Wednesday, April 29, 2015

"Conversations" With Bear Cat: Part 2

Ever wonder about what conversations occur in the Momma Kat household? See the first collection {HERE}.
Here's a sample from the past week (some already posted to Momma Kat's Facebook page):

BC: Bear Cat
MK: Momma Kat

On playing "fetch":
BC: Meoooooow. Meeeeeeeeeeow. Meow.
MK: What?!?!? I've fed you, cleaned out your litter box, tried to pet you . . . what is wrong? Do you want to play?
{Momma tosses one mousie down the hall. Bear runs after it but comes back without it. Momma tosses a second mousie down the hall, Bear runs after it, but comes back without it. Then repeated a third time, with a third mousie.}
MK: Ummmm . . . the way this works is that you bring mousie back instead of leaving him stranded down the hall.
BC: That sounds like "fetch."
MK: {Exasperated} It used to be one of your favorite games!
BC: Well now I find that demeaning.
MK: But you run after the damn mouse anyway - would it hurt you to bring it back with you?
BC: I'm just making sure my mousie wasn't hurt when you flung him through the air. And you threw him there - so you have to go pick him up. I'm not responsible for cleaning up your messes.
MK: So essentially, I'm playing fetch with myself? Even though you run after the mousie anyway?
BC: Let me guess - you don't like having to "fetch" the mousie yourself because you find it demeaning?
MK: And I clean up after your messes all the time! I can count at least 5 just today.
BC: How many times do I have to tell you?!?!?! They are NOT messes. They are works of art and you are very lucky to get to find them. No one else gets a "Bear Cat original." And they take a lot of forethought and work to produce.
MK: One of these days I'm going to win an argument.
BC: Not likely. Now be quiet - it's nap time.
MK: But . . . you were the one making the commotion while I was trying to work!
BC: You're still talking.
MK: For crying out loud! You're a furry little terrorist!
BC: You're going to find another "Bear Cat original" if you don't be quiet.
MK: @#$%^&*!

On being "Bear":
MK: Biting is not nice! Especially when you've been begging for my attention.
BC: I'm not trying to be nice, I'm just being myself.
MK: Well then - if you're just being yourself, by all means - continue. No matter the pain you cause.
BC: Obviously! You're welcome.
MK: Oddly enough, there's a lesson to be learned here (for me).
BC: You better not bite me. That's not nice.
MK: Just what I need in my life - another hypocrite that's also a terrorist.
BC: Thank you!

On demonstrations of affection (part 2):
BC: OK. You can pet me now.
{Momma continues working}
BC: AHEM. Maybe you didn't hear me before, but you can pet me now. You have a few minutes pre-authorized - so have at it!
MK: I heard you the first time . . . I was just remembering the last few times I touched you . . . with plenty of encouragement on your part . . . I regretted it.
BC: Why?
MK: Would you like me to show you the holes you left in my left arm and right leg? Or the scars from before that?
BC: Oh, those. I was helping you.
MK: ?????????
BC: I have to give you good material for your blog. It's really hard work, but I love you enough to help. No one would read it if I were all love and rainbows.
MK: But you bit me for no reason BEFORE I even thought about blogging about your multiple personalities.
BC: I know - it took you 9 years of my toil and strife for you to figure out that I wanted to be an internet sensation. And by the way, I'm not yet, so you must be doing something wrong because I'm fabulous.
MK: A fabulous pain in my ass.
BC: I've only bit you there once. And that was an accident - I was trying to get the zipper on your back pocket - it looked like a string.
MK: You do realize it hurts when you sink your fangs into my flesh, right?
BC: Duh!
MK: I'm pretty sure love doesn't have to hurt.
BC: Well, judging from the guys you go for . . . I thought that was how it worked.
MK: You just love reminding me of that, don't you?
BC: Pet me NOW. Don't make me go find something to destroy.
MK: Isn't it exhausting to always win?
BC: What other option is there?
MK: Right.

On demonstrations of affection (part 1):
{Momma taking a nap - 2 days after returning from a week long trip.}
BC: {While rubbing up all over momma - very persistently.} Oh Momma, I'm soooo sooo glad you are home. Pet me! Pet me NOW! I can't live another second without loves! I love you so much! NOWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW!
{One rub then CHOMP!}
MK: AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! That's going to leave a mark {bruise and scar - in addition to fang hole}. Seriously? After all that effort to wake me up?
BC: You're welcome.
MK: @#$%^&*!
BC: Thank you!

Monday, April 20, 2015

This is my brain "on" blogging . . .

