… Or How to Make Two Cats Out of One
Tigger is our cat, sort of. He is really my parents’ cat, or used to be. He came to live with us when my parents went off to live in Arizona for the winter one year.
Mom and Dad had two cats back then, Tigger and Maxine. And they knew they couldn’t leave their poor babies alone in the house for a whole winter, even if I stopped by the house every other day to make sure there was plenty of food and water and that litter boxes were clean. We all knew this wouldn’t work so well because we’d tried it the first year. It wasn’t fun for the cats or for me.
So when my parents decided that they couldn’t keep their kitties any longer, you know what happened. No, they could not bear to surrender the cats to an animal rescue group. They wanted their babies where they might still visit them now and then. And then they appealed to their animal-loving children to “adopt” the cats.
There were two cat-adopting candidates among my parents’ four children. My brother, Jim was one of them. I was the other. I don’t remember that either of us was all that enthusiastic about this plan, but our sympathy for our parents and the cats was bigger than our resistance. Neither of us could say no to my parents’ request. I called Jim and said, “I’ll take Tigger if you’ll take Maxine.”
Maxine was a long-haired, arrogant cat and she ruled the roost when she lived in my parents’ home. And she had a bad habit of walking on the kitchen table and counter tops. I’m an animal lover, but I did not want any cat feet, cat butts or cat fur in any of the places where my food might be. I did not want Maxine.
Jim agreed to my proposal, I think because Tigger had no personality and he figured he and his family would at least get some entertainment out of this deal.
Tigger has always been skittish. He was very sickly as a kitten and my mom could not stand to see him suffer. She made countless visits to the vet and took every measure to bring Tigger back to health. The vet told her that Tigger was probably much younger than the pet shop had stated when he was purchased. He was probably too young to be taken from his mother. But my mom loved him up and gave him medications and finally, he began to thrive. But the damage was done. Tigger may have had a shy personality to begin with, but it was made worse by those days he was in poor health. He never really bonded much with people. He’d come out of hiding now and then for my parents and sometimes even sat on my dad’s lap. But if others came around, he was nowhere to be found. My nephew, Danny actually thought Tigger was a cat we’d all made up and told stories about. On the day Danny finally caught sight of Tigger, he exclaimed to my mom with utter surprise, “Nanna! You really do have a Tigger!”
So you can imagine how Tigger probably felt when he was adopted out to me and my family. Our cat, Holly was still alive back then and she was extremely curious about Tigger. But Tigger wanted nothing to do with her. Oh, how he howled and cried that first night he was here. For weeks, maybe even months, we might not have known that Tigger was in our house, except that we saw signs that he was eating and using the litter box. Eventually, he settled into a cautious level of comfort, learned to coexist with Holly, and spent most of his days hiding out under our beds, only prowling around at night when he was sure we were all asleep.
As the years went by, Tigger began to get a bit… naughty. He peed on any blanket or item of clothing left on the floor for any length of time. One time, he peed in my purse! This went on for a while. We took him to the vet, but there was nothing physically wrong. We eventually realized that we were being punished, but for what reason, we could never figure out. Holly was gone by then. Maybe he was protesting her departure. We talked to the vet and she offered some suggestions, but we never really found a solution. Tigger was getting pretty old by this point, so we considered it could just be an old age thing. And as angry and frustrated as we were by his behavior and our inability to change it, we didn’t have the heart to put him down either.
I don’t remember why I thought this was a good idea, but at one point, it occurred to me to lock Tigger into the laundry room in our lower level. I put a pet gate up across the doorway so he could see out, but he couldn’t get out. This was my temporary solution until we could figure out what to do. But as it turns out, Tigger loved being in his own place where people weren’t constantly coming and going and where the dog could not chase him. The gate was low enough that we could just step over it, and apparently it never occurred to Tigger to climb or jump over. This was working! Tigger seemed to feel safer. He did his business only in the litter box. He never liked being near windows or doors and going outside was always out of the question anyway. And no tough decisions had to be made.
