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Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Happy Ten Years, Oliver Bennett

It was a long time ago, 1987, when the veterinarian referred to my then-cat as “elderly.” I was shocked.

“He's only ten.” I said. “I've known lots of cats who live to be 19 or 20 and I've read of cats who live even longer.”

“That doesn't mean they aren't elderly,” said my vet.

I mention this today because my current cat and best friend Oliver, better known as Ollie, is celebrating his tenth birthday. Here is what he looked like at about 11 weeks soon after I brought him to his new home in Greenwich Village from Philadelphia where he was born.

Ollie 11 weeks2

He is a well-traveled cat who has also lived in Portland, Maine, before moving to Lake Oswego, Oregon, with me four years ago.

Ollie is a Savannah cat, a hybrid. He is about 15 percent serval - a medium-sized wild cat native to central Africa; the rest of him is Serengetti and Bengal, two other hybrids. (I don't believe that hybrid domestics are a particularly good idea but that's a story for another day.)

So, to celebrate this decade with my furry friend, here is a post about him from seven years ago when he was three. It was fun to write and produce and maybe even readers who have been here for that long will enjoy seeing it again.

It is titled How Ollie the Cat Lost His Outdoor Privileges.

This tale of Ollie the cat begins in mid-2006, when he and his housemate, Ronni, moved from Greenwich Village to a new home in Portland, Maine.

The Maine apartment is much bigger than their New York City home – specifically, much longer with lots of room for a young cat to gallop from one end to the other (when he is not snoozing).

Snoozingollie

For an entire year, Ollie the cat lived inside this house and took pleasure, when windows were open, in ka-ka-ka-ing at the birds and squirrels who hang out on the electric lines in front of the house.

Electricsquirrel

During that first year, Ronni did not allow Ollie on the deck because cats are known to get distracted while stalking birds and bees and butterflies. Who knows, he might forget himself and take a flying leap off the second-floor deck.

Deck1

It was a distraction when Ronni, on a beautiful day, took lunch or dinner among her flowers and plants or read a book lying on the chaise longue, purchased just for that purpose, while Ollie screamed through the screen door demanding to join her. But Ronni has lived with cats all her life and knows their wandering ways. So Ollie was deprived of the one thing he wanted most – to be outdoors.

Deckivy

It wasn’t easy keeping Ollie in the house. Cats are born experts at whisking between human feet when they want to get somewhere they are not allowed. Especially when Ronni was carrying dirty clothes through the kitchen door and back hall to the laundry room or was hauling the big watering can to the deck, Ollie sometimes escaped, but not for long. Ronni is practiced at catching errant cats.

Backhall

Still, it was tiring for Ronni to keep constant watch on Ollie when doors were opened and closed and she did feel sorry for the little fellow who desperately wanted to frolic in the fresh air and take in the heady aromas that only cats and dogs can smell. And so, when the snows had melted and spring arrived, Ronni relented.

Olliewithflowers

At first, she stayed with Ollie when he played on the deck so she would be there to grab him if his interest in a bug took him too close to the edge. But humans – or, at least, Ronni – are more easily bored with bug stalking than cats and in time, Ollie was allowed on the deck alone.

In fact, when Ollie altered their morning routine by yelling to have the kitchen door opened before breakfast and even, sometimes, before sunrise, Ronni left all the doors open on good weather days so Ollie could come and go at his whim. And all was well - or close enough, if you don’t count regurgitated dead bugs on the rug.

Deadbug

When it wasn’t raining, Ollie spent most of his summer days on the deck chasing bugs or snoozing on his favorite outdoor chair. It was his habit to check in with Ronni at her desk a couple of times in the afternoon or, on hot, humid days, to loll around indoors stretched out on the cool porcelain of the bathtub. And on a few occasions, he spent the night sleeping on the chaise. Ronni tried that one time herself and understood the attraction on a cool summer night.

Deckchaise

Ollie likes to eat at about 5:30PM and if Ronni hasn’t filled his bowl by then, he tracks her down and taps her on the arm in a certain way that means, “Hey, it’s dinner time. You don’t expect me to eat those leftover crumbs from breakfast, do you?”

Several days ago, Ronni looked up from her laptop and realized it was an hour past Ollie’s dinner time. He had not reminded her and she had not seen him since early afternoon. Where could he be? She checked the deck. No Ollie.

Deck2

Ronni called his name from the kitchen - he usually comes – but no Ollie. She checked behind the sofa…

Behindsofa

No Ollie. She checked his cupboard hidey-hole…

Cupboard

No Ollie. She checked the guest room closet…

Closet

Still no Ollie. She looked under the bed. There were some lost cat toys, but…

Underbed

…no cat. She hadn’t done laundry that day, but just in case, she checked the washer and dryer…

Washerdryerpsd

They were empty - of a cat, anyway. She checked behind Ollie’s favorite deck chair where garden equipment is kept.

