“All of the animals except for man know that the principle business of life is to enjoy it.” ~Samuel Butler
“Thousands of years ago, cats were worshipped as gods. Cats have never forgotten this.” ~Anonymous
As a child, I always wanted a dog. But my family opted for a more low-maintenance pet that didn’t require daily walks, and this is how we became “cat people”. When I was six years old, we got our first cat – a black and white kitten I named Lucy. Shortly thereafter, following a proper anatomical exam, the kitty was re-christened Lou C.
Lou C was a good cat; not a friendly one, but kind. Looking back on his life now, I realize that the poor thing had a six-year-old (me) who always wanted to pick him up, carry him around, or dress him up, and a teenager (my brother) whose friends probably tormented him when my mother and I weren’t looking. No wonder he always wore a look of resignation like a wise old man who just wanted to be left alone!
When Lou C was about 3 or 4, we brought home an orange tiger-striped kitten I named Tigger. I honestly don’t remember how or why we got a second pet, but poor Tigger was like that oddball relative that you take care of with some embarrassment because you’re afraid that others might realize he’s related to you. I think Tigger was “mentally challenged” and/or brain-damaged, perhaps from running full-speed straight into our glass patio door as a kitten. He looked a little stunned afterwards, and he was a little “slow” forevermore. One oddity about Tigger…as any cat-owner knows, cats are meticulously clean. Except for Tigger, the dirtiest (or perhaps just the laziest) cat I ever met.
I can only imagine what Lou C, a cat whose cleanliness rivaled Felix Unger of The Odd Couple fame, thought of this young, dumb, sloppy addition to the family. They co-habited mostly peacefully. But they really were close to the Odd Couple characters with Tigger’s sloppiness and Lou C’s fastidiousness. Lou C even had high class tastes; he loved shrimp, but turned his nose up at good old cat food.
Lou C was a cat true to all of the cat-stereotypes – he merely tolerated our presence in his home. All of us, that is, except for the one person in the house who disliked him immensely – my grandmother. Or at least she claimed to loathe him – I could never really tell. But I have a vivid memory that sums up her relationship with Lou C. After my grandmother lost her leg around the age of 72, she learned to walk with a prosthesis and a cane. As she would make her way down the stairway to the living room, Lou C would magically appear from his eternal hiding place, start to purr (!), and wrap himself around her legs – both real and prosthetic – meowing his undying love. At the same time, she would be cursing in Polish and trying to push him down the steps with her cane. If only we had video cameras back then, the pair would be a YouTube legend today.
When Lou C was about 10 he became ill, and one day while I was at high school both cats “went away”. It was hard for my parents, but harder on me. We didn’t speak for a while.
About six years later, perhaps still feeling the guilt trip I laid on her, my mother and I adopted another kitten from a vet’s office where my friend worked. Abandoned, flea-ridden, with ears too big for his body, he looked a little pathetic. Because of the ears, I wanted to call him Yoda, but my mother named him Stanley.
Stanley grew out of his big ears and became a lovable cat. The only person to whom he showed any overt affection was my (our) mother. He’d sit in her lap in the mornings – something no Pointkouski cat ever willingly did before. Stan had a few memorable quirks… First, if my mother went out for an extended number of hours, he’d basically have a fit. He’d race at lightening speed up and down the three floors of our home over and over until he was panting and exhausted. Upon her return, he’d do the same, and then she’d be ignored for hours so she got the “message” that he was displeased.
Next, if anyone visited our house who was either allergic to cats, afraid of cats, or disliked cats, he’d become their new best friend. He’d jump on their laps (he never did this on any other occasion to anyone) or plant himself right by their side. If you were a cat-lover, you were ignored. I wonder how he knew.
An interesting feat is that Stanley would play fetch like a dog. Not with a stick, but with a small piece of bakery-tissue paper tied up into a ball-like shape. This was a “mousie”, and if he was in the mood he’d retrieve it when I threw it and bring it back to me for more.
I’ve been told that EVERY DAY, fifteen minutes before I was due to return home from work or grad school, Stanley would sit in the window, look down the street, and wait. As my car turned the corner on to the street, he’d return, satisfied, to his sleeping spot and ignore me after I walked in the front door. But he would occasionally show how much he cared by sharing part of the sofa with me while I watched tv.
Unfortunately, Stanley also developed an illness when he was 10. His death was hard on all of us; it still brings tears to my eyes nine years later.
Pets are, despite their quirks, part of the family. We had a few others over the years, like P.D. the rabbit and Georgia the cockatiel (in between cats). But the 3 cats lived with us the longest and felt more like “family” – becoming personalities as real as the fickle old uncle who feigns dislike of everyone, the “few watts short” cousin always needing help, or the grandfather with the gruff exterior but the heart of gold. These “personalities” living with us may not be human, but they are family. Hopefully my ancestors had furry or feathery family members, too – they certainly add to the family dynamic!
[This post was written for the Golden Jubilee Edition – the 50th! – Carnival of Genealogy: Family Pets. I’d like to thank Jasia for these creative topics. They may not have much to do with the how-to’s of genealogy, but writing about my cats or my cars is something I never would have done otherwise…but SHOULD have done because it brought me great joy.]