived of the joy that comes with observing the differences cats display in their interactions with their humans and with other cats. Different cats are like different people in that their worldviews and their preferences vary enormously. Dogs are that way too, but they’re so fixated on pleasing their humans that the creatures they are within themselves get swallowed-up. I don’t mean here to discount the joy of having dogs because it is their determination to do everything they can to love and to be loved that makes dogs so adorable.

I must admit to finding it very hard to warm up to a person who genuinely dislikes either dogs or cats, and I frankly hate it when people’s preference for one leads them to trash the other. Such people fail to understand that their preference for one species over another is entirely a function of what they want and what they need, and has nothing to do with superiority. To hate either species makes the hater look dim-witted and closed hearted, but haters never seem to realize this. The important thing is not what we love, but that we love.

The last time I was in PetSmart, they had a beautiful black rescue cat that someone had returned because they thought he miaowed too much. God help me, but I wanted that cat, and I wanted him all the more because he had been abandoned at least twice…. I want to bring happiness to all unwanted pets, but I can’t do it, and I hate it that I can’t do it…. 

One of my cats—Ollie, as it turned out—came to sleep on the pillow that I put in the chair beside me, so I keep alternating between writing and petting his soft, soft fur. Oh, the joy—the joy, the joy, the joy.


Tewshooz said...

Well, our Lobo sucks and nurses on us.,...anywhere he finds a piece of exposed skin. This going along with the kneading at the same time. Maybe because he was taken away from his mother too early, I don't know.

kylie said...

I have had a few dogs in my lifetime and a couple of cats so I was well aware that they each have their own personality. Then we got rabbits and I was surprised to find that they are also very unique and distinct. The two mice we had at one stage had their differences too, although I wouldnt think of them as unique.

It is such a joy to get to know them all as individuals. Once upon a time I was in wonder at the differences between them all and thought that if that had been a revelation to me, what else was there that i didnt know about them. These days i take it for granted that they are more intelligent, more sensitive and more capable than we will ever know

angela said...

Sounds like a perfect harmony of kitties
Don't know about the nursing. If they both enjoy it. Let them go I say.
And yes. I don't like it when people say they don't like cats or dogs or whatever. Usually it's because they have never had one of the said species and just don't understand. Especially if they are talking about cats. Our Bella is a British short hair. Not especially known for being cuddly. She is even more timid of strangers than even the norm for the breed. But when it's just us. She is so smoochy. Especially when hubby gets home. She will tap him with her paw until he moves whatever is in his lap blocking her. And then she will make herself comfortable and purr away
Looks like these cats have got us well trained, and under their thrall lol

Stephen Hayes said...

Like you, I have a problem with people who hate dogs or cats. Our pets give us so much and ask for so little.

Elephant's Child said...

Our Jewel, also black, was returned because she was 'too vocal' when her owners got home. She had gone from a household with many cats to being locked alone in an apartment all day. Of course she talked to the owners when they got home.
They couldn't cope and returned her. Since she came to live with us she has enriched our lives.

Ginny said...

What a cute photo. I've never had dogs, only cats but I'm just an animal person in general. Dogs are a ton of work and I'm out and about too much to have a dog. I'd love to get a second cat for Bosco to have company but Derek is not a cat person and one is enough for him.

Strayer said...

I greatly enjoy watching the interactions here, between the cats---who is sleeping with who, what cliques have formed, who is shunning who. The cliques change constantly. It is a joy, ever entertaining and the love they give, to me and among themselves, is beautiful. I had no love in my life at all until I began to help cats and I only started because when I was homeless off and on, in the mental system, shunned or pitied by all humans, I found cats along the river where I also lived, and they became my family.

PhilipH said...

You are worrying me now. Are you suffering from OCD? I wonder? OCD can take many forms - including Obsessive Cat Disorder. And then you use the term "God help me..." which denotes a serious line of desperation. I know you keep your Moggies indoors, which is good! They are much safer and don't kill all our lovely little songbirds, so precious to 99% of humanity. However, I beseech you NOT to further extend your feline fraternity. It is easily akin to madness, as I've seen to many times in the past - usually old biddies who end up with a dozen or more cats cooped up in an unhealthy house or apartment which, imo, is tantamount to cruelty.
On that note I bid you a fond Miow,

Lorraina said...

You are a good man Mr. Snowbush and I love you.

