Unforgetable: Scooter the Siamese Cat

Five years ago today Scooter the Siamese Cat completed his ninth life and moved on up, one month after his 23rd birthday.

I'm honored to say that Scooter changed my life. I had never liked cats and Scooter obliterated that prejudice the moment I met him (on my first date with Ann).

He was handsome, wise, and fun. His weakness was fighting (look at his ears), which supported local veterinarians and emergency animal clinics. We miss Scooter today and every day.

Young Scoot

For cat people, here are several stories I wrote about Scooter.

  • Know Your Blind Spots
  • Scooter Rolls Past 104
  • Scooter the Cat Is 20 Years Old
  • Sixteen and Wise?
  • That Darn Old Cat
  • We All Need Nine Lives
  • Scooter's Battle Ears (back) 

    Scooter the Siamese Cat photo

    Blue Arrived Four Years Ago

    Young-BlueFour years ago today Ann went to look at some kittens. We were looking for a companion for our new kitten Sweetie Wildcat. (Scooter the Siamese Cat had passed away two months prior to Sweetie's arrival.)

    Ann arrived at a home where some seven-week-old kittens were available. One of the kittens crawled out from under a sofa where it had been hiding from the kids and came to Ann. She picked her up and the kitten went to sleep in her arms. Easy decision.

    Sweetie was not overjoyed to meet her new companion at first, as you can see in the photo. They have become great friends over time. 

    Today Ann took Blue to the garden. Blue spotted a wood rat that had been eating the beans (we thought chipmunks were to blame) and ended its existence with a terrier-like shake. She was very proud of her hunt. We are so pleased that this joyous, pretty kitten came to live with us and is also a working garden cat.Sweetie-Meets-Blue

    Nature in the Backyard: Cat Meets Black Rat Snake

    Missy the Siamese/Himalayan cat on a leash

    I was walking our alpha female cat Missy on a leash when she spotted something strange in the pinestraw bordering our back yard.

    I realize that many people would wonder why I would walk a cat on a leash. Missy had never, in her three years of life, been outside until I started walking her, in late August 2008 (3 weeks ago). Our three cats have always been indoor cats, for a good reason. Our cats don’t go out due to the pack of coyotes that patrol our neighborhood; these coyotes have reduced the outside cat population greatly in the last few years.

    Scooter, our Siamese cat who died in 2005 at age 23, apparently knew how to deal with coyotes because he went out daily until he was forced into retirement for fighting. But Scooter was street smart and woods wise.

    We don’t want our three cats to learn about coyotes the hard way, so we’ve kept them inside. But Missy has been so restless this summer that we decided to give her some new adventures, hoping that she might quit misbehaving (peeing in sinks, knocking the other cats around, etc).

    On September 6 Missy and I were strolling on the edge of the back yard when she spotted the black rat snake. Missy didn’t look at it very long because she didn’t know what it was, and it wasn’t moving. I decided to start her education on large snakes. So I picked her up, tucked her under my arm, and walked over to the snake for a close inspection.

    Black Rat Snake

    Before I go any further, let me offer some advice. Don’t do this!!! The six-foot snake stayed still for about 20 seconds. Then, it decided to move on. Missy’s eyes bugged out and then she freaked.

    If you’ve never had a cat that you are holding freak out, you are fortunate or smarter than I was.

    Our cats have claws — when they are frightened, they use their claws to accelerate away from the cause of the fright as quickly as possible. Since she was under my arm, I was the launching pad for Missy’s sprint to safety, and her claws used my arm and hand, instead of the ground, to push off.

    Needless to say, my right hand was scratched badly. Missy ran to the end of the leash and climbed about three feet into the air when the leash halted her sprint. She was running back to our house. I ran after her to try to get her under control. She hit the end of the leash several times before I was able to catch up to her. I grabbed her behind her shoulders with both hands, held her out at arms length to avoid the windmilling legs with claws out, and got her back in the house.

    I returned with the camera to take photos of the snake. I’m assuming its the same black rat snake that has been around our home since 2005 – how do you tell one six-foot black rat snake from another? Since snakes that large are relatively rare in neighborhoods, I think it’s the same snake.

    I met this snake for the first time in 2005, soon after Scooter died. It was having lunch at the expense of a nest of cardinals in a rose bush behind our house. You can see photos at this link: large black rat snake visits.

    In April of 2007, it visited again. A week later, I discovered where it lives: snake condo.

