Friday, February 24, 2012


One thing about Maine Coons, there's never a dull moment in the house. They are constantly coming up with something new to amuse themselves.

I've had a problem with Pepper waking me up in the morning, always about an hour before I want to get up. His pattern has been to "trill" at me a couple of times. If that doesn't work, he attacks my hands.

I started covering my hands up with the covers so he couldn't shred them and go away.

Not to be outdone, he started getting on the side table and flying through the air, landing on the other side of my head, causing the bed to shake. I finally decided to ignore that, and would just lay there with my eyes closed as his tummy hair dragged across my face.

Another thing about Maine Coons, if you step up the game, they're delighted. They're experts at thinking of new things to do to you.

I felt him get on the side table, so, eyes closed, I braced myself for the tummy hair. I was NOT braced for his whole heavy tummy to land square across my face and just lay there.  Since I didn't react I felt him climb on the table again. This time he jumped higher and landed heavier, square on straddling my head and face.

Needless to say I finally gave up because it's hard to pretend to still be asleep when you're laying there with a heavy cat across your face and you can't breath because you're laughing.

Score: Cat 1   Mom zip

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


Having a little fur ball who is damned and determined to be alpha of the whole house is not easy. I know people who think it's all right to swat their cats with a newspaper to discipline them. I AM NOT ONE OF THEM.

But this cat was different from anything I'd ever had to deal with. Honestly, if you even glared at him with a disapproving look, his ears would lay flat, his little fuzzy butt would start to wiggle, and you would have blood dripping down your arm or leg. He was a mean little critter. He did like to be rocked for about 30 minutes and cuddled first thing in the morning and having his little face rubbed. But the rest of the day was chaos.

People have said "I'd get rid of him." Not me. I was as determined to be alpha-mama as he was to be alpha-cat. The game was on.

Finally, I discovered the perfect defense. I had to carry a large squirt bottle with me every time I walked across the floor. This turned into a great game. Kittens love to play chase and I would chase him with the squirt bottle. He was getting exercise which was calming him down for awhile and my leg wasn't bleeding.

Things began to change when I discovered that cats have a language they convey with facial expressions. When you looked him square in the eye with that disapproving look, you had just challenged him to a fight. If you're blinking fast, you're showing you don't trust him and he won't trust you either.

I began to look him in the eye and then slowly close and open my eyes one time. At first he looked at me like "Are you kidding me!" I began to refer to it as a "lovey face". He began to respond with the lovey face.

Then I bought some Whiskas Temptations kitty snacks and started using them as rewards for good behavior. Good behavior in this case means lay down and stop standing in front of the stupid television so we can see it.

No longer do I get attacked on the way to bed because guard cat now knows he'll get a little bedtime snack right before I lay down.  I no longer get attacked on the way to the kitchen to get my morning coffee.

But there is one thing alpha-cat has refused to give up. Whenever I head to the sunroom, where I spend all my time, he runs full speed ahead, gets in front of me, slows down and pulls himself up with every bit of dignity he can muster and slowly leads me through two rooms and to my desk chair. And I let him because it's so obvious he wants to be King Coon Cat, and lead the parade.  Well hey, it is Mardi Gras.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012


I've never had a pet I didn't get attached to but none like my relationship with Oscar.

When he died, I couldn't sleep because he wasn't purring in my ear. I didn't want to come home from work, because the house felt a complete emptiness I had never experienced before. I was just terribly depressed. Finally I decided the only cure was another Maine Coon.

I wasn't able to find a young one to rescue so I ultimately found a breeder and paid a small fortune for what was supposed to be a little ball of fur who would cuddle at night and purr in my ear, putting me to sleep. I was going to be able to reach over and gently pet him when I awoke in the night and go right back to sleep.

I came home with the high-priced little guy and two hours later my then-husband walked in and said "I got fired". I was stunned. Here I had just irrationally paid way too much for a tiny cat and our income just got cut in half.  I didn't know whether to throw up on the cat or search for a recipe on the internet for tiny fried cat.

After deciding the cat must live, I set about cuddling, rocking, and loving on the little guy. The more I loved on him, the more hateful he became. I'm totally opposed to playing rough with a kitten, because it can cause a mean cat. So I didn't do that. He had plenty of toys.

