I am going to get this out of the way right up front and tell you that I am not a cat person. But that does not make me a bad guy, and I encourage those of you who are cat people to continue being so with my full blessing. I couldn’t be happier for you, or for your feline friends. My own mother loved cats, and that may be where I got off to my bad start with them. I spent my formative years shooing cats from my bed, removing freshly-born kittens from my closet, and vacuuming cat hair from my clothing. And I swore that when I grew to manhood, I would never, ever own a cat.
What was I thinking?
When my youngest daughter was four years old, she discovered a female calico kitten in our front yard, a scraggly little tortoiseshell cat that was all legs and eyes. By the time I got home from work, it was fed, bathed, and named Britch. No, that wasn’t a typo. She named the cat Britch. We don’t know why. Now, my daughter is twenty-two and gone from home. Britch is eighteen and still here. Eighteen cat years is about the equivalent of nine-hundred people-years, and she still has all of her teeth. I may not like cats, but I sure know how to take care of them. Just hand me a cat, and then stand back and watch it thrive.
Not long after we were blessed with Britch, I took her to the veterinarian’s office for shots and to be spayed. Taking her to the vet is a challenge. It requires two people, a can of cat food, a blanket, and nerves of steel. While one person distracts Britch with the cat food, the second person flanks around to the left and throws the blanket over her. Once the commotion under the blanket dies down, it is then possible to pick her up and put her in the car for the trip to the doctor.
I will never forget that day. I stood there in the office next to the examining table with the squirming, jumping, cat-in-a-blanket in front of me. She had worked one paw free, and it was whipping around with claws extended, seeking man-flesh.
“What have we here?” the veterinarian asked warily.
“We have a cat that needs to be spayed,” I replied.
“Well, we are going to need to take her out of the blanket,” the vet told me.
“I’ll be right back,” I said as I eased towards the door. I figured that the person gaining the one-hundred dollars could handle that part while the person losing the one- hundred dollars waited in the hall. After the examination, I received the good news that Britch was probably too small to ever have kittens, and that she was too young to be spayed right then, anyway. The office staff and I got her back into the blanket, and I took her home.
Six weeks later, Britch had kittens. I don’t think the vet was wrong. I think that Britch just wanted to make him look bad. As a general rule, she does not do well with vets, anyway, and I keep having to transfer our business to new doctors fresh out of veterinary school. Our current pet doctor practices in Macon. I live in Rome.
“You guys are a long way from home,” she said as we looked at the squirming blanket on the examining table.
“Britch likes to travel,” I replied. “I’ll be out in the hall.”
Britch is a porch cat, and she considers ours to be her personal domain. She runs a tight porch and does not like company. Over the years, I have watched her suggest to several dogs large and small that they get on back out into the yard. I have seen her run off raccoons, possums, squirrels, and moles. She hates rival cats, birds, UPS employees, and children. She will not tolerate neighbors, mail persons, brothers-in-law, or little ladies from the church.
But I don’t want you to think that she is just a furry ball of negativity. There are a lot of things she likes. She likes to chew on wicker. She likes to shed. She likes to leave commemorative hair balls where they will be found by visitors. She likes that brown stuff that comes in the Little Friskies cans. And, unfortunately, she likes me.
Last week, out of nowhere, a scraggly little female tortoiseshell kitten that was all legs and eyes showed up on my front porch. She mewed at me as I walked up, looking and sounding exactly like Britch had looked and sounded eighteen years ago. I looked over at Britch, who was busy chewing on the wicker, and pointed at the intruder.
“There is a cat on your porch,” I told her. She ignored me and shed some hair on our new cushions. For the next three days, Britch continued to tolerate the little kitten. It was kind of creepy.
“What do you think?” I asked my wife as we watched the feline pair eat brown stuff from Britch’s bowl.
“I think you were bad to cats in another life, and it is coming home to roost now,” she replied.
The ancient Egyptians used to believe that cats were in touch with the afterlife, that they could see in both worlds. Of course, the ancient Egyptians also believed that guys should wear skirts and walk sideways, so let’s not get too carried away. But what if Britch has somehow sensed her own mortality and is training her replacement? What if she is mentoring little Vermin—I named the kitten Vermin—to take over the serious business of running the porch? What if Britch is turning over the reins? I posed these questions to my mate as we watched Britch and Vermin chew on our new wicker table.
“I think one of those vets found out our home address,” she replied.