After an enforced hiatus in order to complete some massive editing jobs, I’m back with the third in a two part series…..
INTRODUCING JOHNNY AND POOMS
In a spare moment of extreme leisure recently, I did the following calculation: since 1967, when Bonnie and Clyde joined my household as kittens, in the succeeding forty-nine years, I (and now we) have enjoyed some form of feline companionship in forty-five of those years. That qualifies me, I believe, as a lifer, entitled to whatever lifers are entitled to – if nothing else, a great deal of emotional satisfaction, the kind that cat lovers derive from watching their pets curl up in a sunny spot and take an extended nap.
So after dealing with the trauma of losing both Cookie and Moby in less than a month, the burning question was how long would all our cat paraphernalia, the food bowls, litter box, scratching posts, and the like stay in our storage area before they would be needed for some new occupants?
Not so long. It wasn’t more than a few weeks before I was putting out feelers to a couple of animal shelters. Then one fateful day, Natania asked me to look at something on her computer screen. She was trolling on the Yad Shteyim website, a good place to look for second hand furniture, clothing, household stuff, and apartments you may or may not want to live in here in The Land. But they also have pre-owned pets of varying descriptions. What caught Natania’s eye was a post for two eight year old cats who would shortly need a new home.
That pretty much filled the bill – or so we thought. Two cats who would keep each other company and entertained. Old enough to have outgrown their climb-the-curtains stage, but also too old to attract the attention of most potential pet owners. Welcome to the Casdens, where geriatric felines get to spend their golden years!
So Natania made a phone call, and after a few back and forths, it was arranged that Oded would arrive late Thurs. eve. with two cats and their belongings.
An entire carload of stuff: four cat beds, four scratching devices, a bucket full of toys, a litter box and another larger box to house the litter box (so the litter wouldn’t wind up all over the floor), several bags of litter, four plastic bowls for food and water, a large bag of specialty cat food imported from Canada (ingredients: cage-free chicken and turkey, wild perch, nest laid eggs, fresh fruit and vegetables, no grain, “steam cooked in natural juices – no water added”), several packages of cat treats, and a vial of catnip – all of which we stuffed into Barbara’s office. Next, the two cats, about to make their entrance.
First, Pooms, a dark tortoise-shell with long hair, pleasantly plump as befits an indoor pet. Then Johnny. OMG, he’s enormous. I’ve seen pictures of larger housecats, but I’ve never actually been in the presence of any domestic feline with his girth. He must tip the scales conservatively at 20 lbs. (9 kgs.) He needs his own personal trainer and a haircut (which he won’t get). We later figured out why he is so big. He’s clearly a Norwegian Forest Cat, and they come that size.
Anyway, Oded stayed for a little while and got Barbara and Natania up to speed as to the peregrinations of these two animals. Seems they were originally camping out with a young couple, who decided that a new baby was as much as they could handle, so the two were shipped off to a German woman who was now returning to her homeland. Plus the apartment in which they were staying was being sold. So these two were about to be the feline equivalent of up-the-creek-without-a-paddle when we volunteered to provide bed and breakfast (plus a litter box).
We knew it would take a while for all of us to become acquainted. But two things became apparent almost immediately. The first was that these animals had no use for most of the stuff that came along with them: the beds, the cat furniture, the bucket full of toys, many of which scared the big guy. But more important, these two cats, who had been together for eight years, did not get along. To put it another way: they did not like each other one bit. And when one cat has a ten to twelve pound weight advantage over the other one, plus he gets jealous if you pay her any attention, this is not a good thing. The one thing Oded neglected to bring was a copy of “Cat Refereeing for Dummies.” Fortunately for all concerned, this moody animal formed an almost immediate attachment to Natania, sleeping on her bed, following her into the bathroom, which made matters a little easier. (Speaking of which, as an added bonus, you can, and you should, read Natania’s impressions of these two by clicking here.)
POOMS GOES MISSING
Now comes the fun part: Tues. morning we couldn’t find Pooms. No immediate cause for alarm. She seemed to spend most of her time in seclusion tucked in some out-of-the-way corner, coming out on occasion for some affection and to involve herself in bodily requirements. But after the three of us made an exhaustive search, looking everywhere (and we knew where Cookie and Moby would hide), it became increasingly apparent that she wasn’t in the apartment. She hadn’t checked out and left her room key at the desk. She couldn’t have simply disappeared into thin air. Did she use one of the windows as an emergency exit? (Remember: we’re on the top two floors of the building.) We kept checking and rechecking every inch of the apartment, every nook and cranny, because she had to be somewhere. But the truth was inescapable. The cat was simply not there. She must have vacated the premises by some unlikely method. As Sherlock Holmes was wont to say: “Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.”
