Remembering Seren with Holiday Sparkles, A Cat-Mas Story

Remembering Seren

Seren arrived at a time we’d been pet-less for many years. A friend called to tell me she’d found a kitten–and could I help? The wannabe Siamese baby climbed up my leg, wrapped her chocolate paws around my neck, and purred her way into my heart. It was, indeed, Serendipity that we found each other.

That was more than two decades ago. She inspired my cat writing, hated and finally tolerated “that !@#$%!!!-dawg” when Magic arrived (and outweighed her even as a pup!). And Seren tolerated and ultimately loved her pesky cat brother, Karma. Seren’s tiny frame packed a powerful presence for over 21 years, and now the house echoes with her absence. We mourn, oh how we mourn . . .

Pet Loss–Again

We’ve been through pet grief already this year when we lost Magic. The tears just won’t stop. And now I’ve added more verses to Magic’s song:

A thousand tears I shed each night
Since Seren left that bitter day,
She took away a special light
And turned my world to gray.

If we could, you know we’d fight
To keep her near just one more day.
But clinging love can’t make it right
We let her go, she couldn’t stay.

Swift sweet joy, condensed delight,
Great love is magnified that way.
The years sped by, we couldn’t fight
The deal we made, we had no say.

In time the tears I shed each night
Will shimmer bright, I pray.
For all who mourn love out of sight
Sweet memory holds sway.

For those also hurting, here’s a post on dealing with pet loss that may help.   

And in honor of my tiny girl’s beginning with us, it seemed appropriate to once again share this story about her early days with us.

HOLIDAY SPARKLES: A CAT-MAS STORY

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“Amy! Will you please get your cat before she tears up the house?”

I sighed, and pushed away from the computer. My husband grew up cat-less. Mahmoud neither understood nor appreciated kitten antics, especially while he watched television sports.

Crash-galumph-galumph-skiiiiiiid-thump!

“Ameeeeeeee!”

By the sound of it, the eight-month-old delinquent had donned virtual racing stripes. She ran laps that traversed the carpeted living room and family room, slid across the oak floor entry, bumped down steps to the dining room, then finished with a claw-scrabbling turn around the slate-tiled kitchen.

Thumpa-thumpata-thumpa-THUMP!

Aha, a new path discovered . . . The sound grew louder as she raced toward me up the stairs and flew down the hallway to land tippy-toed on the guest bed across the hall from my office. I peeked inside.

Seren(dipity) stared back with blue-jean-colored eyes. Then she self-inflated in mock terror and began trampoline calisthenics (boing-boing-boing) on the mattress.

I quickly shut the door, confining the demon seed–my husband’s name for her–to my upstairs domain.

Back in June, a friend discovered the dumped kitten napping in an empty flowerpot on the back porch and called me, her pet-writer buddy, for help. I had been pet-less for longer than I cared to admit. E-mail, phone and fax lines kept me connected to my clients and colleagues, but I figured the kitten would brighten the long, sometimes lonely workdays. Besides, as a pet writer I needed a pet. So it was Amy-to-the-rescue, and love at first sight.

My husband wasn’t so easily smitten. He still missed our elderly and sedate German shepherd but cherished the freedom of being pet-less. I convinced him a lap-snuggling kitten would be no trouble. Besides, the cream-color carpet he’d chosen matched the color of Seren’s fur. It had to be an omen.

The cat gods have a wicked sense of humor. They made me pay for that fib.

The Siamese wannabe had no off-switch. She talked nonstop and demanded the last word. She opened drawers and explored kitchen cabinets. She answered my office phone but never took messages. And she left legions of sparkle ball toys everywhere.

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The colorful toys polka-dotted the stairs. You’d think a peacock threw up. The toys floated in the kitten’s water bowl, swirled in the toilet, and bobbed in my coffee cup. And Seren hid sparkle balls everywhere to later stalk and paw-capture them from beneath household appliances.

Mahmoud quickly learned to check his shoes each morning before putting them on. He was not amused. I knew better than to suggest he should be grateful Seren only stuffed his shoes with sparkle balls and not–ahem–other items.

I’d managed to buffer the cat-shock-effect over the past months by keeping her in my office during the day and wearing Seren out with lots of games before Mahmoud came home from work. Weekends proved a challenge. By Monday morning, my husband reached his kitty threshold and welcomed a return to the cat-free-zone at work.

But now the holidays loomed. Mahmoud looked forward to two weeks at home, two weeks of relaxation, two weeks of napping on the couch in front of the TV.

