There was a cat show in town this weekend, and it got me to thinking about Grace, a cat who wandered into my life in 1995, and stayed for a decade and a half. My Mother and sisters always had cats around, but until Grace came along, cats were somewhat shady characters that you had to be careful around, as they were armed with claws and incredibly sharp teeth that would be wielded at the slightest provocation. My childhood experiences with cats might have had something to do with my general disinterest in them as pets.
When I was about 11 or 12, we had a mamma cat, and in the course of (a short period of) time, we had more. We whittled the resulting herd down to two, the original mamma cat, and one of her daughters. The daughter cat was nice enough, but Mamma cat was a hellion. We named her “Endora”, after Samantha’s mother on the 60’s TV show “Bewitched”. Endora came to an ignoble end, when we had to have her put down after she attacked one of my sister’s friends, and the injuries required stitches. Up until that point, she had only been unfriendly, but the attack sealed her fate.
Other cats came and went through the years. I remember Sam, a Siamese-mix that was a good household pet. It was strange, at the end of his life, when he suffered a stroke, and his personality was suddenly gone. His body was alive, but when you looked into his eyes, there was no “Sam” there anymore. My Mother and sisters have had cats continuously, but Sam was the last one I was fond of personally.
Fast forward to 1995. I was working at my current job, as a 9-1-1 dispatcher at the Tulare County Sheriff’s Office. At the time, there was a feral cat colony living at the county complex, subsisting on trash and whatever rodent-type critters they might catch. We might have also been buying them cat food and feeding them during the graveyard shift, but you didn’t hear that from me. Eventually, the county “solved” the problem, and I don’t want to know how.
Before they did, one evening I was returning from my dinner break, when one of the young cats, who usually scattered whenever any of us came near them, came up to me, as if to introduce herself. She wasn’t a kitten, but was not a fully grown cat, either. I didn’t expect that she would let me pet her, let alone pick her up, but she did. I petted her for a bit, then put her down, intending to go in to finish my shift. She immediately began rubbing my legs, and made no attempt to leave. I picked her up, took her in with me, and called my roommate to come get her, as we had just been adopted by a cat.
After about a week, I named her Grace. It was short for ‘graceless’. After she had been at my house for a few days, I began noticing an apparent impairment. She would be walking across the carpet (very low cut), and stumble. She would go to jump up onto the couch and miss, hitting her chin on the cushion as she tumbled to the floor. She would eventually get on the couch, only to fall off as she walked along it’s back. I thought my cat had no sense of balance!
She finally figured it out, however, and her inglorious first days were soon forgotten. She actually earned her short name, and could navigate as well as any other cat.
For the first few years, she was independent, and like most cats, aloof. She would accept petting, but only on her terms, at times of her own choosing. To much would result in claws and teeth, too little with a nasty look that said “I wasn’t done yet!”
In her senior years, she began to become more like a dog (don’t tell her I said that, if you ever run across her ghost), wanting to jump up into my lap whenever I was on the couch, usually watching TV. When she was about ten, I went on a road trip of about two and a half weeks, and when I returned she followed me around the house for about four hours, with a plaintive meow, that sounded like “you’re not going to leave me again, are you???” She was even more clingy after that.
Still, she was a good cat. As the picture above shows, she liked to sit on the back of my desk chair, leaning on my back, and looking over my shoulder as I fiddled around on the computer. I would write a blog as she sat there, and sometimes I’d look at her and say “what do you think? Does that work for you?”
Most times, she’d just look back at me, and give me a look that said “you’re asking a cat for a critique of your blogging? Really?” Other times she’d look at the screen, then back at me, as if to say “you’re going with that? OK, if you think it’s a good idea.”
Even though she had a bowl of fresh water always available, she liked to drink out of the bathroom sink faucet. I’d turn the water on to a trickle, and she’d have her fill. Later, I’d find her curled up in the sink, looking at me as if to say “what?” She would sleep at the foot of my bed, and never once put her claws into the waterbed mattress (unlike another cat back when I was living at home). Sometimes I’d wake up, and find her laying on the pillow next to me.
It was a sad time when I discovered a tumor growing in her lower jaw. She was finding it difficult to eat, even when I switched her to wet food. She was also unable to groom herself, something intolerable for a cat. I took her to the vet, and we decided there was nothing that we could do, so I had her put down. (I hate the term “putting to sleep”. It’s not sleep. They aren’t going to wake up.) Grace was with me for 15 or 16 years, and I don’t think there will be another like her.
Here’s to you, Grace. You were a good cat, and I’m glad that out of all the humans you ran across, you picked me to adopt.