Puka came to us on April 4th, 1999. In saying she came to us, what we mean is that we were at the SPCA, and we were ‘looking’ at cats. I don’t think we had the intention of bringing a kitty home with us that day, but low and behold there she was, this sweet, frail little thing, looking very scared, and somewhat disheveled. We picked her up, and immediately she started purring. She cuddled right into each of us. Nuzzling her head into our chests. We had put her back into her cage and we had actually set sights on a different kitty that day, but the moment we turned away, we knew that Puka wanted us. So without hesitation, we picked her up again and told the staff that we wanted her.
The Edmonton SPCA were very helpful, they gave us a fact sheet on Puka (then named Twister), and some additional adoption information. She was approximately 2 years old, and the family that she had come from had to give her up. We aren’t sure the reason, and to this day, we don’t care. We could immediately tell she wasn’t fond of being in a car. We got this little kitty home, and we opened up the small kitty carrier that the SPCA provided for us, and Puka immediately went into the basement, and under a workbench. She was scared, and so were we. Did we make a bad decision with Puka? We eventually persuaded her out from under the workbench, and it wasn’t long before she knew she could trust us.
We really didn’t like the name Twister, even though it suited her. She would roll on the floor and twist around. I suggested to Janet that we give her a new name, one that we like and one that would fit her. My only criteria in the name is that it had to be either a Hawaiian or Japanese name/word. Janet said Puka ! Puka being a Hawaiian word, meaning ‘hole’, typically most people know them as Puka Shells, or to the Hawaiians, shells with holes, hence Puka shell necklaces. So Puka it was. We had initially joked that she had a hole in her head, but we did this out of love and not to be cruel.
During our first year, then in our Westmount house, Puka quickly scoped out her places. She loved sleeping at the foot of our bed. She had also found that the sheepskin at the top of the sofa was also ideal. The thin and frail kitty that we picked out at the SPCA was putting on weight, and was starting to look more like a normal cat. We had learned that Puka had been at the shelter for 2 weeks, and after getting to know her we realized why she was thin and frail; she didn’t like being left alone.
We were concerned that she would scratch all of our furniture, so I had built a custom scratching post, with some remnants of rug that I had, and Puka quickly took to using it. If we were headed in the direction of her scratching post, she would immediately bolt towards it, and start scratching. And of course, being good parents we would try to reward her for doing so. Hence the catnip was never far away from the scratching post.
We didn’t stay long in the Westmount house and with a move coming, we knew that we would have to transition Puka last. The move went off without a hitch. We had decided that we would place Puka’s litter box in the basement of our new house, same as what we had done in our Westmount home. On our second night in the new home, we accidentally closed the door to the basement. We were so exhausted from the move, we didn’t even look for Puka. The next morning when we woke, we had a odd sensation… oh no ! Where’s Puka? I rushed to the main floor, then realized that the door to the basement was closed. I ran to the basement, and there she was, sitting on the top of the work bench, if she had arms to cross, I know they would have been crossed… I got a verbal assault from one very mad kitty. She had been in the basement all night, with no food or water. I think she was lippin’ me off for at least a couple of hours after that. That day, I went out to the pet store, found a pet door that can be cut into a regular door, and installed it immediately. That way we could close the basement door without fear of Puka being trapped in the basement, or being trapped on the main floor without access to her litter box.
As Puka adjusted to life in her new castle, she really loved the fact that there were windows everywhere. She could easily sit and look out the windows, and she would for long periods at a time. However that didn’t prevent her from occasionally hopping up on the kitchen counter. We of course would give her the "PUKA!" and with a clap of the hands. She knew immediately this was wrong. There were times that she couldn’t resist jumping on to the counter. Usually this was done while we weren’t in the room, but the evidence was there (ie: furry plant leaves). One day while working in the back yard, I looked into the house and there she was… prominently displayed in the window, on the counter. I gave her the "PUKA" from outside… she looked at me, and did her normal head lifting ‘mew’ of acknowledgement. I had to laugh, she knew I didn’t approve, and she also knew that I wasn’t going to rush into the house to correct this behavior. There were times when I would be walking down the stairs heading towards the kitchen, and I would hear the thump-thump, and by the time I got to the kitchen, she was gently strolling away from the counter. I didn’t catch her in the act, and she knew she’d be in trouble if she was caught, we knew she didn’t have a hole in her head, she was actually very smart.
