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A Very Merry UnBirthday
I’ve talked a lot here and on social media about our dogs but there’s another member of our family that isn’t mentioned much. Our crazy, black cat, Collins.
So why an unbirthday? That’s because we don’t know exactly when his birthday is, or even how old he actually is.
Here’s the story: It was ten years ago, in 2006, about a week before we were supposed to leave for Christmas in New York City. I was putting garland and bows up on the fence around our property and I happened to glance down and see this black cat watching me. I spoke to him and he meowed back at me. It was the beginning of a conversation that hasn’t stopped.
The next thing I knew, he was purring and rubbing against my leg. I petted him and told him to go home but he proceeded to follow and talk to me. This went on for a couple of hours. He followed me completely around the fence and then into the yard.
Over the years, we’ve seen many feral cats in our neighborhood and not one has ever approached us– let alone let us pet them. He obviously belonged to someone and must have either gotten out or was abandoned.
I finished what I was doing, told him to go home again and went in the house. I checked again later, before letting the dogs out but he was no where to be seen. I just figured he wandered home. Actually, he was still there but he was smart enough to hide. He was here and he wasn’t leaving.
A little later I went out and he came running down our back stairs, purring and meowing for attention. Concerned he hadn’t eaten recently, I put out some wet cat food for him but he wasn’t interested. So I still figured he was just visiting. (He must be eating somewhere!)
This became a pattern over several days. He was always there. He’d see us coming or going and as long as the dogs weren’t around, he’d follow us. If we went in the house, he’d sit in the driveway and wait.
I tried not to give him too much attention because I get attached too easily and he was just too friendly to be a stray. Still– worried he hadn’t eaten, I tried putting out some dry food and he devoured it in minutes. (He’s a finicky eater! He will not eat wet cat food.)
We felt like we had to do something. He wasn’t leaving…. and we couldn’t stop worrying about him.
Michael happened to mention the situation to our friend Tony, at work. Tony happened to be considering the idea of getting a cat but he thought he have might have allergy issues. Michael told Tony we hated that we were leaving town– and worried about leaving him all that time in the snow and the cold. (Nasty weather was in the forecast.) Tony said he’d take him (on a trial basis) and at least he’d be safe.
For us, that was a relief. While we were gone, Tony took him to the vet and had him checked out. The vet guessed he was probably about three years old and was perfectly healthy. He also suggested that he should be neutered. So Tony took care of it all but his allergies were bothering him and he didn’t feel like he was going to be able to keep him.
That’s the story. When we got home, Tony brought him back to us and we had a new member of the family.
We had been adopted.
We named Collins after the character Tom Collins in the musical RENT.
For anyone wondering, we did check the available resources at the time to make sure whether anyone was looking for him or not.
Collins always seems to get along with the other kids just find. Except, dogs play a little too rough so Collins always knows when to make himself scarce.
Some Collins facts/highlights from the past ten years:
- Collins goes crazy over cheeseburgers and melted cheese from pizza. He smells it and come running and begging!
- Like many cats, Collins is nocturnal. He sleeps most of the day and plays at night.
- We tried letting him sleep with us but after one broken lamp– he’s pretty much banned from the bedroom.
- If we happen to leave the bedroom door open, no matter if it’s day or night, Collins will be found sleeping on the bed.
- After Roxie died and after years of pretty much ignoring each other, Cash and Collins became regular snuggle buddies.
- Since I keep crazy hours and I’m always up way before the dogs– Collins is my constant companion in the wee hours of the morning– until Belle and Dudley get up. Then he disappears. Belle likes to tackle and lay on top of Collins if she can catch him. Collins does not appreciate this!
- Collins and Belle will frequently sit in the stairwell and have a stare down. This can go on for hours.
- Collins loves to talk! He will meow at you nonstop until he gets sufficient attention.
- Collins’ purr is quite loud and he loves to give kisses and lick your face like a dog.
- Collins does not like to have his picture taken and absolutely WILL NOT wear clothes, costumes or hats!
So Happy UnBirthday Collins! He’s probably the sweetest, friendliest, most docile cat I’ve ever met.
I better finish this up– he’s on my lap and pawing my face because I’m not looking at him enough. That, and he keeps covering my computer keys with his paws and tail.
