Monday, March 6, 2023

It was worth the drive

Our Designer Cat, Larisa, was 17 years old when she "crossed the rainbow bridge" on December 1. We called her a Designer Cat because my husband Art is allergic to cats, and she was hypoallergenic. 

When Art and I  first got together in 1992 my previous cat Muffin had been in my household for five years. One day Art said he was sorry, but if the cat was going to sleep in our bed he would have to sleep in the guest room, because he was allergic to her. So after that we closed the bedroom door and Muffin slept somewhere else.

After Muffin was gone we were catless for five years. Then I heard about Siberian Forest cats. The breed began to be imported from Russia in the 80s, but I hadn't heard about them until I started researching hypoallergenic cat possibilities. Some, but not all, Siberians lack the protein in their saliva that causes allergies. 

In 2008 we drove to Stayton, Oregon, to do an allergy test with Larisa, one of the Lundberg Siberian queens. Art buried his face in her fur, and he didn't get all watery eyed and sneezy. He wasn't allergic to her! So we put our names on the Lundberg kitten list, hoping for one of Larisa's kittens. Six months later, we were looking at the Lundberg Siberian webpage and discovered that Larisa was being retired as a breeding queen and was available for a family. We applied to purchase her and we were accepted. We drove again to Oregon. We let Larisa out of her crate in the car on the four-hour drive home, and she did her exploring. But once we got her home, she hid, as cats usually do in a new and unfamiliar place. Larisa knew where the litter box was, and she found the food and the water. But she lived mostly under the bed, and we'd had her for 62 days before she'd let us touch her.

Larisa took her time to become a regular house cat. She was always a bit shy, not much of a cuddler. But she loved to be brushed, and she spent time near us in the evenings, usually on the back of a sofa where she could see what was going on. When we started dividing our time between Brier, a Seattle suburb, and Tucson, she traveled with us in her soft-sided Sherpa crate, under the seat in front of me on the plane. Both places were home to her as they are to us.

After Larisa died, I did a national search for another retiring Siberian queen. I found five - in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, California, Oregon and Arizona.  I'd developed a short list by Christmas, and asked Art what he thought. He said, "I know you want another cat, but I think it's too soon." He rarely expresses an opinion, so when he does I listen.

We decided on a cat living in Kingman, Arizona. Her registered name is Pumaridge Killjoy Dutch, but she is called Dutchy. She is a red mackerel tabby. She was due to be bred one more time, and her owner said she'd probably be ready to pick up in June. That was fine with me. We'd be traveling home to Washington in late April. I intended to have my knee replaced in early June. I figured by July I'd be ready for a new cat. We would fly to Las Vegas to pick up Dutchy, with the cattery owner driving from Kingman to meet us.

In late January I heard from Tina, the owner of the Pumaridge cattery in Kingman. She said they'd decided not to breed Dutchy again, so she would be spayed and available to us in late February. I wanted to be sure Art wouldn't be allergic to her, so we decided to meet Dutchy first. As it happened, we were meeting several of our grown children in Sedona for four days in early February. When our family time ended, we made the three-hour drive from Sedona to Kingman to meet the cat. Again, Art buried his face in her fur, and again he did not sneeze or get watery eyed. 

So last weekend we drove from Tucson to Kingman - a five-hour drive - to pick up Dutchy. We spent the night in a Kingman motel. We arrived at the Pumaridge cattery at 10 a.m., and by 11 we were on our way back to Tucson, with the cat in a crate in the back seat of our Accord. Dutchy did a lot of talking on the way home, but she was a pretty good car traveler.

Road trips used to be more fun than they are now. Art and I are older and way less agile than we used to be. Every time we got out of the car for a meal or for gas, it took a few feet of walking for us to get our legs working properly, and Art used his cane most of the time. Plus, I did most of the driving, because Art is a very assertive driver and when he is behind the wheel I am scared. So this trip to Kingman was a must-do thing, but I wouldn't say it was fun. 

For the first 24 hours at our house, Dutchy talked a lot. I'm thinking she was asking questions: "Where am I?" and "Who are you?"

Dutchy has been with us for a week now. She knows where the litter box is, and she's eating and drinking. She's found her favorite hiding spots. But she's already let us touch her - no 62-day wait for this one! She loves to be brushed under her chin. We heard her purring yesterday. She's starting to hang out with us, though she dashes away at sudden sounds or movements. We put treats where we want her to explore, and she finds them all. Including the ones on our bed. I suspect she'll be a snuggler when she feels at home.

Our new girl was worth the drive!