The Replacement Cuddlers – Part 1

This past summer I got it in my head that our family needed another cat, more specifically, a kitten. Now, it had been more than 10 years since we had a kitten among the pride of Roberts’ household cats. We were down to 2 very old kitties, Isis who was almost 19 at the time and Xena who was approaching 18 years old. I knew that when they passed on, it would be a difficult time to think about adding a kitten to the household, that there was no way to “replace” our precious pet. The decision to bring a kitten into the “pipeline” prior to this seemed to me to be a practical one.

We were convinced that Isis was going to “go down fighting.” She still ran down the stairs, jumped up on the bed at night and ran across our pillows “meow-ling” in a loud voice. She had a bad habit of shredding door trim when she was younger which she still tried to do, albeit unsuccessfully because we had her front claws removed in the meantime. She made this “snarf” face  — she had her ears back, pupils dilated when she jumped up at the trim, grabbing it on both sides of the door jam and sliding down to the ground. Then she thundered down the hallway afterwards making more noise than you would suspect a cat so petite could possibly make. We were sure she would one day just fall over dead after doing this.

Xena had just settled into old age. She spent most of her time under our bed, coming out at night. During the last 6 months or so of her life she would wait until I was almost asleep and meow to be lifted onto the bed to receive lovies and then groom and snuggle down for a while next to me.

Isis’s nighttime routine involved the running across the pillows and then pressing her wet nose onto some exposed body part seeking pets and lovies. Sometimes she would fall asleep on my pillow. Others, she would go to her “princess pillow” on our dresser, one of the decorative pillows off our bed.

I put out some feelers over the course of the summer, explored the “rescue” websites, visited PetSmart to see what cute critters might be available for adoption.

Fast forward to August, a friend of a friend who had many rescue kitties was looking to rehome some of them. I heard about a kitten who had been on a long difficult journey already in her short life. She had been rejected and abandoned by her mother more than once. She was tiny, but feisty. Then, oh, by the way, the kitten, named Journey, had a buddy named Nutmeg…wouldn’t we please consider bringing her on board too? I saw the pictures. Journey was a grey kitten with darker tiger stripes, a white spot on her chest, white mittens and socks. Nutmeg was almost a year old and a larger, orange cat. It was all over. I was in love.

Tony, my stepson, and I went into Lebanon to pick up Journey and Nutmeg on August 4th. Journey and Nutmeg were both in hiding when we arrived to pick them up from Tina, their rescue Mom. There were a slew of other cats in the household. I think Tony was in heaven giving and receiving lovies from cats of all shapes and sizes while we waited for our chosen ones to make an appearance. Finally, Journey was coaxed out of her hiding spot and we were able to stuff her in a carrier. She was such a little bundle of fur. Attempts were made to find and capture Nutmeg, but she was a very good hider. Tina agreed it might be best to take Journey home first and then she would bring Nutmeg to us later in the day.

So Journey came home with a goody bag full of cat treats and toys from Tina. We had prepared for a quarantine for the two new cats in Tony’s bathroom, thinking it would be best to keep them away from the old lady cats for a while. We hung out in the bathroom for a good long time interacting with Journey. She was so soft and cuddly. She had a tiny voice. She was into everything in a kitten way, alternately spazing out and then resting, purring loudly while snuggling in our laps.  Tina was eventually able to corral Nutmeg and brought her over later that afternoon. Nutmeg was a scaredy-cat. She did not want to leave the cat carrier when we first brought her into the bathroom. So…Journey crawled inside with her. The sight of the two of them snuggling together in that carrier was so sweet. None of the cats we had before had ever liked each other enough to get that close.

We noticed Journey seemed to have something amiss with her left eye. Tina speculated one of the other cats probably swatted at her when she was playing with their tail.

Within a week, we had all the kitties living in our bedroom. The old ladies for the most part wanted nothing to do with the “kittens.” Journey was determined to make friends. When Isis and Xena didn’t want to play, Journey sought out Nutmeg and they would play fight with much gusto.

We allowed all the cats out for some play time during the evenings and weekends. At first they showed little interest in being downstairs. Then, when they were downstairs, it was impossible to get them to go upstairs (before we employed the power of the “red dot”… a story for another time). The old girls were being remarkably patient with their younger counterparts. They all seemed to be coexisting pretty well.

Then, Xena started to lose weight and the range of movement of her hind legs was decreasing. Michael said this had already started before the kittens came to live with us. I was taking a lot of photos of the cats during these early weeks and could see a difference in her appearance before and after kittens. She didn’t seem to be in pain. She was still eating, drinking, pooping and peeing…just less than before. I hated seeing her decline, but 18 was VERY OLD for a cat…19 was VERY OLD for a cat. She and Isis had lived VERY long kitty lives already.

Life with the cats was bittersweet during this time. The kittens were DEMANDING attention in the way kittens do. There is so much to see and do, new trouble to get into. The old girls were just living their quiet lives the way they had been doing since Nadia left us the previous December.

Nadia was a gorgeous 10-year-old long-haired (mostly) white kitty. The vet had called her a “silky calico.” But she looked like a textbook “Turkish Angoran.” She and the other two didn’t necessarily interact all that much, but the household dynamic had changed when Nadia left us suddenly due to some variety of cancer that the vet wasn’t able to pin down.



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