Crazy Cat Talk
I’ve spent so much time focusing on our Boxers, Cash and particularly, Belle lately; I figured Collins needed some public attention.
Collins, named after Tom Collins in Rent, is probably the friendliest cats I’ve ever known. He’s even friendly without reservation, with strangers. He will make himself scarce at parties though, usually, to reappear as it starts to wind down to check things out.
Collins is a huge talker. He will Meooooow and Grrrreooooow continuously if he wants attention. Sometimes he’ll follow me around the house talking to me, especially if I haven’t spent time with him on my lap first thing in the morning. He’ll rub up against me or whatever is nearby (the sign of marking his territory) and a few quick pets or strokes are never enough.
He greets me every morning and follows me, talking to me non-stop, while I make coffee and every night, follows me, meowing, all the way up the stairs.
Collins loves to sit on my lap and nuzzle and purr, or snuggled against my side. His purring can be quite loud at times. His desired daily routine seems to be starting and ending the day on, or next to me. The rest of the day he could be anywhere in the house. He just wants his me time.
He loves to give kisses. Cats usually kiss by nose or forehead bumping but Collins prefers to lick my lips. I know, some people will think that’s gross but my dogs do the same thing too… and I kiss them back.
We keep food out for him at all times, refilling his bowl as needed. One of Collins’ funny little traits is that he likes to have his food fluffed. That’s right, sometimes he’ll find me and talk until I follow him to his food bowl. I either shake it or stir the pieces of dry kibble up with my fingers… and he prefers it to be in a mound. As soon as I do that, he’ll stop his chatter, often only eating a piece or two and then jumping back down and he’s off on his own.
I made the mistake of letting him try people food. Well, some he he tried himself. He likes– wait, he loves whipped cream, ice cream, chicken, hamburger and melted cheese. I can’t eat any of them without Collins begging; talking and talking until he gets a taste. Oddly though, he will not eat wet or moist cat food or treats, only dry.
I’ve never heard him howl or yowl, like some cats, even when Belle is pursuing him.
I caught several programs on Animal Planet this weekend dealing with rescues and socializing animals and realized I’d never really looked into cat language or cat talk in all the years I’ve had them.
I guess I’ve always just taken their form of communication for granted.
I learned that you really have to watch their full body language to gauge how they are feeling.
What made me especially curious was how Collins and Belle interact. At first, I worried that they often look like they were fighting. (Actually, Belle taunting and teasing Collins and him defending himself.) But, after doing some research, I’ve come to the conclusion that they are mostly just playing and getting to know each other.
When Belle approaches Collins calm and gentle, Collins will poke his head forward and bump (kiss) Belle on the nose. When Belle is all wound up, Collins usually still lets her sniff, no matter what Belle’s energy level is at the moment. If Belle starts bouncing or making short lunges or boxing him, Collins will usually give her a drawn out meoooooow, a hiss or bat (box) back at her.
According to the different sites I checked out, Collins doesn’t exhibit the typical behavior of a cat in fear or annoyance. I try to watch his body language and he may exhibit one or two traits– but not multiple signs of fear or aggression.
Though Collins frequently uses his tail language to express happiness or contentment, and occasionally (with me) irritation; he seldom uses it at all to show irritation with Belle.
Same with his ears. Cats use them to show fear, aggression, pleasure and curiosity. When they feel threatened or in defense mode, cats will often flatten there ears or pull them back against their head. I’ve seen Collins do this before but not in recent memory and not with Belle.
When he’s in the mood to play, Collins loves to hide and jump out and bat at Belle. Then he usually retreats because he knows after the initial surprise, Belle will be on his tail… or sometimes his back. Several times in the past week, Belle will stalk Collins and then trap him; laying right down on him. It’s really funny to watch as Collins meows and wriggles out from under her.
You know the saying goes, Some things are just meant to be. The same is true with Collins. He adopted us, out of the blue one December. He wandered into our yard that day and didn’t leave, so we finally brought him in out of the cold.
Whether any of the rest of us accept it or not– Collins is the king of this house.
Don’t believe me? Ask him— He’ll be happy to talk about it for hours.