Today we’re bringing you a story about another Buddy the Cat from New York, a well-loved domestic shorthair who went missing before a series of snowstorms walloped the New York City area.
This Buddy belongs to John Forestieri of Southold, NY, a town in Suffolk County, at the easternmost tip of Long Island. Forestieri brought the little guy to Fork Animal Hospital in Southold on Feb. 8 for surgery, but on the way out of the veterinary office something spooked Buddy and he bolted from his carrier.
Forestieri searched for his missing feline friend and enlisted the help of others. The veterinary office wasn’t far from his home at just more than two miles away, but a storm was bearing down on the area and Buddy would have to cross busy roads to make his way back.
“I walked for miles, for days and days and days,” Forestieri told local media. “Then the weather got nasty. I didn’t give up on him, but I did think, ‘I don’t think I can do anything for him now.'”
The New York area was already deep into winter weather after it was blanketed with more than a foot of snow on Feb. 2 in one of the worst winter storms in recent memory. A second snowstorm dumped another half foot of snow on the day Buddy went missing. To make matters worse, New York was caught in the deep chill that enveloped most of the country, knocked out power to millions and set new records for low temperatures.
“At first I was holding out hope that he’d be able to stay warm,” Forestieri said.
The Long Island man was beginning to think the worst when he was awoken by scratching outside his sliding door at 4 a.m. on Wednesday morning.
Forestieri was overjoyed to see his Buddy. The cat, who’s been with the family for 10 years, was skinny and his epic trek had taken a toll on him, but he was otherwise okay. He cried out to Forestieri, and the Long Island man said he cried too — tears of joy at his cat’s safe return.
“I thought I was dreaming,” Forestieri said. “But he did it. He found his way home.”
Amazon gave me free shipping on my brand new Buddy, which is supposed to be a vast improvement on the original first-generation Buddy. This Buddy is “more delightful than ever,” according to the marketing materials:
“The amazing Buddy 2.0 is 15 percent cuter, 0.003 percent more brave, and is better than ever at impressing your friends with his vast knowledge of poultry and useless trivia! Thanks to our patented Silky Smooth™ technology, your new Buddy’s fur will feel velvety and softer than ever when you pet him! IMPORTANT: Do not feed Temptations to your new Buddy. Doing so will void your product warranty.”
Merlin was born during 2007’s storm season in the Carolinas, and it was a hurricane that took him from his mom and siblings.
“He was found all alone in rubble and ruin,” his human mom, Meg Ferra, recalled. “Rescue picked him up but mom and litter mates were nowhere to be found, and Merlin was inconsolable. He was not yet weaned.”
Merlin’s kittenhood and first few years were chaotic, cruel and marked by repeated disappointment: The little guy, then called Shadow, was cycled through seven shelters and two families who adopted him, only to bring him back to the shelter system like a defective toy.
He was traumatized by his early experiences, shy and fearful, the kind of cat who huddled miserably in the back of the cage while more outgoing kitties found their forever homes.
His last stop — and last chance — was a kill shelter in New Jersey. The shy grey tabby with tufts of epic white-and-grey fur may have sensed his time was running out and uncharacteristically reached out to a couple that wandered into the shelter one day.
“Merlin put his rather large paw out and grabbed my husband’s shoulder — a feat in itself since three bullies kept pushing him into the corner and making him sit in his food,” Ferra said. “He was malnourished, skinny, oily, messy and sad.”
Ferra hesitated. Long-haired cats usually mean lots of shedding on clothes, carpets and couches. A cat with such a complicated history would present challenges as well.
“Once my husband held him, well, my thoughts of avoiding lots of hair went out the window,” she said.
The Ferras brought Shadow home and renamed him Merlin, a name befitting such a regal feline. They were surprised to discover he didn’t shed much despite his great tufts of wild fur. A subsequent DNA test identified him as a Siberian forest cat, an ancient, accidental breed that developed its characteristics naturally because it lived in isolation from other cat populations, deep within the Russian tundra.
Siberians have quite a few unique qualities. They have three fur layers — guard, awn and down hair — and rival Maine Coons in their floofiness, but their fur is easy to maintain and resistant to matting. They moult twice a year. Their moulting phases are milder than similarly-floofy cats, and their fur has lower levels of the allergen Fel-d1.
