Cats — most people either love them or hate them! I would have said most of my life that I was a “dog person” (and I still am), but now I’m a cat person too! I’ve owned (been owned by?) several, and they all had very distinct personalities. From a homestead point of view, cats are especially useful in keeping mice and other vermin under control. Not to mention they make great lap-warmers while sitting in front of a cozy fire on a cold winter night!
Here’s a quick link to all posts about cats.
Meet our homestead cats … Crystal and Russet. And read tributes to other kitties I have known and loved, including Raiden, Dancyr, Lynx, and Lucky.
Crystal Kitty – aka “The Queen of Everything”
Crystal runs the show around here. (At least she thinks she does … shhhhh! Don’t tell her otherwise!) This kitty has my heart, in many ways. From the way she chose me, to her health battles, and how she has come into her own as a useful homestead cat, Crystal’s story would take over the whole page if I wrote it all here, so she gets her own page (as is only fitting for a Queen!). Read Crystal’s story here.
Russet – aka “The red-headed step-cat”
Russet is my daughter’s cat. She was at her Dad’s house when Lynx died, and I felt so badly for her that I wanted to get her a new kitty right away. I went back to the vet’s where I had adopted Lynx and Crystal, and Russet was the only kitten available. Poor Russet, no one had wanted him. He wasn’t what I was looking for, but I took him home anyway.
He was immediately adopted by our 1-year old male, Raiden. Raiden used to wrap his paws around Russet and hug him tightly, washing him all over with his rough tongue and sometimes nipping him. I think Russet grew to think that “love=biting” and from the time he was tiny, he would always sneak up and nestle under my neck, and oh-so-slowly open his mouth and proceed to chew on me! I’ve tried for years now to teach him not to do this, to no avail. When he is very relaxed and feeling affectionate, he still eeeaaasssseeesss his mouth open sooooo slowly and begins to bite gently. I think he believes that if he does is slowly enough, I won’t realize what he’s doing. He never bites hard, and I suppose I’ve given up teaching him any different.
He loves to sit in the window and chirp at the birds and squirrels outside. To hear him tell it, he’d be a mighty hunter, if ever he could get to them! One day he got a chance … the window screen came off. Russet found himself on the ground with a squirrel nearby, and he had NO IDEA what to do next! All talk!
He does have a lovely speaking voice. Whenever he wants something, or when I speak to him, he always replies. He has a half-meow, half-purr that is so endearing. I call him my musical kitty.
He is also very companionable. When I sit at the bench at the dining room table working on something, he will often jump up to sit beside me, and lean toward me, bumping his shoulder into my side. I wish I could somehow take a picture of that moment!
He does have emotional issues. All of his life, he’s been an “emotional eater.” I noticed it when he was a kitten. Anytime anyone tells him “no” or fusses at him, he runs to the food dish and eats. I guess since he isn’t allowed to bite people for comfort, he resorts to food! At one time he managed to get pretty fat, and I had to start rationing his food and feeding him and Crystal in separate rooms. It was a bit of a challenge, since she was always underweight and needed to eat more, but this year I’ve finally gotten them evened out by having them sleep in different rooms. He’s lost about 5 pounds, and she’s gained about 5, so they are both much healthier now.
He also has a rubber fetish. I have to keep rubber bands put away or he will find them and chew on them. One time I almost lost him when he swallowed one, so I am careful to keep them locked away. He also loves elastic hairbands, and I use them all the time, so that’s more of a challenge to keep away from him. At least he only plays with them, and I don’t think he will swallow one. It’s funny to watch him though if I leave one on a table. He knows he’s not supposed to have them, so he hides behind the table and will very slowly ease his paw over the edge and try to steal the hair band for himself.
When he was a kitten, he was a rowdy one! He used to scale my curtains and sit on top of the curtain rod. When I finally got curtains on my living room windows here at the homestead, it wasn’t two days later before he must have tried his old tricks. I came in to find my curtain rod bent beyond repair!
Life with Russet … is never boring!
