Cats, like nature, abhor a vacuum. If there is room in your life and your heart for a cat, or several, they will find you. I’ve heard myths and rumors about people who actually wanted a cat and looked for one, but personally? Cats just happen to me.
I’ve never actually chosen a cat. I tried once, after my first cat, Rambo (yes, as a 12 year old girl, I named my cat Rambo), passed away. Complications from urinary blockage at only 4 years old. I went to the shelter, saw one that looked like him, started crying and left. A few months later, I went back to look at itty bitty kittens, and a much larger, gawky, black long-haired six month old chose me instead. She climbed the cage door, grabbed at my hair, and put on such a big show that I knew I had to take her home. And she became my Sheba.
Fast forward about twelve years or so… Sheba and I had moved into her house, where she graciously let me pay all the bills, and had chosen a husband for me. I was home from work one day due to a snowstorm, and saw a black cat outside. I had a moment of panic thinking it was Sheba, but it was smaller. Only about six months old. And feral. Totally afraid of humans.
I spent two weeks sitting outside in January trying to gain the trust of that little black cat, feeding her, coaxing her, talking to her, singing to her. Eventually, I was able to grab her and bring her in the house. And she hid in the basement for a few weeks. So I spent those two weeks sitting in the basement gaining her trust. And she became my Gypsy.
Fast forward another few years, and I was working at the SPCA. It was late spring… Kitten season. Many of the workers volunteered to foster underage kittens until they were old enough to be spayed or neutered and adopted. I wanted to foster, but needed a secure place to quarantine a kitten. I picked up a large cage, meant for rabbits, at the flea market, and the very next day back to work, a six week old kitten was brought in. Only 1.4 pounds. She’d need to be eight weeks and 2 pounds to be adopted, and if no one fostered her, she’d be put to sleep. She nibbled my thumb and purred. It was only for two weeks. And she wasn’t black. I had a soft spot for black cats. She wasn’t “my type.” How attached could I get in two weeks? Then I made a mistake. I named her. And she became my Gracie.
Fast forward a few more years. At the ripe old age of 18, Sheba had succumbed to chronic renal failure and congestive heart failure. We vowed not to get any more cats, since we still had Gypsy and Gracie and had recently acquired our Pekingese, Beavis.
But there was a vacuum.
The very same day that Fritz and I had decided, “Yes, another cat would be ok,” I was outside gardening and Beavis was yapping his head off. I checked to see what he was barking at, and saw little black kittens playing under the neighbor’s porch across the street. As we live on a very busy intersection, this was No Good. We checked with the neighbor, asking if they were their cats. Nope. A stray had a litter under their foundation, but if we could catch them, we could keep them. We caught one that day, a black one with white spots. And he became our Pippin.
Two nights later, the neighbors called me over. They’d caught another one… would we take care of him? Pure black and long-haired, like Gypsy, and like Sheba before him. Absolutely terrified of me. He hissed every time I looked at him, but he was so tiny, he just made a small “h” sound. And he became our Fergus.
I almost caught the mamacat. I actually did catch her, but I was standing on top of a chain link fence at the time, pulling her out of a tree by her scruff. She was feral, so there wasn’t much I could do other than let her go. After that, she moved her litter, so we weren’t able to catch the rest.
Pippin and Fergus were a joy, mostly. I never had two kittens at a time before, and they reminded me of how my mother would describe my two oldest brothers, who were born eleven months apart. “What one didn’t think of, the other would.” Always in trouble, destroying plants, smashing vases, shredding cardboard, climbing the curtains, climbing me. But the were the sweetest, most affectionate cats I ever met. Fergus went from being a frightened little fluff to a snuggle-bug laying on his back across my keyboard for belly rubs, and Pippin is the biggest attention whore on the planet.
Fast forward a few more years. Another mamacat was in the area. I saw her a lot, and thought she was feral at first. But despite my neighbors describing her as “that big white and grey cat, up on the porch, snarling and hissing,” after she realized I could supply her with food, she’d jump on my lap, purring and rubbing. Yeah… really ferocious, that one. I started calling her Ms. Pretty. She started bringing her kittens around. Now, they were feral. Wouldn’t let me near them, except one, a grey with two black dots on her nose, one on each nostril, who I nicknamed Booger.
Yeah, I broke the cardinal rule again. I named them. My mom used to always tell me about her childhood, when they raised chickens for food. She told me, “Don’t name the chickens.” Once you name them, they’re your pets, and you can’t eat them. Granted, I wasn’t planning on eating any of the cats, but the same principal applies.
Then Ms. Pretty was pregnant again. Then she was skinny again. I knew she had the litter, but I didn’t know where. Two weeks later, I heard mewing. She brought the entire litter to my neighbors’ yard, leaving them in a storage tote near the fence. Not the good neighbors. The neighbors who don’t like cats, who chased her off their property with a broom. Yikes. I had to get them out of there. I hopped the fence, grabbed the tote, transferred the kittens to my laundry basket, and tossed the tote back in their yard.
Five itty bitty two-week old kittens, and mamacat. In a basket. On my porch. And four cats and a dog inside the house. It was Fritz who said to Ms. Pretty, “Mama, you done me wrong,” then to me, “Bring them in.” We quarantined them to the bathroom.
A day later, I caught little Booger and put her with her mama and siblings. I wanted to find them all new homes. I didn’t want any more cats. Certainly not eleven cats! Four cats is a lot. Eleven is Crazy Cat Lady territory.
What still makes me scratch my head… during this time, Pippin caught a mouse in the house. That means a mouse was really dumb enough to think, “Hey, I think I’ll go in this house with eleven cats! It’ll be fine! What’s the worst that can happen?!”
Even though we named them all – Firefly related names… Badger, Kaylee, River, Jayne and Shepherd Book (called Shep for short) – I did a much better time fostering this time around. After they were old enough to leave their mama, Kaylee went to live with my brother. Jayne and Badger moved to Maryland to live with some of Fritz’s friends. I was in love with Ms. Pretty at the time, and Boogie (a little nicer name than Booger) was a little too spooky for most people, so they had to stay.
That left just River and Shep… and when you have six cats, is having eight that much worse?! Might as well keep them, but Shep’s name changed to Mal, then Thirteen, then Trouble, and finally… Trevor. And, you guessed it, they became my Ms. Pretty, Boogie, River and Trevor.
Yep. Cats abhor a vacuum. They will multiply and expand to fill any space.
They’re not too fond of Hoovers, Bissels and Dysons, either.