Merlin was fearful and shy in his new home, and it became clear that he was not going to soften any time soon. He’d flinch, hinting at past traumas: “You couldn’t raise a hairbrush near him, or hold your hand over his head to caress him.”
“It took five years to break through Merlin’s wall of anger and fear when we brought him home,” Ferra said. “We played it low key, never loud, pushy, punishing, forceful or insulting. By insulting I mean with Merlin, you don’t make deals! Deals always hurt his feelings.”
One day, Ferra was trying to get Merlin to play with one of his toys when he lashed out at her.
“He tore up my forearm. I was dripping blood from wrist to elbow. I didn’t move. He didn’t move. His eyes were black orbs. I could see the wheels spinning. ‘Will she hit me? Yell? Throw me? Send me away?’
“I exhaled slowly and in my calmest demeanor said to him: ‘Merlin, what are you still so angry about? Frightened about? Don’t you know by now no one is going to hurt you here? It’s been five years and you’re safe, honey. You’re home, nothing will ever harm you again. They’d have to go through your family, daddy and me. You’re not alone, my love.’ And damned if his pupils didn’t recede. He let out a little whimper and his whole body relaxed.”
From there, Ferra said, “it’s been belly kisses and raspberries,” but Merlin “was not a cuddler.”
“But like clockwork every week he would approach me, tap my leg and stare up at me. Not too mushy, but as if to say ‘I want a hug now!’ I ate up those two minutes. I’d pick him up and simulate his lost mom’s cheek rubs, which he loved and craved.”
Merlin developed health problems. In particular, his hips and neck began to bother him. Those are side effects typical of his breed, which has longer back legs that make Siberians powerful jumpers. He began suffering from hyperthyroidism and arthritis in his later years.
At seven years old, Merlin fought off a bout of pneumonia. But when he came down with it in early December, he didn’t have the strength to fight it off.
Ferra and her husband, Joe, stayed up with their beloved cat for almost 48 hours, monitoring him. Her husband even put off his dialysis to stay with the little guy.
But by Tuesday, when Merlin could no longer lift his head, Ferra knew it was the end. Merlin was euthanized on the morning of Dec. 9 at the veterinarian’s office. He was 13 years old.
The typical symptoms of grief set in: Ferra kept looking for the little furball, momentarily forgetting he was gone. She left his food bowl and his water fountain untouched. Her life suddenly had a vacuum in it.
That this happened now in the midst of a pandemic, as the death and infection rates skyrocket, lock-downs begin anew and the prospect of a dark winter casts a gloom over life, makes Merlin’s absence especially challenging. The Ferras’ children are adults, and their house is now quiet. Merlin’s presence mitigated the isolation and dreariness of life in a pandemic, as cats and dogs have done for millions of Americans this year.
For Joe, even his treatments remind him of his cat: Merlin would stand guard when Joe settled in for dialysis, remaining for the length of the treatment.
Ferra said she and her husband are considering adopting litter mates or inseparable friends. They feel Merlin would want them to provide a home to new cats.
“Joe has asked me how long I need until we open our home and hearts to a bonded pair. My husband can’t stand the emptiness. I just need a little more time. But with COVID and and the overflowing shelters I feel even Merlin wouldn’t want me to wait too long.”
Special thanks to Meg for talking to us about Merlin despite her fresh grief at losing the special little guy. We wish Meg and Joe the best this holiday season, and when they open their home to new kitties who need some love and a place to call their own.
I was working on a writing project late one night when I got up from my desk, intending to head to the kitchen for a beverage when I almost stumbled over Buddy, who was lounging care free and belly-up in my bedroom doorway.
“Not a good place to lounge, Bud,” I said, stepping over him as he stretched and yawned.
I took another step, looked up…and saw Bud sitting on the dinner table about 12 feet ahead of me, fixing me with his quizzical Buddy Stare. WTF? I thought.
I did a double-take, looking down at the doorway where the little dude had been laying just a second ago, then turned back toward the table. Buddy regarded me, head cocked slightly to one side as his tail gently thumped the table.
