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The Saga of 16: The First Step


I don’t think anyone really sets out to have 16 cats all at once.  Well, some people might, but I didn’t.

It isn’t as if I sat down one day and made a step-by-step plan: “Start small; adopt one stray.  …  By age X, adopt the sixth…” and so on, so that by now, I’d have the lot.  Oh, no, it wasn’t like that at all.

It indeed started small, though, working my way up through the vertebrates from goldfish (named Goldy, no doubt) to a parakeet (Tweety, I think.  Not such an imaginative namer-of-creatures then) to a hamster (Honey…although she was not, in fact, the color of honey.  More the color of strong Lipton’s Instant Tea with honey and half-and-half.  But “Strong Lipton’s Instant Etc.” would have made for a very long and cumbersome name, and she was, in fact, a very small hamster).

And then, and then…July 1971.  It was either a Thursday or Friday night, because (a) I was up past 10:00 PM and (b) it was on one of those nights when Star Trek was in summer reruns.  For you younger readers, summer was once the season of TV reruns, and shows the networks had canceled often turned up to fill in time.  (Unlike now, when you sometimes get reruns within six weeks of the season premier and “spare” air time gets filled with so-called reality-based programming.  Which is no more reality-based than Star Trek ever was, but that’s another blog entry.)

On this particular night, Mom and I were watching the tube when we heard a loud and plaintive meow.  Then we heard it again.  I don’t think, though, that the sound came more than once more before we were outside to see what was going on.  There, in the middle of our street, sat a bedraggled kitten.  It was obviously hungry – one thing I’ve learned since then is that kittens who are out in the world generally stay quiet unless their MomCat has been gone too long, and “too long” is often defined by emptiness of the belly.  It also looked rather messy.

We walked down the steps—those who have been to my home, it’s not the same place; we were in a small rental house at the time, and it had a little front stoop and a couple of steps to ground level—down the stairs and down the path to the sidewalk, and the kitten took one look at us and darted to the far side of the street.  So we stopped, and it stopped, and then it came a little closer.  But when we moved toward it again, it scampered back, this time getting a bit too close to the storm drain for our comfort.

I don’t remember whatever conversation Mom and I had then, and we might not have talked much at all, other than, “Oh, the poor little thing!”  I do remember that, instead of trying to get closer to the kitten and risk scaring it into the storm drain, we sat down on the curb and called to it, as quietly as we could.

Slowly, the kitten walked toward us, stopping now and then to sit in the street and meow.  I don’t know how long it took, whether it was ten minutes or the best part of an hour, but eventually it came close enough to pick up and bring into the house.

It was definitely a kitten on the lean and hungry side, and we didn’t have any cat food in the house – why would we?  What we did have, though, was canned tuna.  And this, the little beast inhaled almost as soon as Mom put the plate on the kitchen floor, and drank some water.  We put a makeshift litter box in the bathroom.

That little kitten spent the rest of the evening going from Mom’s lap to mine and back again, purring like a thunderstorm and knitting our laps in gratitude.

I had to sleep on the floor that night because it insisted on jumping up on the bed and, as you can probably guess, it had a bad case of fleas.

Mom found out the next day, from a neighbor a couple of doors down, that the kitten had been dumped the day we found it.  Tied into a pillowcase.  Once it worked its way out—an almost miraculous event, considering its size and how hungry and scared it must have been—it got to experience the kind and gentle treatment of our landlady.  Who didn’t like animals AT ALL, and therefore tried to scare the kitten away by hosing it down.

(Hearing that, coupled with the fact we weren’t supposed to have pets larger than a bird, or a hamster, is probably what started my mom thinking about buying a house sooner rather than later.  Paying rent to someone who could be that cruel must have grated on Mom.)

At any rate, we suddenly had a kitten, in a place where we couldn’t have pets.  But we were clever, we were, and got the little critter to the vet’s without attracting Landlady’s attention.  It turned out to be a he, and once he got over being frightened and skinny, he had a rather nice coat and color – pretty much standard American Longhair in shades of gray and black.  And he also had a bit of an attitude, so I named him Maurice, for Samantha’s father on Bewitched.

I guess you could say that’s when the seeds of the current situation were planted….

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Diane Jackson permalink
    01/12/2012 6:00 PM

    My heart goes out to you – as a cat lover – guardian of two (presently and several more over the year0, it must be so very painful to be forced to give up your animals. Mys sister (she lives in Santa Ana) posted your plea for homes, but I live in Minnesota, so unable to help with relocation/adoptions. It sounded like you were also in a precarious place and unsure of where you would be going. Is there anything others, such as myself can help? I wish you all the best and hope that you are now in a safe place.

    • Syd permalink*
      01/14/2012 12:31 AM

      Hi, Diane–

      Thank you for the long-distance support! The situation with the cats is precarious; mine is…stable for the moment, assuming I can re-home these little darlings. It’s agreed I can keep four in my current location: three who I deem least likely to make successful transitions to new owners due to being feral-born, and one who’s a gray calico like her momcat (and who was the last surviving runt of the litter that cost momcat her life).

      My personal situation is teetering, though, due to my unemployment running out and not being eligible for any of the federal extensions. So if you know people who need a long-distance freelancer in copy editing and proofreading, you might drop a word in their ears… 😉

      Again, thanks for the good thoughts!


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