...but we do love our sweet kitties that have come to call Rosehaven Cottage home.
Dexter and Dee Dee are "The Originals". We met them when they were only ten days old at a friend's ranch. The 8 year old daughter of the momma-kitty's owner started holding them as soon as they were born. Research has shown that if a kitten is handled for only 15 minutes a day in the first 2 weeks of their life, the kitten will bond to humans and be more personable. Well, this was the case with Dexter and Dee Dee. We fell in love with Dexter at that first meeting and agreed to visit him every weekend until he was weaned. Dee Dee purred her way into our hearts by the 4th weekend. We brought them home to Rosehaven Cottage when they were about 9 weeks old, and they've been our sweet little companions ever since.
Now our original intent was to only have two cats. We never actively pursued adopting more. The others kitties just showed up in our garden at various times, and we have taken them in to give them the love they deserve. It was like we had a sign on our house written in "kitten-ese" that said, "Kitties needing a loving home are welcome here".
Tom Tom was a wild tomcat that was here at the house when we moved in, and he had the reputation for being the fighter in the neighborhood as well as being the father of most litters in the feral cat colony that existed for years before we came. We didn't like him at first because he was such a bully. But Tom Tom and I called a truce late one night on our front porch (initiated by him) over some cat food. My husband was able to pet him shortly thereafter, and he slowly rubbed and purred his way into our hearts. A couple of years after we moved in, Tom Tom went missing for about a week and then showed up in our driveway with badly infected leg and ear wounds that appeared to be from a large animal attack. We rushed him to the emergency vet where he tested negative for feline HIV and was immediately put on antibiotics and fluids to save his life. While in the vet's care, we asked that he be neutered. We also asked the vet his approximate age. The vet determined that based on the size of his jowls (his head is the size of a softball!) he was quite mature--probably 3 to 5 years old. Tom Tom "retired" from his street life after that and now lives inside with the other kitties. He's a "mama's boy" and follows me everywhere trying to sneak onto my lap anytime I sit down. He also follows me out into the garden for supervised patrols of his old haunts. Mostly, he just wants to be where I am.
Shortly before Tom Tom was neutered he fathered a litter of kittens with a female tabby named Seuss belonging to a neighbor up the street that hadn't taken her in to be spayed. She was a friendly little tabby that would play peek-a-boo with me over the fence when I was working in the garden and ask for rubs and pettings whenever I was outside. We knew when she got pregnant from the telltale bulge. Right on time the bulge went away, but we never saw the kittens.
Then almost two months later on Father's Day 2002, she came into our back garden to greet me in the evening as I sat outside enjoying the summer air. She meowed and meowed at me until I followed her around the side of our big garden shed. I peeked around the back to find 3 little kittens playing--a long-haired marbled tabby, a little black-on-black striped tabby, and a short-haired striped tabby that looked just like her mother. Seuss was introducing me to her kittens that she was ready to wean!
I began feeding them kitten chow every morning at dawn. She would leave them with me while she went off to hunt in the field behind our fence. She would also leave Tom Tom alone with them. Her behavior as well as his tolerance for the kittens let me know that he was the father. I also got to know their personalities during those morning feeding times. I called the long-haired mackerel tabby Gus Gus because he was as dopey and clutsy as the mouse on Cinderella. I called the little black-on-black striped tabby Thomasina because she looked like a miniature version of Tom Tom. I called the short-haired striped tabby Suzette because she looked like a miniature version of her mother Seuss.
A week after being introduced to the three kittens, a fourth showed up! She was a round and pudgy long-haired silver tabby. She'd been nursing alone for a week in another location which accounted for her round belly. I called her Lydia after the little sister in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice ("I can scarce draw breath, I'm so fat!").
When Seuss had completely weaned the kittens, I brought them inside to acclimate them to the indoors in preparation for having them spayed and neutered. I fully intended to find good homes for them once their recovery was complete. I really did! The surgeries went smoothly for the most part except Suzette had a difficult time once we got home due to fluid in her lungs. I held her against my chest so she could sleep upright and still be able to breathe as she recovered. As we nursed them all through post-op, we fell in love with every one of them. Dee Dee became their surrogate mother (Dexter tolerated them). It wasn't long before they became permanent fixtures in our home, and we couldn't think of parting with them.
