When we went to pick up Malik from the breeders house, she gave us an awesome gift bag full of goodies (for him and for us). When I saw it though, I had to choke back tears because on the top was a large, stuffed white rat. She noticed me looking at it and said she likes for the Savannahs to have larger toys to play with. She didn't know I was reminded of Nimar at that moment, as he had that very same rat, but I was and my heart ached with both the loss we had and the joy of bringing a new baby home.
It was one of those rare toys that actually survived for quite some time in our house. I think he got it when he was 5 or so years old, and we still had it (missing feet, ears, face and tail, and covered with gross cat food) when he passed. He carried it around before his illness and it became victim of his excessive chewing habits after the tumor started to take over. But I can say he loved that thing
Nimar was our beautiful overlord, the Emperor. This weekend, a new King has joined the household. I am absolutely delighted to have an F1 in my life again, and, honestly, I am still trying to process that whole concept. I do, however, want to talk about the differences in our first few days with Nimar vs. the first few with Malik.
We picked up both Nimar and Malik from the breeders' homes in Ohio. Nimar was more than twice the age of Malik when we got him. And he was a bit wild-shy around strangers (perhaps even the breeder). She had to chase him all over the house to catch him when we got there, and she tried to trim his nails before we took him and he was having absolutely none of that. He rode in the crate the whole way home expressing his indignance of the situation.
When we arrived at Malik's breeder's house, he was bouncing around the living room. He would not immediately come to us, but within mere minutes his curiosity got the better of him and he investigated the new people. We even got to pick him up! We all watched him play while Teresa, the owner of the cattery, filled us in on his diet and habits and talked about his siblings (who also had just gone to their new homes). Then we packed up his little spotted self and headed for the car.
He did fight like a little demon in the crate for the first ten minutes. Loud chirps, alligator rolls, thrashing about. And then he was so kitten-tired (that is an extreme form of tired that just makes you fall over asleep) that he curled up with his new wooly mammoth and fell asleep for a few hours.
After that, I let him out of the crate, put the harness on him (the small Hyendry harness we had left from Siada and Layla) and offered him food and water and a potty (none of which interested him). He was, however, excited to explore the vehicle and was very content to sleep on my lap for the duration of the ride.
At home, he readily explored his new space. He would be jumpy with a sudden move or noise, but also readily accepted us as his people. He would rub on our legs, chirp to be put on our laps (where he would climb up to perch on shoulders). If he did not want to be held he was, of course, a ball of wriggling claws and fierce noises, but when he is ready to cuddle, he enjoys being close to us.
By contrast, my beloved Nimar spent most of day one behind the toilet. We had to coax him out with toys, and lure him to us with feather wands. You could not pick him up at all, and it was a couple days of very hard work to get him to let us really pet him. Once he decided we were ok, he eventually stopped being skittish and gave up the headbutts at every opportunity. I understand this is not at all uncommon behavior with early generation cats, but brining Malik into our lives is much like bringing in Siada and Layla who clearly wanted to be close to people, to cuddle, and to be annoyingly right-in-your-face from the start.
I think that perhaps this is due to a mix of really good personality and good socialization on behalf of the breeders we worked with this time around. The experience they have working with hybrid (and wild) cats really shows.
I have mentioned before that ten years with my beloved Nimar taught us a lot of things. That time also taught us what things we need to enforce from the start if we ever want to make them work long term. One of these things was nail trimming.
In a decade, I managed to trim exactly ONE nail on that cat. One solitary talon-of-doom. During his illness an entire team of vet techs could manage it, especially during that last year when he just quit caring, but prior to that, it really only happened when they had him sedated for something.
Understand that he was never bad about clawing on the furniture (though there is that one part of one wooden door frame that he took serious issue with and regularly mauled, but given that that it was just one spot, we choose our battles wisely and let him have it), but you could get accidentally nailed (see what I did there?) while playing, or if he ran over your face or something on one of his mad rampages. But yeah, one nail trimmed in that whole time.
We should have been prepared for that really, as the breeder was trying to trim them when we went to pick him up (after she spent five minutes running around the house trying to catch the little bugger), and even then she could not get them all because he was spitting mad and fighting her.
We decided this time would be different. I learned very quickly that Siada sleeps HARD in the car. After about five minutes of looking out the window, she curls up on my lap in the back seat (with papa driving) and I can trim all the reachable feet (sometimes one is under her and she wont let me have it, but it is still pretty effective and definitely better than my track record with Nimar). Layla tends to follow Siada's lead and so now often sleeps well in the car too, which means I can get some Layla feet then as well. This process happens almost every week as we travel back and forth to the Cabin.
