Friday, June 3, 2016

A Blog for Cats

When I was in second grade, Mike Tine said to me at the bus stop, "If a cat comes onto my property, I'm gonna shoot it." I remember him wearing a baseball cap with the Chevy logo in place of a baseball team, chewing on a golden wheat stalk, and proudly rolling a pocketknife back and forth in his palm, though probably only two of those things are true.

Cats have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. Despite all the old wive's tales that warned parents that cats would suck the breath out of babies, I made it through child - breath intact - with a bevvy of feline friends by my side.

Although I don't remember him well, Sullivan (Sully) was, I suppose my first cat, although I have earlier photos of Jocelyn sleeping in my crib. I remember being at my aunt Leigh's and my mother speaking to the vet because he had feline leukemia and we had to put him down. I don't know how old he was when he went, but I will credit him for my endless affinity to large orange cats.

Then came the ignorant years, before mom and I heeded Bob Barker's plea to spay and neuter your pets. The slew of cats that we had then were bountiful, graced each year with a litter of kittens that we would give away, much to my heart break. I would have kept every last one of them until all the corners of my house were laden with cats. We had another fluffy orange cat, Toodles, named after the Peter Pan character and Ta-Ta, a name my mother hated. When we moved to Brook Street, Ta-Ta got hit by a car and we got Eliza, named after Eliza Doolittle and eventually the first syllable became too cumbersome and she was just Liza.
Bartholomew, L.C., and Leopold

Liza and Toodles had several litters of kittens, but I kept two. Cats, not litters. Rascal (my most normative and shameful cat name) and my gay little prince cat, L.C. (Little Cow) who saw me through leaving for college. Whenever we took him to the vet, L.C.'s name was written as "Elsie," a name which I didn't know existed, but apparently all the vets thought was normal. L.C. let me hold him on my hip, drag him around with me, and, even though my mother said, "Never ever ever" slept on the bed beside me.

Jojo Bean
Long after Liza and Toodles were gone, Rascal left - he just wandered off - and we got Bartholomew and Leopold to accompany L.C. I was a junior in high school and we had finally answered the spaying and neutering call, but not the "keep your cats indoors" one. L.C. was probably 11 or 12 by this point. Bartholomew was nearing a year and Leopold - Poly-pants - was a wily little eight week old kitten with a white mustache, white paws, and a little heart on his belly.

These were the years of heart ache and devastation for the cats I loved. After I left for St. Mike's L.C. died of old age (and, I like to imagine, of sheer heartache). Polypants went outside one day and never returned. An ex-friend of mine adopted three kittens two of whom were killed by her dog and the other of whom, Girlie, we took in. She also died too young of the perils of outside.

One of my favorite cats of all time came to me from a neighbor. His name was Jojo and he was
another tuxedo kitty. Jojo loved pipe cleaners, stealing my clothes, and me. He was very protective of me, but he was also a pain in the ass, even more so than a normal kitten. So we got him a friend: Jonfen. Jojo barely made it past three before he died and Jonfen, a somewhat dimwitted but extremely good-natured orange tabby, wasn't far behind him.

My Best Girl - Emily Louise
A year before I graduated from Smith College, I adopted Emily, my contraband kitty who I had hoped would solve all my problems. Her shelter name was Bootsie, and I saved her from that horrible eternity. In return, she gave me a really sweet little face to gaze at while I wondered if she actually liked me, which I didn't discover she did until after six months of living with her.
My Sweet Desmon

After I finished college and moved out, I adopted Desmond Huey
Samson giving head butts
Lewis Jones: the Bub. And then Samson came along, his story of abandonment tearing my heart in two. I didn't care if he lived two weeks or two years - that poor cat was coming home with me. He was the best cat ever. His little heart loved so much and his big ol' belly flopped towards the sky was a sign of his eternal trust, just
as his feet waddling after you on your way to the bedroom were a sign of his eternal devotion.

After he died at the ripe old age of 17.5, my husband and I waxed content with our little family: just us and Emily Louise and Desmond Huey Lewis Jones. Until the Cat Who Has No Name entered.

His shelter name was Kiki and he was only supposed to be with us for a couple of weeks until he gotover his cold. I hated the name Kiki and started calling him Weezy, because that's what he did most of the time. He, like Samson, seemed so grateful to have people who cared about him and let him snuggle up on the bed or the couch that resigning him to a life of "maybe someone will adopt him" seemed to cruel. So, he came home with us, just a week before we left for Turkey. (Shout out to my mother!) He's been through several names since, and I think we've finally settled on one: Hamilton. (Fully Alexander Hamilton)

Boo Radley
Turkey has gifted me with a colony of cats who know my footsteps and my voice, let me pet them, sit with me when I go outside to read, and always make me smile. Boo, of course, came to live with us after two tragic accidents and now I am so happy that he has a forever home. In our spare room (Boo's room, I call it) now I have a little kitten whose right eye is swollen shut, dripping with whitish mucus, and who generally hates me for taking her inside, trying to clean her eye, and forcing antibiotics down her throat. That I'm also the person who feeds her seems to have evaded her knowledge. I'm hoping that, with a few days of treatment and a safe, clean place to sleep and all the stinky wet food that she can eat, she'll get better and I can return her to her three siblings and mom.

Cats are amazing animals with distinct personalities and quirks that are unbelievably endearing. I remember all my cats so well because they were family - they ARE family - and because their lives have so enriched mine. I am so grateful to have known and loved so many tremendous cats in my life and I hope to know and love many more. Send good thoughts to the sick little kitten in Boo's room and, if you have a cat, consider yourself the luckiest person on earth. 

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