Puka was a bit of a fussy eater, and she was a nibbler. We tried a number of different types of foods with her, but she would give us a very clear, "uhm, I’m not interested in that one", simply by not bothering to eat it. She was never a huge eater to begin with so, if she didn’t eat then we would be immediately concerned. Again the routine comes into play, if we were late in getting food into her dish in the morning, she would let us know. Even though we were late getting the food into the dish, this wouldn’t necessarily mean that Puka was hungry. Often, after getting told that feeding time was late, she would then walk away from the food dish without even acknowledging the food.
Puka had long hair, and we had thought that with all her grooming, she would be coughing up hairballs, so we thought that we would plant her some kitty grass. This was the one and only plant that she would eat or chew on. It was funny watching her eat the grass. She would plunger her face into the grass, and then selectively try to chew on or pull a single strand of grass. She made a funny noise as she tried to pull it out and chew at the same time. Usually, most of the grass met its demise, not in her belly, but on the floor, as she would pull, try to chew and then it would fall out of her mouth. Once on the floor, Puka deemed this grass to be not acceptable for consumption. On to the other blades of grass that were in the pot.
After a little while, our friends started asking, ‘well what breed is she?’ We honestly didn’t know. We doubted that she was a purebred, so we started to do some investigation. We had been to a cat show, and there was a gal there with Norwegian Forrest Cats. We couldn’t believe the resemblance, and as we investigated further, we knew that she wasn’t a purebred, as she lacked the size of the Norwegian Forrest Cats (Weggies), but she definitely had her roots with Weggies, and from what we discovered she had the disposition of the Weggies too. We really didn’t care what breed she was, we loved her, and we loved her disposition. She would follow us around, so what ever room in the house we were in, that’s where she had to be. She maybe sleeping, but she would be with us. If we were in two separate rooms, at some point, she would be about equidistant between us. Almost as if she needed to know the whereabouts of each of us. Usually she wanted to be on a lap, especially if the TV was on. Janet and Puka would watch TV for hours together. The bond they shared was very simple. Puka would say, you do what you like doing (ie: watching TV), and I’ll do what I like doing sleeping, and milking warmth from your lap, this is a good trade ! I would on occasion go into the living room, to find that the TV was on, and both of my little girls would be snoozed. So cute ! Its an image I’ll keep with me always.
Puka was very patient with both of us, and never once lashed out at anyone. For us we could pick her up, hold her, spin her on her back, hold her in basically any position and if she didn’t like it, she would simply give you a look, and would wait patiently until you figured it out and then held her as she wanted to be held, usually in a loving or babying manner. I know this will sound cruel, but every now and again I’d try to catch her as she would walk by, I’d get her tail, she would struggle a bit, and then give up and just plunk down. She never hissed or swatted at me or Janet, and if she disapproved of any movement while being held or in the attempt to be held, she would give you a simple little chirp "Meh" and that was it. In most cases a scratch under the chin some made her forget why she even chirped. Puka loved her under the chin scratching and would usually lean into the scratch. The ears were also her favorite… I love how the eyes would roll back or squint as she really enjoyed these types of scratching. Puka also loved being petted, and especially her lower belly. She would roll right over and with her rear legs spread she would really enjoy the rub. Puka was not declawed, and she didn’t need to be. She mainly scratched just her scratching post, and on rare occasions, she would attack the carpet on the stairs. She usually did this when she was playing on the stairs, but again the evidence was there, the small tufts of carpet fibers. Only on rare occasions did Puka ever scratch Janet & I, and usually it was in the throws of play time. Puka would be a little excited and the claws came out. This was so rare and it again was one of the reasons why we loved our little girl.
