The Love of a Cat Named Ortoloni ~ Chapter 5

Ortoloni never tried to dart out the front door again.

As I mentioned in Chapter 2, Ortoloni was born under the astrological sign of Gemini – who are known to be expressive communicators with sunny dispositions. Ortoloni displayed both traits and proved to be the sweetest creature I had ever met. He was certainly the gentlest cat I’d ever lived with.

For example, he and I were in the backyard (the Concrete Jungle, a fenced-in patio) one warm afternoon when he spied a black beetle ambling by. Being a cat, this little guy caught Ortoloni’s attention. As the beetle moved closer Ortoloni stretched out his paw while I waited with bated breath. He brought down his paw and ever so lightly touched the beetle’s back, then withdrew his paw and watched the insect continue on his merry way.

His gentleness extended to our Bearded Dragon, Mephisto, who would allow Ortoloni to literally climb all over him. Never once did Ortoloni bite or claw the reptile and their playtimes were always, happily, enjoyed by both parties.

While Ortoloni lacked the ruthlessness of a predatory animal, he more than made up for it vocally. He had the yowl of a tom cat which he used when calling for me from another room AND when exiting the litter box. He’d come out of the bathroom and yowl, his mouth forming a perfect “O” and looking just like a little Howler Monkey! I think he was saying “I feel good!”

Ortoloni fit in nicely with the other cats in the house although he never slept with any of them or engaged in play. He preferred to hang-out with me. Opening the back door would cause the other cats to go bounding out into the Concrete Jungle – Ortoloni included. But then he’d sit there and wait to see if I was coming out, too. If I didn’t he’d come right back inside leaving the other kitties lounging in the sun. When he wasn’t at my side he was on his “pil-low” – a large, fluffly black thing that I used when laying on the floor to watch TV. Sometimes he and I would share the pillow – it was that huge! At night he curled up on my pillow, wrapping his tail around my neck (like a hug).

He was the first cat I ever sang to. “Hopelessly Devoted to You”, “Kokomo”, and at Christmas it was always “Santa Baby” except I’d change it to “Loni Baby”. Like most cat parents we had nicknames for him, too, such as Cheddar-butt, Sweet Cheeks and Cheeky Cheeks. He didn’t care. He’d just purr – knowing the love behind them.

Day by day, month by month, and year by year we grew closer until all he ever wanted was to be with his Mom.

On his pil-low.

Note: This Chapter was published on December 4, 2020 – International Cheetah Day – which is remarkable because Ortoloni looked like a little cheetah. Well, maybe not as svelte but he had a small head and a long tail just like a cheetah.

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The Love of a Cat Named Ortoloni ~ Chapter 4

So Ortoloni had disappeared…literally into thin air. I spent the next hour combing the complex in search of him – to no avail. At dinner I tried again, this time with treat bag in hand, shaking it and calling his name. I performed this ritual one more time before I went to bed that night; and repeated it the next morning, lunchtime, dinner time, and before I went to bed for five days straight. Each night I cried myself to sleep.

I also put-up flyers around the facilites (Praying to myself that he hadn’t tried crossing the street to the other half of the apartment complex, or beyond.) with his picture, a brief paragraph, and our apartment number.

Like I said, five days passed with no trace of my beloved Loni. I never gave up hope. It was unthinkable. (That he was lost to me.) The next afternoon there was a knock on my door. A neighbor had seen my flyer.

Although I don’t remember her name, she and her husband (and two black cats) lived in the townhouse directly across from us on the other side of the pool. One of their cats had some health issues (I believe they were neurological in nature) and was not allowed outside. That morning, she saw her cat playing with an orange-striped kitty on the opposite side of the sliding door of their living room and was sure it was Ortoloni!

In my heart I knew it was Ortoloni. It HAD to be. As we raced to her townhouse, these thoughts ran through my head:  “Why on earth didn’t he respond when I roamed the complex calling his name and shaking the treat bag?” and “He’d been close-by all time.” – thankful for the latter. He hadn’t gone far.

Stepping into their fenced-in patio I saw they had built a platform over the concrete floor. To the left was a small opening leading UNDER the platform. As I called out “Ortoloni”, it was from this opening that I received a responding “Meow”. It WAS him! As I continued trying to coax him from his hidey-hole, our kind neighbor appeared with a box of cat food. Sure enough, depositing a handful of kibble into the opening did the trick. First his head appeared. Then his neck. While he ate, I was able to grab Ortoloni by the scruff and gently pull him out of his cubby (He certainly loved cubbies…).

With tears streaming down both our faces (mine and my neighbor’s) and my uttering words of gratitude, I left her house – Ortoloni wrapped firmly in my arms. Meanwhile, my boyfriend had come home from work and met us at our front door. I greeted him with a “Look who I found!”

Two bowls of cat food later, Ortoloni settled onto my lap and we became a happy household once again.

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The Love of a Cat Named Ortoloni ~ Chapter 3

Even though there were four other cats in the house, Ortoloni chose the non-feline member to become friends with. Mephisto, a Bearded Dragon, was taken out of his tank once a day and allowed to roam around as he pleased. He enjoyed basking in the sun – often found hanging with one or two of his feline friends – and would allow Ortoloni to climb all over him. Ortoloni was very gentle in his play and never once used his claws.

