Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Snow in Silence: My Solitary Cat

I never had a pet before. One day a friend, who lived in the country and who had a house overrun with cats and other critters, called and told me he had one for me.

"She's very pretty," he said. "She's all white and has one brown eye and one blue eye. I have to tell you something, though; she's deaf."

I once wanted a cat, when I was a child. My sister had Persians, several of them, and my brother had a dog and a duck. I asked for a pet cat and was told no, there were too many animals around the place as it was. I was disappointed, but had long since learned I would probably not get what I asked for in situations like this. A few days later Mama relented and said I could regard one of my sister's cats as mine--feed him and look after him and see how that went.

It didn't go particularly well, because, although I tried--I did feed him--he was already a full-grown cat. He never knew he was mine and he went on his with his life as usual. Pretty soon I did too.

Years later, like 40 years later, I had moved back to my hometown and wished for a cat again. My husband didn't want to be bothered, and Mama sided with him for some reason. She told me over and over I shouldn't want a cat, and one day she gave me a stuffed animal and said, "Here's your cat." I was nearly 50 years old. I really don't know why she was so opposed to my having a pet. But clearly she was.

Now here was a cat being dropped on my doorstep. She had literally been left on my friend's doorstep and he said he thought I needed her. She was very beautiful--and the first night she walked through my house, every corner, and nodded her approval. That night she settled on the lower right corner of my bed, near my feet. She slept there every night that we lived in that house. I named her Snow. I loved her immediately.

She was a delicate creature, but I built a cat door so she could go outside at night if she wanted, and she learned how to use it. She came back with fleas, of course, and I was bothered by them all the time. She was young, probably about six months. I loved seeing her romp and chase her tail. At last I understood the joy cat owners felt. I loved coming home to her, and got used to the early-morning wakeups and nighttime prowls.  At one point a feral cat found her in the night and bit her pretty badly. I took her to the vet for her regular innoculations and flea treatments, and found a kennel to keep her when I had to travel. It was a wrench to leave her in one of those cages for a week, but I was always glad to see her when I returned.

She was a troublesome cat, really. Being deaf she didn't respond to my voice, and she seemed to live in a world of her own. I moved from the house where she had fit so well, and my new house was infested with rats. That was most disturbing. I put out glue traps but was much more afraid that Snow would get caught in one than I was reassured that the rats would. She couldn't hear them scratching so she didn't chase them, which might have scared them out of the house. That certainly would have been preferable to glue traps.

She didn't seem to have the usual stomach meter that I thought cats had; she overate and in time got very heavy and logy looking. Everything about her made me feel guilty.

I knew when I decided to move to a different part of the country that I couldn't take her. I'd be in a city; I'd be in small quarters; and I was likely to move again several times. (It turned out that I moved three times in five years.) I found a family who wanted her, but I felt very insecure about how they'd take to her. They were a single mom and two little girls. When I left her with them she was very agitated and scared, and, never having had a cat before, the children closed in on her and made matters worse. The hope I clung to was that the mother told me they had a close friend who was a cat lover; I could only pray that he would help them all with the transition.

I missed her enormously but dared not call them about her. I didn't want to hear. I had to let her go. I did notice that the itchy eyes and runny nose I'd been thinking was a pollen allergy disappeared shortly after I gave her away. I had been allergic to cats all along and never knew it.

There is something unearthly about a cat. The ancient Egyptians knew this, and every cat owner knows it too. Cats are self-contained, elegant, mystical even. Snow was all these things, more unreachable because of the deafness, and more magical because of the two-colored eyes. She was quirky, temperamental, challenging. There is still a nagging doubt that creeps in my mind in the night, when I think of that cat. She had my number, and still does; when I remember her, I can't help wondering if I was worthy. She still has a piece of my heart.


