The History of The Cat… in the life of Sarah, that is…

As you’ve probably well noticed, the sub-title of this blog is “ramblings and musings and kitties… oh my!”.  I’ve done plenty of the ramblings and musings bits, but have yet to make a post about my cats, so I felt that I should remedy that immediately.  This one shall be the history of the cat, and my following post will be all about the cats that we currently have in residence in the family.

 

My grandmother, in the 1920s, holding a white fluffy cat.

 

 

I have been surrounded by cats my entire life.  This is basically due to my maternal grandmother.  She liked cats, so my mother grew up with cats.  When my mother started dating my dad when they were both in high school, she introduced him to cats.  He in turn introduced cats to his family, and his brother’s family and his sister are cat people, all because of my maternal grandmother.

 

My parents with their first fur-baby in 1969. The very large bunny, Floppy.

Needless to say, when my parents got married, they had cat children before The Sister or I were born.  Well, that’s not true.  First, they had a bunny child, but this was before they were married.  His name was Floppy and he ended up being quite a large bunny, though in the above photo he’s still just a baby.  Then they added cats to the family when they married, and then The Sister, then some more cats, and finally me… and some more cats and dogs and fish and birds.

 

Toye and Baby Me

Cats like to sleep where it’s warm and babies are warm and so are their blankets.  I’m sure that my parents probably put cats in my crib with me on occasion, but mostly they got in there with me of their own accord for the blankets.  If my mom didn’t want me crowded by cats, she’d pick them up to remove them and I’d fuss and cry; reaching my arms out for them until she returned him.  Both of my parents tell me that sometimes they’d find me with multiple cats sleeping on and around me as a baby, including on my head, and I was always happy and never fussed until they tried to remove the cats from me.  This story makes me beam from ear to ear.

Fluffy and Baby Me

I remember an aunt on my dad’s side retelling a story that her mothers cat wanted to sleep with her daughter when she was born.  The cat was really close to the baby’s face, so the mom thinking that it was going to suck the babies soul out or suffocate it or something, threw the cat across the room to save the baby.  My aunt thought this story would impress us.  Needless to say it impressed no one in my family.  I made stormy eyes at her.

Everyone’s got the story of what their first words were.  Dada, papa, mama, or something else.  My first word was itty.  I’d reach for a cat and say itty, so obviously I couldn’t say K’s yet.  My mom doesn’t like that story because for me it was kitty, then ganpa (grandpa), then dada, and then mama.  Babies can’t help what their first words are, but I’m here to tell you that I’m pleased as punch that mine was kitty.

 

Nuttmegg and Toddler Me. Disregard me sucking my fingers.

I wasn’t allowed to have my own cat until I was six, but before that there were plenty of cats to pet and give attention to and one in particular was a large brown seal point Siamese named Nuttmegg.  I didn’t really know life without him as he was born shortly after I was three, and is really when I started having memories of things.  There were also The Sisters black alley cat, Blackie, and then her daughter, Bang-Bang.  And my mother had a fussy lynx point Siamese named Samantha, whom my dad’s sister rescued and gave to my mom one Christmas.  She was really fussy and picky and weird, but she was Nuttmegg’s mom, so she was cool, and she didn’t mind me too much really.

She was not cool, when it came to having babies, however.  Now it’s looked down upon, breeding cats or not getting them fixed, and I know that Bob Barker was constantly handing out that PSA, which is a good one, especially considering that the nation has an extremely large number of kill shelters, and not nearly enough no-kill one’s.  But, in the early eighties, no one thought anything about it, so mom wouldn’t fix the cats until they’d had a litter.  Most vets at the time even said it was healthier for the cat to have a litter or two before getting fixed; now they say differently.

