Pets – Got the Jimmy Legs


Goodbye … Leggy Blonde

Annabelle loves stairsIt's been 5 months since we last adopted out a cat. That was Shaolin, who actually wasn't in our home for very long at all, she was an easy adoption. But before and after Shaolin we had been experiencing a relative dry spell in adoptable cat turnover in Chez Legs. When we first started adopting out street cats, they went fairly easily. In those days we had many kittens; and when one would get adopted, more would show up to take its place. We even adopted out some of the adult cats, although it should be noted that cats like Gladys weren't even full grown themselves.

We worked on adopting the tame cats, and started in earnest with TNR, trapping as many of the feral cats around our block as possible, getting the fixed and vetted and returned to our yard. Things were going so well we started taking in cats that we knew weren't as appealing to the mass market. But we had found a home for cats like Baby-Bones, the Cat Who Hates People; we figured we could find a home for all the stray cats.

Baby BishopSo we took in cats like Marbles, the tough street momma who likes to sit at the bottom of the stairs and hit each cat as it runs down. We also took in Bishop, who actually claimed his place indoors by showing up with a sprained leg, which took months to completely heal. And we took in Annabelle, the cat who had brought several of her kittens over to us, but who had always been too skittish to stay inside with us.

AnnabelleWhile we were trapping the ferals, Annabelle got caught in a trap. At the time we hadn't seen her for months and weren't sure what happened to her. Once we had her, we decided that we would try to tame her to make her into a house pet. It wouldn't be easy, not because she was violent or mean, it was because she was so paralyzingly shy. So we let her acclimate to the house and miraculously over time she started to come around. She let us pet her and soon she was coming up to the couch and staring at us until we reached down to rub her head. I started gingerly picking her up and placing her on my lap; the first few times weren't pretty. But she liked being petted so much she would allow this for brief periods. Then one day she jumped onto the couch with us. Soon she was sitting on our laps with such tenacity that she wouldn't get off until you literally stood up straight.

Finally, she started sleeping in the bed with us. Like most cats who experience beds with humans, she attacked our toes. It was interesting to note that it's mostly kittens who do the foot-attacking thing, and Annabelle is at least a couple years old. So I guess that's more of an experience thing. Who knows when her interest in this will run out.

Bishop bellyrupWe had Annabelle for almost 10 months. I honestly didn't think of her as an adoption cat. Although it's not like we hadn't tried. We had been advertising on Craig's List for months, for her, Marbles, Bishop and Augie (the newest cat to come indoors), all to no avail. CL has always been very good for us to find decent folks, but the combination of timing, having only adult cats and the fact that more and more people were advertising adoptables on CL resulted in no inquiries.

At some point about a month ago, I saw that the blog Gowanus Lounge was looking for adoptable cats to post on their site. I sent over bios and photos of all 4 cats, and they got posted on the site over 2 weekends. I didn't really think it would amount to anything, but I wanted to feel like I was touching as many bases as possible. By this time I had also put the 4 on Empty Cages Collective Petfinder site.

LapcatsSo the GL posts came and went and then Craigs List seemed to pay off: two people were interested in Annabelle. I started in with them but the situations weren't not ideal and nothing ended up happening. When these deals ended, I went back to thinking we'd never adopt out these cats (and this was not necessarily a negative thing). But then I got an email from a woman who was interested in 2 of our cats.

She had seen the posts on Gowanus Lounge and was looking for two adult cats to adopt. She and her family owned an entire house in Brooklyn and were partial to the adult cats, not just because they are less destructive than kittens, but also because they knew how hard it is for them to find homes. They came over to meet the cats and we tried to do our best to get Annabelle to perform. She did reasonably well (that is, she let them see her), but certainly wasn't getting into anybody's laps. Bishop also made a good impression, but he's pretty much comfortable wherever he is.

Goodbye, Bishop!We agreed that they would make great cat owners, and last night they came back and picked up Annabelle and Bishop. I'm so happy they get to live together, if any two of our cats would go together it should be them. Ananbelle really likes other cats so I'm especially glad she won't be alone. I feel sort of bad (as I do in most of these adoption scenarios) that her last memory of our home is me grabbing her and throwing her into a cat carrier and handing her over to strangers. But I try to mitigate this with the knowledge that she's going to one of the best households we've encountered in all the 17 cats we've adopted out so far. In New York City, you can't expect people to have huge houses with staircases and spare closets to hide in. Usually they're lucky if they have enough room to run around in without running into stuff.

