Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Orange Kitties

In the spring of 1977, just as my father's illness was becoming something we could not ignore, I decided to bring home a tiny orange cat, even though I knew that I'd get in trouble. We already had two cats, despite the fact that my father was allergic to them, not to mention a feisty Doberman, who nipped the neighborhood children. But my friend jumped off the bus one morning and handed me a kitten, a little orange creature who somehow lived in my pocket all day, took another bus ride home, and lived in my closet for approximately four hours until we were all found out, kitty mewling and running into the dining room.

He was a cute little kitty, and we all seemed to love his trusting little nature. But something was going on in the house. Theoretically, we were going to be moving first to Europe and then to Saudi Arabia because my father had been hired by Aramco. But the real reason my mother knew we had to get rid of the cat was because my father was truly ill and we weren't going to be going anywhere. She was right, but at the time, none of this was articulated. The only thing I knew was that no one was listening to reason, and kitty moved to a home where he was very happy. For a year or two, we had a picture of him on the refrigerator. He was sniffing another cat, I think, but reports came from his new home that he was happy.

The next year after my father succumbed to stomach cancer, I brought home another orange cat, and I actually don't remember how Eustace ended up with me. Who gave me Eu? I can't remember, though I believe it was someone at Orinda Park Pool who gave him to me. All I do remember was that he wasn't a big hit right away because he had a tendency to pee in the corners of the den. AT this point, we had four other cats plus a now incontinent Doberman and a neurotic lab mix. I'm not sure if the rabbit was still with us at that point, but suffice it to say we were trying to fill with animals the hole my father left.
But Eu was special. He slept on his back, splayed in complete trust. He drooled with joy and happiness. His main goal was to be loved. At all times. He would sit on my lap, close his eyes, and drool with pleasure, no subterfuge there.

One of our cats ran away at this point, and just before I moved out of the house, I brought home another orange cat. He became Eu's little brother. They slept in a warm orange cat pile, friends until Buddy's untimely death at the bottom of the street. No one was advocating indoor cats much in those days, and he took one field trip too many. I had children at this point, my mother warning me that Buddy was on the street dead, waiting for someone (who?) to come and take him away. I had to explain death as I drove up the street with my sons, the best I could, both of them looking down at the poor orange creature.

All the other cats and dogs died, my mother moved with Eu and our anorexic calico Jenny to a condo. Jenny eventually died, and Eu ruled the roost I think until his 18th or 19th year. Maybe twenty. He was old but still drooling and happy, and then I did it again. I gave my mother two orange cats for Christmas.

These were the nuttiest cats I ever met, but I didn't get to know Henry well because from the moment I opened the cat box and let him out into her living room, he lived under her beds. When no one but she was around, he'd play in the house and sit outside on the patio on his rug, but he was like a stealthy wraith, slipping by me the few times I managed to catch a glimpse. Gus was a milder, not quite as acutely cute Eu, but a good friendly cat, a happy, food begging cat. He hung out with us during holidays, pacing around, showing off his enormous belly. They were inseparable (at least when no one else but my mother was around) and lived a very good life for many years. This spring, Henry managed to escape out of the patio and his fate is unclear. And Gus--who lived the most pampered life of all time--just died, cared for with loving hands until it was finally time to put him asleep.

My mother says she does not want any more orange cats, and I can accept that now. I don't know why I always brought home orange cats. Five orange cats, all for my mother, or, at least, cats that were to live with her. I have never had an orange cat of my own, really, and I will always associate orange cats with her. She loved those orange cats, even kitty, the cat she found a home for when she knew ours was going to fall apart.


Kandy Shepherd said...

What a wonderful, heartwarming story--about family as much as felines.
The orange cats I have had in my life were wanderers, maybe it's part of their nature. But they had big personalities and were very special.
(I wouldn't mind if my daughter brought one--or two--home!)

Atia Austen said...

Orange cats are different, aren't they? I owned some during my childhood, they were never allowed into the house and I can't remember what happened to most of them.
Last year I found a kitten while heading to my birthday dinner. He is black but on the inside he must be orange, too. I moved to the city some months ago and I had to leave him with my mom and the dog. My baby doesn't like spending the whole day in the house and they need him more since my father moved out. I miss him so much although I see them all weekly.

Jessica Barksdale Inclan said...

Hi, Kandy and Atia--

Orange cats are so different. I'm not sure why. I haven't had a cat in a few years, and I sure do miss them. And maybe it is about time for my mom to get another!

Thanks for commenting.



Virginia said...

We had an orange cat when we were growing up, you don't see them like you use to. Around here now they are mostly grey or black and white!

denise said...

I have an orange cat that is 8 years old. He will disappear for months and then suddenly reappear like he hasn't been gone. I would love to know his adventures. He comes home looking really rough. He is definitely the cat with 9 lives.

Mary said...

That was a wonderfulk heartwarming and sad story. I always loved animals and wanted to bring all of them home too. My daughter brought home so many dogs and cats over the years and we had to either find their real homes or find homes for them because she is allergic to both dogs and cats, but it never stopped her from playing with them.

Jessica Barksdale Inclan said...

Cats do have nine or more lives. Thank you Virginia, Denise, and mary for adding your cat lore to the blog comments.

Cats have found me often, and I've been waiting for one to do so again. However, I am also thinking of getting some chickens, and I feel that they might not mix well together!



Michele L. said...

What an interesting story about cats. I have never owned one since I am allergic to them. I still like them though. Cats sure have a fun personality and are so self sufficient! It always seems like cats gravitate to me so maybe I should have one?

Have a wonderful Sunday!

Jessica Barksdale Inclan said...

Thanks, Michele! You, too.



Sue A. said...

My life has only had black cats. I recently had to see one euthanized after having taken over the care of it for five months. I don't want to ever go through that again. I don't have your strength to bring another cat into my life and have to let it go over and over again. But I do miss having a cat in my life, they each have their own personalities and quirks that make then so loveable and unique.

Jessica Barksdale Inclan said...

Hi, Sue--

I had to put down two cats, a year apart. Both were cats from my marriage, and each time, it felt as though more than the cat was going. So sad. My good friend is the vet who did the procedure for both cats, and she's the one who told me to get chickens. So I think I will take her advice.