Pawprints On My Heart - Fifty + Years of Furry Friendship
I can't remember ever NOT loving cats, even as a small child. On this page I've put together a small "photo album" of all my furry friends, arranged in the order in which they entered my life, with a little information about each one. I hope you enjoy it.
Goldie - 1954 - ?
Goldie was the first. I was about six years old at the time, with three brothers and one sister. The neighborhood queen had given birth in the crawlspace under our house and one of the kittens was a ginger male. Mom had always resisted letting us have a pet. We didn't have much money, and besides, it was always her assumption that she would be the one who would end up feeding and taking care of it. But we begged and pleaded, and finally she relented. Of course, she did end up doing most of the feeding, but we really did love that big golden tomcat. (Incidentally, those are my sunglasses he's wearing.) Unfortunately, his preferred nesting spot was my Mother's favorite flower bed, so eventually we had to find another home for him.
Callie - dates unknown
Callie was never officially our cat. She was Goldie's mother, an unclaimed and untamed calico stray who birthed two or three litters every year. She was rather wild in the beginning, but got friendlier as she got older. We weren't supposed to feed her or pet her, but here my little brother Randy is giving her a saucer of creamed corn. Bet you didn't know cats like corn. They like tomatoes, too, or at least some of them do. I don't know what eventually happened to her; she probably got hit by a car on the highway that ran past about a hundred yards from our house.
Sea Mist - 1969 - 1987
Sea Mist was the only purebreed we ever had - a male Siamese that was the offspring of a pair owned by Norman's ex-wife and her second husband. (Yes, we were friends, at least at that time.) We lived in an apartment, so I made a harness and leash for him, and took him for walks around the neighborhood. Once he got used to it, we took him to the drive-in movies nearly every week. We took him to the beach once, but he didn't cotton to that - didn't like the noise.
Snowbird - 1969 - 1987
Snowbird was one of the most mellow (and talkative) cats I've ever known. Someone abandoned him on our block, and he was going from door to door, crying and crying. We opened our door and he invited himself in. Sea Mist hissed at him, and he just turned and looked at him like "What's your problem, anyway?" They checked each other out, and were fast friends from then on. We figured he was about two years old when he showed up, the same age as Sea Mist, and they died the same year. Incidentally, I should mention that they were both neutered, as were all our subsequent cats.
Little Red - 1974 - 1988
Little Red was a feral - a wild little "stumpy" Manx baby born to a wild mother. His mother, also a "stumpy", died in "childbirth" when he was about 8 months old. We fed him outside for several months, and finally tempted him into taking his food in the garage. From there it was a fairly simple matter to trap him and bring him indoors, but not so simple to domesticate him. It was two years before anyone was able to touch him without trickery, and four more before he willingly came to be petted.
Julie - 1975 - 1982
Julie wasn't exactly a "Tuxedo" cat, but she did have a white bib and some white on her belly. She loved my husband passionately, and used to sleep curled up around his head. Despite all our best efforts, she just kept getting fatter and fatter, until she finally died at the age of seven.
Cindy was Sea Mist's girlfriend, plain and simple. It was a May - September relationship to be sure, but that never mattered to them. From the moment she entered our household, he adopted her as his own, and they were nearly inseparable. They played together, ate together, and slept together. One of the pictures in my coloring book is of the two of them cuddling in our big easy chair. My husband found her abandoned at his job site and brought her home, just the first of many such "adoptions".
Cindy - 1975 - 1989
Sugar - ? - 1985
Sugar came to us because she required regular brushings, and her previous owners didn't have the time. I spent many long hours cutting the mats out of her fur, and it was several months before she looked "normal" again. She had been declawed by her first owners, a practice I disapprove of, but she was as sweet as her name implied. Her favorite pillow was a book, any book. This one happens to be Webster's unabridged.
Windy - ? - 1990
Windy was the next job site adoptee. He had been attacked by a dog, and a big chunk of skin was gone from one of his hind legs. The vet patched him up, and amazingly, the remaining skin stretched itself out and completely covered the wound. There wasn't so much as a scar. We tried to make him an indoor cat, but he was too late getting neutered, and couldn't be broken of his spraying habit. We installed a large shed in the back yard for him and two other "problem cats". It had a large front window to look out, and two 15-foot chicken wire runs for exercise.
Tiger Lil' - ? - 1993
Tiger Lil' was a stray who showed up at a contractor's equipment warehouse. She was pregnant and soon after gave birth to 5 kittens. My husband was concerned because the workers were feeding her and the kittens leftovers from their lunches, so he brought home the whole lot. We found good homes for three of the kits, which left us with two males. Much of the inspiration for "Catwalk" came from Tiger Lil's story.
Cheetah 1981 - 1991
Superman - 1981 - 1996
Cheetah and Superman were totally devoted to each other and to their mother. Superman (the gray one) got his name because of his jumping ability. Before he was even weaned, he could clear the 3-foot partition we had separating him and his littermates from the rest of the house. Cheetah (the gray tabby) was his sidekick and primary playmate. He suffered most of his life with feline urologic syndrome, (FUS) and finally died from it. Superman lived for another five years.
