I was raised on a farm. We always had a dog but the only cats were several feral ones who lived in the barn: never was a cat allowed in my mother’s house. I had no relationships with cats until Tammie brought me Sebastian and then Orion. These two are part of my extended family. It’s hard to think of them as just animals or pets when I hear their conversations and watch them interact with me and with each other.
Sebastian is my grey long-haired 8 year old boy who’d had his front toe nails removed before he came to live with me. I’d heard that cats do their own thing so it didn’t bother me that Sebastian did his own thing, sleeping under the bed and generally staying away from me. Then he accepted me and jumped on my lap to be petted and on the bed to sleep.
Until Orion came to live with us. One year old Orion who wears a black tuxedo is being loaned to me as long as I shall live.
It took a while for Sebastian to accept Orion as a room-mate and even longer for Sebastian to forgive me for bringing someone else into his home. It’s only now a year later that he’s back to sleeping on the bed for at least part of the night. He also used to be rather laid-back but since Orion is so inquisitive, Sebastian has to check out whatever Orion is investigating.
I’ve figured out that they have a way of letting the other one know that they’re ready to play: it’s a certain meow, loud enough to wake me up at 4 a.m. During the day (because I don’t get up to watch them at night) I’ve seen Orion do a leap-frog over Sebastian’s back and then turn around and pounce on Sebastian. It’s truly “boys will be boys” play-fighting until one of them gets tired (usually Sebastian).
If I sleep past what they consider their breakfast time they let me know by their talk and/or by getting on the bed and sitting on my chest. Sebastian also has a certain meow to tell me the water bowl is empty.
Orion as a kitten in foster care. He is a polydactyl kitten.
The other morning Orion accidently scratched me as he was grabbing for the shirt I was going to put on. I yelled “ouch” and looked at a two inch long bleeding scratch on the side of my hand. I said “we’ll have to do something about those claws”, got a tissue to stop the blood and got the cat nail-clipper.
Orion knew he’d done something “bad”. Any other time I’ve tried to clip his nails I’ve been able to get maybe two before he was off and running. This time he just lay on the bed while I shortened all 12 nails: 6 toes on each of his front paws.
But here’s the amazing thing. Sebastian got up on the bed, came over to Orion and started licking Orion’s paw like Sebastian thought Orion was losing his nails and was offering sympathy, licking Orion’s paw to comfort him because Sebastian knows how painful it is to have the nails removed.
I cried then and I cry now when I think of the compassion. This is not a mother cat and her kitten but two males of different ages coming from different circumstances bonding, caring for each other. I just wish that anyone even thinking of declawing a cat could have watched these two that morning.
By Annette Baker
Annette adopted Orion from us in 2011, who was once a feral kitten. He was socialized in foster care (in the care of Tammie Brandon) and then found his forever home with Annette.