Over time, Puka would utilize different places around the house to snooze on. Here are the places she would circulate to, in no particular order or preference: under the spare bed, the sheepskin on the spare bed, under the futon, under our bed, on top of our bed, in the closet on top of the heat register, the box on top of the monitor in the office, the basement under the work bench, in some boxes in the basement, on the office chair in the basement, on some old furniture in the basement, the sofa in the living room, on the PVR, on the Sumo Lounger (renamed to Puka Lounger), or pretty much anywhere she could find a soft surface to curl up on. One year I was working in Columbus Ohio, and I had been given a shopping list by Janet, for various lotions at Bath and Body Works, so I went into the store, and there was this white blanket that was as soft as anything. I knew immediately that Puka would love it. It was close to Christmas, and I gave it to Puka for Christmas. This was her favorite blanket. She loved it from the start.
Because I would often work late, be home late after going to a yoga class, or arrive home late after travelling from another city. I would often times sit down to a bowl of cereal, late in the evening. This would become my dinner. Puka soon caught onto this. She had also found out that she liked cereal milk, and just like me, she was fond of the sweeter cereals, instead of the more healthy versions. She would love to sit beside me and watch me have my cereal, and all the time being very patient and waiting until I finished. I would have to pull up a chair for her as she wouldn’t hesitate to jump onto the table in anticipation of cereal milk. I would set the bowl down either on the chair, or over by her food dish and she would lap up the milk. I think she was lactose intolerant, but that would stop her from digging into the cereal milk. I of course would forget to move the chair back, and Janet always found it humorous, and knew exactly what had happened.
Puka was well aware of our routines and adapted her routines to ours. She knew when we would be getting up in the morning, and often times would jump up onto our bed just prior to the alarm clock going off. She also knew when it was TV/Lap time with Janet. Puka also loved to drink the water out of the shower. Sometimes she would get into the shower before you stared, but often times would sit on the tub and wait until you were done. Heaven forbid that you should close the door to the shower. If you had forgotten the routine, Puka was very quick to remind you of what the routine was, and in most cases she corrected our behavior. This also meant that when she jumped into the tub, she expected some water to be run in there too. Again we were reminded of this part of the routine and usually had to correct our routines. Saturday and Sunday mornings were no exception to the rule as far as routines went. Puka knew that we would have our breakfast and this meant more lap time. We would sit down to our coffee/tea, and read the newspaper, Puka would do what I called, the leg twine, this meant she would walk in and around your legs several times rubbing up against them, this was her way of saying, I would like up now. She usually did this to Janet, and would normally spend the entire time on Janet’s lap. Janet of course would fold her legs such that Puka would have a little nest. Janet’s attempt at folding her legs for Puka would invariably result in loss of blood circulation, and she would have to move Puka after a bit. This was usually met with a sharp ‘Meeeeh’. Puka disapproved of this movement, she was comfortable and life was good, it was almost like she was saying ‘hey, I was comfortable, why did you do that?’
Puka was a great cat to have around the house, she even helped out with laundry, if it wasn’t hopping into the empty basket, it was rolling around on the sheets as they came out of the dryer. She was an expert at helping us fold the linens… if by expert you mean, making herself look really cute by rolling around on things and covering them with her fur. The helpfulness for chores wasn’t limited to laundry, as she would also help make the bed. She loved to hop onto the bed while we were putting on fresh linens. We would just make the bed over top of her, as trying to get her out was just not going to happen. Often times she wouldn’t care and then curl up and have a nap under the covers. Hours later she would reappear, and give us an update of her snooze. This was somewhat contradictory, because she would never sleep under the covers with us normally. She would sometimes lay down with us on weekends if we were going to have a nap. She would sometimes go under the quilt, curl up and purr. Life was good and we had our entire family all in one place and all cozy, and napping.