Sweetie Pie - 1982 - 1996
Sweetie Pie came from the same place as Tiger Lil' and her babies. The warehouse district seemed to be a common dumping ground for unwanted pets. People just assume that someone will take care of them. Here she is in one of her favorite sleeping positions, wedged between the pillows on the couch.
Little Ross - 1986 - 1998
My husband always wanted a son named after him, so this poor little critter got stuck with Little Ross, Ross being Norman's middle name. He had a penchant for the seat on my stationary bicycle, and this is one of his favorite "poses". He was a feisty little beast and thought nothing of challenging cats twice his size.
Spot - ? - 1998
Smokey ? - 1992
Spot and Smokey came to us via the people who lived behind us. The wife ran a Pet Pride shelter behind her house, but it consisted of little more than a lean-to with a screened window. Spot and Smokey escaped and took up residence in our back yard. I always kind of thought that they had been littermates, because it's unusual to see two male cats get along so well. In the right hand photo here, Spot is sitting next to Smokey and "massaging" his side.
Bigfoot - ? - 1995
Bigfoot was a polydactyl (extra toes) as you can see from this picture. He had seven toes on each front foot and five on the back. His original name was Enos, and he had belonged to the people who lived on the next block. Evidently he wasn't happy with his life there, and he kept coming over to visit us, and eventually stopped going home. We had him neutered and got him his shots, and he stayed.
Littlefoot - ? - 2002
About a year after Bigfoot started visiting us, he started bringing a friend. She was all black like he was, but sleek and slender, so we dubbed her Littlefoot. It turned out she was pregnant, and soon after gave birth to two adorable kittens. We let her and her babies move into our tool shed, and later into the house.
Foxfire - 1989 - 2003
Foxfire was the firstborn, all white at first, but then he started developing brown points like a Siamese. He was always a bit aggresssive, especially towards the females, but sweet and goodnatured otherwise. I had a lot of pictures to choose from for him, but I like this one the best. He had an especially fluffy tail, of which he was inordinately proud.
Nipper - 1989 - 1998
Nipper was the second born, but far and away the more aggressive. He'd jump anybody, anytime, anywhere. The only one he didn't seem to want to shred was his mother, Littlefoot. However he did have his calmer times, and he did love a good romp with his brother. He also died from FUS, but with him it came on so suddenly that we didn't realize what was happening until it was too late.
Suzie Q. 1991 - 2010
Suzie Q. came from the same people as Bigfoot, but by that time they had moved in next door to us. They denied that she was theirs, but it was a bit of a coincidence that she and they showed up at the same time. A few weeks later she gave birth to two kittens.
The neighbors took one of the kits before it was ready, and we could hear it crying inside the house and them yelling at it to shut up. Finally it did. Suzie was wild and timid, and wouldn't let us near her, but we put food out, and were eventually able to bring her indoors. It took years for her to get over her timidness and I never did get a good picture of her.
Precious - 1992 - 2009
Precious was the remaining kit from Suzie Q.'s litter. She stayed in the yard close by her mother most of the time, but developed a bad habit of climbing up under the car and perching on the rear axle. One day I had to go to the hardware store for something, and drove off without realizing she was under there. When I got back home we realized what had happened, but had no way of knowing where she had gotten off. It broke my heart to see her mother sitting in the yard, calling into the evening air for her precious baby.
The next day I went to the copy store and made up a hundred "lost kitten" flyers and passed them out to every house within a block of the street I had taken to the store. Two days passed and I had almost given up, and Suzie had quit calling, when I got a phone call from a woman on the next block. They had found a kitten matching that description, and would I come take a look at it. I was there in less than 10 minutes with my cat carrier.
I hurried home and set the carrier on the grass a few feet away from Suzie and opened the door. Precious came out slowly, and Suzie saw her. She hesitated a moment, then went over to her and started washing her. We started calling the little one "Precious Baby" and eventually just "Precious".
Frisco - 1990 - 2003
Our neighbor on the othe side was an elderly lady named Ruth, a member of an evangelical congregation. She was always getting pets thrust on her from people in the area who knew her for a soft touch. One family asked her to take care of their male Lhasa-poodle mix "just for a week" while they were out of town. They gave her two cans of dog food and five dollars, and never came back.
Frisco had such a bad case of cherry eye that he couldn't close his one eye all the way, and as a result the cornea was badly ulcerated. Ruth decided to have him euthanised, as he was "old and going blind", but I didn't see it that way. I took him to the vet who told me he was in fact about two years old.
Frisco required two surgeries to fix his cherry eye, and several weeks of ointments for the ulcerated cornea, and his fur was so matted it took six months to comb it all out. Through it all he was the sweetest, most patient creature I've ever known. I always said you could do anything but pick him up by his tail and sling him across the room, and he would never complain. I still miss that little guy.
