The Saga of Tiger and Beast
#1 Cats at play
My acquisition of Tiger and Beast was a truly serendipitous event. The story begins in the late summer of 2000. I was on a lunch break when I picked up the local paper somebody left on the table. "Ah! It must be a Wednesday paper" - as that's when the local animal shelter puts out an ad for its latest 'inmates'.
Many years earlier I had a Siamese cat, a female. Even as an adult she was tiny. 'Little Bits' I called her. I also had a Husky/Lab mix dog named Moocher. Both were rescued in different circumstances - Moocher from the street and Little Bits from a dysfunctional home.
After many years of having the pleasure of their company they both died within a relatively short period of each other. "No more pets" I thought, I don't want to deal with it.
I looked at the ad and said to myself "I don't know, I guess. Shouldn't be an issue, I'll just go over there and take a peek." The animal shelter was only a short walk away.
So after work I went over there to check out the cats. I was told I was the first one to respond to the ad. They came to the shelter as a pair from the small town of Big Delta off the Tanana River, about a hundred miles south of Fairbanks, Alaska.
Two separate cages. One held a 'showboating' Beast, the other held Tiger, a much larger, older, quiet cat, with a dark chocolate pelt and deep sapphire eyes. Both looked well cared for and were already neutered.
It wasn't long before all resistance faded as to 'acquiring new pets'. There was no way in hell I was going to leave that building without them. After the paperwork was done and the fees were paid it was into the car and off to the house!
Having picked up the necessary accoutrements before coming home I opened the door to release them to their new home. Laughing! They didn't slow down or stop meowing till every inch of the place was checked out!
From that moment on and for years afterwards I would wonder, with some sadness, what kind of circumstances would force somebody to give up these guys for adoption? They turned out to be the mellowest, sweetest, most amazing creatures I have ever come across.
Some notes about the photos:
Plate #1, Cats at play.
Earlier I had let the cats out. Fortunately they stayed in the general vicinity of the front yard. The only time they might wander off would be to go on mousing expeditions - lots of space, the nearest neighbor lived almost a quarter of a mile away. With that in mind I trained the cats to come home through use of a dog whistle. They were very good about that - I wanted them in the house when I went to town.
This time their prey was so bountiful and close. It was a 'high vole year' - top of the cyclical period of prey and predator. The yard was just crawling with tasty 'play toys' for the cats. This time, no dining, just play. I grabbed my old 35mm Pentax I had laying around and just started shooting. It was Beast that displayed all the athletics. Tiger made sure nothing got away!
It was amazing to watch the teamwork they displayed when prey was scarce, one cat acting as a block as the other one flushed out the prey. I've always preferred to 'catch and release' if I could catch the cat in time between play mode and dining mode! More often than not, though, I would find a contented Siamese and four little vole feet on the ground without their owner.
The photos were taken over a period of almost fifteen years. In 'Feline expressions' and 'Size of small dogs', Tiger's stretch was an awesome display of the tools cats have to survive if need be, in the wild.
In 'The size of small dogs' the weight of both cats laying there came to around 56lb worth of felines! (I picked both up at the same time and weighed them.) Tiger at 20lb and Beast around 16lb. They both took to wearing a harness surprisingly well, and had a lot of patience for cats. Tiger with a big but dignified face. Beast, ears slightly back, the face of feline youth.
Plate #3 - Quiet time. They always hung out together. I wish I knew their history and the relationship between them. Whether they were father and son, or whether Beast was a companion cat to the older Tiger. Though not all was peaceful, as there were bouts of 'feline politics', though these were rare.
As Tiger was the dominant one in the relationship, I was amazed how loud and vocal Beast became not long after Tiger passed on. At first I thought there was something wrong with him, but there wasn't. He was just being his normal noisy self that had been repressed by another dominant cat!
Quiet time - 'The yawn'. The top two pictures were taken in their new home in Florida. Totally indoor cats now. I went downstairs to grab a cup of coffee. While I was drinking and mentally collecting myself for the day, some time passed, and no cats! They were usually feeding about this time.
So I went upstairs, and both were there still coiled on the bed. I had a feeling something was going to happen next, and I was ready with my camera. I waited ... Tiger looked at me, and popped a big yawn! Seconds later Beast did the same. You couldn't have planned it!
'Tiger in the sheets' was taken after I finally found him there after looking all over the place for him. It was in Fairbanks during the winter and the house had cooled off more than he liked as I was out at the time. The bed was the last place I looked - I pulled back the covers to discover a toasty warm cat, but not only that, but also a fantastic contrast of the color blue and brown.
In 2009 I moved to Florida with the cats. Three years later Tiger passed away from pancreatic cancer, a real heart breaker. He had to be close to twenty years old by human reckoning. Ancient in feline years; other than the cancer he was in good health.
Beast is still with me, still going strong at sixteen years old now. Eighty in feline years. I have always heard that Siamese can be long lived cats. Let's hope so!
Reply from Caroline:
Frank, thank you so much for sharing Tiger and Beast's story with us. It's so rewarding taking in rescue cats, but I know exactly that feeling of wondering where your cats came from and why they were abandoned - my own cat, Bandit, had been a stray before he was taken into rescue and I have no idea of his story, either.
Tiger had a very good innings; twenty years is a good age for any cat and I hope that Beast continues to be healthy and happy for many years yet.
If you enjoyed this story, you might also like: