Sophie the Tiny Cat, Or, Mingo Has a Girl Friend

Sophie wouldn’t be in this house if Mingo hadn’t disappeared. He vanished in June of 2018 and it was a dreadful summer. The house was quiet, far too quiet, and even though I had two cats remaining both of them were old. I could see all three of us decaying and dying and would the last one left please close the coffin?

Several friends urged me to get another Maine Coon, but there were several problems. One, it felt like disloyalty. Two, Maine Coon cats are extremely expensive if you go the breeder route, almost as expensive as the damn catio I had been too cheap to build. Guilt, much? There’s a Maine Coon rescue society not very far away, but they were…unhelpful. I lived outside their 50 mile adoption radius, they didn’t like that I’d recently lost a cat, their cats went to inside-only homes, and even if I built a catio they would consider that ‘outside’.  One horrible woman at a rescue in Los Angeles kept sending me picture of cats needing homes and then denying my application. She was happy, however, to request donations. (Oh ha ha)

I’d plastered Ming’s picture all over the local and regional cat lost-and-found rescue websites. This meant I was inundated with pictures of other people’s lost cats, found cats that were not Ming, and lots of cats needing homes.

Sophie was in Wyoming, at a rescue called Small Town Community Cats. She’d been in a feral colony and had been trapped-neutered-released, but the colony had to be relocated. She was supposed to be a barn cat but they’d discovered she had no adult teeth (it’s related to a genetic condition called agenesis or anodontia) so could not hunt and had to be an inside cat. She also was the only cat in the colony friendly enough to be picked up and put in a carrier. She’d been at the rescue for some months and really needed to get out of that cage.

Well, I ask you. Look at that face. She was advertised as good with other cats, which would make a lovely change, she had to be indoors, which since I was now hyper-paranoid about letting cats outside was a good thing, and she was young and healthy except for missing a few fangs. Exactly how old she was remains a mystery: she was neutered in October of 2017, so she probably was born in the spring of 2017. She was taken in by the rescue in May of 2018. I have no idea how the hell she survived a Wyoming winter outside. She might be as much as a year older, which would mean two winters of survival and possibly a litter, but my vet doesn’t think so. Of course, with no adult teeth to gauge age…anyway, based on baby tooth wear and what we know, I think we settled on a birthdate of April 2017. The lack of proper adult teeth don’t bother her; she eats dry kibble and wet food, no problem.

There’s a non-profit called the Catz Meow Transport Service (currently inactive), and relays of volunteers move cats from state to state for military families relocating, adoptions, and special shelters. Sophie arrived on Oct. 7, 2018, after a two day car trip.

While I was waiting for Sophie to arrive (and second guessing myself) I finally thought to ask her weight. She weighed 7 lbs. Now, several friends have told me they have had smaller adult cats, but I was taken aback. Ming was about 12 lbs. when he disappeared and he wasn’t even a year old, Rainy my lovely Siamese (no finer cat) was 10 lbs. and Squeaky was 12 lbs. Ming was well on track to be bigger, way, way bigger, so I had to recalibrate my head. But I thought it might help the remaining cats adjust to her if she was smaller and not a threat.

She was a total mass of fear on arrival. She would throw an impressive hissy fit if anyone tried to touch her (Vet: “Well, her heart is healthy.”) so I isolated her in the back room until she calmed down. This, although the approved first step for integrating a new cat, turned out to be the worst thing for her. She’d been born and raised in a cat colony and then spent months at a crowded rescue and now she was alone. After about a week of no progress in getting her to respond to me, I was reading in the living room. Squeaky was singing the song of his people. He stopped to inhale and I heard Sophie calling from the back room. So I opened the door and sat back down.

Sophie took one look at Squeaky and started following him. He moved. She moved. She finally cornered him on the chair and perched next to him. Squeaky had this bewildered expression on his face (Mom! She’s following me! Make her stop!). She wasn’t aggressive. She just loved him. I found out she’d cuddled a bit with a black cat at the rescue — she obviously associated other cats, especially black ones, with safety. The first month she was here I don’t think she was ever more than three feet away from Squeaky. Another plus, she was excellent with Rainy. She left her respectfully alone and in return Rainy tolerated her.

