I guess that I’ve always been a “cat person.” I have shared my home with one, or more, cats for much of my life. I first remember having a cat when I was six or seven and our cat (name long forgotten) showed up at the back door with a dead blue jay in it’s mouth. Needless to say, my mother was not pleased and I have no clear recollection of what happened to that cat, except that the vast majority of my cats have been (virtually exclusively) INDOOR cats. That’s not to suggest that none of them ever got outside, but it was actively discouraged and, given concerns over fleas, disease, etc., I refuse to apologize for wanting MY cats to be “house” pets.
My family did have a dog for a while, as I was growing up, a golden Cocker Spaniel, with a penchant for running away if she got out of the house, and a need to be walked morning and night (at least) which became MY job. I didn’t really mind, as I remember it, but I hardly considered walking Taffy to be a treat, either, especially during the winter.
Eventually, she left us and my mother (my Dad was NOT involved with pets) acquired a cat named Perkins (or perhaps it was Purrkins, as I never saw it written out as I remember it). Obviously, she was not spayed, as she produced several litters, and it was one of her first offspring, Koko (who was dark brown and white), who came to live with Bonnie and me in our trailer in Bloomington while I was doing my Master’s work and was a member of the Indiana Theatre Company.
Since much of the floor of our trailer was tile, Koko developed the interesting habit of starting in the kitchen (tile floor) at one end of the structure, dashing across the living room (carpeted) and down the hall (tile) almost to the other end of the space, then trying (desperately) to make the turn into the bathroom (also tile). Needless to say, he usually did NOT make the turn and would entertain us with the sound of “scrabbling claws on tile” as he attempted the turn, followed by the sound of cat crashing into the wall. He never seemed to get injured, and he never stopped attempting this feat. During this timeframe, we also acquired a second cat, Marshmallow (all white), so, for a while there were four of us before we had any “real” children.
After I got my MA and we moved to Evanston (when I joined the Children’s Theatre) we had to give them up, a MOST unhappy circumstance, but necessary, as there was very little rental property (none we could afford) which allowed pets as residents. We were able to “adopt out” Marshmallow, but we had to turn Koko in to an adoption shelter. Bonnie and I both sat in the parking lot at the Orphans of the Storm adoption center and cried for a while that day.
However, a couple of years later, I started at Western and we moved to Sylva, where we first lived in a rental house and acquired a cat named Spook. She was an indoor cat (as was our practice) although at least two sets of our neighbors thought we were very cruel because we didn’t let him out. I think they changed their tune when both of them had cats killed on the road in front of our houses in less than six months, while Spook remained happy and healthy, but we didn’t rub that in.
I don’t think we’ve been without at least one cat any longer than we felt we had to at any point since then (1971), although we were catless for the time we lived in Married Student Apartments in Athens, when I was doing my PhD classes at UGA in the mid-’70’s and, after our return to Cullowhee, while we lived for several years in Faculty Apartments. Of course, having small children, (Maggi was born while we lived there) was a considerable compensation.
Shortly before we left Faculty Apartments, Bonnie “borrowed” a pregnant cat named Motley (who was eventually returned to her owner after producing several kittens [Kate had an interest in kittens and got a chance to be “involved” with the births]). One of these was Bilbo. Bonnie and I were both quite amused that our local vet’s office insisted on calling him “Bill Boy,” apparently not getting the LOTR reference, but we had him for only about a year, as Maggi was very small and had difficulty understanding how gently a small cat had to be treated.
So, again, we were catless until we got our first house in 1986. Shortly after we moved in, Bonnie found “Twilight Zone” up for adoption in front of the Sylva Public Library. She was so named because she always seemed just a little “out there.” A few years later, about 1992, Maggi earned her Girl Scout Silver Award and wanted a kitten, so we adopted “Crash” from the pet store in the Asheville Mall. She was so named because she “crashed” on Maggi’s shoulder all the way home, but she also had a habit of running full speed through the house and abruptly dropping into a heap, dead asleep, wherever she happened to be when she stopped.
Anyway, by 1994, the girls decided that I needed a MALE cat to support me as I was seriously outnumbered by females (three human and two feline by that time, so, for my birthday, I got a wonderful, big, neutered, male cat who looked like a Maine Coon, but who we did NOT believe was“pure bred,” (but who sure looked like he could have been.) The girls insisted that he be named “Fiction” because 1.) he was MY cat; 2.) I liked to read; and, 3.) he (the cat) had a terribly tall tail (sp.). Anyway, both of the girls (mostly) grew up with cats in the house and became aware of the “ups and downs” of parenting cats as a matter of course.
After the girls both had left home and the various cats passed on, we considered not having a pet, but in late 2008, we acquired two declawed, male, littermate “kittens” from a friend of Kate’s who needed to be relieved of them due to serious allergies, as I recall. So, we drove up to western Virginia to pick up these “kittens,” who turned out to be a year and a half old and BIG. This friend, and her kids, had called them something stupid like “Smokey” (all grey) and Chip (all black). We quickly changed their names to Fred and George, in honor of the Weasley twins, as they DID look a bit alike and they WERE littermates, etc. They lived with us during our last years in Sylva and moved to Omaha with us. Then, one morning in early 2018, we were watching the morning news and heard a “thud” in the kitchen.
Apparently, George had suffered a heart attack while looking out the window from atop a “cat condo” and simply fell over dead. It struck me at the time that, “If you gotta go, that might be the way to do it.” As best we can tell, he was alive and (apparently) happy, then he was gone. Not a “happy experience” for us, but he wasn’t the first cat we had lost and it is, after all, a part of life…. So, we were a one cat family again.
Then, about the end of March 2021, Maggi and Brian went to look for a cat to replace one of theirs who had passed. They found a pair of brothers, whom they named Sherlock and Mycroft, but also informed us of a pair of older, spayed sister cats who had had to be given up by their previous owner who was too old to care for them properly. However, they had been born in 2009, so they were not young, had been declawed (fronts only, of course) so they couldn’t be outside, and the original owner didn’t want them to be separated (which seemed reasonable, as they had always been together). So, we acquired Bellatrix and Narcissa (after the Black sisters), who had originally been “Pixie” and “Sweetpea.” (Passing thought: why do people insist on giving cats stupid names? I mean them, not us!) So we have been a family of five again for a bit over a year.
Anyway, thinking about all of this put me in mind of considering what it is about cats which I find intriguing. I CAN conceive of not having a cat (or more than one) about, but it’s not something I would rush to seek out. There’s just “something” about having a cat to curl up with, climb on your lap, purr in your ear, etc. It’s one of the good things in life, even if it’s true that, “Dogs have owners, cats have staff.”
Anyway, here are a few cartoons, I’ve collected which seem to speak to this truth…. I think this is from The New Yorker, but I’m far from sure that’s true. It does seem to me that I could well have gotten it from that publication, however.
“There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.”
— Nelson Mandela
“Words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic; capable of both inflicting injury, and remedying it.” ― Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
P.S. Our “guys” at a quiet moment after breakfast (and much of the rest of the time).