What to do? The most obvious thing was to start looking by searching the neighborhood. That’s easy enough. There are about 100 places a reclusive cat who’s mostly dark grey can probably hide. Twenty or thirty years ago, the city planted bushes in every area that wasn’t built on or paved over. They are now impenetrable thickets in which the fifty or so street cats who reside within fifty yards of our building hang out. So if you go around calling, “Here Pooms, here Pooms,” at least a dozen non-Pooms will emerge, hoping for a morsel of food. Nonetheless, every morning and evening, anytime we were coming or going, we looked for her, hoping against hope.
What else can you do? Get other people involved. I asked Natania to make up some flyers: LOST CAT!, which I put strategically around the neighborhood. Another long shot. This is Israel, where the majority of cats live outdoors by their wits and the kindness of Russians. Most Israelis would be clueless as to why you would be looking for a specific cat in the midst of an army of fellow creatures. It would be like putting up a sign in Teaneck that your pet squirrel is missing. Maybe we should enlist the aid of the Anglo community, many of whom know us and at least understand why we’re upset about a missing cat. So Poom’s picture went onto the Ma’ale Adumim Anglo Facebook group. Sure enough, we got a hit! Somebody has spotted a cat walking down a street a mile or more from us. Someone else sent us a picture. Of course, it wasn’t our cat. But at least they tried.
After a week, we were going through the motions. Pooms was gone, who knows where. We were reluctantly resigned to the fact that we would never see her again. She hadn’t been spotted with any of the groups of cats that get fed once or twice a day in front of our building. Maybe she was trying to wend her way back to Jerusalem, back to Emek Refayim, from whence she came. Maybe she was dead. Maybe she was…..who knows? And there would be no point agonizing over the possibilities.
Then I got a call from Natania. She had just gotten a call from our downstairs neighbor. They had found a cat on their balcony a few days away and shooed it away. Finally, the woman took the trouble to read the sign on the bulletin board in our lobby – the same sign she had passed by four or five times a day for the last week (duh!) – and realized that someone was looking for said cat. With some assurance that Pooms might be around and about, I ran downstairs to resume my search. I met our neighbor and her kids coming towards the building, and she repeated what she had told Natania. I was continuing to look, when the neighbor came out of the building, announcing “Etzli” (meaning more or less, with me). I ran up to her apartment, out to her merpeset, and there, hiding in a corner, behind a pile of stuff, was the familiar face of a grey tortoise shell cat, scared out of her wits. I needed to go up to our apartment to get a cat carrier, but with some effort we cornered Pooms in our neighbor’s bed room (where I never imagined I would ever be!) and brought her home. Don’t ask what had happened; don’t ask where this cat had been for the last eight days; don’t ask me how she managed to find food and water – assuming that she did. We have all sorts of theories, but unless and until Pooms completes her memoir, “Eight Days on the Lam,” we won’t know for sure what happened.
If I were writing a book for children, there would have to be a happy, uplifting ending. Of course, the humans involved would be delighted with this turn of events, as would be Pooms herself, rescued from the cruel, unfeeling world outside, having to compete with dozens of hungry fellow creatures. But after a week by himself, plenty of time to think things over, Johnny would have realized how much he missed his companion and would have promised himself to be nicer to her. The real life Johnny was not so forgiving. He still resents her presence and the attention given her. He still hisses at her when he is in a bad mood and from time to time goes after her. Although I have no training in the field, I have been pressed into service as the arbiter of feline disputes. (Johnny, leave her alone!)
In Johnny’s defense, Natania would point out that he’s much better behaved when he’s by himself and if you can read his cues as to when he wants you to pay attention to him and when he wants to be left alone – which our daughter has pretty much done. Natania has begun to look for an apartment (I’m sure she will write a series of articles about the hovels she has inspected so far – including the one with the pigeons flying inside), and when she moves out, Johnny is going with her. Until then………
A CAT NAMED CALICO
This past Tuesday was a day I was not looking forward to. The three of us had cleared our calendars and were scheduled to take all three cats to the vet for a checkup. All three of them? We thought you had two cats. Oh, that’s right, I haven’t said a word about Calico, our street cat.
