Saying Goodbye to Slinky Malinki

slinky-december-15hWhen you love unconditionally, you permanently wear your heart on your sleeve. When you love a cat, you turn a blind eye to the fact that you will most likely outlive them.

I knew Slinky was at the end of her life, and I somehow thought I could prepare myself for what was to come. I know better.

Still.

Slinky died at home Monday night, resting on a soft blanket on the heated tile floor. I was with her off and on most of the day, but she took her last breath in the ten minutes I was gone to pick up my son. Mike stepped into the garage to let me know when we returned. She quietly slipped away. I sobbed.

Back inside, I held her frail little body, wracked with grief. Her eyes were a giveaway that she was no longer there, but it was hard to let go.

Slinky Malinki captured my heart, not because of her sweet disposition and loving ways but in spite of them. She showed up as a stray on the steps of our front deck about six years ago. We had a bowl of dry food out for another cat we were feeding at the time and she helped herself. I mistook her confidence for friendliness, and she took a swing at me with open claws and then left.

She returned every few days, and gradually spent more time with us on the deck. She wrapped herself around our legs, but if you reached down to pet her, out came the claws, or worse. One afternoon I was sitting on the steps and she sunk her teeth into the back of my arm. Hard.

Then one day, out of the blue, my oldest son bent down, picked her up, and carried her into the house. She froze in fear, but I was so happy to know we could catch her and get her to the vet. A week later I took her in for a checkup. They confirmed that she was already spayed and she checked out for all the scary things.

We tried to make her an indoor cat, but she wanted no part of it. I did the next best thing and made a little “apartment” in our sheltered side yard. She had an elevated bed, enclosed on four sides, with a roof and an umbrella to keep her dry. She had her meals outside for a year.

Once again, it was time for an annual check up, so I brought her indoors over night, then spirited her off the next day. It was after that second visit, and nearly a year and a half that she decided to move in. She claimed a spot under my desk, then moved to the back of the desk and life got better from there. I gained her trust, not all at once, but slowly over months and months. She hated being picked up, and I did so on an as-needed basis but also to let her know it was okay. Slinky had no interest in lap sitting either. Yet she would come to the front of the desk, give me gentle head butts, and gradually we became trusted friends.

Then an amazing thing happened. I had foot surgery last November, requiring me to be off my feet for six weeks. Slinky started climbing up on the couch, then settled herself on the blankets around my injured foot.  What a gift! At a time when I was in pain and feeling fragile, Slinky stayed close by. There is perhaps no better medicine than a warm, purring cat.

slinky-on-my-foot

Slinky resting next to my healing foot

slinky-next-to-copy-of-book

Slinky stretched out across my legs. That’s the corner of my laptop with a photo of the Slinky Malinki children’s book for which she’s named.

I miss her sweet, little soul.

Catnip Tomfoolery

Slinky Malinki has impaired hearing and her overall senses are dulled, but her sense of smell is superb. How else to explain her catnip tomfoolery?

A domestic cat’s sense of smell is about fourteen times as strong as human’s. Cats have twice as many receptors in the olfactory epithelium (i.e. smell-sensitive cells in their noses) as people do, meaning that cats have a more acute sense of smell than humans. Cats also have a scent organ in the roof of their mouths called the vomeronasal (or Jacobson’s) organ. When a cat wrinkles its muzzle, lowers its chin, and lets its tongue hang a bit, it is opening the passage to the vomeronasal.- Source: Wikipedia

Working in the garden at dusk, I looked up to see Slinky crossing the patio with determination. She headed toward a small mulch-covered patch of earth. Mouse the Cat looked on with interest, but kept a respectable distance. Slinky is a cranky, aging cat, and not one to be trifled with. He (generally) knows his place.

slinky finds some catnip

Mouse the Cat keeps his distance, hiding behind the love-in-a-mist

As I watched, she bowed her head, twisted it to one side and dove in. What odd behavior.

I crawled towards her since I was down at her level anyway pulling weeds, to see what she’d discovered. Sure enough she’d found a tiny sprig of catnip (Nepeta cataria) growing near the edge of the patio.

slinky finds some catnip

Slinky enjoys a catnip moment

slinky smelling catnip

Mmmmm, this catnip smells yummy

I planted catnip several years ago and it thrived.  Last year it died off, another causality of the drought. This year, thanks to the recent rains, volunteers are sprouting everywhere.  There are many things I didn’t set out to grow, happily filling patches of bare earth. Nepeta is one of them. It’s nice to see this perennial come back, and even nicer to see Slinky enjoying it. The plant is small and partially crushed after her romp, but it looks like it will recover.

slinky guards the catnip

This is my catnip. Don’t make any false moves

I suspect that once Slinky is slumbering on her cushions nearby, Mouse will help himself to. Lindy is quite a fan as well.

