Storm Predicting Pets

Storm Predicting Pets (1)

Annie

I’m fortunate that I don’t yet have any aches or pains that let me know when bad weather is on the way. However, I’ve heard that animal behavior can be an indicator of an unsettled atmosphere. When New Jersey had a palpable earthquake in 2011, the birds on the power lines disappeared in unison moments before the earth shook. Can domesticated animals have the same proclivities?

Our brown tabby cat Annie (1998-2015) was more accurate than any local weather forecast. She spent her time perched on tall furniture, her favorite an old entertainment center, because she really preferred her own company to spending time with any of her feline or canine brothers. That was her domain, away from all of them, until later when she spent most of her time on top of the refrigerator.

As much as she disliked the other critters, whenever a storm was coming, she would abandon her high, safe place. You might guess that she would seek refuge under the bed, but she didn’t. Annie would sometimes hide out in the pantry, behind the safety of the wooden doors. Even if the other cats and dogs got close, she held fast to her position. She had another place to ride out the storms that was even more bizarre. She would lay in front of the subwoofer that sat on the family room floor. She was wide open to being annoyed by the others, little brother Ozzy in particular, yet she never moved. Sure enough, a storm followed whenever Annie fled to the security of the pantry or floor. When it passed, she would return to her normal hangout, as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened.

After Annie crossed the Rainbow Bridge, we didn’t have another cat to trumpet the arrival of an impending storm until we adopted our little orange tabby Barnabas Collins. He’s been with us for two years, and we saw him exhibit storm-predicting behavior just once. He’s far from antisocial, so his safe place when storms are on the way is backed in tight against the curio/grandfather clock that sits in the dining room. From this vantage point, he is exposed to the other animals, but that doesn’t bother him since he’s a friendly guy. When a thunderstorm came through after he huddled on the floor, we realized that we did in fact have another storm predicting pet.

Our other three cats, Tiger, Tiki, and Vlad, show no ability to predict weather. The dogs have never shown any unusual pre-storm behavior. However, when they were younger, if a storm hit, they wanted to be burrowed under their blankets or be held by one of their humans. The weather doesn’t seem to affect them much anymore, but I think that is likely due to their compromised hearing more than anything else.

While predicting Mother Nature is difficult with even the latest and greatest technology, we will rely on our cat Barnabas for accuracy when it comes to predicting storms. Who needs to watch the weather report on television, when you have the cutest furry meteorologist at home?

Storm Predicting Pets (2)

Barnabas Collins

Happy Birthday Annie

Happy Birthday Annie 2007

Annie on Top of the Fridge – 2007

Today is a bit sad in our house, because our beloved brown tabby cat Annie would have been 20 years old today. Cats can live to this age and beyond, and Annie was a healthy girl until she succumbed to what we believe was cancer at the age of 17.

She was the first pet we had together, and the only pet to live in our apartment. When we moved, Annie ruled the house with an iron paw, a declawed force to be reckoned with. (At one time it was common to have cats declawed and altered at the same time. We no longer put our cats through the former procedure, known as Onychectomy. All of our current felines have their claws). Annie let any new addition know that she was queen of the castle. The dogs feared her, and the other cats aspired to be her.

She had attitude when she was a baby; I remember fighting a little tiger to put drops in her ears to treat her for mites when we got her. Annie was three years old when we brought home a new kitten we named Ozzy. We thought a kitten might awaken her maternal instincts, but we couldn’t have been more wrong. The first night at home she hissed at her new baby brother and swatted him down a step into the family room. Little did she know that he would grow to be bigger than her, and become an instigator. He would do everything possible to aggravate her to incite a hiss, growl, or swat. He played his own version of “I’m not touching you,” and then stand there, ears back, as she unleashed on him. He rarely fought back. They were together 14 years, and they played this game for the duration of their time together.

Annie tolerated, if didn’t care for, any other pet that came after her. She spent all her time from her invisible throne atop our tall entertainment center. She liked to be up high, surveying her kingdom. The problem with this was that she spent too much time away from the other animals. When she did come down, she was such a novelty to them that they bothered her, causing her to retreat to her wooden tower.

