Urban Wildlife

Today’s installment is the long overdue post about the two as yet unmentioned members of our family – the cats.
Baxter (below) is our sweet old boy. We adopted him from the SPCA when he was about 4 (he’s 10 now). There was a kitten there the day we found him, which my daughter was desperate to have, but there was something about Baxter’s wise green eyes that were begging me to take him home. When they opened his cage so I could pet him, he immediately leaned out and rubbed his face against my cheek. I was smitten.

It’s hard to tell from the photo (especially laying next to the dog), but he’s a rather large cat. I don’t like to think of him as being overweight necessarily (ahem), but he is really long in the body and “big-boned”. He also has the patience of a saint. When my son was a toddler, he used to try to ride him (he absolutely loved horses and I guess Baxter was the next best thing), and this amazing animal would just sit there patiently until J decided that he’d gotten to wherever he was going.

Maybe it was due to having spent so much time at the pound, but Baxter used to be terrified of anything remotely resembling a dog, so he was understandably unenthused when Princess came into our lives (especially since, as a herding dog without an actual herd, she tends to try to organize the cats’ lives), but as you can see, he’s adapted to her presence quite nicely.

Being rather “big-boned” and loving a good meal, it became obvious earlier this year that he was in all likelihood diabetic (he began showing signs of increased thirst and urination, and his hind legs became so weak that he could hardly walk). We put a call into our lovely veterinarian, a holistic vet who only does house calls, and put him on a no grain diet right away. Within a day he was noticeably better, and in less than a few weeks he had all the strength back in his legs. As a result, our cats are both on a permanent low carb diet.

The most important thing to know about Baxter is that he’s a cantaloupe fiend (luckily, it doesn’t seem to bother his blood sugar). He would leap over an open can of tuna to bury his face into a nice ripe melon.

Shadow came to us because of Baxter’s big heart and generosity. We saw her for months prowling around our ground floor apartment, scrawny and wild-eyed, taking off whenever she saw us. She was still barely more than a kitten, but had clearly been abused by somebody (her tail is broken and bent and about 8 inches shorter than it should be). Baxter would catch mice and birds, leaving them at our back door as gifts, and Shadow would come around every so often and scoop them up.

Eventually it got to the point that he would invite her into the house and let her eat out of his bowl (oh how things have changed!), and at that point there was no getting rid of her. She wouldn’t let any of us come near her for months, but she’d jump in through our bedroom window to grab a quick bite and then off she’d go. Occasionally she’d forget herself for a moment and come to one of us for a cuddle (she’s extremely lovey and drools like a fool when you pet her), but then she’d realize what was happening and run off in terror. She calmed down more and more over the years, but was always a bit wild. Then we moved into our new house.

Shadow was so overwhelmed by the change of location that she didn’t come out from under the blankets of our bed for days and yowled her head off non-stop. Eventually we got to the point of letting her out for short jaunts, but just when we thought things were going well, she didn’t come home. There was a huge wind storm that night, and it went down below freezing for days (which it rarely does here) so we were really worried. We made posters and hung them everywhere. Nothing. B (our 10 year daughter) was overcome with grief.

A week later, at 1:30 in the morning, I woke up to desperate meows coming from the back door, and lo and behold, there she was. Waking B to tell her that Shadow had made it home will always be one of my happiest memories. That was almost two years ago – we’ve never been able to figure out where she was.

Long story short, being lost for a week has changed our dear sweet Shadow – she no longer runs away if you approach her too quickly, and even comes out occasionally when we have company. I guess she’s finally realized that she’s home.

6 thoughts on “Urban Wildlife”

  • I love reading about other’s cats and anecdotes about their personalities, how they came to be with people. YOu certainly have some sweet (and neurotic! ahh what’s life without one?) ones there..lol..Thanks for sharing!

  • Ah, Baxter looks like a great buddha kitty. And Shadow – aren’t the cats that you have to work hard for their friendship the BEST? It is so rewarding! Thanks for making these cats’ lives good ones.

  • Wow! I wish I could find such a vet! Is s/he expensive? I have a book called “Natural Health for Cats and Dogs,” or something. I think the author’s name is Pitcairn. But I still end up reverting to allpathic care when it comes to things like worms and fleas. :-/ Suggestions?

  • Oh, I love the Pitcairn book!
    As for our vet’s rates, they aren’t really any worse than a regular vet, maybe because she doesn’t have any overhead.
    I think there are definitely times to resort to allopathic methods (our vet certainly does when necessary). Our house had a major flea problem when we moved in, and nothing we did seemed to help. We finally used Advantage on all three of them for 3 months as suggested by our vet, and that wiped out the fleas as they hatched so there were no more left to reproduce.
    The best thing she did for us was to use homeopathics to treat Princess’ hot spots (and the pills only cost $6!). I never knew if I really believed in homeopathy, but it worked miraculously – it stopped her allergic reaction to the flea bites completely and permanently within 2 days, and I’m pretty sure the placebo effect doesn’t work on dogs!
    I don’t know about the worms though, we haven’t had to deal with them (although Princess almost died from them as a puppy, but that was before she came to us).
    Our vet really recommends avoiding vaccinations (as does Pitcairn), or only choosing what’s absolutely necessary for your area, as it really weakens their immune systems. Princess has never had any boosters over the first set of shots that the SPCA did, but we tested her for antibodies and she’s got them for everything. I guess less is more sometimes.
    Whew, I’m sure you didn’t need to know all that – I hope it helps somewhat!

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