    This snake started hanging around our home soon after Scooter, our beloved Siamese cat, was no longer around to claim our yard as his territory. I hope it stays around because it is safe here.

    An intriguing question: Does Missy’s reaction mean that cats have an innate fear of snakes? (Do people?) Please leave your opinion as a comment.

    Scooter the Siamese Cat Is 23 Years Old

    Scootbirthday23 On April 10 we celebrated Scooter’s 23rd birthday. He dined on rotisserie chicken and was coddled all day.

    At 23 in human years, Scooter is about 115 years old in cat years. His spirit and Siamese voice are still strong, but his body is wearing out. His legs have lost their spring, his balance is shaky, and his hearing and eyesight are fading. His vet says his kidneys are not working very well and he’s lost two pounds (he only weighed seven pounds before he lost the weight!). He’s dropped that Siamese royal attitude – when he doesn’t feel well, he’s cranky, but most of the time he’s very sweet and appreciative of the care he receives.

    On this birthday, some vivid memories always come up. I’m thinking about 10 years ago when he used one of his nine lives.

    One morning Scooter walked into my office and jumped into my lap, as was his habit (he can’t make that jump now). But something very strange happened: he peed in my lap. I dumped him on the floor and cursed. When Scooter hit the floor, he fell over on his side. I could see that he was breathing very fast. He couldn’t walk. I felt terrible when I realized that he had used all his energy to jump into my lap and he was very ill.

    Scooter had received a nasty bite in a cat fight several weeks prior to that day. Scooter defended his territory diligently in those days , which means he fought weekly and was injured regularly. (His territorial boundaries are almost identical to our lot lines.) We hauled Scooter to the emergency vet often to get patched up. I hated going to the emergency vet’s office; waiting for an hour or two in a room with tense, upset people and seeing people bringing their pets in when the pets were often in terrible shape.

    What we didn’t know is that Scooter had received a poisonous bite – the biting cat was a carrier of hemobartonella, a type of infectious anemia that prevents the red blood cells from holding oxygen.

    We took Scooter to the emergency vet and they said he needed to go into the oxygen cage, which would help him breath. Ann and I went to see him that night and he was barely alive. We could see that the vet assistants didn’t think he would make it through the night. Ann held him and he was breathing very fast, trying to get enough oxygen. We were so sad driving home that we couldn’t talk.

    Ann was commuting to mid-town for work at that time, so I went to the emergency vet’s office the next morning, expecting the worst. He was "doing better" after spending all night in the oxygen box, much to everyone’s surprise. I took him to the regular vet’s office where they put an IV port in his leg and kept him on an IV all day. I picked him up that evening and brought him home so he could spend the night with us. In the morning I took him back to the vet’s office. We repeated that routine for two weeks. As Scooter grew stronger, he used all his energy while he was home trying to get that IV port out of his leg.

    Within a month, Scooter was back: fighting trespassing tom cats, hunting birds and lizards, and yowling as only a Siamese can.

    Five years later Scooter would nearly lose the fight of his life again (link We All Need Nine Lives).

    Not Understanding

    This morning Scooter the Siamese Cat came into my office, yowling at top volume. After I scratched him thoroughly he went to Ann’s office and yowled continuously. She took him outside for a walk. Soon, Scooter was back in my office; I let him sit in my lap for 15 minutes while I worked. Then he went back to Ann’s office; she put him on the deck. Soon he wanted off the deck. He still bounced between our offices, yowling irritably.

    After about two hours of the squeaky wheel needing grease, we were getting weary and angry with Scooter’s harassment. I rationalized that the bad weather heading our way had him upset. Ann always worries that he is tired of his food.

    Ann went into our bedroom and happened to glance at Scooter’s bed. She discovered that he had barfed in his bed and had been trying to tell us about it. As soon as his bed was cleaned up, he took a long nap.

    Anyone have a recipe for crow?

    Nature in the Backyard: Coyote

    I walked into the bathroom at 10am and glanced out of the window into the backyard. A large coyote came out of the woods into our backyard, running at half speed. He cut across our backyard and headed towards the street. I lost sight of him as he passed on the east side of our house.

    I ran to the garage but I didn’t get to see where he went. Based on his direction, he ran up the walk way in our backyard and between the driveway and the garden. I wonder how often this occurs.

    It could happen several times a day and we wouldn’t see it very often. I just don’t know if I was fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time or if it’s a commonplace occurrence. The path the coyote used is a place where Scooter often goes when we take him out.

