Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Daisy: A Sweet and Gentle Cat

Daisy arrived at our patio doors in late 1998.  The first picture I took of her was in February 1999 as she looked through the glass.  She would not come in nor would she come near us, but she continued dropping by and watching us.  It wasn't long before we started putting out food and water for her as we were pretty certain she was a stray, perhaps a cat someone had left behind or had dropped off in the nearby woods.  She may even have been born in those woods.  She was already fully grown, so we had no idea how old she might be.  Thus our story with Daisy began.

In late spring 1999 we left to spend the summer in Nova Scotia, something we are still doing.  We took with us our cat Tammy, who was just a year old then.  Our neighbours, the Singlers, said they would watch for Daisy and put food out for her.  Hans bought a huge bag of cat food, dishes for it and water.  From time to time he would phone back to Germany to check whether all was fine.  He always asked about Daisy.  On one of those calls they told us she had had kittens and was a lovely mother.  "Oh, no," we exclaimed, "not kittens!"

Upon our return in early fall, we not only had Tammy with us but Fritzie as well, a small Maine Coon kitten Hans had found in a pet store in Annapolis Royal, one taken there by a farmer.  When we arrived back at our house in Germany, Daisy was there on the patio and along with her were four young kittens, perhaps about three months old.  "Surprise, surprise!" she seemed to be telling us.  Within a couple of weeks, Daisy was no longer interested in any of them.  She was ready to leave.  Two of the kittens disappeared, perhaps having found a new home.  Two remained.  You can see where this is going!

Daisy on the patio with her crooked tail, her short legs, her thick fur and her sweet face

It wasn't long before the remaining two attempted to come inside.  "No, no, we have enough cats," I said.  Hans was the cat lover:  I had become one fighting all the way!  Well, as winter started, I began feeling sorry for these kittens.  They did everything they could to get into the house--certainly not Daisy's way.    We named them Charlie and Sally.  Charlie would walk along a high ledge in order to look into the living room window, a better view than through the doors.  If I opened the patio door, both of them would fly in and hide under the chesterfield.  Needless to say, I capitulated and they were with us to stay.  That made four cats, plus Daisy who came by to eat and say hello each day.

Daisy continued coming to eat but refused to come in.  We still could not get close to her either.  That winter Hans made a bed for her in one of our basement window wells.  He lined it with sheepskin and put bricks and boards around it outside, with just a flap for her to enter through.  She had found the window well earlier so we knew she would be back and it would be a place out of the weather for her.  That is where she started spending her next winters.  Because of living outside, she had much thicker fur than usual and that helped to protect her from the cold as well.  I began putting her food outside near by.  It was also near our cat door that our other cats used to come and go.

 Daisy on the step, near the patio doors, which leads down to the yard and the basement

One of the strange things over the next few years is that Daisy would disappear about mid to late May, around the time we left ourselves.When we returned from Nova Scotia in the early fall, she wouldn't always be there, but within two to three weeks, there she would be once again.  She went on vacation each summer, just as we did, and she seemed to know when it was time.  We felt that she went to the meadows and woods somewhere beyond us.

Summer 2000 was no different.  When we returned from Nova Scotia, she wasn't around initially, but she showed up as she always did in fall.  "Thank goodness," I said, "no more kittens!"

That summer we had taken Tammy, Fritzie and Charlie to Canada with us.  Sally had disappeared one day not long before we left, never to return.  Both she and Charlie were beautiful cats and gentle like their mother.  We'll never know what happened to Sally.  We still remember her and think about her from time to time.  I do remember that she liked to stretch out near us when we watched TV and whenever we went over to her, she would roll over and over and want to be petted.

Charlie we lost that summer in Nova Scotia.  He was a wanderer and ventured a kilometer from home.  He was killed on a highway in early morning, on one with little traffic.  Hans found him there.  We have a large piece of property well away from that road, with meadows and forest around us, but he followed whatever scent that called to him and farther than we had known.  We were truly sad as we loved Charlie.  How could one not love a small animal that had wanted to join our family so much?  Perhaps of all of our cats, he was the most beautiful, with a sleek grey and white coat, head and tail high as he chased and jumped after butterflies that summer.  Hans planted a small spruce tree which now covers Charlie's resting place.

November rolled around that year with the weather cooling off and winter in the offing.  Daisy was coming by frequently to eat, more often than usual.  On one of these visits, she came just inside the patio doors to eat.  When her back was turned towards me, I brushed the top of her fur with my hand.  She moved slightly but didn't leave, so I continued to pet her.  From then on, I petted her whenever she came, her purring saying she was happy.

Above, Cleo in front, Annabelle behind her

One day in late November I walked down the basement stairs and happened to look into the window well.  A tiny little brown tabby kitten with a sweet face was looking at me.  A half hour later I went down again to see her.  Daisy had been busy:  another sweet little kitten had arrived, golden brown in colour.  They were about six to eight weeks old, so she had had them in her summer place.  Now she wanted them to be warm over the winter.  So that "no kittens" was not the case!  We then understood why she had been coming so often to eat, then disappearing, before returning two or three hours later.

