© Another Day in the Country
We’ve had a wide variety of cats that have claimed us since coming back to Ramona. All of them descendents, in one way or another from the Staatz cat who lived across the street — a rangy old calico cat that I think their children called Mama Kitty, and she lived up to every inch of her name. We always seemed to find two or three of the kittens at our end of town, and usually sent them to the vet post haste in order to hamper the flow. All this was to no avail. Our doctored cats didn’t last long, usually due to intimidation from the more aggressive free-range males.
Several years ago, after feeding 17 cats through the winter months (some ours, some strays, some visitors from the neighborhood) we called a halt. We pared down the cat population at our back door by various means and declared that cat food would no longer be available at the corner of 5th and D. The soup kitchen was closed!
We ended up with one cat, dubbed Marshmallow by the cousin’s kids because he had such a soft white belly. Jess had long ago decided that Marshmallow was the wrong name for that male cat. He needed something stronger, more masculine, like Bruno or Tiger; but Marshmallow it was and no attempts by her to alter his name or his fate took root. Once he was altered, it went from bad to worse. Marshmallow was routinely trounced on by the testosterone-fired male cats at our end of town and always came out worse for the wear.
The reason for all this folderol was a wild little, fragile looking calico female who looked just like her great-great-great-great-great-great (we could go on forever, here) grandma, Mama Kitty. Though she was tiny, she was tough. We had tried innumerable times to tame her, all to no avail. She was a ferocious survivor. I finally tried starving her out, wouldn’t let her near the food for over a month, but she would not surrender. I watched her wasting away to skin and bones and I couldn’t stand it.
“Okay, Calie,” I said. (You notice I’d given her a name.) “You win.”
Through the years (there have been at least five) Calie and I declared a truce. She was a clever cat and figured out how to open my porch screen door. This was where the food was! We thought for a long time that Calie couldn’t have kittens, even though she came in heat, she was so small. Several seasons we saw her gaining weight around her middle and then it would suddenly disappear; but, if she had kits, she never raised them beyond birth.
Then in 2011, she decided to have her kittens under the cover of the lounge chair on my back porch. When their eyes opened, we began to tame them for control purposes; but Calie would have none of this. After a few days of our petting and cooing she moved her kids outside somewhere and that was the last that we saw of them.
This summer, while I was in California, my sister said, “I think Calie has a kitten. I saw it one day by the pond in your back yard. It’s the cutest thing — black and white spotted like a holstein cow or a dalmation dog.”
Sure enough, the morning after my return, I went out to feed Marshmallow and Calie and what do I see peaking from behind the lounge chair, IN the back porch, but a wee tiny kitten with big frightened eyes.
“Well, Calie, what have we here?”
She looked at me askance with a warning gleam that I shouldn’t meddle. After a few days, I decided that meddling was imperative. If that little flea-bitten tyke was going to be saved, it needed to be rescued from its fate. So, I locked the porch door, closing Calie on the outside and the kitten we named Skeeter (a gender neutral name) on the inside and started the taming process. Every morning I fed Calie on the outside and Skeeter on the inside. Calie kept her watch on the back of a chair by the door outside. It was sad to see her mothering devotion.
“It’s for this kitten’s salvation,” I told Calie. “It’s for her own good!”
A friend of mine said, “You’ll never get that kitten tamed, Pat, with the mother outside the door.” And, for awhile I thought that might be true; but eventually the Skeeter became my friend and we were able to rid her of all the varmints that threatened to do her little body in and she began to fatten up and look like a healthy normal kitten.
At the end of September, Calie disappeared. I was relieved. No more meowing at the door for her kitten. I kept expecting her to turn up one morning. She hasn’t. But what a beautiful kitten this skinny, weird, wild Calico cat left in her wake.
Last night, after putting up my Christmas tree, I sat down to enjoy the view. Skeeter was inside for a bit, curled up on her blanket at the end of the couch. Such a beautiful little thing, gorgeous thick fur, big inquisitive eyes, loving, playful, with this deep rumbling purr. I smiled. She reminds me of some of the children I teach in art classes. They may have a wild mother, an alley cat father, with a mixed up bloodline, but they are such sweethearts with so much potential! It’s another day in the country and these kids, like my little kitty, are the gift of the future.