 

Blackie and Baby-Toddler Me

Anyways, so depending on the cat, they’ll either want help with their delivery or they will want to be as far away as possible from you.  The Sisters’ alley cats, Blackie and Bang-Bang wanted nothing  to do with humans and had their babies somewhere outside where they felt it was safe and then carried them back, one by one in their mouths, to our breezeway and announced their return with loud maowing.  My cat Tiger Lilly did the same thing when she had babies.  But they were, all three, really tough street cats.

Samantha, whom we generally just referred to as Sam, was not this way at all.  She’d pathetically cry and want my mom to stay by her side.  Mom didn’t want to, so the task was up to me, since I was four and not yet in school.  We laid out some sheets in a large cardboard box in the dining room for her.  Mom taught me that to keep her calm and contented, I needed to gently pet the top of her head, her upper back and her front pee-paws, which is what we call paws, but never anywhere past her shoulders.

I was there the entire day and though mom wanted me to leave when the kittens were being born, I insisted on staying.  She taught me not to touch them, but if Sam didn’t clean them as soon as they came out, that we’d have to clear away the birth from their noses and mouths with a warm, damp cloth so they’d be able to breathe, which we did have to do.  Also that male cats were never allowed near babies being born; if they see them as a threat, they will eat them.  But, in this instance, I was present when Sam’s daughters, Sabrina and Squeaker were born.

Sabrina was white with silver patches, like a dark seal point, only the white and silver variety.  I’m not sure the name, but our current cat, Bunny, is of the same variety.  Squeaker looked just like her mom, and we later named her that, because she could only muster squeaks when talking.

Squeaker had kittens first, after she was well over a year old.  She had them in a sheet lined cardboard box in my parents closet, but didn’t really need much help.  After enough time of nursing, she was beyond babies and wanted nothing more than to leave and go have some alone time and eat some food.  So, when Squeaker came back, she found me in the closet cooing over her kittens and both Nuttmegg and Sabrina in there cuddling them.

But Nuttmegg adored babies.  He was a male, but he was not brave, nor a typical male.  Babies were never threats, but only things to cuddle with and to love.  Also he was deathly afraid of mice.  Sabrina, also adored babies and was forever wanting to snuggle with any and all of them.  I too, couldn’t keep away from the baby kittens, though my mom was always telling me to leave them alone.  The only time I would listen is if the new mom basically said, “Enough!” with a sharp, though not mean, motherly meow.

Sam would go on to have more kittens and Squeaker another litter and every time Nuttmegg and Sabrina would weasel their way into the boxes, sometimes silently fighting, by shoving each other to see who could be mama at the moment, or else admitting defeat and both of them squeezed into the box together.  Sometimes they didn’t even want to let the mom back into the box.  Samantha, as these all being her children, would fuss, but not aggressively, at them because she wanted them to leave her in peace.

Sadly, Sabrina never did have babies.  She became pregnant, as most of our cats did, by some random male cat in the neighbourhood, but her babies died in the womb, and she died because of it.  She didn’t give any indications of feeling poorly.  She was fine, and then she was dead.  It was really tragic, though I’ll spare the details.

Nuttmegg did have kittens, and sadly it was with his own mother.  Not sad, if you think about nature and that’s just something that cats will do, but as I was too young, I didn’t really know how these things worked so it wasn’t my responsibility, it was mom’s, plus I didn’t find out until years later that Nuttmegg was his own grandpa sort of deal.  We went on vacation and when we came back there were babies.  Obviously Sam had gotten pregnant before we left, but mom never thought they’d have kittens together.  But Nuttmegg was the happiest, most proudest papa you have ever seen.  He had babies and he couldn’t have been more pleased.  His dream had finally come true.

We always gave the cats away to good homes, with a donation accepted to help cover the cost of spaying the mother.  Mom would always let me help give the kittens away, and generally would let me make the decisions, but sometimes not.  I was very picky about who got our babies.  Very picky.

 

Cash Mittens… and the guppies.

