For the past 21 years there have been cats in my life. The first cat was Phred. Phred came with my current husband, so I got to know both of them before we married. Phred was wise, good, and a mighty hunter. Phred was an amazing boy who could sit in porcelain-kitty pose on the window box and just be the most precious, welcoming cat in the universe. This doesn’t describe him perfectly, but it is a start. For me, Phred was my son. Yes, a child. The one outstanding thing I must mention is his addiction to fishy-flavored flakes. IF we let him have some of those things, he would then go on a hunger strike and demand MORE. Never feed a cat something they can become addicted to!
Next came the princess, and her name was “’Roo,” as in kangaroo, due to her early kitty behavior. ’Roo, like Phred, lived on two continents, but had the distinction of living in three countries. The princess was an international kitty. ’Roo had the most amazing quality of not only being beautiful on the outside, but glowing from within. Quite frankly, I’ve never met another cat that I could say that about. ’Roo had so many good qualities and, like Phred, had a nice furry life.
When Phred departed in April of 1999, we decided to wait to see what happened before we became kitty parents yet again.
Barney came to us as a farm cat. He just wandered into our tiny house on the mountain and made friends with ’Roo, and by the end of the fall of 1999 we asked our landlord if we could take him in permanently. I’m glad we did.
Barney moved with us from Southern Germany to Eastern Netherlands. We lived in an upstairs flat. There was a landing that had a narrow banister. Barney could hold his ground in that space, even when the fierce wind was present. He scared us when he did it. We could imagine him blowing away. Barney was stronger than any kitty we’ve known. Hubby and I would have to restrain him if medication was needed, and we lost more than one battle with him. Barney was also very territorial, squirting up a storm in my new blue kitchen. He almost lost his life several times—cuteness saved him.
Barney loved yogurt and had a “yogurt voice.” I think he had a sixth sense for when the stuff was to be served. His little furry life was cut short due to heat stroke during the heat wave of 2003. We were devastated. It was then that I said, “I don’t think I can do this again. My heart is being pulled and my feelings for our kitty children are so strong.” I was learning something powerful about what our cats could be in our lives.
’Roo and Barney had been true friends. They would adventure together, causing us to wake in the middle of the night as they ran from one end of the house to the other. Barney became the defender of the territory and ’Roo, while older, let him do so. She kept dominance in a laughable manner and when she disciplined “The Boy” for crossing her, it was more comical relief than anything else. Barney got the message and fell into line as a good submissive should. I remember the first night ’Roo had without Barney. A cat entered our yard as if to take up the place, and all holy hell broke out. We looked out to see our princess running the little twerp off HER land. She still had it out there. ’Roo held the dominant place her entire life, but you never would guessed it at first glance. Her sweet and gentle personality was misleading.
Cats are just like children. When you get to know them, you discover a treasure chest of delightful happiness. Taking time to share in their little lives is the real gift. And now back to the narrative…
Hubby and I let ’Roo do her thing for several months. I wasn’t ready for a new cat. Barney’s death was so unexpected and my heart was being pulled into new forms of growth.
At the end of 2003 I began to talk about getting a Russian Blue. I had always wanted a Blue. We started to research them in more detail. I also knew a couple with a Blue and knew her to be skittish. This would not do in a cat. It was then that we stumbled on to the Britt. This was it!!!! During the holiday season we connected with breeders. The wait was shorter than I had planned for and I wasn’t certain if I was ready to “mommie” another kitty yet.
We met Penelope and her sister Tweety on a cold January day in 2004, and we both fell in love instantly. What was not to love? Penelope was perfect: designed just for me.
’Roo had had periods in her little furry life where she had been alone, but had matured and gained a sense of self. She was confident and ready to share her life. This was a healthy choice for ’Roo.
When we carried Penelope home with us for her first night away from her sister, we were concerned about how she and ’Roo would accept each other. We isolated Penelope and she cried. By midnight, ’Roo was upset and wanting to help, so we decided that we’d try it another way. We let ’Roo into Penelope’s space. They bonded instantly. ‘Roo mothered the child and Penelope grew into a sweet, beautiful kitty daughter. All was well! My days were filled with loving our two kitty daughters and life was happy with them. Both were adorable and wonderful to have.
Just as bringing a child into the world should take two agreed-upon votes, so should bringing a kitty child into the home. We had talked about a third kitty and, finally being in agreement, it was time for action.
