Bob's Pride: The Cats of El Triunfo

IExcuse bad quality: Re-photoed from prints

A tiny oasis in the South Baja desert.  El Triunfo
A tiny oasis in the South Baja desert. El Triunfo
My mining "museum" collected in the hills of Baja
My mining "museum" collected in the hills of Baja
Four of the pride on their own armchair...a much beloved roost
Four of the pride on their own armchair...a much beloved roost
Armando with "Chiquitita"  One of Rambo's babies
Armando with "Chiquitita" One of Rambo's babies
The pride gathers to feed.
The pride gathers to feed.
Sheba as a kitten defying my efforts to get her down to my level
Sheba as a kitten defying my efforts to get her down to my level
I love dogs, too!  party for my beloved Mini Schnauzer, "Chico."  talk about a pampered pet! The "fat" is a shadow111
I love dogs, too! party for my beloved Mini Schnauzer, "Chico." talk about a pampered pet! The "fat" is a shadow111
Sheba being naughty (or just "catty") again
Sheba being naughty (or just "catty") again
Last but never least, Missie, my sweet, anxious, smart little "midnight cat" with kittens  How I miss them all
Last but never least, Missie, my sweet, anxious, smart little "midnight cat" with kittens How I miss them all

Much Loved and Never Forgotten

Growing up in Britain, we were a doggy family and cats, who killed song birds and yowled at night, were not in favor. We never owned one and next door’s got short-shrift when found trespassing and eyeing our garden robin - who eyed it back with some aplomb: robins are no pushover and will mob sparrow-hawks never mind the Pierson’s fat tabby.

So I matured - after a fashion - knowing little about “Felis silvestris catus,” as the domestic cat is called,

Thanks to human’s compacted living arrangements these days, and despite rarely smoking Virginia Slims, cats have ‘come a long way baby,’ by 2012.

But my first role as cat owner came no earlier than 1996 when I was working for a local Spanish rag in Cuernavaca, Mexico.

It will, said it’s hard hearted owner then, “Be put down if no one wants it.”

As I was going through one of my regular between wives moments, I decided I could not let this happen and Sheba came into my life - to change it forever as far as cats are concerned.

We had a small bungalow with a pretty little sunken garden and a couple of trees. Sheba soon settled in and learned a few skills. She was a good footballer with balls of paper and loved playing, her favorite game being hiding under a cupboard for hours until I had forgotten her whereupon she would charge out, skid to a stop and look at me with the football in her mouth! I soon got to love this little calico girl too much.

While I wrote on the laptop for tomorrow’s edition, she would climb into my lap and fold her paws across my left arm, appearing most engrossed in what I was writing.

When she was about 8 months old, I got a chance to continue my column in Cuernavaca, but also move to La Paz. South Baja California, to write for a local, English paper.

This gave me a double income for a few years until the Cuernavaca newspaper boss decided to can the English page.

So I continued where I was in South Baja.

I hadn’t succeeded in finding love yet - by 1998 - but Sheba had, unfortunately. I had more or less decided not to neuter her until she had one litter, anyway. To give birth is such a drive in all higher animals and I didn’t want to prevent my beloved companion from at least satisfying her evolutionary duties.

She had four gorgeous kittens. Missie, black as night with yellow eyes, George, a shy and timid ginger and white boy, Patch, a black and white male, and, my son and heir, Rambo, a staunch little Tabby who was singled out for success early as he rode everywhere on my shoulder!

Just about then, I had some other woes and decided to move out of La Paz, despite this causing great sadness with Sheba and her swain, a furtive grey chap who would wait for me to disappear before approaching his beloved. Female cats form firm relationships with their Tom; they don’t cohabit unless the female is ready, but they enjoy each other’s company.

Sheba trusted me with her kittens from the first hour. I find this such an honor when a wild, or domesticated, animals trusts her keeper with her cubs, or whatever. I loved handling them and, well, I just couldn’t bear to get rid of her children.

I did have her fixed, though, no more sweetheart, that’s it.

In El Triunfo I had a small house with a garden and the whole of the nearby desert to explore.

