So you are probably wondering how we came to have eleven cats in the house. Actually I'm still wondering about that one myself.
It started when my husband and I were dating back in 2002. Yes, we are newly married and have only been together for 7 years. That's another story. Back then I had Shamrock and Quinn, brothers and had rescued Ava. Ava's former owner neglected her until the only way she could get his attention was to pee on something. He was military and the last thing she peed on was his discharge papers. He was going take her out into the desert and shoot her. I intervened and that's how she came into my home.
Shortly after D and I got together, my beloved 16 year-old Shamrock needed to be put down. He had developed a host of older cat problems, among them diabetes. My former vet always said he had "old cat problems" but never would tell me what those problems were. I was always "reassured" to just keep him comfortable. The new vet explained that Shamrock was in the final stages of the disease and trying to keep him alive would tantamount turning my beloved friend into a "science experiment." The kinder decision of euthanasia was the only one I could make.
So that left 16 year-old Quinn and Ava. In the spring, while working on what was going to be our new home, we decided to hit a local drive through for dinner. While going through the drive-through, we heard some caterwauling. The clerk inside said it had been going on all day. In the vacant building next to this fast-food joint, we saw this tiny kitten on the roof being dived-bombed by bees. D climb up and used part of my sandwich to entice her down to him and we took her home. She became Arby.
It was a year to the day when we put Shamrock to sleep that we had to euthanize Quinn. He had quit eating and drinking. It was time. I grieved again for my boys who saw me through my son's birth, my divorce, the hard times, the moves, and the decision to return back to school. Meanwhile, Arby and Ava were here but hating each other. Quinn served as a buffer between them. I was not willing to take in a new cat. Grief has a way of making decisions seem like they are etched in stone.
Yeah--yeah go ahead and laugh. That was before Chile walked into the back office of where I was doing my practicum on my last day of work. Starving Chile was so hungry that she was willing to eat chile-salsa. She was covered with ear mites. When she and D saw each other, it was love at first sight! We were back up to three cats and all girls.
Never having three female felines before, I was totally unprepared for the fighting, the mad-dog contests, and the constant smack-downs. Chile and Arby had kung-fu kitty fights all the time. Ava hunted Chile and Arby with a vengence, and mostly after we were in bed, sleeping. It was constant chaos. I put my foot down in 2003. No more cats.
Well obviously that didn't work. In November of 2003, D and I went to the local box store and found a rabbit in a shopping cart. Yes, a live rabbit. The door greeter told us that one of the cart boys found two of them in the parking lot. It was below freezing with ice and snow. The cart boy took one of the rabbits home but left the other. Without discussing this with my husband, I just told him to grab some lettuce and an apple or two--we were taking that bunny home with us.
While I was waiting from D to purchase rabbit foods, a woman with two children came up and said "Are you taking Dutchess home with you?" (A boy bunny named Dutchess ?!?!?!?!) They confessed to dumping both rabbits in the parking lot because they wouldn't live well with their prized guinea pigs. Turns out they tried to keep the bunnies and the guinea pigs in the same cage together because they couldn't afford separate cages! Now that's responsible pet-owning.
So now we had three cats and a rabbit. The rabbit was still a baby, only 3 months old. The rabbit became Jack THE Rabbit and became instrumental in stopping the fighting between the girls. Sometimes we wondered if he realized he was a rabbit or if he thought he was half cat. Where ever the girls went, he was there with them. He trained himself to use the potty box (mind you--it was always successfully as he would leave pellets on his way to the potty box.) If the girls could jump on a shelf, he proved he could too. If they could run the Feline Raceways first thing in the morning, he showed he could race with them, changing the morning routine to BK (Bunny-Kitty) Racing. Jack often beat the girls across the "finish line." The first time Ava tried to "introduce" Jack to the wonderful game (for cats at any rate) of chase-n-hunt, he proved that he may be the usual prey, but he had predatory instincts as well. She bears the bald patches on her hocks where Jack ripped out her fur to this day!
In my final year of graduate school, my final semester, I went a little crazy. We had a litter of feral cats born under our house, much to my dismay. It was the 5th litter born there, thanks to this very prolific Mama Cat. She was someone's pet cat--someone who refused to get her spayed and would kick her out of his/her/their home every time she became pregnant. That's when we would find her hanging about. Her usual method was to disappear (translate: go back to her people) after her litter was old enough. Then she would show up a week or two before she gave birth again. This time she didn't leave right away. I think she was tired of giving birth because she let these kittens suckle until they were 9 months old. At the same time, her daughter Frosty gave birth to her first litter as well.
Like I said I went a bit crazy with all that I had going on. Graduation was looming, my thesis defense was driving me insane with rewrites, my mother was trying to plan a graduation party for me (Ma--I'm 43 years old!), I was highly and visibly involved in a student organization that wanted change on campus, I was finishing my final practicum, and I was trying to plan my son's high school graduation long distance. (He was living with his father in Virginia at the time.) In the midst of all this, I loftily decided to get Mama Cat fixed, tame her kittens down and find them homes. This would prevent more kittens being born and maybe peace could reign under our house again.
Go ahead and laugh. I do...now! Little did I understand about ferals and such. Like a good graduate student, I did some research. Found out that it's probably and highly unlikely that the feral kittens would ever make good pets because they were too old. I did find an organization to help me pay for Mama Cat's spay in return for some volunteer time. And in the middle of trying to do some backyard good deeds, I did manage to graduate with my 4.0 GPA intact. A month later, my son graduated from high school, despite his parents!
The day after D and I came home from my son's graduation, my wonderful husband noticed that one of the newest kittens laying by the back fence. He walked right up to her and to his surprise, she didn't run away, which is normal feral behavior. He noticed her eyes were gunky and glued shut and brought her in the house to show me. And that's how we ended up with Kitty #4 aka Topaz.
Stay tune for the rest of the story!