I apologize for the eight-month lapse between blogs, but I’ve been one busy kitty! And given that we felines love to nap 18-20 hours a day there isn’t much time left for eating, playing, stalking, and keeping our feline fans and their humans abreast of cat-worthy news.
If you’ve been following Island Pet Sitters on Facebook - and most recently Instagram - you have a fleeting awareness of our company’s recently formed “Team Tortie.” Team Tortie is comprised of your’s truly and my erstwhile intern and tortie-in training - “Cookie.” Both of us were brought into Collier County shelters as “teenage” moms with day’s old kittens in tow. Upon completion of our stints as moms, we were placed into the adoption pool at the Humane Society of Naples and adopted - separately and six months apart - by company owner Karina Paape.
So what’s the big deal about torties? To clarify, we Torties are not a breed of cat; we are a BRAND of cat! A “Tortoiseshell” (tortie for short) is always a female and can be any combination of three of the following colors: black, brown, amber, red, cinnamon, and chocolate. We don’t have any white fur in our coats and temperamentally are considered to be the “redheads” of the cat world. Calicoes are a type of tortie within the tortie family brand, but the white fur in their coats gives them a mellower approach to life and more agreeable temperaments than we full-bodied tortie. Studies have actually confirmed correlations between coat color and distinct patterns of behavior. Even members of the pet medical profession recognize that torties won’t settle for being second fiddle!
Karina’s first encounter with a tortie was not her idea. She blames a good friend who was her designated driver for a routine medical procedure; you know, the kind for which they caution the patient not to make any important decisions until the following day? To this day said friend admits to having shamelessly taken advantage of Karina’s vulnerable state back in 2001.
The pitch started in the car on the way to the medical facility and continued in the waiting room and again on the trip back to Karina’s house. A stray cat with unusual markings had been hanging around her friend’s neighborhood. “I’ve never seen a cat that looked like this before,” her friend said. Karina kept pointing out that she already had a cat, a tuxedo cat named Jeeves, and two large labs. “Absolutely not,” she declared. “I have two big dogs and Jeeves hates other cats. He’d probably kill it. It would have to be a female before I’d consider it.”
Several days later, having finally succumbed to the daily pleas of her friend, Karina drove to her friend’s house, an empty cat carrier in the back seat…just in case. But the stray cat was nowhere in sight. As Karina turned to leave, however, a couple of neighborhood kids cried: “There she is! Here she comes!” The use of the female pronoun escaped Karina’s notice at the time. She just figured the kids had been coached and made a part of the persuasion process.
Karina looked toward the horizon in search of this unusual creature when she felt something brush her leg. And yes, it was indeed a cat that looked like no other. She leaned down and picked up the rabbit-soft cat and knew immediately that, yes indeed, it was a female - and she was pregnant!
The kids exclaimed with unbridled glee: “She’s pregnant. Please take good care of Mrs. Kitty.” So as not to break any young hears, Karina dutifully put Mrs. Kitty into the cat carrier. By this point in time she had three little girls and three adults staring at her, waiting for her to do the right thing.
Two days later Karina trundled off to the vet with Mrs. Kitty in tow to find out when the kittens would be arriving. When the vet entered the examining room she exclaimed: “It’s a dilute tortoiseshell.” Karina was rendered speechless. After she collected her wits she looked at the vet and hesitantly asked, “What’s that?” The vet answered, “This cat will take over your household.” Upon further questioning Karina learned that torties were always female, and very “alpha” in personality and temperament. No matter what the size, a tortie was ultra confident and stubborn; there was nothing a tortie cat would back down from.
On the medical front the vet said Mrs. Kitty would deliver a litter of four-to-six kittens three weeks hence. Mrs. Kitty - renamed “Patches” due to her patchy coat pattern, didn’t wait the full three weeks; given her tortie nature Patches brought a litter of four kittens into the world when she wanted to - on Mother’s Day! By the time the kittens departed for their “fur-ever” homes two months later, Patches had stolen Karina’s heart and they had 11 glorious years together. This is not to say, however, that it was an easy relationship in the early going.
When Patches first laid eyes on Karina’s 120-pound chocolate lab “Gunner,” she flew through the air and wrapped herself - hissing and spitting, around the helpless dog’s neck. With the pecking order thus established, Patches ran the household with a firm tortie paw. But on their first Christmas together, Patches tested the unconditionality of Karina’s love.
