Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Meet Our Pwincess!

(This was originally published via the Facebook Fan Page for Virtually Home Chicago, and submitted in short form to The Animal Rescue Site's "Heartwarming Story" contest in 2011)

From Confection to Royalty

In April of 2010, we received a plea for help from Virtually Home Chicago, with a need for fostering some cats and kittens. We had two boys already from VHC, but we took a look at the list of cats and kittens mentioned. In the middle of the page was a cute-faced, all-black, 5 month old kitten named Fudge. Fudge was a feral girl that someone was feeding from their home, and in turn was picked up by Virtually Home. You could tell from her picture that she was not amused to be held by a human being, much less have her picture taken. But, there she was.

I had worked with a feral cat before, and Fudge had such a sweet face, in spite of how scared she looked. I showed her picture to my husband, Alan. “What do you think?” I asked him. “Can we take her in as a foster at least?” He also took one look at the photo and said, “Absolutely.”

I wrote back to Cindy at VHC and told her we could foster Fudge, knowing that she could be with us for a while. Feral cats need a lot more care and attention in order to boost their tolerance for humans, as well as other cats. One week later, Julie at VHC came by with a kitty play pen, and a very, very scared little Fudge. We set up a secure spot for her, loaded it with a litter box, food, water, and a blanket-covered shelf she could perch on and still have some privacy. We eventually got her out of the carrier her 'space'. She immediately hid under the soft kitty cove we put in there.

The next morning, we saw evidence of eating and pooping, so we carefully pulled the empty bowls and the litter pan, replenished and returned them. We removed the kitty cove after a couple of days, to start the process of getting her used to the goings-on in our home. Our boys came and started to sniff the stranger that had invaded our home, and the usual posturing occurred. But once Fudge realized she was in a safe place, she calmed down a lot when the boys came around; she even instigated some play time with them.

Touch-therapy is very tricky in ferals, because of the potential for being bitten. I purchased a toy that could double as a petting stick; it was made from a material that would also allow her to bite without hurting her teeth. We started slowly, just a few minutes a day. We gradually increased it to several times a day. Some days she would tolerate it, other days she made it abundantly clear she was not in the mood.

Since she seemed intent on trying to play alone, I suspended a bungee toy from the top of her perch. She eyed it for a while, not sure what to do with it. Then, one night while watching TV, we heard jumping noises. There was Fudge, getting to be a kitten for probably the first time in her life! She would even bat at Alan's toes from her safe spot if his feet were nearby.

After a month in the play pen, the Big Day arrived: we granted access to explore the rest of our home. I made sure the boys were in our bedroom, then shut the door so that Fudge could explore freely without fear. She spent about an hour sniffing and exploring, then promptly walked back to her safe spot. The next day I let her explore again, and she has roamed, played, and napped freely in allowed places, where ever her little kitty heart desired. It was on this day that we not only decided to keep Fudge, but we renamed her Pwincess.

As time has gone on, Pwincess has blossomed into a beautiful, more confident cat. She snuggles up with her brothers and baby sister, asks for attention from both of us, and rubs up against your legs simply because she wants to. And last week, she hopped up in my lap and stayed there for about an hour before hopping down to pursue other things. She hardly seems like the scared little ball of fur from a year ago, but she now knows that she is a Pwincess, and always will be.

Pwincess (left) enjoying a chat with big brother Jelly Bean.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Meet Jelly Bean!

Jelly Bean is our biggest cat. He weighs in at a whopping 13 pounds! He is an entirely black cat. Jelly Bean and Kirby were in the same foster home, and became the best of friends. Naturally, when we contacted Virtually Home Chicago and told them we wanted two cats, Jelly Bean was automatically the best choice! We often call him 'Bean' for short.

Bean is a semi-lap cat. He prefers to lie on my calves that have a blanket over them, or - if I'm lying on my side - he'll curl up on my hip. Bean also likes tummy rubs, so anytime he comes near and shows his tummy, I'm happy to oblige! He doesn't like to be picked up though, which can be a problem if he needs medicine for something. Bean is a very quiet kitty most of the time, unless he gets bored. It usually means he wants to do the Top Cat Tango, only with Kirby being on the bottom. While Bean is quite content to be the bottom cat most of the time

The Top Cat Tango is an assertion of dominance by one cat over all the others. Kirby has always been the Top Cat with Bean. However, during the first few months of being at home with us, Jelly Bean got to be the Top Cat! And he hasn't forgotten how much fun it was! It's so comical to listen and watch them go through this little tango. When we hear Jelly Bean yowling, we know that Kirby has decided enough is enough, and has left the area. We liken it to Bean saying, "no fairz! ish my turn to be top kitteh!!".  Bean has no interest in being Top Cat with either of the girls, which I find amusing.