The first time I was allowed all say in who got babies was with my first cat.  A black female with white paws, that my mother named Socks, started hanging around our house.  Then she got pregnant.  Mom noticed the changes, and when her belly was no longer fat, she said she could bring the kittens to her.  Mom actually helped save her kittens for her.  They were building beside us, and Socks had her litter in a culvert pipe… but on a construction site.

So, there’s my mom, following a cat through all this material and men in hard hats staring at her.  At least when she told them, they offered to help and didn’t just continue their work.  Mom didn’t touch a single kitten, but allowed Socks to carry them over in her mouth.  When they were all here, mom made the entire family comfy on the breezeway.  And I instantly fell in love with a little grey kitten with white pee-paws and a little white diamond on her forehead.

Mom was reluctant to let me keep her at first, but agreed after my maternal grandmother said that I should have the cat.  I named her Cash Mittens, though my family made fun of me about it, I stood firm in my decision, though everyone just called her Mittens.  She was a tough street cat like her mother.  Socks never wanted to be domesticated and just moved on, but Cash Mittens stayed with me for five years.

Her first litter of kittens, I named them all after musicians, which my mother absolutely hated.  There was Johnny Cash, Alice Cooper, Jon Bon Jovi, Janet Jackson, etc.  When it came time to give them away, my mother agreed that I could have full responsibility and I took that responsibility very seriously.  I did turn people away.  I was very choosy.  Some people were outraged that a stupid free kitten was causing them this much trouble and wanting my mom to just give it to them.  Certainly with those type of words I was glad they weren’t getting one of our babies and my mother always said, “The decision is hers.  The mama cat is hers.”

I turned people away who I knew would probably end up abandoning or killing their kittens.  You can always tell the people.  A guy who doesn’t really care, but is getting a kitten for his girlfriend and there’s desperation in his voice.  Nope.  A family with kids, where the kids are trying to swing the kittens around or hitting them and the parents see, but don’t care.  I don’t think so.  I didn’t care what the families “sob” story was, or how far they’d driven for “free kittens”, it was my job to see that they went to families who would love them and treat them well.  I had to do my very best to ensure they’d be safe and looked after.  The family didn’t have to be wealthy, they just had to be kind and compassionate.  I am glad that I took my job so seriously.  While I don’t know the fate of any of those kittens, I can sleep soundly knowing that I did everything in my power to ensure they had a good life.  I didn’t half-ass anything, I don’t have any regrets for them.

I do have a regret for one.  When a later cat, Seraphina, had kittens, I wasn’t here.  My mom and The Sister gave one of our babies away to some guy.  I was really, really upset.  I still kind of am.  They kept assuring me that he was a really great guy, but I’d seen in the past that they’d give their kittens away to some not so nice people.  They had a track record.  I have no idea who this guy was.  I feel like I let that kitten down.  I didn’t do my job to the best of my ability, because I wasn’t there.  I didn’t get to see him, to feel his energy and intentions, hear his words and how he said them on why he wanted a kitten; I didn’t get to see how he interacted with it.  Perhaps they made a good decision… but what if they didn’t?  What if they didn’t…?

 

Cash Mittens and siblings.

So, Cash Mittens was a skanky street cat, which is my lovingly placed title for fierce alley cat females.  They’ll eat anything.  If dad caught a messa fish, he’d give them raw brains and organs and they’d eat it and feel quite content.  Some of our other cats were not so skanky and these things didn’t sit well with them and I had to tell my dad not to feed them these types of things.  But Cash Mittens was definitely an alley cat, loving to catch prey and eat all sorts of unsavoury things that most cats love to eat.

My mother, during my early childhood, also kept guppies and finches.  These things do not mix well with cats.  The guppy tank was in the kitchen and Cash Mittens would sit and watch them and paw at the glass, but never try to eat them.  Mom had to keep the finches in the downstairs bathroom and later in the laundry room upstairs.  Mainly because my cat would eat them.  And eat them, she did!