Hans placed a heater on the inside of the window and that warmth could be felt on the other side in the well.  There it stayed for the next few years as Daisy used it each winter.  During those next weeks we watched Daisy train her kittens, taking them on little walks and allowing them to play.  She sometimes took them down our street, keeping close to the side (no sidewalks), with them walking close behind her, their tails straight up, saying they were brave but nervous.  She watched over them, sometimes picking them up by the scruff of the fur on their necks when she thought they were in danger.  She also sometimes took them over to our neighbours' garage and left them there when she went off for an hour or two.  We wouldn't see a sign of them until her return, when she'd give a strange little high-pitched cry, unlike any other, and out they bounded to greet her.

She also started bringing them to our patio doors and the three would then eat together there.  That was usually around 6 p.m. or so.  Shortly thereafter she would disappear, not returning for about two hours.  We realized after she did that a number of times that she was leaving them with us to baby-sit!  One evening I saw where she went:  it was just at the back of our yard, where she sat relaxing on a tree stump.  I guess she needed that free time, just like all us humans do when the children have been racing around all day and we're ready for a few moments of solitude.  What it showed us was that she trusted us.

One day Cleo went over to her as usual and Daisy boxed her ears.  She went again and the same thing happened.  I saw Cleo's little eyes fill with shock.  Daisy was ready to leave them.  They would now become ours.  We were anxious to catch Daisy to have her spayed; we didn't want any more kittens and we also felt she'd been through enough already.  Until now we had never been able to pick her up, any attempt and she fought us.  One day, though, we managed to get her and into the cat cage.  She was not happy.  But as I had seen her rolling around in front of our car with a tom cat nearby, we knew it was now or never.  So off Hans went to the vet with Daisy.  We kept her in the upstairs bathroom afterward for two days but that was the limit.  We then set her free as freedom was always the most important thing for her.  She returned the next day and continued using the window well for the rest of the winter.

Daisy having a bite to eat just inside our patio door

The following summer we decided it was time to teach her to use the cat door so that she could sleep inside, rather than outside in the cold weather.  With some effort, it paid off, and she started coming through the cat door and into the basement.  In all the following years that is where she slept.  She would not join the others upstairs.  I put hard food and water down there but continued to give her other food at the patio doors.  We felt relieved to know she was inside where it was warm.  Even though she had a comfortable bed in the window, the wind still blew in through the flap.

Each year after we left for Nova Scotia, our neighbour Robert came over each day to make sure Daisy and Cleo had food and water.  Cleo would never let us touch her and to this day still doesn't.  She is sweet and gentle like her mother, but the feral aspect has never left her.  She does sleep and eat in the house and will often stretch out near us as well.  It would be impossible to take her to Canada with us as it would be far too traumatic for her and it would also be almost impossible to catch her.  So she and Daisy stayed behind in Germany each summer.  Cleo's sister Annabelle is entirely different in that she loves to be petted, often sleeps nearby and loves to curl up on my lap.  Just like children:  no two are exactly alike personality-wise, even when twins.  For several years we traveled with Tammy, Fritzie and Annabelle.  I have written about Tammy and Fritzie in earlier posts, both of whom we've lost.

This summer we lost Daisy.  She hadn't been well for some time, though the vet was treating her and she was doing fairly well.  She was getting old and was losing her eyesight and her hearing.  She also walked more slowly.  By March, her changing health was more noticeable.  We decided to go to Nova Scotia separately as we felt she might not make it until we returned.  I did not want to leave her alone as I was afraid she might die in pain in the bushes in the yard.  As Robert didn't always see the cats (they would hide when he came over), we would never know if she was okay or not.

Hans left for Nova Scotia in May.  I remained behind.  About two weeks before he was due back to Germany, in early July Daisy died.  I was with her and held her for much of her last two days, before taking her to the vet early on a Monday morning.  It was the first time she had ever let me hold her and it seemed to comfort her.  She would lie there quietly, sometimes purring.  It was almost like it was her way of saying, "Thank you."  And I, of course, saying "thank you" to her.  She is buried in our yard beside Tammy and Fritzie--all three with their own small stones with their names engraved on them--three special cats we'll never forget, all of whom brought us a lot of love and special memories.

Annabelle, Cleo and Lily--our little Nova Scotia cat from last summer--now make up our cat family.  They, of course, knew something was not right during Daisy's last few days.  All had treated her with respect as in their little cat minds she was the queen.

Daisy visiting on a winter day

A note:  I have had computer problems since I arrived in Nova Scotia, thus the reason  I have posted no blogs.  Those problems are now solved.  My blogs will now continue, my next one about happenings here in Nova Scotia.