Last week’s column ended on a melancholy note as my friends, Kay and Eugene, said goodbye to a special family member named Lucy. Another kitten, however, soon filled that empty spot. Bo wasn’t invited. He just showed up and turned on the charm. That’s quite often how cats become pets.
Eugene and my neighbor, John Causey, have a world-class take-out restaurant called Good to Go in Vienna. I’m not sure how their watch-cat program began, but well-fed felines guard the back door. Big Orange looks like he could take care of himself and might be hoping for an opportunity. He’s a bit heavy for chasing mice but doesn’t need to except for recreation.
When a litter of kittens came along, splendid accommodations and excellent menu choices were provided. Curiosity, however, compels cats to explore their options, even those that are dangerous.
Crawling up under a hood sometimes leads to disaster, but Bo’s trip in Eugene’s engine compartment ended well. Whether he’s smart or lucky is hard to say. He may have enjoyed the seven-mile ride or could have just been too scared to get off. Kay heard a soft meow. Eugene hoped it was his wife’s imagination.
They lured the tiny fellow out with food and figured he deserved to stay. Eugene whispered so the kitten couldn’t hear him. “That’s not the one I would have picked,” he said. But it didn’t take Bo long to find the foot of their bed. He sleeps six hours then playfully attacks their toes. We don’t always choose our cats. Sometimes they choose us.
Tabatha McGee Joiner began her journey to our house in a similar way. She came to us after spending her early days in the Mike McGee Home for Abandoned Kittens. It was the second cat we adopted from there, each already spoiled by management’s personal attention.
The first one, Missy, had been rescued from the highway by Mike. She was adorable but loved to ramble in the swampy woods behind our house at night. I guess she got careless or maybe stalked the wrong critter. We searched for days, walking, hoping, and calling her name, but there wasn’t a trace.
Not long after Missy disappeared, Mike’s wife, Brenda, told me they had another rescue who needed a home. Just as before, they’d already taken her to the vet for shots and surgery. And once again, Mike had made the kitten feel so welcome in his lap she thought it was her calling.
Someone may have put Missy and Tabs out to fend for themselves. That’s a callous thing to do but it happens. It’s just as likely, however, that each of them hitched a ride on a vehicle and dropped off when it stopped. It’s a risky way to find a home, but sometimes that’s how cats become pets.
We always had a yard dog when I was growing up but not any cats that I recall. In retrospect, we could have used a few. With cows, hogs, and chickens on the farm, rats were constantly stealing feed. Rather than dining from a trough they’d chew holes in the burlap bags, apparently favoring sack lunches.
Beulah was the first cat Jane and I had, and Sugar lived the longest, staying with us for 18 memorable years. There was Ponch, named after a TV motorcycle cop, and others I can’t readily name. Pepper was one of our triplets’ favorites, somehow endearing himself more than usual. It was a sad discovery when I saw his lifeless body on Coney Road.
Jane had taken Carrie to a gymnastic meet that Saturday. Erin, Seth, and I had spent the morning with my folks at the farm. We were almost home when I pulled over and asked them to stay in the car. I put Pepper in the trunk and told them I was sorry. I wrapped him in a blanket and buried him in our back yard, then left a loving note to our children on the kitchen table.
An hour or so later, Erin came outside. “Daddy, what you wrote was really sweet and we appreciate it very much, but we don’t know whose cat you buried.” Pepper got some extra attention as we wondered who had been tenderly interred on DeLiesseline Drive. The kids thought it was especially humorous that I had overlooked some anatomical inconsistencies. It’s hard to think clearly in the midst of grief.
Some cats are brought home intentionally while others just show up. Either way, they tend to fill any empty spots in our hearts or make a special place of their own. With gentle purrs and nudges, they subtly become beloved members of our families. And that’s quite often how cats become pets.