On several occasions, The Sister would be cleaning the cage and Cash Mittens would slip in and wait.  Then she’d get locked up in there and fish the little birds to her with her paw and pop them out through the bars and annihilate them.  Daddy, Mommy, and babies too.  My mom always blamed me because Cash Mittens was my cat, but I was six and seven and away at school during the days.  I can’t teach a cat to unlearn hunting instincts.  Mom should have taken better care of her birds.

She was still part feral, and would leave on random occasions.  She always came back within a few days, but that didn’t stop me from going out into the woods behind our house with some cat food and calling to her.  Sometimes, after the third or fourth day, she’d emerge from the woods and come to me and follow me back home.  Other times I’d already called for the day and would be at home and she’d be meowing out the back door for me.  On her last outing, when I was ten, she never came home.  I went out every day, for two weeks, to find her.  But it was time to stop looking.  If she’d wanted to come home, she would have done so by then.

As sad as it is, the most likely thing was that a dog or wild animal had gotten her.  I generally like to imagine that these cats simply want to go out and see other parts of the world, so that is what I think.  However, it was not unknown that people would take our cats in, especially the elderly people who lived in a retirement home next door.  I can’t see them taking Cash Mittens in, as she was skittish around everyone but me, and only a little relaxed with my family.

But these people actually did have some of our cats in their possession from time to time.  If one of our cats went missing, I went door to door with a photo of them and asked if anyone had seen them.  On some occasions, these retirement people did have them and didn’t realize they already had a home, so gave them back.  Although, for the nicer old ladies, I said they were more than welcome to feed and pet the cat if it came back, but to remember that it was part of my family and we would miss them terribly. I knew that these people were lonely, so of course if I were lonely I’d want to have the company of a cat, but I also didn’t want them to keep our cat forever, because it would be like someone keeping my dad forever.  Cats are family around here.

 

Tiger Lilly

When I was eleven my parents wanted to get me another kitten.  I wasn’t ready at first, but the following year, I was ready and said that I’d like to have another cat.  They read about some free kittens out in the country, so we went to look at them.  The kittens didn’t like me.  I already knew never to force myself on cats, so I didn’t advance on them or try to touch them, but they were rather hissy and afraid, which is generally unusual with cats when it comes to me.  My feelings were hurt that they didn’t like me, but I wasn’t about to invade on them and cause them undue distress.  My parents, though, still wanted me to see if there was a kitten there for me, “But, these kittens don’t want to come home with me.  We should leave.  They are upset.”  Then one of them ran up to me and bounced into my lap.  She was caterwalling and purring and it seemed I had been chosen.  This kitten had honoured me in accepting me as her human.

The older lady who had them, reminded me somewhat of my paternal grandmother.  Very country, worked with the land, had blonde hair at one time, really cool.  She said this particular one was her very favourite and that I had to take extra special care of her.  Which I promised.  But, then cats that don’t want to be mollycoddled simply won’t be.  She was a cat who did what she wanted, when she wanted to.  She was super tough too.

During my late teen years, we’d opened a coffee-house in our basement and of course the cats were welcome.  Everyone got along smashingly with the cats.  However, one incident happened and it happened to Tiger Lilly.  I would tell people that even though she was tough, she didn’t like to be man-handled, so not to pick her up or pet her belly because she’d bite.  People followed the rules well.

This one girl, however, a really, really huge girl.  She’s probably six feet and built big.  She was petting Tiger Lilly on the stomach and Tiger Lilly was telling her no, by growling.  I told her to stop harassing my cat, that she didn’t like to be petted there.  Then the next thing I knew, the girl yells and then picks up my cat and throws her across the room where she hit the wall.  I ran over to Tiger Lilly and she was alive and OK, so then I ran up to that girl so fast and bowed up at her with all of my 5’2″ self and screamed at her.

“Don’t you ever, ever, EVER touch my cat again!  How DARE you throw her across the room!  What the fuck is wrong with you?!”  There were other customers watching, but that wasn’t important.  This girl could have squashed me like a bug.  Didn’t matter.  All that was important was to ascertain if my baby was alright and to tell this girl off.   Her response?  “She bit me.”

