I married a cat person, who wanted cats, cats and more cats. I came from a dog family, where my mother had nasty little dogs like the Pekinese that bit me on the nose. (Perhaps as a young boy I shouldn’t have been torturing him by blowing in his face, giving him easy access; I don’t know).
We already had three young daughters. I was struggling mightily to raise them, when the oldest, seventeen at the time, brought home a stray long hair kitten. I objected, put my foot down, no pets allowed. And within a week my wife and daughters had welcomed Sugar into our home.
I must admit, Sugar was a very cute little ball of fur. She immediately stole everyone’s heart. On the other hand, I was almost banished from the family. One morning, bright and early, I was fixing breakfast while the girls got ready for school. I went out onto the deck to look at the lake, and didn’t notice that little Sugar, a few months old, had followed me. She tried to jump onto the deck rail, missed and I watched in horror as she fell from the deck to the ground.
I screamed something like, “I think I just killed the cat!”, and I ran downstairs towards the sliding glass door to the area under the deck. Not entirely awake, and panicked, a near fatal combination, I threw open the sliding glass door and ran face first into the closed screen. I fell down, laying half in and half out of the house. My loving family, just behind me, ran right over the top of me as they raced outside to see if Sugar was okay. They found her sitting in a large azalea bush, none worse for the wear but a little startled. The cat was fine, but it took several days for their footprints to disappear from my various body parts.
I decreed that if we were going to have a cat, she would have to be spayed. She was an outdoor cat, and I didn’t want her to multiply like, well…a cat. My wife was of the opinion that it would be good for our girls to witness the miracle of childbirth. So a year later Sugar came home from a night on the town, pregnant. Cats, cats and more cats. Help!
My wife had a cat when she was in college. She had also worked for a vet. She assured me that the first litter would be small, one or two kittens at the most. I went out of town on business, and I returned to a litter of seven tiny fur balls. They were cute, but I was not about to live in a house with eight cats. So, I decreed that we would keep only one, the single male in the litter, an orange tabby. I was determined to avoid cats, cats and more cats.
When the dust cleared, we had Sugar, her son, Norbert, and the runt or the litter, a little black cat the girls named Cookie. I considered this a win.
We lived in the country, and all three cats stayed outdoors much of the time. However, they came in the house every day to eat and sleep. Our lungs, and the house and HVAC system, filled up with cat hair. In spite of weekly dusting and vacuuming, I believe I suffered as many hair balls as the cats.
I learned a lot about cats during those years of cats, cats and more cats. For example, the mother cat adopted our youngest daughter. One time I yelled at our daughter, and followed her to her room to chastise her further. Sugar came running and placed herself between my daughter and me, in protect mode. I never hit my children, but I’m convinced if I had, Sugar would have eaten me for lunch.
That same youngest daughter used to dress Sugar up in clothes and push her around in a baby buggy. That cat was incredibly tolerant. She seemed to know it was her job to entertain the child at all costs, and she never complained. I felt kind of sorry for her when she was being dragged around, in full costume. The look on her face clearly said, “Please help me.”
Those cats were a true family, and hilarious to watch at times. One repeat performance included Norbert, the large male tabby, chasing his younger sister Cookie. He would tackle her, get her on her back and bite her gently, obviously tormenting his sister. When this happened, momma Sugar would come flying into the room. She would swat Norbert on the head, claws bared, and protect the smaller Cookie. I could relate to Sugar, as I had to pull my three daughters apart many times.
Sugar also taught me how truly independent a cat can be, especially when threatened. I was in the car port one summer afternoon, waxing the car. Sugar lay in the sun nearby. A large dog surprised the two of us as he walked around the side of the house. I panicked, and in protect mode I grabbed Sugar, picked her up. I intended to take her into the house to safety. She had other ideas. She shredded my shirt, chest and arms, full claws bared as she escaped my grasp and dove under the car. From then on, I let the cats take care of themselves. They were obviously more capable than I was at protection.
Those three cats would pack hunt in the large azalea patch in the back yard. They would surround a chipmunk or mole, catch it and carry it to the cement pad outside our garage. They would place the animal on the cement, where it would usually play dead. Norbert, the trouble maker of the pack, would poke it with his paw until it ran away. Then they would give chase, catch the victim and return it to the center of the circle. I usually watched for a couple of minutes before rescuing the poor creature from death. The cats’ hunting skills were impressive.
Then there was the time Norbert caught a chipmunk and was carrying it up the path from the lake by the tail. He was bringing it to me as a trophy. As he walked up the path, the chipmunk managed to swing up and bite him on the nose. Norbert squealed and threw the chipmunk up in the air, but he was on it again as soon as it hit the ground. I was unable to save that particular victim.