    What would have happened if Scooter had been on the path when the coyote came by? Would I have been able to intervene quickly enough to prevent Scooter’s demise?

    That Darn Old Cat

    Scooter the Siamese Cat backed into our herb garden, pointed his tail at the sky, and peed — on the herbs we use to flavor our food. Then he walked over to the catnip patch, rubbed his face against the catnip leaves, ran a half circle around the yard, climbed up the tree beside the deck, and jumped onto the deck. We like to see Scooter climb the tree to the deck — he is nearly 18 years old (that’s 90 in human years) and it shows that he can still get around. Tree climbing has become a necessary survival skill for cats in our neighborhood since the coyotes moved in. Our neighbor two houses down had six cats not long ago — now they have two. In the past we often saw stray cats traveling through the neighborhood; we haven’t seen a stray cat in months. The only good news for us is that Scooter doesn’t get in fights any more — there are no cats left to fight!

    Several months ago we replaced the deck on the back of our house. To jump from the tree to the new deck required learning a new maneuver for Scoot and we hadn’t seen him "make the leap," so we were encouraging him. Ann was on the deck calling down to him to come up; I was on the ground watching. He climbed about eight feet up the tree, stopped, and quickly backed down the tree. He ran about 20 feet, stopped, and frantically started cleaning his fur. I was mystified by his failure to jump onto the deck, so I walked over to the tree and looked up. Around the tree trunk was a large spider web, with a big spider right in the middle of it. Scooter had detected the spider web, probably with his whiskers, and backed out. I can relate — I hate feeling a spider web on me, especially if there’s the possibility of a spider crawling around on my head or back. Scooter only weighs seven pounds, so a big spider could be a real problem — like you or me having a fanged, venomous rat stuck on us.

    Scooter hates getting wet almost as much as spider webs. One sunny day last autumn Scooter had been out and away from the house for about two hours so I went out to check on him. I walked into the back yard and heard a squirrel clucking the predator alarm in the woods behind our house. Concerned about the possibility of a coyote, I stalked slowly along a big gully that runs down to the creek deep in the woods. I stopped to listen and heard a leaf rustle. I stopped for a moment and saw movement in the gully. Scooter came into view walking up the gully. He would take two steps, stop and shake a leg, take another two steps, shake another leg, and so on. As he got near, he scented me but he wasn’t happy to see me — he was pissed off! He was wet and mad about it. He had fallen in the creek! He didn’t want to be seen in such a sorry state — he found a sunny spot and licked all the horrible water off his fur. My guess is that some leaves were covering a pool and he thought it was solid ground.

    Scooter prefers to lick something wet like grass or leaves when he is thirsty and outside — he is uncomfortable drinking from a large body of water. He probably can’t hear very well when he laps water from a lake or creek, which makes him vulnerable to attack. Also, if he is ambushed from behind while drinking from a lake, he is trapped. I prefer to think that he is genetically predisposed to avoid deep pools of water. His ancestors were jungle cats, where crocodiles inhabit the rivers. A cat would be a nice snack for a big crocodile, or a prize catch for a small one. Along with getting wet, he despises getting cold, but once he really surprised me.

    One dark and dreary winter night several years ago we were having a sleet storm. (It was before Scooter was put on permanent curfew for fighting at night. At that time he had a cat door to the outside and could go out at any time. Almost every morning at daybreak he would go out for about an hour and then come back to the bed with us.) On this particular morning, the howling wind woke me up right at dawn. I couldn’t sleep and for some reason I went downstairs. I looked out on the deck and saw a most unusual sight. Scooter was on the deck, stretched out on the railing, facing into the wind with sleet bouncing into his face. The temperature was about 25 degrees, and the wind was blowing about 20 mph, which means the wind chill was about zero. Scooter seemed to be enjoying the blizzard — I had to go out and pick him up to get him inside. He had ice frozen in his fur.

    Why does a cat get underfoot while you are walking? Scooter takes that annoying cat quirk to new depths. When you are carrying something that blocks your view of the floor (like a television) down the stairs, Scooter will run to get right in front of you. And STOP!!! Just before you step on him, he will squall and you will stumble. Once we had two strong guys come up to my office on the second floor to carry a heavy filing cabinet to the basement. Scooter always hides when strangers, especially large men, come into the house. As soon as they picked up the filing cabinet and got to the top of the stairs, Scooter ran out of the master bedroom and got under their feet.