On those occasions when I would get work assignments where I could work from my home office, I would make my coffee and bagel (my routine), and then plunk myself into the office chair. Puka had once jumped up on top of the monitor, and tried to sit up there. She liked the heat from the monitor, so I constructed a platform and put a Costco box up there. Well wouldn’t you know it… she loved it. She would spend many hours up in the box on top of the monitor. There were times when I would be on the phone, on a boring conference call, and Puka would be in her box… snoring ! I’d look at her and I would be incredibly envious. She is doing exactly what I want to be doing, sleeping instead of listening to this boring call. Puka wasn’t always the most gracious lady like character. Especially while sleeping in her box, she would often sleep on her back with legs in the air, completely undignified. Again I would look at her and think, I’d rather be doing what you’re doing, instead of what I’m doing.
If you asked Puka what was hers, she would reply "Everything under this roof". So what she didn’t like was closed doors. If you asked Puka, Closed doors would be strictly forbidden in her world. Closed closet doors, as soon as the door to the closet opened, like a flash of lightening, she was in there. The linen closet was the best one of them all… all that soft stuff to lay all over. Puka didn’t like coming out unless absolutely necessary, but if you walked away for a while, her instinct to stay with us took over and she eventually came out and we were able to close the doors. The Garage was a different story. We had to be constantly vigilant to make sure the door was closed shut (latch engaged). Puka knew the sound of the latch, and if the door hadn’t closed completely, she would often try to peek in. She would never bolt into the garage, but if left long enough she would make her way in. One winter she got into the garage, the cars had the sloppy/gritty snow melting on the floor, but that didn’t deter Puka from investigating, and getting all grimy in the process. And trying to clean her grimy paws was not fun. Puka even decided that some of the drawers were her domain as well. A drawer left open, could be a nice little nap spot.
Over the years, Janet & I would take vacations. We always arranged to have Puka looked after. We were very fortunate to have Kaitlin and Hayley next door. They looked after Puka the most while we were on vacation. I know that Puka very much appreciated both Kaitlin and Hayley, as she would immediately recognize them, and allow the gals to pick her up and Puka would cuddle and purr in reciprocal. Once we did have a situation where we couldn’t have someone in for the entire time. Puka stopped eating and even though someone was in daily, this wasn’t enough, as Puka needed to know that someone was there at night. We had Janet’s Mom (Shirley) do a weekend kitty-sitting stint every now and again, however during the last kitty-sitting event, Shirley forgot why she was there, and when she saw Puka, was startled and yelled out. This didn’t sit well with Puka, and for the most part she hid in the basement for the remainder of the weekend. Puka was very happy to see her Mommy and Daddy come home that weekend.
Holiday season brought out changes in the house and that meant changes to the routine. The setting up of the Christmas tree for one. ‘What’s this?’ Puka would say, ‘A HUGE Box. I must investigate.’ So into the box for the Christmas tree she would go. The flaps would close over her, and we could see in and there were 2 green eyes staring back at us. The best part of Christmas was the tree. We had very proudly found a beautiful Hawaiian quilted tree skirt. This became Puka’s tree skirt. She would nestle herself under the tree, and if there were gifts under there, so much the better. She now had a secret little hideaway, where she could monitor everyone’s activities. She never tried to climb the tree, but on the odd occasion she would knock an ornament onto the floor and play with it. We usually put the less delicate and softer type ornaments near the bottom, just for that reason. We started off buying her gifts, but we quickly discovered that Puka wasn’t interested in the gift itself, but more the packaging it came in. If there was tissue paper, this was great! If it was tissue paper and a bag big enough to fit inside… Puka would say "oh, Thank you ! What a fabulous gift" And she wouldn’t care about the contents of the package.
