When I married my husband, he said the only good cat was a dead cat, but that was years ago and more cats than I can remember.
Just like some marriages are split along political lines, one a Democrat, the other a Republican, he was the dog guy and I was the cat woman. But somewhere in the second decade of marriage, we just became animal people.
We’ve become the owner of many more cats, but that’s not our fault. It’s the fault of office staffers who once rescued a pregnant cat in the newspaper parking lot on a hot summer day. They are diehard animal people, but I didn’t realize how bad it was until I got a call on my cell phone telling me in a hushed tone there was a pregnant cat in the newspaper entryway about to give I knew there was no sense in asking why. I simply said the cat couldn’t give birth in the entry way, and to please move her to the mail room. We thought there would be two or three kittens, but there were nine.
Let me just tell you, it’s not a good idea to have nine kittens in a newspaper office. Although it was entertaining to watch them shred newspapers and explore, it wasn’t as much fun to be talking on the phone when one pounced and attacked with all 20 claws in your back.
When it came time to give away the kittens – well you know the end to that story. We divided them up among staff, and I took some of them home where they joined the family of animals we already had.
And pets are family.
We had recently lost a favored cat, Tommy.
Tommy showed up one day muddied and bloodied. One ear partially torn off, a matted eye, and thin as a rail.
It took awhile for Tommy to trust us.
We live just outside of town, and it’s not uncommon for people to zip up, open a door and thrust an unsuspecting pet out. It usually happens in spring, when those little furry Christmas “gifts” aren’t as cute anymore. I’ve been known to run screaming like a banshee after the cars, and I don’t understand the mentality of someone who thinks it is better to dump an animal to die of starvation, disease or being hit by a car than to find it shelter.
I don’t know who dumped Tommy, but in the short time he was with us, he earned our love. He could purr louder than a sewing machine, and he’d look at you out of his one good eye begging to be petted.
And despite his mangled appearance, Tommy thought he was a real ladies’ man, much to the chagrin of Margaret – cat warden. Margaret patroled the yard, keeping the other cats in line and the dogs at bay. A big calico female, she guarded our house, standing her ground puffed up and hissing. Many a poor dog yelped away with a bloodied nose or watering eye.
Tommy was enamored of Margaret. He would limp up to her quietly, put out a paw and meow softly.
But the haughty queen would flip her tail in his face before moving away. Over and over Tommy would approach, and Margaret disdainfully walk away, until finally, poor frustrated Tommy would sidle up along side her – sending Margaret into a hissing, furry ball of fury.
Tommy would just bat his good eye, walk off a few feet and lay on his side, posing as if to say, “come here you big beautiful babe.”
During the weeks we had Tommy, he slowly regained his trust of people. The last time I saw him, he was in our garage. I was surprised when he jumped from the car fender, directly onto my shoulder, balancing precariously and digging his claws in, purring and rubbing my face.
“Well guy,” I said. “I think you’re beginning to like us.” We had a short visit, before I put him down and went in to fix dinner.
My husband, cat lover, found Tommy the next evening.
He was stretched out, posing as if for Margaret, and seems to have died peacefully in his sleep.
As animal lovers, we have our own “pet cemetery” where all our furry friends are laid to rest.
I dare say if in the future archeologists ever dig it up, they’ll wonder what kind of people laid their animals to rest with toys, food dishes and blankets.
It’s funny what a profound effect animals can have on your life. Despite his short time with us, Tommy left his mark on the whole family.
OPINION: Cat tails and feline furry wardens