Tag Archives: Florida

Surviving Hurricane Irma With Cats – Part Two


If you missed part one of this story you can see it here.

I didn’t want to leave the house we rented as a shelter. It was too much stress to pack up the cats again and I thought we would be fine where we were but Rose felt the storm’s path made it unsafe and I wanted her to feel comfortable about where we were, so we quickly got our stuff together and put the cats in the carriers. This time we put Chris in the small carrier and somehow managed to get three cats in the big carrier. It wasn’t the most comfortable for the boys but they were okay.

My electric car did not have enough charge to get there so I had to stop at a charging station on the way. Fortunately, that was easier than finding gas.

When we got to Felice and Jeff’s house they had a bedroom set up for us with two litter boxes. We put the cats inside and that is where they stayed. Everbody hid under the bed at first, even Chris, who was way more stressed than I expected him to be.

I’m sure the room was full of smells from the resident cats and that was probably why Frankie spent the first two hours hissing and whacking everyone, even Rose and me. The cats that gave up their room were not happy either.

Surprisingly, it was little, shy Floki that come out from under the bed first.

Eventually, Chris and Frankie came out too.

Watching the weather became old very quick but we would turn it on periodically to see if anything new developed. I tried to hang out with the cats occasionally to help keep them calm but I also didn’t want to be rude and ignore the people in the house.

I got to see Puck use the litter box for the second time in as many days and thought that there was a silver lining in all this.

litter boxes

At one point we heard the storm made landfall at Marco Island, near Naples. That was much farther south than expected and good news for us because a hurricane that moves over land loses its energy. Of course, it was not good for the people in the Naples area.

The worst of the storm was supposed to occur between midnight and 4:00 a.m. Since all the windows were covered there seemed no point to stay up to watch it so we went to bed a little after 10:00. By that time we never saw anything worse than some rain and a heavy breeze.

I guess Rose and I were pretty tired because we slept through the worst of it and woke up around 5:00. We didn’t want to wake anybody so it was more than an hour before I could look outside. When I did I saw little evidence that a hurricane passed us by. Jeff had an app on his phone that said wind speeds reached 105 miles per hour where we were at around midnight. I was amazed it didn’t wake us up. I was also amazed that we never lost power.

The county that we live in, Pinellas, closed its borders. They would not let anyone in until they declared the roads safe to drive on. That meant we had to stay a while before we could leave for home. I spent the time watching the weather and taking pictures of the resident cats. The picture below is the grown-up kitten we wanted to adopt before Floki but Felice and Jeff claimed him first (see here). The cat outside is one of three strays that took shelter in the garage.

At 10:00 a.m I heard the roads were open so we packed our stuff up and put the cats their carriers. This time Felice gave us a carrier so they were all able to ride home in relative comfort.

A tree had fallen over the road out so I had to turn around and go around the block. The damage to buildings in the area seemed minimal, except for an unlucky few. There were a fair number of trees down and lots of branches on the roads but overall it was much better than expected. Almost half the traffic lights were out and everyone here thinks they need to treat them as a two-way stop. I think the most surprising thing I saw was a billboard that looked like Godzilla attacked it.

Forgive the quality, this is a partial frame from a dash cam video.

I went straight home with the cats and Rose went to check on her mother’s house. Her home survived but she had no power. When I entered our neighborhood, I saw two homes at the end of our street with part of their roofs ripped off. There was also a palm tree lying half way across the street. That worried me a little but the only damage I saw to our house was that three large planters blew over and two of them cracked, one of which was already cracked. We even had power and our alarm clock wasn’t blinking so we never lost power.

I brought the cats inside and they were so happy to be back. None of them lingered in the carrier for even a second. It wasn’t long before they were all on the bed ready for a nap. It was like we had never left.

 

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Hunker Down or Evacuate?


We are watching Hurricane Irma closely. Currently, the projected path is unclear. Some forecast models have the storm turning north and heading up the east coast of Florida. Other models have it turning north and heading up the west coast of Florida. Others have it going straight up the state. We live in Clearwater, on the west coast, and are considering our options about what we are going to do.