The rapidly growing kitties had all that, as well as the local tom cats to explore! When Missy, my little midnight lady, had her first litter she was about one year old. I had made her a box and she allowed me to pick them up just as her mother had done. We were all happy then: my original four, plus Missie’s four kittens.

That’s when things got a bit out of control. Two of Missie’s brood were little girls, and “Little girls get bigger every day,” as Maurice Chevalier warned us. I had a neighbor with two Tom cats…fixed? You kidding, poor Mexicans can’t afford a handful of tortillas every day, never mind vet bills to mess around with a chingada gato, for goodness sake! (effing cat).

Keeping tom cats away from a ready female is a hopeless task. They would sit…and sit there, until they saw my guard was down and then get the object of their affections into the orchard and consummate their desire real quick, along with some yowls of bliss.

I must admit Missy was genuinely ashamed when she started showing again, because I had lectured her about not having more kittens. She knew. And she disappeared to have her second litter: goodness knows where.

After a few weeks, she crawled into the house, exhausted and beaten down, one little sodden bundle in her mouth. I scooped her up, kitten and all and immediately prepared her box. Meanwhile, she crept away and came back with one more tiny precious mite.

I used to drive the 30 or so miles to La Paz several times a week to submit articles, shop, and meet with friends. During one of these trips, Ana came into my life, and I began to spend more and more time in La Paz, often staying overnight. My mozo, Armando, fed the pride while I was away and cared for my house.

The cats increased in number, as these extremely sensual and fertile creatures will, until we had 17 at the dining table each night. It did stop there, and I wonder if the cat’s efficient survival mechanism had kicked in, resulting in a collective, “Party time’s over” to their swains. (They never interbred, incidentally).

I found a large serving bowl with multi-compartments and they arrayed themselves around this, all the world like some multi-hued, tropical flower. My pride’s feeding time became quite famous and people dropped in to watch them eat. Never once did one cat try to get food from his relation’s share. Never once in these two years did I ever see my cats fight with one another. Humankind could learn a lot from these wise creatures.

I was the Alpha; my word, accompanied by a broom and shooing noises was law. These social carnivores really enjoy the attention of the alpha males and females…Sheba was my alpha female and Rambo the second in command when I wasn’t there.

Their biggest sin, which I am sure they anticipated with much glee, was to find my bedroom door open (off limits to them). They would then all pile in and be waiting on the bed for me; seventeen pairs of mischief filled eyes looking at me. You had to laugh.

Cats love to bring you delicious tidbits to share with them. I could never dissuade them from popping in with a juicy scorpion, a desperate lizard, or, a couple of times, a baby rattlesnake! There was also ordinary fare, such as pigeons and other birds.

Missy was the greatest hunter; she could climb trees like lightning. I loved them all: Sheba, of course, but Rambo and lithe, anxious little Missy with the huge yellow eyes stole my heart completely…and they still own it today.

There was so much sadness along with the joy. We were a handful of houses surrounded by one big desert and cactus covered hills.

Sheba failed to make it home first and began to break my heart. Coyotes come right in to the village fringes and take small dogs and cats. I prayed her death had been fast. I wonder if her last thoughts were of her pride and her “daddy cat…”

I’m sorry, I can’t see the keyboard to write any more of this article….

Later; I am going to skip a lot of the sad parts of this story as I don’t have the control to pen the words. I had to return to Britain in 2003. When I last returned to El Triunfo in 2006, Rambo - my Rambo - was still alive and came over and head-butted me as if 3 years had not passed. He didn’t seem to mind the squeeze I gave him. He lived with Armando now, and one of his sons I had given Armando previously

Of the others, some still lived on and had been adopted…most had given in to the harsh surroundings…

I like to think Rambo lives on in 2012..he would be 12 now, no great age, and Armando also loves him. I am going over there this year and will visit him.

If one were to believe in spirits, a phalanx of brightly colored and mischievous creatures cavort around the hills of this timeless village - looking for a baby rattler to bring home for Daddy-Cat…

Was I eccentric in allowing this pride to increase like this, as a friend has suggested, without foreseeing their demise?