For a long second I entertained the possibility that there were two cats, that somehow a gray tabby who looked a lot like Bud had gotten inside, and for some unfathomable reason Buddy was perfectly nonchalant about it.
“No teleporting in the house!” I told him. “It’s rude!”
“Mrrreppp,” Bud replied, hopping down from the table and stepping toward the kitchen.
The story comes to mind because we had another teleporting incident last night, with little man lounging on my bed, then appearing on my desk chair half a second later.
It’s easy to forget how quick and silent cats can be when it suits them, especially since the majority of their time is spent sleeping, eating and lounging. Their little legs can accelerate them to 30 miles per hour, which leaves average humans in the dust and even surpasses the fastest human runners.
Not bad for a species known for its unmatched laziness.
Please share feline teleportation stories if you’ve got ’em. We must further investigate this additional facet of feline weirdness!
A distressed Redditor says his girlfriend of seven months gave him an ultimatum: Get rid of his cat, or the relationship is over.
He chose the cat.
If only he’d seen the warning signs earlier.
“She is an outspoken vegan, and she made it clear at the start of our relationship that it was important to her that any potential had similar cruelty-free values,” the Redditor wrote. “Me, already being a pescatarian, had little difficulty transitioning to a fully plant based diet. My GF was proud of me for going cruelty free and everything seemed well.”
With her boyfriend converted, the pair “became ‘the vegan couple’ on our college campus.” Retch.
However, Ms. Vegan wasn’t done creating the Perfect Boyfriend:
Fast forward through all the quarantine stuff… My gf and I have spent a lot of time together during this pandemic and we’ve started talking about taking our relationship to the next level. We began seriously looking at either buying a new apartment together or having one of us move in with the other.
However, after a lot of talking and planning, my GF sat me down and dropped a bomb shell on me. She said that with this next phase of the relationship, she did not see a future with me unless I was willing to give away Mittens. She said that she believed owning a cat is unconscionable for vegans, because they hunt mice and eat meat, and because the very act of owning a pet is a violation of vegan principles.
If you’re reading this and thinking that’s strange logic, you’re not the only one: The guy’s girlfriend wanted him to dump a well-loved animal because the cat eats meat and might hunt mice. (It’s not clear from the post whether the cat has access to the outdoors.)
But that’s not all!
I was stunned. I told her that I was absolutely not willing to give up Mittens, and she had no choice but to eat meat so I was reducing harm as much as possible by buying reputable brands of cat food. Plenty of vegans own cats and think along those same lines. My gf got mad and said “how much flesh does your cat eat? How many animals died to make all that food? Would you be okay with that being human flesh?”
I got mad and told my GF that I would have really appreciated her telling me about her cat opinions before we got serious. She went on and on about cats killing animals. I ended the conversation there. I was so angry that I left my gfs apartment. And I snuggled with Mittens when I got home! Although the mood soured a bit when my GF sent me a link to a Reddit thread advocating for the extinction of domestic cats. Sigh
I don’t think the Redditor’s vegan (ex)-girlfriend has really thought her position through.
Cats have been living with humans for thousands of years. The process of domestication results in genetic changes that make cats more friendly, sociable and curious than their wild forebears, at the expense of traits — like aggressiveness and cautiousness — that would help keep them alive in the wild. It’s nature’s trade-off, and it happens in every domesticated species.
In other words, domestic cats don’t have a “natural habitat.” They don’t have a home in the wild, and they belong under the care and protection of good humans.
We domesticated them, so it’s our responsibility to care for them.
If vegans are motivated by ending animal suffering, exterminating an entire species of cat — millions of animals — seems an odd way to go about it. So does advocating the dumping of millions of animals who are damned to short, brutal lives without human care.
Thankfully, the Redditor refused to dump his cat — who he’s had for more than three years — and ended it with Ms. Vegan.
“So, we broke up, obviously,” he wrote in a follow-up post. “I would never, ever give up my cat Mittens. Many users said that this situation was about control, not veganism, and looking back, I do see a pattern of control on my GFs part. I was blind to it I guess.”
Feline humor, news and stories about the ongoing adventures of Buddy the Cat.