I grew up with many animals. We raised pigeons and rabbits. My brothers competed in shows with the pigeons and to make a long storOny short, we ate the rabbits, much to my younger brother’s and my dismay. We had MANY cats. Although I did not grow up on a farm, most of our cats were like farm cats. Some of our cats were outright feral. We had a feral cat we called, “Mama” and I remember many times working to tame her kittens. They would hide in the wood pile and my brother and I would coax them out with a yarn tied to a stick. Many times, we were successful. Nonetheless, we had many cats who would hiss and scratch if we got near them. It is very easy for cats to revert back to the wild when they live in the woods. Our kitties lived outdoors, whether they were feral or tame. We had a large metal pan out in the yard next to our barn for feeding. When it was feeding time, I would pick up the bag of “Little Friskies” walk to the front steps of the house and shake it. At the sound of the food bag, cats would come running from all directions and would form a single file line, walking out to the food pan.

Only a few of the cats were what I would really call “pets. Of the first three cats we had, George and Fred (who turned out female) were friendly. Tom, who was a large orange tabby, who lived up to his name, got into lots of fights with other cats. He was big with incredibly sharp claws. Tom was an ornery cat and we stayed clear of him. One of my favorite cats was Delilah, a black cat. She was friendly and delightfully odd. Delilah walked with her tail crooked. When she ran, her backside shifted from right to left.

The last cat I remember growing up was a tiny stray kitten I found in the barn when I was a teen. He was a black long-haired cat with smokey accents to his fur. He was so young that he did not yet know how to clean himself. So I gave him baths. He was the only one of our cats who was ever allowed into the house. I can’t remember his name but he was a really sweet cat who we had for a long time. My husband even remembers him. My main pet growing up was a dog, Britt. She was the sweetest thing. Britt let us dress her in clothes; she loved any kind of positive attention. She lived 15 years and died on my wedding day.

John and I lived in rented apartments and houses for the first several years of our marriage. We also moved around a lot, living in four different states between 1990 to 1999. Life was stressful and complicated. John has always wanted to have a dog. Dogs require a lot of attention and are pretty dependent. I love them but I did not want the responsibility. He asked about cats and I also said, “no”. I did not want to have one more living creature to pick up after. In other words, I am pretty much no fun.

Right after our daughter’s third birthday, we visited some of my in-laws in Eastern Washington. This is the part of the state that is sparsely populated, technically desert, hot in the summer, and cold in the winter. My in-laws lived in an area where many unwanted cats were dumped. This time, there was an adorable adolescent stray male cat hanging around my father-in-law and his wife’s house. This cat acted like a dog. He was a beautiful gray tabby with white feet. He had amber greenish eyes.

By the time John and I went to bed, I said, “Can we take him home?” You will perhaps not be surprised to know that even a person like me who can be no fun about the prospect of having a pet in concept, is a total softy when it comes to an adorable stray kitten who is likely to be eaten by coyotes without an indoor home.

We took him home and our daughter named him, “Ollie”. He was a wonderfully healthy cat for three years and then he had some kind of anxiety break (hey, even the vet agreed with me) and acted like he had PTSD. Ollie was aggressive to anyone who didn’t live at the house. Also, he sprayed in the house constantly despite the fact that he’d been neutered and many measures we took to help that cat relax including giving the cat Prozac! (It helped some.)

Some people took our cat’s issues personally and a supposed “cat person” actually rather angrily suggested that we get rid of him after he’d hissed and swiped at her. (For the record, I’d repeatedly told her to stay away from our cat until I could put him in the bedroom. She thought she had special powers and would actually corner him in the kitchen, when he’d jumped up on the bill paying table. People, if a cat is twitching its tail and laying its ears back, take notice. If it gets up high, it is trying to make itself larger. It is scared and threatened. Don’t corner scared animals, especially when someone is telling you right then, “You are getting too close. Please back away from the cat.”) My response to her was, “We don’t kick out family members for having mental illness.” And that’s truly how I feel about it. I may drag my feet about having an animal live with us but a big part of this is because I take the responsibility very seriously. Once you are part of our family, you are part of our family. The end.

Those of you who have been reading my blog for a long time know that Ollie died about a year ago. He had metastatic cancer. John had been begging me for years to let him be an outdoor cat but I was afraid of him being run over by a car or killed by racoons or coyotes. I finally relented when it was clear that he had very limited time left. And he so loved to lie out in the sun on the deck. As I wrote last year, literally right after John and I were discussing what date in the upcoming week to have him euthanized, I saw him across the street. I saw him crossing in front of a car in my worried mind’s eye a few seconds before it actually happened in slow motion. It was surreal the way our beloved cat died.

It took time to be ready for new pets after having lost Ollie. My husband took the longest. And then we were all ready. Our teen daughter asked us to pick out a new kitten. She was upset the last time she visited an animal shelter. I don’t blame her, really. They are difficult places. She was away on a band trip last weekend so John and I visited a cat rescue place near our house.

John had been trying to convince me to get two kittens instead of one. But since, I am no fun, I had told him, “No way.” But I had started to do some reading and it looked like getting a pair of kittens was a good idea for their own feline happiness. Also, the cat rescue place would only adopt pairs of cats, for this reason. So I said, “Let’s get two kittens.” But I also made him promise not to try to make them into outdoor cats. He agreed and said that he thought young kittens would be fine being indoor cats. Ollie was 6-9 months old and had already gotten used to being outdoors.

Last Saturday, we brought home two 8 week old kittens, a brother and a sister. Our daughter is thrilled. They are bringing lots of new energy into the house, to say the least. She named them Leeloo, after Milla Jovovich’s character in The Fifth Element, and Basie, after Count Basie. These are perfect names from a teen who loves science fiction and jazz.

I love this photo and when I show it to people I like to say, “Look, my houseplant had kittens!”