Cats, a history

KILEY

(no digital pictures)

My parents are not cat people. Not one bit. In fact, in my family of eight, I am the only one who prefers a cat to a dog. Convincing my parents to let me have a cat was no easy task. I begged and needled my parents for over two years before, one Christmas eve, I heard a muffled meow coming from the back room of the house. That following morning? A something was plopped on my chest and I smiled with eyes still closed from dried-up tears.

Orange-fluff-ball Kiley, with his four white paws and rambunctious nature, and I became best friends. We had a system — rubbing heads when I came home from school , then he’d sit up on my shoulder (until he got too big, then he draped himself around my neck like a scarf) , we would honest-to-god play tag down our long hallways, alternately running away before turning around to chase the chaser. I moved my bed to be near the window, leaving it open for when my orange Kiley would crawl in. Until, one day, when he didn’t. I didn’t ever move my bed from that spot near the window … just in case.

PELIAS

A year later, my parents took me to pick out a new kitten. Slim pickings, in my opinion, but I was craving that cat-contact and decided on a tabby because it had bits of orange (still my favorite color). In bed that night, the kitten kept crawling up to sleep nestled against my cheek. Ugh, I remember thinking, and I repeatedly thrust him down to my knees, which was where the best cats slept. His persistence made me dub him Pelias on the spot — named after Sir Pelias, a knight who swooned over a maiden who despised his incessant doting (from a book by Gerald Morris).

Eventually, a bond of love developed that helped me forgive this cat for not being Kiley. We loved each other. I had only to call his name, and Pelias would come from anywhere in the yard or house for me. That cat had the loyalty of a dog and the affection of a newborn babe, continuously flattering me by so obviously preferring me to anyone else who existed. Pelias was shy of most people, but never of me. Pelias trusted me. I … I was the one who had to break that trust. It still kills me, angers, hurts, to think about our ending. I’m sorry, but that’s not a story I will share here.

RAMSES

The illegal cat. Yellow eyes gleaming from a mass of over-large cat bones and long, black hair. I was living in a college apartment, Crystal had died, I needed something to cry into at night. And so, Ramses. Gorgeous and he knew it. He reminds me of Amy and Jamie, my roommates, who adored his “pinwheel” and gave him his own facebook page. He lasted for a few months in the apartment before the management found out, and then he just hung out with my family in Springville.

He’s the cat that (finally) converted my parents into cat people (although it turned out to be only a one-time gig). My parents loved this monstrously large cat that occasionally found it worthwhile to bestow his affection onto his manservants. They wouldn’t give him over when Dan and I got married *smile* I remember my mom saying how she loved it that Ramses would follow her around the house, from room to room. Walking around the house, you’d occasionally see just a mass of black , and then suddenly two yellow orbs would appear out of nowhere on it. I loved Ramses and would hold him until he drew blood. (Yes, I am one of those people). He had such a great growl. Deep and freaky. He caught birds and brought them into the houses, he chased snakes, and he turned up his nose at his food bowl unless it was completely full. He was also the neighborhood cat bully (overly aggressive to make up for his impotence, perhaps? 😉 ). Whenever we called for him, we would say “Rrrrrrrrr (roll those r’s!) rrrrrramses!” One day, he never came back. We checked all the pounds…but we never saw him again.

PEBBLES

Our first married cat. Dan’s first experience with a baby anything. He adored her kitten stage and took about a zillion pictures. She was fiesty and playing was her absolute favorite activity — clear through until adulthood. She could clear a door easily. Once, she killed a snake in our front yard by piercing it enough times with her claws. She wasn’t spayed and got very pregnant with some very adorable kittens. Let’s see if I can remember their names… Dudley (the big, fat, milk-greedy kit), Tux … and…. ack! I can’t remember the other ones. Dan’d remember … but he’s asleep. Will update sometime.

Watching Pebbles give birth was an incredible experience. I had never seen the birthing process before, and it was beautiful. Actually, to get gross, I remember seeing something that looking like a big air bubble of blood come out of her bottom, only to realize it was a kitten’s head! Her kittens were loved, cuddled, and given away. Shortly after that, Pebbles left and never came back.

CALLIOPEA

Oh, Calliopea. Oh, Calliopea! She’s down there now, sleeping by my feet. Gorgeous fluffy brown fur and a snow-white stomach. Her features are delicate — a nice contrast to her bulk. She’s good and kind and sweet and elegant and poised and I just freaking love her. It’s very much mutual. She’s about two years old now, and grows more and more affectionate. I decided that the cruelty of losing a cat is worse than that of keeping a cat permanently in-doors. And, oh am I glad I decided on that!

We had a devil of a time naming this cat. In the end, we just didn’t care anymore. Calliopea (pea, calliopeep) is a very special cat. We found her, six months old, at the humane society, looking up through the bars of the tiny cage she shared with another cat. She purred the entire hot hour-long ride home. She had just been spayed, and had gotten very sick; for the first few weeks she sniffed and sneezed constantly. You think babies looks adorable doing this? Try having waking up in the middle of the night to a SHHMMMSH as she sneezes (again) directly on your face. I’ve woken up to her sleeping completely all over my face, and (my favorite), her nose pushed up in my ear while she contentedly purred away in her sleep.

Last summer, the summer of infinite proportions, was a great, wonderful summer in many ways. When I think back on it, I mostly remember rows of days in a big, bright, white apartment, sitting with Calliopea, staring down a tunnel of endless time, endless space. We developed something that summer, she and I. Something about not having responsibilities like school and work and society to take me out of the house meant that it was just her, just me. We learned to … how shall I say this? … to dance in sync. I started to understand her, and she to understand me. While I have loved all of my cats, I hadn’t had this deep of a bond since the days of Pelias, and this one was even growing deeper than that. She became a deep friend … a friend of Smokey the Cowhorse variety. She is everything I have ever dreamed of in a cat.

On our latest venture (2.5 weeks away), Calliopea lost so much weight that she looked like she was six months old again. This has happened before with her when we went on vacation. Elodie (more on her later) on the other hand, gained weight. One loses weight under stress, the other gains.

ELODIE

Last fall, Dan and I were spending loooooong hours with school, and could not give Calliopea the time she obviously needed. We considered, researched cat behavior, and decided to get Calliopea a friend. We learned that cats are more likely to get along with a kitten of their same gender. And, we found Elodie. Short-haired white with splotched grey, asymmetrical coloring distribution like Calliopea. It took them a few days, but eventually, hisses became purrs, and head-boppings became affectionate nuzzles.

Now? Now we call them our little lesbians. They will just sit and lick each others faces, purring their hearts out. Sometimes it’s like they’re arguing about whose turn it is to lick the other, and they’ll duke it out with their sandpaper tongues to see who can lick the other most. They are two happy cats, and since they have never known the great outdoors, they have no clue what they’re missing.

And all I have to say is, thank you the universe that I married a cat person.

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One response to “Cats, a history

  • Sabrina

    I’m pretty sure one of the kittens was named Bumkin. I can’t remember any others off the top of my head, but he had a special meaning because of how he ate (or something else?) with his bum up.

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