Acquired: Other (stray, given cat by friend etc.)
Posted Jun 29, 2015
The first American Shorthair I was introduced to had been a part of my family even before my birth. The constant threat was that “the cat was here long before you and will be here long after you too”. He was one of a pair of siblings my mother had adopted at their birth, and he was easily the better of the two. As kittens, Oreo and his sister were extremely active and had a tendency to get themselves stuck in awkward situations. His sister nearly electrocuted herself trying to eat the Christmas tree one year- a testament to how rambunctious the two were. Oreo, the male, was the more docile of the two. His sister had a natural hunting instinct which she displayed by bringing home small birds and mice. Oreo had no such inclinations and was much more affectionate. Before being neutered and spayed, the sister would tear out hunks of Oreo’s fur when she went into heat.
When I was born, I disrupted their happy little enterprise and the two cats showed completely different reactions which seem to represent the full spectrum of possibilities. Oreo was an extremely compassionate cat and when the infant would cry he would lay next to it and check if it was alright. His sister developed severe anxiety and would spray (urinate) on all of the baby’s possessions when the child would make noise. Unfortunately for this reason, the sister left the household and did much better living only with adults. Oreo however adjusted very quickly and was very amicable with children and dogs. Albeit he was not a huge fan of crowds of people invading his house, he never acted out in retaliation. The usual response was to find a bed to hide under for the duration of the event. He was incredibly attached to his family however and would be an active presence during normal days.
He was extremely vocal and used this talent to manipulate the actions of his people. He was a particularly intelligent cat and would pick certain areas of the house with the best acoustics to make his complaints known. That being said, many of his complaints revolved around the need for attention- he needed at least a small portion of every day to be dedicated specifically to brush him. He did not actually require grooming that frequently but he enjoyed the feeling of the bristles. As far as grooming was concerned he was an extraordinarily clean cat and rarely ever needed supplemental cleaning. He was absolutely petrified of baths though, when we did need to help him groom.
He was fed dry food once a day, and wet food once a day, as well as treats throughout the day. The vet noted that he was lacking sodium in his diet when Oreo began licking bricks in the fireplace- a common dietary lapse. He also had a sweet tooth and was known for breaking into the sugar bowl and leaving noseprints in the granules. For the majority of his life, the cat was extremely healthy. Around age 18 however he began developing severe acid reflux and was required to take half of one human Pepcid a day in order to avoid vomiting multiple times a day. As he reached his 20s, Oreo also began to develop a feline form of dementia. He got to a point where if the front paws were in the litter box, he believed the whole body was and would defecate just outside the box. We filled a few baking pans with litter to put around the main box and the problem was remedied.
During the majority of his life he was very active in the late hours of the night, but very cuddly around 11 pm or so. During the day he would find a sunny spot to stretch out until he was interrupted by either the child or the dog. When prompted he was an extremely fast sprinter and was nearly impossible to capture. In contrast to this elusiveness, he was extremely easy to train. My mother had him trained to sit before receiving food or treats, to ring a bell when he ran out of water, and even to “play dead”.
As the youngest child, I thought it was hilarious to inform my friends that there was a "grumpy old man who lived upstairs", before introducing them to my cat. Oreo lived to the ripe old age of 22 years old.