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007 The Oh Ohs

A tale of two cats ... and more.

TAGS: WHERNTO: notions 

image of 007 The Oh Ohs

I was reluctant to have the Oh-Oh's live here.

It wasn't that I didn't like cats, but we already had two.

Our first cat Chuchu better known as Oooochiii had recently died. She had found us more than 8 years ago and was a gentle, uncomplaining soul who had unfortunately lost the ability to use her hind legs. I remember the first day she showed up having miraculously evaded our dogs and sat looking up hopefully at my young son. Her back legs moved with awkwardness at that time and she had recently given birth (who knows how many times). Gradually, the condition worsened, but not her spirit.

She had to be carried to most places, but could walk on her front legs when the back portion of her body was supported in a cloth loop. When she moved, everyone dogs, cats and people got out of her way. She kept an inquisitive watch over everyone who came within her proximity. She used to sleep by my head which is where she passed away one night at the age of more than 14 years. I just woke up to notice a slight fidgeting and she left. I guess it was her saying good-bye.

Carbon the BinBon was a black-and-white stray cat one of our friends found trying to get into her house. He was a very large and powerful cat with the courage of a mouse. The people at the SPCA who'd taken him in said he was a bit bossy, but that was really an illusion. What BinBon liked to do was stir up trouble and then run like the blazes. He and Oooochiii got along fine, but it was with the dogs Riky and Jumpr that BinBon found his place. In fact, I believe he thinks he's really a dog and not a cat. He recognized Riky as top dog and so sucks up to him, but Jumpr he likes to push around despite being a fraction of the size … that is when he's not being trampled by Jumpr's enthusiatic charges as most in this house are.

Grizu had been left at a dumpster with a plate of catfood. He was confused and frightened, but came to us with plaintive meows when we'd arrived to drop off some stuff. He is one of those very vocal cats who you think was actually talking to you - everything involving him generates a meow of some sort. You could pet him and there would follow a series of meows. You could pick him up and there would be more meows. Try putting on his leash (all our cats go out on leashes) and more meows. It has never been clear as to whether these meows were complaints or otherwise, but they invariably sound forth like endless inextinguishable flames which I suppose is appropriate, since he was named, by our friend Michael, after the little dragon whose human father, being a fireman, kept trying to convince him to control his urges.

BinBon enjoyed tormenting Grizu by sneaking up on him whenever and wherever he could. Grizu always reacted with horrified meows followed by vicious hisses. This would bring top dog Riky into action to break up the squabble by barking loudly and the rest of the household would show up to investigate the commotion, only to find that BinBon was nowhere in sight. Of course not! He'd launched his attack, gotten Grizu and everyone else to react, and could congratulate himself on a job well done, while hiding somewhere in the sidelines. After a while though, Grizu figured out what was going on and launched his counter-attacks which would cause Riky to bark even more and bring the rest of us to the scene faster and in greater numbers. While the counter-attacks were a major shock to BinBon initially, he soon realized that these made things even more fun because there was far greater commotion!

So after Oooochiii left us, we had these two cats keeping everyone occupied and the thought of any other additions to the family seemed to me to be out of the question. The problem is that no one ever asks me any questions.

Ranjana and Kyron have the same music teacher Iris. One day they were surprised at their lesson to see two little kittens in the waiting room. One was a long-haired black and white kitten about 3 weeks old, and the other was an orange kitten about half that age. The first had been destined to go to a petshop, but Iris intervened and took her in. The second had been found on Iris' property, nearly dead under a bush. His mother, a feral cat, had somehow been prevented from returning to her child and was thought to have been killed by a raccoon.

As the music lessons continued, the kittens grew in size along with Ranjana's desire to bring them to our house. Kyron wasn't so sure and didn't let the 'cuteness' affect him. His concern was how would the interaction go with the other members of the family. My concern was the same and I felt that this was hardly an emergency because it wasn't as though the kittens needed immediate rescue. Ranjana though, was convinced the kittens wanted to go home with her because they'd had a great time in the waiting room and meowed at the door when it was time to leave.

Iris, who is allergic to cats, really wanted to give them to a good home and appealed to her students, but no one was willing to take both. Iris refused to seperate them because the two of them were like sister and brother, the older one teaching and looking after the younger. We suggested that she feed them a properly supplemented vegetarian diet, since Kyron also reacted badly to cats who were fed the usual meat-based stuff, but found no problems at all with our veg cats. Iris was quite willing, but her husband had it stuck in his head that cats have to eat meat and refused. Unfortunately, it meant that the cats were kept in the small waiting room for most of the day and when Iris did let them out briefly elsewhere, she'd be the one to suffer.

Now, none of us liked the fact that these two were kept in that little room and every week when it was time to leave, the younger one, in particular, would call out to Ranjana and Kyron from behind the waiting room door. So one day, it was decided! They were to come here!

Ranjana and Kyron went over to a very happy Iris (she'd really been hoping we'd take them) and put the two in a box. When I helped them out of the car, I noticed that the elder was very intently looking around trying to absorb the situation, while the younger stayed as out of sight as possible inside the box. The two were taken up into a bedroom right away so we could gradually introduce them to the rest of their new family.