The largest and most obvious change in my life since starting Momma Kat and Her Bear Cat involves the massive amount of time it takes me to perfect posts here and on Momma Kat's Facebook page (writing the post goes quickly, agonizing and adjusting does not). While I expected this to occur, especially with my perfectionistic tendencies, it has eaten into the time Bear and I get to snuggle. So we've found other ways to spend time together (when I'm working: he'll come over, I pick him up, and hold/pet him until he's had enough). All of this makes me more conscious and thoughtful of the time I'm giving Bear - and might have even increased our together time in general. However, some consequences of starting the blog were not exactly as I expected. These unexpected consequences of blogging include:

1) In planning posts and recounting Bear's shenanigans, I appreciate him even more than I did before.
For the last couple years, I've been good at not taking him for granted, but dedicating time to think about him and his personality takes it to another level. I see all the bad and good and love him so much just the way he is. When I was facing his possibly malignant tumor, I realized the blog would stand as a testament to this amazing cat and chronicle my memories and experiences that I could treasure forever even if something does happen to him (it will eventually anyway).

2) You find support from some people you weren't expecting, little support from some you did - but in general, friends are awesome either way.
Mostly, I expected interest along the lines of cat people vs. non-cat people, but this hasn't proven true at all. I'm glad the audience is more diverse than I was expecting. As I said above, the value of the blog (for me) goes beyond my audience - it also changes and enriches my life, even if no one reads the blog. But I love and appreciate my readers and supporters too! Without you, none of this would have happened.

3) I started taking pictures again - including some of Bear and I together.
My pictures never turn out right - and I hate pictures of myself - so that combined caused me to give up even trying. But I know people like pictures - so I've forced myself to try again. Some surprisingly good shots - but also some major fails. The point is I'm at least trying again and documenting Bear (and his antics) in pictures - which often have value beyond words. Plus, I didn't have any pictures of Bear and I together after my ex-husband stopped taking them (a few months after we got Bear); I'm glad I now have some more recent expressions of our affectionate relationship.

4) An increase in insecurity.
I always doubt people really care about what I have to say - but blogging requires you to present yourself as having confidence that someone does care and wants to hear all these little tidbits of your life. I'm working on convincing myself of this. When blogging, you really put yourself out there and expose parts of yourself that can be uncomfortable. Or worse, you might offend someone or open yourself up to ridicule and rejection. This is another thing I am working on - but mostly, I just make myself post without over-thinking the message (even if I still over-think the details).
I also worry a lot more about whether people get my sense of humor. Sure, many of my posts seem like I'm complaining or annoyed (especially on Facebook) - but 98% of the time, that's not the case at all. I love my cat and I appreciate him and wouldn't change a thing about him. But, just like with men, cats are easy targets for humor just because of their personalities. Normally laughing at Bear (with appreciation, not mockingly), puts me in a better mood and draws me closer to him (again, appreciation of his individuality). And humor is my #1 coping mechanism for dealing with things beyond my control (otherwise known as "cat").
I also worry about labels - namely - being thought of as a cat lady: not only do I have a cat, but I find him interesting enough to write a blog about. We've all met people who told us more than we care to know; I don't want to be that person. I tell myself that I shouldn't be ashamed that I share my life with and love my cat. He doesn't replace or substitute for children or significant others - he adds to my life in his own right. I have enough love for all of the above - and frankly, if people thought more about the animals we share this planet with, the world would be a better place. There's more to animals than what they can do for us or the impact (good and bad) they have on us. I don't see Bear in terms of what I get out of the relationship - but instead value what I can provide for him (which in turn enriches my life).

Do I have any regrets on starting a blog? No. I'm very glad I did. Much like I'm very glad I took a chance on a little homeless kitten that stole my heart before I even knew I had one :)

One instance of the new "get all the love you care to take" dynamic - which involves Momma stopping whatever she is doing and picking Bear up for loves, for as long as he wants.

Friday, April 17, 2015

"Conversations" With Bear Cat: Part 1

Ever wonder about what conversations occur in the Momma Kat household? Here's a sample from the past week (some already posted to Momma Kat's Facebook page):

BC: Bear Cat
MK: Momma Kat

On demonstrations of affection:
{Background info: Bear has 3 or 4 cats who regularly "visit" him. When they are hanging around, he caterwauls and howls and stares at them with googly eyes for as long as they stay - some times as much as a few hours (usually at night). When the visitors start to leave, he runs from window to window to get the best view and meows mournfully like he's losing his best friend. He's even chewed through the blinds so he has quick entry and exit points. Momma Kat has given him multiple opportunities to "meet" his "friends" outside - all of which ended with Bear at the front door howling, banging on the door desperately with his front paws, and with his tail between his legs. As soon as he is inside and the door is shut, he goes back to the window to stare at them again.}

BC: How many times do I have to tell you?!?!? Cats don't do kisses!
MK: But I'm not actually kissing you - just getting close.
BC: That's enough!
MK: But you stick your nose (and paw, and butt, and tail, and . . . ) in my face all the time.
BC: That's different.
MK: ?????
BC: It just is. I have my street cred to protect.
MK: You? Street cred? BWAHAHAHAHA.
BC: You know I got it!
MK: Pretty sure that street cred is that you're a scared-y cat. You run from birds, squirrels, other cats, dogs, insects that buzz, other people, your own shadow . . . just a breeze causes you to poof up.
BC: I don't know what you're talking about.
MK: I've given you multiple opportunities to "meet" the friends you stare at with googly eyes through the window. Every single time, you howl and run like a cat out of hell - with your tail tight up against your belly. And if I don't close the door quick enough, you end up under the bed.
BC: I'm just playing hard to get - you know the ladies love that $#!+. What woman hasn't wanted a guy that was "unavailable" in one way or another? 