But from the start, Pepper was a tiny terror. His favorite games seemed to all include making my arms or legs bleed profusely. The more he bit and scratched, the  more I became determined to tame him down.

It's time for his yearly checkup next week. I don't know what he weighs but he's getting to be a big boy. I'm now trying to train him with snacks as a reward. It works unless he's doing something he thinks should be showing me he's a good boy. If I don't notice, he walks up and bites me.

His favorite game is flying out the door before Alan can stop him and then making Alan chase him. Then he hides under the deck where Alan can't reach him.

Pepper does have a sense of humor. One day Alan was going around and around the outside of the house calling at the top of his lungs "COME HERE PEPPER!"

The third time I saw Alan go by my sunroom, here came Pepper, following about 7 feet behind him. Alan made a fourth round and came by my sunroom still calling the cat. And there was Pepper still following him around because Alan never looked behind him. It was obvious Pepper was playing a joke on Alan.

Another of Pepper's favorite games is his version of football. He waits until he can catch Alan go through and then runs and tackles Alan, wrapping both front feet around one of his legs. This is sometimes accompanied by a quick tasty bite of Alan's leg.

He is truly a little terror who apparently thinks he's half buzz saw. He also has a nasty temper. I'm hoping he gets calmer as he ages but at this point, I wouldn't lay money on it.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012


Oscar and I had six glorious years together then disaster struck. He always wanted out of the house just as soon as we woke up each morning We were having morning coffee on the front deck when I noticed Oscar laying right in the middle of one of my hostas. It was unusual for him not to come running to the deck as soon as we sat down.

I called him a couple of times. He just laid there and looked at me. Finally I told Alan to go get him. He picked Oscar up and carried him up on the deck. He was fine an hour before but was now breathing hard. I watched him for a few hours and it became obvious his breathing was getting more labored and I could now hear a rattle in his lungs.

I quickly called my vet. When he answered he said he was on his way to California but told me not to waste any time. "Get him to the emergency animal clinic immediately. It's bobcat fever and you may not be able to get him there in time. Do it right now, Zelpha."

The emergency clinic was 40 miles away. I drove him as quickly as I dared. It was the most horrible death I've ever seen an animal suffer. He would all of a sudden try to stand up and he'd scream. I was almost hysterical. I handed him to the nurses and they rushed me into another room to wait. Within 5 minutes the doctor came in and said Oscar had died before they could even get him on the table.

And yes, then I got totally hysterical. I couldn't believe he was gone so quick. Dear God, what had happened! I spent lots of time that day in parking lots sitting and crying too hard to drive. Then I'd try to drive again and have to pull into another parking lot. I had him in a little cardboard casket beside me in the car and I just couldn't get control of the hysteria. Finally I called my 12-step sponsor and she talked me through it so I could get home.

Alan buried the little guy when he got home from work and I cried for days. I couldn't sleep because I didn't have him beside me. I would always wake just enough to aware of him at night and pet his little fuzzy tummy. Now I'd wake and start feeling around and no little fuzzy Oscar.

I'd wait for him to gently pat my cheek and say "mama" when he wanted out of a morning. I felt like I was waking up to nothingness.

What was this bobcat fever the vet had mentioned? We have lots of bobcats in our area. It's carried by bobcats and when a tick has come into contact with it and then bites a cat, the cat will be dead within 24 hours. Every time Oscar came into the house I'd check him for ticks, even though I was using a medication that would keep most of them off of him. I was very thorough about it because I'm extremely allergic to tick bites. He would occasionally have one on him and I'd get it off quickly. 

The vet said once the tick bites the damage is done. Removing the tick quickly won't stop this thing. It's transferred with the initial bite. I wasn't aware that many many people had lost their cats to this horrible disease that summer. It's still a danger in this area. I swore I'd never have another outside cat and I'd never let myself get as totally attached and that in love with another pet.

I soon realized that I was going to have to find another Maine Coon or I was going to die from lack of sleep. And that's when T-R-O-U-B-L-E began with a vengeance.

News story: Bobcat fever killing house cats