I had discussed with my wife the fact that, since we hadn’t spayed Sugar right away, perhaps we should allow Norbert to experience his full sexuality before having him fixed. Plus, the thought of doing that to him made me woozy. Cats, cats and more cats, so many problems.
When Norbert was about a year old, I went on a business trip. When I returned home a week later, I knew there was something wrong. Norbert shunned me from the time I entered the house. My wife finally told me that she had taken my furry buddy to the vet while I was gone. He was no longer a fully functional male. I couldn’t look the poor guy in the eye for at least two weeks. I felt terrible, but there was no turning back for poor Norbert. I shouldn’t have left him at the mercy of the females…my bad.
In spite of this terrible mistake on my part, as the only two males (of sorts) in the household, Norbert and I bonded. I was working from a home office at the time, I put a bed for him in my office, and he would come sleep there during the day. Whenever one or all of my daughters picked a fight with my wife and the noise level was over the top, Norbert and I would do the manly thing and retreat to the basement, to our man/cat cave. He became my best friend. I could tell him anything, and he would still love me just the way I was, as long as I fed him and cleaned the litter box.
He did finally exact his revenge on me. At that time, I traveled quite a lot for work. I would usually go away for a week at a time. When I returned home, he had obviously missed me and would pout and shun me for a couple of days before forgiving me and returning to our daily routine.
One of my trips included a two-week visit to a company in Europe. I returned home, and Norbert shunned me as usual. But, he added something new to his repertoire of punishments. The second night that I was home from the trip, I went to bed to find a pile of cat poop on my pillow; not my wife’s pillow, not my daughters’ pillows, but MY pillow. When I confronted him, Norbert just smiled that catly smile. I was amazed at how smart that guy was; scary smart.
I learned something else about cats. They enjoyed being picked up from time to time, cuddled like babies, and petted. However, whenever I would do this and look into their eyes, I always swore that I saw some wild and feral thing in there that said, “do not piss me off or I’ll eat your face.” I suspect that if you look deep enough, there is still the savageness of a lion or tiger in there, waiting to come out. That’s why I ALWAYS make sure there’s plenty of cat food in the house.
When Sugar was thirteen and her kittens were twelve, my wife and I left them in the kitty kennel while we went to Florida for a week’s vacation. We were only in Florida for two days when we got a phone call that Sugar was dead and Norbert was very ill. Cookie seemed to be okay.
We immediately drove home, and arrived in time for me to hold Norbert on my lap while the vet put him down. He was suffering terribly from failed kidneys, among other things. The vet swore that this happened spontaneously. To this day I’m convinced the two cats got into something toxic at the vet kennel. But, there was no way to prove anything. Holding Norbert on my lap while he was euthanized was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. He was my buddy, and I still miss him.
Cookie, the little black runt of the litter, is still with us today at age eighteen. Always very shy, she spent most of her time being bullied by her larger brother and hiding under the bed. Once Sugar and Norbert were gone, Cookie’s personality changed dramatically. She almost immediately began to assert herself, demanding attention. She yells at us to feed her at six in the morning and four every afternoon.
She can be incredibly loud and boisterous in this regard. And, for some reason, she is constantly trying to trip me, usually at the top of the stairs. Perhaps Norbert’s dying wish was for her to take me out for all my transgressions, abandoning him to the women to be fixed, abandoning him for two weeks, etc. Or, maybe she’s not happy with me herself, since Norbert was obviously my favorite when he was still around. Nothing would surprise me, as I have learned that cats are extremely intelligent.
Cats, cats and more cats; I don’t know what I’ll do when Cookie finally goes to kitty Heaven. Who’ll be there to wake us faithfully every morning at six AM? And who’ll keep me on my toes at the top of the stairs so I don’t get careless and fall? And, who’ll I brush every morning to keep the fur count from completely clogging our lungs? But then, she’s so cute when she does her praying thing when she wants to be petted, or fed, or helped onto the couch (she’s developing some arthritis in her hind haunches)? She’s still fun to cuddle with, and pet, and that purring thing truly is relaxing to my soul.
Am I glad that I got to experience cats, cats and more cats? Overall, I’d have to say I’m grateful for Sugar, Norbert and Cookie. In spite of the poop, the fur and the pandemonium, they brought a lot of joy to our lives. They provided friendship, love and entertainment. I’m glad they were in my life, and I’m glad I married a cat person. At least for now. My answer could most definitely change tomorrow morning at six AM.
If this blog article made you laugh, you might enjoy PLEASURIA: Take As Directed (Koehler Books), a comedy murder mystery staged in the pharmaceutical industry. It’s available at bookstores everywhere and online at http://bit.ly/pleasuria.
I’m giving all of my after-tax profits from the sale of the book to two children’s charities, Holly’s House and Darkness-to-Light.