  1. We all feel unworthy of our cats. They like it that way.

  2. That white kitten was discovered to be the source of weird plaintiff emergent screeching in our tractor shed. Our other two cats, TRcat now deceased and Patchcat now semi geriatric and
    set in her ways, wouldn't go near as I searched. They seemed curious yet standoffish. Discovering the kitten , I extracted her from her hiding place under a work table piled with leftovers from many rural type projects. She was dirty seemed desperate, continuing the odd feline sounds.
    She was barely a handful. My wife and I did not know the kitten was deaf. She was not
    fearful nor trying to escape as feral cats do, but continued to cry. She did not appear to be injured, just a bit dirty. Becky , my wife, got a bowl of cat food and a bowl of milk
    and put it on the back porch. The complaining stopped . The eating began. That wee puss
    finished off two bowls of food and the bowl of milk almost without taking a breath. Then she leapt atop the kitchen window air conditioner. She peered inside making a different odd cry, one that sounded hopeful and thankful. Our two feline denizens still stayed away glaring , ears back a bit making their own evaluation apparently..... kill that alien thing now! is what I saw in them. Becky and I cuddled the kitten while considering what to do. We thought maybe she had just wandered from home or possibly got left by folks moving away...grrrr. It was decided to find a home for the kitten. During this time, when the kitten did not respond to verbal cat cooing that we discovered her deafness. I experimented by clapping my hands over her while she ate again. There was no response at all. Reading up on cats, we found that most with one brown , one blue eye are deaf. Who better than a fellow Gemini of two minds would be a match for the
    kitten. ML, like I am, is Gemini and had no pets. A small degree of coaxing her and her brother's
    influence ended in adoption trial. Trial,ha! Mary Lois had rounded up cat survival items like toys, food-water dish, and litter box before we arrived with the kitten , who turned out quite clever
    and independent in her short stay with us. Mary Lois' tale resumes here except for a bit of
    embellishment. That kitten seemed to get the skinny of adoption when we put her on the floor at
    Mary Lois' house. Kitten took a quick bath and walked causally through every room and hallway, unafraid, like on one of those museum tours with a headset. Returning to us three, the kitten
    passed by me and Becky to jump of the arm of the Morgan chair where Mary Lois sat.
    She nuzzled Mary Lois' hand and turned to me as if to say, "This will doo just fine. You can go now." We all felt good anticipating a positive relationship had begun. Since then, I have learned that cats can hear/sense movement through their feet, a boon for the worlds fiercest predator, even a deaf one.
    through their feet

  3. Loved your blogpost, Mary Lois. I grew up with dogs and disliking cats until a young cat, barely more than a kitten, wandered in off the street and adopted me one day when I was in my thirties. It was as though she'd been sent to me by a higher power. Of course, I didn't look at it that way at first. While I felt sorry for this apparently homeless cat, I intended to surrender her to the animal shelter if she stuck around even though I knew what her likely fate would be there. But she did stay around and that night, she wiped out a family of mice that lived in the attic of my garage, and I knew that I was going to keep her. I named her Hypatia after the legendary female polymath who lived in ancient Alexandria. Given the fate of the real Hypatia, maybe that wasn't such a great idea.

    Anyway, I knew nothing about cats until I had Hypatia. But I was surprised at how attached she became to me and I to her. I'd heard that cats are quite aloof to their human masters, but she followed me around the house and outside like a dog, and she'd chase me around the house like one too if I played with her. Sometimes I'd walk up the street at night to the 7-11, and she'd wait outside for me to come out, and then she'd follow me back to the house. And she loved to talk when people called her name and talked to her. I came to love her dearly. Which is why it broke my heart a couple of years later when she went missing one morning and a neighbor came to my door later on. I knew instantly even before talking to her what she had come to tell me. Sure enough, she'd found Hypatia lying dead beside the street close to the house. She'd apparently been hit by a car as she crossed the street. Thank God she wasn't mangled the way I've seen other cats after they've been hit!

    Since then, I've had five more cats, including two who've lived with me now for several years, and I love cats so much I wouldn't even think of having a dog or any other kind of pet, and I wonder how I could have ever disliked cats. They are so extraordinarily graceful and enigmatic, and I love it!

    By the way, if you REALLY love cats and want to learn more about them, there's a great book about them called "Cat Sense" by "anthrozoologist" John Bradshaw, who's also written a similar book called "Dog Sense." I'm still reading "Cat Sense," but it's jam packed with fascinating information about cats' ancestry, history, biology, behavior...you name it. I highly recommend it to any cat lover. http://www.amazon.com/Cat.../dp/B00BKRW528/ref=sr_1_1...

  4. "Cats are a fairly right-wing group politically. They are lovers of the status quo. They don't like anything that might represent change. They hate marriages, divorces, moving days, graduations, bar mitzvahs, bill collectors, rug shampooners, painters, plumbers, electricians, television repairmen, out-call masseuses, Jehovah's Witnesses, and just about everything else, most of which I agree with them about."

  5. "When you have a cat, you assume certain responsibilities that, in a spiritual sense, may transcend those of a marital or a business relationship."

  6. We had a white kitten with one green and one gold eye appear on our front porch when we lived in Va. Beach in the late 70s. That was when my husband was in the Navy and we had been married about 4 years. She was from a neighbor cat's litter, and they had enough cats, so we took her in. She was our beautiful Abigail: sweet tempered, affectionate, fearless and brave. Because she was an outdoor cat when she came to us, we let her outside, something we didn't do with our second cat. It was a joy to watch her antics in the yard, and in our neighbor's yard with their cats, after we moved to Ann Arbor two years later. Sadly, about a year after our move to Pittsburgh, when I was pregnant with our first child (Susie), Abigail passed away from feline leukemia at age 5. She was probably born with it, the vet said.

  7. She definitely had ownership of you. Cats are like that. They never leave your heart. I can remember every single one who owned me. <3

  8. All creatures are ``sentient beings`` if we look at them carefully and observe their magic.