Our pets and their many adventures and personalities

Our family’s pets certainly are characters and keep our lives interesting.

We somehow ended up with three black and white animals.

Zooma The Wonder Dog’s most well-known features in our family are her spotted paws, even though she has white on other areas of her fur as well. When we first met Zooma and decided we wanted to adopt her, 3-year-old Little Miss told everyone we met that we were going to buy the puppy with the spotted paws. We had planned not to tell my parents right away because we thought they might not think we should get a new dog since we’d recently had a negative experience with another puppy adoption. That plan fell apart when Little Miss ran into their house first thing and announced, “We’re getting the puppy with the spotted paws!”

The breeder had actually asked us if we would like to switch puppies because someone else was interested in Zooma, but I told her we couldn’t do it.

“My daughter has already announced to everyone we meet that we are getting the puppy with the spotted paws.”

So now we have our Zooma with her spotted paws. She has taken over this blog a few times and you can find those posts if you search “Zooma” in the search bar in the right sidebar.

The first year we had Zooma.

Scout, our almost-two-year-old cat, has huge, white paws, as well as other areas of white over the bottom part of her. She is a polydactyl, so she has extra toes.

You can see a bit of her big paws here.

Pixel, our veteran cat, appears to be all black but if you are unfortunate to be stuck under her underside you will see a small streak of white fur between her legs.

All three of our animals are allowed outside now. In the past, I tried to keep Scout inside because I didn’t want her to be an outside cat. Sadly, after she saw Pixel and Zooma going out each day, her curiosity was almost overwhelming. She became so desperate to go out she would continuously slip out past us, finding any way she could to escape. Stopping her became an exhausting undertaking and she was also severely hyper when she couldn’t go out — raring all over the house and being a general nuisance all of the time. Once she was able to go outside and explore, she would come back in a lot happier and a lot cuddlier.

As a kitten, Scout loved to curl up on my chest to sleep. In a few months, though, she was too big to do that anymore, so she found other places to curl up. Every once in a while she does still try to curl up on my chest and I have to sit slumped down, my arms folded across my chest in a circle for her to lay in. We don’t last very long in that position so now she wakes me up early in the morning by trying to curl up against my neck or chest while I’m still in bed. When she cuddles she bumps her nose against mine while purring and then “kisses” (licks) my chin or cheek a couple of times. When she curls up on me on the bed she eventually decides I move too much and gets up and moves to her favorite place to sleep in the house — Little Miss’s pillow, just above Little Miss’s head. Sometimes she even curls around Little Miss’s head.

Pixel has never been a huge cuddler, but she does occasionally climb up on my chest and kneed and try to curl up there. She’s much too large to cuddle on my chest so her body drapes down my stomach or her large rear crashes into my laptop. She often picks a time for cuddling when I am trying to write instead of when I am trying to read. I would have a lot more room for her while I am reading than when I am typing, but, well, she’s a cat and cats want attention at the most inopportune times, as cat owners know.

Zooma loves to cuddle but wants to be petted most of the time during the cuddle (pawing at your hand to let you know you must keep rubbing her head or belly) and like Scout, she seems to decide somewhere during a snuggle session that she needs more room to spread out and leaves to sprawl onto the floor or couch. The Boy is the champion Zooma cuddler and hugs her like a baby, especially when he is procrastinating on doing school work or any other work.

“I can’t do that. I’m cuddling the puppy,” he’ll say and then he and Zoom will look at me with pathetic “puppy eyes.”

It seems to be an unwritten rule that you can’t move a cat once they’ve curled up in a spot on the couch or bed and you can’t break up a boy and dog cuddle session.

Zooma also likes to cuddle with Little Miss first thing in the morning while Little Miss either plays her online games or chats with her friends before schoolwork.

When we go outside, the animals go with us and often follow us as we walk down the street. Zooma is, of course, on a leash when we go for a walk because even though this is a small town, and very close to the woods, it’s still a town.

Zooma is on a lead or leash when she is outside so she doesn’t take off on us, because she will. She will chase whatever critter she sees in the yard or on the street. When we first moved here, and if we took her off the lead, she would take off over the hill behind the house after deer and rabbits. She would also chase the neighborhood cats and more than once she yanked the lead out of the ground and wrapped herself around our one neighbor’s large tree trying to get to one of them. If she sees a cat while we are walking on the leash she tries to yank the leash out of our hands and get to them. The main cat we see on our walks is our neighbor’s cat Simba.

He was here before our pets so this is his territory, but our animals don’t seem to understand that.