MK: Where did you learn that?
BC: You think I don't notice the guys you go for? You certainly love the "hard to get" guys.
MK: But you run with your tail between your legs and go hide under the bed - until you hear me close and lock the door.
BC: That's just me showing the ladies that I respect them - I recognize their power!

MK: Then why do you poof up like a frightened kitten?
BC: I'm showing them my beautiful plumage!
MK: Plumage? You do realize you're a short-haired cat, right? 
BC: It's not the length that matters - it's the quality.
MK: Don't you think it's slightly strange to only want to have a relationship through a window?
BC: You remember Mr. X? He . . .  and you . . . Then there's Mr. Q . . . And Mr. P . . .
MK: OK, fine you win that point. But don't you think at least 1 of the 4 is a male? The odds favor that outcome.
BC: This from the momma who thought I was a girl for months. What do you know?
MK: Maybe the black and white cat who bangs his rump loudly on the window over and over again - and is the only one that rivals your howling?
BC: Who? Meorge?
MK: Is that supposed to be "cat" for "George?" Because "George" is a male name. 
BC: Cats are always backwards.
MK: I couldn't say it better myself. In that case, I should have kept calling you "Lily." I think it's time you learn how to walk on a leash. Or I could start knitting cat outfits. We'd be the talk of the neighborhood!
BC: Not unless you want to die in your sleep. Any one of those would be sufficient. All three, and it would be exceedingly painful.

On snuggling positions:
This scenario occurs a few times each day (and even more frequently than in the past because MK has just started giving in, so BC knows all he has to do is wait MK out):

{BC jumps up on the couch where MK is laying on her side . . . walks the perimeter a few times (back of the couch, one arm, edge of the couch, other arm), all while looking at the way MK is laying, before sitting in the meatloaf position on the arm of the couch opposite MK's head}

MK: Can I help you?
BC: You know what I want.
MK: For crying out loud! You know I can't lay on my back on this couch for very long before it really hurts and I lose feeling in half my body.
MK: Can't we at least compromise?
BC: What's that?
MK: I lay on my back for 10 minutes and then I get to lay on my side for awhile.
BC: No, I mean what's a compromise? I'm not moving from this spot until you provide the sleeping/cuddling spot that I prefer.

MK: But it hurts me!
BC: So?
MK: Cuddling is cuddling whether you're laying on me or beside me/half on me. Both ways you get to curl up.
BC: I'm not even going to dignify that with an answer.
MK: I'm starting to think that everyone is right when they say you are spoiled.
BC: Lady, I only demand what I deserve.
MK: {as she turns to lay on her back} @#$%^&*!
BC: Thank you. I'm past my naptime because you insist on being stubborn.
MK: @#$%^&*!

On peace and quiet:
MK: Bear?!?!?
BC: NOW what?!?! It's always, "Bear do this!", "Bear don't do that!", "Bear, Bear, Bear!" Can't I ever get peace and quiet around here? Now I know why the big dodo left.
MK: Ummmmm . . . I was going to ask you what flavor of food you want for your treat . . .
BC: Oh. Salmon and chicken.
MK: Can we talk about what you said earlier?
BC: Less talking, more fooding!
{Bear gets food}
BC: Nomnomnomnomnomnomnomnomnomnomnomnomnom.
{Bear finishes eating}
MK: Now can we talk about your earlier comment?
BC: Nap time. 
MK: When do I ever ask you to do anything? Or yell at you?
BC: All the time. I know you do - I don't have to provide examples. If I had opposable thumbs, I'd keep a list. 
MK: Right, you can't remember any examples because you don't have the ability to write them down.
BC: You bug me even when I'm sleeping! What could I possibly do while I'm sleeping?!?!
MK: Perhaps it's because I found the mess you made in the other room.
BC: It's not a "mess," it's art! I worked hard for 4 months to make the last piece . . . and my pièce de résistance is coming soon.
MK: I can't imagine anything topping that last furball. And I don't yell at you.
BC: You don't need to - I see how you look at me. It just screams "yelling."
MK: So basically, I don't yell at you or bug you for no reason.
BC: You're still talking.
MK: And that about sums it up.