In a new setting it is generally a good idea not to introduce food till everyone acclimatizes a bit first, so we gave them a bit of time to look around the room. However, they seemed so comfortable that we thought we'd see whether they were interested in eating, but first, we had to go through the naming process.

It used to be when Kyron was 12 years or less, he'd offer the names, but he soon realized that no one calls anyone by name in this house so what's the point? He left the job up to his mother who seemed to take a special delight in such things. The logic she employs to come up with the names is completely beyond me (after all how many cats are named after the sixth element of Mendeleev's periodic table?), so I was not surprised when she chose Oberon for the orange baby and Ophelia for his black and white companion. She claimed that he looked a bit kingly (which he didn't at all - and the fairy king was a bit of an immature dude anyway) and the other 'just felt right' even though she acknowledged the unfortunate ending the cat's namesake came to in the Shakespearean play.

I wasn't going to argue though and made the most of the situation by shortening the complexity. Oberon became Obi, and Ophelia was, quite logically, Opi. Ranjana however, had to mangle the simplicity by doing the Obi-Wan Kanobi Star Wars routine (whatever happened to Shakespeare?) and instead of appreciating the obvious symmetry of Opi to Obi, she insisted in calling the poor confused kitten Ophi. In any case, they had been named and as a combination became known as the Oh-Ohs … and with good reason as you will see.

Now that they'd been named and all was well, it was time to try eating. The kittens had been fed the usual commercial cat kibbles that have who knows what in them, but since cats can become very 'attached' to a particular food, we were a bit apprehensive as to how they'd take to our homemade vegetarian creation. All three of the other cats had been used to eating vegetarian Evolution kibbles (moistened with purified water) for years, but when we switched them to the homemade creations (supplemented with Harbingers of a New Age), they much preferred it, so we were hopeful this transition would go smoothly.

Instead, it went ravenously!

Opi and Obi went at the food as though they hadn't eaten in days! They kept eating and eating … two, three, four helpings and finally there was a pause. When we told Iris about this, she was astonished because they ate quite minimally at her place. The increased culinery gusto was most likely due to the fact that fresh food always tastes better, particularly vegetarian. After this massive meal, we thought it best to let them have a much deserved nap and so we left the room.

The nap didn't last too long though since the Oh-Ohs were soon ready get on with life and started scratching at the door. It was Opi who wanted out, while Obi was quite happy to stay put until his 'sister' had evaluated the situation.

So, Opi was carefully introduced to Grizu first since she spotted him nearby. We were a bit concerned because Grizu was prone to hysterics, but the meeting went quite well from a mutually respected distance. Now it was time for the BinBon cat to find out who the newcomer was and Opi was brought before him. Possibly daunted by his remarkable size, she hissed at him. He, however, was quite good-natured about the whole thing, no doubt wondering what this little fuzzball a quarter of his size was getting all excited about.

Then the dogs had to get in on the act. Riky, being the more mature and understanding, kept his distance, but Jumpr of course, charged in with his usual exuberance and had to be restrained. Well so much for initial introductions.

We took Opi back to her room only to find Obi lying comfortably on the bed and a messy, smelly deposit on the floor. It was quite soft and we were wondering if the food hadn't gone well with him, but found out later from Iris that his stools had always been like that and he didn't always use the tray (possibly because he had no mother around to teach him). Apparently, he had a digestive issue and had been dewormed by the vet. Our feeling was that a sensible vegetarian diet would likely be of greater benefit than traditional vet interference. Over time it has proven to be so. Not only have his stools firmed up generally, but his control and skill at using the litter tray became equal to any of the cats.

The Oh-Ohs were kept in the room at night, but were gradually introduced to the rest of the household. The get togethers with the rabbits and Soleil, the rooster we had found wandering on the street, were particularly entertaining. Obi was always the cautious one, letting Opi do the initiations. Opi on the otherhand, is the most adaptable being I have ever encountered. When she's with the dogs, she is a dog; with the rabbits, she becomes accepted as a rabbit; even Soleil took to her as a fellow companion chicken! So one scene that was quite frequent at night was to have the 3 rabbits gathered around for their evening meal with Soleil pecking at his share (occasionally pecking at the rabbits, just for the fun of it), Obi looking on nearby, and Opi spawled in the middle of the greens and veggies!

Somehow, Opi's customary maneuver is related to sprawling. I once saw her approach Carbon, who took some friendly swipes at her and she fell down right in front of him. Once in a while, she'd get up on the cats' 3 level playground and fall from there. Twice we've heard a thud, only to find that Opi fell from the upper level railings of the stairs (a fall of about 10 feet) onto either the hard tiles or into the pot holding our Norfolk pine tree. Exactly why falling is such fun for her is unclear, but she certainly seems to enjoy doing so - maybe it's a bit like flying.

