Cat Update

I exist!

I have far more non-food-related news going on in my life right now than new recipes, so I return with a non-recipe post…but only because I am actually planning a recipe post later this week. Several people have asked about the cat situation, particularly since last time I alluded to the fact we had four cats. Which, for a couple of months, we did. So for you cat lovers, here’s a cat-only update. For those of you uninterested in cats, come back soon for some food.

So, back when I was furloughed in October, I was in the sunroom when Gomez and Torticia suddenly sounded an alert: someone was at the back door! Mezzie and Tish race to the door whenever any other living thing shows up outside the sliding glass door: bird, squirrel, raccoon, skunk, fox…you name it. But that day the cause of their excitement was another cat. And not just any cat, this gorgeous fluffy black cat, and she was pressing herself against the door as if she desperately wanted in, although the weather was quite nice out at the time. Gently kicking Mez and Tish out of the way, I opened the door, only to have the kitty run off a few yards. However, to my surprise, when I called to her she came running up to me and let me pet her. In fact, she let me pick her up. I fell for her immediately. I INSTANTLY loved this cat. She rubbed noses with me! I went back inside to get her some food and to call Mark to come look at her. She scarfed down a large can of food like she hadn’t eaten for days and by the time she was done Mark was in love with her too.

It took me several weeks to bring Heidi in when she was living in our yard, but I took this cat up to the animal hospital to be scanned for a microchip within a couple of hours. For one thing, she was a black cat and it was nearing Halloween. For another thing, I loved her and I was secretly hoping no one claimed her. She was negative for a chip and I SWEAR I made a good faith attempt to find her owners, checking in with the animal shelter and Craigslist, etc., but when no one claimed her in a week or so, Mark and I called her a Halloween miracle from the Great Pumpkin and we christened her Wednesday to fit in with Gomez and Torticia (conveniently, I also found her on a Wednesday).

I took Wednesday to our vet and told him we’d adopted a fourth cat. I was convinced he was going to think I was some crazy cat thief because Torticia is a tortie and Gomez is all-black, and the first cat I found in my yard was another tortie, and now the second cat I’d found in the yard was all-black. I mean, what at the chances that the TWO cats that show up in my yard within a few months of each other would be another tortie and another all-black cat?? Both the new cats were like tiny versions of Mezzie and Tortellini! I thought he’d think I was starting a bizarre collection. He insisted he just thought I was a good person to care about strays so much, gave her some shots, and collected some blood to run the standard new-cat tests.

Two days later I sprang to answer his call because Wednesday was going crazy being locked up in a room by herself and I was desperate to get the all-clear to let her mingle with other cats and have full run of the house. Only it wasn’t to be: the test results were positive for feline leukemia. I cried my eyes out when I got off the phone with him, because feline leukemia is pretty much an early death sentence. Unlike feline HIV patients who can often live many years with no symptoms of their disease, most leukemia patients die within 3-5 years. And since it’s contagious to other cats, Wednesday would have to go to a home where she could be the only cat. It’s REALLY hard to find someone who is willing to adopt such a cat. Honestly I don’t know that I would choose to do so. You can’t have any other cats (unless they too are FLV+), you have to live knowing they will very likely have a short life, and you’re probably looking at at lot of vet bills near the end of their life. I thought immediately of my friend Melissa, though, who lost her cat KK the prior year (KK was an orange tabby, like my cat Tigger that those of you who have been reading for years may remember, and like Tigger, KK was from Ocean City, MD: Melissa and I adopted them about the same time when we were in college together) and through my tears sent her an emotional email. I figured she’d probably be mad at me for asking her such a ridiculous question (“Hey, I know you are busy raising three young kids and working but how would you like to adopt a cat that’s going to get sick and die in a few years????”), so when she didn’t respond right away, I totally understood and began the arduous task of reaching out to EVERY cat charity I could find and asking for help. Very few did anything to help me, although I did finally find one place near Charlottesville that has a FLV room and would accept Wednesday if I agreed to sponsor her – essentially donate money monthly towards her vet bills and upkeep – which I kept on reserve as a last resort as I preferred to find her an actual home.

But then it turned out Melissa wasn’t purposely avoiding me because she didn’t want to have to say no to me – she just hadn’t checked her email in a few days. AND she thought she may be feeling called to agree to it! After a lot of research on Melissa’s part and a family vote, Melissa’s family agreed to adopt Wednesday. I was so, so, so, so happy! Because not only was Wednesday going to a great home with someone I trust implicitly, I’d be able to see her whenever I wanted! Plus, I was tired of going to Melissa’s house and not getting to see KK or any other cats. Wednesday has been at Melissa’s for over a month and is adjusting well to her three kids. This story has a happy ending!!

Wednesday is super difficult to take pictures of because she’s so dark and fast: if you level a camera at her, she’s immediately in your face, wanting attention. These are the crappy pictures I took for Melissa while she was still deciding; they do nothing to express the beauty of Wednesday, who is very tiny but very silky, very black, very, very pretty, and super personable.

This picture is absurd, but I wanted to capture her gorgeous tail.

