Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Stevie the Wonder Cat

It began with a morning phone call. It was our younger son, then a junior veterinarian in a practice in another county. This son would always build slowly into a topic before making his wishes known. Today was different; the words rushed out. "Dad, someone brought a kitten into the clinic today to be euthanized. He's way too cute to kill, will you take him?" This was important!

Knowing full well where we were going to end up, I still had to ask the questions. "Why was he brought in to be euthanized?" "He was born to a mother with feline distemper and he's brain damaged." "What does that mean, how can you tell?" "Do you know that singer called Stevie Wonder? You know how he keeps moving his head around? This kitten does that." "Oh, does he use a litterbox?" "Yes, and when he's asleep he looks normal!" "OK, but his name is going to be Stevie Wonder."

While the head motions have subsided over the years, he still cocks his head to one side when he looks at you. This, and other clues, makes us think that his vision is impaired, although he definitely isn't blind. The rapid head motions now occur mainly when he is faced with a decision, such as to go through the door that has just been opened or stay where he is. And it takes him longer to make a decision than it does the other cats.

Our first clue that he was deaf came when he climbed onto the canister vacuum for a ride while it was in use. The other cats hide out upstairs at such times. In addition, he lacks a cat's sense of balance. The first time my wife attempted to set him down when he was a kitten, he fell on his head. Even today he doesn't like to be picked up.

But living with two other cats, he's learned a lot. We call it cat classes. He's learned to get up onto the bathroom sink and get back down, using the commode lid as an intermediate step. He finally mastered drinking from the faucet, but is still trying to figure out the trick of letting the small stream of water wet the foreleg and lapping the water from the fur. But he'll get it in time. He has learned to climb onto the seat of rockers, where he likes to do racing dives to the floor. He has developed a game, which is based on Newton's Third Law of Motion, where he repeatedly climbs onto a chair and does a racing dive. The chair, of course, moves backward, usually hitting a wall with the force of a 12-pound cat. We remove the two Shaker rockers from the bedroom every night!

Although long since fully grown, he's still a kitten and does kitten things. The other two cats have learned to tolerate it, but only for so long. When they tire of his stalking and attacks, they'll jump onto a piece of furniture where he can't follow. Then comes the game of "treed." He fully thinks he has them trapped and they're usually happy to indulge him. Molly Maguire will even make helpless sounds to indicate duress, not understanding he can't hear any of it. She will eventually tire of the game, jump over him, and race out of reach.

He has developed so much over the past six years that we no longer call him Stevie Wonder. He's now Stevie the Wonder Cat. And he's definitely too cute to have been euthanized.

Are you quite through now?


  1. Stevie sounds - and looks - wonderful. And that is a tribute to a great cat - and to great writing.

  2. Aw, how could anyone resist that? Lovely story Jim.

  3. A friend had a cat like that - he'll be kicking himself that he never thought of calling him Stevie Wonder - so I have some idea of what joy he must bring.

  4. What a touching story. Stevie is a wonderful cat, whose handicap you can not even guess at the photos. Thanks for the nice report.