Monday, August 11, 2008

Little Apu

With my camera on the blink and the insanely wonderful weather we have had lately (low humidity, highs in the low 80s and lows in the mid-60s), my blog has been the last thing on my mind. So tonight I thought I would go through my old photos and talk a little about Apu, who, going on 12 years old, is now the patriarch of Possumlady’s Passel of Cats.

As many of you know, I adopted Apu when he was four months old from a shelter in 1996 along with Butterball (who was three). My very first cat, Bill, had died just two weeks prior. Bill was one psychotic kitty and many of my friends were more than a little worried around him. So, when I adopted Apu I decided to bring as many people around as possible to get him accustomed to strangers. Apu followed Butterball’s lead and welcomed everyone that came over. When folks would be settled in the living room, he would crawl over everyone to meet and greet them. A friend of mine joked that he was worried that Apu didn’t know how to walk since I carried him everywhere. I would sing to him while he would fall asleep in my arms, a song I made up that went to the tune of Winnie the Pooh, except it was Little Apu.

(Little Apu at six months with Big Butterball)

Then, when he turned a year old it was as if a light switch had been turned on in his brain and he became incredibly nervous around everything and everyone. It was such a drastic change that I called my vet thinking something was wrong with him. She didn’t think anything was wrong but she came over to do a quick check. After giving him a clean bill of health, her explanation was that he just grew into his adult personality. She mentioned that, unless the animal is sick, all puppies and kittens are very social by nature but they eventually grow into their specific personalities. I was so disappointed. I knew genetics played a part but thought, considering he was just a domestic short hair, that I could mold his personality with lots of positive feedback and love from me and my friends.

Well, a friendly outgoing kitty Apu was not going to be. To give you an idea of his nervousness, when I moved into my current house, I had everything moved in and then when all my friends and commotion had left, made my last trip back to my old condo to pick up Butterball and Apu. I brought them to my house and let them out in my bedroom. They were both very upset and scurried under the bed. I kept the bedroom door closed with the usual classical music playing and went on my way unpacking in the living room. After about an hour I quietly opened the bedroom door to find Butterball roaming around. After he saw me he quickly came out of the bedroom and proceeded to rub his chin on every corner wall of the house marking it as his. Apu remained under the bed. For three full days Apu stayed under the bed. I put a little makeshift litterbox under along with food and water. He barely ate or drank. During the night of the third day as I was lying in bed, he slowly crawled up on the bed (on his belly and under the covers) and crawled up onto my stomach where he stayed nervously trembling the rest of the night.

He was sweet around me but really preferred it to be just Butterball and him. Poor Butterball, sometimes I felt sorry for him as he never seemed to get a moment’s peace without Apu sneak attacking him, trying to get Butterball to wrestle with him, or scout out wherever he was sleeping and flop on top of him.

Then I developed this crazy cat lady affliction (we have our own society you know) and started taking in strays, first Sweet Pea, then Woody. Oh, Apu was not happy. Hissy fits were a regular nightly event. Then more cats started coming in. To give Apu credit, he didn’t react as violently with the rest as he did with Sweet Pea and Woody but he clearly wanted nothing to do with any of them. A peaceful coexistence eventually developed with one another with a few flare ups now and then, always between Apu and Sweet Pea or Apu and Woody.

Then last fall Butterball started losing weight. Not only was I worried sick about Butterball (since he was the best cat in the world—okay, there, I said it) but I was also worried about Apu in anticipation if anything would happen to Butterball. When Butterball started rapidly losing weight in February and becoming weak, sometimes I would have to pull Apu off of him. He would still think of Butterball as his pillow and heavily flop down on him. I could see it was making Butterball very uncomfortable, but being the sweet guy he was, he never complained or tried to get away.

(Last snuggle with Butterball)

After I had to put Butterball down in mid-March both Apu and I were grieving. I was so upset but I made a point of watching out for and paying a lot more attention to Apu. I would watch him as he would walk past Butterball’s favorite chair, stop and look up to see if his lifelong buddy was there, then slowly walk away. Apu was never a vocal cat but about a week after Butterball died, he started to meow/cry while he would walk from room to room. Apu was also never a lap cat but I found him jumping up more and more to lie down and fall asleep in my lap.

After a few months a curious thing started to happen. When a neighbor or friend would stop by, Apu would start coming out of my bedroom to greet them. Something he hasn't done since he was a kitten. When an outside cat would come in for a bite to eat or find a cool place to sleep, instead of the usual slap they might get as they walked past Apu, they got a nose to nose greeting and sometimes even a quick lick on the head from Apu!

Then one Sunday a few weeks ago I was doing yard work and walking in and out of the house. Of course, Sweet Pea and Woody were sleeping right in the doorway so I had to step over them each and every time I came in and went out. But wait, that's not Woody....could it be......

OH........MY..............GOD! It is, it's Sweet Pea and Apu. Arch enemies for six years!

I think Apu is going to be JUST fine (happy sigh).


Lynne at Hasty Brook said...

Oh, Christine, this post brought tears to my eyes. I'm so glad to hear that Apu is adjusting to his life without his buddy Butterball. It must make you feel a little better about your loss too. Those are some sweet pictures. Treasures.

Now- I have to ask, where'd you get the name Apu?

possumlady said...

Hi Lynne, Apu is a hindu name. You must not be a fan of The Simpsons cartoon because I named Apu after the Kwicky Mart clerk whose full name is Apu Nahasapeemapetilon! Ask your kids, they probably know

Yes, Apu moving on definitely helps me move forward too.

Ramblings of a Villas Girl said...

Hi Christine! This was a heartwarming story. I am glad little Apu is adjusting. It is sweet that he is bonding with Sweet Pea and socializing more. Is that your new rug that everyone is relaxing on? Lisa

Dog_geek said...

What a sad and sweet story. I'm so sorry for your loss of butterball, and for Apu's loss, too, but I'm glad that Apu is able to find some comfort.

Mary said...

Christine, this story brought tears to my eyes. Do you think for all those years APU guarded Butterball and became annoyed if anyone got near him? It's taken months for APU to accept the loss of his best buddy and now he has another.

Animals are amazing creatures. They behave in a certain way for a reason that we sometimes don't understand.

possumlady said...

Hi Lisa,I honestly am still surprised about Apu. He is one stubborn cat and I thought it would take a LOT longer than a few months to bond with any other cat. No, this photo was taken right before I got my new rug so they are on the old, stinky, stained sage one.

Hi Dog_Geek and welcome to Possumlady Place! Thank you for your comments and your comments about Greybeard. It has been a tough year here, losing three cats in four months. I've checked out your blog. Dog agility is something I would love to get into when I retire (and get another dog!) It is such great exercise (both mental and physical) and also a good bonding experience for you and your dogs.

nina at Nature Remains. said...

May I join your "society?"
That's a wonderful story about Apu--encouraging to see the healing that comes with time.
And an example of how the need for comfort from another can be such a driving force--capable of overcoming obstacles.
Very sweet!

KGMom said...

Christine--interesting how bonded Butterball and Apu were. I am sure Apu grieved, and the meowing was giving expression to his grief.
It is great that he has turned to bonding and interacting instead of withdrawing further.

Margaret Cloud said...

I just love reading about cats, I am a cat person and have had a few cats in my time, I like the photos.