Hubby was smitten by Tweety, Penelope’s sister. I called the breeder to let her know that when Tweety got pregnant, if there was a blue and white male, we wanted him. “Funny you should call,” was the reply, “because she is giving birth tonight.” And in the morning the call came: JRA Bob had arrived. And it was a good thing I had called because several others were also interested in Bob. We felt blessed that he would come to our home.
That year for Christmas, I gifted JRA Bob to my husband.
Now, we do know that Bob had already eaten through some hot computer cable. He tore up some curtains. He was a general troublemaker as a wee kitty. He was the ringleader who looked as innocent as could be, but there was always something brewing inside. And, this was while he was still with his mother!!!!! To this day, we are certain there was some brain damage: He never quite managed to grow up.
When we carried Bob home, we decided to let the boy out and allow the introductions to come naturally. There would be no isolating Bob. This time all holy hell broke out!!!! We thought Penelope would kill him. This was not good at all. Long story short, we put Penelope on Prozac. ’Roo, while irritated at times, was, for the most part, fine with the newbie.
Bob was the craziest, most curious, and all-around cat-like kitty to be had. There was never a dull moment with Bob. My kitty mommie hands were full!
When they were passing out kitty personalities, we figure Bob kept returning for yet another and another and the conversation had to have sounded something like this:
Bob: I want more personality.
Giver: We already gave you a personality and that is all you get. Now go away!!!
Bob: But this isn’t enough. I can’t be as happy, bouncy, lively, and beaming as I’m meant to be. I need more personality and I just know I’ll burst if I don’t have enough. I need so much MORE!!!! Please?
Giver: OK, JRA Bob.
Bob was right. Bob was loaded with love and affection beyond belief, and Bob was Gorgeous. “Beautiful,” in my mind, just doesn’t do him justice. Bob was the most beautiful of all of our cats and therefore he must have a different adjective. (I know males aren’t supposed to be gorgeous, but he was, and will always be our most gorgeous of kitties.)
We were forced to say our goodbyes to Bob in the last week of April of 2013. It was a sunny day and a day that was meant for Bob to be outside in the world. And we took him out, as we had done as part of our saying-goodbye ritual for Phred. Keeping him any longer would have been cruel. We miss him so much. There is a huge emptiness here that will never be replaced by another kitty. Bob was unique in the cosmos. I like to imagine a grand meadow where he can play and be with our other kitties. It’s a nice thought.
As I write this, Penelope has gone through many phases of progression after Bob. First, Penelope was alone and bored. She, too, missed the pest. (Her thoughts, not ours.) She faced being alone for the first time in her little furry life.
We hoped that she would discover a new self and become a new cat. Penelope is a cat’s cat. She is independent and does it all on her terms. She, too, is beautiful and sweet, and learned to become secure in her new environment.
She has shown us that she really needed to be an only kitty for a while. We have enjoyed her and hope to have many more years with her.
Our kitty tapestry has been filled with the rich warmth of individual cats who we will always cherish, and from whom we have learned so many lessons about life. Twenty-one years ago I did not understand the power that an animal could have to shape a human life and color it in beautiful ways. Each loss is real.
So goes the cycle of life and death. It enters, snatching souls of all types, human and animal. Those we love pass on and we are faced with the loneliness of not having them on a daily basis. Time and soul-searching can heal many things, but you can never go back.
I move forward and can only resolve to make the best kitty life possible for Penelope.
In thinking about all of this, I must admit I believe that there is a time and a season for all to end as we know it. I believe that each of us creates a future based on possibility.
Because we knew that Bob was destined to live an unnaturally short life, I created a mosaic of him that hangs where we can see him and be reminded of just how beamy he was.
I began this piece in 2013. I thought it had a different focus. I kept it in my draft section not knowing what to do with it. I can now publish it because I know the ending. It has to do with mental health issues.
More and more, we as human beings are discovering the power of unconditional love with our pets. We are finding that they are sensitive to many powerful emotions we, as humans, display. I’ve seen this with Penelope. If I’m really feeling sick she will come and be my protector.
I’ve seen this phenomenon with someone else in my life. Because of her dog, she is more engaged in daily life. While her depression is still present, she has a sweet, loving dog to help her calm herself.
Remember George? He has been affected by animals as well. I believe that it really does help his depression.
So, telling you about my kitties and who they are is a plug to remind you that cats and dogs can reach into souls that might not be reached with words.
Therapy for those who struggle with whatever-it-is-they-struggle-with can be made easier with an animal by your side.
Tonight Penelope will grace us with her presence and I hope that she will desire to snuggle up with me. I love her and the joy she brings to all who know her.