04 April 2011

C is for... Cat, A to Z Challenge

I don't know if I've always been a cat person.  Heck, I'm not even sure if I'm currently a cat person, if you talk cat vs dogs.  But I'm not a dog person either.  I'm a pet person.  But that's neither here nor there at the moment.

I've had cats off and on through most of my life.  I know that my mom didn't care for them too much, but my sister was cat-mad when she was little.  I still remember one of our cats, Kit Kat.  He was one of the meanest cats around, always scratching us kids.  But Deni would hold him and pet him and try to show him love anyway. One day, he ran away and she was heartbroken.  I can't remember where Kit Kat came in our cat household.  I don't think he was the only one, but no others come to mind.

When I moved in with my dad, there were no cats in the house.  First it was because my step-mom was either allergic to them or didn't like them.  Then we found out that Dad has severe asthma.  No pets were allowed but our poodle, because poodles have hair rather than fur.

The first cat I owned (rather than being a family cat) was a black little guy that I got at 6 weeks.  My boyfriend at the time had a cat that had had a litter, so he brought one over for me.  I decided to name him after one of my favorite drinks - Sohco (for Southern Comfort).  Soc hated men.  Not sure why.  But any time a male would enter my apartment, he'd hiss.  Women he wasn't so bad about, but he still wasn't a snuggle kitty.  He was pure black with beautiful gold-green eyes.  I tried to make him an indoor cat, but he had too much to prove to the strays around the apartment and constantly got out.  I never had a problem with fleas, but I did have a big problem with him marking things around the apartment.

When I moved to my parents and Sohco had to be a full-time outdoor cat, he decided he'd had enough and he ran away.  My parents said they'd see him around the neighborhood occasionally with a cat we'd nicknamed cinnamon, for the color of her fur.

I didn't have another cat until after Rich and I got married.  And that was purely through fate.

I'd been trying to talk Rich into letting us have a cat for awhile.  He thought he was more a dog person than a cat person, so he wasn't too keen on the idea.  But then one day, one of my coworkers came in to tell us that she had a stray that had been hanging around her house.  She was trying to find a home for it because the shelters were all full and she had too many cats in her house already.  She showed me a picture - he was pure black, just like Sohco.  I knew we had to take the kitten in.

Rich just shook his head the minute I mentioned it.  He knew he had no choice.  This kitten was coming into our home.  And he became a part of our family a few days later.  Keeping up the alcoholic naming conditions, we called him Tai, after Mai Tais.

About two months later, one of Rich's coworkers came in and told a strange story.  She was coming out of her apartment to go to work and had set her bag down on top of an old coffee table with doors.  And she heard a noise.  She took a look inside, and there were a bunch of cats and kittens living in there.  Being the soft-hearted woman that she was, she wanted to find homes for them.  Rich immediately knew that if he came home with this story, we'd have another cat.  But he couldn't not tell me, so he resigned himself to another cat.

He went out to pick up this one.  He'd have the pick of any of the cats, since none had been spoken for so far.  He was going to take the six week old, knowing I'd love to have a little kitten around.  But his coworker's boyfriend had seemed to get pretty attached to that one, so Rich took the only other one that was bathed - a white and ginger ball of fluff.  On the way home, he knew that his name was going to be Lemon.  Lemoncello, if we were being formal.

Tai didn't care too much for this new cat, and Lemon wanted to play.  But eventually, they grew to be brothers.  They'd fight, groom each other, play... usual brother stuff.  Tai was pretty much my cat - the whole time I was in bed before and after my back surgery, and when I was pregnant with Teddy, Tai curled up with me.  He hated to be picked up, even by me.  He was going to give you love on HIS terms.  And he was shy... so incredibly shy.  Many of our friends didn't realize we had a second cat because Tai refused to come out.  But he never bit, unless you refused to get the "hands off" message.  He was a really gentle cat.

Lemon was his exact opposite.  Friendly to a fault, jumping up into anyone's lap as soon as they sat down, pushing himself under a hand for pets.  He pretended to be alpha cat, but Tai would occasionally show him who was truly alpha cat.  Lem didn't know the difference between playing and playing too rough.  He actually got himself kicked out of our bedroom at night because he was convinced that we liked being bitten on the ankles in the middle of the night to wake up and play.

They moved with us from Philadelphia to Nashville and from our old apartment to our new.  But I wonder if that last move was too much for Tai.  He didn't ever feel quite comfortable here.  Then on June 12th last year, after Rich had kicked him out of the bedroom for the night (because if Tai was on the one side of the door and Lem was on the other, we'd hear meowing and scratching all night), he went downstairs.  Rich didn't see him at first the next morning, but then he heard faint meowing.  Somehow, Tai had gotten into the arm of our pull-out couch and gotten stuck.  He never wore a collar, so it wasn't that.  He just couldn't seem to figure out how to get back out - even though he'd done so dozens of times before.  He woke me up and I crawled into the couch, the bed half-in and half-out so I could fit in there, and tried to coax him out.  Eventually, I had to pull him out.  He wasn't hardly moving and panting a bit.  His meows were so weak.  It was a Sunday, so Rich brought him to the pet ER.  I just couldn't see my first baby in so much pain.  Rich kept me updated as the day went on.  But it wasn't looking good.  He'd been severely dehydrated.  He still wasn't moving.  There was a good chance of brain damage and a possible broken back.  He was in so much pain.  So we decided that we'd let him go.  It was the hardest decision I ever had to make.  And I was inconsolable for days.

We still have Lem.  He's mellowed a bit.  He's not the same rambunctious kitty that he'd been.  He still misses his brother.  We all do.  But he does still come up for snuggles sometimes.  I've thought about trying to find a new friend for him, bringing another pet into the house.  But not yet.  I'm still not ready yet.

I don't have a lot of pictures of my fur babies.  The computers that had all of them have crashed, as has the external hard drive that had some pictures.  But I have found a few to share with you now.

Lemon, pretending the camera isn't there.

My TT.  Such a snuggle cat.

Lemon, being freaky eyed kitty on NYE

I love my cats.