Another thing about Jelly Bean, is that he's a SNACK HOG! I've had to resort to putting out a separate dish for each cat, in order to make sure everyone gets a little bit! His littler sister Punkin' is also a SNACK HOG! Snacks are limited to twice a week, as both Jelly Bean and his little sister Pwincess have sensitive GI tracts. And believe me, limiting the flare ups is a GOOD thing!

I love all of our kitties equally, but Bean has a special place in my heart, because I was the first one he really warmed up to. He's my Bootiful Bean, and he always will be.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Meet Kirby!

Kirby has the external image of a tough guy. But inside, he's quite the softie. It takes him a little while to warm up to you, but once he does, he will show affection. He is very affectionate with his brother and two sisters. He is the top cat between himself and his brother Jelly Bean. However, when it comes to the girls, he stays right out of it. If either one of them tries to assert dominance with him, he quickly stands up and wanders away, as if he intended to leave just at that moment.

Kirby was initially a 'TNR', Trap, Neuter, Release. His left ear is clipped, so that if he was ever trapped again, they would know he didn't need to be neutered before releasing him again. However, Kirby -ever the resourceful chap - was trapped again by the same person, in the same location. After all, there was food there, and probably a warm and dry spot too! So, Kirby was taken in as a foster cat in 2006.

In January 2009, after being in foster care for 3 years, Kirby found his forever home - along with his brother, Jelly Bean - with my husband and I. At first he wanted nothing to do with us, staying hidden as long as we were awake and active. He initially refused to eat, so he had to be force-fed twice, once by Cindy at Virtually Home Chicago (he was fostered in her home), and again by me. After having to be force-fed by me, he decided it was better to eat on his own.

He would hiss at me, since I am the evil person who made him eat, and who would put him in the carrier when we moved to our current apartment. And of course, I am the evil person who puts him in the carrier to go to the vet. However, he has forgiven me (for the most part) and doesn't complain or ignore me once we come home. He has yet to sit in my lap, but he will come to me for pets and the ever-popular booty scratch. He does this more often when I can afford acrylic nails, but love from a kitty is love from a kitty.

Kirby is also a bit of a worry-wort. If my husband and I are gone for more than a couple of hours, or come home after dark, he will give us a look as if to say "WHERE WERE YOU? YOU'RE LATE! I WAS WORRIED YOU WOULDN'T COME HOME!". His eyes are wide, and his face resembles that of most mothers before they get angry at you for coming home late. Then he promptly curls up in a ball and goes back to sleep. It makes us laugh every time!

Kirby's favorite toys are foil balls of any size, and Eek! brand catnip mice. They have a rattle inside of them, which catches his attention very quickly. I had an RC mouse, but it was of poor quality and didn't last very long. Hopefully I'll be able to purchase a better one soon! Kirby also loves anything crinkly. Paper bags are all the rage when I bring one home. He also loves cat nip. Each kitty has their own cat nip mat, but Kirby likes to hog them all at once, sitting on 2 or 3 at the same time! And of course, dangling toys are much loved by all!

Kirby is almost 6 years old now, but it still active in play and the 'top cat dance' he does with Jelly Bean. Kirby loves his naps curled up with his siblings, and occasionally on his own. Sometimes you just need some space, right? He is a joy in our lives, and I look forward to seeing his furry face every day.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Meet The Meows!

My husband and I love cats. We love them so much, that we have adopted four of them. We have two boys, and two girls. Our boy Kirby is gray and white; our other boy, Jelly Bean, is all-black. Both of our girls - Pwincess and Punkin - are also all-black. They are all rescues from Virtually Home Chicago.

Our household is full of an assortment of meows throughout the day. Kirby sounds like your stereotypical tom cat. Jelly Bean is a crier, similar to what you hear on most Halloween records. Pwincess makes a chirping noise, with the rare, barely audible meow. Punkin is our little siren. She is very talkative, and sounds like the Ghostbusters siren. And yes, when we talk to them, we use LOL-speak as much as regular human conversation.

All four of them have their little quirks that make us laugh on a daily basis. It's not uncommon to find them all napping together on the Big Kitty Bed (our queen-sized bed). Punkin is our frequent lap cat; Jelly Bean likes to curl up on my feet. Pwincess rarely hops in a lap, and Kirby has yet to do so.

We love them all equally, and they bring much joy to our lives. I truly believe that God sent them to us, these furry little angels, to remind us of His unconditional love.

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