Cats

I have a long history of being obsessed with cats. I can’t have them because my husband is highly allergic. But I end up finding them or they find me.

Growing up, I was always surrounded by tons of cats. People would either say they had kittens or we would put out a call for one, and within days, deals would be struck. Nobody spayed or neutered unless things got crazy. The cats were indoor/outdoor, and shit happened…a lot. Sickness, neighborhood dogs, random predators…once we found our kitten missing and an owl feather where someone had left the window open to the shed it was sleeping in.

One spring “crazy” happened to us when the three pet cats we had ended up having two litters each. We had kittens coming out of our ears. Two died because they were in my dad’s truck and he didn’t realize it when he started it. My mom was seriously upset by that. We kept three for ourselves and gave the rest away. But there were a couple we couldn’t place, and Dad had to take them to the shelter.

That’s when Mom started spaying and neutering the rest.

Our first indoor-only cat was Gizmo, a Siamese mix. She wailed like she was dying all the way home from our aunt’s house where we got her, an hour away, and throughout the entire trip every car ride thereafter. Gizmo had the honor of being our first indoor cat solely because she was too stupid to survive outside.

She went up trees and got stuck. The first time, Mom climbed up to rescue her and fell, hurting her arm (Gizmo was fine). The second time, Gizmo went so far up, none of Dad’s ladders reached. The fire department wasn’t going to help, because the tree she chose was pretty far up the steep mountain behind our house, and besides, a fire truck couldn’t make it across our homemade bridge or the creek anyway.

Mom put food on sticks and tried to lure her down. Nope. She was up there doing her Siamese wail for a whole day and night. My parents finally made the decision to shoot the branch out of the tree. How they came to that, I’m not sure…but Dad took the branch out and down came Gizmo.

She hit some smaller branches and broke her fall. She landed and convulsed. Then she shook herself and walked over to Mom. They took her to the vet and she was perfectly fine.

After that, Gizmo wasn’t allowed outside. It was too much drama. But after my mom moved out, Gizmo once managed to call Emergency Services in the apartment Mom lived in. There was a string in the bathroom for residents to pull if they fell. Giz played with it. When the apartment office manager asked through the attached speaker if Mom needed assistance, Giz didn’t answer. Mom discovered the cat had called for help when several EMTs showed up at her door thinking she was unresponsive.

I tried having an indoor-only cat in high school when I picked my own kitten out at a pet store. He was a mangy-looking mess of a long-haired brown tabby sleeping in his food bowl. I named him Fleabag, but he ended up being known as Harry. He turned out to be some kind of woodpile cat who would never use a litter box. I tried for weeks: different brands, smells, putting him in there repeatedly… He shat next to the litter. He would not set foot in the litter. But if I let him outside, he’d do his business every time.

He ended up becoming an indoor-outdoor cat. But he was like the Clint Eastwood of outdoor cats. He had a nine-year run bossing everyone on my dad’s property. If I left my water glass on the dresser above my bed, Harry would, without fail, knock the water right in my face to wake me up. He danced a jig on the AC unit in my dad’s window when he wanted Dad out of bed, or if he was inside and needed out, he put a paw under the door and rattled it. He figured out how to wake my stepbrother by raking a screen door near the bedroom.

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Harry had more character than most cats, and I’ve known a lot of them. He had a trick he’d pull where he let you cradle him like a baby in your arms. I knew not to fall for it, but he loved to get strangers. Once you were cradling him, and he was purring away, he’d suddenly jump up, hug your face with his paws, and bite your nose.

He also enjoyed attacking ankles. When you were making the bed. Or turning out the last light at night: as soon as the switch flipped feet would come running and fangs would sink into your leg.

After I left home to move in with my now-husband, we’ve lived in cities, or near roads, so I’ve never voluntarily had outdoor cats. But they find me. When I was living in a city apartment, a stray I named Oliver found us in our first apartment and I fed him. He was the only thing I missed about the apartment, but he had several other tenants lined up to keep him fat. When I lived in a wooded suburb in North Carolina next to a main road, a tortie started showing up and brought her boyfriend. I named her Milkshake since she brought all the boys to the yard. I took care of her and her beau, Chunk, until she disappeared (probably lost a fight with wildlife; she killed everything that moved) and he found a home down the road.