On Bear's "mistreatment":
MK: That's coming out of your allowance!
BC: But I don't get an allowance!
MK: Hmmmm . . . I wonder why that is?
BC: Because you're a cheap tightwad whose mission in life is to make me miserable. And you hate me!
MK: You're right. I gave you a forever home because I hate you and just want to torture you.
BC: You admit it!
MK: {Roll eyes}. I'd think some cat that boasts about superior intelligence would recognize sarcasm.
BC: I have no idea what you're talking about!

On the vacuum:
BC: Haha! While you use that evil machine . . . I will tear up your couch!!! Haha - TAKE THAT! AND THAT!
(Momma is vacuuming the other side of the room - facing away) Wait, NOOOOO, don't turn around, I'm not done yet!
MK: Too late. I couldn't hear you (very clever), but I saw you.
BC: @#$%&*! 
MK: What, you want to roll around on carpet that is full of junk and get it stuck in your fur?
BC: But you negotiate with terrorists!
MK: The vacuum?!?! I negotiate with you all the time - and you're a terrorist!
BC: We don't negotiate, I'm the boss. And when I take what I want by force of claw and fang, at least I'm cute.
MK: So it's OK to negotiate with a cute terrorist?
BC: We don't negotiate. I do what I want and you live with it because I'm cute.
MK: @#$%&*! {SIGH}
BC: Damn right!

Monday, April 13, 2015

But . . . This Isn't Part of the Plan!!!

This post is a continuation of Bear's "adoption" story. You can find the two earlier parts of the story {HERE} and {HERE}.

Let's be honest. No matter how well thought out, researched, and well-intended your plan is, where 1) men, 2) children, and/or 3) cats are involved, chaos WILL ensue. Each one of those three added to the mix increases the disorder exponentially. I should have known better.

Surprise #1: "Lily" is a male. Even though we'd been calling him that for weeks and he'd started responding to it. Hadn't planned for "spraying" issues and had no experience with male cats (probably why I though he was a she in the first place - no experience. Oops.). For more on this, see {HERE}.

Surprise #2: Litter box training a cat is not all that hard, in fact, you might be all uptight about it because you rent your residence and paid a deposit, but for the cat, the litter box is second nature. If you are paranoid and, once returning to the area you have the cat isolated in, go around sniffing everywhere to try to detect accidents, your cat will take on that anxiety and won't understand why you are acting like a dog (especially if you try to smell Mr. Cat's butt - what did I really think this would accomplish? There'd be a clue?). All the sources I used said that after the cat eats or drinks, you should place him in the litter box and encourage him to go. However, up until an hour before, my 4 pound kitten had been homeless, so a full bowl of food and a person spending unlimited time with you is like heaven for such a cat.  He'd eat some kibble, meanwhile watching that I didn't leave, and then come back to cuddle - over and over for hours. But my sources said to put him into the litter box after EACH approach to the food bowl. Unfortunately, I apparently put him in there so many times, he stopped trying to get out and just curled up in the litter box, I'm assuming because he thought that's where I wanted him (if that doesn't make you feel like a horrible kitty momma, nothing will). Thank goodness for everyone involved, I never had to potty train a child. Also, I kept trying to figure out where the boy parts were. Not that I didn't trust the vet that he was male, but just so I knew. It took a few weeks for me to finally see what I was looking for even though he's a big lover of flopping on his back. I feel the need to defend Bear's male parts (perhaps I've just met too many guys who need reassurance, and a cat doesn't care) - but it's not that his boy parts are small, I just had no clue (I have no idea about his relative size, if I went around looking at and comparing male cat parts, well, that's weird). But back to the litter box. There were no accidents and there was no spraying: while I was surprised, I was also incredibly thankful (even though we later lost our deposit anyway because Bear shredded the carpet).

Surprise #3: Cats are not the same. Call it "Tails of Two Kitties." It's not that I really thought they were, more that my understanding of cats (needs, preferences, activity, etc.), were based on one cat that was night and day different from the new kid. This will be the topic of a separate post - because it takes a bit of an adjustment to get used to a cat that is pretty much the opposite of what you are used to. And the major differences between the cats also contributed to their inability to get along.

Surprise #4: Good luck keeping the new cat isolated, especially if you can't spend all of your time in the area the cat is isolated in. My research told me that new cats should be isolated for 2 weeks from the rest of the household (mainly the resident cat). The hope is that they will smell each other through the closed door and get used to the idea of each other. But by the third day when I had to leave him in the room by himself, it became obvious this isolation thing wasn't going to work. I'm a sucker - I admit it - but after THREE HOURS of listening to Bear tearing up the carpet on the other side of the door (see above about losing our deposit because of Bear tearing up carpet) and HOWLING (hello, neighbors!) at the top of his lungs because he wanted to be where I was, I called my (now ex) husband at work crying that I couldn't take it anymore. No doubt it was easy for HIM to say to be tough and stick it out - that Bear would stop eventually. I lasted another hour and a half: isolation over. New phase: complete chaos.