Two weeks sharing the house with “the devil.”

It would indeed be a Christmas miracle if we survived with sense of humor intact.

In the past we’d often visited my folks over the holidays where we enjoyed a traditional snowy Indiana Christmas morning, stocking stuffers, decorated tree, lots of relatives, and a sumptuous turkey dinner. This year we planned a quiet celebration at home in Texas, so snow wasn’t an option. But I wanted to decorate with lots of holiday sparkles to make the season as festive as possible.

“A Christmas tree? Don’t cats climb trees?” Mahmoud’s you-must-be-insane expression spoke volumes. He’d already blamed Seren for dumping his coffee on the cream-colored carpet. Maybe matching fur color wasn’t such a great omen after all.

But ‘tis the season of peace on earth, and I wanted to keep the peace–and the cat. So I agreed. No tree.

Mahmoud didn’t particularly care if we decorated at all since Christmas isn’t a part of his cultural or religious tradition. But he knew I treasured everything about the holidays. So we compromised.

Gold garland with red velvet poinsettias festooned the curving staircase, wrapping around and around the banisters and handrail. Gold beads draped the fireplace mantel, with greeting cards propped above. A red cloth adorned the dining room table, while in the living room, the candelabra with twelve scented candles flickered brightly from inside the fireplace. Other candles in festive holders decorated the several end tables, countertops and the piano.

The centerpiece of Christmas décor was the large glass-top coffee table placed midway between the fireplace, TV and the leather sofa. The wooden table base carried puppy teeth marks, silent reminders of the dog Mahmoud and I still mourned. Since we had no tree, the table served to display brightly wrapped packages that fit underneath out of the way. And on top of the table I placed Grandma’s lovely three-piece china nativity of Mary, Joseph and the Baby in the manger.

Grandma died several years before, right after the holidays. Each family member was encouraged to request something of hers to keep as a special remembrance, and I treasured Grandma’s nativity. The simple figurines represented not only the Holy Family but evoked the very essence of Grandma and every happy family holiday memory.

Of course, Seren created her own memories and put her paw into everything. It became her purpose in life to un-festoon the house. She “disappeared” three of the faux poinsettias, risked singed whiskers by sniffing candles, and stole bows off packages.

She decided the red tablecloth set off her feline beauty. She lounged in the middle of the table beneath the Tiffany-style shade that doubled as a heat lamp, shedding tiny hairs onto the fabric. As every cat lover eventually learns, fur is a condiment. But Mahmoud had not yet joined the cat-lover ranks and was not amused.

“Off! Get off the table. Amy, she’ll break your glass lampshade.”

Crash-galumph-galumph-skiiiiiiid-thump!

Mahmoud had no sooner resettled onto the sofa to watch the TV when the whirling dervish hit again. The twinkling gold beads dangling from the mantel caught her predatory attention. Seren stalked them from below, quickly realized she couldn’t leap that high, and settled for pouncing onto the top of the TV. From there, only a short hop separated her from the ferocious mantel quarry she’d targetted.

“Off! Get off the TV. Amy, will you come get your cat?”

Crash-galumph-galumph-skiiiiiiid-thump!

I arrived in time to see her complete a second Mario Andretti lap. I swear she grinned at us as she skidded past. With the next drive-by Seren stopped long enough to grab my ankle, execute a ten-second feline headstand while bunny-kicking my calves, then resumed her mad dash around the house.

Mahmoud glared. “I thought you said cats sleep sixteen hours a day.”

I shrugged and hid a smile. Seren had already learned what buttons to push. Rattling the wooden window blinds worked extremely well, but now she need only eye the decorations to garner all the attention she craved.

Cute kitty. Smart kitty. Mahmoud wasn’t amused, but I was.

She raced into the living room, leaped onto the glass top table, and belly-flopped alongside my treasured Holy Family . . .

“Off! Get off.” Mahmoud shooed the kitten out of the danger zone before I could react in shock. This time, I was not amused.

Mahmoud knew what Grandma’s nativity meant to me. “Decorating was your idea. Don’t blame me if the devil breaks something,” he warned.

Before he could suggest it, I caught the miscreant and gave her a time out in the laundry room to cool her jets. We’d relegated Seren’s potty, food bowls and bed to this room and routinely confined her at night or when away. Otherwise, she set off motion detectors and the house alarm–or dismantled the house while we slept. Besides, Mahmoud complained Seren’s purring kept him awake at night.