I was the frightening thing. She ran if I approached her. She wouldn’t eat if I was nearby. Any sudden moves on my part terrified her. I was especially scary if I loomed over her. I’d been feeding the cats in the kitchen, because where else do you feed cats, but since Sophie would not approach the food bowl if I was in the room, I shifted to putting their bowls in the living room and making a special call when I put out the food. (I’m sorry to say it’s “Puss Puss”. Don’t judge.) Sophie seemed to be interested in doors and escape, remember she’d never been an inside cat, and if she ever got out I hoped a food call would help me retrieve her.

She was so paranoid and terrified she’d been scurrying around the house, tummy to the ground, for a week before I saw she had four little white feet. She’d kept them tucked under for safety. She did indeed weigh 7 lbs. and the few times I could touch her she was fluff and bird bones. And eyes. Huge golden eyes.

So we went on for a few months and I managed to get her weight up to 9 lbs. When I touched her she no longer felt like a little bird. On Dec. 17, when I’d had her for a bit over two months, she sat in my lap for the first time. I was overjoyed, but this turned out to be a proof-of-concept because it took another five months for this to be routine. I’d discovered that I was far less threatening when sitting or lying down. Long before she sat on my lap she was sleeping on the bed next to me. I put this down to my personal charisma.  More probably, the electric blanket.

Rainy died of kidney failure on Dec. 26, 2018. She was eighteen. It wasn’t unexpected, and it was fast. I’d always promised myself if she got so ill the meds and the fluid therapy wouldn’t help, I’d take no heroic measures. I didn’t want her to suffer just so I’d have a few more weeks with her. I kept my word. It was really tough, but I’ve found expected grief is bearable. Mingo’s loss was unexpected and the grief remained painful.

So I was down to two cats: Squeaky, who was pushing 16 in 2019, and Sophie, around 2. It wasn’t the ideal age split but they got along well, except when Sophie wanted to play and Squeaky wanted to nap. About four months after Rainy’s death, when I’d given away all the Ringer’s Solution and the sub-Q needles, Squeaky developed the beginnings of kidney disease, hyperthyroidism, and high blood pressure. And there was a lot of expensive drama about an almost-detached retina…trust me, when the cat’s eyeball is blood-red, run, do not walk, to the nearest vet. Anyway, with all the vet trips and the expense I was easily able to parry friends’ suggestions I get a third cat.

And in January of this year you all know what happened.

The universe apparently wants me to have three cats. Fine. FINE. Be like that.

Sophie had been sitting on my lap and I’d been overjoyed, because Squeaky was never a lap cat. He left all that to Rainy. After Ming’s re-arrival, Sophie hid out for a few days but the rescue’s GOOD WITH OTHER CATS apparently extended even to Ming. She resumed lap sitting (yea!) and she and Ming started to play.

Well, Ming’s idea of play. This includes chasing, neck biting, and jumping on top of. Ming was a scrawny 11 lbs. in January and he’s enthusiastically gotten his weight up to 16 lbs. 4 oz. as of last week. Yes, he’s gained over 5 lbs. in four months. Sophie is still around 9 lbs., so I was worried he was either hurting her or going to hurt her. But she seems capable of backing him off when he gets too rough and they spend a lot of time together out in the catio or running around the living room. So I have two younger cats, very close in age, who play together. Squeaky is left in peace to sleep on my bed, and Sophie still cuddles with him. Ming leaves him alone and does not cuddle. He’s such a boy.

Here’s Sophie the Tiny Cat, complete with floof and little white paws.

And here’s her boyfriend, Mingo the Massive, judging me for not feeding him an hour early.

And, finally, here’s a rare terrible shot of all three cats together. They aren’t really together: Squeaky was asleep in the sun when first Sophie and then Mingo arrived to push him out of it. He’s leaving. I include this so you can see the relative sizes.