I’m a cat lover. I have been my whole life. And probably in many previous lives. In honor of April 11th being “National Pet Day”, I wanted to share not about Max, my super charged tuxedo cat who inspired my line of Meet Max® greeting cards, but, of an ordinary outdoor female tabby cat who shaped my cat loving behavior. My “Mama cat”.
Oh the wonderful 1970’s. I used to draw cute kitten faces and, if “Fashion Plates” had cat faces or cat prints to rub off, I would have been all over that. When my parents switched me to art classes instead of piano lessons (passive-aggressive behavior ruled in my favor here) I would draw them even more. Which leads to “Mama cat”. She got her name because she would produce a couple of litters a year. She did those special cat things like leave the trophy mouse or mole at the front door and, because there were no “leash laws” back in the 70’s, would chase the roaming neighborhood dog off of our yard. She was untouchable – tough and often had battle wounds, but, with time, I won her over by continuously trying to pet her and letting her come to me when she was ready. After much waiting on my part, she finally got comfortable on my lap as I sat on the driveway with my back leaning against the space between the garage doors – I remember my legs falling asleep and the blacktop below them feeling so cold - even in my plaid, bell bottomed, corduroy pants. I didn’t want to disturb her and ruin the precious moment by shifting. It was a most triumphant moment for me!
Being a “Mama”, she obviously was not spayed - something I never questioned my parents about - and, therefore, I was the one standing in front of the local Caldor with a shopping cart containing a cardboard box of 4-5 kittens to give away. Good thing I was a cute-ish kid, in an imp-ish sortof way, and, was toting an exceptionally cute product. I managed to find homes for them all. However, it was not my best moment in life. Thanks Mom and Dad. But, I digress.
In 1983 we moved from Peekskill, NY to Hudson, Ohio. Mama cat was my friend for 14 years, and, because she was older, and not accustomed to being an indoor cat, we LEFT HER BEHIND. It took me a very long time to forgive my parents for that. I cried not only from the change of moving IN THE MIDDLE OF MY JUNIOR YEAR OF HIGH SCHOOL WHEN A BOY ACTUALLY “LIKED ME BACK” but, also leaving behind so many other special things. Like, our Mama cat. My parents, being 1970's cat parents, were not like how I am and probably how you are, with our pet’s annual vet check ups, special treats, special toys and letting them get away with sitting in the dish strainer (of which, I’m sure you are guilty of too). And, I can’t be angry with that. They gave her what they could. She had a place she could call “home” for 14 years. We fed her, gave her a warm, dry, indoor space. She had leftovers of kielbasa and sauerkraut. It was just not the same as what I give my cats now....BUT, in addition to my four indoor cats I currently love, I also have a few outdoor cats who, remind me of Mama cat and, I can see that they are so appreciative of what I give them. My lesson learned is to do my best to “TNR” (trap, neuter return - with the help of my local rescue team) every random cat that makes themselves at home in our yard so that there’s no need to go through the stressful experience of trying to find homes for them with individuals or, within already crowded shelters. More on my "TNR" experiences in a later post!
So, Mama cat from Peekskill, NY - a shout out to you on National Pet Day - I give you a BIG “Thanks!” for shaping me into the human Mama cat I am today!