“Of course she did!  I told you not to pester her and you did.  You deserved to be bitten.  If you touch her again, I will beat the ever-living shit out of you, do you understand me?  Do you?!?!.  Think I’m kidding?  Fucking try it!”

To which I then proceeded over to where Tiger Lilly was to make sure super she was OK and to comfort her.  She was, but she was hopping mad.  I scooped her up in my arms and cooed at her and petted her and thank the gods she was fine.  Told her that was a mean lady, yes she was, and you had every right to bite her.  When she’d calmed down enough and stopped sulking, which she had every right to do, she then started purring.  When she was finished being reassured and babied and wanted down, I let her down outside to run around.

She never touched Tiger Lilly again, and was always extra careful around the cats.  Hey, I may have been a tyrant, but I didn’t go ballistic on her when she was petting my cat, only when she assaulted her.  You try remaining calm is someone picks up your human baby and hurls it across the room into a wall.  See how calm you remain.  I still stand by what I did, and I don’t regret it.  My job is to keep our cats safe.  I don’t suffocate them with safety, but I won’t tolerate abuse.

There were other people, mainly males, who I suppose were just used to dogs.  They had every intention of being nice to the cats, but they were too rough with them.  I never lost my temper, I just nicely told them that they were being too rough.  Cats are not dogs and are more gentle creatures.  They’d start being less rough and all was well.

Anyways, so back to Tiger Lilly and being tough.  She did have one litter of kittens, and produced one adorable orange puff-ball kitten, a boy.  I wanted to keep him, but my mother said not now, but perhaps another kitten from another litter, which did not happen.  On Easter Morning of the following year, I came outside and found Tiger Lilly in the bushes, screeching in pain.  We took her to the emergency vet.  They weren’t sure if it was because of a car or a dog, but she’d injured her front leg so badly, that it needed to be amputated.  And she was a three-legger when that girl threw her too.  Still burns me up.  Throwing a cat regardless, but especially one who is handicapped, just wrong.

However, this did not stop her.  Once she’d recuperated enough, she was tearing through the house like nothing had even happened.  She’d play and jump like she had before the loss.  She generally set her one good leg facing towards the center, to give her better stability.  She did all of her best hunting with only three legs.  I lovingly referred to her as my Post-Apocalyptic Kitty, as she totally could have been a survivor in a post-apocalyptic world.

She also detested being inside the house and refused to spend her days cooped up inside.  She adored the outdoors, so I allowed it to her.  She lived for twelve years.  In the end, she tried to fight off a dog who was attacking her.  She survived the incident and she did mess that dog up, which I’m proud of her for, but by the time I could get outside from first hearing the commotion, the incident had caused her to have a massive stroke.  I stayed up with her all night, but she gone by the next morning.

 

When I was sixteen, I went away to Girl Scout camp and came back to a new kitten that dad had gotten for me.  She was grey and super fluffy.  I named her Seraphina.  Apparently dad got the kitten for mom, but was so glad I was home, that he gave her to me?  Regardless, Seraphina chose my dad to be her human.

Seraphina, besides being a pretty sounding names (which is why I chose the name, because it sounded nice), means deeply religious.  It seems like an odd name, but apparently she hated blaspheming.  She would hang out and sleep in our coffee-house, generally on the backs of chairs or sofas behind patrons’ heads.  They could say any curse word from shit to fuck, but once they uttered the phrase goddamn or goddamnit, Seraphina would raise her head and chatter at them angrily.  It wasn’t the humans’ tone, because they’d say other words with the same tone.  It was amusing, but did me naming her ‘deeply religious’ cause her to hate blasphemers?  Or would she have hated them anyways?  We’ll never know.

