I adopted Mozart from the local SPCA shelter in Comox, six years ago to liven up the sedentary life of my aging, physically failing yet mentally sound Saint Bernard-cross buddy, Jasper. My idea was that with the addition of a cat to the house Jasper would have a focus other than me, busy in my studio. I pictured him thinking, ‘What’s that cat doing now?!?’ and, ‘He wants my bone!!!!!!’ allowing me some respite from the role of dog entertainer.
I grew up with cats but hadn’t really had my own cat companion since before I started working on the road. The last time I’d lived with cats I had some allergic reactions, probably because they were indoor only cats and the accumulated dander was overwhelming. Since my cancer dance I don’t have the pollen allergies that I used to have, courtesy of strengthening my immune system, but, to be certain, I spent two hours, picking up cats and purposefully rubbing my eyes to see if I would be bothered by cat dander. The Comox Valley SPCA had over two hundred cats in a couple of rooms, some in cages, some with access to an outdoor area and others hanging around the main desk. Their facility has ramps and platforms designed for cat happiness, but really they would all be happiest with a real home of their own to manage and guard. Have a look on Petfinder.com sometime to see how many abandoned animals are out there. It’s a shame and I’m here to say that adopting an older animal can be so rewarding. They are already trained and so grateful to be sprung from that concentration camp, however well-designed.
I needed a cat that was not afraid of giant dogs and I specifically wanted a cat that was not too needy and able to go outside. They had a couple of suggestions and then said that they could test any cat with the dogs to see if it would be ok so I was left to my own devices to find a cat that caught my attention.
It was toward the end of the day and no cat had seemed like the one. As I was standing in the office area, someone said,’ What about Mozart? He’s always trying to get in with the dogs.’ He was right there, waiting for the door to the dog kennel to open so he could go through. I picked him up and he hung out in my arms without complaint until I put him down and he sauntered away. His story was that he’d come from a family with lots of other animals and he didn’t seem happy there ( I think he was spraying, maybe hadn’t been altered) so they had surrendered him. He fit my criteria: fairly independent, beautiful, likes dogs and six years old, so mature. I said that he’d do and arranged to pick him up in four days so I could equip myself with cat stuff: bowl, litter box, cat door to the basement where the box would be, scratching pad and food.
I returned in four days, said I’d come for Mozart (he’d been there nearly eight months) and they said ,’ He’s in the big room sleeping on one of the platforms.’ I went in and looked around. Lots of black and white cats and some long-haired but I spied him on a platform far above my head. I said, ‘Hey!’ and he looked down at me. Then I said, ’Want to come with me?’ and I could see him give it moment’s thought and then he came down and sauntered over. I picked him up and carried him to the carrier they sold me and brought him home.
He emerged from the carrier and began to take command of the territory. Jasper followed him, looming over until Mozart turned and snarled and a fight ensued. I broke it up and chastised both of them and they settled down for a bit.
Mozart was amazing from the start. I showed him what I’d set up for him, his food on the landing where Jasper couldn’t reach, a scratching pad in my hallway/office, the cat door to the basement where the cat box was and he checked it all out with the ingrained aplomb of a collected cat and proceeded to do his best to hang out with Jasper and drive him crazy.
They say a new cat should be kept indoors for a couple of weeks but Mozart was insistent and three days after his arrival I let him out and alerted my fabulous neighbours that he was out and about. From then he would come on all the walks around the neighbourhood with me and Jasper. I think it was a funny sight, me in the front, Jasper farther back, sniffing at everything, and Mozart bringing up the rear, checking out everything that Jasper did. That first week I noticed Mozart on a fence post beside the house so I went to my bedroom window that was over the shed roof of the kitchen and called him. He jumped to the roof and came over, looked in to check it out, and after that I kept the window open and he came and went whenever he wanted.
Meanwhile, Jasper started carrying his bone everywhere around the house, convinced that Mozart would steal it otherwise, and if I had any trouble getting him to eat I only had to call Mozart over and he would dutifully give a sniff of the dog food and Jasper would hurry over and begin to eat. ‘What’s that cat doing now?’ was the main curiosity consuming Jasper that spring. My idea worked.
Mozart was very adaptable to my requirements as well. He could sleep on the bed but only at the foot of the bed where my feet would not be and he accepted that. I’m also not a big fan of cats on my lap so he adopted the pile of cushions I used as a footstool for his hang out in the living room. Jasper would come along and loom and pant loudly until Mozart woke up and left in a huff, revenge for the ‘I want your bone’ stare that drove Jasper crazy.
By summer’s end, Mozart had helped Jasper enjoy the last months of his life and I sold the house. Mid-September began our two week journey east with all my essentials packed in my Suburban with a litter box for Mozart way in the back and an overlarge carrier for his comfort and a net barrier strung up behind the front seats so He couldn’t get to the front and get in my way. Originally I thought to give him the run of the back when I was driving but he spent the entire time pushing at the barrier for a weak point so he was relegated to the carrier when I drove and I let him lose in the truck when I stopped for any length of time.
I bought a harness and leash for him but that I only used a couple of times. Five minutes was all he could handle and then he would freak and do his best Houdini and nearly wriggle out of the harness. We visited on our way to the east coast and in Point Roberts, WA and Hardwick, VT he managed to sneak out the door when no one was looking. He came right back though; amazing, for a cat that he realized that the truck was home, until we landed in Maine and he realized that life, in his mind, just got really good. All I had to do was show Mozart the cat door in the pantry and he was good to go, exploring the neighbourhood.
A month later I got him a dog, Murphy, since we were both missing Jasper so much. At first I thought I’d made a mistake. Murphy tried to chase the cats whenever they were in the house (there’s a female, feral cat here too) and he was on a short leash until Mozart decided he’d take back his territory and refused to run anymore. Now they are buds, but Mozart is definitely the boss. If Mozart decides he wants Murphy’s food, Murphy stands back and waits until the cat is done.
They stand guard together on the driveway and supervise the chores.
Mozart usually attends the morning walk down the road. Until a couple of years ago he came on the longer walks in the woods as well. Now he just meets us on the way back down the hill. He still visits our neighbour regularly to check his traps ( she is a big time feeder of birds so the prey animals abound at her house.)
As cats go, Mozart is ok. Ann spoils him, lets him on her lap all the time and lets him sleep anywhere on the bed, but he knows that he can’t do that with me and we get along. He’s 13 years old now and still going strong and I think he complies with my demands because he’s grateful that I rescued him and got him his very own dog, twice.