I love this cat. And I love Melissa and her family for adopting her!

Now, another story, which is a little less dramatic, but like the first starts out sad then gets happy: Heidi.

Little Heidi. I told you how I came to adopt her this summer in this post, but unfortunately, during the whole Wednesday debacle it was becoming obvious it just wasn’t going to work out with her. I love Heidi: she’s very sweet and loyal and eager to show me how grateful she is I took her in. Seriously, I can read it in her eyes. The problem is Torticia has HATED Heidi since the day I let Heidi out of quarantine following HER blood test results (which were, thankfully, all negative). Mezzie, on the other hand, was super friendly with Heidi and tried to befriend her. Heidi, however, went on the defensive following Torticia’s rancor and struck out indiscriminately at both cats. After a few months, I don’t know if Mezzie got tired of his friendly overtures being rebuffed or if Torticia finally convinced him to join the dark side, but eventually Mezzie started hassling Heidi as well. With the two of them ganged up on the poor girl, I realized I couldn’t make the relationship work, so I turned to the SPCA, from whom I adopted Mez and Tish. SPCA NOVA is awesome to work with and they responded immediately with help. They posted Heidi on their website and promised to get Heidi into a safe foster home as soon as one was available.

Imagine my surprise when a week later no foster homes had opened up, but two different people wanted to adopt her! I liked both applicants tremendously but of course only one could adopt her. This Saturday morning Heidi will be moving to her new home with a very nice woman who was looking for a quiet, gentle kitty to love after her ex-husband took the cat he entered the relationship with. I feel really good about this. I know Heidi will be much happier in her new home and I think Heidi will be an excellent companion for her.

My sweet girl, I’m sorry I couldn’t give you the home you deserve, but I hope you know I’m giving you up so you can have a better life!


Seriously, though, when they aren’t giving me headaches by hassling Heidi, Gomez and Torticia remain the most absolutely wonderful cats ever. And frankly, I’m looking forward to being back down to two cats. Four was too many, especially since there were three distinct “groups” to whom I had to pay separate attention. When I work with the raccoons and the raptors, I have to divide my time up between many animals, and I like that because I am exposed to so many different needs and personalities and I learn a lot. But at home, I really just want two awesome best feline friends with whom I have the strongest relationship possible. And a lot of the time I’m not home. So when I get home, I just want to see their two smiling little faces greeting me and not feel stressed out that I need to spend quality time with half the cat population of Virginia.

Yeah, they LOOK lazy, but they are MEANIE PANTS.


Finally, in non-cat-related news, big excitement on the horizon!! Mark and I are going on safari in Tanzania for our 10th wedding anniversary in October! And Smucky and his girlfriend are going with us! It’s the most exciting thing I’ve ever done and I am beside myself! I am mentioning it here because, well, it’s pretty much the only thing I think of these days, but also because I’m soliciting advice. Our tour organizer knows we are vegan and has assured me it won’t be a problem, and I’ve actually seen the words “vegan-friendly” on the websites of some of the camps and lodges we’ll be staying in (can you imagine that?! The times we live in!), so I’m not super worried about starving, but I am a little worried about being hungry from time to time. We’ll be on some long drives and I get really, really bad headaches – and turn into a total monster – if I don’t eat when I’m hungry. Usually when I travel long distances, I load up on energy bars for the journey, and usually my destination is a city or at least someplace I can find a bag of chips or something if I’m really desperate. But what do I do when I’m in the Serengeti and there’s no vegan snacks around for miles? Because we will be taking tiny planes from camp to camp in Africa, there is a 12 kg luggage weight limit, most of which I’ll be devoting to camera equipment, and furthermore, we have to use soft-sided luggage like duffle bags. Basically I’m planning to take a very small carry-on bag for my clothes and toiletries – just enough clothes for 3 days or so (laundry service is provided in the camps). I won’t have space for a 2-week supply of energy bars, and besides which, it’ll be hot: a lot of them get melty and gross in the heat. Are there any of you out there who, even if you haven’t been on safari, are maybe avid backpackers and have suggestions for highly portable, filling snacks, or other not-starving-while-traveling tips? So far all I can think of is nuts, but I’m not even sure how much room I’ll have for those…and how I’ll keep Mark from eating all of them on the first day. (That boy loves nuts!)

And now I’m off to make dinner…a dinner that I hope to be able to post as a recipe here.


  1. susan Said,

    January 9, 2014 @ 5:26 am

    Aw Wednesday! I am so glad your friend was able to give her a home. She looks like one of my black cats. Big giant fluffy tail. Heidi’s situation is very sad to me. I have friends who have gone through that. One cat actually wound up living in the bathroom. Others always say that they will work it out but that isn’t always true! Cats can be mean little brats. I’ve seen the ganging up tactic also.

    Yeah for safari! Years ago I asked the owner of Vegan Treats if she had issues in Africa eating vegan. She said actually it’s very easy? I have no experience myself though. So exciting.


  2. Nikki Said,

    January 9, 2014 @ 11:44 am

    So glad to hear you found a home for the kitties! 🙂

  3. Mr. W Said,

    January 9, 2014 @ 10:05 pm

    I figured something animal-related was up when the black-eyed peas hung around so long. Good to hear you’ve helped the kitties on their way to good homes.

    As for starving in Tanzania, my “emergency bar” (and I mean real emergency like earthquake, etc) is the Millennium Energy Bar:

    I can’t say that they are healthy and I only assume they are 100% vegan as the “natural flavors” are for fruits and not dairy/butter. They are very densely compacted, travel well, and are good for 5 years without refrigeration. (Think emergency lifeboat food bars but in single servings).

    The flavors are ok and it’s mostly a sweet cookie-dough type flavor with coconut mince mixed inside. They add a little fruity flavor but its mostly cookie-dough flavor to me. They are low salt and no water necessary foods (good for the folks on the S.S. Minnow) but that is probably good for those on safari as well.

    I can say they are FILLING and you won’t be hungry after just a few bites of the bar. By the time you’ve finished one you will feel like you’ve eaten an entire pound cake. (I think they are about 400 calories of energy each).

    As for “real” food there, try to find the dish called Fufu. (The name in Tanzania may be Ugali or Nguna). Fufu is pounded cassava (tapioca) root and it binds up nicely like dumplings. I had it with a veggie stew at an African restaurant in New Orleans and was so excited about it that I had to come home and put my Kitchen Aid to work making Fufu. (Think flavor like mashed potatoes/yuca and texture like fresh mochi). You pull a blob off the big ball, make a dimple in the center with your thumb then dip it into the stew like a spoon to get goodies and broth/gravy. I hear the Ugali is made with maize instead of tapioca but otherwise sounds similar. A typical dish is Ugali served with collard greens/tomato/onion/spices which is probably right up your alley. 🙂

    Since we are talking emergency food, how about a post on your vegan emergency food planning?

    Good to see you back up and posting!

    Take care,
    Mr. W

  4. renae Said,

    January 9, 2014 @ 10:59 pm

    Mr W, Millennium bars sound perfect – thank you! I just ordered a box. I was actually worried about nuts making me thirsty, so it’ll be really helpful if the bars don’t increase thirst. The camps will provide water, but it’s not like we’ll have an unlimited supply of it on drives…and I’ll probably want to keep “bush breaks” to a minimum anyway!

    I’ve heard of Fufu but have never had it. I think I’l be at the mercy of the lodge/camp chef most nights, but maybe I’ll be treated to ugali. Sounds like something I should try to make in the months leading up to the trip!

  5. Lisa Goldstein Kieda Said,

    January 10, 2014 @ 9:57 am

    Welcome back and Happy 2014! As a proud companion to four cats, I understand the alliances and allegiances of the cat world fairly well. Can’t wait to see your next culinary posting. Best wishes on your Tanzania logistics. Sounds fantastic! Here’s a blog I’ve found that might be helpful:

    Take care!

    Lisa G/K

  6. v Said,

    January 13, 2014 @ 2:45 pm

    have you thought about dehydrated foods?

    i love the photo of the bullies. 😉

  7. Becky Said,

    January 15, 2014 @ 10:24 pm

    welcome back! This post almost made me cry. I love the pics of all the cats so much and feel so bad for poor Wednesday. I hope she will have as long and happy a life as possible and Heidi too. I love them both and can tell how wonderful they are just from looking in their eyes. I’m jealous about the African safari but Be careful. There’s this show I love, called ‘Monsters Inside me’ and every episode somebody develops an alarming symptom and the doc’s first question is ‘Were you ever in Africa’? Oh boy. Its uncanny every episode. so I think you are wise in more ways than one on taking prepackaged energy bars. But anyway I’m kind of just joking of course. I know you will be OK and will get some Amazing animal photos and have the time of your lives. Becky

  8. Rhonda Said,

    January 16, 2014 @ 3:42 pm

    I’ve been on two Tanzanian safaris – you are going to LOVE it. Seriously. You will never want to come back. As for food, think about peanut butter. Find some in smallest-sized plastic jars (glass is heavier and breaks) and disperse them throughout your luggage. I’m guessing you’ll each have one big duffel and one carry-on, right? Lots of places to tuck peanut butter, even with the weight limit. The little nut butter packets you find in Whole Foods might be even better, though more expensive. Anyway, it packs a lot of whallop for its weight, and you can eat it straight if you’re feeling unwell (always helps when I’m car/sea/air sick) or on bread if you need a snack at the lodge. The one thing you can always count on finding anywhere is bread. 🙂 You can email me if you want to exchange more ideas. I love Africa!

  9. Rhonda Said,

    January 16, 2014 @ 3:45 pm

    ps. Oh, and believe it or not, the only place I have ever NOT been carsick on long trips is in Tanzania/Kenya. The roads can be dreadful and bumpy and whatnot, but the views are always so mesmerizing that I never once thought about being sick. Watch out for the planes, though – not pressurized. I was very sad that I hadn’t brought decongestants for before the flights. In fact, bring more types of medicines than you think you’ll need. It will be utterly unavailable there and even if you don’t need something, you might meet up with someone who thinks you’re an angel for having it.

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