Seraphina was due to have her first litter on the day that I had to go and sign up for summer school.  I had failed algebra during my sophomore year.  I was upset because I wanted to be there for the birthing, but things didn’t start until about thirty minutes after I returned.  My mom tried to put her in cardboard box with sheets in their closet.  Seraphina wouldn’t have it.  She wanted to have these babies on my mothers silk comforter.  Mom tried putting the clean birthing sheets just on the bed underneath her.  Nope.  She was doing this thing in style.

She had no problem having the kittens, but she refused to clean their faces.  Somehow my mothers male cat, Lapis, who was the father, got into the room.  He was a silver and white Siamese and really, really stupid, which might explain why he didn’t see the babies as a threat.  I was going to remove him after he jumped on the bed, but mom said to wait just a second.  He sniffed his new-born kittens and proceeded to clean the faces for them.  He never once tried to eat them and cuddled them while Seraphina was still in labour.

This was also my first and only time with after birth.  Mom had always made me leave for this part, though I don’t know why.  It’s much like human child-birth.  The mother births the baby, in this case, several babies, then there is after birth; the placenta.  However, unlike humans, the mother cat will eat the after birth.  It’s awkward and we turn away to let her have some privacy, but it’s essential.  It’s instinctual.

Mother cats have their babies in the nests that they have prepared.  They don’t leave it after the kittens are born, unless there is an urgent need.  A rotting placenta will draw all sorts of predatory creatures to this nest to eat the babies, so the mother eats it to get rid of the scent; to keep her and her kittens hidden and safe.  Sure she doesn’t really have to if she’s having them in a house, but she’ll still want to, and it’s fine if she does.

 

Bao-Bao on THE vintage silk comforter on which she was born.

Anyways.  I watched both of her litters being born and helped her with the birthing as she was so fancy and prim.  Both times Lapis helped her with the birthing and cleaning as well.  But, this first batch, I ended up falling in love with one of the kittens.  They stayed in my mothers closet in a box, as all the new litters have, and one kitten was so fat that when it tried to walk it just rolled.  That’s the one I wanted.

I tried forever to find a good name for her, but she hated all of them.  I was reading Amy Tan’s The Kitchen God’s Wife and a random and not so important character in the story was nicknamed Bao-Bao.  It means precious baby.  They’d called him that in his infancy, but continued to do so even after he was getting married.  My cat loved the name, so that’s what we settled on, though I had initially said it on a lark, just because I was so desperate for her to choose a name.

Most of our cats are acquired, found or rescued after they’ve been born, so I generally celebrate their birthday as the day they joined the family, which I call their Finding Day.  However with Bao-Bao, I was there for her actual birthday which was the 4th of June, 1997, so she celebrated Birthdays instead of Finding Days.

She was the first cat to be fixed without having babies.  I put my foot down with Seraphina and said she would be the last.  The after effects of birth were not good on her.  She didn’t like staying and nursing her babies, but did.  She also pined for weeks and weeks after they were given away.  All of it made her nervous and twitchy and she’d scratch the skin from her nose.  When we took her in to get fixed, it was too late.  She was already pregnant again.  So, after her second pregnancy, we got her fixed as soon as possible.

Seraphina’s story is rather tragic.  But I’ll spare the details.  Basically she pined for her missing kittens and her missing mate.  He was injured and was at the vet a long time, because we saved him rather than having him put down.  But, then he died later after being returned home, and not from his previous injuries.  She pined some more because he was gone again.  She moped around the house calling and calling.  And then one morning I found her and a hawk had gotten her, though I’ll spare the details of that as well.

All of this is why there has never been another pregnant cat or birthing of litters in this house ever again.  She might have been the only one to behave in such a manner, but it was enough.  It was heartbreaking to watch her, and since Bao-Bao was my cat, I went against my mother and said no to more kittens.