So whether we like it or not, we are living the experience of being stewards over our own little indoor cat colony. It's taught us a lot about cat psychology, the hierarchy dynamics of a cat colony, and how much cat's are misunderstood as a whole.
Dee Dee is the matriarch of the house and greets all visitors attentively like a good little hostess. She adores babies and children and will forego naptime in order to play with them. She is a talker and responds to many full sentences that contain words she recognizes (i.e., "Dee Dee", "Whisker Lickins", "bug"). She answers to her name, performs a few "tricks", and loves to be carried around on "Daddy's" arm while licking him profusely. She loves to rub and roll (what we have dubbed "scootching") on newly smoothed bedsheets or a newly made bed. If you say, "Dee Dee... do you like the smooth?" it sets her off into a scootching frenzy. She is highly intelligent and is a perpetual 2 year old.
Dexter is like the male in a pride of lions. He is aloof with all the other cats except his sister Dee Dee and Tom Tom, his guy-buddy. Dexter walks on a leash and will run to me if he hears the sound of it or the drawer it's kept in. He loves visitors just like his sister, Dee Dee, and will greet them by gently touching their leg with his paw in a little "touch, touch, touch" like he's saying "Excuse me. Could you pet me please?". At about 16 pounds, Dexter is all muscle and looks like a big jungle cat. He's magnificent and simply beautiful. Dexter is named after the Cary Grant character in Philadelphia Story--C.K. Dexterhaven. He has chosen "Mommy" as his person and is highly affectionate and attentive.
Tom Tom is the cutest most loyal pet we could imagine. He is as devoted as any dog I've known and will look up adoringly into my eyes from my lap and then stretch his paw to my face to gently brush my chin with his paw pads (no claws out). Tom Tom is also a big kitty at about 15 pounds. He tends to get pudgy during the winter months and then slim down during the summer. Regardless, his head is still the size of a softball! Incidentally, Tom Tom's full name is: Tom Tom Mau-Fang Whiska-Smutz Svatzenbites.
Thomasina is the little diva in the household. She only weighs 8 pounds but makes up for her size in spunk. She loves to play catch from the top of the cat tree. She also brings us stuffed socks regularly wherever we are in the house. We often wake up in the morning to find a collection of stuffed socks strewn about the bed around us.
Suzette is a sweetie that is friends with all the other kitties. She is Gus's favorite sister and will give him a head lick anytime he requests one. She has huge love-attacks on a daily basis when she must have our undivided attention. She also likes to bring us her favorite red string as a gesture of affection, which she announces with loud meows as she drags it into the room. She also does this when one of us leaves the room as if to try to beckon us back.
Gus Gus (aka "Gussy Bear") is still just as dopey as he was when he was a kitten. We call him the "Forest Gump of cat world". He irritates every other cat except his kind sister, Suzette. He often gets scared for no apparent reason and shoots out of the room, then wanders back in sheepishly a few minutes later. He loves to snuggle with us when it's cool outside. He's the only cat that has a seasonal ruff like a lion's mane.
Lydia is our little silver puffy princess. She is the epitome of girly kitty-iness. Her tiny voice sounds very Marilyn Monroe-esque and she likes to flit her big plumey tail around for effect. Her fur has a pearlescent quality, particularly on her paws that makes her shine like silver. She is prissy, adorable, and extremely affectionate. She loves to have her ruff groomed with a brush and will often "ask" for grooming by going to the brush and patting it with her paw until one of us picks it up and uses it on her.
And that's our brood... oh, except for the little feral garden kitty, Oreo (probably another of Tom Tom's daughters), who lives in our garden and sleeps on our front porch during the winter. It took us a couple of years before she'd let us pet her. Now she regularly asks for pettings from us but only on the front porch. If she encounters us in the garden, she will run. We feed her and make sure she's comfortable. She's too wild to ever bring in the house (like we need one more!) so we try to make her life as happy as possible. She repays us by killing mice and rats around the garden and under the house (with the occasional lizard thrown in for variety).
So would we ever have this many cats again--heck no! Would we give any of our kitties away--heck no! No, we aren't "crazy cat people" but we ARE crazy about our cats.