Will Clean Litter for Snuggles
In all honesty, probably the thing I’m most excited about with us getting a new place is that we’ll have pets again. Not that Elphie isn’t great company; but she’s not really quite as snuggly as her furry counterparts. Second to that is getting away from this freaking apartment, but that’s another rant.
There’s just nothing out there like the love of a cat. I keep scrolling kitten pictures on the internet these days, trying to make up my mind of what color I want this time, and if I want a pure-bred kitty or if I want another randomly-assorted fuzzball. I know it’s useless, really- when I meet my kitten, I’ll know, and it won’t matter what color he is or where I find him. Or he may find me- I don’t know. I was quite the cat whisperer back in the days of field and farm!
Warning: This is where this post gets long-winded and eventually sloppy and sad. But there are cat pictures 🙂
My family’s first cat found us- my little brother and I discovered her in our garage the February I was seven and he was five. We had gone in while waiting for Mom to come out and get in the car so we could go someplace, and there she was, standing on the riding mower. She was a stocky brown tabby with one ear a little short and bright yellow eyes, and we were so surprised (I, my brother, and the cat) we all just stood there staring for a minute. But my little seven-year-old self had wanted a cat so badly for so long, I didn’t hesitate much longer- I walked up to her (wanted to run, but I didn’t want to scare her off) and stuck out my hand. She sniffed my fingers for a brief moment, then rubbed her head on my hand in the universal sign of feline acceptance.
We scooped her up and did the next logical thing- smuggled her into the warming car while we continued to wait for Mom (yes, she does take a terribly long time getting ready). The cat was most remarkably calm (in retrospect) for the mile down the road it took Mom to realize we were hiding something, and when we had been discovered, we pleaded and begged as she returned us home to keep her, citing everything from the crappy birthday present I’d gotten to how cold it was outside and surely she’d freeze if we didn’t take her to how BJ and I had never had our own pets and we’d really like a cat. By the time we had gotten back in the driveway (the cat still lying tranquilly on the floor by my feet), she had relented, and said we could ask Dad when he got home, but in the mean time, the cat could come in the house, and that we would get her some food while we were out.
Dad came home, discussions ensued, and he met the cat. We waited patiently in our room for the verdict, talking strategy for if he said no. He came in, and announced that he’d had a look at the cat, and “It’s not a she, it’s not a he-” (at which point I was confused, knowing full well those were the only two options!) “It’s a mother.” (omigod! KITTENS!!!!11!)
“I suppose, kiddo. But you’ve gotta feed and water her and clean the l-” The usual speech was cut short by two screams of glee, and my “I’m gonna name itMarilyn, after my teacher, ’cause I like her!”
So with the addition of Marilyn, the Mother to the family, my life as a cat guardian began. Her litter was born not too long after- four beautiful kittens, one black boy (Midnight, claimed by my brother), a grey-splotched white girl (Silky, named for her soft fur), two tabby boys like their mother (one Sebastien, one Wiskers Ferdinand I- my first kitten). All of our cats for a long while after were descended from Marilyn. We gave many of them away, but we kept as many as we gave. Let’s see…there was the first litter, then there was Stimpy (tabby) and Fluffy (grey tabby, both of them with bent tails), Salem (black), Charcoal (blue), Wonder (grey tabby), Baby Blue (tabby with white socks; born blind and named for her eyes), and Walnut (tabby), a couple litters we gave away in their entirety, and then her last litter- of the six born, only one kitten survived to be given away. By the last litter, she was getting on in years and had had it rough- she was a scrapper, and ended up with both ears short and a limp by that point. Some of her babies had litters of their own- Fluffy had Lansing (blue with white socks and belly) and Baby Grey (grey tabby- sweetest cat you’d ever meet), and then Lansing had her own litter (we think by Wonder, who was the only male we had at the time it was discovered she was pregnant, but you never really know). From Lansing’s litter came these three darlings:
From left to right, that’s Hypurr (spitting image of her mother), PitterPaws (looks like dad- a grey tabby), and Wiskers Ferdinand II, who was the runt and mine from birth.
Why did I tell you this long-winded tale of my cats’ geneology? Because Wiskers Ferdinand II (hereafter referred to as Wisk) wasthe cat of my lifetime thus far. Born July 2nd, 2000 under a dishwasher, his mother refused to feed him after the third day, probably deeming him too weak to bother with. But I took over, feeding him on milk and cat formula and later scrambled eggs with cheese and claiming him as my own. I raised that kitten, who grew to be one of the most remarkable cats I’ve ever known. When we moved out of the house he was born in, I refused to go anywhere unless he could come with me, and come with me he did. Wisk was with me for 10 years- half of my life at the time he left. He drank Vernors and Coke and would always beg for my “shrimp butts” (the little tiny piece of meat that sometimes gets stuck inside the tail when you’re eating them). Once he stole an entire slice of cheesecake off Ryan’s plate, and he did it so stealthily we couldn’t even really be angry at him for it. He sat on command and was downright stubborn about getting on your lap when he felt like he should be there, and he loved sleeping under the covers with me, right next to my stomach.
He was an absolute darling and he was trouble. He was my perfect match- that rare animal that comes along and really latches onto the very soul of the person they adore, who then can’t help but adore them back.
Wisk was my heart and soul animated into feline form, and we loved each other like crazy. I feared his loss more than I feared many things- most things -those years we shared, and the reality of it is still something that pains me today.
He left some big shoes to fill, that one. I’m not trying to replace him- no; Wiskers is a cat who could never be replaced. And I don’t know that I’ll ever love another cat like I loved Wisk, but I just can’t take this lack of cat much longer. I haven’t not had a cat since I was seven! I need a little ball of fur in my life; some bouncing pile of personality with whiskers and fluff to love and be loved by. I need them, too, to help me move forward- I need to love a cat again and cry less about the one I loved so much.
It’s because I’ve had such a special creature in my life that I know finding my next cat will be a process, and not just picking one out of the first litter I come by. I know what it is to be truly matched to an animal as if by fate itself, and there’s something to be said for that.
I feel sorry for the people who say “Oh, it’s just a cat/just a dog/just a hamster.” They don’t know what they’re missing.
This post is dedicated to Wiskers, Little Kitty, Siddartha, Princess, Bronco Billy, Constantine, Blue, and all the other special cats who left pawprints on our hearts. We love you and we miss you.