Several days before Christmas, Karina was returning from her regular 2-mile morning walk with Gunner and her black lab Chester. As she did every time she returned to the house Karina looked towards the floor-to-ceiling picture windows to admire what she considered to be her beautiful, eight-foot tall Christmas tree. But it wasn’t there. How was that possible?
Karina ran the dogs through the side yard to the rear entrance they always used and beat feet to the living room. She could not believe her eyes as she rounded the corner from the kitchen; she could not comprehend the scene before her. But there it was, her beautiful tree with its 50 or so glass ornaments and six strands of twinkling white lights, all in a heap amidst hundreds of fragments of shattered ornaments! It took three tear-filled hours to right the tree and clean the debris from the scene. The few surviving ornaments were returned to the tree, but it had lost its former glory. Sympathetic friends came forward with early Christmas presents - all ornaments. Sadly, the tree never attained its former glory, but was at least fixed in place with guy wires. And the sap covered Patches was smart enough to avoid the tree and Karina until well after the new year.
When Patches died of breast cancer in 2013, Karina’s heart broke; she grieved for two years, certain that there would and could never be another Patches. No other feline could possibly fill those tortie paws. While Karina had adopted Patches, the reality was that Patches had adopted Karina. As you will learn via my stream of blogs to follow, dogs have owners but cats have staff. You never own a cat; a cat anoints you its “fur-ever” human. You are its person! You will never be its master!
So it was that Karina made a deal with herself: the only way she’d get another cat was if it was a pregnant and homeless tortie less than a year old. What were the chances, right? Karina was sure the odds were in Powerball country! But in the spring of last year a neighboring elderly couple decided to move into assisted living. They had two cats but decided to leave one behind to fend for itself. Karina and other neighbors made sure the cat had food and water. Then a local shelter volunteer showed up with a trap and asked Karina if she’d seen a black cat on the loose. “There is a cat someone abandoned but she’s a tabby with big white patches,” she told the trapper who explained he’d just set two traps behind the house. “You don’t need traps,” Karina said. “If you have a carrier I’ll get her and put her in it.” So off went “Squeaky” to the shelter to find a new home.
This raised a hue and cry among the neighbors so Karina dutifully visited the shelter to see how things were shaping up for Squeaky. It was then that she discovered me! I was a new arrival who’d come in with a very young litter of four kittens. Karina could not believe her eyes; here was the against-all-odds situation she’d promised herself she’d remedy. After learning that I was not pre-adopted Karina signed adoption papers and visited me nearly every day until I was healthy enough to be released. I was very sick and had to be separated from my kittens prematurely so the shelter staff could start me on antibiotics.
When I arrived in Karina’s household, her other cats were not in the mood to deal with a young upstart such as my fearless self. I’d run up to my new siblings with the expectation that they surely wanted to play with me. They did not. So now Karina was concerned because I spent my days wandering around the house, meowing out of boredom.
In January there was an event called “Pets On Third” and Island Pet Sitters was one of the 40-vendors on site. Thanks to her the help of her two associates, Karina had a chance to investigate the other vendors. When she approached the Humane Society of Naples’ mobile adoption center she spotted a tortie kitten in the window. Oh how cute she thought to herself. On her next pass Karina decided to go into the vehicle and see what other pets were up for adoption. That’s when she spotted “Sugar,” another tortie mom; it was her kitten who was in the window. Sugar had been spayed several days before and was ready for immediate adoption. Karina was thrilled! She would adopt Sugar to be my playmate since we were both about the same age by then.
Karina re-named me “Cookie” and kept me in isolation for the two weeks proscribed by shelters to make for an easier transition into a new home. When Cookie’s time was up we wanted nothing to do with one another. We hissed, growled, and swatted one another. After several weeks of this Karina was fit to be tied. And then a marvelous thing happened. Cookie and I started bonding and now chase each other through the house, day and night, just like Karina hoped we would.
So that’s how Team Tortie came into being. To re-pay Karina for rescuing us from the kitty orphanage we volunteered to write this blog for her. Well really it was me who agreed. I only recruited Cookie to be my “field assistant” so I could boss her around since I’m Tortie #1! With Cookie’s help I plan to educate your humans about litter box management and the importance of daily, interactive play and healthy eating. You might get a little miffed and hissy, however, when I give your humans pointers on how to trim your nails or get you into one of those awful cat carriers.
Our reasons for tackling the betterment of your lives with humans? Well sillies…we all know that CATS RULE!