...a family cat is not replaceable like a worn-out coat or a set of tires. Each new kitten becomes his own cat, and none is repeated. I am four-cats old, measuring out my life in friends that have succeeded, but not replaced one another.
There have been a lot of cats in my life, and none have been "just pets." They have been so much more than that, true friends and gifts from God. My association with each cat taught me life lessons.
Florence was a little gray kitten that was mine was I was still very small. She was a rotten cat, very mischievous and rambunctious. Sort of like a toddler that hasn't been given any structure. The funniest thing she did was to steal socks. We had house guests one time, and she stole their socks out of their suitcases. She was so bad that my mom eventually found a new home for her. I was upset at the time, but now I realize two little kids and a rotten can were probably just too much to stay sane.
Harry was there when I was born. He was a gray and white cat with a spot next to his nose that looked like half a mustache. He was a very dignified cat; if he were a person, he would be a diplomat or something. Harry was more my mom's cat than mine, and what I remember most about him was how loyal he was to her. Harry liked little girls. He hid during Andy's birthday parties, but came out to be petted and passed around during mine. He was 17 when he died, I was 14, and it was my first experience losing a pet to illness.
King Tut was a stray who showed up when we lived in the townhouse in Severn. He was an enormous, muscular, jet black tomcat with the heart of a kitten. He was a sweet cat, but incompatible with the resident male cat, Harry. After several earsplitting cat fights that left the hill outside our house covered with clumps of cat hair, my mom found Tut a new home.
Susie was a pure white petite cat with bright green eyes. Abandoned by her family and rescued from the jaws of a rottweiler by the dog's owner, she found a new home with my mom, who was apparently the "cat lady" of the neighborhood. It soon became apparent that she was pregnant, and after two litters of kittens, she was spayed. Susie was only 6 pounds, yet she could hog a bed like a Great Dane. Her small size didn't seem to matter to the dog either. Howie was a 50 pound pitbull, but Susie had him wrapped around her
Cupcake was one of Susie's daughters. She was pure white like her mother, but more solidly built, and her eyes were yellow. As a young cat, Cupcake was not very sociable. She didn't like to be petted, she didn't like to sit on laps. Then as middle age set in, it was like she became a different cat, one who had decided to enjoy life. She couldn't get enough petting, she'd be on your lap in a flash if you sat down, and she took to sleeping on my pillow. More than once, I had to kick her out of my room at night because she purred so loudly, right next to my head, that I couldn't sleep. Either that, or bathe herself, and slurp in my ear. Cupcake made it to the ripe old age of 21, before thyroid disease and arthritis took their toll on her once vital body. As she slipped away in my arms, a mere 5 pounds, I cried because she had been a devoted and loyal friend, one who never criticized or got angry, who never asked for more than an ear scratch and some Meow Mix.
Hattie was a stray who was brought at an animal hospital I was working at. I spent hours making Lost Cat flyers and faxing them to area hospitals and shelters, but when no one claimed her, I took her home. She was part Siamese, with bright blue eyes, and she had a gray spot to one side of her nose, just like Harry, so we named her Hattie. She had the garrulous nature of a Siamese, and the tubby build of a tabby cat. Hattie was pure friendliness, always looking for someone to talk to. What I remember most about her is her funny ways. She loved celery, she reacted to it almost as if it were catnip; and she did not put up with being ignored. Whenever I ventured into the basement to do laundry, she always showed up to sit on the end of the ironing board and look pretty. If I didn't stop to pet her, I'd eventually feel a little paw poking me from behind. Tap, tap, tap..."Hey, remember me? Pet me, please!" Tap, tap, tap. If Hattie were a person, she'd be one of those people that is genuinely liked by everyone.
Tigger was a neutered male who showed up in the front bushes one fall. He stayed out there, sleeping on an old blanket, until it started to get cold, at which point he'd won everyone over and he moved into the house. Harry was still around, but unlike Tut, Tigger knew who was boss (Harry) and easily slipped into the feline hierarchy. He was probably the most laid back cat I have ever met. He loved to be petted, would drool profusely when getting his chin scratched, and was happy as long as he got attention. An avid hunter, he brought more than his share of still living critters into the house, and left even more entrails on the porch to show us his devotion. He never did adjust to life as an indoor cat, which is probably why he contracted feline leukemia and succumbed to cancer in his chest. Tigger was the essential "go with the flow" cat.
Cougar was yet another stray tabby cat who showed up in the bushes. He had the funniest rusty sounding meow, and was also incredibly sweet. He loved kids and spent most of his afternoon time hanging out on the front sidewalk being fawned over. He didn't get along with Tigger though, and my mom was forced to find him a home, lest one of their loud cat fights get really bloody.
Pixie was another stray who came to us via my job. I was supposed to take her for a couple of nights, because the girl who had been fostering her was going out of town. Once Andy got a glimpse of that 7-week old ball of calico fluff with a staple in her forehead (she had some sort of wound that needed closing), he snatched her up and she stayed. Pixie is the only cat who would share a bed with Howie. She's flighty and nervous, and prefers one-on-one contact. Her manta is "I don't wanna come out from under this bed and you can't make me!" Last summer, my parents went on a cruise and the cats stayed at our house. While Peanut and Jameson romped all over the house, Pixie spent most of the week hiding under a table. She came out during the day only to eat and use the box. At night, once the house was quiet, she'd emerge to be petted and fussed over in relative peace.
Peanut is my mom's cat, and he has a name that is a little less than manly because the woman who gave him to my mom thought he was a she-cat. Peanut is the comedienne, and if he could speak English, he'd have people in stitches all around him. He doesn't back down either. He keeps showing up to sit across the room from Rudy, his tail all puffed up, because he's determined to find out what that big furry thing over there is. I think they'll make friends eventually.
Jameson is one of the most unique cats I have ever had. He's dominant. He knows what he wants, and he doesn't take anything lying down. He's a wildcat at the vet. He's also incredibly sweet when he wants to be, and when he purrs you can hear him across the room. He'll bite you one minute and then sit on your lap the very next.
I love cats because I love my home; and little by little, they become its visible soul.
Animals are such agreeable friends--they ask no questions, they pass no criticisms. ~George Eliot
You may have heard the poem, The Rainbow Bridge, that speaks of our animal friends waiting for us in the afterlife. It makes me cry every time I read it, but it's also comforting to know that while I miss my furry friends, I will see them again someday. Surely, Cupcake and Susie and Tigger and all the rest have a spot reserved in God's lap.