Obi's trademark though is to hide. He is, in fact, very good at it - so much so, that on many occasions he had us worried he'd escaped from the house. The worst such incident occurred when we had a wood-pellet stove installed and Obi decided he didn't want to take any chances with the installers. About half-way during their efforts, it was suddenly noticed that all the cats were accounted for except for Obi. One of the installers said he saw a small cat on our porch so we naturally thought it was Obi and that he'd taken off. We all started turning the place inside out and then went outside, desperately trying to find this little cat, but to no avail. The installers' last words as they left were that they hoped we find him and that he'd probably show-up when it was time to eat. Well he did show up right after they'd left. Exactly where he was hiding and how it was that we couldn't with our best efforts find him is a statement to his skill.

Moths are usually of great interest to cats because they move. The Oh-Oh's had different approaches to these flying creatures that on rare occasions found their way into our home. Obi stared at them intently and would start a peculiar clicking sound with his jaw, much like the chattering of teeth (he does that when watching birds out the window too). I have never seen a cat do something like this. It was obvious he had no intent to try to chase the moth (much less to kill it), but what was he doing? Was it a form of communication or a signal that he was actively involved in observation? Opi, on the otherhand, was interested in at least trying to catch the moth sometimes, though not to kill it. In fact, once she found one in the dog's water bowl and was trying to scoop it out carefully with her paw. She was not successful though, but fortunately, we had become aware of her efforts and managed to rescue and release the object of interest unharmed.

One of the realities that must be faced when there are cats around is that it becomes necessary to give up the usual seating arrangements. Cats have a way of finding their way to one's favorite armchairs and making themselves at home there. So just when you feel the urge to sit down with a good book in your favorite region of the family library, you find you can't because a cat is in contemplation, occupying what used to be your spot! Of course, it would be rude to move the cat, so you just have to let it go.

However, when one has an understanding with a particular cat, one finds that sharing is quite possible. For instance, Obi having adopted me as the 'favorite person' and regularly making full use of any beard stubble to rub his face upon, will often position himself on one side of the armchair, allowing me to squeeze in. Together we will go about our business, I reading, he sleeping. The arrangement is quite equitable. Opi, on the otherhand, likes Ranjana's chair. Sometimes she plops herself down in the middle so nothing can be done, but most times she prefers to go under it to fall asleep. Ranjana has to be careful not to step on the tail that protudes from under the chair, but is at liberty to sit normally otherwise.

Both the Oh-Ohs like to use their teeth for things other than eating. This is likely a natural action for growing cats (as it is for dogs) and chewing on things seems to be an enjoyable activity at this age. The problem unique to the Oh-Ohs though is what they chew.

We take our cats out on leashes because we don't want them to take off (I've seen too many dead cats on the road), nor do we want them to terrorize the local fauna population (a talent they might develop if allowed to roam). So their leashes are hooked up to long (30 meter) cords which serve as a cat run. They thoroughly enjoy this activity, chasing and playing with each other within this restriction. The popular misconception that cats don't like leashes is just not true.

In fact, Opi loves leashes - far too much. After a few months, she decided that leashes were things to be relished, particularly the plastic clips of the harness. So whenever she got the chance she'd get into the closet where the leashes are hanging and start chewing on the clips, not only of her own leash, but of all of them. By the time we discovered her activity, all the clips bore teeth marks and some of them ceased to function optimally. They are still usuable, but Opi has been labelled a menace around closets.

Obi, on the otherhand, likes to chew on people, especially at night. Obi generally sleeps beside me, but before falling asleep he enjoys being petted. The arm that pets him becomes an object of such affection that he feels he must grab it with both front paws and start chewing upon it. Sometimes, he'll employ the same devotion to the top of one's head. Some cats know their own strength and some don't. Fortunately for us, Obi is one of the former, so beyond a few scratches these interludes don't result in any serious injuries, though one nearly resorts to prayer during them.

Something we could never figure out is the envy between the cats and the dogs as to food and water. The dogs, particularly Jumpr, loves to steal the cats' food whenever he can. Even when we give them all the same food as an experiment, he'll avoid the contents of his own dish and relish that of the cats. Riky loves to drink water out of the small container for the cats. The feline company is not begrudging at all. They tried to get at the dog food to the point where we had to put the large bowls outside. Also, for some inexplicable reason, the cats will not drink out of their own waterbowls, preferring the rather large, and in my eyes, awkward ones, which are for the dogs.

After being here nearly a whole year, the Oh-Ohs have carved their niches into the household (in more ways than one). Opi has gone from Ms Congeniality to She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed, chasing after the 3 male cats whenever she pleases. Obi gets mauled regularly, Grizu runs for cover desperately, and the much larger Carbon gets wrestled to the ground frequently! She is, however, considered a delight by both the dogs and the rabbits. She sleeps every night by my feet just the way Oooochiii used to sleep by my head.

Obi on the otherhand, has not only become MrSnugglebug (though at night he hangs out with the BinBon). He uses the stubble on my face to give himself facerubs whenever I'm working on the computer. I don't get to do much on the computer these days because after the facerub, he generally insists on having a nap on the keyboard.

You can, therefore, no doubt understand why it is particularly difficult to write further about them …