From the Marlton Animal Hospital the drive was about 24 miles home, besides talking to Frankie and Johnnie, my mind was addressing the reasons I wanted felines and not a dog.
Johnnie and Frankie Weiss on the love seat
A cat if left alone for a day or overnight, with food and water, has no problem taking care of itself and doing what comes naturally in their litter box. Dogs will eat more than is good for them, if food is left in their tray, it will disappear rapidly. A cat is smart enough to eat just enough to sustain them until hunger comes again. Any dog has to go outside twice daily, no matter the weather. They need the exercise and the opportunity to eliminate their waste matter. They need our human companionship so much more than a feline. Cats are inventive, spirited, and very curious and will explore things and are great climbers. They will amuse themselves in ways so foreign to a canine by creating play a dog would never understand. For these reasons and a few nameless others, I could never do justice to a dog adoption. Cats have no problem loving their keepers. Dogs love their owners. Notice, I wrote cats have keepers, not owners. This will be explained in more detail later in the story.
Finally, reaching the driveway, I took the pet carrier out of the car and walked up the steps leading to my front door. Out loud, I welcomed Frankie Weiss and Johnnie Weiss to their new home, I was proud to give them my surname, along with a wish that we would share a fruitful and happy home. Entering through the front door and putting down the carrier on the living room carpet, I opened the grill; Johnnie immediately ran behind the sofa and hid. Frankie, extrovert that she is, was more interested in surveying her new home. Looking around the living room, she then went from the dining area to the kitchen, saw the food I prepared earlier, and continued her journey through the bathroom and little den. Coming out of the den she noticed the stairs leading to the recreation and laundry rooms. After exploring that area, she came back upstairs and went into the kitchen and partook of some of the Fancy Feast Chicken Hearts and Liver with gravy that I had prepared earlier, Frankie does not touch dry food. She then went downstairs and did her duty. (I like to think she knew her Mr. Mom was thoughtful and concerned regarding his adopted “children’s” welfare, in preparing food and the litter box for their homecoming, and that he knew what was important in a feline’s life.) The love between Frankie and myself was already a forgone conclusion. When she came back upstairs, she was not alone. She was carrying, between her teeth, by one of its ears a little grey plush bear 4 or 5 inches in length. It had been sitting, quietly and in dignity, on an orange cushion covering a Parson’s bench, minding its own business for quite a number of years. Evelyn and I had picked it up someplace in our travels. Frankie having a mind of her own, decided that had to change, again she fell in love, at first sight, with a bear.
Walking into the living room, still holding the bear by an ear, this five month old feline sat down, the bear now between her front feet and paws, with a quick motion of her head she again had the bear between her teeth and with a mighty toss, flung it into the dining area, upon landing, she ran after it and repeated that action over and over, making her new daddy, (Mr. Mom) feel like he hit a million dollar jackpot. I could not stop marvelling at her play with the bear. Such was my delight in her ways and activity with this bear that became her most precious toy. But, Frankie had too much spirit for the bear’s future healthful outlook.
Sometime later, after Johnnie came out of her hiding place behind the sofa, she went into the kitchen and had some of the dry food. I learned only Johnnie would lap at the water bowl, Frankie will not drink water; she gets the fluid her system needs from the food she eats, this is not uncommon among mammals.
Frankie must have communicated to Johnnie that the litter box was downstairs, after using it; she ran up the stairs into the bedroom and hid under the bed. I could not get her to leave the secure hiding place. In fact, it may have been three or four days before Johnnie would allow me to even touch her. Cat personalities are so varied; here I quickly learned I adopted an extrovert and an introvert. I also learned cats are not immune to loving their keepers and Johnnie was no exception. It took her just a while longer than it took Frankie to learn that Mr. Mom was someone she could love and be happy for doing so.
As a new father, I bought my “children” Frankie and Johnnie cat toys to play with. Both cats adopted certain playful objects. However, poor Johnnie was not allowed to touch anything that Frankie deemed her property or plaything. As soon as Johnnie would approach a toy belonging to Frankie, a cat signal would go out, warning Johnnie not to touch. Johnnie, being the timid one, would walk away from the toy. The bear was another story; Johnnie was too smart to even approach it. Somehow, she knew she’d incur Frankie’s wrath. As sweet and lovable as Frankie is, she’s a tyrant with a one-track cat’s mind. While putting this story together over a number of days, sitting at the computer, it’s impossible to count the many times I felt Frankie’s paw tapping my arm, her big beautiful eyes pleadingly looking at me; “I want your lap, come play with me.” Her meows often accompanied these actions. I must say, however, having a male’s ego and mind thought, it flattered me no end to think this pretty female Calico loved me and wanted her love returned by my attention to her needs at that particular moment of time. With my yelling NO, she’d go away sulking, but she’d return very quickly to try again.
