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Mr. Mouse and His Mom, Coweeta
Mr. Mouse and Coweeta
 
Mr. Mouse and Coweeta.
Mr. Mouse and Coweeta on a quilt that Liz made.

The difference between cats and dogs

A dog says: These people feed me, they pet me, they play with me, they take care of me, they must be gods.

A cat says: These people feed me, they pet me, they play with me, they take care of me, I must be a god.

Coweeta bunkhouse circa 1948 (not much different from 1994).
Old bunkhouse at Coweeta Research Station. Coweeta made a nest for her kittens on the left.

How four cats, a mother and her three kittens, came to live with us.

During late 1994, I was working on a project studying the species diversity of small mammals (especially shrews) in the Southern Appalachian Mountains of Georgia and the Carolinas. At the end of August, four of us grad students and our professor, Dr. Joshua Laerm, went up to the Coweeta Hydrological Research Station, a University of Georgia Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) Station, outside of Franklin, North Carolina, to spend a week setting up pitfall traps for shrews, amphibians, and invertebrates.

We arrived after dark, and typical for a bunch of guys on the road, had picked up a couple of pizzas on our way through town.

coweeta
Coweeta

When we arrived at the research station bunkhouse, we were greeted by a very hungry, little female cat. We offered her some pepperoni from the pizzas, and she ate all we would give her.

Later that evening, we realized that she had three kittens under a box resting against the outside wall and realized that some nasty human had abandoned them at the bunkhouse. The kittens probably opened their eyes that day or the day before. The next day we went to town for field supplies and picked up several cans of cat food. The cat mom ate everything we gave her, and by the end of the week, the kittens were out of the nest and hanging out on the porch.

Mr. Mouse
Mr. Mouse

When we left at the end of the week, I decided to take them home. I put the kittens in a 5-gallon bucket, picked up the mother, and put them all in the truck (Chevy Suburban). The kittens were oblivious, but the cat mom went crazy not knowing where her kittens were. It took her a couple of minutes to find them in the bucket, during which time you have never seen five grown men scatter so fast. After she found her kittens, she crawled in the bucket and stayed with them all the way home.

When we got back to the university, I called Liz and told her that I was bringing home "a surprise." She thought that I was bringing home another wild animal of some sort. When I got home, I covered the bucket with a towel, set it in the middle of the kitchen floor, and left it for Liz to take the cover off. I think she expected some wild thing to jump out at her (perhaps a snake or an opossum), but she was surprised to find only cats.

Coweeta at Christmas
Coweeta with a Christmas prey item

We had a busy house for a few months as the kittens grew up. One turned out to be the bully of the litter, and we named him Monster. Another was a very nice, all black little girl; her original name is lost to history. We named the runt of the litter Mouse because he was so tiny.

We did the responsible thing, getting them fixed and getting all the baby shots. During that time, the ladies at the Vet's office always went wacko when we took them in, but I just figured that they were that way for all the kittens, hoping to keep people coming back (just a front to encourage business).

Mr. Mouse at Christmas
Mr. Mouse opening Christmas presents

It turned out, however, that they really were wacko about these kittens, so when we said that we were going to give them away, they insisted that we let them live at the Vet's office. That is what we did, and I think the cat mom would be glad to know that her kids were well cared for. We don't remember Monster's new name, but the black kitten got the name Elvis, and in some odd way, the name seemed to fit.

We kept the mother, whom we call Coweeta (named for where we met her), and Mouse (that's Mr. Mouse now). He got his name because when I found him, he was starving to death and so tiny that he looked like a little gray mouse sitting in the palm of my hand. Coweeta was starving too, and she wasn't producing enough milk for three. At first, we didn't think Mouse would survive, but he pulled through. He suffered some brain damage during that time, and it took him a few weeks longer than his siblings to learn things. For example, it took him longer to learn to play with a string and to use the cat box, and he is still very jumpy.

CoweetaMr. Mouse
Still life with cats

Coweeta was badly abused by her former humans, and she never really seemed to care much for us, except at dinner time. She taught her son to be the same way. However, they have slowly warmed to us. After few years, they decided that being scratched by humans isn't always a bad thing, although they would never submit to being "lap cats." In recent years, they have gotten to be pretty good cat-greeters, coming to the door to greet us when we get home from somewhere. A winter or two ago, they even decided that sleeping on a warm human isn't so bad either.

Now, they seem to like human company and even sleep with us. They like to sleep on Liz, and occasionally on me. When we sit in certain chairs, they will sit on our laps, but they still are not lap cats, and they really don't like being picked up.

Cat containment device
Cat exclusion device
(keeps criminal cats out of the yard)

The cats seem to like living in the desert. They have a cat door so they can go out in the backyard anytime they want, and they have a cat exclusion device to keep the neighborhood cats out of their yard. This is nice because they can go outside and play in the backyard all day and all night without worrying about intruders. There are no cat fleas here, and I'm sure they don't miss their Georgia flea powder treatments.

Mouse has grown up to be quite a hunter. During the summer, he likes to catch moths and the Mediterranean geckos that come out at night. He catches flies in the yard too, brings them inside, and shows off his prizes before eating them. He also keeps the house free of flies and other flying insects. He had even learned the fine art of ambush and has caught a couple of birds, but mostly he just practices on his mother. Coweeta catches things and brings us presents these days too (mostly leaves and her toys).

Mr. Mouse and Coweeta
Mr. Mouse and Coweeta up a tree

Coweeta and Mr. Mouse, despite his slow start, have turned out to be pretty good cats. We celebrate Bucket-O-Cats day on August 25th every year, the day we all came home. It is pretty close to Mouse's birthday too.

Mr. Mouse
 ... and Mr. Mouse get the last word.
Mr. Mouse put up a good fight, but he lost his battle with kidney disease on July 6, 2007.
You're a good boy, Mr. Mouse. You are still missed.

Coweeta was a fighter to the very last moment, but she lost her battle with kidney disease on April 20, 2008.
She was a good cat mom. She is still missed too.

Note: All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
copyright; Last updated 111224

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