Should I have done more to neuter the original four - or eight?

Yes and yes, no doubt about it. But I will remember for what years I have left the companionship of these incredible, affectionate and peace-loving creatures…and long to have them with me again - all those naughty eyes gazing insouciantly from my bed - and do a better job as their Alpha this time…

I am sorry this article is so sketchy and just the bare bones of all that occurred over nearly three years, but to cover the saga adequately would take a book.

I will add photos as soon as I can.


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Comments 22 comments

2patricias profile image

2patricias 4 years ago from Sussex by the Sea

I have just 2 cats - both ancient now. The other Patricia has only 1 cat. We've had several over the years, but for various reasons these will be our last cats. This causes us a deal of sadness, but we must be realistic.

My cats are supposed to be in the downstairs of the house only, due to allergy issues. They are very old and mostly stagger slowly. The minute I leave open the door to the stairs - and the bedrooms - they can sprint!

Got to love them....


diogenes profile image

diogenes 4 years ago from UK and Mexico Author

Hello you two. Cats are magic. That's the only word that describes them and no wonder they have always been associated with witches, etc. But they are also a mixture of toughnes and fragility, a mixture that can break your heart.

Bob


aviannovice profile image

aviannovice 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

Voted awesome and up. Hindsight is 20-20, but it seems to me that you gave your brood all the love and necessities that you could. No need to feel gujilty for what you felt was right at the time. We all make mistakes, yet you can do it differently next time...


diogenes profile image

diogenes 4 years ago from UK and Mexico Author

Thanks AN. I have suffered agonies of guilt for the way the "pride" ended and the losses (I forgot to mention in the article I left a ton of Purina and Armando said he would do his best to care for them). They were semi-feral anyway and got a lot of natural food. But their Alpha cat did abandon them, and for that their can be no forgiveness.

Bob


becomingthirty profile image

becomingthirty 4 years ago from Australia

Hello Bob,

I grew up in a strictly dog only, bird loving family too. I parroted my parent's low opinions of cats wherever I went. My boyfriend was also raised in a dog only family.

We never imagined falling in love with our beautiful 2 1/2 yr old boy cat Isa. He was also destined to be 'put down' (in this case via drowning), thus we decided to keep him.

Life has never been the same since. He travelled with us in our tiny caravan for 2 yrs around Australia. We have the strongest bond and he is our beloved! Very cheeky too!

Thank-you for sharing your story. It made me smile! :D

You write beautifully, by the way.


Austinstar profile image

Austinstar 4 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

I will never trust anyone who doesn't like cats. I use it as a gauge as to character.

My ex husband hated cats. That really was a huge clue to his horrible personality. Since then, everyone I meet has to pass the "cat" test before I will even associate with them.

Bob, you passed!


cathylynn99 profile image

cathylynn99 4 years ago from northeastern US

my cat, smoke, says "hi".


diogenes profile image

diogenes 4 years ago from UK and Mexico Author

He's, or she's a gray I guees, like Sheba's tommy...Hi to Smoke from Daddy Cat

And hi to mum...don't see you much on here any more?

Bob


Angie Jardine profile image

Angie Jardine 4 years ago from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ...

Had to leave you a thumbs up, Bob on this hub even though I can hardly find the right keys through my tears.

I'm a tough sort of Yorkshire woman (with a marshmallow centre) but I weep easily and copiously over cats when they are hurt or when they die.

I admire the way you took on all those cats ... and you gave them a good life for as long as you could, even trying to leave them cared for when you left. At least they had some life.

I have always had my cats spayed and neutered as I have always known that I would never have the resources to feed more than two at a time. But I have always been able to take them with me in my wandering life so have been lucky that way.