There is a group of cats that live around our building, fed mainly by a Russian family who live on the first floor. Front and center is Calico, who is almost always found hanging around, either on the low walls right outside the building or right inside the entrance – looking for a friendly face and a pat on the head, which we are all to willing to provide. Calico would always follow us into the building, up the stairs, hoping to be allowed into our apartment. That didn’t seem like a good plan when Cookie and Moby were around, but recently we have been letting her in, by mutual agreement, for short periods of time – long enough to get a good meal, washed down with a liberal supply of water, long enough to bat at a string or cord hanging down and, in the process, knock over a telephone or all our aprons. On reflection, I have come to realize that Calico is one of the more normal cats I’ve come upon (although I realize that the term “normal cat” comes perilously close to being an oxymoron). She is used to being around people, is not intimidated by any of the little dogs that run around without a leash, and, the hard part, works and plays well with other cats. When Johnny spots her in our apartment and does his hissing number, she just looks at him. She knows that he knows that he wouldn’t dare start up with her (even though he’s also got ten pounds on her). He just sits and watches as she wolfs down what’s in a communal food bowl. But if the three of them are eating and drinking from the same bowls, it might be prudent to have her checked out – for fleas, ticks, ear mites, or other nasty critters. So all three were going to the vet – assuming we could find Calico, entice her upstairs, and get her into one of the carriers. But only after we dealt with Johnny and Pooms. After a few failed attempt to get the larger cat into a carrier, we figured out what to do. Barbara would stand the case on end and hold it, while Natania would grab Johnny and drop him head first, legs flailing, into it. We were able to locate Pooms and do a similar maneuver. To my surprise, Calico was foolish enough to come upstairs and get dropped into the third case. Ready to go!
A TRIP TO THE VET
Three cats, three cases, three people, and one taxi. In the old days, we would simply put our cats in a carrier and walk down to Donny’s office ten-fifteen minutes away. However, we can hardly lift Johnny, let alone carry him in a case that distance. Even Pooms would be a schlepp. So we agreed that I would walk with Calico, and the ladies would take the other two in the cab.
First up, Calico. Let’s get her in and out. Donny the vet gave her all the shots and treatments needed to keep her from getting any nasty critters to bring into our apartment as well as a rabies shot. We got Calico back into her cage, and I brought her back into our apartment for a little R&R and a late afternoon snack. So I missed the weigh-in for Johnny. Twenty-three pounds. TWENTY-THREE POUNDS!!!!!! (It’s not his fault. He’s a Norwegian Forest Cat, and that’s how they come.) Pooms, up next, tipped the scales at thirteen pounds. The diet starts NOW! Hills Prescription Diet for overweight cats, that’s the ticket! Donny just happened to have an enormous bag of the stuff in his car. Let’s see if that works!
THE CITY KNOWS ALL
It was only later that we began to appreciate the irony of the situation. Calico, the street cat, got the rabies shot, so Donny recorded that information on the Ma’ale Adumim municipal website, which meant we had to ante up fourteen shekels to get her a license. Our two supposedly had their shots six months at some vet’s office in Jerusalem, so they won’t need another shot for six months – meaning that Donny did not enter their existence into said system. So as far as the city is concerned, we “own” the cat who isn’t ours and don’t “own” the two cats who live in our apartment. As the wise man was wont to say: Go figure.
YOU CAN’T ARGUE WITH STUPID
There was one thing left to do once my two ladies and their charges returned: Deal with the cab company. The normal fare from here to the center of town is about twenty shekels. On the way down, the driver asked for thirty. As Barbara had nothing smaller than a fifty shekel note, there was nothing she could do prevent the driver from ripping her off. On the way back, Natania called the same company to order the cab and asked the dispatcher how much it should be to go home with two cats. The answer was “ragil” (the regular amount). Of course the second driver also asked for thirty shekels. Natania decided to call back the dispatcher and complain. What gives? I want you to stop, take a moment, and try to imagine the stupidest answer the dispatcher could give. Ready? They thought that we were going to be carrying two cats in our arms; that would have been the regular price. Cats in carrying cases are extra. Take another minute to digest the brilliance of that remark. Oh, you want us to hold onto a cat and put it into your vehicle so it would poop all over your seats or attack your driver. You wouldn’t charge us extra if we brought our groceries back from the mall; you wouldn’t charge me extra for apiece of luggage or a computer in your trunk. But you’re charging us for a cat carrier……
You have to know whom you’re dealing with. You have to understand that you simply cannot argue with stupid. Well, you can, but you won’t win, and you’ll only raise your blood pressure to some ungodly level. What you can do is calmly explain to the moron you’re talking to that you’ll a) never use their company again, and b) you’ll go out of your way to similarly discourage others. That will have no effect on Stupid, but you will feel better without being unduly aggravated.
SPEAKING OF AGGRAVATION……..
Wouldn’t it be great if I could report that all these beasties are starting to get along? But you know better. What makes things worse is that both of our worthies are essentially nocturnal. They are sleeping or chilling out during the day, and they become more active in the evening. They wander about at night, giving them more opportunity to get on each other’s nerves. So I’m doing my main refereeing from midnight to 4AM. (You are all free to share my pain.) We’ll see what happens. Maybe there’s a solution. Once in a while, Smart gets the upper hand.