All of these surprises are nothing compared to those that came later as the cats faced off and learned how to share (or not). What once was . . . THIS ISN'T PART OF THE PLAN! Was NOW said while trying desperately to hold on to my sanity and hold back the tears; also, said aloud to no one in particular as everyone else has joined into the complete chaos and wasn't listening to me anyway. Countless incidents led to two main long-term conclusions:

a) The cats will never get along. The best you can hope for is peace and a good night's sleep . . . the worst is constant confrontations and frustration. You can see the differences that caused the most conflict best illustrated in my post found {HERE}.
b) The new cat loves jumping, loves destroying things (carpet, posters, blinds, books, paper . . . everything), and loves being loved. He can be loud and annoying, but also sweet and adorable. A good rule of thumb to remember is that he does nothing half-assed - he loves, he destroys, he dares, etc with his whole heart. So in that way, as well as others, the name "Bear" is perfect for him.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

How Much Is a Picture Worth? (Plus Picture Dump)

You might be asking why pictures aren't the focus of Momma Kat and Her Bear Cat. Maybe I'm biased, but Bear IS incredibly cute, so where are the pictures to prove it?!?! There are several reasons why pictures are not the focus of this blog:

1) Momma Kat takes {mostly} horrible pictures. Beyond my own hatred of how I look in them, the lighting or the angle or something always seems wrong with them. I'm pretty sure it's not just my perfectionism talking - and more that I haven't been able to teach myself anything worthwhile. I've asked for advice and sworn I was going to read the "long" manual for my camera {with instructions}, but it doesn't take long for my eyes to glaze over and for me to tune out. Ideally, I will figure this out so my blog is more professional-looking; but I've promised myself I would figure this out for years, before the blog was even a glimmer in my eye. In other words: don't hold your breath. While it matters to me and I wish my pictures did Bear justice, I'm honest with myself that it's just not a top priority (like snuggling with the cat in question). In the meantime, I've selected pictures based on the best I do have.

2) Bear Cat hates pictures. H-A-T-E-S. When I turn the camera on and the lens comes out - either it freaks him out or he just really doesn't like having his picture taken. So I miss a lot of opportunities because when I turn the camera on, he stops what he's doing and runs/hides.

3) Occasionally, I'll turn the camera on and wait for him to do something. This would be the perfect strategy except I usually lose my camera because Bear thinks the arm strap is a toy (string) and takes possession of the camera. Our first encounter with this was 8 years ago. I set the camera on a table - turned around - then back and Bear was dragging the camera out of the bedroom (by the strap - in his mouth). I instinctively turned to look back at the table because I just HAD to get a picture of this, but obviously, he had the camera, so no luck. The below picture is the best I have so far of his fun with the camera strap (attached to the camera - DUH).

As you might have noticed, I added pages/tabs for pictures. I envision the pages as a repository for all the pictures used on my blog or on my Facebook page - for those times you just want to look at pretty pictures. Each picture will be captioned and linked to the original post it was part of to give readers a better idea of the context. There will also be pictures that have not been included on the blog before - that I want to share "just because." I'll categorize the pictures under "Pictures - Blog," "Pictures - Facebook," and "Pictures - Just Because."

To see the "picture dump," click on one of the "Pictures" tabs above or follow these links:

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Naming "Male Kitten"

In my post, "The good news is your cat is not pregnant . . . the bad news is . . . (or How We Met)" {HERE} I detailed how my (now ex) husband and I adopted a homeless male kitten. After feeding the kitten one time, he came around every day for loves. I continued to offer him food, but while I was outside too, he just wanted me to pet him (including on his belly - which was the first time I'd ever been "authorized" to pet any cat's belly). He'd roll on his back with his paws limp in the air, purring like it was the best thing ever. I was shocked that as long as I was out there, he turned down food. He was clearly starving, and often when I went back inside, the other cats would come for the food and he'd back away. I couldn't believe that this little guy found love more important than food or his survival. And I admit, given my interpretation, I appreciated his priorities (who knows what he was really thinking). Usually "experts" talk about animals in terms of instincts for survival and not being able to control themselves given certain stimuli (like food). Clearly, something else was going on here. As winter closed in, I was worried about him surviving the winter; we would have adopted him already, but I already had a 15 year old cat with medical problems so I didn't feel comfortable bringing him inside and potentially exposing her to anything the kitten was carrying. When we finally chose to adopt him, we'd been calling him "Lily" for close to a month, thinking he was female (due to my lack of knowledge of feline anatomy). After taking him to the vet and finding out that he was male (and free of diseases and NOT pregnant), I was completely lost as to what to do and what to name "Male Kitten" as was written in his vet records. All my plans revolved around a female cat . . . most of my knowledge revolved around female cats . . . I shuddered to think about spraying and "tomming" and territories . . . 

