Thursday, October 15, 2009

Like Grains Of Litter Through The Litter Scoop, So Are The Cats Of Our Lives

We were reminiscing about our cats the other day. Memories brought on by the recent loss of my beloved Helen.
It was normal to not see Helen for a day or two at a time. Then you'd find her curled up asleep in between straw bales in the barn, in a cardboard box in the greenhouse, or on a pile of feed sacks in the farm truck. But when the 2 days stretched out into more than a week, my heart sank.
I asked every other day "Has anyone seen Helen?" and no one had.
Mark was oddly quiet and I finally figured he knew something. He said he'd been afraid to tell me, planned to maybe never tell me, but he found Helen on the road days ago. He said there was a bird's body right beside hers, so maybe she died doing something she enjoyed: hunting.
I'm still bummed about it.
Helen. I selected her from the other cats at the pound because she was talkative. That was my main criterion going in. But at the same time there was another ridiculously handsome grey cat who caught my eye. He had the head of a cougar and a very stand-offish personality, solid grey coloring and a linebacker body. I called Mark from the pound to tell him about the cats and he said to bring them both home.
So Helen and Roger (not their pound names, those were something pedestrian like Patches and Fluffy or something) came home with me in their cardboard crates, caterwauling the whole car ride. But not before Roger had seriously maimed the volunteer at the shelter.
She had put the cats in a temporary cage while we did paperwork and when she went to retrieve him he went berserk and attached himself to the top of her head with all four sets of claws. There was blood. All the while I'm saying to myself only I would take this beast home. And pay to do it!
But all was well once they settled in, Helen was crazy affectionate, meowing at every word you said to her, spastic in her appreciation of being held, and impossible to stop from licking you head to toe. Helen was a big licker she was. Roger was the notoriously stinky pooper and known for sneaking into the automobile of anyone who came to the house. Unbeknownst to the driver. He took many a car ride accidentally.
If Helen wasn't sleeping on Sam's head, she was sleeping in his dresser drawer. Well, before she moved outdoors, that is. And I know indoor cats live longer than outdoor cats, etc. etc., but once she learned to hunt and play outside she hated coming in the house. Plus she was the one who pooped and peed behind the hot water tank. And her itchy skin cleared up once she moved outdoors. So who am I to argue with that?
You could go outside and call her, not in a normal voice of course, but in a shrill baby-talking voice, and she'd come running. I called her "Helen," "Helen the Melon,""Hulun the Mulun,""Helen the Skeleton,""Skeletor,""Skully." I am sick that I can't do that routine anymore.
I miss Helen.
I miss Roger, too. Once I actually saw him get hit by a car, rolled under that car, and then jump out from under the car, still very much alive. I couldn't immediately find him after that and I went inside the house very upset. An old Asian woman who had been shopping at the market came over to comfort me by saying "Cat hard to kill." As in, Don't worry, he'll be fine. And I think that wondering exactly why she knew that was what made me feel a little better. True story.
But sadly, after serving as mascot (and stowaway) for the market for a couple years, Roger was found as well and Mark tried not to cry as he picked him up from the road.
I also miss our little orange tabby Hank. aka "Hanky," "Hanky Tooooo!" He was born on the farm, son of Mama Cat, long time matriarch (after her predecessor One Eye,) the cat formerly known as Fritz. I think we decided to convert him from barn kitten to house kitten after Roger's passing. Plus he was extremely affectionate and always kept his cute kitten meow which he greeted me with every morning.
One of my most favorite photos is of a 6 or 7 year old Sam sitting at the kitchen table, Hank in his lap staring attentively at the book Sam was ready to him. But, even though he was strictly indoors, Hank was an escape artist. It was nothing to find that he'd jumped out of a second story window, and eventually he too met with the same fate as Helen and Roger.
Our last surviving "pet" cat (versus "barn" cat) is YoYo. aka Yoko, Mocho Coco, MoMo, Big CoCo, Yokudekimashita.
He's been enjoying a lot more indoor time lately. Whether he likes it or not. Mostly I think he likes it. He's soft spoken, drools when he's happy, and is like 2 and a half feet long when he stretches out fully for you to rub his belly. He's also been known to enjoy a Sunday drive with the family, and for some reason was really drawn to the coffee beans I was grinding this morning? His previous owner had him declawed so I think the cold bothers his front feet, but he is a successful hunter and cock of the walk amongst all our cats, in spite of his lack of claws.So. Cats, cats, cats. Our life is full of cats. First thing Lily does every day after school is head to the barn to play with the kittens. They have names, but I haven't learned them yet. This is a picture from the archives. Not even sure who these guys are? Well, I know that the black & white one would have automatically been named Baby Coco. That is a given.

I can't remember his name either. He's gone, too.
Whoops. Not a cat.
The most recent Baby CoCo. With the extra toes.
And I've only just scratched the surface of my supply of cat photos. But this post was a little bit much already. Forgive me if I've told you these stories before. Shared these photos before.
We love our cats, don't we?


OsageBluffquilter said...

So sorry for the lost of your cats.
Cool title too.
I;ve only had one cat. I was 5. We lived by a busy road near a creek. The Momma cat went under the bridge to have her kittens. She was never the same after that. I don't know if the kittens made her go nuts or the trafice on the bridge. Or a combination of the two. Both could do it to me!

Michelle Johnson said...

Hello Sara~ I absolutely love the title of this post. I too am sorry for the loss of all your cats. We so quickly become attached and can't fathom the idea of not having them around anymore. I had a calico cat too. Her name was Abbi. She was hit by a car in front of our house years ago. But, I still miss her immensely. All your cat photos are great, btw. Have a great day.

Annette said...

Awww, Sara. I was a little worried, ya know, when I was there last weekend and didn't see Helen. But I know she likes to wander off for a couple days or so. Drat. She was a sweetie.

You know how I am on this topic, so I'll let it go at that. :-(

Michele Renee said...

Ohhhhhhhh. I am so sorry to hear about Helen. What a beautiful cat. I had one like her when I was 8. Coyotes in Calif got her when I was 16. Then when I was engaged I got a grey/white cat and a tiger cat and they lived long lives.
I am over the moon with your cat photos. That Yoyo is as big as the chair!! What a healthy kitty! And the kittens! I'm soooo envious. You have it all....many pets, horses, many kids, many jobs, one husband...
Oh but that possum photo--I got scared. As scared as the last time I saw it!
I am petless. I need a cat. But the guy I'm married to wants to be petless right now. An outdoor cat would be good--one to let me hug and pet. But then I'd sneak him into the garage in the winter and he'd pee and throw up on my husband's vehicle only (they always pick his car) and then I'd have to hear about it. Yeah. So I am going to look at your photos often. Loved your post!

Amy said...

Great post, Sara! Sorry about Helen. I love all the names you have for her. Thanks for all the pics, too. We grew up with cats so it brought back lots of nice memories.

Emily said...

Hellllllllllinnnnnnnn! Coolest cat I ever knew.

honeypiehorse said...

I had a cat named Barnaby growing up. I still miss him.

Becky said...

Aw, poor Helen. And poor you guys. She was a pretty cat alright.

We loved some cats in our family too, though not quite as many as y'all have had. The best of all was Howard, who lasted 12 years or so. His sister, Lola, was a little bit crazy, though beautiful. She wandered off and took up with a different family nearby.

Cats. There's some kind of way they just break your heart.