Puka loved her tissue paper and bags. She went thru several of them. Eventually we would have to toss out the tissue paper and paper bags out, as she would have ripped it up, not by shredding it, but by running towards it and sliding on it. Puka also loved ribbons, and one of her favorite games was to pounce on the ribbon. Especially if you pulled it ever so slightly across an area rug. She would spot the ‘Prey’, usually back up, at least until her hind legs were on the living room carpet, then the eyes would dilate, the butt would get a little wiggle, and boom of she goes, crumpling up the ribbon and the area rug in the process. If the rug happened to fold over her so much the better, she would then roll around and play under the rug. If the rug didn’t roll up over her then she would roll around in the folds. Either way, this was great fun, and Puka didn’t tire of playing with the ribbon and area rug and if you mixed it up with some tissue paper on the rug with the ribbon… now you’re talkin’ serious fun in Puka’s world.
Puka would love to be held, and with each of us it was a different position to be held in. With Janet, the position would be over the left shoulder, or as I like to call it, the sack of potatoes carry. If Janet put Puka over the right shoulder, Puka would move to the left, the right just didn’t feel right. Puka would place her front paws over the shoulder, Janet would have to cup Puka’s rear-end with her right hand, or sometimes she could fold her left arm to cup the bottom and hold her upper body. If I was holding Puka, and I went to Janet to hug her, Puka would immediately move into her normal hold position with Janet. The three of us would be sandwiched together, and that suited Puka just fine. Janet’s holding position for Puka was the primary position for being transported. Yes, Puka loved to be carried around. We wondered if she was a princess in a prior life ? With me, she preferred the position that I called the football carry, my left arm, horizontal at a 90degree angle, close to my stomach, Puka would be on her chest and belly, my hand would be at her lower belly or rear-end. Her front paws would be up near my elbow, and her back legs would just fall limply on either side of my hand. I would usually have my right arm underneath my left as after 10-15 minutes, our little girl would start to get heavy. She looked very long in this type of carry position. This was the preferred carry method she had with me. If Janet tried my carry method, Puka wouldn’t like it. If I had the sack of potatoes position with Puka, she would squirm and try to get into the football carry position. I guess it comes back to routine. She had her routine with us, and those routines suited her just fine.
As the years went by we had a number of names for her, Puka, Pookie, Puk, Schnookums, Puka Kitty, and Little Girl. However she would always answer to Puka, she knew her name, and she always responded to us when we called her. Puka had a number of different sounds. To start with, she knew her name. If you called her she would give you a brrrrreh type of sound. As if to say "Yes, I’m here, and I love you too". Often times when we would go out, and come back in, we would find her in exactly the same spot as when we left. If she didn’t respond when we came in the door, all it took was for us to walk over and she would immediately look at us, and give us a little sound, as if to say "oh Hi ! I missed you while you were gone… I was having some wonderful dreams". She had a multitude of other sounds, and as mentioned earlier, she didn’t like the car, she would moan quite badly once we started moving. We usually only took her out, to go to the Vet. Once the car stopped moving she would be ok. She didn’t mind the vet, and usually tolerated being handled and poked and examined. She never once lashed out at either us or the vet, and I only heard her hiss once towards the vet, and we can take blame for that, we were running a bit late. We usually tried to arrive early, and sit in the car for a bit to let her calm down. This time was different, as we went straight from drive, into the appointment, and she hadn’t really calmed down yet. Usually once we were home from the drive, she would display some attitude. This was usually our key to go run some errands. She could continue to display the attitude while we were somewhere else. If we didn’t go out, she would follow us around the house and let us know her opinions on being in the car. I say this, yet this wasn’t her usual behavior. The other 99% of the time, she was just loving, purring, rubbing up against our legs, and wanting a little chin scratch.
Puka was my first pet. We had no idea what a wonderful gift we found that day in April 1999, nor did we realize the impact she would have on our lives but those of our friends as well. She cared for us from the second she met us. She remained caring, sweet, and loving from day one, and right up until the last day of her life. She loved both of us, and we loved her in return. We will miss her dearly, and she will remain in our hearts forever.