I too enjoy the subtle, herbal scent when you crush the leaves. The herb is also sold as a tea. It’s easy to understand why the kitties enjoy it so much.

I guess I better get in line.

Sleeping Under a Tree

It’s been years since I napped in public. It was much more common in my youth.  I could fall asleep anywhere: curled up in a chair at the college student union, at the beach with friends or on a wide swath of lawn with a boring textbook close at hand.

The idea of sleeping under a tree seems idyllic, but in reality you get twigs in your hair and bugs in the wrong places. Unless of course you’re a cat.

slinky under the maple tree

An afternoon snooze on a warm spring day

Though her senses remain muddled, Slinky Malinki, my shiny black kitty is still with us. She found her way out the back door into the garden this weekend, and settled herself in a cool spot of green under the maple tree.  She spends most of her time sleeping, but her appetite remains good. She grooms her coat to a lovely shine.

slinky under the tree eyes closed

Slinky’s cozy little nest

She’s the grand dame of the house, keeping Lindy and Mouse in their place, even with her limited vision. If either one of them gets too close, she  takes a random swing in their direction. They’ve learned to give her a wide berth, even though they are more than twice her size.

mouse near the sweet peas

Mighty Mouse in the garden

lindy near garden bench

Lindy keeping a respectful distance

Living with Slinky reminds me a lot of the toddler years. She wants in until she’s out; then she immediately wants back in. I close the door, leave the room and she starts howling to go out again. She walks out the back door, takes a few steps, and then she wants to come in. I can hear her howling at me now to open the door once again. I’m outwardly patient, but weary as well. She’ll be ready for another nap soon.

slinky under the tree sun on her back

Nature’s pillow

We have a cat fountain indoors along with a small water bowl near Slinky’s favorite sleeping spot. No matter.  She wants to go outside and drink from the cold water in the bowl on the steps. She relieves herself in the garden, even though she has a litter box. She uses that too…or the floor when the mood strikes. She’s officially crossed over into high-maintenance territory, leaving me feeling weary when the day is through.

Whoever said “dogs have owners, cats have staff” knew what they were talking about.

slinky under the tree

Yes, Slinky…I’ll be right there.

National Cat Day

A few of my friends let me know that today is National Cat Day.  Of course every day is cat day around here. We currently reside with three delightful felines. On occasion, that number has swelled to six. It never drops below two. Once we went to the Humane Society and adopted a cat, but most of the time the cats find us. They’re all former strays, or occasionally kitties that decide we offer better care, kibble and karma than they’re finding at home. Everyone is welcome.

I love all animals but I’ve always had a strong affinity for cats, probably because it’s what we grew up with.

Here is the current lineup:

Slinky is our senior cat, or so we think. She arrived as a somewhat feral stray. It took a long, long time to gain her trust, but she’s made remarkable strides over the years. She’s a tiny thing at only six pounds (3 kilos), with shiny silky black fur that shines in the sun and beautiful, albeit weary, green eyes.

slinky looking leery

Slinky looking leery

Lindy came home with us from the Humane Society on our son’s 8th birthday. She was around three then, putting her at 13 today. My husband says she’s part dog, because she comes when called, displays all the mellower characteristics of a dog and at 16 pounds (7 kilos), she’s bigger than some of the pooches on our street.

lindy with catnip

Lindy with my son

Mighty Mouse (named by the family that adopted him) pretty much lives at our house. He’s about five years old, full of energy and makes us smile with all his antics. It’s hard for me to understand why he’s allowed to roam, but we do our best to keep him safe, warm and fed. He spends his nights in a cozy bed in our garage or in my son’s room. He eats here, sleeps here and likes to play and “box” with Lindy. She puts up with him, and keeps him in line when necessary.

mouse on my back

This photo exemplifies Mouse’s personality

We adore them one and all.

Do you live with a cat? A dog? Perhaps birds, fish or reptiles? I can’t imagine life without animals. They make my world go round.

Happy National Cat Day!

