Or how I learned to live with my Mother’s obsession with Cats.
Everyone has one in their family. Oh, you may not know it, or you may just ignore it, but they are there. Cat lovers. No…obsessed cat lovers. Meaning, if the house is on fire? They will let you know after they get the cats out first. Well, unless of course, they need your help first to round them up. Which they probably will, so, you’re safe.
It’s not like cat lovers are bad people, they are actually very loving and caring people. This is typical of any animal lover. Those who care for the welfare of animals, creatures who are by nature or design, mostly defenseless, will likely be kind to other ‘non-animals’. You know, people.
This was my Mother. She had always said you can tell about a person by they way they treated animals. Especially cats. She had, in her youth, left a boyfriend because he did not like cats. My Father loved cats. Well no, he was actually a Dog person, but he got along with cats. Not like he had a choice in the matter.
My earliest memories have to do with animals. I had always been around cats. I know more about cats than any other animal on earth. Mom wanted me to become a veterinarian.
(I had to say no to that, I wanted to make a living, not be her personal veterinarian and live in my parent’s basement till I was in my 40’s)
You realize that you know cats so well, that when I was in high school, during lunch, I could mimic a cat vomiting so well that my friends turned green. I won the “Who Could Gross Out The Table” contest by the way.
My mothers obsession with cats really took off after I graduated high school. I lived at home till I was 23 years of age. Worked odd shifts at starter jobs, came home at odd hours. I can’t tell you how many times I came home, tired from a long day, only to see my mother in her nightgown and robe peering out into the darkness with a flashlight calling for a cat.
Our cat’s had a curfew. I had to help find the cat.
When I graduated high school back in 1982, we had four cats. When I moved out on my own, my mother had six cats. The Clowder or Glaring as a group of cats are called, only grew. By the time my first child came along in 1991, my mother had some 22 cats.
Now my mother wasn’t “nuts” or “crazy”. She didn’t talk to herself…oh wait, she did. But she didn’t exhibit any symptoms that would require a psychologist. She didn’t like psychologist anyways, thought they were just nuts.
She did however, maintain a home, paid her bills, cooked and cleaned, even took on a part-time job after retirement. For the most part, she was a normal as anyone. But cats were a different matter. She had to save them, and by them? I mean every cat that crossed her path.
I remember this cute little short-haired black cat that she fed. See, mom was worried about cats outside, so she left bowls of food outside for the cats. This black cat was nice, very pretty, and well, in need.
“Mom, are you sure that cat is a stray? She looks pretty well fed to me.” I said to her one day when I was over.
“Well did you see how she eats? She’s starved!” My mother would say in a sympathetic voice.
The next time I saw the cat she had a collar on. She belonged to a neighbor. Mom couldn’t figure out why she came over to her house if the cat had its own home. I mentioned that maybe it was because of food she left outside. Mom didn’t think that was it. I suggested bringing in the food at night, she thought that was a bad idea.
Then the gray cat appeared, it was ugly, hairless tail, big bug eyes, really hungry because it just camped out on the back porch and ate all the food. On the second night of this pathetic gray cat’s camp out, my father told her it was an opossum. Mom brought the food in after that.
Stray cats were my mothers passion. Those poor cats that people abandon and left them to fend for themselves. She worried and fussed over them, taking them in, getting them to the vet, making sure they fit in with the clowder. My father and I worried too. I asked my father if I should put out a sign outside his house. “Please stop dropping off your cats at our house”. My father said it would just give out the exact location of the crazy cat lady’s house. He had a point.
One thing about growing up with cats, it made it hard to bring friends over. Not quite to the point of social outcast, but close. The fear? My friends would say something bad about cats. Then I would have to hear about it. If a person didn’t like cats, or animals in general, those were not the sort of people I should be associating with now, should I? Of course there was the whole thing of not wanting people to know either. When you are asked if you mother has cats, yes, 22 at last count, is going to require answers.
“Is your mother crazy?”
“Maybe, define ‘crazy'”
“Well that’s a lot of cats! How much do they cost to feed?”
“About a Micronations yearly budget.”
“How does it smell in her house?”
“I can’t smell, my mother had my nostrils plugged when I was 10.”
Yes it did smell, yes it did cost money to feed the Horde or Clowder (Glaring? That word is just creepy). Yes it was annoying and sometimes embarrassing. Yes, I did think my mom was nuts…back then in my youth.
But you know what? It didn’t matter. Not just because she was my mother. Not just because I knew her life, orphaned at 4 years of age, and then bounced around from family member to family member till she married my father. No, it didn’t matter because of what my mother’s cat fixation taught me.
Everyone needs love.
Everyone needs a home and a place to sit and relax without fear.
Everyone needs a good meal.
Everyone needs to be petted.
I learned that showing kindness is its own reward. To have compassion for those in need, even a stray cat, will empower you to help your two-legged friends down the line.
It may have been a simple lesson to learn, yet it was a powerful lesson.
Ironically, I’m more of a dog person. We do have two cats at my house, also a dog, and two smaller two-legged animals that talk back. Yet I have never forgotten the lessons my crazy cat mother had taught me. Compassion.
It may have been an embarrassment in my youth. It may have been a consternation to my father and the whole family, yet my mothers love for animals, specifically cats, did show her character. She was a caring, loving mother. A good woman. Salt of the earth. As long as you treated cats nicely. If not, well, may God have mercy on your poor soul. Because she wouldn’t.
And not one of us in my family would save you either.