Origins: Tiger

This post is the second in my Origins series and is about my second oldest kitty Tiger. He is a black cat with a white goatee, a white patch on his chest, and white socks. Because of his high energy and amazing acrobatics, I was originally going to call him Jackie Chan (that guy is awesome!) I ended up naming him Tiger for less obvious reasons. In sunlight the black fur that seems solid reveals a pattern of tiger-like stripes. Later on I would discover that this name would also fit his personality.

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I adopted Tiger in the spring of 2006 from the Bedford Animal Shelter. As I mentioned in my previous post, Honey had recently become a solo cat. I didn’t want her to be alone after having a sibling for so long, so I decided get another kitten. I was pregnant with my daughter Keiko at the time.040

After she was born Tiger took to her like she was another kitten. He loved to sniff her and lick her head and would sleep snuggled up beside her in the crib regardless of how many times I shoo’d him away. Because of this I like to joke with Keiko that Tiger was her crib-mate. My mother stayed with me for a week after Keiko was born and was terrified that he was going to accidentally smother her, from trying to “get the milk from her”. He may have been attracted to her baby fresh skin and milky smell, but Tiger never even caused so much as a cat scratch in all the time he hung out with her in her crib. This behavior lasted well into her toddlerhood.

Being the the new kitten, Tiger was given the customary initiation by Honey. This involved about six weeks of hissing, growling, and head boops. Being a playful kitten, Tiger didn’t always get the hint and continued to approach Honey until he finally won her over.

Eventually I would catch the two play-fighting or chasing each other around the house. In quieter moments Tiger would be on the receiving end of a bath via Honey’s tongue, or Honey would be relaxed and still while Tiger kneeded on her stomach as she lay down. For the most part they got along, but Honey’s anti-social personality kept him at a distance with consistent growls and hisses.

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In the beginning I tried to keep my cats indoors. Really I did. But cats can be quick and it doesn’t take much for them to slip out. The first few times Tiger got out, I’d catch him and bring him right back indoors. But the taste of freedom encouraged him to make a dash for the door whenever it opened. Eventually I just let him go out whenever you wanted. [Disclosure: in most cities it is unlawful to let your pet roam. If caught, you will be fined and your pet will be taken into custody] Tiger was caught and bailed out of kitty jail once.

Most of his escapades have been without incident but occasional bumps, bruises, and scratches suggested mishaps. I’d say he’s probably gotten into a few cat fights, possibly got stuck crawling through a fence, and encountered at least one a dog.

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One injury he brought home wasn’t accidental. I’m not sure if it was a young kid playing around, or a cat-hating adult, but someone thought it was okay to shoot him with a BB gun. When I let him in the first thing I noticed was a dime-size pink, fleshy hole in his left cheek. He hadn’t been home in a day or two and the wound had matted around the edges and there where yellow tinges of infected skin. MY BABY! It took a month of cleaning and dressing his wound to get it to heal properly.SDC11442 I upgraded my vigilance to keep him indoors for a while. He developed a nervous tic that lasted six months and licked his entire belly bald. Eventually he started slipping out again, and I got complacent and let him go.

That was five years ago. All was well until this spring when I noticed Tiger’s mouth drooling a lot and quivering. There was also a horrible smell coming from his mouth. I did some online searches and only came up with results for mouth cancers and tumors. “Oh no!”

The vet put my mind at ease after a preliminary exam. There was a lesion in his mouth that according to her “looked like a burn mark. He probably chewed through an electrical cord”. He ended up getting some minor oral surgery and was sent home with medicated mouth rinse, painkillers, and antibiotics. After two weeks he was good to go.

Despite the dangers of the world, Tiger’s personality remains outgoing and he is very social with people. Close neighbors who observed his comings and goings liked him and labeled him a “cool cat”. He comes to anyone when called and will rub against their leg before rolling on ground in front of them. He casually hangs out in other people’s yards, patios, porches,an even right on their welcome mat as if he owned the place.

The only time I have ever seen Tiger remotely scared is when we moved to our new house. After two days of bringing items into the new house Tiger went missing. I was so worried he had somehow gotten out that I cried on my commute to work. Normally I had faith in his abilities to take care of himself outdoors, but after moving 15 miles away from anything familiar to him I was dreading the worse

The next day I carefully rechecked every nook and cranny and finally found him wide-eyed and cowering under the guest bathroom sink. He was curled around himself so tight and so far back into the cabinet that I hadn’t noticed his furry black body in the shadows. He was safe! He was just unsure of his surroundings and had found a secret safe space from the perceived danger. It helped once he saw PJ and Honey getting comfortable, and he finally got back to his macho self.

I was in my current home for only a few months before deciding the cats needed a new playmate. The plan was to only get 1 kitten, but we all know how that turned out. Now that we have other the animals in the house Tiger has two distinct opinions concerning his social interactions:

To the kittens: “NO!”

To the dogs: “OH, HELL NO!”

Unlike the kittens Tulip, Muffin, and Clover who are very chummy with the dogs, or even PJ my other adult cat who tolerates them for a while, Tiger has never and probably will never feel comfortable around dogs of any age, size, or breed. As far as the kittens, he only beats them up every once in a while keeps them in check.

Tiger is 11 now, just like my daughter. He’s considered a senior cat and although you cant’ tell by his active lifestyle, his tired looking eyes tell a story of many days in the street. He’s not as affectionate as he used to be, but every blue moon he will jump on my lap and head bump me until I give him the satisfaction of petting him. I tell him what a handsome kitty he is,and remind him that he IS a house cat, no matter how rebellious he wants to be. He will purr for a little while, look into my eyes as if to say “thanks ma, I needed to here that”, then vault down scampering away, lest one of the kittens see his softer side.

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Thank you for letting me share another story with you from my Origins series. If you want to stay current on posts about the rest of the gang please consider subscribing. Also check out my Twitter feed, Instagram, and YouTube channel all under the name Catsdogsharmony. Until next time, keep the harmony!

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