Pet therapy

A dear friend’s beloved dog and long-time constant companion died recently.  Naturally she was absolutely devastated; even more so as the pup had been her comfort and consolation through many many years of incredibly rough personal-health-related times.  The news and the thought of her pain and loss made me sob and snuffle in empathy.  I adore my two ridiculously fluffy Maine Coon cats and honestly couldn’t cope without them in my situation – no matter how amazing and supportive my husband is [and he IS truly amazing and supportive; I don’t know how I got so lucky]. 

I am bed-ridden for so much of the time, for days / weeks / months, and those two kitties are constantly entertaining, affectionate and perceptive.  When I’m especially bad, they will snuggle up on the bed as close as possible to me, one on each side, with a head snuggled into my shoulder here, or paws wrapped around my wrist there . . . aaaaaawwwww.

I’ve had several cats over the years:-  My first cat Rocky was a splodgy black and white mog who had no interest in humans and snuggling whatsoever.  Cat Numero Due was Bella, a dumped, abused stray who turned up on our doorstep and yowled to come in, please.  She was not at all averse to cuddles or snuggles and returned affection with fervour.  I really could have done without the disembowelled rats left for me on my duvet cover as a precious gift, though.  Bella lived to the amazing age of 22, and died quietly in her sleep just a few weeks after we returned to WA from Ireland.  I’m forever glad I had the chance to snuggle those last times and say goodbye.

Cat Number Three was Jessie, our psycho-feral tuxedo kitten we adopted whilst in Belfast.  We did a pretty amazing job of de-feralising her, and she turned into a very happy affectionate and friendly cat.  When we left Belfast I simply couldn’t bear the thought of her spending six months in quarantine, and what that would do to her psyche and abandonment issues.  I contacted the shelter we had adopted her from in the first place, hoping they could help.  A volunteer came out to visit, and couldn’t believe the change in her; Jessie sniffed around this new person for a bit then jumped onto her lap, kneaded a little then curled up for a nap.  Quite a change from the earlier spitting scratching screaming monster from hell, yep.  They found a home for Jessie on a farm in the Co. Antrim Mountains [where there have since been reports of a black panther roaming the hills and eating sheep.  Sounds like Jessie is enjoying her new life juuuuust fine.]

* * * * * * * * *

I adopted a kitten shortly after we were settled back in WA.  I simply couldn’t cope without a pussycat around the house.  Again to the shelter – where naturally I wanted to adopt them all.  I peered at a pile of tabby kittens and was intrigued by one weeny female who was persistently making her way under / over / through all the bigger bruiser boys to get to the front of the pen where she stood up on her hind legs and mrrrreeeeeep-ed at me.  I figured she chose me, so that was that.

That was Abigail.  As soon as I picked her up she climbed up onto my shoulder, started trilling, kneading my boobs and sucking my hair. The shelter volunteer was astonished at her behaviour as that kitten had a reputation as being timid and shy – HA!  It was all a cunning plan until she saw just the right kind of sucker heh-heh-heh.  She grew into a lovely cat, absolutely huge [all muscle and bone, no excess fat], incredibly fluffy with the softest coat I’d ever encountered, like a baby rabbit’s.

She was a silvery-brown tabby with defined dark stripes, white feet and chest, and a creamy-apricot belly.  Her back legs had such heavy and long fur she looked as though she was wearing old-fashioned pantaloons;  her ruff was more like a mane and almost covered her front feet when she sat up straight on her haunches.  When she lay down in “loaf of bread” pose with all paws tucked under, she looked like Dougal from The Magic Roundabout, an ever-expanding puddle of fur. 

She had the most beautiful nature – sweet and kind, almost aggressively affectionate,  especially kneading my boobs with claws out ow ow ow ow owwwwww, and suckling at the fabric covering aforementioned boobs.  For a cat she was amazingly faithful and doglike, following me around the house and curling up on the desk / chair / piles of laundry of whatever room I was working in. She loved water and not only curled up in the bathroom basin under the dripping tap [fucking slum landlords], but often hopped into the shower stall with me – while the shower was still on.

On days when I was in a lot of pain, bed-ridden and generally having a tough time she would cuddle up close on the bed, and purr and nuzzle and knead pretty much all day.  She wouldn’t leave me even if food was offered.  Talk about providing the most outstandingly beautiful special comfort.  

I still choke up and have fat tears roll down my face when I think about her; we lost her when she was just three and a half years old, to a fatal genetic heart condition.   She was so very special and the best little mate a person could have.

