I have three cats. These cats are in many ways like my children: There are two girls & a boy; they have very different personalities; they expect very different things out of life; they all come running to me when something is wrong but want nothing to do with me otherwise.
As usual I want to take a quick trip into the past before I discuss my current cats.
I’d only had cats once before, a few years before we moved to our current home. I had three cats – Baby, Ysabel and Rocky (Roquelle) – who showed up as stray kittens years & years ago. I knew nothing about cats – I fed and watered them, and they stuck around, and Baby & Ysabel had kittens on my front porch. Rocky had her kittens in the woods, and had them so well hidden I wouldn’t have found them if not for a monsoon. I’d moved Baby’s & Ysabel’s kittens into the house right after they were born; Rocky’s kittens I searched for all through the woods with no luck at all. Then one morning – the second straight day of torrential rain – I stepped out of the house and almost stepped on a kitten. It was soaking wet and shivering and I couldn’t figure out for the life of me how it had gotten there. I carried it inside & put it with Ysabel’s kittens (Ysabel was a real community mom – she nursed everyone’s kittens) and went back outside & there were two more kittens, and Rocky standing over them waiting for me. She was desperate, meowing pitifully and running to the edge of the porch and back to me. I laid the two kittens right inside the front door and followed Rocky out into the woods, to a hole under a fallen tree that was rapidly filling with water. I knelt down and heard the kittens crying but still hesitated to put my hand into the hole – from the time I was a very little girl I was told never, never, never to put my hand into random holes in the woods. Good advice, that, but Rocky cared not a whit for my wisdom – “Get my kittens out of that hole now!” she wailed and so I did. Not a kitten drowned because when the odds were against her Rocky came to me for help and yes, I know it sounds like a Lassie movie, but that cat WANTED me to find her kittens that day and led me right to them, stopping when I lagged behind and wailing at me to hurry, hurry, hurry!
We found homes for all of the kittens, giving out my phone number with each one, having learned of that good idea from Rosie’s original people, though at that time I still didn’t have the sense to have the cats spayed. That winter when we made our Christmas trip to Texas I took Baby, Ysabel and Rocky to my mom’s, where she spoiled them horribly, and when we got home from Texas all three cats informed me that while they were fond of me they preferred Mama’s house, and were going to stay with her, thank you very much for all you’ve done for us, good-bye, don’t let the door hit you on the way out. Mama didn’t realize I hadn’t had them spayed, neither of us thought to mention the subject to the other, and Mama found out the hard way they weren’t – after the kittens were weaned she had the mama cats spayed and put a stop to the kitten problem.
That was the beginning of my mother’s slide to Crazy Cat Lady status. Mama had always been a dog person, had never really had much experience with cats, and fell so in love with Puddy (who was from Ysabel’s first litter), and then the mama cats, that she decided her purpose in life was to save all the unwanted cats in the world – or at least in Stokes County. Today she attributes that slide into insanity to menopause. Whatever the reason – at one point she had over fifty rescued, spayed, and neutered cats on her three acre fenced farm – and installed cat doors on her house so they could come and go as they please. Today she’s down to thirty, give or take, and is making plans to trap a stray that’s shown up to be vetted, since she really is a responsible cat owner, in spite of the fact they’re eating up my whole inheritance. They’re happy cats, though – there are a few that stay strictly inside, a few that stay strictly outside, and the bulk of them prefer being outside but will pop in from time to time to say hello. Ysabel was hit by a car a few years back, and we’re pretty sure a coyote got Baby, but Puddy is a real home-body and lives in the house and the old wash-house. In addition to the wash-house, there’s a packhouse, a garage, a storage shed, a wood shed, a corn crib, and a barn – in other words, cat paradise.
As for me – when we moved to our current home seven years ago, I really missed having a cat. Charles thinks dogs are ok, but he does NOT like cats at ALL. It took me two years to convince him getting a cat would be a good idea – we live in a thirteen or fourteen year old double-wide on a large grassy lot surrounded on three sides by woods & with a shallow scrubby ravine at the front. In other words, we do get mice. I hate mousetraps. We use them but I hate them. I would far rather have a cat to control the mice.
In the end I won and it so happened a friend of mine had a litter of kittens right at that same time. She brought me a small black 8 week old kitten with a very little white mark on her chest. Damon called her Puttin – a combination of Puddy and Kitten – and that stuck for awhile but at some point it morphed into Tudna, and she is Tudna to this day.
