My friend recently sent me an email about her new cat. Attached was a photo of the beautiful calico. “She’s about to change your whole life,” I teased. “I can see it in her eyes.” I should know! Cats have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I currently have five of the beasts.
As I write this Babe, a gray shorthair, is curled up on a file box next to the desk. She doesn’t know, or care, that she is sleeping on the draft copies of my family history. She only knows that she is safe. My son rescued her about six years ago. She was in an abusive relationship and totally unappreciated! She is still shy, skittish, and terrified of the vacuum cleaner, but she is also loving and attentive to my every move. If she wakes and finds that I have gone to another part of the house she will find me and settle in next to my knitting or book or dining room chair.
Chessie, my husband’s cat, is no doubt chasing something in the yard. She loves mice and lizards and birds. She often leaves her trophies on the back porch step and if I’m not careful…well, you know. Not pleasant! Chessie chose our house to call home, and has declared my husband as her favorite human. She arrived four years ago, on a rainy day while Gary and I were on vacation and our son was house-sitting. She tore through the foam core strip that bridges the gap between our window frame and swamp cooler. Robert found her curled up on the couch, fast asleep. I was appalled when I first saw her because she was truly the ugliest kitten I have ever seen! Her odd coloring and strange markings have blended over the years, and we’ve adjusted to her crossed eyes. I think she’s really sorta cute. She’s our resident reminder not to “judge a book by its cover”. She doesn’t bite, scratch, whine, or bother anyone. She’s seldom underfoot. She prefers to stay outside. She gets along with all the other cats. She’s one of the best cats we’ve ever had!
My old cat, Daryl, is just, well, old. He’s cranky and whiny and has a history of ailments. One of his ears is permanently crinkled. He has a scar where all, yes ALL, of the skin of his back leg had to be reattached after an accident. He’s led a life of danger and used at least five of his lives in the thirteen years I have loved him. He was born to one of my favorite cats, Annie. Annie was a calico who was abandoned at a RV park where we were camped. She had a family, but whether by accident or design, her people forgot her when they left camp. So she went home with us, and in a few months had three kittens. Two of them were yellow, striped, and were named “Daryl, and my other brother Daryl” after the characters on a popular television show. One went to another home, and our Daryl now lives on the porch in the summer and my lap in the winter.
Lint, a Russian blue, was born to a stray cat who used to live here on the Hill. My son gave him his unusual name because he looked like a ball of “dryer lint” when he was born. He is now so big that I have to use both arms to carefully lift him. I added that word for my children since Lint and I have a history together. I was trying to carry him out the door to the vet’s when I fell and broke my leg in three places! He is strictly an outside cat now, by his own choice. He loves to frighten stray dogs, but he is really a softy who lets the neighbor’s young female cat boss him around.
Which brings me to Sassy, the resident terror of Liberty Hill. Sassy is as mean as a snake. She bites, hisses, spits, and snarls. She wakes me up by chewing on my elbow. She doesn’t like any other cat except Chessie. She doesn’t like any other people except my father. She’s the only cat I’ve ever owned who scares me, but I’m too sentimental to get rid of her. You see, my mother loved her. She even came to visit Sassy- I think to make sure I was being nice to her. Sassy is a Siamese who was born to my mother’s cat. And as you know, my mother is in heaven now, probably still looking down to see if I’m being nice to Sassy, because I’m frequently so-o-o-o tempted to... never mind.
I was visiting Mom one day when she asked if I needed another cat. “NO”, I replied emphatically. Three or four kittens were playing at her feet and they were cute, but Daryl, Lint, and Babe were all the companionship and responsibility I needed. I turned toward my car, and if I’d been a little faster I might have made it. However, a movement in the flowerbed caught my eye, and out peeked the cutest little face I’d ever seen. I picked up the kitten, who promptly spit in my face and scratched me! “Sassy little thing!” I remarked to Mom. The next thing I knew I was sitting on her porch swing cuddling the little devil and telling Mom I’d take it home as soon as it was weaned! I sometimes think Mom knew about the cat’s personality flaws and also knew I was the only one foolish enough to fall for her! Anyway, my son visited the other day and said that he thinks Sassy is “mellowing in her old age” because she actually sat on his lap without biting him. I can only hope!
Which brings me to the point of this whole thing. Cats change you. They change your plans and your habits and your ideas about life. I’ve lived with dogs, horses, cows, goats, pigs, rabbits, fish, birds, guinea pigs, hamsters, rats, lizards, and turtles. Nothing compares to a cat. Cats can teach you to slow down and enjoy the moment. Cats can show you the difference between independence and arrogance. Cats can love you or hate you, and still make you feel needed. So this is my tribute to the great cats of the past- Sandy, Charlie, Blackie, Dawn, Tom, Kelly, Frankie, Mittens, Annie, and a dozen I’ve forgotten, and my thank-you to the cats who currently grace my life. However, if there is another cat in my future, please let it be one that doesn’t bite!