Simba wanders freely like Pixel and Scout do. None of them seem to go very far from their houses and don’t seem to go to other streets. Scout and Pixel do go over the bank toward the old railcar on the street below ours but I have yet to have seen them actually on that street, which is a lot busier than ours, so I hope they never do.

Simba and Scout had a run in the other day after Simba chased Scout out from under the neighbor’s cars where they all like to hang out. Simba wasn’t done with her and even hissed at her while she was laying on the sidewalk in front of our house.

The next day I caught him stalking her in our yard. I guess he’s really not a fan of Scout. I don’t know if he has been doing this for the last several months we’ve been letting her out or if he just realized she is around or what. He and Pixel aren’t really fans of each other either so I’m sure they have some battles too. I know they did when we first moved here.

Another odd thing is that when we walk down the street, the cats follow us like we are taking them on the walk with us. They usually only make it halfway down the street, though, and decide they don’t want to follow us any further. Also, when we visit our neighbors, the cats will follow us onto their porches, like they are visiting too.

Our biggest issue with letting Scout out is that she doesn’t like to come back in so there are some nights we have to chase her down to get her back inside. Pixel wanders in and out all day, jumping up for a snack of food and a drink, and then meowing to be let back out. Scout occasionally comes back in, but usually, once she is out we don’t see her for the rest of the day or if we do see her she comes up for attention and then darts away when we try to pick her up to go inside.

Many an evening the family has watched me pace anxiously when she hasn’t returned from one of her excursions, sure that this time I shouldn’t have let her out and she’s finally got herself killed. Every time she’s come sauntering back in like there was nothing to worry about and clearly clueless, or not really caring, that I was worried sick over her.

We don’t want the animals outside at night because we do live close to the woods and a rural area and that means there could be any number of animals in our backyard at night, including raccoon, skunks, opossum, foxes, and bear.

Speaking of animals, our animals have had quite a few run-ins with animals, I’m sure even more than we are aware of. The main run-ins the cats have had have ended up in the deaths of the other animals since we often open our door to find dead mice or moles on our back porch. The mice were showing up before we let Scout out a lot and then they were showing up even more. Apparently, she had learned how to hunt, or maybe Pixel had shown her. My husband sent me a photo of her with a mouse in her mouth in our backyard one day and we finally knew Pixel wasn’t the only one leaving us presents.

Pixel is quite brutal with her prey. One day The Husband and The Boy were down by the bank across the road cleaning up from a failed yard sale we had and they heard what sounded like screaming. It was, in fact, screaming. It was one of Pixel’s victims trying to get away. My son testified that Pixel came out of the brush with it, tossed it on the ground and let it run a few feet away to give it the illusion that she was going to let it live, then pounced on it again, flung it in the air and repeated the process a few more times before finally killing it. The poor little mouse screamed the entire time and The Boy said it was completely unnerving. They both seemed traumatized when they came back in the house with The Husband only saying, “She’s brutal.”

Neither of them looked at her quite the same for a couple of weeks, trying to figure out how to balance the cat who seems so sweet when she bumps up against their legs for attention and the cat who is a homicidal predator.

Scout also shocked us one day when she came around the other side of the house with a small snake in her mouth. “What did you bring us this time?” I asked. “Is that another — oh my gosh! Snake! She’s got a snake!”

My dad was here so we all walked over to investigate the wounded reptile she dropped on the sidewalk and then rolled next to, clearly very proud of herself.

We all decided the snake wasn’t poisonous (probably a garter) so it hadn’t hurt her but we were still unnerved by the entire incident. We scooped the snake up in a shovel and pitched it over the bank in front of the house. I’m not sure if it made it or not but I did see a similar snake in our backyard last week and it was slithering along quite fast.

Zooma’s last animal run in, beside the rabbits she chases out of the backyard, and the deer she barks at, was the skunk who sprayed her at the end of last summer. That happened a couple of months before we caught Covid and lost our sense of smell and we joked that it would have been nice to have been able to smell when she got sprayed. It took a couple of weeks to get the smell off her even with two or three baths.

I rarely get a photo of all three animals together, even though they are all together at times. For example, the morning I am working on this post, I woke up to find all three of them on the bed with me, which is a rarity. Pixel is still not super fond of Scout and hisses and smacks at her when she gets up to snuggle with me before Pixel does.