    Not long ago I had a client meeting with me in my home office. She told me that she is allergic to cats. I told her that our cat is deathly afraid of strangers and that she would never see him. Within minutes Scooter trotted into my office, started rubbing against her legs, and wanted to jump in her lap! I had to call Ann to come get him and carry him away. He protested vigorously. My client was starting to have an allergic attack as she left.

    Although Scooter misses the freedom of the cat door and lets us know about it at every opportunity, we had good reason to restrict his freedom. No more being awakened by cats yowling and having to run outside at 2am to break up a fight because Scooter has found a unwelcome feline on his territory and he is telling intruder how badly he is going to beat his butt. Scooter is a little cat with a very loud voice — common with the Siamese breed. It is a most unpleasant wake up call. The migration of coyotes into our area is another reason we don’t want Scooter out at night. Oddly enough, Scooter has never accepted that we won’t let him out at night. He sleeps until dusk and then goes to the door and loudly demands to go out. I believe that the human distinction between day and night is not obvious for cats, because they can see so well in the dark.

    Last year the very loud pre-fight yowling of two cats getting ready to tangle woke me up from a deep sleep. Scooter, with no way to go outside, was in the bed with us. I went to my bathroom — the two cats were about 20 feet below my bathroom window. Soon after I arrived, the rough stuff started. The awful sounds of a fierce fight ensued, and I could feel the impact of their struggle as they tumbled through one of Ann’s flowerbeds. The fighting continued across the yard and into the woods. The next day I went to the scene of the fight — about 18 feet of flowers were flattened and shredded. Chunks of white fur were scattered all over the ground. Cats can be sweet, lap–loving animals or incredibly vicious, and they have the tools to be killers: lightning fast reflexes and 16 built–in switchblades backed up by sometimes poisonous bites. They can be very destructive to each other (the dark secret about cats — they hate most other cats!). I don’t miss the days of rushing Scooter to the emergency vet to get him sewn up. I was especially glad he wasn’t mixed up in the fight I heard that night.

    Scooter doesn’t have to be outside to create havoc while we are sleeping. One day I said to Ann "I’m glad Scooter doesn’t every throw up while he’s on the bed." (He eats grass in the yard and comes in and regurgitates on our carpet far too often.) Well, you know what happens when you make a statement like that — it doesn’t take long for it to boomerang. About 4am I was awakened by the violent heaving of a cat about to spew on the middle of our bed. I grabbed him behind the front legs and started running for my bathroom. (It takes great skill to pick up a cat and run with him when he doesn’t want to be picked up. He gets very sticky, like a porcupine, and will scratch you like a thorn bush if you don’t have exactly the right hold.) So I was barely awake and running with my arms extended straight out in front of me holding Scooter, who was heaving and had all four legs wind milling with his claws out. I ran into the bathroom and dropped him in the bathtub. Then I tried to compose myself, feeling some relief about saving the bed from the puker. Of course, Scooter kept jumping out of the tub, indignant about the rough treatment. It was only after I walked back into the bedroom and stepped in something wet that I turned on the light. The trail of cat barf on the carpet extended from the bed to the bathroom.

    When Scooter really gets upset because we won’t let him out at night, we race to burn off his excess energy. I call him to the basement — he knows what I’m up to — and as soon as I think I can get the jump on him, I run as fast as I can to the second floor. It is amazing how Scooter the old cat can get to the top of the stairs on the second floor first. He delights in outrunning me.

    One morning — when he had a cat door to the outside — Scooter woke me up as he came in from an excursion at daybreak and snuggled against my beard (furry things stick together). I could feel moisture from the dew on his legs. I went back to sleep. That morning I got a haircut. When I returned home, I looked in the mirror to check out my haircut. I saw something strange just inside the top of my ear. I looked closely and it was a TICK!!! Scooter had brought it in and it had crawled over to me. (Several times I’ve had dozens of chiggers bites, from the same source.) I was not elated when I realized that I had gotten a haircut with a tick in my ear. My barber didn’t mention it to me, but I’m sure he had something to talk about after I left.

    April 9, 2000

    P.S. Tomorrow is Scooter’s 18th birthday. Unfortunately, the last three months have not been the best for him, health wise. He’s finally acting his age — he’s moving more slowly, making fewer trips to the deep woods, avoiding fights, and not hunting anymore (the same could be said for me!). We hope warm weather will see him return to good health. Perhaps he hasn’t used all of his nine lives.