I only remember Bridget from pictures. A sassy siamese who hid under the bed, scratched and hissed at us kids, and loved only my mom. She died when my family moved to Alaska, so I must have been 6 then. It was a bit tragic – a hard lesson in living in the frigid cold. A Cheechako mistake.
After long begging years, my parents agreed to get me another cat. My dad was terribly allergic, so it was a monumental gift. Emma, Emma Peel. Named after my favorite TV character of the time, from the show The Avengers. She was pure black spent most of her time outside yet found her way to cuddle under my blanket at night. It became a big responsibility for me – keep her fed, and watered. She was my tween-aged sounding board, my huggable buddy.
I guess she was pretty old when we got her, she lived only until my middle school years. I will never forget coming home from school one day and my mother telling me the news that Emma was gone. There were no more cats, my dad breathed more freely, cat food and bowls given to a neighbor.
Many long years later, Scott and I were married. Sarah was five years old. Her babysitter had a cat that had kittens. One had attached itself pretty hard to Sarah so we took it. That cat rode peacefully in the car on the way home. It grew into a lovely, funny, SUPER friendly cat. We named her “Cookie” because she looked EXACTLY like the kitty in Tomie DePaulo’s book, “Cookie’s Week,” black and white.
When we left Anchorage we tried to simplify the move. We had two dogs and three kids by that time, and we left Cookie with Scott’s mother. She had recently lost her cat, and it seemed logical. I sometimes regret that. Cookie was an amazing cat. Anyone who met her, loved her. The regret is balanced by the fact that she kept Nancy company for years, and whenever we would visit, she would find Sarah and reunite like old friends.
When we decided we were in Ketchikan to stay, we bought a house and decided we could add a new kitty to our family. I cannot remember where we got Black and White Kitty – Kitty for short – does it say something about our family that we never gave her a name? Name or not, we LOVED that kitty and it cemented our belief that black and white cats are the BEST. Our beloved Gwennie, yellow lab, and Kitty became best buddies.
Kitty was quite the personality. She loved us all equally, was cuddly, friendly and followed the dogs around like she was one of them. Like all of our cats, she was an outdoor cat, and that is how she met her demise. It appears she ate something toxic and began to lose weight, and was cool to the touch.
Gracie was maybe 8 or 9 and went went with me to the vet. “She is pretty sick,” the vet said, “We can run some tests, keep her overnight. Put her on an IV, but I am not sure she will make it. Slim odds.”
Slim odds. I was ready to have her put down peacefully when I looked at Gracie, who held limp Kitty in her arms. Her eyes big, pleading. “OK, let’s give that a try.”
Kitty rallied for while, but in the end passed away quietly. The vet bill? Over 2,000 dollars. Scott and I made a little pact. When it came to animals, we would not be emotional. We came up with a fair number in our heads and if it turned out that medical care passed that magic number, we would opt to have the animal put down. (Unless it was Gwennie of course, then spare no expense. It was like that.)
We really mourned Kitty. A couple years passed. I always read the Animal Control column in our little daily newspaper. Pictures of sad animals available for adoption would appear each day. Some of those animals would be in the paper for months. One of those was a little tortoiseshell kitten, mostly black named “Mia.” Looking at it every day planted a seed, so Gracie and I were on an animal-getting-bender. We had come home with a puppy named Kona, and now we were going to look at Mia.
Mia was adorable. There at the pound, she crawled up and snuggled in my neck. When they put her back in the cage, she reached out from between the bars and tapped me with her paw. We took her home. We changed her name. Gracie called her “Lexie” after a best friend who had left town.
In the end we called her Kitty – when the vet would call us in the waiting room, “The vet is ready for Lexie” we would sit there, not responding because we had forgotten that was even her name.
After we brought her home, her true nature emerged. Kitty/Lexie was not a nice cat. She slunk around the house, hiding and darting out to bite us. Sneak attacks. Flying out of nowhere, clawing. Biting. There is an epic, “butt biting” episode that the girls still laugh about. I am not sure if this hiding, sneaking, attacking was due to the fact that our new dog, Kona had decided it was her mission in life to know exactly where the cat was at all times, and chase her if given the chance. I am certain Kona would not have hurt her if she caught her, but we would never have to find out, because Kitty was FAST.
She CAN be affectionate. On her terms. When she wants your love, you HAVE to give it to her. She will lay on the newspaper when you are trying to read it. Wedge her body between you and the keyboard. If you sit in “her” chair, be prepared, she WILL sit on your lap.
I am not sure if it is because of Kona, but when Kitty goes places, she goes FAST. She tears from one room from the next like a ghost is after her. She’ll trip you if you are in her way. She is not a graceful cat either. She insists on walking on furniture and kitchen counters -again, this is to get away from Kona, who still chases her, but she will knock knick-knacks over as she moves from counter to bookshelf, to end table. It horrifies my mother-in-law that the cat is on the counter. She will flick at her with kitchen towels and shout, “Shoo!” I just shrug. We tried everything, but the cat is too scared of the dog. It is her domain.
I feel like she decided I was hers. The indicators of this are her preference about sleeping on my side of the bed, she is not small and she s p r e a d s out when she sleeps. Over the years I have changed how I sleep to accommodate her – you see, if my toes wiggle when I sleep, she attacks! No matter how warm it is in the summer, my feet cannot be out from under the covers, they become fair game.
The other sign that I am hers is that she brings me presents. Puts them under my chair in the dining room. Always under my chair. Birds. Mice. Shrews. The occasional butterfly. Dead, or sometimes alive. The girls and I became experts at capturing terrified birds and releasing them. Every now and then, I just see feathers under my chair. Difficult to censure, it is a horrible, cursed blessing to be “her” human.
We moved houses, we moved with both Kona and the Kitty. It was a treacherous, traumatic transition for both. I will not go into Kona’s adjustment, but let’s just say, the neighbors on both sides of our house approached me regarding her howling when we were gone. But for Kitty? We decided she would now be a house cat. The new house sat very near a busy road and Kitty had no street sense. In our old house she went out the back door into the forest. Three long months of mournful yowling almost made me cave in and throw her out the door to face the busy road, certain it would only be a matter of time before she became roadkill. But I held strong. I still watch the door carefully before opening it, occasionally kitty will stalk it, waiting for us to mess up, but so far only one mishap.
We are pet people, Scott and I. We do not believe pets should be disposable. When you make that commitment, it is a lifetime commitment. Our last two choices may have been poor ones. Kona has her own litany of issues, and our cat is mean. But. We love them. I LOVE to walk Kona each day, she loves it and is sufficiently grateful. It is pretty nice to have a kitty on your lap, a book in your hand and tea on the table when it is cold and blustery outside. They bring a certain amount of Hygge and since I am always searching for Hygge, they are a good thing!!