12 November, 2010

New Family Member Coming Soon to the Box House

We miss our Seamus, a lot. I miss his kitten kisses and his soft, almost subaudible purr. We've lost pets in the past, but this one is hitting me particularly hard. I think it's because he was so young, and it was so unexpected.

Usually, we wait a while before beginning the search for another cat. We ended up waiting almost a year to the day after we lost Pascal before bringing Seamus and Bella home.

It's different, this time. In the past, we've only had one cat at a time. We now realize that they do better in twos. Our other animals, in their own way, have also been mourning the loss of Seamus. Bella looked for him for about a week, meowing into corners and dark rooms. It reminded me of when they were kittens, and came here for the first time. They spent a good few hours calling out, no doubt looking for their mother and siblings. Maggie, our dog, moped. And when Bella coughed on a hairball, Maggie raced over, poked her, and started crying. I'd never seen her do that before.

They're doing better, now, and the critters have settled into a new routine, but I miss the kitten wars. I realize that I really, really like have multiple cats around.

And so we are getting another cat. 

We decided to go back to the same couple where we got Seamus and Bella. They breed Maine Coons and Norwegian Forest Cats exclusively. I know a lot of people have problems with breeders, when you consider how many cats are in shelters. And seriously, when most people hear about breeders, they picture the ones on the news, where they keep animals in appalling conditions and breed them until they drop. But you should see the place where these cats live. The entire house is, and I'm not exaggerating here, bigger than the Box House. There's even a second house. There are maybe sixty cats on the premises, including the kittens, spread out over three levels. And the smell? Nothing. We have one litter box, and it doesn't smell this clean. They only do a couple of litters a year.

Also, I like the philosophy of what they're doing. Maine Coons, like Norwegian Forest Cats, like Manx Cats and Siberians, are an aboriginal breed. They developed naturally, without assistance. The theory is that Maine Coonsare descended from local short-haired domestic cats and long-haired cats brought over by English seafarers and Vikings. Over the centuries, they grew into a distinct profile. They are big--up to 25 pounds, muscular, with large feet and thick fur, perfectly suited for the harsh northeast winters. This couple has undertaken the task of helping to perpetuate the species.

Maine Coons are simply the most awesome cats I've ever encountered. They're large, curious, funny, extremely smart, and friendly. In fact, even when Seamus was so sick at the vet and then the animal hospital, he still greeted everyone with nose-to-nose kisses.

We've decided to adopt someone closer to Bella's age (she's two) instead of a kitten, and went to the cattery with a few specific goals in mind. We hoped to find a male between one and two years old, and not blue. (I know Seamus and Bella are technically gray, but the color is termed "blue.") I specifically didn't want a cat that was the same color as Seamus. We knew there were several male cats available at the cattery, and there were three in particular that I wanted to meet. None of them were blue.

We ended up spending nearly two hours playing with cats on the various levels. The three we went to see were each awesome critters, but all the cats were fun. Here's Ted playing with one group. The pictures are terrible, because I didn't want to use the flash.

But despite my intentions, the one that really got to us was blue. In fact, his name is Blue. How's that for the universe laughing at me?

Blue was shy at first. He hung out on his cat tree and watched from above. I spent most of my time playing with the others, occasionally looking up at him to see what he was doing, but still not really focused on him.

The woman gave me a toy to entice him with, something that dangled from a string. It got his attention, and he came down to play. Here he is with Ted. He is a big cat. So big, in fact, that he took the toy and walked off with it, dragging me behind him. He is strong.

After that, the decision was pretty much made for us. We would scritch or play with the other boys, but then Blue'd prance by, dragging the toy with him, trying to entice us. Here he is at left:

But it was his growl that melted my heart. We played tug-o-war, and he play-growled the entire time. I never knew a cat to do that; it is exactly how Maggie plays, very dog like. It just made me laugh.

There are a few similarities to Seamus, not the least of which is his color. But he seems to have such a strong and unique personality all his own, and his face does not look at all like Seamus, so I think it will be fine. We can honor the cat we loved by adopting his brother (or rather, half brother), but grow a relationship with him for himself. So here he is, the one in-focus picture I got that whole day.

We'll be bringing him home in a few more weeks, when we can get our schedule to match theirs.


Rae said...

What a beautiful boy!

Brigid Keely said...

I'm glad you're healing and moving on. He's adorable!

