A trip to the vet begins the story of a new family
It all started after several years of being catless and broken hearted due to the passages to the Rainbow Bridge of my former furry friends. My heart finally had healed enough to entertain the thought of another cat. I went to the local SPCA and asked that they show me only adult cats that had been with them the longest, as I wished to help a cat that didn't appear likely to be adopted. The staff kindly put these cats into a large play area and allowed me to wander freely among them. Out of the blue a brown short haired tabby, who was quite chubby to be a shelter cat, came up to me as if she had known me all her life and greeted me as if it were an everyday occurrence. Being a cat lover for years, I knew what it meant when a cat chose a human, so I immediately said I would like to adopt her. Her shelter name was Bella, and she had been found, ragged and emaciated, rummaging for food at a strip mall and had been quite eager to partake of all the food she could get into her mouth at the shelter—hence her rotund figure. After getting her home, I realized she didn't answer to Bella, and after studying her purrsonality and actions for a couple of weeks, I was led to understand that her name really was Gizmo.
Before her departure for the Bridge, she would teach me many things about life, including true tolerance and trust.
In 1996 a sleek, kempt black short haired cat began to hang around the yard. I was sure she had a home from observing her condition and figured she was just visiting. As time went on, it became apparent that she was expecting and that she no longer had a home because her appearance had deteriorated and she had lost weight. The weather was getting hot, and I couldn't stand to see her not cared for, so I began putting out water and food. She stayed around the yard, and on June 21 she made herself a nest in the shrubs by the front porch and delivered five kittens. We thought we would let her raise them to an age at which they could be adopted. As soon as they became active enough to start wandering, we built a shelter for all of them at the edge of the woods behind the house, and as soon as the kittens could eat solid food, we took her to be spayed. The vet's staff asked for a name, and Brite Eyes (she had very yellow eyes that stood out brightly against the black of her fur) just came out.
We decided to keep one of Brite Eyes' kittens as a companion. I played with them and watched them for weeks before choosing one of the girls. When she was eight weeks old, I brought her inside and began the introduction process. Gizmo handled the situation well and became a good pal to the kitten, who earned the name Lucy by always getting into trouble the way Lucille Ball did in "I Love Lucy".
Adopting out the kittens didn't go as planned. I was very picky about who would be allowed to have a kitten, and so many just weren't right— some admitted that they would not be taking any cat to a vet, etc. So we held off and took them to be neutered and spayed.
After their surgeries, we were bringing them home and one of the females managed to escape, and she ran to the neighbor's wood pile and secreted herself in there where no one could reach her. We tried to lure her out with tuna and such, but she was having none of it. The neighbor even let us pull wood off the pile to try to reach her, but she was faster than we were and always a step ahead of us. Trapping didn't work either because nothing we did would lure her into the trap. We replaced the wood and worried and hoped she would finally get hungry enough to come to us. The only comfort was that at least there would be no worry that she would have kittens. Time passed, and we would see her at a distance, but she would never let us get close. We didn't know what she was eating. She couldn't get to the food for the others inside the shelter. This went on for well over a year. We had come to call her Woodpile Cat—Woodee for short.
Eventually we were able to trap her and bring her back into the family with Gizmo and Lucy.
One morning, in the wee hours of May 14,1998, Woodee climbed into bed beside me, something she had never done previously, awoke me grunting and proceeded to have a kitten almost on top of me. I carefully got up, turned on the light, and saw a tiny tuxedo kitten, we'd eventually call her Tazz, because she was always active like the cartoon character of the same name. There was something special between her and me. She liked to sleep on top of me at night, and when she was there, it always felt as if a missing piece of me had been put into place.
Anyway, I put mom beside the kitten and mom did know what to do. Before I had to leave for work, a second kitten, a short haired brown tabby, had been born and a long haired black followed.
We would later learn that our cats weren't the only ones being spayed/neutered the day of the surgeries and that Woodee had been shaved and given the anesthetic but had never had the surgery. With so many patients to look after, the vets and the techs somehow never checked her non-existent incision, and she had escaped before I had a chance to look.
The big tabby male was named Guy, and he was indeed a gentle giant. He didn't care much for Gizmo, but he never touched her. He would glower at her, and she would go elsewhere.
By this time we were hopelessly in love with all the cats and two at a time, with help from a cat counselor, moved all the ones from outside to inside the house. Somehow it all worked. There were small squabbles but nothing major, and I was in Crazy Cat Lady Heaven.
Tazz's sister, the short haired brown tabby, was called Junior because she looked like a miniature version of Gizmo even though they were not related, and the Puritans had used the junior designation for both males and females. She was a leaner like her grandmother, and after Brite Eyes died, Junior would sleep against me at night.
Blackie was the third of Woodee's kittens. He was a good sized cat but quite gentle, and he loved every cat he ever met. He had a tough side as well and was the only cat who could stop Brite Eyes in her tracks when she got into a chasing mood. He did it with a look, which is hard to describe. It wasn't a glare but was very stony and determined. No cat messed with him when he gave that look. After Junior died, Blackie became the one who slept against me.
Another of Brite Eyes' kittens was Priscilla, a long haired brown tabby. She wasn't close to any of the other cats but didn't fight with them either. She was our guard at night. She slept at the foot of the bed between us, and when my husband would get up for anything during the night, she would accompany him. She'd wait for him and walk him back to bed too and then jump back up herself. She didn't go with with me, but she watched me go and return. She would sit on my lap when I was in a chair and enjoyed being petted.
These days, eight of the Gang of Ten live only in my heart, but two are still physically with me. One is Woodee, and the other is her sister Prudence. She was the runt of the litter and the one Guy had watched over. She has been very slender all her life, and she was devastated when Guy died. I feared for her if she wouldn't eat and didn't want to end up having to force feed her, so I kept talking to her about becoming friends with sweet Blackie. He was willing and it didn't take long for her to consider him as her best friend. They went everywhere together and ate at the same time even though they often inadvertently butted heads over the bowl or plate. When Blackie had to leave us, Prudence turned to the humans for comfort. We are a poor second to Guy or Blackie, but we are enough to keep her going. She sleeps on top of me at night while Woodee has become the one who sleeps pressed against me. They are eighteen now, and I know every second with them is a gift. I don't even want to think about how things will be when they have to leave.
Thanks to Cataff for spinning this epic yarn of a full on feline community. Cataff's full story is a bit longer and touchingly describes the lives of each of her ten cats in full. If you are ready to face the feels, please check it out on the blog.
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