* * * * * * * * *

When Abigail died I was in such a dilemma.  I didn’t want another cat straight away as I was still in mourning;  I was desolate and bawled non-stop for weeks.  It didn’t help that I kept thinking I saw a whisk of her tail out of the corner of my eye, or heard the jingle of the bells on her collar [she wore three, as she was so sneaky and also an exceptional huntress].  On the other hand I was desperately lonely for that special company and comfort in my bad days.

I had started doing some detective work several months before Abi died.  I figured out very early on in her life with us that given her appearance, personality traits and other characteristics she was definitely a Maine Coon, or at least a cross.  [Further under-cover investigation after her death revealed she’d been dumped by a despicable Backyard Breeder, as being “surplus to requirements”.]

I wanted a Maine Coon because they met my personal needs for a companion animal.  They are affectionate, loving, companionable,  perceptive, have a wicked sense of humour and above-average intelligence, and are as loyal and people-oriented as dogs.  Their physical appearance is something else to love;  they are big, hardy beasties – one of the largest breeds of domestic cat – with big strong bones, deep chest, lovely rounded head and square-ish muzzle [no squished faces in this house!], big tufty ears, fluffy snowshoe paws, an almost leonine ruff, and that enormous plume of a tail.

Aoife [an Irish Gaelic name, pronounced Ee-fah or Ee-vay] was born on 28 September 2006, and she came to us by plane journey at the age of 14 weeks, just a couple of days before Christmas.  From the first moment at the airport pick-up point – when I saw her wee face peeking out through her crate door I couldn’t help but cry out “Oh My Little Baby!” and received a meeep in return – she fit into our little family and immediately took over.  She has always been incredibly affectionate, easy-going and cuddly, with a huge purr.  She’s playful and has that Maine Coon-ish wicked sense of humour;  she even plays Tux and I off against each other for her attentions.

Her colouring is officially “silver patched torbie and white”; basically a patchy silver-grey, apricot and black tortoiseshell with tabby stripes, and her lower face, chest and tummy are white.  The silver gene in her coat colour gives her fur – even the plain white – a glittering shimmering appearance.  The eyes are a golden green, with that black kohl-lined “look”;   very Cleopatra.

She’s also very vocal and “chatty”, always commenting on this or that and being most imperious in her demands.  This is cause for much amusement as her voice is as tiny and squeaky now [at a hefty muscular 7 kg and still-growing] as when she was a wee babe.  It’s mostly soft trills and squeaks, a kind of mrrreeh! or mrrrah!, but she makes up for it by trilling and mrrreeh!-ing  a lot, and in a most conversational comment / response kind of way.

Our Aoife is definitely worth the research I put into finding an excellent and reputable breeder, regardless of the slight inconvenience of that breeder being on the other side of the country; then to be placed onto a waiting list [amidst much begging on my part, I have no shame!]; and waiting for that precious litter to be born. 

Several months after Aoife came to live with us,  her baby brother – a full brother, having the same mum and dad but from the next litter – joined us too.  Ruadhàn [another Irish Gaelic name, pronounced Roo-ahn] is now a huge silver-red tabby.  He and Aoife share the same affectionate and dog-like disposition – as well as the massive paws and ridiculous bottle-brush tail – but the boy is much more the sooky-baba of the pair.

Two Maine Coons are definitely quadruple the fun, delightful affection and companionship of one [and um, well … it has to be said, but quadruple the fluff as well … thank miscellaneous techno-pagan gods for the purple-and-green Dyson hoover].

And the four of us – Tuxedo, Aoife, and Ruadhàn and I – make sizeable donations to the Cat Shelter to help all those kitties who are the product of unprincipled money-grubbing pet shops, bastard Backyard Breeders, and stupid fucking morons who DON’T GET THEIR CATS SPAYED.

* * * * * * * * *

Our animals – cats, dogs, horses, bunnies, whatever – are so important to us;  they become true members of our family.  They are companions and comfort and consolation for those of us going through tough times, and help pull us through health shite of all kinds.  As I’ve said, I couldn’t cope without my pusscats.  They help me so much, providing me with that physical comfort and emotional bond.

Needless to say I’m a huge supporter of the role of Pet Therapy in children’s emotional and health care, homes for the elderly [I’m sneaking my kitties in when it’s my time, no matter what, bugger ‘em], and hospitals.

But there it is; we become so close to our “babies” because they are there for us throughout our health shite and other crises and they don’t give a damn what we look like or how physically inadequate we might feel.  They love us unconditionally and are there for us, as we love them and give them the best care possible, forever, for  always.

It’s no wonder we are heartbroken and devastated beyond words when they die, suddenly or after illness, nor why we want to commit violent GBH  [and ought to be legally allowed to] on anyone who says “but it was just a CAT / DOG / WHATEVER”.


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