His name was Howard, and he was our pet cat. We had a lot of cats growing up, but somehow Howard stood out from the rest. Howard, a grey and white spotted fur ball, had a mind of his own. If he wanted to be cuddled or carried, it had to be on his terms. If Howard did not want to be picked up, he would transform himself into a slippery eel and slither to the floor. Only my sister Becky could subdue Howard in her patented feline choke-hold.
Furthermore, Howard was a tomcat through and through. I don’t have to delve into the details, but let’s just say that there are probably a lot of Howard jr’s running around the neighbourhood. Howard was mostly an outdoor cat but did come inside from time to time. It was often in the mornings that we saw Howard at the patio door. One of us would slide the door open, and Howard would limp in. It was clear from Howard’s battle wounds that his nocturnal activities did not involve a restful sleep.
Howard didn’t come inside because he loved us. Rather, he treated our home as more of a convalescent home or an ER. Howard would slip through the door opening, and head straight for his food dish. After filling up, he would find a nice place to sleep and lick his wounds. As the sun disappeared for the day, Howard would be waiting at the door to be let out for a night of ‘tomcatness’.
Howard would show his appreciation every once in a while by bringing dead mice and bunnies to the patio door. Oh, how we would eat! Just kidding. Sometimes, Howard would save his show of appreciation until he was inside and then he would heave up the bunny or mouse.
After a while, we could see that Howard’s nightlife was taking its toll. He had scars upon scars and his fresh wounds were not given time to heal. We became particularly concerned about his ears. Howard’s poor little ears were torn to ribbons and had lost their fur. He kept scratching them as well, which further aggravated them. What to do?
Mom, who obviously missed her calling as a veterinarian, had the perfect plan. First, Howard would not be allowed to go outside until his little ears were healed. Second, he needed a cone around his head to keep himself from scratching his tender ears. Most people would zip out to a pet store and buy a collar cone for their pet in this situation. Mom was not ‘most people’. She was the queen of garage-sales, the dickering diva, the coupon connoisseur, and the rebate ruler. In essence, she was Dutch. She would not buy a fancy cone for the outrageous price of $9.99 – she would make one!
And make one she did. I came into the living room to find Mom eating baby carrots and doing a Sudoku. I heard an odd moaning sound coming from across the room. There was Howard with a crudely fashioned cone around his neck. The cone was made out of a Fruit Loops box – this was Mom’s idea of recycling. I couldn’t decide if Howard was struggling with the cone because it was taped to his fur, or because Howard wanted to eat Toucan Sam.
Mom looked up from her Sudoku with a triumphal grin. After a few moments, we realized that this cone was not going to work. Howard had nearly clawed it off and was clearly not impressed. I removed the cone as Howard glared insolently at Mom. Howard settled down, but soon began scratching what was left of his ears. We were back to square one.
Later that day something rare occurred: I had an idea. Why not use liquid bandage on his ears? With a simple spray, a protective healing coat would be applied to the cut. The next day Mom went out and bought a little bottle of liquid bandage (she probably would have made her own, but she was missing a few of the ingredients). Howard was nicely curled up sleeping. Mom removed the lid and sprayed some of the liquid on Howard’s ears. Mom and I were both amazed at how high a cat can jump. Apparently the alcohol stung a little. Howard was a furry blur for the next minute, but eventually settled down.
The next day, Howard’s war torn ears looked better. They were starting to scab – victory was within our grasp. We knew that his fur would never grow back, but we didn’t plan on taking Howard to any upcoming cat shows anyway.
We decided that one more spray of liquid bandage would do the trick and allow his ears to fully heal. This time Becky was in on the action with her patented feline choke hold. She held, Mom sprayed, and I watched. For the first time Howard squirmed out of Becky’s arms and bounced around the room like a bottle rocket.
His ears healed beautifully (well – except for the fact that his ears were forever bald) and he went back outside. We were afraid Howard would be reluctant to come back to the house for a while, but he was back at the patio door the next morning with a token of thanks: a big dead bird.