 

Bao-Bao

So, Bao-Bao never had kittens, and while they would have been absolutely adorable, it was a good decision to have her fixed before this could happen, though she probably would have been alright.  She was our longest living cat, besides Nuttmegg.  She passed away two years ago from old age and I was there with her until the last, soothing and comforting her.  She was sixteen years old and I buried her in front of the azalea bush, underneath the window of my bedroom where she liked to look out.  It is also the window that I sit beside when I write on the computer.

It was a difficult death for me, because she’d been in my life through a lot of shit.  She’d always been there for through all of it.  It was her time and I accepted it with dignity and it doesn’t sting so much now, but I do miss her.  She was prim and tough.  Obstinate as all get out.  But I wouldn’t have changed her personality for the world, though sometimes she agitated me and I think on purpose just because she’s a cat and she could.

Just before she died, they named a zoo newborn panda after her.  I relayed the story to her and we celebrated and she was happy about it.  And like a proud mama, I told everyone I knew that the new baby panda was named after my Bao-Bao.  Obviously the keepers have no idea who I am, nor my cat, but she was named before that panda, so it counts.

Anyways, it’s going to be weird when they ever tear this house down and try to level the ground for another building, I tell ya!  But all of our cats were loved and had very good lives and they are still loved and remembered.  Actually they’d find more than that in our back yard.  Birds, fish, dogs, bunnies.  I also know exactly where they are all buried.  I even buried neighbourhood/feral cats who’d died, because it’s too sad to leave them out.

But moving on from sadness.  There have been loads of cats I’ve helped out over the years.  Strays who simply need a bit of food and love before they decided to go on their merry ways.  Mrs. Co was one of them.  Oh, I also named all of them.  She was a calico that was mostly white with patches.  I found her down the road while walking one day.  Her collar was entirely too tight for her.  As in it was growing into her neck.  My parents were not convinced that she needed help and returned her to the spot where I’d picked her up, though it’s never been my habit to steal people’s cats.  I know the difference between truly abandoned and perceived abandonment, unlike a lot of people.  So it was weird of my parents to assume that I would take someone’s pet like that.

A few weeks later, I came home to The Sister and her friend with Mrs. Co!  They were on our front stoop with the mangled collar cut in half beside them and they were doctoring her severely wounded neck with powdered sugar.  It will help form a scab, but is something that won’t hurt the cat if they ingest it.  I was right and proclaimed it to my parents.  She stayed awhile in our front yard with us playing with her and giving her water and food.  Making her happy.  Then one day, she just left.

 

Tomás

Another was Tomás.  Yes as in the Spanish version of Thomas, so said as ToeMAS.  Oh, how I adored Tomás!  When I first spotted him, he was wrestling with something around his neck, something green and a little shiny.  I approached slowly and quietly to see what was the matter.  It was one of those large tie tags that binds lettuce up in grocery stores.  At first I thought some kids or somebody had purposefully tied something around his neck, but when I realized what it was, I figured he’d probably been scavenging for food and had gotten it stuck around his neck.

I also noticed that he’d gotten it slightly tangled and he wouldn’t be able to simply have it slip off over his head; it would need cutting.  I couldn’t see this and not do something to help him!  I went back in and got the scissors.  It took me thirty minutes to slowly advance towards him.  He didn’t run away, but kept eyeing me warily.  I kept figuring how in my head exactly what needed doing, because I knew once I reached him things would need to move quickly.  Once I was right up to him, as quick as I could, I slipped the scissors in between his fur and snipped the tie tag only once before he moved away.

The next day, he was lounging in our front yard.  I found the tie tag in two pieces near where I had snipped it.  To him, I was a bit of alright because I’d gotten that thing off of him and in a nice, non-threatening manner.  He let me sidle up to him, but again this took an extremely long amount of time.  He let me pet him once on the head and then moved.  I left out some food and water for him and went inside.