It may take time, although I hope it's less than the 10 months we had her, for Annabelle to adjust. I'm hoping that we laid the groundwork for her to appreciate human company, even if it's not us. I always thought she had been a house cat who was abandoned and just needed a refresher course on house living, but the longer we had her the more I believe she was a true wild-born feral cat, albeit one who had the capacity to believe that humans might be useful for something. Saying goodby to AnnabelleEither way, she's come an amazing distance, and it was pretty hard to look around the house and know I wouldn't be seeing her around anymore.

So this means we technically have only 2 cats left to adopt out, and who know when that might happen. Yes, we have two other nonresident cats, the semi-feral kittens we took in, but they're still a long way off from being ready to adopt, if they ever will. It feels odd, then, to have so *few* cats to adopt out now. Of course just over the weekend a new cat was spied out the front window, so who knows how long this lean time might last.

I'm your doctor and here's your bill

Let's see here, originally uploaded by Jimmy Legs.

Note to self: If you take a bunch of cats into your home, eventually some of them will get sick and then you not only have to clean out 60 litter boxes several times a day, you have to administer medication, somehow serve different types of food to cats without the wrong ones sticking their face in, and eventually make vet appointments. One of our street cats, Bishop, showed up limping, and several days of rest in the house have not helped much. So he's going in for what will not doubt be an expensive endeavor to diagnose and treat his malady.

Cheeks the elderly cockatiel has also seen his share of vet action lately. He's developed cataracts, so we took him to one of the better bird docs in the city, which involved taking a car to midtown, missing half a day of work, and blowing lotsa dough. Now we come to find out that he needs a second-opinion blood test to make sure he doesn't have gout (!) so he too is heading to Ridgewood this evening to get checked out.

Meanwhile, there's the little cat pictured above. We've been calling her Shaolin; she can be calm and centered like a Buddhist monk, but suddenly, and without warning, she can turn to ninja assassin mode. She'll be sitting peacefully on the couch, but when another cat enters her line of sight she will jump and race across the room, delivering a barrage of swats while yowling like a malfunctioning theremin.

She's too small to actually inflict any damage on the cats phsyically, but it's very disruptive as it leaves a trail of confused and irritated pets in its wake. We've been trying to teach her not to attack by putting her in the bathroom for 5 minutes at a time every time she does, but so far it ain't sinking in (repeated viewings of Supernanny have proven of little use when it comes to disciplining felines). But we're starting to see why this sweet little kitty may have been abandoned to the streets.

What makes her behavior more bizarre is that she can also be super affectionate to other cats. She's given both Jefe and Flossie a good grooming, only to later pounce on them when they entered the room. Lucky for them, she's ironically docile enough to let me cut her nails, so her blows are less potent. Anyway, she'll be going to the head of the adoption list, even though she's been nothing but nice to us humans. Clearly, the cats are running the show.

These Important Years

Roxy: My only regret was getting so few really decent photos of her.

After some 4 months, our last kittens have been adopted. Even though there's still a million cats here, it's noticeably quieter since they decamped for their new home in Cobble/Boerum Hill. The remaining cats don't exactly miss them, but they are acting differently, they seem to need more attention from us, where previously they had the kittens to distract them.

Roxy was the kitten who came the farthest. When she first came in, she was wild and freaked out by the indoors. She hid in the basement a lot of the time, and would dash out of the room any time a human came near. But after a while she realized we were no threat and started tolerating us. This eventually turned into actual affection, though it was almost always on her terms. IF she didn't feel like getting petted, zoom! She took off. But she became a lovely little cat, with a bit of that manic feral behavior.

Tumbleweed was our survivor. He didn't show up until a few weeks after Roxy (and their other brother Chester the Russian Blue). It was November, and he was scrawny and sick. We nursed him back to health; it was touch and go for a while. But he turned it around and before we knew it he went from being the runt to being the bigger than Roxy. At first we weren't even sure if he was from the same litter, but as he put on weight, his resemblance to his siblings was unmistakable, as was his rapport with the other kittens.

After a few false starts, we finally found a couple who wanted to take a pair of young cats. It's much more difficult to get people to take 2 cats at once, which is too bad since I think cats generally do better when they have pals around (that's the whole raison d'etre of this house!) We've previously only given one other pair away, two of Lucy's kittens. And in that case, the people hadn't planned on taking two, but were so charmed by them they ended up taking two so they wouldn't take three! But 2-month old kittens are a whole 'nother story compared to cats over 6 months.

