Monday, January 24, 2011

2010 Cat of the Year: The story of June bug

The people have spoken and by a landslide June bug was named the 2010 cat of the year for the Marler-Schmetterling household. June bug received 54% of the vote and easily won over the electoral college to claim the victory...

I have to say, though, I voted for Alex. Three times.

I love all the cats deeply, and clearly June has the saddest story, but sometimes I feel most for Alex. Alex is very quiet, he doesn’t even purr. When we adopted him, he didn’t even know how to be a pet. His major problem is that he has systematically been ignored. He is small, but not the smallest and his size might be from neglect or malnutrition.

He does nothing wrong (save a few midnight toe bites), and inevitably gets ignored. Even in the post on our cats on a Missoulian reporter's blog, Missoula Red Tape, Alex got left out of the headline ("Vote for June bug! And Squeak! and Natalie!").

Thank you to everyone who voted. I especially appreciated all the thoughtful comments, some were a riot. It is clear that readers of Montana Wildlife Gardener took this responsibility very seriously.

The story of June bug:

This competition turned out to be the story of June bug, and here is a little more background.

As far as we know, she was kept in a dog crate (not kennel, but crate) outside for 8 years. The reason started from her poor litter box use. The previous owner even put her in a diaper, and then ultimately a crate. Outside.

When she was surrendered to the Humane Society the staff was shocked by her appearance and health. The intake form read simply “rough shape”. She had to be completely shaved. She had ticks, fleas, internal and external parasites, a mouth full rotten teeth and infections from the flea and tick bites, and only weighed about 4.5 pounds. Frankly, given her age and condition, I am surprised they kept her alive.

After years of neglect and abuse, she stopped grooming herself.

I first saw June in a description on the Internet, I forwarded the link my wife the link and we decided we had to go see her. We went to the Humane Society and were told she was sequestered in a cage in the staff bathroom (the same place we got Squeak! pictured below).

This was clearly a good sign. "You had us at 'bathroom'," my wife quipped.

When I picked up this tiny, bony, but surprisingly hot, little thing, she started to purr. It was from her purring, I was convinced she was a cat (and that was about the only thing that lead me to believe she was feline- see the picture).

She spent the next hour on me and my wife getting petted and given attention. The staff remarked that this was the first time she’d been loved. It only took us a minute or two to realize that she had to come home with us. However, it would be weeks before she could come home. She had to get dipped for various ailments and could not be exposed to our other cats. So, since we couldn't take her home, every couple of days I’d go down to the Humane Society and carry her around and pet her. She purred when I’d open the door to her room and she’d purr and drool on my lap.

We got her home, slowly introduced her to the other cats, and made her comfortable in her own room. She ate and purred and ultimately put on a pound. Her health though was still really shaky, and we made many more trips to the vet, almost weekly.

Her teeth continued to rot, and we found out she was allergic to her own tooth enamel. The vet pulled all but two of her teeth and we give her daily doses of antibiotics.

She suffered signs of stress and anxiety, and we give her Prozac daily. Her years of abuse have clearly taken their toll. All the trips to the vet made us realize that we might not have her very long, and that she was clearly not a healthy cat. We resigned ourselves to fact that maybe all we were doing was providing her with a comfortable place to live out her life, however short that might be.

Nevertheless, she continued to follow us around, sleep on us, and purr. And eat. She has the biggest appetite of any of our cats, even the 15 lb Natalie (or "Fatalie" as my friend Trisha calls her, lovingly of course). For the record, Natalie is big-boned.

June's hair grew in, and it was the softest fur I have ever seen. Evidently her guard hairs did not grow back. As a result, her coat quickly got incredibly matted.

We discovered everything she liked to eat, which is everything. Or at least everything that my wife and I eat. She is especially fond of meat. Any meat, and raw. She seems to really like deer, antelope, turkey, grouse, pheasant, and cheese.

We eventually had to get her a lion cut. Not the best day.
But she got some adorable sweaters out of it.
Then it seemed like her underfur did not grow back and all she had was her guard hairs. Not the best look either. Her vet tested her for various skin fungi. Yes, it looked that bad. Finally after about one year, she has the right balance in her coat, and she is looking really good. She even grooms her face now. Well, she tries anyway.

Her litter box habits were a very frustrating mystery. We tried everything to get her to consistently use a litter box. Attractants, pheromones, multiple boxes, mood lighting, privacy, etc... It was hard to get mad at her, since her litter box behavior is probably what got her put into diapers and then a dog crate. We've since discovered she will not share a box with the other cats. The most remarkable thing is the other three cats use two litter boxes and they will not use June's! Yay team!

June has her own bedroom (pictured below), and the other cats respect this. Though Alex likes to sneak in and nap in June's bed. But June seems fine with that.
I am continually amazed how adorable and loving this little creature is, and especially in light of how badly she had been treated most of her life. She sleeps between our heads every night, and she continues to get better every day. Her vet never expected her to live this long. Now it seems like she'll live forever, though I know she won't. I was surprised the Humane Society kept her alive, but I am so happy they did.


  1. Such an adorable pets. And that they are being treated as a baby.

  2. Just like babies and they act like one too. They are such an adorable cat. I really love cats.