August 21, 2007

Mama Cat

Mama Cat

On a summer day ten years ago, my daughter and her friend came running excitedly into the house: "We found a mother cat! And her kittens! Three kittens! Can we adopt them? Please?"

We didn't have any pets at the time. Even though I loved cats, I wanted to wait until I knew that none of my kids were allergic before bringing an animal into my home. So up to then, I had resisted the kids' pleas every time someone found some abandoned kittens.

But this time was different. My youngest child was two, and none of the kids were allergic. They'd slept at my parents' house with no effects.

I walked down with my kids to see the cats, who were living near Obnoxious Fast Food Place That Sells Mostly Meat. The mother cat was black and white, and she had three kittens who seemed very lively and playful. One of the teenagers who worked at the Burger Place That Smells Like French Fries said that the cats had been there for weeks. The mother cat was living off the leftover burgers the teenagers fed her.

My husband was out of town so I decided to call and see what he thought about taking in a cat family. He was half-asleep and puzzled by the phone call.

Him: Cats? The kids want to adopt four cats?
Me: Oh, just three, really. We can probably get Blonde Sister to take one of the kittens.
Him: I thought we were waiting. Because of the allergies in my family.
Me: Well, none of the kids are allergic.
Me: And With-a-Why is two.
Him: Are we done having kids?
Me: Well, I guess we have a choice. Do you want to have another baby or take in some cats?
Him: Let's take the cats.

The next day, while my oldest two kids were in school, I enlisted my mother's help. With the two youngest kids strapped in the car and my mother's cat carrier in the back, we drove into the parking lot of Hamburger Place. The mother cat seemed skittish as we approached, but my mother just picked her up quickly and put her in the cat carrier. Then it was easy to get the kittens.

At first the cats were shy. They disappeared beneath the kids' bunkbed. When Beautiful Smart Wonderful Daughter and Boy in Black came home, they burst in the door, still saying, in that persistent way of small children: "Can we adopt the cats?"

"Go look under the bed," I told them. I remember how excited their faces were as they peered under and saw the cats all cuddled up against the wall.

Mama Cat has lived with us ever since. She was never an affectionate cat – in fact, she would sometimes sit on the edge of the kitchen counter and swipe anyone who walked past. It was my husband who figured out Mama Cat's twelve second rule: you could pet her for ten seconds or eleven. But linger any longer, and she'd reach out a paw. I used to get scratches on my arms all the time before we figured that out. But she'd had a rough life, raising kittens on the street, and we never held her attitude against her.

This summer, Mama Cat's health began to fail. During hot spells especially, she'd look thin and frail, with little energy. She stopped hissing and scratching; she started acting mellow. Her beautiful black and white fur sometimes looked dirty. I knew she was dying.

The kids asked me to take her to the vet. The vet went through a list of diseases she could have. I listened carefully, but then shook my head. "No, none of those make sense. I think she's just old and dying."

"Maybe it's something we can cure," the young vet said. He seemed so hopeful that I let him take a blood sample and run a bunch of expensive tests. They all came back negative.

Mama Cat was comfortable most of the summer. She'd sleep on the couch near the kids or under the keyboard, at Shaggy Hair's feet. When we were on vacation, FilmGuy came over and took care of her, trying to get her to eat some soft food. On cool days, she would perk up and walk around the yard or sit on the front porch to watch the wild turkeys go buy.

Today, she went out to hide herself in a drainage pipe, a shady spot filled with soft mud. Like most cats, she chose a quiet, dark place, a comfortable spot where death could find her. The neighbor across the street saw her and came to tell me. I wrapped her in a towel and carried her home. In the woods behind our house on this overcast day at the end of summer, we said our goodbyes and buried Mama Cat.

56 comments:

Keri said...

What a beautiful tribute to Mama Cat. I'm very sorry for your loss.

Phantom Scribbler said...

(o)

Dr. Crazy said...

This is a beautiful post. I'm crying as I write this comment, and sending a big hug out to you and your family.

Hilaire said...

I'm very sorry, Jo(e). Hugs to you.

ppb said...

I hate it when cats die. I'm sorry....

Ianqui said...

Oh, sad. I teared up even though it was her time. It's always sad to lose a pet.

Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

We had a black and white cat with a 3 second-no-touching-below-the-neck rule... Mamma cat was lucky to have landed with your family.

I'm sure you will miss her, even after your scars have healed :).

Artist Friend said...

After living on the street, she landed in a good place. Sounds like she lived a happy life there. I tend to think animals appreciate more than we give them credit for.

argon(one) said...

Thank you for taking care of Mama Cat for all those years.

Yankee T said...

Lovely tribute to Mama Cat. I'm sorry.

my15minutes said...

ah, I'm sorry about your Mama Cat...

Monkeypants said...

I'm so sorry for your loss. Pets are an important part of a family, and losing them is hard.

Anonymous said...