Tudna was supposed to be my cat – I was the one who wanted a cat, after all. At first she liked all of us, but as she got older she began to gravitate to Bridget. By the time Tudna was a year old she was Bridget’s cat and made no secret of the fact she wished she could murder the rest of us in our sleep. She would eat my soul if she got the opportunity, and I know it, and she knows it, and she knows I know it. We live in an uneasy truce but I figure at some point the cat will snap and slash all of our throats – except for Bridget’s, of course. When Bridget goes to spend the night with a friend, Tudna will search the house for her. If Bridget is gone for more than one night, Tudna will stalk the house calling for her. When Bridget goes away to college she’s going to have to have a job so she can get an apartment so Tudna can go with her, because I’m really not sure the cat could survive a long separation. Besides which, Tudna hates dogs, and hates the other cats, and just wouldn’t be happy if the only creature in the universe she cares about were to leave her.
About four years ago, not long after Peaches came to live with us, we were visiting some friends who have a feral cat problem. Their real problem is a we-live-on-a-dirt-road-outside-of-town-and-idiots-dump-their-unwanted-pet-cats-here. One of the cats got under their porch and had kittens. Their daughters, who are close to the same age as my daughters, made a habit of handling the kittens so they were tame. Vannesa wanted a long-haired black & white kitten. Charles said absolutely not. I said your father said no. Vannesa put the tiny scrap of fluff in her jacket pocket and smuggled it home. That cat’s name is Cookie, and Vannesa has long since lost interest in the poor little thing. She’s a pretty attention-starved little thing, and when she makes an appearance Charles, Damon and I make it a habit to pet her and make over her, because we feel really sorry for her. Mind you, she lives in the house, but she hates dogs and so she stays out of sight the majority of the time. Cookie has been to the vet once, when she was 6 months old to be spayed. She hasn’t been since. I tried, last summer, to take her to a rabies clinic. Cookie ripped me open from knee to ankle on both legs, clawed my stomach and arms, and told me that Tudna wasn’t the only soul-eater in the house, and if I didn’t let her go she’d have mine. I persevered, and almost had the entire hurricane stuffed into the cat carrier when, out of nowhere, Tudna gave a savage yowl and hit me from behind – in the behind. Sitting was painful for more than a week thereafter. I yelped, Cookie escaped, and I whirled around to stare at Tudna. She crouched on the back of the sofa and informed me in no uncertain terms that though she hated Cookie she hated me more, and would side with Cookie against me whenever she had the chance.
A year & a half ago – the last day of June 2010 – I remember it was a Friday – I had just started my new job at Universal Insurance Company in Winston, and was walking from the parking lot one morning when I heard the most piteous meowing coming from the blackberry-covered hill behind the office building. I left the sidewalk and crossed the lawn to the foot of the hill and spotted a tiny grey and white kitten up at the top of the hill. I decided I’d try to catch it at morning break. When 10:15 rolled around I hit the door and spent my entire break coaxing the little scrap down the hill. It came half-way down and no further, but cried and cried at me. So when lunch time came, I hopped in my car, went down the road to McDonald’s, bought a six-pack of Chicken McNuggets, and lured him to me with those. When he got close enough I grabbed him, fully expecting him to rip me to shreds – he didn’t. He shuddered once and burrowed against my collarbone, and started to purr and purr and purr. I snuck him back to my cubicle and kept him with me until around four o’clock when my supervisor walked by, saw me with him, and made me put him outside. I was a nervous wreck the rest of the afternoon – to my intense pleasure the little fellow was still there when I left for the day. The nice lady in the mailroom had given me a box, and my kitten rode home with me. I named him Jackie Chan. We call him JC and Fatty Chan.
Tudna hates Jackie Chan as much as she hates the rest of us. JC takes advantage of that fact and misses no opportunity to bully her. He and Cookie get along fairly well – they stalk one another around the house and fuss and spat and play like cats do. The one thing that separates my big guy from the rest of the cats is that he loves the dogs. From the day I brought him home he wasn’t afraid of them. He’d sprawl on the footstool and play with Rosie’s beautiful plumed tail. He’d stalk Max through the house and touch noses with him when Max would turn around. Max and Rosie weren’t cat people either – but they warmed up to JC after awhile, and it’s not uncommon now to find Max dragging JC by the head across the house. He’s by far the best of the cats, and I still don’t know what quality it was that caused me to fall in love with him as soon as I found him – but he has it, and I did, and he’s won everyone over. Thanks to Jackie Chan I can tell people who come to adopt my foster puppies that they’re good with cats. He’s one of a kind.
Even Charles likes Jackie Chan, and that’s saying a lot.