We don’t have cats. Cats have us.
The reason we don’t have cats is because we have always rented in places that don’t allow pets. That hasn’t stopped the cats though.
The Arrival of Black Cat
The first cat I didn’t have was a black cat with orange highlights. I lived in an apartment quad-plex, with the four ground level apartments arranged in a right angle. The homes were situated on each arm of the angle, two facing west and two facing north.
My neighbor who lived in the west-facing arm moved away. I was surprised to see that he left his cat sitting in the carport. (He, for some reason, was allowed to have a cat.) Day after day, the black cat with orange highlights sat there, waiting for him to come back. He never did.
His apartment sat empty for a long time, so eventually black cat came to my house and sat on the porch. Acquaintances advised me not to feed the cat, or I would never get rid of her. For the first two weeks that she sat on my porch, I didn’t feed her. I figured if I ignored her long enough, she would go sit on my neighbors’ porches. Or, maybe she would be one of those miracle pets that travel for miles to find the previous owner.
No such luck. Black cat continued to haunt my porch, and my porch only. Her hunger was obvious, as each time I came home from work she appeared skinnier.
Was she ever excited the day I came home with cat food!
I planned to only feed her long enough for her to get her strength back and move on. [You can laugh and point right now, I don’t care.]
After she had “not been our cat” for a few months, daughter Megan came in one day and said, “Bleach is going to have babies.”
“Who the heck is Bleach?” I asked.
“The cat!” Megan said.
Apparently Megan and the next-door neighbor named the cat-we-didn’t-have “Bleach” because she looked like your favorite black pants after you spill bleach on them.
The day she had her kittens was quite magical. Little Jeremiah was amazed at the wet, scrawny critters. She appeared to have five before we went to bed. We made a nice cushy box for her and her babies. In the morning it was apparent she had birthed a sixth. However, we all cried when we realized that she had accidentally smothered our favorite little gray baby during the night. One by one, we found homes for her kitties.
Even if we were allowed to have pets, it wouldn’t have mattered to Bleach. She was suspicious, skittish and not fond of being petted or picked up. One winter night when the temperature dropped to 10 degrees below zero, I coaxed Bleach with food into the house for warmth. She lasted for about 39 seconds before she started screeching to go back outside.
“You’re going to die. It’s ten degrees below zero.”
“Do you want to freeze?” I asked her.
The screeching went on for about thirty minutes before I finally had had it.
“Fine! Go back outside! See if I care!”
I opened the door and out she scooted. I slammed it behind her.
I’ll give her five minutes. She’ll come back in when I open the door.
She won. She stayed outside all night. She lived.
When I married Tim, I had to figure out what to do with Bleach. The home he lived in also did not allow pets. I wasn’t about to leave her behind the way her previous owner had, but no one else wanted her. Finally, I decided to take her with me, but make her live outside, just like she was used to. She hated being in the house anyway. If the new landlord saw her out in the yard, we would plead ignorance by saying, “Neighborhood stray, what do you do?”
The problem with an outdoor cat like Bleach is that she was fond of skanking around the neighborhood, offering her services to the neighborhood toms. Many times we discussed getting her “fixed” but any attempt to catch her or pick her up resulted in a shrieking, scratching disaster.
Bleach only loved us when she used our garage as a birthing center. As much as it surprised me, I loved her, so we dealt with her kittens. We tried to get them used to humans from birth, so Bleach wouldn’t corrupt them with her wild-woman ways. We were pretty successful until…
Devil Cat Storms Upon the Scene
While tending Bleach’s latest batch, we noticed her sneaking away with a small black kitten in her mouth. We tried to intervene because we trusted our kitten-raising skills more than we trusted hers. Sadly, we never got that kitten back and Bleach raised a demon. She would bring the growing kitten along at feeding times and her look-alike daughter fed beside her, but only when we moved away from the scene. Devil Cat would have nothing to do with humans.
As Devil Cat grew, Bleach began spending more and more time at the neighborhood cat lady’s house. Devil Cat however, came by every day to be fed. She would sit and wait in the backyard, twenty-five feet away from the house, until one of us filled her dish and took it outside. She would never approach until we were safely gone. If she saw us peeking out the window, she would freeze in motion, not moving until all vestiges of humanity were gone. Her screeching rivaled, then surpassed, her mother’s.
Mama Bleach taught her well, and soon she dropped her first litter in our garage. We gave away her kittens, and gradually Devil Cat began hanging out at cat lady’s house. (Which was only fair since all the impregnators came from her house anyway.)
All I did was feed an abandoned cat, and suddenly, we were “cat people.”
The White Cat Warms Our Hearts
We were unable to find a home for one of Bleach’s last kitties. The White Cat was adorable, snuggly, mild-mannered, and a right friendly old chap. The bigger he grew, the more we knew that no one else would ever take him. I think a part of us also missed Bleach and… and… and…. OK! I’ll admit it! We missed Devil Cat a little bit. So The White Cat became ours.
Since The White Cat loved humans, we had a new problem. He loved to hang around the house, sitting on the porch and snoozing on our bench. At every opportunity, he would dash past our feet to get into the house before we did. He ate, and then got kicked back outside--almost literally since he refused to go. The task befell us of hiding him from the landlord.
Jeremiah and Juliah had to be specially trained. Whenever they referred to “our cat,” Tim and I would reply, “We don’t have cats.” When they would ask, “What should we name this cat?” we simply said, “The White Cat.” If the landlord came by while we were getting home, and The White Cat tried to get into the house, we would be able to say to one of the kids, “Please get that White Cat away from the door,” and he would be no wiser.
Not having cats has sure been a trial at times.
The Move and The New Landlord
In December 2008, we moved to a nearby town. The new landlord said no cats could live inside, but we were welcome to have outdoor cats. We packed up The White Cat and showed him his new home.
He was not immediately impressed. He ran into our new basement and hid for most of the day.
We have settled into a new routine though with The White Cat. At three years old, he is still as lovable, cuddly and homey as he was, although he is more gray than white now. When he comes in, he eats, then snuggles under an end table for a nap before we force him back outside for the night.
I think we’re finally at the point, after about seven years of hiding cats, to admit it.
We have a cat.
Should we name him now?