Bless you for trying, Bob. x

P.S I have known many 'dog people' who have discovered a love a hidden love of cats once they know them properly. Cats really do have a droll sense of humour.


diogenes profile image

diogenes 4 years ago from UK and Mexico Author

Hi Angie: I am a tough old reporter who would stub out a stogie on a corpse...like you, I have a marshmallow center. I couldn't write this hub for tears that fell as I thought about them all. I left $100 in bags of purina and Armando, my helper, loved them, but the house was re-rented and the cats just gradually left into the desert I suppose. We had a marvellous time together, as you say, and the attrition there would have happened to a degree whether I was there or not, but I really can't stand myself when I think about all their wonderful personalities and how they related as a "pride.

I'm off agin!

Thanks for visit, Angie, I can see you have a wise and warm heart

Bob


Angie Jardine profile image

Angie Jardine 4 years ago from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ...

Try not to beat yourself up, Bob ... everyone knows that cats, indeed all loving animals, leave paw, and hoof, prints on your heart.


BobbiRant profile image

BobbiRant 4 years ago from New York

A very touching write and I'm fortunate to have been able to read this. Thank you so much for sharing such a heart tugging hub and every animal loved should stop by to read it. Voted up.


Spirit Whisperer profile image

Spirit Whisperer 4 years ago from Isle of Man

This story has crept into my heart like a commando and the emotional explosives were deftly set. I really do feel for you Bob but at least you had the courage to experience this kind of very special love even though you knew someday it would end. "Better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all." This has to be one of my favourite hubs. Thank you Bob.


diogenes profile image

diogenes 4 years ago from UK and Mexico Author

Bobby and Spirit: Thank you so much and thank you for your visit. The 'Pride is still a very emotional subject for me.

Bob


moonlake profile image

moonlake 4 years ago from America

We have three cats but Levi Jones is my favorite. He is so spoiled. Enjoyed reading your hub on your cats. They are so good looking. Voted up


diogenes profile image

diogenes 4 years ago from UK and Mexico Author

Hi Moon. Cats are so special and their lives are a closed world to so many who won't have one. Thanks for your visit and a big kiss for Levi and his mates

Bob


stars439 profile image

stars439 4 years ago from Louisiana, The Magnolia and Pelican State.

Wonderful hub. We love our cats very much also. Three of our nine cats tap on my wife's arm with their open right paws politely to let her know they would like some of our table breakfast. We share our breakfast with them. I forgot that I have cooked chicken in our microwave oven right now for them. I take it off the bones for them. They are sweet, but mischivous sometimes. You're cats seemed to have good lives. God Bless You.


diogenes profile image

diogenes 4 years ago from UK and Mexico Author

Hi Stars. They did. A bit short and sweet, and perhaps more like the natural life feral cats do have.

You cats sound so cute!

Thanks my friend

Bob


Trish_M profile image

Trish_M 4 years ago from The English Midlands

Hi Bob :)

Your story reminds me of our feline friends.

We had one cat when I was little. She had kittens and we kept one ~ a long-haired beauty, called Fluff. My grandmother had another.

When I got married, we adopted a stray, which stayed with us for 14 years. She, too, had kittens. They were beautiful, but we couldn't keep them. My grandmother had one of those, too.

In the past five years or so, we have adopted two fantastic sets of kittens.

They were all lovely, but, of course, I had favourites.

Sadly, cats have a tendency to run across roads and drivers tend to drive too fast.

And, if cats survive the traffic, they have a weakness to cancer.

After our latest beautiful little Tom became very ill and died, I decided that enough was enough.

I don't think that we shall have any more, even though they are incredibly entertaining and lovable little creatures.


girishpuri profile image

girishpuri 4 years ago from NCR , INDIA

Very nice hub, although in India normally we have trend for dogs as pet, but cats make their space in each house, and enjoy as a permanent place, thanks for an addition to my knowledge.


diogenes profile image

diogenes 4 years ago from UK and Mexico Author

Yes, and I love the Hindu treatment of all life forms. Even cobras are treated with respect..

Bob


diogenes profile image

diogenes 4 years ago from UK and Mexico Author

Hello Trish. The great tragedy of our preferred pets is they just don't live long enough. Loosing a great companion in 15 years or so is a tragedy and each passing leaves us a little more diminished.

Maybe we should have a tortoise or a parrot?

Bob

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