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Monday, October 17, 2011

An over-long cat tale

As I have aged, I have become more and more convinced that pets should be adopted as they come to us. Foundlings, shelter and rescue animals are The Best. I love my poodles, whom we sought out and paid for, and whom I have served faithfully ever since. But the Met-By-Chance-And-Meant-To-Be Animals are special. MiMau was one such animal. I believe that I have not related the story of how MiMau came to live with us. 

I have to start this story long before MiMau's arrival; please bear with me for a minute. When we were married five years and bought a house, we bought our first poodle. He was black, fiercely beloved BeauBear, ill with Addison's Disease from age 3 to his demise at nearly 11. Toward the end of his life, my sister acquired a new barn cat. A tiny kitten, she had been removed from a household where the toddling children had been manhandling her, dipping her in and out of mop buckets full of dirty water and the like. The poor little rescue was not successfully assimilating into the existing barncat population. She wasn't allowed to eat at the communal dish, not accepted into the group at all. Sister worried about her and begged me to take her. I had not had a cat for a long time, although I always loved them. The overwhelming amount of attention required by the sick dog made me a little leery of taking on another pet, but I met the little girl, a dark tortie, fell in love and brought her home. Named her KittyBear. BeauBear didn't like her, but she would cuddle up behind him on his bed at every opportunity, just to be near. She began to gain weight and to thrive, and by the time poor BeauBear reached the end of his road, she was well-established as The Beloved Cat.

We sold that house and moved to a rental home while this house was being built. KittyBear liked the big back yard, behind which was a new street full of new homes with big yards. Torties, I think, are nearly always great hunters because of their natural camouflage, and she often brought us offerings of mice, leaving them on the back step. For eight months, KittyBear was our only furchild. And then we brought home two tiny chrysanthemum-petal-headed baby poodles. KittyBear observed and hid and generally stayed out of the way while I overmothered the puppies and worked hard at housebreaking them. One night at 11:30, as I struggled back through the kitchen toward bed, after what I strongly hoped was Last Time Out, I caught KittyBear's eye as she lolled on the kitchen counter archly watching the two tiny dogs passing by below. 
"You could help, you know!" I said to her. She stared back.

A few nights later, Husband and I were in bed. We heard thumping, sounds of merriment and activity, coming from another room. I got up, crept down the hall . . . to find our three pets sitting in a triangle . . . in the center of which was a small living mouse. KittyBear had undertaken to teach the poodles how to deal with small rodents. Angus loved it, learned the lesson and loved KittyBear. Max watched and didn't much care about anything except cuddling and fetching. When the poodles were six months old, I got up one Sunday morning and found a tiny deceased mouse on the back step. We never saw KittyBear again.

Max went on happily, playing with his toys and being cute. Angus looked for his kitty sister. When he would hear, in our conversations, the word "kitty," he would pay close attention until nothing further happened to produce an actual kitty. Husband felt sorry for Angus. "Angus wants a cat. Should we get him a cat?"
I put out the word to people: If you hear of an adult female cat who needs a home, let me know. Months went by. Angus continued to exhibit signs of wanting a kitty sibling. I would not go to the shelter. With two same-sex puppies from the same litter, I already had a lot on my plate, petwise. If a cat fell from the sky, I'd happily take it in. If not, Angus would be fine.

My friend Juanita, something of a Cat Lady, called me one afternoon. 
"Are you still looking for a cat?"
"Yeah, I guess so. Why?"
"The prettiest cat I have ever seen just walked into my back yard. I've been up and down the street, and nobody knows who she belongs to. Why don't you come over after work and meet her?"
So I did. Juanita met me at her gate, wearing a dark sweatshirt thickly frosted with cat hair and holding a loudly-purring dilute tortie cat. "I think she likes me," she laughed.  The cat had come walking confidently along the fence into Juanita's back yard, sat down and waited for a proper acknowledgment. Juanita's neighborhood was home to a number of college students. It was the end of the semester. We concluded that someone, knowing Juanita was a Crazy Cat Lady, had offloaded their young pet near her house, confident that all would be well. I thought the cat was homely. I'd never had a dilute tortie, couldn't make sense of her markings, thought she looked kind of blah. But if ever a cat had dropped from the sky, here, certainly, was one. I had no carrier, so I picked up the cat, got in the car, and started home. 
My new little girl settled happily in my lap, curled up and was still: I took that to be a good omen. We were about two-thirds of the way home, twenty minutes' drive, when I looked down at my new pet. She was looking up at me with her green eyes and her tiny pointy chin. She lifted one paw, reached up and softly, softly, touched my cheek for a few seconds. 
Cats are born knowing how to seal deals.
Now, of course, thirteen years later, I can't believe I ever thought she was homely. It must be living with us that's done it: she is the most beautiful cat I have ever seen. 

10/18/2011 For English Rider, MiMau's photo added (from MiMau and the Importance of Keeping the Upper Paw). There's another fun picture of her at CamoCat.