Anyway, we have adopted out something like 11 cats so far, and have 4 more to go (one of which is more or less spoken for). If we're lucky we'll have them all out by the summer kitten season!

Tumbleweed: No longer ball-shaped, he just keeps getting longer!

Who might leave you where I left off?

Flossie Napping, originally uploaded by Jimmy Legs.

Over the weekend, we brought in Gladys' kittens for a heart-warming family reunion. WRONG. Gladys is totally sick of her kittens and growls at them whenever they come near. Apparently this is part of the process, she has to cut the apron strings for fear of making them mama's boys. But it's sad seeing them call to her and see her hiss like they were a pack of wolves.

There are 3 kittens in all, I fear the 4th kitten didn't make it as we haven't seen it in weeks. They appear to be about 3 months old, they're getting big but have had very little human interaction, so they're jumpy and distrustful. Except for the orange kitten.

He's been making great progress, he loves being petted and even jumped into my lap last night. His two tabby brothers, however, are not getting the idea just yet. I'm trying to get them to understand we're not a threat it's slow going. But they aren't cowering in the corners or anything; they are as underfoot as any house cat, they just scatter faster.

Flossie (pictured above impersonating a hard roll) has been hanging around a lot, prompting me to think it was time to take her to the Fixin' Station. But she went out one night and brought back two kittens to visit. One was a mostly-black calico, the other was a Russian Blue. Wow! They are about 6 weeks old and total badasses (they let me pet them but growled the whole time). They didn't stay but I'm hoping she keeps bringing them back, they should move fast off the adoption shelves.

Which is what we intend to do with Gladys' kittens as well. But I'm wondering if I should start pimping them out now, while they're still somewhat young. Are there people out there who want the challenge of taming semi-feral kittens? It's kind of a pain, but it's been rewarding, at least with the orange kitten. I fear that their chances for adoption drop significantly when they get to be full grown, so I'm keen on getting them out of the house toot sweet. This would be better in the long run anyway, since my taming might not stick when they have to go to a new house. I wish cats could understand English, so you could just explain why it's in their best interests to get with the program now!

Once more with feeling

Pre-Op Gladys

The weather is starting to change and the local stray cat population is starting to go nuts. Maybe these events aren't related, but the cats I know around here have been getting goofy lately. Gladys is recovering nicely from her surgery/vaccinations, she's gone outside a couple of times but seems to be content to stay indoors (what a surprise). The resident cats know not to mess with her, lest they be subjected to piercing screeching. She may not like the other cats, but she rarely has to tell them twice to keep their distance.

But the otherwise-outdoor cats have all but built one of those things you put up against a castle wall to storm the gates or whatever. Flossie, who still is believed to have a litter in the parking lot across the street) comes to eat and never wants to leave. The gray tabby who we always mistake for Decatur has become bolder as well, and Gladys' 3 remaining kittens are getting especially intrusive.


The orange kitten crossed a behavioral threshold the other night, suddenly not only tolerating being petted, but coming up and asking for it. He's still skittish, but otherwise he's ready to be a house cat. His brothers are less advanced, but they see him getting scratched under the chin and are probably thinking about it. I feel bad for the most fearful of the three, he sits on the windowsill and cries at Gladys. But Gladys seems to have forgotten she ever had kittens, she barely looks at him. Luckily he has the companionship of his brothers to assuage his woes. I keep trying to explain to them that it's in their best interest to get tame right now since the younger they are, the better adoption-fodder they are. Even Gladys may be a hard sell, since she's an adult more or less, and Flossie will probably only appeal to people who have a soft spot for special needs cats, or old ladies (I mean, Flossie would be good for an old lady, not people who are into old ladies).

Anyway, I need to begin construction on some bad-weather cat shelters. Lucky for me, I live in a neighborhood literally surrounded by 99 Cent stores, so it shan't be hard to pick up some big storage bins. But I gotta relocate some of these cats to the back yard; I get enough needling from the neighborhood kids as it is without having the areaway full of cat condos (lately I've been getting "Dude! Kitty, kitty, kitty!" in my direction.)

I'm also doing other stuff, including but not limited to preparing for Motico's first shows since last year! Basically we're practicing a lot and I'm trying to find new stuff to add to my rig to cover up for my lack of proficiency.