Lynx – with us too short a time
Lynx was a sweet, beautiful little kitty. He came from the same vet’s as Crystal and Russet. He was actually our main choice. My daughter picked him out, and he was to be our new kitty.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be. The vet had given us a topical medicine to treat Crystal, and said to put it on Lynx as well, even though he wasn’t affected. To this day, I don’t know where my brain was, because I am a very firm believer in NOT treating unnecessarily, but I was going through a very rough time with family and I simply followed the vet’s instructions. Poor Lynx’s liver couldn’t handle the medications. I woke up and found the tiny ball of fur next to the dog (Dakota), and he was barely clinging to life. I thought the dog had gotten too rough with him and injured him, and I sat up with him through the rest of the night until the vet’s office opened. When I took him in first thing in the morning, they took him back and examined him, and put him to sleep without asking me, telling me he was in acute liver failure and nothing could be done to save him. Even though he was only with us for a few days, he is still in my heart. He was the sweetest little kitten I’ve yet known, content to just be held and petted, and such a soft little bundle of purring. It broke my heart to have to tell my daughter that he was gone, which is why I got Russet right away. Maybe I should have waited, since Russet has been a trial, but he’s my daughter’s cat so he stays.
Raiden – Thunder and lightning!
Raiden was my buddy. Another very special cat! It was a miracle how he came to us. One day I noticed my ducks eying the sky, so I went outside and found a hawk circling. I stayed out there, hoping to deter it from swooping down on my flock. While I was waiting, I was sure I heard a kitten somewhere. It took us a while to track him down, but he was across the road and in the woods, buried deep in a thicket. My daughter coaxed him for some time before he came out and she could finally catch him.
He was a tiny baby, too young to be away from his mother. We asked around, and no one had a cat that had given birth. So I first bought some kitten milk replacer and a bottle, and later started making formula for him. He was so tiny! He would sit on the floor and look up at us, and it looked like a tiny cat’s head on a mouse’s body – his head seemed too large for him. He grew and thrived though, and soon became a tiny toothed and clawed terror. He was black, with a lightning-shaped jagged white strip down his belly, and a tiny white cross on his nose. We wanted to find just the right name for him, and we finally settled on Raiden. In Japanese, it means something like “lightning, and the sound of thunder” and is sometimes translated “thunderbolt”. Perfect! Not only that, but we had recently started playing a game called Raiden, and I joked that it was a search-and-destroy game, which perfectly described Raiden’s mission in life!
I loved that cat! He was the one that taught me about how to handle rough kittens, because he was like the Tasmanian Devil of cartoon fame on the end of your arm! I learned to stand up and cross my arms and ignore him, not allowing him to play so roughly. It worked! That and I got him stuffed animals around his own size to wrestle with. I still remember him tearing up and down the hall, dragging his floppy Easter Bunny (now missing eyes and tail) – his favorite toy!
He liked to wrestle with the dog, Dakota, too. We got Dakota when Raiden was almost full-sized, and the two were pretty equally matched. They would roll around, locked in what appeared to be mortal combat, for hours on end. Later when Dakota grew and dwarfed Raiden, the cat started in with the tomcat yowling during the fights, and I fussed at Dakota more than once for “hurting” him, until one day I realized that Raiden would begin his screams even before Dakota touched him (that and Raiden usually started the play session!).
He would play with me too. I used to do my nightly rounds in the poultry yard, locking everyone in their respective houses. Raiden knew my path, and he would rush up ahead and hide behind the pampas grass, waiting for me to draw near. Then he would burst out, running on his hind legs (bouncing actually!) with front paws outstretched, wrapping them around my legs in a gentle tackle. I would scoop him up and hold him close, surveying the animals all safely locked away in the twilight, and thank the Lord for my animal friends. Life seemed so sweet in those moments.
His death, at too young an age, was a hard blow to both my daughter and I. I was worried that he would get out and be hurt in a fight, or be hit by a car, so we had made the decision to enforce his life as an indoor cat. We had planed to bring Dancyr in at the same time, but that was when she disappeared. So we adopted the new kittens, Crystal and Lynx (and Russet when Lynx died unexpectedly). Raiden lived just long enough to become a surrogate parent to Russet, then suddenly became very ill one day. He died that night, before I could get him to the vet’s the next day. That was around the time all of the contaminated pet foods from China were killing cats, so I think that he may have been another victim. I have never fed my animals “supermarket” brands of dog food or cat food since then. It was a terrible summer, losing Dancyr, then Lynx, and finally Raiden within such a short period of time. I look back on those times of holding him close and being thankful for so many things in my life with fondness. It was a calm before the storm in many ways.
Still to come … the stories of Lucky and Dancyr.
Lucky – and he was!
Dancyr – Independence Day Kitty