One day the gigantic tube television was replaced by a sleeker model, and gone with it was the old entertainment center. Annie now had to relocate to another safe space, and she chose the top of the refrigerator. We outfitted her new digs befitting a queen, complete with a cat bed beneath a body heat reflecting mat. Her majesty even took her meals up there, and there was not enough room for another cat to comfortably join her. Rarely did one of the others attempt to intrude. It was understood that this was her space from which she could observe daily life. She still sits in her bed atop the fridge, and her brothers and sister still respect her special spot, although she is no longer here to defend it. Happy Birthday Annie, we love and miss you.

Happy Birthday Annie 2005

Ozzy and Annie Standoff – 2005

Remembering Annie 1998-2015

IMG_20150218_064250413 When I wrote “To Annie, With Love,” in April, I expected her to live into her twenties. She was always a healthy cat, never having issues. I had no clue we would have to make a painful decision two months later. Annie hadn’t been eating very much, she weighed just over 7 pounds when she died, down from the 14 pounds she weighed as a young cat. In addition to the appetite reduction, we noticed she was no longer jumping into her bed on top of the fridge. That was her favorite place in the house. From that vantage point she was free from the harassment of two dogs and three other cats. She was the queen of the house and her throne was perched atop a white Whirlpool. Our girl appeared to have difficulty getting comfortable. I pet her head to hear purring. One thing about Annie was that you could pet her for only seconds before she tried to bite. This reaction was so different that I knew something was wrong. I assumed it was arthritis, and the vet would prescribe a med to make her feel better. I held onto that assumption as I pushed her into the carrier, telling her not to worry, she would be home soon. My husband drove her to the vet while I stayed home. He called to say she was spending the night, as she was dehydrated. He wasn’t back from the vet yet when the office called. They asked me if I wanted her put down. I was dumbstruck. What were they talking about? Annie’s belly was distended, filled with fluid. In their experience, in cats of the age of 17, it was either stomach cancer, or a heart or liver issue. More tests could be run to discover the cause, but the outcome would be the same. Once the fluid was drained, it would return in 24-48 hours to require more draining. It was five minutes before the office closed. I wasn’t going to let them kill her before I could talk to my husband. I managed to tell the vet to keep her comfortable, I would speak with another vet who was on in the morning about her prognosis. I hung up the phone and lost my mind, my worst fear realized. I gave my husband the diagnosis through sobs when he returned. We held out hope that somehow she was wrong, that a more seasoned vet on duty in the morning would have a different opinion. The second vet agreed with the first. Annie was not going to get better. We told our vet we would euthanize her, but we wanted to visit to say our goodbyes. Later that day we went to the veterinary office. Annie was brought out to us, her eyes dilated from the pain medicine. We took turns holding her, telling her how much we loved her, and if there was anything we could do to keep her with us, we would have done it. We took a lot of photos that afternoon. IMG_20150602_162546383_HDR I wished I were strong enough to stay with her until the end, to hold her as she left for the Rainbow Bridge. I couldn’t do it, I was a coward. I couldn’t let my last memory of Annie be her lying dead on a steel table. Maybe that’s why I don’t like viewings, I prefer to remember people alive. Handing her over to the vet tech for the last time was gut wrenching. I knew she would be surrounded by people we knew, and our favorite vet in the office promised to perform the procedure. She had been the third vet involved and came to speak with us. She agreed we were making the best decision for Annie. It’s a month today that our girl has been gone. Annie’s homecoming was bittersweet, I couldn’t wait for her to be home, even if it was not in the same form. The house didn’t feel right without her. Her urn sits in her bed above the fridge, returned to her rightful place. Her food dish, a straw, and foil ball surround her. IMG_20150615_213719511 This was the first time I ever had to go through this. Previous pets belonged to my parents, and they dealt with the end of life decisions. In a way I was relieved it happened the way it did, so fast, so unexpected. There was no lengthy illness, no period of time where we wondered what day we would give her peace. I love and miss you, Annie.