Friday, March 14, 2008

E is for eBay (the cat)

Lynne Robinson, Hewitt, New Jersey

You might think eBay is a funny name for a cat and I guess I’d have to agree with you. Unless, of course, you know how she came by her name which I am about to tell you. So sit back and I’ll tell you a tale (or is that tail?) of a kitten that was meant to be ours.

We were into buying older Jane Wooster Scott corkboard puzzles on eBay when I came across a puzzle for sale that showed two calico cats in the photo along with the puzzle. They were the same kind of calico (mostly white with a “cape” on their backs) that was like my cat Patches that I had lost many years ago. I have always wanted another one marked the same way, so I wrote to the woman selling the puzzle and asked if she had the mother of the cats. I figured it was a long shot, but it wouldn’t hurt to try.

She wrote back saying that no, she did not have the mother but got them as kittens from a farm near where she lived. After a few email conversations went on back and forth with her I learned that while she lived in Iowa her son lived in Denver, a mere 50 miles away from me. (Remember we were living in Colorado then.)  She offered to go by the farm next time she was down that way and see if they had any calicos. Within a few days she emailed me to tell me that the farm did indeed have a few calicos. All the cats were feral and most of them giving birth in the chicken coops and living in not the best of conditions.

She sent photos of an older kitten (maybe about six months) and one that looked to be about four weeks old. We had reservations about taking a cat that had been feral for six months and trying to adapt it to our six-dog-two-cat-household. The kitten seemed a better bet. She then proceeded to tell me that she was driving out to visit her son within a few weeks and offered to bring the kitten to us! We figured the kitten would be old enough by then to leave its mother, so we chose the 4-week-old-ish kitten over the older one.

The day finally arrived and Debi called from Denver to say that they were on their way to our house. When she arrived I rushed out the door to meet my new little kitten. Debi held her out to me and my eyes could not believe what I saw. Whoa ... wait just a minute— this tiny “rat” without any hair and looking more like Yoda than a kitten could not be the beautiful kitten I had been expecting! It was the ugliest thing I had ever seen. Ever. We all went inside and Debi started to explain ...

Her husband had gone to the farm to pick up the kitten because Debi couldn’t go. What he (or Debi) didn’t realize is that there were several calico kittens, and he picked the first one he came to. Scooped her right out of the chicken coop she was born in. Only thing was, this particular kitten was probably only about 3 weeks old. She could not even potty herself yet and Debi and her friend had had to stimulate her by wiping her bottom with a wet rag the entire trip from Iowa to Colorado. She was as helpless as ... well, a newborn kitten! I tried not to show my disappointment in not getting a cute, furry, cuddly kitten instead of a rat but it was hard not to.

She was so tiny that I was afraid to let the dogs near her, so I put her in our bedroom in a cozy nest of blankets and closed the door. I checked on her from time to time and she was in a different spot in the room each time. She was having no trouble exploring her new environment. It was obvious that although she was tiny, she was a scrappy little thing!

When Rick got home he couldn’t quite believe it either. She was so ugly that she was kind of cute. She basically had no hair whatsoever, a little pot belly, four scrawny legs, and huge bat ears. We decided to introduce the dogs to her carefully and held her while the dogs inspected her. At first sniff one of our female Bernese, Margaux, jumped up on the bed with us and would not let any of the other dogs come close. She gave out a low growl and the others backed off. She was guarding that kitten like it was one of her own puppies!

Once in the room by herself with the kitten, Margaux took over as her mother. She pottied her and licked her until the poor thing was soaking wet. One swipe of her tongue lifted the kitten off her feet. She rolled over and made her nipples accessible so the kitten could nurse. Poor Margaux, she didn’t have any milk, but having had a litter of pups the year before was no stranger to knowing what to do. Even though the kitten was not getting any nourishment from this activity, it was providing her warmth and succor. (Not to mention the more obvious plus: getting pottied!) It became a ritual that throughout the day I would put them together for monitored bonding time.

eBay climbed all over Margaux and snuggled into her long fur. Here you can see her on Margaux’s back and standing to “nurse.”

Lynne Robinson, Hewitt, New Jersey

Lynne Robinson, Hewitt, New Jersey

Our other female, Mira, was not to be left out of this whole mothering scenario. She had been very jealous when Margaux got to have puppies and she wasn’t going to miss this chance to do her part. While Margaux had failed in the milk department, Mira managed to bring in milk for the kitten. I kid you not. Here they are caught in a nursing moment. Mira kept nursing eBay long after it was necessary. I think it brought them both a great deal of comfort.

Lynne Robinson, Hewitt, New Jersey

Of course, this was not enough to sustain eBay. We fed her formula through a small syringe (bottle feeding did not work),  even getting up in the middle of the night when she woke mewing for food. We kept her in an small airline kennel by the bed so she was safe from being stepped on. I still have fond memories of her waking me up at the crack of dawn, mewing at the top of her tiny kitten lungs and clinging to the door of the kennel.