Although she insisted on bothering me very often while at the computer, I could not be happier, we shared a bond, a love, which I cherish.
Because I wanted to document the beauty of my newly adopted “children” in their natural settings, eating, sitting together, sleeping together, resting, sometimes solo, and in other aspects of them sharing their new home, I resurrected my camera. It had lain dormant for a number of years. Before that it captured many family pictures and much of our travels worldwide, in slides and pictures. Now Frankie and Johnnie would be the focus of its lens, they were the perfect subjects, no posing necessary.
The picture I’m most proud of is the one on the cover of this story, Frankie playing with the rope, it was taken perhaps a month after her adoption. One could write a number of captions for the look on her pretty face. In my egotistical opinion, it’s worthy of a “Pulitzer Prize” for cats. Other photographs will appear from time to time in this serialized story. A few 8x10’s adorn the walls of our home. Others find their place elsewhere in the house.
The Love Seat
The “love seat” played a major part in their first year as Weiss family members. A beautiful upholstered bench, with side arms, for two people to sit comfortably. However, the cats adopted it as “their place” to sit, rest and sleep. Many of these photos were taken on the spur of the moment. And, I’m not too shy to say, “They are beautiful.” These two felines without posing gave me some pictures that archive their young lives shortly after designating me as their Mr. Mom.
The first four or five months of their living with me were devoted to my education on how to be a good Mr. Mom and loving parent. The had exploited their way into my heart in such fashion making me think how lucky I was to have these two young cats as my adopted children. They owed me nothing. I was the recipient of all that was good in their lives and mine.
During this period in time, I learned a little about their likes and dislikes and the personality trait of each cat. Johnnie tends to be a lady, timid, quiet and shy, playing second fiddle to Frankie’s lead as boss cat. Frankie, brash, curious, exploring every package I bring into the house, demanding and giving no quarter, afraid of almost nothing, but frightened when the front door bell rings, she runs away and is on guard, as is Johnnie.
After six years of living together, it’s impossible to recall all that happened in chronological fashion. For my best memories, I was lucky to describe on paper the early happenings during some of the years of our combined togetherness. I now refer to those documentations in describing the happenings during these years.
The Fly That Did Not Get Away
Frankie and Johnnie are two frisky cats less than one year old when the front door bell rings. Immediately they go into guard mode, what is this doorbell ringing?
The UPS driver was delivering a package. I opened the front and storm door to sign his receipt book in my accepting the package. This was sometime in April, Unknowingly to me, a horse fly made its entrance into the house. But the fly did not escape the cats’ attention.
Going about my business at hand, I returned to the kitchen. Usually Frankie and Johnnie are underfoot and have to see what Mr. Mom is doing and can they help? My cats were not around. This was highly unusual. They did not run out of the house when the doors were opened. Where did they go and what kind of mischief did these cats get into? I went looking for them, they were not on the ground floor and coming back upstairs they were not in the living room, dining, bedroom or bathrooms and not in any of the hall closets. Finally, I went into the little den off the bedroom, success!
Frankie was on the arm of my favourite sitting chair, while agitated Johnnie was atop the cushion on a storage area I built when we first moved into the house. Both cats, faces looking at the window shade, were going wild. Shooing them out of the den, I went back to the kitchen. As soon as my back was turned, they scampered (ran) back into the den taking up their former positions.
I still had not learned enough to clue me in on their behavior in the short five months we merged into a loving family. Finally it dawned on me they were looking at the window shade, I raised it, and a horse fly was buzzing around, desperately, trying to escape from a closed window. From the cats’ view, who and what was this thing invading their home? No wonder they were going bonkers.
Now knowing what was happening, I let them be and went back into the kitchen to finish what I had been doing before the UPS man rang the doorbell. Had Frankie or Johnnie been able to get at the fly, I’m sure its natural life would have been short lived. Some time later, hunger took over; the fly no longer interested them.
As it was, the next morning I raised the window shade, the fly was lying on its back, alongside the window latch. It had perished in its ordeal trying to escape.
The lesson learned; Frankie and Johnnie, their jungle instincts still intact, were protecting their territory, home and Mr. Mom.