Monday, March 4, 2013

Writing about my cats...part 2

I guess I'm blogger challenged. I set this to upload early Monday morning and it didn't. 
This is probably more than anyone wants to know about my cats, but I felt compelled to write down all their stories and I had fun finding the photos and remembering these sweet animals. -CO

My cats, Part 2. Cats numbers 6 - 10
More stories and photos of my cats. Read on for my Social Kitten Test.

Gidget nursed Kitty until he was
nearly as large as she was. 
Kitty with Teddy. Teddy was given
to me when I was born. I still have him.
One halloween, when I was too old to go out trick-or-treating, two neighbor boys came to the door not asking for treats but offering a kitten. A gray and white tabby. I said I had a cat (Tippy, part 1) and a dog (Gidget, a toy poodle) and I could’t take him. But of course I relented and he had a new home. And a new mother. He was so small I thought it would be a comfort for him to suckle on Gidget, who had had puppies the year before. He suckled, he liked it, and a day later Gidget was producing milk. Because we weren’t going to keep the kitten I just called him Kitty (#6) and it stuck. Kitty continued to suckle Gidget until he was almost as big as her. My mom decided Gidget needed a break and she wrapped a towel around her middle so Kitty could’t suckle and Gidget’s milk dried up. Kitty liked to trot along when anyone in the family took Gidget for a walk, but he wouldn’t go further than two houses. I was interested in photography—something that rubbed off on me from my mother who was always taking pictures, good pictures—and using my mom’s Argus 35mm manual film camera I took some cute pictures of Kitty when he was very small. 

Gidget with Groucho and Chico.
Not a very lady-like pose. 
I grew up, left home and moved to another state for my new career. Tippy, Gidget and Kitty stayed with my parents. But I was lonely without any pets and someone at work had a cat that just had kittens. They said one looked like Groucho Marx because of black markings that looked like heavy eyebrows, so they named the whole litter after the Marx brothers. I went to look at them, fell in love with Groucho (#7) and took Chico (#8) as companion. Groucho was a short hair calico or tri-color tortie on the gray or dusty side and Chico was a long haired calico/torti mostly dark. Groucho turned out to be Grouchy and Chico turned out to be an affectionate lap cat. At this time my parents went on a road trip and dropped Gidget off to stay with me. I tried the suckling pacifier thing and although the kittens tried it, they didn’t keep with it and Gidget didn’t produce any milk. Maybe she was too old by then. 

One day I came home from work to find my back door open several inches. The door opened on to the drive way for the apartment complex. I didn't even think there might be an intruder, but I panicked, thinking the dog and kittens were out and lost or injured or worse. But when I stepped inside, I saw that Gidget was right there guarding the door so the kittens wouldn’t get out. Poodles are very smart. I wonder if she missed the kittens when my parents returned to pick her up. When I moved again I could only take one cat. So Groucho went to a humane shelter and Chico stayed with me. About this time I got my first Canon SLR 35mm film camera. 400asa film had just come out and I loved taking photos in natural light. Chico lived to be 12 when she got sick. Having her put down was heartbreaking.
Chico, a very sweet cat.

Gidget, a very smart, very sweet poodle

 I moved back to my home state and closer to my parents. I went a few years with out any pets except for an obnoxious Moon-faced parrot which I ended up giving to a friend who really liked him. Meanwhile Tippy and Gidget got old and sick and had to make that final trip to the vet. Kitty was alone at my parents' house. He was hit by a car but managed to get home. Mom put him in a box in the garage thinking he wouldn’t last the night. But he survived. His nose was broken and crooked and one of his eyes always had blood-stained tears, but he lived on for several more years. 

Miss St. Claire, a blind kitty.
Miss St. Claire, AKA Missy
I moved again, this time to another state and into the country near my cousin and her husband, and her parents. My parents joined us and we all lived close together. My cousin was having an unusual number of stray cats call at her back door. Being a cat/animal lover, she took them in. When she reached her limit of four she offered me the next one to come along. She was a short hair, dark tabby I called Miss St. Claire (#9). She was blind and she loved to climb my back and drape herself over my shoulders when I was painting watercolors. I took her to the vet for shots and an exam. I told the vet she was blind and he didn’t believe me. I stepped away from the exam table and Missy followed me and stepped right off the table. I was ready to catch her, of course. The doctor was stunned. 

About a year later I found Missy curled up in a warm corner of the back bathroom and I knew she was sick. I made her comfortable and she died in the night. It was February and we were having a blizzard. I dug a hole in the frozen ground and buried her under the kitchen window next to the peony bush. It was too cold to go out further among the sage brush to bury her. I later put up an iron stake with a bird feeder over her. 

50/50 and her pink powder puff
and one of her pompoms
50/50 playing in the snow
That summer I was checking out some garage sales when I came to one that had kittens. One of the kittens was a short haired calico/tortie with markings on her face that divided her face in half. One of my friends had had a similar cat years ago and had called her Fifty-Fifty. I took this cat. It probably wasn’t a great idea. The kid offering it said, “We have to find homes for them because their mother doesn’t want them.” RED FLAG, this cat won’t be social. So I tired my Social Kitten Test. Hold the kitten in your hands upside down. If she relaxes, she’ll be a good lap cat. If she struggles, she’ll be anti social. This test has always worked. This kitten did not like being upside down. But I took her home anyway. I named her 50/50 (#10). She grew up to be fairly anti social, but she was the smartest cat I’d ever had. As a kitten she loved to play fetch. I would shoot one of those covered hair bands across the room, she’d chase it and bring it back for more. Or she’d take it to her water bowl, drop it in and watch it float. She figured out how to open the bi-fold doors on a closet, pull out the bag of chenille craft pompoms, which were her favorite toy, and she’d open the bag and I’d find her stretched out on the floor surrounded by pompoms. In the summer I would leave the sliding glass door open and the screen closed. She figured out how to open the screen door to let herself out. Unfortunately, she didn’t figure out how to close it to keep the flies out. 

The day I got her at the garage sale I bought a pink sheep-skin powder puff for her to cuddle. From then on that was her powder puff. When she was older she used to carry it down the hall in the middle of the night making the weirdest sound I've ever heard a cat make. Once, when she was about five months old she ran down the hall and took a flying leap at the mirror at the end. She thought it was an opening to another room. She loved to play in the snow. I would make a small snowball and toss it across the surface where it would eventually sink. She would dive for it. She was a good hunter and liked to catch field mice and garden voles. She lived to be 12 years old. One day she was sick and I took her to the vet. They could’t figure out what was wrong with her and after a couple of days I gave them the okay to put her down. By that time I was living with my parents to share expenses and help them out. Although 50/50 was mostly anti social, she did like my dad and would sit on his lap for a good petting most every evening. When I went to the vet to pick her up, my dad, in his late 80s, had gone out in the sagebrush and dug a hole in the rocky ground. When I set 50/50 in the earth she was still warm. Later, I saw that my dad had found a large rock and had chiseled “50/50 Kitty” on the rock. He always called her Kitty. And he’d carved a little cross above it. I had made a cat lover out of my dad long ago. 

That’s the end of part 2. Come back Wednesday for part 3, cats number 11 - 15 and more stories and photos. 

1 comment:

  1. Wow, you really have had a lot of cats and kittens! I love the photos and I loved the part about your dad and what he did for 50/50. I've never heard of the social kitten test before. Interesting! Onyx, my last cat was one who fetched and would drag his toys down the hall or drop them at my feet announcing it was play time. I'd never had a cat who fetched before!