We call Pixel our resident witch (we try to be nice and not use the b before the itch) because sometimes she just randomly smacks anyone who walks by her, including Zooma who is simply trying to get outside and use the bathroom. Sometimes even one of us gets smacked by her for no reason at all, but sometimes she wants us to stop and pay attention to her. Usually, the smacks are claw-free. Another funny thing about Pixel is that she snores when she sleeps. It’s this small little wheeze/whistle. I am curious if this is a trait with black cats since the black cat my husband had and I adopted when I married him also had sinus issues and sort of snored. She (Squeak) also sneezed horrible large boogers out of her nose and mainly when she was laying on my chest for snuggles.

Pixel was actually adopted because she reminded me so much of Squeak. The only difference is that Squeak was always skinny where we often call Pixel The Beast or Fat Cat.  Sometimes when I call her Fat Cat she glares at me through tiny slits as if to say, “You don’t have room to talk, lady.” Other times she seems to appreciate the nickname and rubs up against me despite me insulting her weight.

Pixel is fairly laid back and doesn’t get herself into trouble, unlike Scout and Zooma.

As I’ve mentioned in past blog posts, Scout’s little tree climbing adventures have kept us hopping, including the one night she got herself so stuck the fire company had to bring its ladder the next day to get her down.

The first time she climbed a tree was also one of the first times she escaped. That climb almost killed her because she didn’t land on her feet like Dad told me she would. She landed on her side and then laid there panting and I thought she was going to die. I even prepared for the kids to say goodbye to her. She jumped up and darted away a few seconds later, though, and it was clear she wasn’t going to die after all. Since then she’s had our hearts in our throats more than once with her antics, but I guess we are adapting to them more and don’t worry as much as we once did.

So, there you go.  You’ve not learned a little bit more about our crazy pets and their antics. Do you have pets? If so, what kind, how many and what are their names? Let me know in the comments.

I’ll leave you with some random photos of the pets. I’m surprised, yet not surprised, of how many photographs I have of them, actually.

Finding Zorro

I was talking to my son the other day about the Siamese cats in The Cat Who books who almost sound like they are talking to people. Our former vet (who has since passed on) told us one time that our cat, Zorro, was most likely part Siamese because of how he spoke to us as he walked down the driveway to our old house, as well as some other physical attributes. I mentioned this tidbit of information to The Boy who said, “Oh! That reminds me, Grandpa thinks we found Zorro in the barn the other day.”

My expression froze, and my mouth dropped open.

“Excuse me?”

You see, Zorro has been dead for anywhere from 12 to 15 years. That’s right. I don’t know how many years because I can’t remember when he died. Isn’t that awful?

The Boy’s eyes got big, and he literally gulped. “Um…I shouldn’t have said anything.”

My chest tightened and I felt tears pricking my eyes, though I don’t know why. I knew Zorro was gone, but it was still hard for me to imagine the cat I had from junior high until after I was married at 25, lying dead in the barn.

“Grandpa would have told me eventually,” I said.

“Probably not,” The Boy said with a shrug. “We found him last week. He was all curled up behind a dresser like he’d just gone to sleep.”

This revelation prompted me to call my mom because suddenly I couldn’t remember what happened to Zorro. In my head, he had been put to sleep after a kidney infection, but then I realized I must have been wrong. I felt awful that I didn’t remember how one of my favorite cats ever had died. Zorro had such an amazing personality. My mom is allergic to cats so she could never pet him or have him inside, but she talked to him in a sweet voice, and he talked back to her. He also rolled over as she was talking to him, just like she was petting him. It was as if he understood she wanted to pet him but would itch all over if she did.

When I called Mom, she realized she couldn’t remember what happened to Zorro either. After discussing it, with Dad offering his memories in the background, we concluded that Zorro had wandered off to pass away. He was quite old, over 15 years old, maybe close to 20, and had been having kidney issues for a long time. Dad blames himself for him wandering off, says he didn’t get him to the vet for his kidney issues, but I think Dad’s memory is off because thinking back, I do remember Dad taking him to the vet after I had moved out and was living with my husband. Zorro was on antibiotics and a special cat food for many years before he passed away.

After we brainstormed on what had happened to Zorro, we realized we couldn’t remember what had happened to our other cat, Leonardo, either. I named Leo after Leonardo DiCaprio. It was the around the same time the movie Romeo and Juliet with DiCaprio and Claire Danes came out. I was home from college one weekend when he arrived, if I remember right.

I picked out his name, despite the very vocal protest of my mom, who said she would never go out on that porch and call “Leonardo!” across the valley when it was time for him to be fed. The joke was on her. She totally did that, more than once, over the next decade, that cat was alive. She did it often the time he went missing for a week and we all figured he’d been hit by a car or chopped up in the hay baler when the neighbor cut down the hay in my grandma’s fields (we had moved in with my grandmother by that time). He hadn’t been killed, but instead had been trapped in the grain shed.

