Wednesday, March 21, 2007

My Teacher, A Cat

I was reading these posts here and here. They gave me this childhood flash-back.

My earliest memories include cats. When I was 3 or 4 someone had dropped off a box of kittens where my mom worked. Up until that time we had lived in an apartment so the timing was perfect for us to have a cat… actually two. Elf and Dennis.

Both were yellow tabbies and toms. Both were eventually neutered.

Elf was round headed and stocky. I remember his big gold eyes getting so large when I would run my hand under the blankets on my bed. Then, smack!! Faster than this little kid could think he’d grab my hand and bat and bite at it. I’d giggle like I was being tickled. That of course would startle him and he’d run off to the other end of the bed and we’d start all over. Well placed pillows on the bed would give him things to hide behind and he’d sneak back over and ***POUNCE*** again.

Dennis was skittish. He didn’t seem to like us little kids (me and my little brother). We’d walk into the room and he’d leave. He was more my mom’s cat.

Sometime in there Mittens and Patrick came along. Mittens was black with 4 white mittens on her paws. Patrick was white with several black spots on him. They tolerated us kids. Our inevitable laughter would make them leave but they at least played with us for a few minutes.

There was also an older tom we named Smokey Joe. He was a long haired gray guy that wondered up to our door one day. He was skinny, had a big scrape on his tail that was infected and a scar on his back that was about a half inch wide and an inch and a half long. What ever happened there was severe enough that hair never grew back, nor did it grow back on that spot on his tail. One of his ears was mangled, most likely form a fight with another tomcat. One time, he came home not moving his back legs real well. A quick trip to the vet showed that he had been shot. The x-ray clearly showed ever so many spots… ‘bird shot’, meant to kill, but only wounding him. He fully recovered use of his legs. This was the event that made my mom stop letting our cats outside. From this point on they only went out on leashes… (that’s another story) I so remember him sleeping on my lap and purring the day away, front paws kneading and flexing at the air. You’d swear he was smiling sometimes.

When I was 10 or 11, spending my 4th summer at a church camp on Lake Erie in Ohio, I found a kitten under our cabin. He couldn’t have been 6 weeks old. I snuck milk out of the mess hall and fed him scraps form all of my friends plates. When our cabin counselor wasn’t looking, I snuck him into the cabin and he slept with me. One of the leaders found out and wanted to put him back out, just leave him. I insisted we call my mom, I was sure she would let me keep him… She did. He rode back to Pittsburgh with me on the chartered Greyhound bus. He slept the whole way. I named him Hobo. Hobo lived 22 years! After I was married, when I’d go home for a visit, Hobo would come see me. Purring like he was still a little kitten and I was giving him some of that cherished milk. For the last 5 or so years he was stone deaf, but he could see. My mom always said he perked up when we visited, even playing with some of the younger cats after we’d leave again. I remember my mom calling one evening... They had to put Hobo to sleep. He hadn’t eaten in several days, the vet said his kidneys and liver had failed… It was time…

Some others were; Misty, Andrew, Ami, Billy Peaches, Teddy, Cubby, Meow-fit… so many I can’t remember them all. I sure do miss them sometimes.

My mom runs a ‘no kill’ shelter for abandoned cats and dogs now. Last I heard she has 120 +/- cats and 40 dogs. 30ish cats live with her at her house. As do most of the kitten litter until they are old enough to adopt. She hand feeds week old kittens every 2 hours till they are old enough to eat solid food. Talk about cats that love people.

We (my family) have 4 cats right now. They still sit on my lap and we enjoy the day. Their eyes pressed closed sitting in the sun. Just being and letting what will come, come.

In these more stressful days of my life, I am drawn to simpler times. I find it amazing how felinious domesticaus (sp?) can just enjoy life as it is; sleep when they are tired, play when they want and relax like crazy. After 40+ years with these most unique creatures, I find I still have a lot to learn from them.

I know she’ll never see it, but… Thanks, mom, for raising me with cats and dogs; and teaching me to respect all life.


Kat said...

Great post! I grew up surrounded with cats, too... I love 'em! A mere 3 or 4 days after we moved into our new house, I got the kids their first-ever REAL (non-caged) pet -- a cat, of course!!!!

I was heartbroken when it became apparent that my oldest child is severely, severely allergic to cats!!! :(

She's thirteen now... let's see...approximately five years, 2 months, 3 days and 5 hours till she's 18.... ;) Once The Kid goes... I'm gettin' me a new cat!!!!! ;)

DNR said...

My brother was allergic too. My mom got him prescription allergy medicine… He too, still has cats.

MrsJoseGoldbloom said...

I love this post DNR...I have always been an avid lover of all animals. I grew up with several dogs around, although I didn't have my first cat until I was 23. My Mom hated cats for some reason. I was doing Labrador rescue, but had to give it up for a while. I'll never forget my first rescue though, he was a big 94 pound chocolate lab who stole my heart. Currently I have a golden retriever named "hollywood" & a cockatiel named "peeps". They definitely bring a lot of joy to my life.

DNR said...

Thanks Mrs. JG!

Dogs are great. No matter how bad you day was, they are always happy to see you and will usually lay with you for a few minutes and let you pet them. It is amazing how much stress can be released petting a dog.

B Matthews said...

I was never allowed to have cats growing up as I am allergic to them, but I own three now. My first cat was Gabe, whose picture I still have on my desk at work, even though he's been gone for a little over a year now.

Reading your post, I realized that Gabe taught me (among many other things) about the dignity and courage that we can have in death, and my tiny new kitten Max (whom we've had for less than a month) has already taught me that one of the best ways to remember those that are gone is to rejoice in new life.

Cheesy, I know, but true. I love how animals and children can sometimes be our most influential teachers, if we allow them to be.

DNR said...

b – Not cheesy, heart felt.

LeeAnn said...

I have a cat too. Husband is allergic to him but he still "likes" him. This cat was a present to my kids from grandma but for some reason he hangs out with me! Never thought that I would like a cat but this one is great.

Ordinary Janet said...

This was a nice story! I wonder why some people prefer cats and some prefer dogs?

Dirk_Star said...

Wonderful post!

Cats are the grooviest...

Robin said...

I don't know why, but it's cool hearing a man talk about how he loves cats, and why. I don't know many men who are that fond of them. I'm a dog person, as you know....very cool post. Thank you!