This week I saw a chart about pet nails being passed around one of the Savannah forums. I cannot, sadly, trace it to the original source, but I found it on a number of sites online and have included it and one of the sources below.
How did I NOT know about this? How did I not know that the quick could recede, thereby allowing you to trim even shorter after a few days. This is game changing information!
So last night I got brave. I decided, while in the house, that I would test this out and try to trim the nails shorter (even though I just did them last Friday).
This is a real thing! I could trim them again, shorter. But even more important, I was able to just walk up to Siada as she was sleeping on the sofa and pet and kiss her and then pick up her dainty princess feet and trim all of the nails. She barely woke up.
And to make the miracle even more impactful, I was able to do the same with a sleeping Layla. They are so used to the process, and so over their fear, curiosity, or need to bite the clippers that it was not even the most mild of annoyances as they slumbered.
I guess we will see if we can continue our training (and good luck) with our new little F1 boy whom we will be picking up in just a few days!
Nimar had very set routines. He would butt heads with you strongly if you tried to deviate. This was actually very beneficial once he became ill, as we could readily determine when something was more wrong than usual, because he would alter his routine. Even with our reliance on his stubborn plans, it was easy to build new routines for him if he found it rewarding enough.
When we started traveling with him all of the time, we did our best to make trips, especially those to the Cabin "special" in an attempt to make him less riotous when it came time to transport him. (So, yeah, that did not much work, but he did love the new traditions we built for him at the Cabin.) Among these, was giving him an egg every weekend morning. In fact, he would hear an egg crack and come running to sit at my feet and wait for his special meal. Once it was plated and cooled off, I would tell him to go to the living room so his papa could watch him enjoy it and he knew right where to go and wait for me to bring it.
When I was cooking breakfast this morning, I saw Nimar's little egg pan sitting next to the sink. I only ever used it to cook his single egg in the mornings or his three wild-caught jumbo shrimp every Saturday evening (because you eventually get to a point with a terminally ill animal that you allow them to have pretty much whatever they want).
I decided that since it was Easter, that the little girls could also enjoy an egg for breakfast. I told them that the pan was special as I was fixing it and I told them why. Then took them out to the living room so that their papa could watch them make an epic mess out of it. Will this be a new tradition? I don't know, as they seemed more interested in flipping yellow yolky shards all over the rug than they did eating it. But they were cute doing it and I enjoy the rather bittersweet memories of my little guy.
Do your cats have favorite songs or artists? I have found that my Savannahs tend to have strong preferences in that department. Nimar did not like to travel, he did not like being in the crate or the car. Unfortunately for him, he had to get over it when he became diabetic because his survival was dependent on him being with us at all times. So we got him the biggest crate ever (a large dog crate on wheels), and added a litterbox to it and did the made chase with a blanket to catch him to cram him in the box.
Once we got in the car, he was usually good for an hour of or so of travel (naptime for him, while his people did the hard work of dealing with the idiots on the road). After that time, he would start to throw a tantrum. Sometimes it lasted minutes, sometimes it involved much cage rattling and gnashing of teeth.
That was the case once when I was doing the 2.25hour trek to WV. There was a full-on feline tantrum in the back of the car. I was making me crazy so I turned on the radio. He upped his volume. I upped mine. Then the song finished and the next in queue was Led Zeppelin. Much to my wonderment, he stopped mid-wail and listened.
And continued to listen, to the whole song. He laid down, but was still alert listening. When the song changed again, he started fussing. I grabbed the handy iPhone and loaded up my own Zeppelin collection and he completely chilled out the minute the vocals started. After a few songs he was sleeping peacefully.
This continued to work, without fail, for the next year or so until we lost him. We tried other things and the only thing we found that appeased the beast was the dude on the satellite radio that taught banjo lessons. Go figure. (I also want to note that turning on K-pop would send him into a mad rage, which was fine because I have similar feelings about it.)
I have not yet figured out Princess Siada's music preferences, but I know that Layla loves John Cougar Mellencamp the way Nimar loved Robert Plant. She was throwing an epic tantrum a few weeks ago while being forced to ride in the kitton basket in the car. Bellowing her little lungs out over the awful injustice of it, when on the radio came some of that heartland rock and she became very silent and went from caterwauling-let-me-out-of-this-prison kitty to a BEST DAY EVER little angel. Go figure.
