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Lately we’ve been talking about getting a cat again. I’ve been getting news items on my phone feed about lost kittens being rescued and adopted. We haven’t had a cat in over four years, after years on end with cats. And now we have many mice, and an ermine has moved in to hunt them. The ermine is the last straw. We need another cat.
We had an ermine once before. I think our little Siamese cat broke its legs and brought it in to play with. He had cat doors and wasn’t afraid to use them. He finally killed his ermine. Like I said, ermine are small critters, bigger than a squirrel by a few hairs, and not a match for a cat.
Siamese cats, even male ones, aren’t particularly big as cats go. Buddy was about nine pounds of muscle and bone, and he could run down a rabbit–and did. My husband caught him sizing up a groundhog once. Buddy used to catch a rabbit, throw it over his shoulder, carry it in the cat door and jump down four feet to the basement floor. Then he’d try to eat it. The less said about that the better.
Buddy liked to play with mice. He was sporting and good-natured to most beings but with prey, he was a true sadist. His adopted sister Polly, a grumpy calico, was more of a teacher. She’d smuggle prey in and hide it or turn it loose for the big funny-looking cats (us) to hunt.
Once she dumped a mouse into one of my husband’s boots. I had three pair out. She sat with a challenging look on her face and I knew I had to figure out which boot contained the mouse. I couldn’t hear or smell my way out of it so I watched her till I knew. She couldn’t help swiveling an ear. I then dumped the mouse into a bag and threw it out. She was so proud of me she forgot to be mad at the waste.
Another time she was interested in bat-hunting. She grabbed one and released it in the back bedroom before I could stop her. I simply opened the window and shut the door.
Well, that didn’t work for her. She went out, got another bat, and this time had it orbiting the kitchen. This time we chased it out the window with landing nets as she looked on. Much better this time!
Buddy and Polly were with us from their kittenhood so we all grew together. Polly was fascinated by technology, even though it was sometimes scary. When she watched “Murphy Brown” with us and the elevator went “ding” Polly would run out of the room and slink back toward the door. She didn’t like visitors.
Polly got a lot of entertainment out of human endeavors. She spent the Fourth of July one year watching excavators move the road up in Canada, which is just out our windows on the north side of the house. I’ll confess I watched too. They were so graceful as they moved.
Polly also loved to watch my husband and me do things. We had been making a breakfast room, painting and putting in flooring and baseboards and all that. But what really got her going was the chair-rail wallpaper border we put in. My husband was doing the chalk line when she first came to observe. She came back at regular intervals to check progress and when we were cleaning up, she came back, inspected it, and approved.
Buddy was not as interested in technology. He was the jock of the family. He’d rather race the car down the driveway than be in it. But he did like harp music. He had to sit on my lap as I played my folk harp. His favorite seemed to be “All Through the Night.”
Polly liked the electronic keyboard, of course. It can whistle. I would play her “Sweet Georgia Brown” with the whistle voice and she’d come running.
Our cats, even the rescue one and Piute, who moved from upstairs when his former people left, all talked in their own ways.
Piute and the motorcycle spent a week together inside our apartment when we went on a trip once. The bike because of the children who would vandalize it in the parking lot, and Piute for general safety. My brother would go over daily to do cat care and find Piute on the saddle in the middle of the kitchen, just hanging out.
A few months later, Piute noticed while outside that the kids had moved his motorcycle from in front of our building. He yelled to get in, and then pawed my feet frantically till I followed him to its usual place. I freaked and told my husband, but Piute was back pawing my feet again, so once more I went with him to find his bike on its side behind the building. My husband came and righted it and brought it home.
Polly and Buddy had special sounds they’d say for certain things. Polly called me Rarie. and Buddy clearly said “out” whenever he wanted a door opened. We still refer to the basement as “out downstairs” because that got him to the cat door at the top of the stairs.
Buddy noticed something in his later years, when he started spending more time at home. He noticed my husband often went “out downstairs” to his shop area and yelled. In between, of course, my husband was getting frustrated with something that would make him want to yell.
Buddy pared it down to the bare essentials, though. He reasoned that if people (including him) wanted to have a good cuss, “out downstairs” was the place to do it. So he’d politely say “out,” go down to the shop, and scream his loudest Siamese scream: “OH! OW! OH! OW!”
As odd as it may seem for these little predators to be pets, they are good ones. You just have to accept that they are individuals with loads of dignity who need to be respected as well as loved.
Polly once came running to see what had happened to me. I’d closed the slider and tried to latch it, bending back my thumbnail in the process. It really hurt and I yelled. Polly didn’t settle down till well after I got a cold pack on it and could quit squirming and whining with the pain. Then she wouldn’t leave in case something else happened.
Any one of those cats would sit with us if we were ill, or at least check on us. If they were sick…well, let’s just say Polly and I had wicked fights over her taking medicine. She was prone to kidney and pancreas infections and hated taking pills. We fought for years. Finally we worked out that she needed respect, a little assistance, and a lot of tuna if she were going to take the pills and not spit them someplace.
There’s a newer term around, “fur babies,” and it’s so apt. Those cats were all our kids. My husband referred to Buddy as his son as he got him out of tree after tree. (My husband worried; Buddy didn’t.) You get to know them and they become such a part of your life it’s hard when they go.
So it seems that this summer, when I get done work, we can get another cat. And the adventure will go on.
Do you keep a pet? What kind and why?