I used a wooden yardstick to fish toys from beneath the washer/dryer to provide necessary feline entertainment during the incarceration. Several dozen sparkle balls–red, orange, yellow, green, blue, pink, purple–and the three missing faux poinsettias emerged, along with an assortment of dust bunnies and dryer lint.

I sighed. The kitten’s age meant several more months of madcap activity and I wasn’t sure how much more Mahmoud could take. He only saw Seren at full throttle. He also suffered from “Saint Spot Syndrome” which meant he recalled only the happy memories of our beloved dog, and overlooked potty accidents, chewed shoes and other normal canine misbehaviors of the past.

Seren suffered mightily in the comparison.

I felt exhausted after the first week of running vacation interference between my husband and the kitten. Whenever possible I kept Seren confined with me in my upstairs office but that backfired. She slept in my office, but once downstairs she turned into a dynamo intent on pick-pick-picking at Mahmoud especially when he ignored her.

The second week began, and as Christmas drew near I found more and more errands that required my attention outside of the house. Mahmoud came with me for some, but other times he preferred TV.

“Just lock up the devil before you leave so she doesn’t bother me,” he said. “I don’t want to watch her.”

It made me nervous to leave them alone together in the house. I worried that Seren might commit some last straw infraction and I’d be unable to salvage any potential relationship. I loved her, heaven help me; she’d hooked her claws deep into my heart. And I loved Mahmoud. I wanted my two loves to at least put up with each other.

But as I prepared to leave I couldn’t find her. At less than five pounds, Seren could hide in the tiniest spaces. One time I found her inside the box springs of the guest bed, but that day–December 23rd–she disappeared and refused to come out of hiding.

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I think she planned it. Maybe the spirit of the holidays inspired her. Or perhaps some other loving canine (or grandmotherly) influence worked its Christmas magic. Whatever the motivation, when I returned home that rainy December evening, my unspoken holiday wish had been granted.

I found my husband napping on the sofa. On the glass top table beside him the Holy Family nested in a radiance of sparkle balls–an inspired feline gift of toys for a very special Child.

And atop Mahmoud’s chest, quiet at last, rested a very happy kitten.

Mahmoud roused enough to open one eye. “Fafnir–I mean Seren still purrs too loud,” he grumbled.

Fafnir had been the name of our dog.

With a nod toward the overcast day Mahmoud added, “At least our cat won’t need to be walked in the rain.”

Seren blinked blue-jean-colored eyes and purred louder.

Note: The story first appeared in a short story collection titled Christmas Cats: A Literary Companion (Chamberlain Bros. Publishing). May your Christmas be joyous, bright, and filled with loving woofs and purrs of those still with you, and those who live on in your heart.

You may also enjoy my annual Christmas Eve story of Why Tabby Cats Wear an “M”

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? NOTE: Some links to books or other products may be to affiliates, from which I may earn a small percentage of sales, but I recommend nothing unless I feel it would benefit readers. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book giveaways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

 

Kitty Hide and Seek is Good for Cat Health: Neko Pawds Cat Tunnel Review

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Do your cats play hide and seek? Does a shrinking violet cat dive under the bed whenever the doorbell rings? Or maybe you have a “pariah cat” that slinks around hoping the other cats won’t pay attention to the virtual KICK ME sign around her neck.

I’ve written about fearful cats in several behavior books, as well in this blog that explains why cats get scared, and offers 7 Tips to Stop Feline Fear including using tunnels and play. February is Responsible Pet Owners Month, so I’m always looking for great tips and products to share with my Sweet Peeps who adore their cats.

So when one of my favorite product manufacturers offered me the opportunity to review their new modular cat tunnels,  I pounced at the chance. The UJI Tunnel System from NEKO PAWDZ is a modular system of fabric tunnels that can be mixed and matched into 20 different combination shapes.

I live with Karma-Kat…so checking out the product was a no brainer!

You see, Karma is a bit of a bully and Seren has learned to use tunnels to (literally) run under the radar to reach important spots, like the litter box. One of my top recommendations for boosting shy cat courage is offering safe hidey-holds. Encouraging interactive play also can give the bully cat something more productive to do, and wear out over-enthusiastic pounce-monsters.