After the day I brought him home/inside passed (with all its more practical concerns of making him feel comfortable and litter box training), I was utterly bewildered with the task of naming "Male Kitten." One option was to keep "Lily," as he answered to it. My usual strategy is to think things through and weigh options and take my time to make the best decision. But in some circumstances, such as this one, it wasn't really feasible. When my family adopted Kitty (I was in middle school, my brother younger), she became "Kitty" only because for days, no one copped to having any ideas, so my mom just decided after more than a week that since she was coming to "Here, Kitty-Kitty," that "Kitty-Kitty" would be her name. And I swear, even though it's a really common name for cats, I always got a raised-eyebrow when I told people her name. I wanted a "real" name that fit him. Besides his incredibly sweet personality, I noticed that when we were snuggling and I rubbed his belly and between his front legs, that he would wrap his front paws around my arm, like a huge bear hug. That felt like a million dollars (even after I realized it could also be used a vice grip to hold my arm still so he could bite it - but that came months later). I brainstormed and agonized about what to name him (my then husband was no help). A cat that is sweet like honey, with a ferocious heart (and I'd learn later, spirit), that gives "bear hugs." Bear became Pooh Bear (as in Winnie the Pooh). As anyone with a child or pet (or even husband) knows, when chaos has broken out, a one syllable name is the fastest to spit out and condenses the emphasis to that one syllable. So, though he's officially "Pooh Bear," he became "Bear" once we let him out of isolation and pandemonium ensued between Bear and Kitty. I can tell you that when your two cats aren't happy, no one is (Kitty because Bear wouldn't leave her alone and Bear because he wanted a friend).

In the intervening 8 years since I named him, "Bear" has become the perfect descriptor of a cat that both loves fiercely and acts with bold and lasting conviction. One minute he's a purring snuggle kitty, the next, he's sticking his paw in the toaster or banging his paw around behind the furniture to get your attention (or my least favorite, licking and biting my ear if I'm sleeping). And just when you want to scream . . . back to purring sweetness. The biggest "problem" I've had is people automatically thinking "Bear" must be a dog (one of the most popular name for dogs). So when I call my vet or {very rarely} need to board him, I make sure I say very clearly, "MY CAT, BEAR." Occasionally accidents still happen, like a confirmation call of "Bear's" appointment for his "canine vaccinations" (I once had a similar job so I understand some times you see the name and make the call - and if you are distracted by the time someone picks up, you just assume). In recent years, I've thought maybe his lovingness before we adopted him was part of a scheme to find a home. But he STILL acts that way. He gets wet food once a day as a treat - and it's one of his favorite parts of the day (he follows me around relentlessly when it gets close to the time). But if I start petting him after I set down the food, he'll curl up in my lap - and forget about the food. What a cat! And what a heart! And now you know why he has mine. Unequivocally.

Not quite one of his famous "Bear Hugs," but the closest I've got to a picture of it.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Momma Kat vs. Bear Cat: Take 1

Momma Kat version:

(cat rubs across momma's legs)
{thinking: Oh, how sweet, my loving cat is rubbing up against me because he loves me. I love you, love bug! He must want love!} 
(reaching down to pet cat)
(cat grabs onto arm and starts gnawing)
{thinking: Damn cat. Thank goodness I have a sweatshirt on.}
(cat continues gnawing on arm, moving his jaw around and experimenting with different angles, trying to cause the most pain)
What did I do to you this time?
{thinking: Well, at least we're back to "normal." I guess he's feeling better.}
(cat goes to couch, curls up and falls asleep - snoring)

Bear Cat version:

{thinking: I'm bored. Why isn't momma petting me or playing with me? Looks like I'll have to handle this with my own paws.}
(cat rubs across momma's legs)
{thinking: She looked at me funny. She knows she did. And then she touched me! She actually touched me! She totally started it! I'm just protecting myself! Why isn't she howling in pain?!?!?}
{thinking: She's still not howling in pain! I've tried every side and every angle . . .}
{thinking: . . . My jaw is getting tired! Damn her. We'll have to continue this later.}
(cat goes to couch, curls up and falls asleep)

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Too Close to a Nightmare I Couldn't Handle


So what do you do if in the course of petting your fur-baby, you feel a lump that you are almost positive is not supposed to be there? For those of you who have checked out Momma Kat's Facebook page, you've already read bits of the saga of the lump I felt in Bear's back, just about an inch off his backbone, and a few inches above his tail. He LOVES to get a good back scratch on his backbone, just above his tail. And it has to be a scratch, a simple rub will not do. So I am fairly familiar with the territory and it was odd that all of a sudden, it was there.