In 1993 Norman and I sold our house in Southern California and moved to a place in Northwest Oregon. In the process we added two more cats and another dog to our managerie, bringing our total at that time to 13 cats and two dogs. We bought a used van and I installed screens to divide it into three sections, to separate the various not necessarily friendly populations. Have you ever tried to drive 900 miles with 13 cats in the back of a van? Norman said they screamed blue murder for the first hundred miles, then settled down and were quite the rest of the way. I was lucky. I was in the car with just Frisco by my side. He slept most of the way, only waking up for the rest stops, and once when we passed a cattle yard. THAT got his attention!
Trinket - 1992 - 2008
We adopted both Trinket and Triva when we moved. They had both been given to our neighbor about the same time by people she barely knew. Trinket got her name because according to Ruth, she was a small and pretty but useless thing. Small and pretty, yes. Useless? I think not!
Triva - 1992 - 2006
Ruth named Triva after an old chum from her nursing school days. When we moved in next door to her in 1973, Ruth was retired from her job as a VA nurse, and acknowledged being "past 65 years old". When we moved out 20 years later, she admitted to being "in her 70's". Miracles of modern medicine! Triva was a vain pussycat, always weighing herself on our bathroom scales. Too bad she didn't take the results to heart!
Mitzi - 1991 - 1995
Mitzi had also belonged to Ruth, but we paid to have her spayed. She'd already had one litter of pups, and we figured that was enough. When we left for Oregon we took her with us. It snowed two or three times a year where we lived, and the dogs just loved it. Mitzi would chase Frisco around, and roll him like a log.
When we arrived at our new home, it was immediately obvious that we couldn't keep all 13 cats in the house with us. Aside from the problem of some of the cats spraying, certain of the cats passionately hated each other, and would never be able to get along. In the interest of harmony and peace, we decided to build a kennel for the ones who were used to being outdoors.
It was a fairly elaborate affair, with a large fenced-in yard and an enclosed and insulated house at the end with baffled cat doors to keep out the wind. There were windows that could be opened in good weather, and sealed shut in cold or rainy weather. We ran an electrical cord from the house so that they could have light and heat in the winter. Even on the coldest nights it never dropped below 50* inside the kennel.
Each side also had shelves, beds, and window seats inside, and a large tree branch out in the yard for climbing and scratching. Inside and out it was divided down the middle by a chicken wire barrier, so the two populations could see each other, but not get tangled up. I took care to situate it under a large tree so that they would have shade from the hot summer sun. Little did I know.
In the two years that we lived there, we never once saw a whole sunny day. Even in July and August every day started out cold and cloudy, although it did occasionally reach the low 80's in mid-afternoon. By 1995 my husband and I had had enough and bailed out. We found what we thought would be a nice place in Northern California, and packed up, lock, stock, and kennel. Sadly, before we had a chance to fence off the new place, Mitzi was attacked and killed by a pair of marauding rottweilers from up the hill.
Terry Ann - 1991 -2004
Once we got the fence put up we had to get a new playmate for Frisco. At the Redding animal shelter we found a little terrier mix who had just come up for adoption. We called her Terry Ann, and she answered to the name immediately. She and Frisco were polar opposites, personality-wise. While Frisco was totally laid-back and mellow, Terry Ann was, well, a terrier. She had a keen sense of smell, and could home in on a ground squirrel burrow at 100 yards. Her favorite sport was chasing garbage trucks, but she also hated UPS trucks. Don't ask me why.
During our time in Northern CA. we lost seven cats to various age-related maladies, and buried them with love under a large pepper tree. Well, as it turned out, Red Bluff summers were too hot, and the winters too cold. Besides, the property that Norman had chosen was a bit too big (almost 10 acres) for us to take care of, so once again we moved on, this time to Fresno. The summers were still a bit warm, but at least we didn't freeze our butts off in the winter. The new house was smaller, but had a nice big covered patio, which we screened in for the kitties. They loved that.
After about 5 years in Fresno Norman decided he wasn't happy there, either. It took a few years and a real estate crash before we could finally afford a place in Fallbrook, which is where we are now. Susie died a few months after the move and we were catless for a few years, but the covered patio we built for Susie was ready for the next generation. Norman said we mustn't adopt any more pets, as we are getting older, and need a break from the constant care. Or not.
Lily 2007 to present
Meet Lily. I know better than to nag Norman about anything. I just plant the seed and let it grow. There's a no-kill shelter in town that used to have a small gift shop and I would go there from time to time and make small purchases which I would show him. Last spring he announced that it was time to think about getting another cat. We went down together and were introduced to a number of cats, but it was plain they wanted us to take Lily. She'd been there over a year and really needed a forever home. We ended up having to wait 3 weeks before we could take her because she chose that week to go on a hunger strike. Once we got her home, though, she settled in right away and is now fat and sassy.