Behindchair

No Ollie. The cat was gone, gone, gone. How could that be? wondered Ronni. Then it struck her in all its horror - perhaps Ollie had fallen off the deck. You see, there is a six-inch lip of flooring beyond the fence of the deck. Ronni could never watch when Ollie patrolled out there.

Deckedge

Heart pounding, Ronni grabbed a flashlight – dusk was settling in – and ran downstairs to the small back yard. She looked behind every bush and flower and weed. With great relief, Ronni found no dead or injured cat. She looked up at her deck – it was a long way down.

Exteriordeck

Back upstairs and again on the deck, Ronni pondered this mystery of the disappearing cat and softly called his name. Was that a meow she heard? She called again. Yes, yes, it WAS a meow. But where was it coming from? The adjoining laundry room? No cat there.

Ronni called to Ollie again from the deck. There was no doubt this time; it was Ollie’s voice – coming from the yard.

Ronni raced downstairs to find Ollie peering out from under some plants behind the birdbath.

Birdbathplants

Even after several hours on the loose, Ollie wasn’t ready to come home and he nearly evaded Ronni's grasp. But cats sometimes forget humans are bigger and stronger than they are.

He yowled as Ronni caught him by the tail, but what’s a little pain, thought Ronni, compared to being squashed beneath a car’s tire or torn apart by the rumscullion cats who prowl the yard at night. Nevertheless, he fought her all the way upstairs.

How did Ollie get to the yard? Did he fall by accident and just happen not to hurt himself? Did he forget where he was and leap after a bug? Or did he carefully calculate the distance and deliberately jump to the ground from the second floor?

We will never know. But two mornings after Ollie’s escape, Ronni woke to a dream image of him sailing off the deck with all the magnificent grace of feline gazelle.

And that is the tale of how Ollie the cat lost his outdoor deck privileges. Ronni is certain she lost a few weeks off the end of her life due to stress and fear.

When she recovered, she was angry with Ollie. So angry, in fact, she is publishing this formerly secret, inelegant photo of him in the chair where he will undoubtedly spend more time now.

Ollieinlibrary

After all that and because the web is such a cat-crazy environment, let's just wallow in it today and tell each all our best cat stories. (If you happen to be a dog person, there's nothing wrong with a good dog story too.)


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Maureen Browing: Beware of Loose Gravel


Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post

Comments

Thank you for sharing, though the terror and stomach-wrenching worry when one can't find one's kitty was far too well-described and recognized. We live in an apartment with windows looking out on the lovely tile rooftops of Florence but Emma does not have permission to go out there any more.

He is such a beautiful cat; his markings are gorgeous. I remember when he escaped from the deck!

Beautiful Oliver! You are so lucky to have each other!

Shorty is the eldest of five cats in our household. We moved to a tiny apartment 15 years ago and he has not been outside since. He still remembers what the outdoors is. On full moon nights in summer he cries to the crickets and katydids. But they never answer.

What a wonderful cat.

We were living in the country and had a tiger cat named "Marshmellow" - During the night if she wanted to go out she would occasionally jump on the bed and stand with her rear legs on my husband's head, as he was sleeping, with her front paws on the window sill....When it didn't work, she went into our son's room and did the same thing, he grabbed her and threw her out the window - a second story window....the next morning she was no worse for wear...apparently our feline friends "tuck and roll" better than their human counterparts!!

Ollie is beautiful and looks to be somewhat feisty! I too remember his escapade in your Maine digs. But the best today is the "inelegant" photo--his expression is priceless-and so very typical of a well-loved cat.

My current resident cat is a former semi-feral tomcat. His habit, once I got him into the house, was to go out for about 20 minutes each day. About six months ago, he didn't return for about an hour whereupon when he did show up it was obvious he had encountered something (I think crows) who pulled out fur and inflicted small puncture wounds on his head. In the long run he was fine, but his outdoor days are over.

Two years after I'd married, we moved to the country. We had gotten a cat the first year; her name was Punkin. Well, though I thought I had every door shut, one night in the new house Punkin escaped.

I was terrified. Went all around the neighborhood calling and asking neighbors if they'd seen her. No Punkin. Seriously I cried myself to sleep that night, and for several more nights when she didn't turn up.

About the third night, I just couldn't sleep, got up and went out on the carport and started calling her. There was a vacant house next door, and I heard a faint meow coming from over there. I started walking that way, and realized that "meow" was Punkin. When I got to the house, I realized she'd gotten trapped under the house because the crawl space door was shut. I quickly opened it and she literally leaped into my arms. Boy, was she hungry & thirsty.