My Cat Hero:

Alicia Snelen Koberstein has spent most of this year promoting understanding about, and support for, a colony of feral cats who live on the shores of “Cat” Harbor on Catalina Island. She’s coordinated volunteers to help trap, neuter and return this colony of cats, in addition to providing medical care where needed. She’s arranged boats, coordinated flights to relocate a few of the high-risk cats to a sanctuary, while raising funds for food, shelter and veterinary care. She’s my hero.

If you’re interested in supporting this colony of cats, you can make a tax-deductible financial contribution, go to http://www.aprl-socal.org/ and click “Donate”. When you reach the page to confirm the amount, look for the link that says “add special instructions to recipient”. Click on that, then type “Cat Harbor Cats” so that your donation will be directed to them instead of going into the general fund.

 

If Slinky Had a Thought Bubble

When I was sorting and editing photos this morning it hit me: Slinky needs a thought bubble.

slinky in the sun

Here’s what I think it might say:

My appetite is back You gotta love that thyroid medication.

or perhaps…

Finally that miserable heat wave is over. I thought it would never end.

maybe she’s thinking

I never miss my morning sun bath. I love vitamin D.

or

My shiny black fur looks like chocolate in the morning light. Is that why she keeps pointing that flashy thing at me?

Wouldn’t life be interesting if we were all walking around with our own thought bubbles? I’m sure there’s a Halloween costume idea in there somewhere.

What would your thought bubble say today?

Slinky Malinki: Life in the Blue Zone

slinky looking leery

Slinky looking a bit world-weary

Our little Slinky has a sordid past. We don’t know the details, but she arrived on our front steps a few years ago with fear in her eyes, looking for a meal. I reached down to pet her and she lashed out, biting and clawing my hand. Boy did that hurt.

My family quickly learned to keep our hands to ourselves. Slinky visited our deck every few days and we offered her food and water on her visits. She started rubbing up against our legs with a nervous purr, but any attempt to pet her sent her scrambling, biting or both. This went on for months. Then one day, my son simply bent down and picked her up and carried her into the house. She froze in his hands, clearly terrified, but I rejoiced knowing we could get our hands on her. In November of 2010 I lifted her into a cat carrier and took her to our vet.

contemplation

Contemplation

I warned our vet about Slinky’s propensity to bite and claw, but they countered that she was a sweetie. Clearly they’ve seen it all. Her health checked out, I paid for boosters and an exam and came home.

We kept Slinky indoors that first night, but with a small house, two boys and at the time, four other cats, she was under great duress. The eventual compromise was to create an outdoor enclosure in our back, side yard. This kept her safe from the dangers of the street, including cars and cat fights, but we still dreamed of having her inside.

Slinky Today

We’ve come a long way since those early years. About two and a half years ago, and on her own terms, Slinky moved indoors. She sleeps on the back of my desk and keeps the other cats in line. She’s the smallest and the oldest and hearing-impaired, but Lindy and Mouse know to give her a wide berth. Slinky likes to dart outside for ‘fresh’ water, then quickly returns to her chosen spot on my desk.

Until this summer.

When we cleaned out the side yard earlier this year, we tossed the decaying bench. I bought small blue cushions for the bench, and used to sit there to keep her company and to give her treats. The blue bench cushions were still in good shape, so I planned to use them on the back steps. As I tossed the cushions on the patio Slinky seemed to recognize them. She headed straight for them with purpose and intent. I wonder if she has fond memories of sitting on those cushions in her side-yard domain? Whatever it is, she’s spent most of her summer in this area of the patio known as the blue zone.

Life in the Blue Zone

Slinky wants to go out on the porch around 6 am.

slinky takes a drink

A long, cool drink at the bowl

She has a long drink of water from her blue bowl, which is really a ceramic tray used to catch water under a plant. She spends the rest of the day on her blue cushions.

slinky grooming

8:42 Grooming

slinky grooming

9:04 Planning her day

slinky naps

9:12 The first of several naps

On really hot days, she slips off the sides on to the cool stones, but by day’s end she’s back up on her cushions.

slinky slides off the cushions

Another nap, resting her head on the cool stone

slinky on blue cushions

Another nap

At dusk she comes inside and sits on the arm of the couch for a bit of TLC. She purrs and head butts and looks for affection, but we’re still a bit leery. One false move and the claws come out. A quick hiss follows, from a place of fear. Slinky recovers and things return to normal. Eventually we’re all off to bed until Slinky sounds the alarm the following day. She can’t hear so she dials up the volume to an impossible-to-ignore cry: GET UP! IT’S TIME TO RETURN TO THE BLUE ZONE!