Sparkling Red said...

One of my mother's cats suckles the corner of an old quilt that she keeps folded at the foot of her bed for extra-cold evenings. The quilt is faded and threadbare, but she keeps it because the cat is so attached.

Snowbrush said...

“Maybe because he was taken away from his mother too early, I don't know.”

Maybe he has an identity crisis because you named him Lobo. At the other end the naming spectrum are those cats whose people named them Cat, as if their cats are too stupid to know but what they’re rabbits. I just read a real-life book about a cat and its person, and the person in the book had the idea that you’re not supposed to name your cat, but rather you’re supposed to let the cat tell you what his or her name is (the cat in the book was Dulcinea, suggesting that she was a Don Quixote fan, I suppose). After reading this, I put Brewsky on my chest in the proper posture for letting one’s cat say its name, and after a long wait, I heard him say, “Trump, my name is Donald Trump.” I had long suspected him of being a Republican, but this was really too much, so I explained that he could either change his name or go somewhere else to live, and he decided that, under the circumstances, being a tea-totaling cat name Brewsky wasn’t such a bad choice after all.

“The two mice we had at one stage had their differences too, although I wouldnt think of them as unique.”

I should think that mice would be smarter than rabbits and thus more unique—assuming, obviously, that there’s a correlation between brains and strength of personality. Predator animals tend to be smarter than prey animals, and cats are predators, a fact that bothers me a little if I think about it much. Love me they do, but if I were to suddenly shrink to mouse-size, I think it very likely that they treat me like a mouse, and that they would have no choice but to do so. With every bug—and one mouse—that they kill, I’m reminded of how good they are as killers. Of course, as a human, I am too, but surely nowhere near their ballpark when it comes to doing the job with teeth and toenails.

“i take it for granted that they are more intelligent, more sensitive and more capable than we will ever know”

In judging ourselves superior, we emphasis what we can do while minimizing what they can do, so we naturally come out looking better than they. But what if we had the same physical attributes of cats, for example—if we were obliged to move about on four feet and lacked opposable thumbs—how good would we look then?

“Don't know about the nursing. If they both enjoy it. Let them go I say.”

If he just didn’t slurp, we could do as you advise because while we don’t have to watch him nurse, we do have to listen to him.

Snowbrush said...

“Our Bella is a British short hair…Not especially known for being cuddly. She is even more timid of strangers than even the norm for the breed…”

Here’s a little of what Wikipedia says about your cat:

“The British Shorthair is the pedigreed version of the traditional British domestic cat, with a distinctively chunky body, dense coat and broad face. The most familiar colour variant is the "British Blue", a solid blue-gray with copper eyes, but the breed has also been developed in a wide range of other colours and patterns, including tabby and colorpoint…. It is one of the most ancient cat breeds known, probably originating from European domestic cats imported into Britain by the invading Romans in the first century AD. In modern times it remains the most popular pedigreed breed in its native country, as registered by the UK's Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (GCCF)…. The breed's good-natured appearance and relatively calm temperament make it a frequent media star…”

I have a book about cat breeds, and it covers both pedigreed and non-pedigreed breeds (before getting the book, I hadn’t even known that there were non-pedigreed breeds). I have diligently gone through that book trying to figure out what our cats primarily are, and it seems that Brewsky is a form of short-hair called British Classic Brown Tabby. Ollie is a Russian Blue (another non-pedigreed breed), and god knows what Scully is—other than one beautiful cat. Maybe I’m just full of it here because there are upwards of 300 breeds in that book, and I have every thought that each of our cats was simply the result of two horny cats finding one another without the least regard for breeding on either their part or on the part of the irresponsible people who owned them, but as to their behavior and the minute details of their appearance, what I have written fits. If I were to own a pedigreed cat, I would definitely have to look into the Turkish Angora, but I simply cannot allow myself to pay someone to breed cats when overpopulation is a major problem for cats, and when most any cat can make a delightful pet when its nurtured properly from a young age. Another consideration is that little of what people do in the way of breeding cats comes anywhere close to the good that cats can accomplish on their own, and that a lot of what people create is detrimental and even nightmarish. For example, the Manx, the Scottish Fold, the hairless breeds, and most worst of all, perhaps, the Persian. Much of what ends up being a breed’s characteristics starts out as a birth anomaly if not a serious defect. I’m not putting down your choice of cats because I know nothing about what led to it, and the British Short-hair is hardly one of these nightmares I’ve been talking about… I came very near having a Persian. I agreed to keep one for awhile for the friend of a friend, and, predictably, I fell in love with him—the cat, I mean. It looked for awhile like the person who said she wanted him might not being able to follow through, in which case I could have kept him for good. Looking back, I’m very glad I didn’t because Persians tend to spend their whole lives fighting health problems that are breed-related.