The next time you get a cat, perhaps you could look specifically into a Maine Coon rescue? One of my favorite cats ever was a Main Coon AND a rescue, and he was one of the sweetest smartest cats I've ever known, with a fantastic quirky personality.

Joanne said...

Thanks, Rae. :-)

Hey Brigid, thank you, too. He is adorable.

Prior to our Coon cats, all of my critters over the past 35 years have been rescue animals, and all of them adult cats and dogs. Our dog Maggie is a rescue--the best dog ever--and she was actually the reason we went to the breeder in the first place.

We don't know Maggie's exact history, but we do know that before she came to us she had been severely beaten. The vet found tons of scars under her fur, and she was terrified of strangers for the longest time. She was even afraid of our neighbor's cat, who walloped her on the nose one day when he wandered into the yard. She was skittish about so many things.

When we decided to get cats again, we did check out local rescues for Maine Coons and Norwegian Forest Cats, but didn't find the right cat for us. My cousin works for a Chicago-area rescue, and gave us the head's up on a few, but we simply didn't click. We wanted a kitten at the time--the last time I had had a kitten I was five--and one that we could predict, with some degree of certainty, would be big and calm and good for a dog. While all of our past rescue cats tolerated our dogs, none of them were ever friends. We wanted to better the odds.

More than anything, I think Seamus had mellowed our dog and helped her with her self-confidence. I've never seen a dog and cat get on as well as those two. :-)

This time around, we went to the same couple, because we already loved the cats they help bring into this world. They've never been caged, they've been raised underfoot, and they're just all-around nice cats.

For someone who has always had rescue cats, or cats that found us, it was an admittedly weird decision for me. I still advocate for rescue animals. In our particular case, this time, it's just the way we chose to go; not everyone will understand that. (Especially not relatives who work for rescues.)

In the last few weeks, we've received several e-mails, and comments on the blog, from people who were inspired to adopt Coon cats from local shelters based on the stories of Maggie, Bella, and Seamus. That's just awesome to hear.

For anyone who is interested in adopting, here are a few places to go:

Maine Coon Rescue.

Pet Finder.

Anonymous said...

He is gorgeous Joanne!!! Can't wait to hear the new stories as he meets his new friends and settles in. :)


Karen Anne said...

So happy for you. And that orange cat is beautiful. Is s/he a Maine coon too?

Joanne said...

He's a Norwegian, and a sweetheart, too; I would have loved to get him as well. Honestly, if we had more room, there were four cats I would have brought home with me. But I got quickly voted down on that. :-)

Tonia said...

What a lovely honor to Seamus and his strong, loving personality that you are getting his sibling!

When my beloved Misha died, I swore up and down I would never get another grey tabby. (You see the end of this story, don't you?) That was until a wonderful shelter in Kentucky had a kitten explosion and I said I would take one, pick one out for me, I'll trust you.

So a little fat grey tabby came into my life and our house. I named her Miranda, the closest girl name I could find to Misha. I think of her as a honor to him, not a replacement.

Besides, if you choose to keep his name the same, "Bella and Blue" sound cool together.

Much happiness to you all.

Rebecca said...

I just came back here to see how your little family was doing and what a pleasant surprise!

But once again reading this post brought back so many memories, good and bad. We struggled with the decision to get another cat to keep Macky company and it took us months to decide on one. My husband didn't want a Sunny clone because he didn't think we could handle it, but in my heart I missed that maine coon fur so much! When we saw a little orange guy, with a neurological disorder on Petfinder.com, we finally agreed and had to have him. Darwin has short hair, but he has the sweetest little soul. We thought adopting a special needs cat was such a great tribute to Sunny since he suffered from seizures. Though I'd still love to adopt another Maine Coon mix someday, I miss that fluffy tail and the little hairs between Sunny's toes!

Enough about me, the point was, you know what is right for you and your family and when you find the right cat, you just know. My husband and I say all the time that adopting Darwin saved our heartbroken family and we never doubt our decision to take him in! Congrats and looking forward to reading about your new buddy!

Kate R said...

I'm so excited for you! He's a beautiful boy. Bella & Blue has a nice ring it.

Funny that you mentioned Norwegian Forest cats, my vet thinks my cat is a Norwegian Forest mix instead of Maine Coon mix. From what she told me, they are very similar in dispostion & appearance. It doesn't matter to me, I still love the laid back fluff-ball all the same, lol.

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