It took a little longer for Ortoloni to warm-up to the other cats, but his sunny purr-sonality quickly won them over. Despite being “the new kid on the block”, he and I formed a bond right away.

Not yet a year after we adopted him, the unthinkable happened.

Down the block from where we lived was another apartment complex that boasted a man-made pond. Large congregations of geese and ducks made it their permanent home, raising their families in and around the neighborhood – including my complex which had two swimming pools on the premises. Once a year ducklings would be paraded through the complex and I got into the habit of putting corn out for them. One morning I heard familiar quacking at the front door. Sure enough, a family of ducks were there waiting for their hand-out.

I cracked the door open just enough to deliver a handful of corn not noticing that Ortoloni had come up behind me to investigate. Next thing I knew he had bolted out the door towards the ducks. Of course, they scattered while Ortoloni took a left down the walkway – with me in hot pursuit.

As we raced down the walkway surrounding the pool, I was a mere 4 feet behind him. Our laundry facilities sat at the end of the fenced-in pool and this was where he took a right. Turning the corner I expected to see him in the grassy area in front of the laundry. Nothing. He was gone! I didn’t see him anywhere. Frantic, I began calling his name and continuing around the other side of the pool. He was nowhere to be found.

I was devastated.

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The Love of a Cat Named Ortoloni ~ Chapter 2

To recap, it took less than 48 hours for this little orange kitten to capture my heart. Since we’d decided to keep him, a visit to the vet was in order. This was Sunday.

The veterinarian determined he was 14 weeks old, which means he was born around May 25th of 1997. A Gemini. During the exam the vet also discovered eye and intestinal infections. (I realized that without medical attention he would have never survived the winter months at CGA.)

Vaccinations performed and prescribed medicines in hand, we headed home. His eye infection required that ointment be applied regularly. Although I had to extract him from his “cave” he was a real trooper, but still refused to eat/drink/use the litter box if anyone was in the room. I continued to administer smooches whenever I could. Now that he was a part of the household, the little guy needed a proper name. I don’t rush this process – preferring to let a name “come to me” when the time is right.

So how in the world did I come up with his name? In the summer of 1997, HBO debuted a new series called OZ. The first episode featured a character by the name of Dino Ortoloni (played by Jon Seda) who I had fallen in love with. The kitten didn’t really look like a Dino, but since I had a history of using surnames for my pets I christened him Ortoloni. Ortoloni acquired several nicknames over the course of his lifetime:  Sweet Cheeks, Cheeky Cheeks, Cheddar Butt, and Loni-Loni.

Ortoloni gradually got over his infections and was coming out of his cubby to interact with me, but adamantly refused to leave the bathroom. It took him three months before he felt brave enough to venture downstairs. There he befriended another member of the family – a Bearded Dragon named Mephisto.

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The Love of a Cat Named Ortoloni ~ Chapter 1

Ginger cats are also called orange tabbies. Puff, named after the hero of a much-loved children’s book, was my first “Ginger Love”. My Dad was a “dog person”, but Puff captured his heart as well. We all mourned his passing, including our veterinarian.

Merrick (I was obsessed with The Elephant Man) was one of a litter born outside the apartment my ex-husband and I lived in. Their mother was obviously a pet who’d been abandoned by her family. We adopted him and one of his sisters (Scarlet, a grey tabby) and found homes for the rest – including the mom. Merrick remained my best friend through one divorce and several life changes before finally passing away in 1991.

Merrick was survived by two tortoiseshells (sisters) and I swore “no more orange-striped tabbies”. A year later I adopted another male cat – this time a one-eyed Siamese. Lestat.

But this story is about my last Ginger Love:  an orange tabby with a heart as big as the universe. Ortoloni.

August, 1997

He came to live with me after being rescued from a nearby amusement park, California’s Great America, where my boyfriend at the time worked. (Cats and kittens are regularly abandoned at CGA. As a result, these felines have banded together to form several colonies throughout the park. All are neutered or spayed and “earn their keep” by keeping the rodent population down. I got up close and personal with one group, The Kitty Knoll Gang, when I worked there a couple of years ago.)

Security discovered the kitten hiding in the water-pistol games area. We agreed to take the little ginger kitten with the idea that I would find him a good home. (“No more orange-striped tabbies”.)

Since there were other cats in the household, the upstairs bathroom became his temporary home and he immediately hid behind the toilet. Although (understandably) terrified, he allowed me to gently pick him up – at which point his bowels gave-out. This would prove to be a normal reaction for him whenever he was frightened.

I had a nightstand in the bathroom, the bottom-half of which was a cubby. Lined with a soft towel, this became his haven and never ventured out of it when I was in the room. I responded to this reluctance by poking my head inside the cubby and smooching him as often as possible. He suffered these advances uncomplainingly.

But I was still in the no-more-orange-striped-tabbies-I’ll-find-a-good-home-for-him mode.

This was Friday.

By the end of Saturday I’d become totally smitten…

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