Sunday, January 15, 2012

For the Love of a Cat

This is my Rudy.  When I moved into my house on June 7, 2005, I noticed him.  I used to shoo him away because my cats didn't like him, it seems.  He was pitiful; sad-looking, like my neighbor said.  He's pretty, dark grey, has round green eyes and looks like a Russian Blue.  He's huge, solid, a real macho tomcat, but he's actually very sweet, affectionate and playful.  Oh, does he love to play!

I took to feeding him.  One very early morning when I was in agony with an infection in my toe (I'd had a growth removed), I went out on the deck and there was my little boy, lying down in the garden.  When he heard me he looked up and softly meowed.  I took that to mean he was there for me in my pain.  I know that's really goofy, but I actually thought that.  He's good company.

In September that year it pretty much rained all month.  One morning I looked out the kitchen window and Rudy was sitting in the wicker chair.  He looked up at me with his sad eyes and meowed.  Right then I knew I would adopt him because I couldn't bear the thought of him being cold in the upcoming winter.  I had called the animal control officer and he said there was nothing he could do with cats.  He said why don't I adopt him and I said I already had two cats.  He said it sounds like you're getting another one; what's his name?  I said "Rudy."  Oh, I didn't want another cat!  Two cats is too many, never mind three.  But I had already named him.  I decided that he wasn't too feral because he let me pick him up briefly.

I decided to trap him.  I picked him up and he got away, but he didn't fight me much.  It's almost like he wanted to be caught.  I grabbed him tighter and was able to get him in the cat carrier.  I brought him to the veterinarian with the idea that if he had AIDS, I would have him put to sleep.  He was like a "wild animal" at the vet's and actually leaped from the examining table to a window ledge about six feet away.  The vet said he would have to sedate him.

I think I picked him up and sequestered him in my guest room until I had the results.  Rudy's test was negative.  Unfortunately my vet nor I didn't think to give him flea medication or check him for worms, so he infected my girls.  He was VERY expensive.  I had to go to a special animal pharmacy about 45 minutes away for one of the medications for Carly.

The girls didn't take well to Rudy.  I'd come home from work and he'd have bloody cuts from when they beat him up.  He's much bigger than they are but they rule the household.  It took a year before he'd defend himself by "cat-boxing."  Then another year to stand his ground and not leave when they attacked him to get him to leave their presence.  Now he'll even talk back to them, but he NEVER hisses at them or fights with them.

However, Rudy is high-maintenance. He freaks out when I have to catch him to take him to the vet's.  He still won't let me pick him up whenever I feel like it.  I guess it's post-traumatic stress syndrome.  He insists on going out all the time, even when it's below zero.  He just has that need to scope out the neighborhood and protect his territory.  He taught my girls both to growl and spray.  Fortunately the spraying is confined to my landscaping or the neighbor's porch (don't tell!).

So last winter was the WORST WINTER EVER.  I mean, breaking all kinds of records.  I happened to be getting a new kitchen then.  One day in late January while getting ready for work, I let Rudy out for his usual little saunter.  He usually scratches the storm door after a few minutes to come back in.  Unfortunately that day a contractor showed up early and scared him away.  It was freezing cold that day; there must have been two feet of snow on the ground already and more frigid temperatures and a blizzard was scheduled for that night.  Other contractors arrived and I knew it would be hopeless to try and get Rudy to come in the house (he's terrified of pretty much everybody except my neighbor, my sister, my mother and me).  I figured he'd be waiting for me on the porch when I got home from work.

Except he wasn't.  I started calling him and figured he'd show up.  He didn't.  I became frantic, walking around in the neighborhood.  We'd recently had an ice storm and it was treacherous.  I fell and bumped my head in my neighbor's driveway.  Rudy sometimes hangs out in their garage, which they usually leave open.  I think I drove around the neighborhood that night, calling for him.  I didn't know what to do.  I started crying and praying.

The next day was beautiful--much warmer and sunny.  There were actually some people outside.  Since I don't shovel the side or back of my house, I slid down the yard on the side (it's a somewhat steep slope) on top of the snow and ice.  The ice was thick.  I tramped all over the back yard calling him.  I thought I heard a faint cry but didn't know if I were hearing things or not.  Again I drove all over the neighborhood, asking people if they'd seen a dark grey cat.  Someone told me not to worry, that cats are resourceful and could find a place to stay safe.  I wanted to believe him, but I was terribly anxious.

I went back inside, not knowing what to do.  I prayed "God, You can do anything.  It's nothing to You to bring my cat back.  I want my cat!"  I then had a feeling that I should go back in the yard, where I had shoveled paths in case he came back.  Now I realize that was unnecessary because Rudy could walk on top without falling in too deep due to the layer of ice.  I was determined to walk the whole yard carefully and my neighbors' back yard, where he hangs out a lot.  I kept calling and finally heard, distinctively, Rudy crying.  I finally figured out he was in the basement of my neighbors' garage (it's on a slope).  I went down from my rocky ledge into their yard and climbed up their snow-laden back steps.  My neighbor did not answer the door.  I scaled the hill on my stomach, like a rock climber, due to the ice, and ended up on their buried motorcycle trailer.  I made it onto the driveway and up their front porch.  My neighbor wanted to wait until her husband came home.  I told her I'd shovel the path if she'd give me the key.  She wanted to call her husband home early.  I told her I'd wait, but I was ticked.  She said he was good with animals and he could get Rudy out.  I knew darn well Rudy would not come anywhere near him.  I went home to wait and took off my boots and socks.  I couldn't figure out why my socks looked pink.  I had cut my legs walking through the ice-encrusted snow.

My poor neighbor came home from work and shoveled the back steps down to the side door of the basement of the garage.  He saw Rudy, but Rudy was not budging.  I told the neighbor that Rudy wouldn't come out with him there, so he went back up the stairs.  Rudy still wouldn't come out.  The neighbor's wife said to call her when Rudy finally came out so they could lock the door.  Well Rudy took his sweet time coming out.  I was shaking a bag of cat food out my bathroom window for him to hear, like I had done the night before, to no avail.  Finally I went back outside in my yard, calling him, and suddenly there he darted, all nervous-acting, and hurried up the side of my neighbor's yard, jumped onto their front porch, down their walkway, took a left onto the street, and a left onto my walkway, up the porch and into the house.  Safe at last!  Poor baby.  He was so scared.  Since then he's been a lot more apt to stay near me!

Like I said, he's high-maintenance.

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