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Each modular tunnel opening has interlocking zipper fasteners to connect them into interesting configurations. The tunnels arrive collapsed neatly inside of mesh storage bags. There are three tunnel shapes:

  • A straight “I” shape, with multi-openings and a “crinkle” sound cats love (retail $55.00)
  • A bent “U” shape, with a 3rd opening in the middle (retail $75.00)
  • A hooked “J” shape, with its 3rd opening on top (retail $65.00)

Now, for those who say your cats are quite satisfied with a paper bag and empty cardboard boxes–that’s fine. It’s true cats don’t care how much you spend, and there likely are less expensive cat tunnels available. But as with other products from Nekochan, the quality of the fabric and safety (and desires) of the cats is built into each design. These cat tunnels are an investment in emotional health, and are so sturdy and well made, they should last for the lifetime of your current kitties and possibly beyond.

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A simple loop-and-button holds the collapsed/stored tunnels together, and when released, the tunnel unfurls. There’s a safety pocket to tuck away the look and button when not in use. Each opening with it’s zipper lining is held in place with Velcro when not connected to another unit. That’s a GOOD thing, because my Karma likes to chew Velcro, for some reason. He didn’t seem to notice its presence in the tunnels.

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You can mix and match how you want to connect the tunnels. I was sent three–but you can use a single unit, connect all three, or turn your home into a kitty tunnel paradise. Openings at both ends, and in the middle, offer lots of hide-and-seek (and ambush!) opportunities. The fabric is polyester, easily cleaned and brushed to remove cat hair, and designed to fit in any decor. Of course, the true test is . . . what does the CAT think?

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I confined Karma while zippering the tunnels together. It took me just a bit to figure out how to do this (sort of have to hold your mouth right, LOL!) and was afraid the zippers would jam. Actually, the connection worked very smoothly, much better than expected. The stitching and construction has been carefully designed so it doesn’t catch, and now that I’ve connected them once, it’ll be a breeze in future when I re-do the configuration.

Actually, this is a great idea, too, to keep cats interested in something new. While the shy cats may be more than satisfied with set-in-place-and-leave-it-alone, my Karma-Kat relishes new challenges. So rather than having to buy a whole new set up, I can mix it up and change the design for him whenever I want.

In case he was reluctant to explore, I also brought out one of his favorite toys, the Kittenator lure toy, also from NEKOCHAN. But never fear, Karma is a Christopher Columbus of the cat world. As soon as I released him, Karma ran to investigate.

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He immediately dove in head first, to explore this new playground. But first, he grabbed the toy and tried to take it inside with him.

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The fabric on the hardwood entry slides a bit with exuberant play. I’ll move the tunnels into another carpeted room for a more permanent location. My dog Magic also was very interested in the tunnels. For households with both cats and dogs, this tunnel system would work great to give the cats a safe retreat.

I didn’t really expect Seren to explore the tunnels so quickly. But within minutes of Karma leaving, she scurried inside, too. Of course, then Karma decided to pester her and she left. In fact, here’s a short video of Karma and Seren first look at the tunnels.

The cats’ review was an enthusiastic ALL PAWS UP. As for me, I’m a huge fan of anything that will enrich the lives of our cats. There will be a bit of a learning curve to figure out the best way to put the tunnels together (or maybe not, I’m not great with puzzles myself!).

Environmental enrichment reduces cat stress, and cat stress has a negative impact on kitty health. So the more we can enrich our cat’s lives, enhance their emotional well-being, we’ll reduce health problems (and the cost of vet visits!). Hey, don’t believe me? Even the The American Association of Feline Practitioners promotes the Cat Friendly Practice (CFP) Program to help veterinary professionals reduce the level of stress associated with the clinic visit. They’re celebrating they have 1000 vet clinics now in the program, with a AAFP fun cat photo contest.

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I really liked the notion of the tunnels being modular. Single tunnels can be used in different rooms, or a string of tunnels hooked together throughout the house. They’ll accommodate any size room, or any number (or size) cats.

The construction and attention to detail is wonderful, with the button-hiding and Velcro fasteners designed specifically with cat safety in mind. The material feels great, too. And while I anticipated Karma would like the tunnels, it surprised me how eagerly he raced to investigate. My only nit with the product would be the higher price might make pet parents reluctant to invest. Once they do, though, they’ll discover a quality product that will turn on the purrs.

Be sure to watch the video demo below as it will give you an even better idea of how the tunnels fit together and how the cats enjoy them. So, do you have cat tunnels for your cats? How do you enrich the environment for your kitties? Do tell!

This post is sponsored by Nekochan Enterprises (now Rompicatz), and I am being compensated for helping spread the word about UJI Tunnel system. Bling, Bitches & Blood only shares information relevant to our readers. Nekochan is not responsible for the content of this article.

YouTube ButtonI love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new puppy and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!