The Night My Cat and I Connected

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I’d always wanted a tortoise-shell cat, and a couple years ago the most attractive one I’d ever seen, a feral cat, lurked occasionally around my property in search of food. This small, beautiful cat was so wild I couldn’t get anywhere near her.

Due to fire, wind, ice, snow, floods, and lack of money, my bathroom leaked like a sieve, the pipes all broke, and the bathtub fell through to the basement. An unsavory assortment of wild beasts squeezed through various holes in the basement and came up into the bathroom from under the bathtub, so I had to keep the bathroom door shut when not using the bathroom.

My little tortie friend also tried many times to come up through the bathtub to visit. If I forgot to keep the bathroom door or the other doors shut, she would walk into the house to explore awhile, and leave again. I didn’t have the heart or the money to feed her, but even that wouldn’t deter her; she always came back. In the past, my dozen or so outdoor cats all came to disastrous ends, and I concluded that, once and for all, I was “bad with animals.” However, I had just turned my life around, paid off all my bills, and no longer wanted to be so negative; I went out and bought cat food July first this year and put it in the bathroom.

After a few days, I was sitting on the john, and to my surprise, she let me touch her. I figured I now had an outdoor cat again, one that had been out there a long time but was still healthy. I decided to name her Bathsheba, since she came up from under my bathtub. Her taming process was very gradual. I got to touch her a few more times, and then one day she rubbed my leg and let out a half-decibel squeak. The next day, she became more vocal. (I thought she was a mute but I was obviously wrong.) I got curious when I saw a handbook on stray and feral cats in the library so I skimmed through that.

Mid-July was the first I noticed that Bathsheba was … pregnant! This threw me into a huge quandary. A fortnight ago I was the proud owner of a single outdoor cat— no strings attached. Now what had I become? I played out every imaginable horrible scenario in my head about the plights of innocent kittens, and also did some math on altering that many cats, and seriously toyed with thoughts on how to stiff them. I thought they would be born in more than a month, but instead they came ten days later, in a junk box on a high shelf in the bathroom closet. I hadn’t firmed up any plans to kill kittens yet, but it soon became clear to me that Bathsheba had very firm plans what to do to me if I so much as looked at her kittens! They started making a lot of noise, so I donned a heavy coat and gloves, grabbed Bathsheba, and locked her in a separate room. I made a nice nest out of a box and an old sheet, and used haircoloring gloves to move the four kittens from out of my possessions to their new nest, and to remove the dead one. They were so small they looked like mice. Whilst I was clearing bricks and cement blocks out back I came across a small piece of a block. I wrote “Perkins 7-25-09” on it; I buried the corpse under a dandelion plant, having no idea why it reminded me of a Perkins.

I put a lot of thought into future cat plans over the next month, and much of that time I spent in a big raging battle with Bathsheba. She left her kittens several times to go beneath the bathtub to do battle with wild animals that tried to come up in the house, and I worried each time she wouldn’t come back. One day, when she was carrying a kitten on the floor, I was trying to block off the closet and accidentally dropped a huge board on them. She tossed the youngster out of harm’s way and took the brunt of the force on herself. She really gave me what for, and I was afraid neither she nor I would ever forgive me. Then one day she tried to leap up into the attic through a hole in the ceiling with a kitten in her mouth, and she fell. I danced the kittens to my bedroom closet floor as she nipped at my ankles the whole way. A few days later she tried to move them to a broken dresser drawer, where one got trapped and I had to remove a board to get it. Then she moved them to my recycle paper box in my family room, so I made them a nest in a cubby hole next to the floor. They’d started crawling, though, so I bought a plank to cut up and fasten onto the cubby hole. That barrier didn’t work so I found a plastic grid for the entrance to that room. Later I realized that the holes were big enough to squeeze through, so I added an adjustable window screen to it. This whole time, Bathsheba was usually vicious towards me, attacking and biting me at every turn. Once, robbed of too much sleep (I get really weird when I’m like that!), I punched her back. I decided never to do that again. She, like me, was trying as hard as she could to cope with the situation. She finally eventually calmed down. I named the calico Party, and the mostly dark gray tom Slate. The other two look like they could be watered-down tortie variants. One has a silver rear half and dark charcoal front half with a slight dark auburn cast on the head. I call her Spacer, a little astronaut, constantly exploring. The other is round and light grey and cream casted with dark spots and striations, named Moon. I decided, at length, to make them all permanently indoor cats.

I didn’t think they’d climb so soon, but late one night, Spacer made it almost to the top of the screen. I ran around gathering materials, fighting off loose kittens seemingly everywhere. “Just … could you … keep them still till I’m done?” I asked Bathsheba quietly. I took a second grid with small holes and crocheted it to the large-holed but rigid grid. The kittens were asleep in a pile when I removed the screen. I put the new gate in place and put the mending strips back on. Bathsheba watched me silently. I know she knew what I was doing, I just know! She briefly nudged the screwdriver on the floor with her paw as if to say, “I got this. Go ahead and finish your work.” I picked up the screwdriver and replaced the screws. “Thank you, Bathsheba. You did a wonderful job. I’m so proud of you.” It’s like we’re really a team now! Most of all … she’s taught me patience.

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