I have no digital photos of KittyBear and no scanner available . . . but she was beautiful too.


threecollie said...

Great story! That is just how it goes sometimes.

DJan said...

How sweet. I wonder what happened to KittyBear. All these stories of cats and dogs hating each other are overblown. At least for some of them, that is. :-)

Tamara said...

Loved this! I've wanted a cat for sometime now... but the Hubs is allergic. <>

We had to have one of our Schnauzers put down when the pain of cancer was too great for her spirit. We have her partner, who was rescued and in dire straights. Hmmmm, blog material!


Freda said...

You have a wonderful way of talking about your companion animals.... you bring them to life on the page and make me correspondingly grateful for the animals I have shared my life with.

Grandmother Mary said...

Great story well told. I love how our animals enrich our lives, become part of our families.

Mac n' Janet said...

Great story! We always go to the animal shelter to get our cats. The last time we went looking for a Tabby or a Tuxedo, male of course because the neutering is cheaper, but our hearts were stolen by a little Tabbly female and she's ruled the house since.

Carolynn Anctil said...

I love hearing about all your furbabies. Each one is a unique character, aren't they?

I fell in love with my senior girl, Celine, the moment I saw her photograph on the shelter website. That's all it took. I was a goner.

Luna, just raised her black paws at us and both The Frenchman and I were sold. BTW...I've been thinking that she'd love to have a puppy playmate...Celine, bless her heart, is just too old to be much fun for her and there's only just so much trouble you can get up to with a scrap of paper.

rachel said...

Aaaawwww..... such a nice story.

I always thought that animals know when they've been rescued, and respond lovingly. The fact that two of mine, who would have been shot by the gamekeeper had they been left on the estate where they were found, have done all they can to disprove this pleasant little fantasy hasn't affected me too badly - I just love 'em, even when they flee from me just because I looked at them!

Dr. Kathy McCoy said...

Wonderful cat tale! They really know how to touch our hearts. I found three of my most treasured cat companions when I wasn't even looking for a cat! In one instance, 13 years ago, I went to the vet's to get medicine for our ailing 17 year old cat, and saw two kittens for adoption in the lobby. They reached through the bars and purred -- and I went home with saline and two kittens who were the best I've ever had. Timmy and Gus were a delight. Timmy worked with me as a therapy cat in my psychotherapy practice before dying of melamine poisoning due to tainted cat food in 2007. I still have and treasure his brother Gus, who is the sweetest cat I've ever known. Several years after Timmy's death, I was in Petsmart for kitty grass and encountered Marina, a beautiful flame point Siamese who had been abandoned and rejected by two families in her 18 months of life. She looked at me with such longing, I couldn't resist. She also became a therapy cat -- with an unlikely specialty in helping to calm arguing families and couples -- and was an absolute love, sleeping on my pillow at night. Unfortunately, she had feline leukemia and died when she was three years old. I miss Timmy and Marina every day -- but am very thankful for my wonderful "accidental" cats, whom I suspect were not at all accidental but meant to be in my life. I look forward to reading many more of your animal stories!

Friko said...

A lovely cat and dog story and not nearly long enough for this avid reader of your blog.

I'd love to know what happened to kittybear.

I too have been adopted before now and could never send an animal, which obviously thinks I'm the cat's whiskers, back again into nowhere.

Barb said...

A great pet tale - I see you have that very vulnerable soft spot that animals recognize immediately!

Susan said...

what a sweet story.

June said...

My theory about KittyBear is that she had taken over raising the poodles, and as mother cats often do, when they reached a certain point in their development, she left them. We never found a KittyBear corpse, and my sister went, on my behalf, to every house within miles, practically, to inquire about her.
She was such a special, magical little cat, and quite capable of living independently although I'm sure she did love us.
It always seemed so purely TRUE that she understood that I needed her help that night, when I said, "You could help, you know!" I've said before that there are Partner Pets and Baby Pets. KittyBear was a Partner Pet.

Rubye Jack said...

Such a great story. I love cats but have to wait until after a lengthy trip that is coming up to find one. I would hate to get a new cat and then leave it for 2-4 weeks.

English Rider said...

Are there no photos that you could share with us?

esbboston said...

As a child moving in the state of South Dakota I remember losing a cat in the city of Whitewood. Everytime I passed by there on Spearfish (home) and Rapid City trips, I would always wonder what happened to my little friend of nearly fifty years ago. I have mainly had dogs for friends since then, very few cats, and oh so long long ago that I don't remember any of the cats.

schmidleysscribblins,wordpress.com said...

Wonderful blog.

I love kitties, but owing to allergies I cannot have one. I make up for it with dogs and parrots.


Tom said...

Nice cat tail ... er, tale. We all love our animals. Even me, who's not particularly a pet person. But I loved our cute little calico, and now our crazy mutt of a dog. They're just ... so ... darn ... lovable!

#1Nana said...

Lovely story. I think I need to send some vibes out into the universe and wait for my cat to find me...

But I really don't look forward to those darn litter boxes.