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by Ron Kitson

Cat'ering is a new word and pretty much the same as catering except that it refers to satisfying the many wants and needs of a domestic feline.

Let me introduce you to Alex:

Ron Kitson's cat Alex at the window

We had not owned a pet of any kind in over twenty-five years and had not had a cat for almost fifty. You've probably heard how dogs look upon their owners as masters while cats consider you their servants and I have found that to be pretty accurate.

We are retired, we like to travel and had no thoughts of limiting our freedom by adding an animal to our family, but it happened and yes, we are now the servants.

Alex had been part of our daughter's family since kittenhood (about six years) but became a play toy for her two small dogs and perhaps a territorial competitor to her other cat. Alex was not faring well and definitely failing under the stress. He had quit eating and drinking and, those other functions that are a direct result of eating and drinking, had also ceased.

Alex was found hiding behind the clothes dryer, taken to the vet and appeared to be dying of unknown causes. At this point, the family was going on a two week vacation. My wife volunteered to go there every other day and see to the needs of the other cat. (The two little dogs were to go to a kennel) Alex needed to be removed from that environment so my wife brought him to our home.

And now, the rest of the story.

Upon his release in our home, Alex took off down the hall that leads to our bedrooms and found refuge under a chest of drawers in what was once our daughter's bedroom. We had already acquired the tastiest of nutritional cat foods, pet dishes and a cat comfort container for his very personal needs and put everything in that room.

Second day: no change and no evidence that Alex had moved and of course, we were concerned. On the third day, I found that he had moved out from under the chest of drawers and under the bed. I laid on the floor and talked to him as I had been doing and placed the dish with fancy salmon under his nose. He sniffed at it, turned and looked at me and then sniffed at it again.

Aha, an improvement in behavior. Then he licked at it a few times and soon began to eat for the first time in several days. He had lost considerable weight and under that thick coat of fur, one could play a tune on his ribs.

By this time he had, I expect, determined he was in a strange but quieter and friendlier place that was indeed void of other animals, dogs in particular. Soon after, my wife was able to drag him from under the bed, cuddle him a bit and from that day on, we saw slow but steady improvement. Alex continued to be nervous and somewhat distrusting and would dart if someone walked toward him while he was eating for example.

When he saw me wearing different shoes, jacket or hat he would dart. Then, when reassured it was me, would reappear. Sometimes, all we had to do was walk into a room where he lie curled up and taking a nap only to see him bolt under the furniture and hide.

This gradually improved and by the time our daughter returned from vacation and took care of the multitude of chores that greeted her, three weeks had past and she was finally able to come for Alex.

Keep in mind the hard fact that we did not want a cat. Try to understand also why those who accept foster children often face heartbreaking emotions when forced to give them up.

She called to ask if this was a good time to come and "how is Alex doing?" "Oh, just fine" my wife answered, I'm in the sun room with Dad and Alex is curled up on the wicker chair.

"What, you're both in the room with Alex and he didn't run?" "No, he's getting much better." "Wow!"

cat Alex taking a break

Well, she came, observed and cuddled her Alex and commented, "this is not the same cat!" Her and the girls had a nice visit and then left without him.

It was the same cat but of another mental cat'agory (another new word). Needless to say, after several weeks, Alex is still with us and there is nothing suggesting that is about to change in the foreseeable future.

We've learned a lot about cats during this period and a lot about this cat in particular. One thing I've learned is that black pants and white cats do not belong in the same house. No matter how much you comb or brush and how much you vacuum, you cannot capture all the cat hair. You'll see fine little pieces of gravity defying hair floating through a sunbeam, likely in search of black pants. But, the positives outweigh the negatives at least in this case.

With dogs, you will find yourself being one of the first couples to leave early because you have to get home to let the dog out and if you plan on an overnight stay somewhere without the dog, it goes to a kennel. Cats meanwhile, if left with enough food, water and facilities, will normally get along just fine for a few days.

Alex is now quite comfortable in our home and pretty well behaved. While we don't leave surveillance cameras running all night, he seems to be staying off the tables and kitchen counter. Normally he stays off the living room furniture but twice I've watched him jump up onto our sofa and I'll say "Alex, NO!" and he'll jump down and run out of the room and then things go back to normal.

He plays with his toys, the corner of a floor mat or one of my slippers and one thing that has sort of bonded him and me is golf. Well, I'm not ready to buy Alex a set of clubs but he likes to play with golf balls and we sometimes hear them bumping into furniture legs or the baseboards at night.

Sometimes at night we hear him running up and down the hallway and wonder what's going on in his mind. All we know for sure is that he is getting some good exercise.

He loves open windows or doors (with screens closed) and will sit for long periods studying the sounds and smells of nature and watching the wildlife both on the ground and in the trees.

cat Alex at the door

Cats by nature will sleep a lot in the daytime and hunt at night when they have a "night-vision" advantage over their prey. Alex is a pretty normal cat in that respect and sleeps a lot during the day.

It is also well known that when the servants go to bed at night, most cats love to curl up on top of the covers for the night. But not Alex who rarely comes into our room even though we have an open door policy. The doors to our other bedrooms remain closed and O. B.

Mostly, Alex eats a nutritious dry cat food but gets a small serving of canned tuna or salmon for breakfast each morning. By daybreak, Alex is sitting just outside our bedroom door and starts into meowing, and if we fail to respond, his meows will get progressively longer and sound more like a cat song.

The first one of us to set our feet on the floor is expected to serve him breakfast and Alex heads for his feeding mat in the kitchen. If he has finished his fish breakfast by the time the second of us appears, he tries to get a second serving. He's not stupid but not always as smart as his servants.

Something else we've learned is that cats, like some dogs, like to curl up in a small box that is almost too small for them. We learned this from friends so I found a small box about 15 inches square and about 5 inches high and he loves to curl up in it.

Cat Alex in his box

Long haired cats like Alex need to be combed daily and generally speaking, he enjoys it. Three or four times a day he will come to your feet and lay down which is really the command, "comb me!"

While he wants you to know that some areas of his body are somewhat off limits to the comb, he purrs to display pleasure but, by the time he's enjoyed enough combing, he gets up and goes to his box. Had we saved all the hair we've combed from him and had it spun, we'd likely have enough for a sweater.

Today, Alex is a totally changed cat and yes, we are his servants so to speak.

He has adapted well to this environment, accepts it as his castle and one can detect some sense of feline royalty. I guess we've adapted a bit too. We are however, still struggling to say "he" and not "she" and not sure why that is.

We've learned that all cats of the world are closely related and have a common ancestor. However, Alex is far removed from his wild and ferocious cousins. Alex brings a little extra joy into our home.

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