Of course, at this point, I cannot help but get a little wistful, a little sad, when I hear Led Zeppelin. I still miss arguing with my boy about traveling, even though it was complete drama from all ends, because I meant he was still with us. And one particular song will likely still always bring tears to my eyes.
It did not take long at all for Siada and Layla to become inseparable. Layla trots after Siada, imitating her actions. They are now co-conspirators for destruction of the domicile, which, fortunately, amuses us to no end.
Watch where you sit though, they have no qualms in blazing a trail right over you in pursuit of each other. When Nimar was young he would run right over you on the sofa, or even jump the entire sofa with you on it. As soon as you heard the thunder of his paws, you inwardly flinched because you never knew where he would land or what part of you might provide a runway for feline antics. All those feelings are coming back now when I hear the two girls pounding through the house.
There are even some quiet moments (that are just so gooey, sweet and 'awwwwww' inducing that you cannot stand it). I can definitely say at this time that BK#2 (lovely little muppet Layla) was a very, very good idea.
I am very thankful to have a Savannah who is quite delighted to go camping with us. Nimar was the original camping cat in the house, but his journeys with us were a product of necessity, due to the rigid medication schedule we had to adhere to for him. In his younger, healthy, years, I do not think it would have worked. He was too hard-headed and big enough (and smart enough) to figure out how to get out of the RV... or possibly even swipe the keys and just drive off with everything. The last few years though, he was more mellow, and loved his trips in the camper. We decided to install a partition similar to that in a police car, separating the cab of the RV from the coach. This allowed us to use the truck doors as an entry point, so that we could get in, close the door and then enter the coach itself. This prevented any attempted cat escapes. It also allowed Nimar, and now Siada, to watch us as we drive.
We made sure that Siada was acclimated early to camping, with her first trip being to a friend's farm for a July 4th gathering. As usual, she had absolutely no fear, nor trepidation, over the adventure. She eagerly explored the camper, monitored folks on their outside activities, and made loads of new friends.
She went on another trip later this summer and we had our final outing this past weekend, to Charlottesville, VA. Here she got to take several walks in the campground to explore and she saw her first campfire.
I will note that Feral Kitten Mode is really something to behold in a tight space! You just need to get out of her way when she is dashing back and forth, and leaping from the floor to the dinette, to the bunk, to the floor again. She also discovered that she can get stuck inside the jack sofa (ugh).
Most amusing was our attempts to prep our dishes for our groups' 18th Century themed dinner one night during the trip. She has to be next to the sink if you are doing anything in it, and doesn't like being told she cannot watch you cut vegetables. And meat? Well, she thinks that is all hers. The most comical though, was my attempt to cut French bread on the dinette table. She bounced into the room, jumped to the back of the seat, grabbed the bread with both clawed paws and took a massive bite before I could wrestle the loaf from her.
And the newest trick learned on this outing? Well, as we were packing out Sunday, her papa was outside working and she needed to see what he was doing (as always). So I provided a box for her to stand on so that she could see out the window (as I hoped to prevent her from learning that you could climb the upholstered window frames). Well, she was adorable watching from the box, but also learned that climbing is a fun way to get a good vantage point too.
Someone on one of the online SV forums recently made a request to see progress photos of people's Savannah cats as they grow. I collected some images an am amazed to see how much little Siada has already grown!
Of course, I think this progression is even more adorable.
And while I have not gone back through photos to build out a life view of Nimar, I have to include these three. From the time we got him he loved to sit on that monitor... until he totally outgrew it!
Bitty kitton got spayed this morning! Surgery went fine and she is recovering for a bit at the vet's office before we go reclaim her. Now the real worry begins, because keeping this little girl calm for a few days might be the death of me.
Here is a video of Nimar just a few hours after he was fixed. NOthing seems to ever phase these cats!
In retrospect, I think it was a bit odd for me to start a new blog right before leaving town for several weeks. We are back now though, and little Siada is growing like crazy. She has even claimed the high spots (such as the top of the free standing fridge) and the false wall in the cabin between the living room and kitchen. Nimar loved being up there too, before he got sick, surveying all his territory.
Of course, Siada is very different than Nimar. She is smaller, and much more delicate. He had a good bit of Bengal heritage, and despite being long and lean, he was still a very solid creature. My heart sinks every time I see the little girl prepare to leap from the fridge to the floor!
Savannah Caretaker who is honored to do the job.