Snowbrush said...

“Like you, I have a problem with people who hate dogs or cats.”

Tell me what you think about the following, all of which are things that I wonder about: (A) Cat-haters tend to be more vicious about their feelings than do dog-haters (who lean more toward being dog-dislikers or even dog-phobics rather than out-and-out haters); (B) Cat-haters are commonly males who think that any creature that they can’t control doesn’t deserve to live; (C). Women tend to favor cats more than men do, and men tend to favor dogs more than women do. (I still own my first-grade reader, and it starts out talking about Dick and his dog, and Jane and her cat, and, as a child at least, I again and again got the idea from books, TV, and movies, that cats are okay for girls, but that a REAL boy would just naturally want a dog. Even my Grandpa was fond of saying that it’s a man and dogs’ place to roam around and a woman and a cats’ place to stay home.)

“Our Jewel, also black, was returned because she was 'too vocal' when her owners got home.”

There’s supposed to be a connection between a cat’s color and his or her personality, with black cats being the most friendly. I don’t know to what extent this—or the belief about male cats making better pets—is true, but I do wonder. I hate to be so judgmental, but my first thought upon learning why that cat was returned was to think that the cat had recently been through a lot of trauma, and that the person should have been supportive of the cat rather than giving him yet another reason to be traumatized. Of course, I know nothing about the person’s circumstances, so it wouldn’t be fair for me to be too condemning, but my first thought was as I’ve said because I see the cat as having cried for support, and the person as having refused it. It might have been for the best of reasons, but it was still the cat who suffered more than did the person.

“I'd love to get a second cat for Bosco to have company but Derek is not a cat person and one is enough for him.”

Does Bosco happen to be black or chocolate colored? I’m glad you’re not getting a dog to which you wouldn’t have a lot of time to devote, but since you don’t have a lot of time, it seems even sadder to not get a second cat for Bosco. Peggy used say that she hated cats, yet I walked into her room yesterday find her reading in bed with our fifteen-pounder in her lap and the other two cats asleep by her side. Not everyone can be won over though. I know that I was very motivated to love Brewsky, but it still took a long time before I stopped wishing that he was more like a dog. Truly, if a dog is one’s reference point for judging what a good pet should be like, it makes for an impossible situation for a cat. I’m sorry for the way things are for you and Derek about this issue.

Snowbrush said...

“The cliques change constantly”

I worried about two of the cats freezing the third cat out, but it hasn’t come close to it happening thus far. Brewsky and Ollie are very easy-going males, and Scully is little dynamite stick of intensity, but she loves to cuddle, and I can’t tell that she prefers one of her big brothers to the other or that they prefer her to one another. She only roughhouses with Ollie, but that’s because Brewsky is no longer given to roughhousing. Well, not much anyway. He certainly has his moments of chasing or being chased by one of the other cats, and when it happens, it’s a marvel to watch because he’s so big and not usually a fast mover. I’ve talked about how much I love watching the cats interact with one another, but I also take a lot of joy in watching Peggy interact with them. She loves them all, but Brewsky was her “first-born,” and she feels a heart connection with him that is a marvel to behold. It’s funny, given that our cats are of a different species, and all have been sterilized, but their gender holds an important place in our perceptions of whom they are just as do the genders of our human friends. Peggy said last week that she would know that Scully was a girl based upon Scully’s personality alone, and I wondered if this were true. I certainly FEEL that it is the same for me, but I can’t know for sure. I also wonder the extent to which the way she relates to our cats—and they to us—is related to their gender. Scully is very different than our guys in that she SEEMS smarter and she is definitely more aggressive, attributes which lead her to take liberties with them that they MIGHT not tolerate in a male kitten. She’s very much their baby, and they treat her as if they were indulgent big brothers who don’t seen to care what she does as long as she’s happy doing it.

Snowbrush said...

“Are you suffering from OCD? I wonder? OCD can take many forms - including Obsessive Cat Disorder.”