I'm very sorry for your loss. I'm connecting to this because we had to put down our dog a month ago today.

Margo, darling said...

Oh, dear Jo(e), thank you for sharing this beautiful tribute to your pet. What a lucky cat she was, to get to have had a place in your amazing family.

Anna said...

I'm so sorry for your loss.

Ancrene Wiseass said...

(o)

Joy from Wisconsin said...

Oh, sad but beautiful. So sorry for your loss of your beloved Mama Cat.

I echo Inside the Philosophy Factory: Mama Cat was indeed lucky to find you.

Anonymous, so sorry to hear of the loss of your dog.

Dr. Brazen Hussy said...

A beautiful, sad story.

jar said...

I am so sorry.

BerryBird said...

Oh, jo(e), I am so sorry. Losing cats is just hard.

YourFireAnt said...

OK. Now I can't see the dang screen; it's gone all blurry.

Thanks for this, Jo(e).

FA

Anonymous said...

Sorry for your loss. And, thank you for the story.

--lostinthemiddle

Kindergarten Friend said...

OK, "jo(e)". Just rip the heart out of my chest and stomp on it a few more times. Man! You have such a way of building up a story!
So sorry about Mama Cat.

Seeking Solace said...

What a lovely and sad story. I know Mama Cat is relaxing in the sun at Rainbow Bridge.

Hugs.

frog said...

Dammit with the CRYING.

RIP, Mama Cat. You were clearly well loved and will be remembered fondly.

RussianViolets said...

I'm so sorry, Jo(e). I've been there and am crying with you. Hugs to you, and I'm so sorry about Mama Cat.

spare teeth said...

Dying cat stories always get me, but this one is particularly poignant. Sorry to hear it, though it does sound as though she had a great life.

...

I wondered, though, if any of her babies still live with your family?

jo(e) said...

Spare teeth: Her daughter Salem still lives with us, and her son Max lives with my sister.

jo(e) said...

Thanks, everyone, for the hugs and nice comments and sympathy.

joannna said...

So sorry she has died, but so glad that your family gave her and her little feral family a good life.

undine said...

A beautiful post.

comebacknikki said...

Oh, jo(e), I'm so sorry.

Kris said...

I'm so sorry to read about Mama Cat.

kathy a. said...

i'm glad you had mamacat, and that she had you.

we have always had rescued cats. almost always -- binkley went to live with my sister when we went overseas, and she would not give him back. he lived to 17. two of our current cats are 11 now, and friskie is getting to be a grumpy old man. it is a privilege to share time with the cats who adopt us, though, and i'll never regret that.

ccw said...

It sounds like mama cat had a wonderful life with your family. I am so sorry for your loss.

Pilgrim/Heretic said...

I'm so sorry, jo(e); I'm glad she had a good life with you.

A said...

Very sad for you; that's never easy.
[Your post is eloquent and moving.]

Lorianne said...

I'm sorry about your loss. My boyfriend recently lost the eldest of his cats, so I know how sad a time this must be.

Nels said...

so sorry to hear.

Marie said...

So sorry for the loss. So inspired by your beautiful story and picture.

elswhere said...

(o)

Rae said...

A mama who had a rough life who was able to die in a living home. A beautiful example of grace.

Mom Unplugged said...

I'm so sorry. What a sweet post. You gave her a good life that she wouldn't have had otherwise.

Liesl said...

I'm so sorry, Jo(e). Losing pets is so, so hard.

landismom said...

I'm so sorry to read about your cat, jo(e), it's very hard to lose a pet, even a pet who doesn't act like she loves you.

But I laughed, when I read that interchange with your husband.

Musey_Me said...

So sorry about your loss.

Ampersand said...

I read this earlier today and just came back to comment. How wonderful to see all these kind souls touched by Mama Cat's story. It's heartening to see so much goodness in one place.

I am so glad that you guys were able to give Mama Cat a good life and that she had a peaceful ending on her own terms. What a nice way to go.

I am sad with you who loved her and will miss her daily presence.

Hugs.

jane dark said...

oh, jo(e), I'm so sorry. And I love the picture you've posted.

Marni said...

I am so sorry for your loss. Animals hold a special place in our lives and become an integral part of the family.

I am hugging the boys and crying. Thank you for such a wonderful, sweet tribute to a lovely, fiesty mama.

KLee said...

Like many others have said, Mama Cat was very lucky to have you and your family, and we know you will all miss her greatly. Thank you for taking her and her kitties in.

Hugs for you on your loss. It's tough to lose a family member, human or otherwise.

Rana said...

I'm so sorry. She looks like she was a good cat, even with the scratching.

Songbird said...

(((to all and kitties)))

susan said...

What a beautiful remembrance of a beautiful cat.

Sarah Sometimes said...

I'm sorry about Mama Cat, too. I hope you are all doing okay, and send you lots of love.

liz said...

(((Jo(e)'s family and Kitties)))

listie said...

I'm so sorry about Mama Cat.