Then one fall, two siamese-mix kittens showed up in the back yard. My husband called me at work to tell me. I cautiously asked what he’d done, wondering if he’d actually call the shelter. He knew me too well: he’d put the trap out from the previous yard-cats and caught them before I got home. I lined up a large dog crate and made them a home in our shed for a month and a half. Since I’d volunteered at the county shelter to get my cat fix, I knew a little about working with feral cats and kittens, so I tamed them and gave them away.

Now we live in a different state, in a suburb with an HOA. I didn’t think a yard-cat would show up here. But around Halloween, I started seeing a little black cat. One day I saw her dragging a dead chipmunk out of my yard. So I figured she needed fed.

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She knows how to work those big green eyes.

Of course it doesn’t help that I feed them. But what am I going to do? Not feed them?

It starts off with “Oh it’s back. It looks hungry.” I throw cheese or cold cuts at it. Then I buy canned food.

Then I end up getting suckered in to being the responsible party.

So far the four cats I’ve nabbed and gotten spayed or neutered have been easy. They want the fish, so they go in the trap. The three boys even let me trap them more than once. We used a small trap for Chunk and it hit him in the ass so he was able to back out, but the very next day we put out the bigger trap and got him.

This black cat, Jiji, is resisting, and she’s already bestowed three litters of kittens elsewhere in the neighborhood. I caught a damn raccoon instead of Jiji one night and had to Google how to safely release it without getting rabies.

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I tried sardines and she turned her little kitty nose up at them. I tried canned food. Today it was tuna. I even scruffed her, moved her halfway into the trap, and realized I couldn’t fit my arm past the trip plate to close the trap. If I’d let go of her scruff she would have possibly eaten my face off.

The spay/neuter clinic accepts ferals in traps from morning to noon, but if they aren’t in traps you have to make an appointment like you are dealing with a domestic cat that has sense. I can’t make an appointment because there’s no telling if she will show up at the right time.

Another problem is I think half the neighborhood is feeding her, so if she comes to my yard and finds a trap with food, she just bides her time and goes elsewhere.

I’m going to keep trying, and I am also going to ask the local rescue folks for advice or help. If I can get her fixed and get the ear tip done so everyone knows to leave her alone, I’d be thrilled. I worry that someone will call animal control to pick up her latest litter of kittens and get her too. Both my daughter and I have gotten pretty attached already. It’s so easy to do with cats. Even if they’re a pain in the ass sometimes, I’m always glad when the universe sends them my way.

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The Pusher

Lying together after lackluster sex,
two hedonists using each other
for cheap and fleeting thrills,
we smoke cigarettes you stole
from the gas station counter
after charming the cashier
with your lightless smile
and counterfeit warmth.

Cancerous clouds curl
along the too-close walls,
blur what little gray light
struggles through the window
as you talk about
some future I cringe from
even envisioning

for this so-called relationship
based
on what amounts
to drunken mistakes
and my inability to say no
to your sweet sweet drugs:

I don’t think I can have
a serious relationship with you
unless you
can open
your heart
to Christ.

Didn’t We Fly

didn’t we fly
that chill autumn day
escaped from apple picking
to smoke secret cigarettes in the woods
on a rough dirt road to nowhere

when a half dozen boys
came on rumbling bikes
asked if we wanted
to go for a ride

we should have known better
and run for our lives
but we grinned at each other
and got on behind

and didn’t we fly

didn’t we fly
with the wind in our hair
and the sky whirling by
trailing shrieking laughter

my cheek pressed against
his warm farm boy back
arms holding tight
like I was in love
maybe just for that moment I was

didn’t we fly

didn’t we fly
that chill autumn day
now I’m older and wiser
and you’ve gone away
but I will always remember you
and that perfectly dangerous
beautiful day

didn’t we fly?

 

 

For Dawn Davis

Capture

(A little end of summer poem.)

On the last day of vacation,
sunburned and windswept,
I rushed down to the beach
with an empty bottle
to capture a piece of sea.

I crammed sand and tiny shells
through the opening,
filled the empty space with seawater,
hoping as we drove away
when I missed this place
I could open it,
return to that
delirious infinity,
the rush of light
sound and movement
more wonderful
than anything I’d ever seen.

Of course it was a lost cause:
Grand things diminish
in confined spaces,
both children and the sea.