She began to flourish under the care and attention of our upside-down household. She started to look like a kitten—finally.

Lynne Robinson, Hewitt, New Jersey

She accepted the dogs as she would another of her own feline contingent. Here she is with Sailor, who at the time was only about 7 months old himself.

Lynne Robinson, Hewitt, New Jersey

When I was still feeding her formula via a syringe, it was very messy. She ended up with formula smeared all over her face. The area between her mouth and nose seemed to never come clean. It always looked like I’d missed a spot in cleaning her up. I scrubbed and scrubbed. It still looked dirty. eBay, why didn’t you tell me that the reason it looked dirty was because it was part of your funny pigmentation? Today you can see what I call her “marmalade spots” quite clearly.

Lynne Robinson, Hewitt, New Jersey

She grew into a beautiful, intelligent cat. Here are some candids of her over the years.

Lynne Robinson, Hewitt, New Jersey

Lynne Robinson, Hewitt, New Jersey

Lynne Robinson, Hewitt, New Jersey

Lynne Robinson, Hewitt, New Jersey

She has cute dots on the back of her head. To me it looks like somebody got careless with a paint brush or they couldn’t decide what color she should be.

Lynne Robinson, Hewitt, New Jersey

And, one big black target on her belly and also black splotches on the backs of her legs. Cute, eh?

Lynne Robinson, Hewitt, New Jersey

So now you know the origin of her rather odd name. That’s our eBay and we love her dearly. Just think: if not for an auction on eBay and the kindness of a total “stranger” (thank you Debi!) we would not have her today. She is very special, and after reading her story you can’t help but agree that she was meant to come and live with us from the very beginning.



LG and I have been sat here ooo-ing and aaaaah-ing - what a fab. story lynne, so so sweet, those photos are wonderful.

animals are amazing

What a GREAT story! A terrific E, wonderful and beautiful kitty, and those terrific dogs! I enjoyed the photos, too.  I am going to have to share your post with Wonderful Guy.

And yes, I live in Fort Collins!


Hi Lynne - this was just the most touching story with such heart-warming photographs.  You should really consider a career with Animal Planet!  We lost our calico Shelly five weeks ago and miss her every day.  She, too, was a beautiful cat with gorgeous markings.  While the story of her arrival on our doorstep cannot match yours with eBay, we do fondly recall how she popped up in our driveway one day as a kitten, at a house where three cats already resided.  Ken was resistant to taking her in but Michael and I prevailed, and Michael (who was only about seven at the time) named her Shelly because it sounded a bit like our favorite cat who we just lost, Chablis.  (We found out later that she had almost been adopted by our neighbors across the street, who had already named her Francesca!  Ken was kicking himself for not holding out a little longer, but clearly it was meant to be.)  We had 15 happy years with Shelly and she, more than any of our other cats, really grew up with Michael.  When we moved to Greenwood Lake she spent more time with him downstairs than she did with us upstairs.  I can’t help but thinking that some higher power brought our rag doll cat Romeo into our lives only a few months before Shelly died.  Had that not happened, it would have been the first time Ken and I were “pet-less” in our 27 years of marriage.  So….thanks so much for sharing this story, and hopefully you won’t mind if we stop by one day to get our calico fix, right?

Aw… so sweet.
This is why I snicker when a non-animal person makes a statement that cats and dogs are sworn enemies and will never get along.

I love learning why people chose the name that they have for their companion pet.

Hi Lynne
Yes it’s me Debi. I am so happy that found me for a second time….Ebay is gorgeous and I’ll never forget those wonderful dogs. The day we delivered Ebay kitty, Lynne opened the back door and a whole herd of beautiful gigantic Burmese Mountain dogs came rushing in. It was such an unforgetable vision. It’s very possible that me and Lynne are distant relative inlaws since my Ali Cat came from the same farm as EBAY. Who knows maybe they are sisters. Oh yeah and Ebay kitty was a chosen one for sure because soon after the other cats at the farm had to be put down because the cat population on that farm was out of hand. So it was God’s will that Ebay was led to the Robinson’s home 900 miles away. Ebay Kitty used to write me & send me pictures until she moved to New Jersey and I think and tell her story often. I am so glad that you found me. Give her a big kiss for me!  Debi

Talk about interspecies cooperation! Wow. Margaux!! What a good dog. My dog would have had little eBay for breakfast.


She has grown up to be a beautiful cat. What a great story!

Thank you all for your kind comments! I’m so glad you enjoyed eBay’s story and it is truly one to be shared.


Very cute story, and very sweet kitty!  Some things are just meant to be!

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