My Own Cat Hero, or A Loss Upon a Loss

I’ve witnessed a spin of  the circle of life again.

Mourning upon mourning

My dear darling oldest cat Mac passed away yesterday morning. He had been battling a congenital heart problem, diabetes, and chronic kidney failure for a long time and suddenly he took a turn for the worse. He refused food and water, and hubby and I could see it was his time. I sang to him for awhile, mainly nursery songs like “Billy Boy,” “The Riddle Song,” and “Tumbalalaika.” Then we took him to the vet. I held him, bundled in a beach towel, in my arms while he passed over the Rainbow Bridge.

Mac had a huge personality. He put everyone he met under his hypnotic spell. I don’t know how he did it, but it was simply from the force of that dynamic and powerful personality. I am too sad to do much except clean up the house from the effects of his recent illness, but I will post a few pix, along with a story about him that I wrote a few years ago.

My friend, Barbara Tapp, a talented artist, made this picture for me of Mac:

As you probably know by now, my father passed away in May, so this is another blow.

Here is the story of how Mac came to be part of our family.

Our new house came with a stray cat, but we did not realize this until after we closed on the property.  Apparently the previous owners had been feeding this predominantly white calico female in the backyard for quite some time, but when they moved, they didn’t mention the cat to us.  Our new next door neighbor told us he was going to “shoot that damn cat next time it comes around here.”  I wondered if he would pry that beer can out of his hand long enough to do so, but I suppose there are some people who are great shots even while drinking.

Though I came to the house for two weeks to feed her every day, one day the calico just disappeared.   I felt a twinge of relief because she seemed to be half feral and would not make a house cat and then sadness welled up in me.  Although it’s unlikely my neighbor actually killed her, I grew furious with him.

We needed to remodel the house before we moved in.  The workers ripped off the façade of the house on the side where a new room would go.  This left a large gap behind the bathtub.  One day the workers were framing as we gardened, when I heard a yell from Brad, one of the workers.  He told us he saw an orange and white tabby kitten pop its head out from behind the tub to look.  We ran over there and found three kittens: the orange kitten, a calico, and a black and cream tabby with fur almost as long as a long haired cat.  Brad explained that he had seen the kittens the other day and was sure that they no longer had a mother.  The orange and white kitten, still so young he had blue eyes, walked boldly out and looked at us with curiosity.  He was followed by the calico, and then the long haired tabby crept out bashfully.  Those two seemed to be following the orange kitty.

My daughter was ten and had grown up with two dogs in the family.  The preciousness of a furry kitten appealed to her and she began a fierce campaign to keep one of the kittens.

He said he hated cats!

Hubby said, “I hate cats.”  Those big blue eyes peering out of the tiny furry face forced me to argue with him, “You just don’t know cats since you’ve never had one.”  I told him how beautiful my childhood cat had been.

Finally, hubby relented and agreed that we could select one kitten, but we had to “take the rest to the shelter.”

I took the friendly orange kitty on my lap and dialed my vet’s office.  I talked to Jan, the tech.  Jan told me to choose the orange tabby because they are friendlier and more dog-like.  As she well knew, I was very used to dogs.  This viewpoint was confirmed for me because the other two cats were meeker than the orange; he was already melting into my lap as though he belonged there.  Jan encouraged me to bring in the cat I was going to keep for a thorough exam and vaccinations, but she issued one caveat; under no circumstances was I to bring in the other two cats because the office already had a litter of kittens they were trying to find homes for.

DON’T BRING THOSE OTHER CATS IN HERE!

When I got off the phone my friend, a veterinarian who worked at the vet’s office, called and told me to choose a boy: “they are more outgoing and friendly.”  She said she’d run over and look at them real quick on her way to an appointment, so I tried to ignore the sexism in her statement.  She examined each kitten in turn and declared them all boys.  Years later, I read that most calicos are girls, so I still wonder if that boy was really a girl or a rare cat.

I found one big cardboard box in the garage and put all three kittens into it on an old garage blanket which sported pieces of dried leaves clinging to it and which I covered with a clean towel.  I drove the kittens immediately to my vet’s office.  I know, I know.  But I didn’t know what else to do with the other two kittens.

I heaved the box up onto the counter in front of Jan.  She couldn’t resist the temptation and peered inside.  “You brought all three; I TOLD you not to!! “  She grimaced.  “Aren’t they cute though?!”

A woman and her elderly mother peered into the box.  The younger woman oohed over the kittens, asking me what I was planning to do with them.

Without missing a beat, I said, “I’m keeping the orange one and taking the other two to the shelter!”  My words had the desired effect of horrifying and motivating her.  The woman told me she would give them a home if I liked.

Conferring with Jan in private, I discovered that the woman was there with an injured squirrel, so I figured we had a winner.   I offered to pay for the neutering, but the woman told me she would take care of that herself.

My new kitten was examined and vaccinated and declared a fine, healthy specimen.  I brought him home to our “old house” to meet our two dogs, Oliver and Sandy.

Before we let the dogs see the kitty, I put him in my daughter’s bedroom because it was connected to the Jack and Jill bathroom she shared with her brother and it had a little walk in closet.  The room was small at 10×10 feet, but with the closet and the bathroom, it was the perfect size for such a young cat.  While the kitty got used to the bedroom, my daughter and I went to PetSmart and bought supplies, including a plastic carrying kennel.

Later that night, we put the kitty in the kennel and introduced the dogs.  Sandy began to growl and yip at the cage, but Oliver took one look at the tiny cat and barked a sharp order at Sandy.  Sandy never bothered the cat again.  I wondered if animals teach each other in the same way that people often teach one another.  When our first dog Muffin was alive, Oliver was dog number two, and Sandy was not yet part of the family.  On the rare occasion that Oliver would get a little testy with the children when they were quite young, Muffin would bark at him exactly the same way.  It’s as if the older dog warns the younger dog to be careful of the youngsters, no matter what species the youngsters are.

Very quickly, Mac and Sandy became best friends.

 

Mac with Sandy

Mac with Sandy

Now there was only one other family member to win over and that was hubby.

I had named our new cat Macavity, after the T.S. Eliot cat known as the “hidden paw.”  I should have known better because Mac lived up to his name, hiding as many of hubby’s belongings (keys, notes, ring) as he could tote off.  He didn’t try to win over the husband.

But one day I came home and Mac was curled up around hubby’s head as he lay on the couch watching TV.  And from then on, they were great friends.  Mac never stole another object belonging to my husband.  He started a campaign to reduce my earring collection by 50% by stealing one earring from each set. All these years later, we’ve never found the earrings.

That’s how Mac-the-cat (one of his nicknames) became part of our family

Another nickname is Monkeybunnyratowlpig.

Eventually we accumulated three other cats that are still part of the family. But it was Mac who persuaded hubby that cats are pretty cool people. It’s because of Mac that we both volunteer at the shelter with the kitties. And it’s because of Mac that hubby and I have been crying.

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Filed under Cats and Other Animals, Memoir, Nonfiction, Photographs, Writing

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