My first thought (and nightmare) was a vaccination-related sarcoma. No one knows exactly why they form and the prognosis is fairly poor; though treatments have improved over the years, they are likely to grow back if removed. They are also fairly rare (my vet's seen 4 in his 40 year practice and online sources say 1/10,000 - 1/20,000 - but it doesn't really matter if your cat is the one in the thousands to get it). Sarcomas have been on my radar since I moved back to my hometown and took Bear to the vet I knew well. We got a newer guy in the same practice, and before doing any vaccinations beyond rabies (which is required in the county we live in), he made sure I was aware of the rare, but often dangerous sarcoma. In the moment I had to think about whether to get the additional vaccinations, I figured it was worth not having to worry about these other conditions, so I went along with the other recommended vaccinations. Despite making the decision, in the back of my mind, it was still there - I continued to think about what COULD happen. In subsequent yearly visits/vaccinations, the topic was never brought up again, and I continued to get the recommended vaccinations, though each year I thought about it and it settled into a simmer on my "back burner." 

Fast forward to Saturday, March 14th (Bear is 9 years old), when I felt the lump. I panicked and felt overwhelmed because my instinct told me something was not right. First thing Monday, I made an appointment for the afternoon and brainstormed questions, concerns and details about the lump. The lump was strange (as the vet verified, he wasn't entirely sure what was going on), because it felt rather hard like a marble (though a little bigger), yet it didn't seem like it was attached to underlying tissue - it could be manipulated in a circle with a couple inch diameter. He told me it was unlikely it was a sarcoma because they are usually more spread out and soft, and they are firmly attached to the surrounding tissue. Because Bear's lump was hard, he wasn't sure an aspiration would be conclusive (tiny needle inserted into the tumor to withdraw liquid for testing). His recommendation was to remove it sooner than later (especially because it wasn't attached to anything and should theoretically be easy to remove). While it all seemed so sudden and I usually like to think things over and make an informed decision, I scheduled the surgery for the next day. 

Poor Bear. He hates his carrier, is terrified of vets (and all people except for me) and usually just about has a heart attack smelling or hearing the other animals. He also is known to be loud when he's not happy - he "talks" and makes sure everyone is aware of whatever indignity he is suffering. If I had a dollar for everyone that's commented on his extensive and impressive vocal skills, he'd eat caviar at every meal. If it were anything else, I would have given in - but off he went (despite his meowing like he was dying a horrible, painful death). I seriously debated insisting on staying - at least while he was awake - because I know hearing my voice calms him down. When I spoke with the vet after the surgery, he started to waver on whether it was a sarcoma and told me that it was a "nasty" tumor - and because of what he saw, he took more than double (almost three times) what he'd expected - to make sure there was as wide a margin as possible. He also told me Bear was awake and watching everyone intently. No doubt, he was carefully watching everyone to make sure they were doing what they should. Mr. Overseer, making sure to keep an eye on his humans' "incompetence." 

When I saw Bear for the first time after the surgery (later that day, Tuesday), it was no doubt one of the hardest things I've ever done. The incision was about six to eight inches long and broke my heart. If it was in fact a sarcoma, that was likely to grow back, I couldn't imagine putting Bear through this all over again. Even worse, he was unsteady and wasn't himself (to be expected with anesthesia, especially since he got more than planned since the surgery was extended to remove more). I cried on the way home and panicked when I got him out of the carrier at home, because the incision started bleeding and he could barely hold himself up in the litter box. Thank goodness my vet is patient and was available to calm me down. No doubt he thinks I'm a complete nut, but in reality there are very few things (mostly people that I love or Bear) that rattle me enough that I doubt I can handle them. The vet suggested I put him in a dark room and close the door. But after I got off the phone, my momma instincts returned and I knew he'd want to be next to me and would tear up carpet if we were separated and he was by himself in a room (not good for the stitches). So I made us a nest of blankets on the floor (I was afraid he wasn't ready to jump on the couch and he's the kind of cat that if I'd picked him up to the couch, he'd have jumped down - maybe before he was ready or okay to do so). I also fed him some wet and dry food, which he gobbled greedily. The vet said wait an hour after I got home, but I know Bear - he'd have followed me around until I gave him something, and he didn't have any problems with the little bit I gave him at a time. 

Four hours of our nest snuggling (and a ridiculous amount of food) later, he got up and went to jump on the couch by himself (I know this means he needs his time alone). Still, he looked up to make sure I was around and came over every so often to get an ear rub - which made me feel good that my presence was reassuring and my momma instincts were working correctly. I was panicking in the back of my mind - but decided I would take this one day at a time. Instead of dealing with his appearance/behavior AND the consequences of what the doctor saw, I decided to deal with his state as a result of the surgery NOW and deal with the long-term issues when the histopathology report came back and we had answers (and theoretically, I'd feel better about his post-surgery condition and have better ability to cope with the rest).