When my dad opened the door and he wandered out, he was about 10 pounds lighter (he was a fat cat before that) and my parents didn’t think it was him until he came to the patio door and stretched his full body up the door like he always did when he wanted to be fed.

My grandmother, who was in her late 80s at the time, was the only one who could pet Leo. Not only could she pet him but she could practically cuddle him while he laid across her lap. Mom said it was because the rest of us moved too much and Grandma simply sat still, which wasn’t usual for her either. My grandmother was on the move almost up until the day she died.

Leo did eventually wander off and pass away, as far as any of us know, much like Zorro had. The only cat we remembered being put to sleep after she became quite old (close to 20) and sick was Four, who I left with my parents after I got married. She was a rescue from my mother-in-law’s cat and flea infested home and had an orange four in her fur on her forehead.

Of course, I remember other cats we had in the past. We had a lot of cats over the years because there was a non-working chicken coup behind our house and I’m imagining people passing by thought it was a barn because they would often toss cats out near our property. There is a common misconception that cats can simply go live at a farm, but guess what? The farmer has to feed the cats along with every other animal, so it’s really not like the children’s books which suggest that barn cats are beneficial because they catch the mice in the barn.

A photo of my scrapbook of my grandmother with Leo.

The first cat I remember was a cat whose name I can’t remember. I was very young when we had him, but I remember he couldn’t meow. When he tried to meow, it came out as a whispered gasp. He got stuck in our burn barrel one day and I happened to hear his gasp and found a board to slide in so he could climb out. I’m guessing he fell in looking for old chicken bones. For the city-folk who read my blog, a burn barrel is a barrel where rural folk burn their trash (papers only please and thank you. Anything else and it starts to stink. We did burn chicken bones in there because otherwise we had to throw them out in with the food waste and cats or other animals would eat the chicken bones and possibly choke.)

The next pair of cats I remember is Morris and Marvin. They were brothers and I named Morris because he looked like the cat on the 9-Lives boxes. They were both orange cats and I have no idea how they ended up at our house. They used to sit on either side of our front door, like bookends, waiting for us when we came home.

Sadly, Morris was killed by a car and not long later, Marvin was hit by another one. We lived along a major highway so we lost a lot of cats this way. We really liked Marvin and wanted to save his life so my mom, who I mentioned is allergic to cats, rushed Marvin to our local vet. Our local vet said the cat needed surgery and suggested he either be put down or my mom drive him 30 miles to the animal hospital. Mom drove that cat 30 miles, crying most of the way while he cried in pain, scratching her face because he was itching.

Surgery was done, a $300 bill was wracked up (we were told never to tell my grandmother of this bill because in her day, which was during the Great Depression, they would never spend that kind of money on a cat. They drowned kittens in the creek to keep from having to feed them), and in the end Marvin passed away at our home anyhow. It was so heartbreaking, but Mom made a gallant effort for him, forever driving from our mind the idea that she wasn’t a fan of cats. She loves cats. She simply can’t be around them because of the allergy.

After Marvin and Morris, I remember Cleo, who I named because she looked like the cats in Egyptian hieroglyphics. Cleo came to us with another cat, who we didn’t name, and both of them were pregnant. They both also gave birth in our basement at the same time and we had 12-15 kittens then to give away. The kitten we didn’t give away, who we somehow fell in love with, was Zorro.

I should mention, as well, that Zorro was one of three black cats I have owned in my lifetime. The second black cat was my husband’s before I married him and we had her until she was 19-years-old. The third black cat is our current cat, Pixel. Have they brought us bad luck? I don’t believe so. We’ve had bad and good experiences throughout our lives, like anyone else.

I still hate the idea of Zorro cat dying alone in the barn, but it was one of his favorite places to hide out and it was probably how he wanted to go — alone and quiet, curling up and then drifting off to sleep.

Isn’t it weird that after all these years of him being gone, that I teared up when I wrote that previous sentence? Our pets stay with us for only a short time, but our memories of them last our lifetime.

Our cat has no consideration for my mental health

Our cat thinks she rules our house.

Well, she sort of does rule it, like any other cat.

She also thinks she can walk in and out of our house anytime she wants.

And apparently she can because she does. A lot.

All of this behavior isn’t unusual for a cat, but it is annoying for me.

See, our cat has no consideration for my mental health.

When she’s out there, wandering our new property, which is near some woods that are inhabited by bears, foxes, raccoons, and who know what else, I sit inside and waffle between hoping she isn’t killed by a wild creature to hoping she dies so I can stop worrying.