The next day, I needed to advance slowly, but within three minutes I was next to him and he let me pet him again.  He moved, and within minutes came up to me.  Then he started purring and rubbing his head on my legs and letting me pet him without moving away.  If I left or came home, he’d stay in his sleeping spot, still lounging contentedly, and would not run from me.  I could also approach him and pet him without him moving, though I still needed slow and calm movements.  For my family, he’d run if he saw them, at first.  Then he’d watch them walk by ready to run, but wouldn’t.  He never let them pet him though.

He was a rather old cat and had been in scuffles and fights, as evidenced by his bitten ear and the scars on his head.  One day I came outside and he just wasn’t there.  Nor the next day or the next.  I like to imagine that he is off traveling through Europe.  Back packing his way to greater fish or something.

 

We’ve also rescued plenty of cats and brought them into the family over the years.  We rescued a kitten from Olive Garden on the coast, whose face had been badly burnt.  He was partially blind and his whiskers were all singed and wiry.  He lived a long time and was well cared for.

Another cat, that we merely thought would be another who was simply passing through, insisted on becoming part of the family.  He had been malnutrition in his early years, so his legs were wonky.  And he goose-stepped his front legs when he walked.  He insisted so badly about coming inside that he kept managing to get inside and would catterwaul outside our door to be let in.

So, we brought him to the vet to be examined and later fixed.  They said he was rather old, but not so old they couldn’t fix him.  He adjusted well to life indoors and to our other cats.  We named him Snoopy.  He lived about six or seven years and just died, probably from old age.

 

Kirja

We even rescued two kittens in 2005.  The boy would prance around in our front yard, hanging out with the other cats, and even rubbing up against The Sisters’ new puppy, who is a large breed.  He kept wanting to follow the cats in at night.  One night we simply let him.  He was super friendly and adorable.  I named him Kirja, which is Arabic for Sun, though we always just called him Chicken.  Our cats always tend to get proper names, and then loads of nicknames.  They know and answer to all of their names.

Kirja and Mika, The Sisters’ puppy were best friends.  When they were inside together, he’d shove his head in her mouth, and she’d gently gnaw on his skull giving him a head massage.  He’d come out covered in slobber and was the happiest, weirdest cat you ever saw.

We also give them origin stories if we don’t know where they came from.  Kirja was an alien.  He did not know how to cat, at all.  He was sent here to overtake the humans so that is species could rule Earth, but he was too nice and sweet for that, and so abandoned his mission.  He was also the last cat we let out-of-doors.  He was hit by a car a few years ago.  It was very tragic, and we said “No more.”

Though I do rescue cats, I am not a cat hoarder, nor never will be, as I understand the difference between giving a cat a better life and merely thinking you would, but won’t.  We know our limit of the amount of cats we can actually take care of, with vet needs, food, water, and individual care, love and attention.  We would never go beyond that limit.

I also know the difference between feral families and abandoned.  We have feral families in the neighbourhood.  It would be nice if I could capture, fix, and release, but I don’t have the means or know-how for this.  But I would never, ever call animal control on them, as they would be killed.  Besides, their not doing anyone any harm and they help keep down populations of snakes and rodents, which is beneficial for us humans.

I never see baby kittens and think, they need rescuing.  What I hear are a lone, random kitten crying and no cats want to come and claim it.  These are who I rescue.  There were two kittens in the woods recently that were crying.  But, they didn’t seem abandoned, but I wasn’t sure, so I left out some tuna.  The next day I went to retrieve the dish and there was an adult cat nearby, so they had not been abandoned, which is wonderful!

So, there is a difference.  One shouldn’t scoop up kittens all willy nilly unless you are certain they have been abandoned, because if they have a feral family, they’ll be taken care of.  Sure they won’t have indoor luxuries and they may die, but that is nature.  However, to leave an abandoned kitten to their fate just seems cruel beyond measure.  But I would always suggest that even if you aren’t intending to keep it, either find a good person who wants to take care of it or take it to a no-kill shelter, otherwise, what was the point in helping it to then turn it over to a kill shelter.

The Baby and Me.  One can be best friends with cats, see?

 

 

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