Cats who have Owned Me
When I was growing up, if anyone had told me I would be living in a house with cats I would have shook my head with a wistful look and said, "Nope, never." I was so allergic that I would get rashes, a stuffy nose, and runny eyes from just being in my neighbor's house with her cat. How times have changed!
Up until 2005, I was still so allergic to cats that I couldn't have one, but my allergies were getting less severe as time went by. I have always loved cats, loved every animal (with a couple exceptions), and played with them despite my symptoms. When I was in elementary school, I made "cat catchers" out of string and a metal shoe rack. They worked; my neighbor's cat loved to play with them! My mom insisted that I bring them inside at night or when not watching them so that the cat would not get permanently "caught".
All the neighbor cats loved me as much as I loved them. They would come running over when they saw me walking down the street to the corner store, and rub up against my legs, purring. I knew the names of them all, even though I didn't know the names of some of the people they belonged to.
Well, when it comes to cats, "belonged to" isn't the right term. We humans belong to the cats, not the other way around. It's more a master-servant relationship, although mine allow me a lot of freedom. They do not waver on terms dealing with their food, petting, water, and litter box, though.
My current journey started in 2004, catching me unawares. I was tending my tomatoes when a handsome black and white tuxedo cat came sauntering up the walkway and pushed his way into my communal garden plot. Of course, I started petting him, noticing his tag said his name was Skylar. I had a cherry tomato I was going to bury because it had a worm hole, but he nosed it and ate it! It was the first time I'd ever know a cat to eat a tomato, and I was shocked (and worried a bit because I didn't want him to get sick). When he licked his lips and purred, I figured he was alright with it. After doing some research, I discovered that the actual tomato is alright, but the stems and leaves can be poisonous for cats.
Skylar came back every few days, whenever I was outside. He soon came to greet me when I walked from the corner bus stop to my apartment, walking the block with me then going home. His house was halfway between the corner and mine. After a few weeks of this, I saw there was a lady sitting on the porch, so I went over and introduced myself, saying, "Your cat walks with me." Her reply? "Which cat? Oh, you must mean Skylar. He's friends with everyone!" So I met the Richs and their daughter, and their other cat Lydia, Skylar's sister and littermate.
Soon after that, I met my future husband, Scott. He, of course, is a cat person, but didn't have any at the time because he'd recently moved to a house after living in a small apartment. He had cats growing up living on a farm, and wanted toadopt one now that he could.
In July 2005, we were driving to the beach and I spotted a sign at the feed store in Scott's hometown: "Free Kittens". All the way down to the beach, and all the way back, he kept on saying, "I want a puddy! We've got to stop and see if they still have kittens! Remind me, ok?" When we stopped, there were two left. One was all black, and he climbed right up Scott's arm and perched on his shoulder. The other was a tortoiseshell, and she snuggled in my arms. The lady got us a cardboard box, poked a few holes in it, and we put the kittens in. I immediately opened the box up again when we got in the truck, and Scott named the little fluffballs Carbon and Tabby after two cats a friend had who looked exactly the same. Poor little Carbon, being long-haired and out in the hot sun in his cage, threw up on the way home and I cleaned him up with napkins. Tabby decided she liked the view out the window, then tried to climb all over Scott while he was driving!
They loved their new home, and wasted no time getting settled in. That night, we noticed it was way too quiet with kittens, so we went looking for them. There they were, one in each of the top drawers of the dresser, snuggled in the clean laundry. They yawned and blinked their eyes, wondering why we had disturbed their naps!
In the fall, Scott and I decided to combine households. Ever since the kittens entered my life, I noticed my allergies had completely gone away! I could have Carbon snuggle up to my face, or fall asleep with Tabby in my arms, and not be bothered. So when the Richs, who were moving to Florida, asked me if I would take Skylar and his sister, I jumped at the chance. After all, Skylar had virtually adopted me anyway.
Scott and another friend of mine helped me catch Skylar and Lydia and put them in the carrier for the ride to their temporary home at the friend's house while the moving took place. They didn't get along with the friend's cat, so we moved them in permanently sooner than we expected without the usual "meet and greet" that you are supposed to do between cats. There was some hissing, fighting, and annoyed growls and swats between the kittens and the five-year-olds, and Lydia decided to let her displeasure be known by messing our couch, but it all got sorted out.
Lydia became the alpha cat of the household, lording it over her brother and the kittens. She made sure that everyone was doing alright, checking up on anyone who coughed or was acting "off". She also doled out the justice of the paw if someone was extra-hyper. When Scott had knee surgery, Lydia took it upon herself to be his nurse. Skylar became the doting uncle, teaching the little ones how to be proper cats and roughhousing with them like every good uncle should.
In 2007, feral kittens were born in our neighbor's backyard. We found a home for one, but kept the other one. A friend of mine, Erin, who was living with us at the time, named her Rori. Initially, Rori was going to be Erin's cat, but that didn't work out because she'd bonded so well with the other cats in the house by the time that Erin moved. So we kept her.
Even though she was so little, Rori had the makings of a leader. Lydia took her under her wing, and Rori was a quick study. Soon, our little princess had learned the ways of ruling and had worked her way up the ladder to be a true apprentice. When Lydia died of cancer in October of 2008, Rori was accepted the same day as the new alpha cat.
She spends her days looking out the window in our back door, informing us by tail signals if anyone is there. It could be other cats, squirrels, raccoons, or opossum, but if there's something there we can bet that Rori knew it before we did. She also does her appointed rounds as alpha cat, checking up on everyone and grooming the others as needed, sometimes even pinning them down to clean their ears.
A few months after we found Rori, our neighbor had to move into an assisted-living situation. She could only take one cat, so we agreed to adopt her older cat. Sara Princess Kitty was already 17 when we adopted her, so we knew we were basically providing hospice care until she passed. It was still tough when we had to put her to sleep a year and a half later, especially since it was only a few months after losing Lydia. Sara had a great last year, living with doting fur-siblings who snuggled with her and kept her old body warm, and being loved by us and by our friends and family. The common question became, "Is Sara still with you? How's she doing?" Everyone was sad when she died.
So, at the beginning of 2009, we were down to only Rori, Carbon, Skylar, and Tabby. Back to four, after having a houseful. It somehow didn't seem right, but we figured that it was fine for a while after dealing with the health issues of the two ladies who had passed. Skylar missed his sister, and was not doing too well. He had all but given up on life, and we were giving him intravenous fluids every few days.
We realized our neighbors two houses down had abandoned one of their cats and were trying to adopt out a kitten, so we asked them if we could foster those two and find them homes. They agreed, so we took them in. We asked Erin if she wanted the kitten, and she did, so that was settled. When Skylar saw the beautiful white two-year-old cat, he looked from her to us and back again, then up at us again, then went over and snuggled with the new arrival. It was just like he was saying, "Can we keep her?"
We did, and Skylar perked up right away. He started eating and drinking on his own again, and now has more energy. He is still failing, but at nine years old with hyperthyroidism he is doing better than we expected. I named the white cat Starla, and she has blossomed in her own way. She is very social, and has learned that not all humans are mean. She accepts petting, and even consents to being carried for a little way. She has not yet fully integrated into the rest of the cat household, but Rori runs to check on her throughout the day to make sure she is doing alright and lets her know that she is loved.
For more of my cat hubs, click here.
Copyright 2009 by Karen Thompson.