It isn’t just that I worry about her. There are others in the equation.

I’ll miss her if she dies, of course. I’m fond of her.

She’s not the most cuddly cat ever but sometimes she climbs on me and shoves her claws into my flesh while she kneads and draws blood, purring the whole time and sometimes she screams at me to put her up by her food and I do and she lets me pet her, and every night she yowls for someone to turn the water on in the faucet in our bathroom and I’m the only one who does it (sometimes my son does actually, but it sounds better to say I’m the only one. ) so I guess we have some sort of connection.

The real issue isn’t only my worry our cat — who we named Pixel when she came to live with us in 2017 — will die. It’s my worry that our cat will die and I’ll have to tell the kids she has died and how she has died.

To explain, the kids and the cat sort of tolerate each other. They aren’t really in love with each other. Still, we’ve all gotten used to her being there – taking up the foot space in our beds, scratching our couch and our kitchen floor, rolling in catnip like a stoner, screaming at 1 a.m., 2 a.m,., 3 a.m., 4 a.m. whatever time she wants because she either wants the water in the faucet turned on, the stool to get up to her food has been moved (we put it up to keep the dog out of it), she wants to go out, or she’s simply . . . a jerk.

See? She’s sticking her tongue out at me. She’s saying “Pfffffbbt. I’ll do what I want. “

So if she gets eaten by a fox or a bear (my daughter keeps reminding me they are mainly omnivores and yes, my 5 1/2 year old uses that word), or mauled by a raccoon, or hit by a car in front of our house, I’ll have to break it to my kids she’s dead.

I’m pretty sure they’ll be sad, and therefore, my cat is acting irresponsibly and not considering my mental health at all.

She definitely was not considering my mental health last Sunday when my son and I realized at 12:30 at night that she wasn’t in the house. We have three doors in our house – a back, a front and a side door. I went to all three doors but no cat, which is unusual, because usually she runs inside at some point, looking for food or water or to simply be a nuisance. This time, though, she was nowhere near the door.

I figured she was probably out exploring and I didn’t want to keep waiting for her.

“My life is not going to be ruled by a cat,” I grumbled, stomping up the stairs.

But I could barely sleep and I have enough trouble sleeping. I slept fitfully, dreaming of our cat being eaten by a bear or fox, or me opening the door and her finally running in.

“I’m not going to be ruled by a cat,” I told myself each time I woke up from a scary dream of her nocturnal demise.

I did finally sleep and in the morning my husband peeked his head in and said “Have you seen the cat?”

I informed him I had not and told him of my nightmares.

“Whatever,” he said. “If she wants to live outside, then let her.”

But then, as he was in the shower, I remembered an incident with our family cat Leonardo years ago. Yes, I named the cat Leonardo after Leonardo DiCaprio. He was dropped off at my parents’ barn as a stray and my parents said ‘Do not name him because if you name him, we have to keep him.’ So I had just watched Romeo and Juliette with Leonardo and named the cat Leonardo and my parents had to keep him because I named him.

You would think the cat would have liked me the best since I named him and my naming him meant my parents kept him, but no, he did not like me. He would rarely let me pet him. The only one he did like was my grandmother, who we all lived with at the time. They would sit together on the porch and he laid on her lap while she caressed him. She wasn’t a cat person so this was a fairly unusual thing for both of them. Unusual and touching.

Anyhow, my mom insisted: “I will not be out there yelling ‘Leonardo!'” But when Leonardo went missing one week, there she was out on the deck yelling “Leonardo!” Leonardo didn’t come back for three days and they decided he’d been killed by one of the area tomcats or a fox or maybe hit by a car and laying somewhere. That’s when my dad went out to their grainary (which used to store grain, but just stores garden equipment now) and a very skinny, very scared Leonardo ran out.

I didn’t feel like getting out of bed so I texted my husband (I know. So sad.) to check for her in the garage before he left. We aren’t parking our cars in the garage yet because we still have some of our boxes from moving in there. He texted me back that the lost had been found and later that night told me he heard her yowling before he even opened the door.

I will say, Pixel was a lot more affectionate with me that day, rubbing her head against me, laying on me, licking me. And she didn’t rush back outside that day either. She spent most of the day asleep on our bed upstairs.

Despite her affection, I could tell she had no concern for my emotional well-being and that I had been worried about her. I could tell it even more when she ran out of the house again the next day when I was letting the dog out, but I’ve decided that since she has no consideration for my mental health, I’ll stop having concern for her physical health — unless she doesn’t show up again, of course.