Slinky patrols the blue zone

Slinky patrols the Blue Zone

Slinky is loud-mouthed, quick to temper and at times a bit of a bully.

Sometimes you just can’t explain love.

A bit more about Slinky and the origins of her name

2012: Slinky in the Garden

2013: All’s Well with Slinky

Penguin Books: Slinky Malinki by Dame Lynley Dodd

slinky turning grey

My old, graying Slinky. On a recent visit, my vet described her as “an old woman with really good teeth.”

 

Dogs Have Owners, Cats Have Staff

Don’t you love that expression? If you live with a cat, you know what I’m talking about.

I grew up with cats, though a stray dog or two crossed my path now and then. I once shared my cramped twin bed with an Irish Setter for a week  before we located the dog’s owner. I was 12 at the time. Though I knew we couldn’t keep him, I burst into tears when we had to let him go.

I love all animals, but in my years of renting, living with cats made more sense. The number of cats in residence fluctuates, since word gets out; before you know it you’ve got six cat bowls lined up on the kitchen counter.

The current count is one husband, two teenage boys and three felines.

Okay, I strung that sentence together for the sake of diplomacy. The felines run the place and the rest of us fall in line.

Here’s the current line up:

Lindy-Lu is our senior feline. We adopted her from our local Humane Society when she was about three for my son’s 8th birthday. My son turns 18 this June. Lindy is mellow and sweet and loves to be near us, but she never sits on our laps.

lindy in the garden

Lindy in the Garden

She enjoys sleeping next to my pillow at night, or draped across the arm of the sofa. Lindy-Lu takes her cat naps at the foot of our bed or in the stream of sun on the living room floor, but when she’s ready to hunker down for a long sleep, she disappears into the bedroom closet for a long snooze. I’m careful to always keep the door cracked.

lindy on the bench

Lindy Practicing her Adorable Pose

Lindy sunbathing

Sunbathing on the bed

Slinky is our mystery cat. She’s borderline feral, and about 90% hard of hearing. She used to bite when startled and will take a swing at you if your hand moves in a suspicious manner.

slinky

Pet me…or else

It took a long time to coax her indoors, but after a year of living in a shelter in our side yard, she came to appreciate the comforts of indoor living. She now spends most of her time asleep on my desk.

slinky in front of computer

Slinky does her neck exercises in front of the monitor

slinky in her bed

Slinky color-coordinates with her bed

Slinky is afraid of Lindy, poor little thing, but stands up to Mouse, even though he’s younger and twice her size. Slinky is a petite six pounds while Mouse weighs a whopping 16 pounds.

Mouse has an official home, but he doesn’t let on. He takes all his meals at our house, sleeps on our beds and generally makes himself comfortable.

Mouse in the garden

Mouse in the garden

mouse with catnip

Mouse enjoys his catnip toy

He’s charmingly adorable. Mouse lives for treats, so I’m partly to blame for his expanded waistline. He collects kitty snacks from others as well, including my sister on her frequent visits.

mouse

Mouse lends moral support around homework time

Mouse has many admirers, and would probably be insufferable if he were a man and not a cat. He assumes everyone loves him, and frankly why wouldn’t they? If I could change one thing about him, it would be his stealthy hunting skills. He loves the game of catch and release.

This brings me to our fourth creature-in-residence, the elusive and cunning Mr. Rat.  One of my boys noticed an overly attentive Lindy parked near the entertainment center this morning. After they left for school, Lindy backed away and Mouse took over. Here was my chance to show Mr. Rat the door.

mouse hunts the rat

Mouse on the alert; Lindy strolls past the barricade

 

I gathered boxes, boards, baskets and whatever I could get my hands on, then rolled up the carpet to make a barricade. I opened the door wide to the fresh air and knew I  was ready. Meanwhile, Mouse single-mindedly entered and exited all the cabinet compartments, determined to find his prey. I mentally thanked him for ‘directions’ before putting him in one of the bedrooms.

It was time to make my move. Mr. Rat made a run for it. I stomped my foot hoping to startle him toward the door. He ran toward some potted plants instead and then disappeared right before my eyes. How can this be!!!

I stood there dumbstruck. How could a six-inch rat disappear so quickly?

For the record, I’m blaming it on the vertigo. How else to explain his disappearance.

Three different live traps and two direct interventions later, the score remains disproportionately in the rats favor. That’s what I get for giving Mr. Rat a name. Like all the stray cats, he probably assumes that he too is welcome to stay.

RATS!!!