National Weather Service Map

The problem is we have four cats and few options on where to go. Rose considered going to stay at her sister’s vacation condo. Her condo is on the eighth floor, well above any chance of flooding. It is also high enough to be less affected by blowing debris. On the other hand, the wind blows harder at those heights and right now Irma is a category 5 storm, so even if it is downgraded, those winds will be very strong. In addition, the condo sits on a peninsula in Tampa Bay, so it is essentially surrounded by water. Worse, the parking garage is below the building so our cars won’t stand a chance.

Her other thought was to stay at her other sister’s house but where she lives isn’t much better than where we live. There’s no sense in packing up four cats to bring them somewhere just slightly better.

The other problem is, we have one large and one small cat carrier. Enough for three cats. One short. I went to Petco today and they were sold out of carriers. According to the woman there, everyone was sold out. It is like gas and water around her. There’s none to be found.

I decided to look online. I found a cheap carrier on Amazon for just over $11. I then paid almost $12 to have it shipped here by Friday. I don’t care how good it is, I just need it to work twice.

Our best option now is to stay with friends who live about six or eight miles east of us. That is a last resort. We don’t want to leave and we will ride it out if we feel safe to do so. We should know more by Friday.

Kittens! Need I Say More?


Yesterday we visited my sister-in-law. I like going there, in part because I like her and her husband, but also because she has a house full of cats that are a great opportunity for photographs. This day was even better because she is fostering three seven-week-old kittens that are almost ready for adoption.

Kittens

Felice works for a vet and has taken in many cats that others rejected. She has experience with bottle feeding infant kittens and has brought several back from the brink of death. She has also lost some, but fortunately these three survived and are now happy and playful. The kittens were found by a client at around four days old and brought to the vet. Their umbilical cords were still attached. Felice took them home and bottle fed them every two to three hours for several weeks. She has a method and I hope to get her to share the details.

I noticed that a couple of the kittens backed away slightly when I tried to pet them but then were okay with it. Felice told me that the mother’s milk has natural antibodies that keep the kittens healthy but bottle fed kittens are subject to a variety of ailments. These ailments lead to a lot of necessary but unpleasant human contact, which explains the hesitation, but now that they are well, I’m sure they will get over it soon.

Kitten Kitten Kitten Kittens Kittens Kittens Kitten Kitten

The black and white female kitten (without the mustache) is spoken for but the two males are looking for a good home. If you, or anyone you know, are near Tampa Bay Florida and would be willing to adopt one, or both, of these cute kittens, please email me at: me (at) charleshuss dot com.

The Great Upheaval


Sixteen months after moving to Myrtle Beach, it was time to go back to Florida. Rose was asked to manage the property she left when she was an assistant manager. It was another promotion for her since the Florida property was more than double the size of the Myrtle Beach property. More importantly, we really wanted to go back to where we belonged.

Since Rose did not want to live on the property, we ended up renting a condo at the same complex that we used to own. We knew it was nice there and did not want any unpleasant surprises, since we couldn’t see the rentals first hand.

The big problem was that renting almost always means two pets. This place had a two pet rule in their bylaws. When we owned it was easier to sneak in a few extra cats, but as a renter, forget it. We decided we could get away with no more than three. That meant that two cats had to go. It was something I was not prepared to do and even tried to talk Rose into moving into one of her own apartments. At least I would have some pull with the landlord. Unfortunately, that did not work.

It was decided that Princess was an obvious choice because she didn’t like any of the other cats and absolutely despised Abbey. She would spend her days hiding under Rose’s dressing table and hiss and growl at Abbey when she came in the same room. Tony, the maintenance supervisor, took Princess for his little girls, who planned on spoiling her.

The next choice was difficult. Chris, we knew, could not be tolerated by anybody and would wind up back at the shelter so, in this case, being bad was good, for him anyway.

That left Tigger and the sister and brother, Abbey and Alex. It was not a matter of which one we cared about more, it was who we thought would be less affected by the separation. In this case, being good was bad. Alex turned out to be the better choice to stay behind because he wasn’t as needy. He also seemed to have become more of a loner as he aged. Don’t get me wrong, he was one of the friendliest cat I knew, he just was becoming less social with the other cats.

One of my last photos of Alex with Chris, of course, on top of him.

Alan, the maintenance technician, took Alex. It was nice to know our cats had someone to take care of them. I could not leave them in a cage at a shelter.