It’s been a couple years now and Tigger continues to live in the laundry room. Sometimes I think it’s cruel to keep him there, but then I try to take him out and he panics, telling me he doesn’t want to be out. Why mess with a good thing?
Every morning when I wake up, Tigger comes out from his bed behind the furnace and meows at me for his treats. I give him a few and he even lets me pick him up and cuddle him a little bit. But never being one for too much attention, he always wanders back to one of his hiding spots pretty quickly.
Over the last winter, I noticed that Tigger’s fur was beginning to look and feel a little clumpy. He never let me investigate too much and the times I tried brushing him, the brush just passed over the clumps. I worried that there were cysts or something beneath the fur, but couldn’t seem to find anything of concern when he let me get close enough. We wondered about his health now and then, and quite honestly, figured he was probably in his final days. After all, he is something like 17 years old. Lately, Tigger’s been looking really bad. Last weekend, I thought I might try to sponge bathe him and get to the bottom of his mangy fur. I know. Strange idea. But for some reason, I was determined.
Much to my surprise, Tigger allowed me to sponge bathe him with warm water and a washcloth. It did nothing to alleviate the clumpy fur, but he seemed to be taking great pleasure in the warm water. I’m not sure how we managed it, but Kacey came to join me and kept Tigger distracted by scratching under his chin while I tried to figure out what was going on with his fur. I managed to pick apart a big clump and realized it was just a big, matted hard mass of fur.
The internet tells me this is common in some cats and the clumps are called mats. These occur when the undercoat loosens, but the outer “guard” fur keeps it from fully shedding. The mats can be uncomfortable, even painful and can sometimes get infected. I learned it was recommended to just cut these mats right off. In really bad cases, a vet will shave a cat in this condition. Tigger would never survive the panic of leaving this house, much less going outside and to the vet. Kacey and I took matters into our own hands.
Imagine how awful I felt as Tigger not only cooperated, but seemed to welcome me clipping, brushing and cutting his fur. I kept wishing I’d known sooner what was going on and that he needed help keeping groomed. I hadn’t realized he might have been in pain! I got the FurGoPet deshedder that we use on Lucy and I tried it on Tigger. It worked pretty well and mounds of fur came off of him, even though there still seemed to be more than enough attached to him. After we’d worked on him a long while, he seemed to breathe a huge sigh of relief. He needed more clean-up, but I figured he needed a break. Later on, I went to the pet store and bought the type of cat brush recommended for preventing mats. It was very wiry and I worried it would hurt Tigger, but the online information told me that most cats welcome these brushes, and even like to be brushed somewhat aggressively.
The next morning, I took the new brush to Tigger’s fur. Again, he welcomed my attention and just kept circling and purring as if to say, “Now get this spot. Now this one. Oh, yeah. Like that!”
And the fur that came off of him! I could not believe how much fur just kept coming and coming and coming off of his body. As I brushed him and pulled the excess fur from the brush, I made a pile on the floor beside me. At one point, Tigger sniffed it curiously. It was a giant ball of cat fur. He probably thought it was another cat!
In the days since our marathon cat grooming session last weekend, Tigger now comes to greet anyone who comes near his space. He purrs and meows, asking anyone who’s willing to brush him more and more and more! And more fur keeps coming off of him. He actually looks and feels really good again, if you don’t mind a few patchy spots where I had to cut some really big mats.
He has gone from years of reclusiveness to finally welcoming the human touch. It’s kind of sad that it took him this long to accept our love, but better late than never, I guess. He purrs like never before and when you don’t brush and scratch fast enough, he butts his head against whatever body part he can reach. He still won’t sit on my lap. Probably never will. And I’m not sure he has much time left. He’s smaller than ever and really skinny. He seems a little arthritic – he walks like he has a stick up his butt. Actually, he’s always walked like that. He’s a weird cat.
But we love him. And we’re glad he’s finally accepting of our love!