By Wednesday, he was more like himself, though it took him closer to a week to get back to attacking the printer when it's turned on and various other "Bear" behaviors (being destructive for attention). On Friday the histopathology report came back - the tumor was benign. The tumor started out as a lipoma (accumulation of fat cells - harmless unless it becomes large enough that it interferes with surrounding nerves, tissues, etc - but it never turns into cancer itself), however, it somehow became infected. We're still not sure why because the vet said it wasn't usual for that to happen, but his best guess was that the tumor had outgrown its blood supply (makes sense given the presence of necrotic, or dead, tissue in the tumor), and the dead tissue triggered an infection. 

Two weeks after the surgery (March 31st), the stitches were removed and Bear was back to being Bear. The vet kept telling me that I should be happy and relieved, which I was, but it was just too close. Too close to something horrible. I know that over time, my reality will shrink back to normal, but I'm still struggling with believing every thing will really be okay. I'm not ready to let go of my awareness that something really bad could happen and haven't figured out how to live fully around that awareness. I don't want to get my hopes up even though the vet thinks this is "over." 

My announcement of my blog happened a few hours before I felt the lump and everything turned upside down. I wondered if I'd made a target of myself for being so proud of and loving Bear that I wanted to share him with others. Was I too prideful? If I'd never started the blog, would this never have happened? I also wondered if I was too complacent. I don't take Bear for granted (as the existence of my blog indicates), but I wondered if I became complacent about bad things happening in general in my life: if this was a reminder that bad things happen. I got mad at God and told Him off numerous times - mostly saying that if He had a problem with or an ax to grind with me, to hurt me, not Bear, who hadn't done anything. Of course, my language was more colorful - because Bear is my Achilles Heel. He is wonderful and the thought of him suffering because of my mistakes (in life in general or in his care) was just too much. I offered God deals that I would never have done for anyone or anything else. As I was dealing with all this, I wasn't sure where my blog fit in anymore - it seemed more important to be there for Bear and spend my energy appreciating him. This is why I haven't been posting as much as planned. I have more than twenty ideas for blog posts and a couple pages of notes, which I will get to eventually. 

Thank you for your patience as I figure things out and negotiate this new reality that was just TOO CLOSE for me to be okay any time soon. And I'm also struggling with the deal I made - maybe it wasn't realistic, but Bear is too important for me to mess it up. And if it would make a difference - then I will do it. Rationally, I know that in the face of something outside one's control, one grasps for anything that could possibly make a difference. Any situation is easier if you think there is something you could have or could now do to change the outcome - otherwise you are left with a life that is arbitrary and makes no sense. I also know that we are told that God is not punitive and doesn't "make" us suffer. I know all the rationalizations for the struggles and feelings described - but unfortunately, this is a situation where the feelings and potential loss far outstrip the powers of rationalization. I also recognize that even in the worst case scenario, there are much worse things in the world that people have to deal with. I "get" that Bear is "just" a cat - but I am not embarrassed that my deep capacity for love includes animals as well as other people. Some people might think that is crazy - but for me, I believe it to be a strength. Besides, I dare you to meet Bear and not love him!

Bear Back to Overseeing the Printer (incision is on other side - I don't feel right posting those pictures)

Because a lot of issues have been made in opposition to childhood vaccinations, I want to be clear that I still believe the security of feline vaccinations far outweigh the consequences. Even if Bear's tumor turned out to be a sarcoma, I wouldn't have regretted making the decision to get those vaccinations (though I would have minimized future vaccinations if he'd shown the susceptibility for sarcoma). Today, vets favor giving vaccinations in the back legs (rabies on one side, others on the other) to try to manage the incidences of sarcomas - versus in the lower back as they used to (again, why I feared Bear's lump might be a sarcoma - it was precisely in the area of the back the vaccinations were previously given, and they can take years after the actual vaccination to form). I believe vaccinations are important - especially in multi-cat households or for cats that are exposed to other, unknown cats (cats allowed outside for more than a minute or two or cats who are boarded).

Most importantly, I am not a vet, nor do I have any kind of veterinary training. I hesitate to provide too much technical information because I can't verify it independently - but I also feel like it's important in some cases (like in saying sarcomas are rare), to give some kind of concrete range to allay fears and show just how rare it is. Any kind of technical data I provide is consistent across reliable sources (vet medicine groups), though there is no way for me to get information from every source, so you might find conflicting information elsewhere. Finding a vet you trust is worth more than any other resource because they are dealing with your cat specifically. Any concerns, questions or uncertainty should be discussed with your vet - it should feel like a partnership - with a common goal - the health of your pet. 

A good summary of the vaccination issues related to sarcomas can be found at: