Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Clara and Alice enter my life

Where were we? Oh yes... I had just, out of the blue and without fully considering the commitment I was making, offered to take in two ~3 month old kittens. And without first asking my roommates/tenants if they were allergic (thankfully they weren't, and they actually quite enjoyed having cute kittens running around the house). So I bought all the things I'd need for the kittens (litter box, food, bowls, toys etc.) and drove down to the farm near Milton. When I got there, I met Alice and Clara the humans and went with Alice to feed the colony of cats in the barn. She fed them out of large communal bowls. I also met all the house cats and was introduced to the two cute grey kittens that were soon to be mine--they were sleeping together on a chair.

I haven't explained that I named the kittens Alice and Clara--their human namesakes did not name them after themselves, in case you were wondering. They'd actually named them something else, but I don't remember what (something along the lines of "Spots" and "Sparkles"). Before I went to meet and pick up the kittens, I had already decided that I'd name one Clara*. And after meeting Alice the human that night, and finding out just how sweet she was, I named the other kitten (the one who'd bitten her, of course) after her as I drove home. It was about an hour drive, and I spoke to the kittens as I drove to reassure them, saying their names to them over and over. I've spoken to them ever since, too. I think that is one of the reasons it seems so quiet around here without Clara. 

When I got back to Madison from picking up the kittens in Milton, it was just about my bedtime, so I showed the kittens their litterbox and hopped into bed. They managed to jump onto the bed too, and thus began another tradition--sharing my bed with two cats. I was very nervous the first few nights--worried that I would roll over on them--but I don't move much when I sleep so it worked out just fine. The next day, I had some studying to do, and found that the kittens were very good at distracting me--Alice lay down on my notes, and they both ran around and played together, biting each other's necks. In fact, they used to spend so much time biting each other's necks that their necks were often wet and I nicknamed them "vampire kitties." They did outgrow that phase at some point, but they continued to play together until Clara got too sick (about a week before she died).

Over the next three months, I spent half of my pre-tax income (I was a graduate student, so it didn't amount to much) each month on vet bills--the cats had various infections when they arrived and needed tests for feline leukemia virus (because I was going to let them go outdoors), tests for worms, tests for eye problems, vaccinations, medicine for ear mites and of course, to be spayed when they got to 6 months. I was a little worried about what I had got myself into... so much so that I turned left against a red light while in shock on my way home from paying for them to be spayed (there was no one around to notice, thankfully). Clara had the most problems--she had polyps in the tubes that connected her nose to her ears and, as a result, was a very noisy breather for a while. Alice also had a habit of sitting on Clara, and one time I saw that Clara wasn't breathing with Alice covering her head and had to push Alice off. Clara started to breath again without paying much attention to what had happened. After trying various types of antibiotics in Clara's ears, the vet finally gave me some antibiotic pills to give Clara--they cleared up her breathing problems in no time, but had the lingering affect of making Clara not like it when I'd hold her on her back (as I did to give her pills, though I never had to give her another pill her whole life). 

At some point early on, I added "surnames" for the cats. Or maybe middle names. Clara became Clara May, and Alice became Alice McGregor. More recently, Clara became Clara Mara. I can't even imagine how many nicknames I've had for them over the years! Alice's current nickname is "Alice Walice" or "Wals" (rhymes with pals) for short. Clara was normally "Sweet Potato" or "Sweet Petite." Petite because Clara at her heaviest was 6.5 lbs. Alice is about 7.5 lbs.

And that's it for today. I'm not sure what I will write about next. Maybe Clara's sickness.


*I should mention that Clara the human pronounced her name "Clar(as in clarity)-uh," but I pronounced Clara the cat's name "Klaar-uh" (South Africans will have no problem saying that... that first syllable somewhat rhymes with "car" in Americanese even).

Clara playing in my window while I was trying to study. I've realized, after spending this past Sunday gathering all my photos of the cats so that I could get them scanned in, that 
1. my photographic skill has improved over the years 
2. I used to buy cheap film and have my photos processed cheaply, and that's too bad 
3. I didn't used to be very good about focusing. But just seeing Clara's shape is enough to see how cute she was--she had an expressive tail.

Here's goopy-eyed Alice on my notes. I think I was TA-ing Bacteriology 612 (Prokaryotic Molecular Biology?) at the time, and those are the notes from that class.