Some would argue that I have too much time on my hands; others that I need to get out more and make new human friends; while others would suggest that senility has led me to forget that the furry little critters that live under the same roof with me are, after all, only cats, and don’t deserve so much of my time and attention. Others are, perhaps, more like myself and are therefore better able to see things as I see them. Take Strayer, for instance. She says that she owes her sanity, such as it is (maybe I should add that I meant “such as it is” as a joke), to the love and acceptance that she received from cats following years of neglect if not actual abuse by her parents, her schools, the Seventh Day Adventist Church, and America’s so-called mental health system. Cats have given her what humans either lacked the wisdom, the compassion, and/or the patience to give, or that those humans who should have been there for her deemed Strayer as unworthy of receiving. If a human and cat were drowning, I don’t know which Strayer would save if she could only save one, but then I don’t know which I would save either, there being so many factors that might influence my decision. Once you stop regarding your own species as intrinsically more deserving (favored by God and made in His image as it were) than other species, your ethical decision making and the preferred objects of your compassion lose the sort of easy predictability that most humans would deem appropriate. I think this might be true of all of us if we thought about it much. For example, would you rescue a known terrorist while letting your cat—or any cat—drown based solely upon the terrorist’s species?

“You are a good man Mr. Snowbush and I love you.”

I won’t ask what inspired your comment as doing so would ruin the moment and because I don’t deem it necessary anyway. I find it very easy to love those whom love me because I am so touched by their ability to see the good in me that I know to be there despite the bad. You have made this day for me, and I will remember your comment for a very long time, dredging it up like gold from the depths. I want all good things to come your way, and I want to feel that I at your side.

Snowbrush said...

“One of my mother's cats suckles the corner of an old quilt that she keeps folded at the foot of her bed for extra-cold evenings.”

I haven’t had this happen, but I’ve read that it’s fairly common for cats to suckle inanimate objects. I would guess that most cats knead their people from time to time, suggesting that they regard us as their adopted parents (when they kill things for us, it’s supposed to mean that they regard us as their incompetent offspring). Scully doesn’t suck on them, but she will walk about the bed kneading the covers. She can cover a lot of ground doing this, which makes me wonder if she’s hoping the next spot she kneads will be more satisfying than the last spot. I don’t think that Brewsky so much likes being nursed by Ollie as that he allows it. Scully can’t help but notice Ollie’s nursing, but when she gives the least hint that she might follow his lead, Brewsky pushes her away with his hind feet in a most determined manner as if to say that he’s not going to make the same mistake twice.

“The quilt is faded and threadbare, but she keeps it because the cat is so attached.”

This is sweet of her, but maybe she’s also being practical in thinking that if she deprives the cat of the old quilt, he or she might start in on something new. Also, it’s not really a bad habit as habits go, as it would be if the cat had turned to liquor. As substance abuse goes, we could all do worse than sucking a quilt.

Emma Springfield said...

I do believe you are trying to tell us how much you love your cats. (Chuckle) Anyway people who have pets are generally happier. Pets seem to bring out the best in us.

All Consuming said...

Oh how I love hearing the joy these furries are bringing you and vice versa. It brightens my day to think on the difference they've made to both your lives, but especially you I feel. I get you wanting to take in more cats and help those abandoned, I'd so love to get another couple of dogs who could play with Rosie, but it's impossible for me both physically and financially. You're doing your bit though as am I. Enjoy every day you have with them. You're a lucky bunch! X

Tewshooz said...

Lobo does not speak Spanish, so no worries about his name. Now, on the other hand, we had a black cat named Wulf and he did speak German. He was named after my cousin whom he loved.

Caddie said...

You are a good human, Snow. Reading this brought back my yearning for cats again. All you say about them is so, so true. Cats make me laugh more than dogs. You sure know animals. I did laugh much with this post, for I can imagine your "House of Romps". I know dogs now (6) with the two puppies. Precious and a lot of work - Whew, I'm so tired. Puppie dogs definitely are more destructive than cats, in my book. Hmm, parrots are the A+ Destructors! in my bookjavascript:void(0) also. Truly enjoy your every thoughtful post. A pro at writing them.

Beth Brown said...

This post made me choke on my coffee - I love hearing about Ollie, the nursing cat! Reminds me of a small kitten - Charley - who adopted me and would nurse on the jowls of my yellow lab, Sebastian.