Saturday, June 2, 2007

Joey's Tale

I couldn't decide which pet to profile first, as I didn't want to be accused of playing favorites. Since Joey's photo happened to be the one I used for my profile, I thought I might start with my baby.

Joey is a two year old domestic medium haired (i.e., "mutt") cat who, like all my other cats, came to me via work. As anyone who ever worked in a veterinary practice will tell you, we are all primed for taking home the cute, the homely, the abandoned, and the unwanted pets that pass through our doors daily. Joey was one such animal.

A woman showed up one morning in April, 2005, with a kitten she had found. "I understand you take in cats," was how she started her conversation. "Well, no, ma'am, we don't. We would be happy to give you the names and locations of several animal shelters in the area who could help you," replied the receptionist. "I don't have time for that," she snapped back, rudely. "If you don't take it, I will just leave it in your parking lot."

Of course, we accepted the kitten. He was tiny, about 4 weeks old, but strong and seemed healthy. My plan was to have one of my staff members take him to the county shelter during our lunch break. We fed him - he had a healthy appetite! - and I put him in the pocket of my lab coat to keep a close eye on him. He was so small, he would have gotten wedged in the cage bars. He promptly fell asleep, and he stayed there all morning.

"Look," I said. "He's like a little joey in a mama kangaroo's pouch!"

Joey. It was the perfect name. That did it. Once you name them, they are yours for life. So, Joey came home with me that night. And back to work in the morning. And home and back and home and back, until he was big enough to be left alone during the day.

Now, it just so happened that I had a vacation scheduled for the week after I got him, and although I had planned to spend it working in my yard, it rained all week. Joey spent most of his days tucked inside my shirt, up against my skin. Whenever possible, I like to raise orphans this way. I believe that the warmth of my body and the beat of my pulse is comforting to them, and that being surrounded by my scent helps bond them to me. It worked with Joey, who thrived and showed he had the potential to be a great pet, with one small exception.

He was obsessed with food. At first, I fed him a combination of KMR (Kitten Milk Replacer) mixed with minced canned kitten food to make a mush, and served it to him on a small saucer. When he saw that plate, he would go crazy, wrapping his arms around the edges and growling while he ate. If you tried to push the food over to him, he would attack you. He was a maniac. And when he got bigger, he would growl at the adult cats, so ferociously that they would back off, stunned.

I guess I should say one small and one LARGE exception: He also bit. He bit my hands when I picked him up, my cheek when I cuddled him and my nose when I kissed him. He even bit my lip! And, it HURT!! After every bite, I would scruff the back of his neck, give him a little shake and say "Joey, No bite!" then put him in his carrier. At one point, he must have thought his name was "Joey No-Bite," he heard it so often. I was in despair. I am a pretty good dog trainer, but cats defeat me, and I was afraid I would have to end up putting this little terrorist to sleep if I couldn't retrain him. Then, one day, the biting just stopped. Did my methods work or did he outgrow some phase? I will never know.

My instincts were right. Joey grew up to be a very handsome and well-behaved cat, without a hint of his previous behaviors. He never grew very large; whether that was because of his genetics or because he refused to eat kitten food after he was 3 months old, insisting on eating the same food the big cats ate, I don't know. He is a lot of fun, and I don't regret my impulse to put him in my pocket and take him into my heart.


NatureWoman said...

Joey was such a cute little kitty and now a very handsome cat. I love your story about him, he looks like he is very loved. My Mom's cat went through a biting phase, too. It does hurt, especially when she bit the skin on the back of my hand. But she doesn't do it anymore, thankfully.

Liza Lee Miller said...

What a neat story! He is a gorgeous cat and was an adorable kitten.

Babies removed from their mamas can have some strange behaviors.

When I was a teen, we raised a kitten who was taken away from his mother too young. He never got over the urge to nurse and would nuzzle and suck on your neck. Cat hickeys -- delightful. He loved to roll over on his back and suck on your fingers. One blissed-out cat. He did that until he was an old cat. Of course, we all thought it was cute so never tried to stop him.

Give Joey a virtual pat on the head! :)

Mary said...

Katdoc, we rescued several too-young kittens - one from a dumpster and the other from a pipe on a jobsite. Both of them bit ut we called them "love bites". The biting subsided as they grew older but I noticed when whey were adult cats, they would bite whenever they got a lot of lovin' from us. The excitement would trigger a love bite.

Joey's story is sweet. I loved it. You write so well. That kitten pic made me melt and his adult photo makes me want to give him a head bump.

Lynne said...

What a handsome kitty. I enjoy hearing where pet names come from.

Susan Gets Native said...

May I say, "Awwwww!"

I didn't get to meet any of your cats the other day, and I am offended. I"m sure they don't care.

A boyfriend of mine had a cat (named Cat) who was a little off. He would take my eyebrows or cheek in his teeth and just hold it there. And I was the only one he would do that to. (I was the only one who gave a damn about him, too)

More, more!!!!!! You have a lot of pets to get through!
No pressure or anything.

Jayne said...

Joey looks like a fine gentleman today. All your love and patience paid off. :c)

possumlady said...

Welcome to the world of blogging. I've read your comments from Julie Z's blog for months. Joey turned out to be one handsome guy. My latest stray take-in was a little black kitten last March. He had an ear-tip so I assumed he was feral. But after a few weeks he let me pick him up and pet him. He also bit my cheeks, my many chins, and my neck. Luckily he also grew out of it. I still have him and I've named him Oliver Twist--Ollie for short.

nina said...

I have a stray, recently adopted here--and she's a cuddler/biter/licker, too! It makes me wonder if the ones who get separated from their moms too soon, feel the need to be mouthy with humans? (To make up for a more natural weaning of it)
Like your toad pics, too. Did you get piddled on?

KGMom said...

I love this story. Joey is a very handsome fellow.
We have rescued a fair number of cats in our time (and dogs too). When we have cats who are biters, they only nip. I have never had a cat who bites too hard.