And she slept close to me that night, no worse for several days without food or water. Amazing. Punkin lived to the ripe old age of 19.

Thanks for sharing your story about your cat. Just goes to prove that those critters from Philly are pretty tough characters!

That last photo of Ollie?

All that's missing is a big cigar.

Our first Westie, Heather, was like most terriers -- furry little vacuum cleaners. Anything that fell on the floor was fair game to her rapid grab and gulp. Imagine my horror as a blob of wasabi from my sushi take-out hit the floor! Gone in a flash! Heather's reaction was like a cartoon -- I swear her eyes bulged and spun like pinwheels, she ran in circles and her hair stuck out all over like she'd been hit by lightning. I got as much water down her throat as quickly as I could and wish I could say I wasn't laughing. (She was fine, no worries.)

How did Ollie get to be 10 years old? Good gracious.

Once upon a time, I had a Siamese cat named Galadriel. Yes, I got her when I was a teenager and newly enthralled with the *Lord of the Rings* trilogy.

She was definitely a one-human cat, and I was definitely her human. Very shortly after my very first true love broke up with me ("Final goodbye. Goodbye."), Galadriel took it upon herself to chew to pieces a stuffed lamb the erswhile true love had given me, a stuffed lamb she'd ignored for years.

She lived to be 21. I loved that cat.

Wendl - you had me laughing out loud. Poor doggy, but it's funny anyway.

You too, doctafil. You're right. A big fat cigar would make the photo perfect.

We have had many cats in our 58 married years, but the first one was indeed unique - his name wax Spooky, and we bought him for $10 in Denver the first year we were married - he was supposed to be of Persian descent, and when he turned out to be a white shorthair we got $5 back - a couple of years later we were living in a cottage apartment in St Louis with a screened porch and he happened to bite a lamp cord - I saw him fly into the air and (I swear) come down running like in the cartoons, burst through the screen in the screen door and vanish in the distance across a parking lot Much later, we found him in an exhaust fan housing in a commercial building, rescued him and GAVE HIM A BATH to clean off the grease - he lived to be 22 and I cried so loud when he died that the neighbors came to see what was wrong. I had never had a cat before, and I never had another anything like him RequiesCAT in pace, Spooky and know that you were (and are) very much loved.

I have 5 outside semi-feral cats and 1 inside declawed cat. All are spayed/neutered.

Now that you've read about the adventures of everyone else's cats, wouldn't you love to have some adventures with a cat of your own?

Such a well written story about Oliver and your experiences with him! I loved the pictures throughout your story. I have dear friends who have pets and they are like children to them. I cannot fully relate to their deep attachments to their pets, as I have never been able to be around cats and some dogs because of my allergies and asthma. The picture of Ollie at three years old is priceless! Sooooo handsome! Thank you for posting your story a second time!

As the saying goes……

Dogs have masters
Cats have staff

(so true!)

Loved today's post...

Ollie is quite the character. I'm surprised he hasn't made another great escape since giving you a scare like that.

I'm sure Ollie has 'staff'.
I rescue persian cats. I have 3 right now. Have been a cat person my whole life. I have found out I am allergic to cats. You are not allergic to the hair. You are allergic to the protian in their saliva. I bath them and I take allergie pills. Plus hepa filters.
Plus I rescue African gray parrots.
My cats are terrified of the birds.

Great pics. Happy 10th b'day, Ollie, and thanks to your wise cat-mom, you are here to celebrate it! You're a beautiful cat.

I volunteer as an adoption counselor for a no-kill cat shelter in my area and one of our adoption policies is "indoors-only". Where I live is a mix of urban and semi-rural, as well as newly-constructed housing and condo developments. Our area has coyotes, raccoons, big dogs and even the occasional bear--to say nothing of the occasional odd human who doesn't like cats.

We hear far too many stories about cats that have disappeared--or worse. My husband and I have two much-loved 12+ Y/O kitties, and no way would we risk losing them. We've put up a protected cage against an outside wall which they can access through a cat door installed in a window. They can sample the outdoors without the danger and seem quite content to do so. Next year we hope to install a "catio" for them. Spoiled cats? They sure are!

Happy 10 years of companionship, you two!
From another long time cat lover...

I, like Debi, discovered that I am allergic to cats only after being gifted with Emma who has taught me so much and made me fall in love with cats, after an early life with dogs. I, too, take allergy pills and feel that the reactions are nothing compared to the joy. One comment referred to a "declawed" cat. This is beyond my comprehension.

Nice story, beautifully illustred. I used to have 4 cats, at the same time. 2 of them made a team just to grab what they wished. One, the younger, was watching around, the other tried to open a window or steal something to eat. And when I approached, the younger one meowed and the other tried to quickly diseappear before I began to shout. It was so funny....

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