I brought Alex to Alan’s apartment a couple of days before we left and then went over a couple of times to visit him. He seemed happy there. I hated to leave him but that’s life sometimes.

I decided to plan the drive to Florida better than the drive to South Carolina. The first time we drove straight through and that was hard on the cats. This time I calculated the half-way point to be somewhere near the Florida border. I had checked hotels in Brunswick Georgia and Jacksonville Florida and found the ones near the expressway that took pets. This time we were going to leave later in the day and spend the night at a hotel.

Truck driver Rose with the cats.

On November 12, 2010, we spent all morning and part of the afternoon loading the rental truck. When that was done, we were left with the hard part, packing the cats. We had to put the cats between us on the front seat of the truck. In the large carrier, we put Tigger and Abbey because they get along well together. Chris went on top in the small carrier because we thought he would appreciate being able to look out the window.

The cats were pretty good for the most part and we made it to Jacksonville before stopping for the night. They were all happy to be out of their boxes, especially Chris, who had to investigate every nook and cranny of the hotel room.

The next day we drove the rest of the way to Dunedin. When we arrived we had two men come and help us unload the truck. That took many hours and the cats had to be shut up in the bathroom the entire time. I supposed after being in a truck all morning, it was a welcome respite.

Our new place had two levels and Chris shot up and down the stairs like an old pro. He would sometimes skip two or three stairs as he bounded down, usually hitting the ground floor and sliding into the bathroom door. Abbey, however, would come down very carefully, first the two front feet then the two rear feet, one step at a time.

Our new home with screen-less patio.

The biggest problem with our new home was that our patio was not screened nor could it be, so the cats had to stay inside. The other cats didn’t mind but poor Chris was like a bird with no wings.

Life before Chris


Before I tell you about Chris, I feel I need to describe our circumstances that led to his adoption. I guess the best place to start is with another bad cat, Holly.

My sister-in-law is a cat lover who works at a vet and has adopted several wayward cats along the way. One cat, Holly, stands out among the others because of all the trouble she is constantly getting into. Whenever we visit there, my wife, Rose, would get a kick out of Holly’s antics. We would always joke that we were going to take her home because she is such a character.

Holly investigating Gifts

Of course, we were not serious because we had five cats of our own. The oldest cat princess we got as a kitten around 2002. She was part of a litter of feral cats and somehow had most of her tail ripped off. Rose felt bad for the tailless kitten (with fleas) so we took her in. She turned out to be an affectionate, but demanding…cat.

Princess

The next two cats, Abbey and Alex, who happen to be brother and sister, we adopted in 2005 when they were about a year old. Alex was a very friendly cat who liked everyone and Abbey was very shy but affectionate, once she got to know you.

Tigger and Flash came next. Tigger was adopted by Rose’s mom but the shelter called the next day wanting him back because his brother could not be separated from him. Since her mom was not ready for two cats, we took them both. Tigger was a very friendly kitten but his brother, Flash was extremely nervous. We named him Flash because when you tried to pet him he was gone in a flash. He did eventually warm up to me but he stayed nervous around strangers.

Clockwise from left: Abbey, Flash, Alex and Tigger

In the summer of 2009 my wife got a promotion and transfer from Florida to South Carolina. Princess stayed with Rose’s son, Nick and the other four went with us. I had some difficulty finding a job there and when I did it was part-time. I worked about 30 hours a week depending on demand and decided to Volunteer my extra time.

I started at the Myrtle Beach Humane Society. They needed dog walkers and people to let cats out of their cages for exercise. I decided to help with the cats but soon realized it was like spitting in the ocean. They had over 200 cats, most in small cages by themselves. If that wasn’t bad enough, we were only allowed to take one cat out at a time and it seemed only a small percentage would get out of their cage on any given day. I felt bad leaving there because they really needed the help but I needed to do something more meaningful.

My neighbor volunteered at a place called Sav-R-Cats so I decided to give that a try. The Sav-R-Cats shelter was quite smaller than the Humane Society and a bit disorganized but I liked the fact that the cats were in much bigger cages and most were let out during the day to play with each other. Many cats did not even have cages and were left out 24/7. It was here that I was able to actually contribute and it was here that I would meet trouble with a capital C.

Sav-R-Cats shelter

Next time I will talk about my first encounter with Chris and how we ended up adopting him.