There was Ginger…and Sassafras…Taffy and Moses. Buckey and Sampson then there was Shadrach…but to top them all….was the most unique cat of them all!
Jasper, the territorial feline. Had a very uninviting hiss. And if you ever met him, he would let you know all this! All of the mail carriers used to laugh and shake their head…until he chased them down the sidewalk to prove they had something to dread… Wow! That’s not too bad for not putting much thought into it! I may have to finish it into a full parody in December (Umm, that’s Monday. Ha).
I’ve always loved having pets. I had many living at home with my parents. Then, when I moved out after starting my teaching career, Sammy (Samson’s nickname) moved out with me. Then, Shadrach was with me a bit, but I was never home at that point due to both teaching full-time and working with collegiate ministry.
Then, there were a few feline-free years. However, when field mice thought they could move in, I decided that cat hair and kitty litter were much preferred over mice droppings! Thus, I adopted a calm kitten from a co-worker of my sister. Soon, his desire to be cuddled or petted as a kitten was pushed away. He developed his PURRsonality, which was like none that I’d ever experienced in a cat. His behaviors and habits became storytelling moments and inspire my model pieces during writing instruction. Then, in the midst of Jasper scaring grown men and chasing mailmen, he triggered me to finally act on a dream. So, even though his life sadly ended almost a year ago, his reputation and stories will endure. Though his 4-book memoir series has concluded, his voice will continue to teach and entertain in my picture books. Jasper, thanks for being the only attack cat on guard duty 24-7 I’ve ever met. I cried when I hung your ornaments, but you’ll be proud of my current felines. They’re enjoying the effects of your tree decorating instructions. Your jingle bells are bringing them great joy!
Within a week of Jasper’s passing, I became the human to two new kittens. One was five months old while the other was only 8 weeks old. RockyTop started with pretty white fur with orange accents (thus the name), but has transitioned into creamish with orange “lowlights” along the edge of his fur. I laughed when I had lowlights added in October as I told my stylist that the color almost matched Rocky’s. Topper was a cute black and white cuddler. Actually, he was a cuddler only when he was sleepy. Then he’d nuzzle my neck, cheek, or chin. On their instagram posts, I had him call me “Mama” due to his toddler behavior. He reminded me of little ones I’ve babysat who had no desire to be held or cuddled UNLESS they were ready to nap or go to bed. Speaking of instagram, Rocky refers to me as PoofyHair because as he’d sleep above my head on my recliner, he’d often sniff through my hair. Perhaps, my poofy hair reminded him of his mom or life on the farm before he came to be an inside cat in downtown Madison?
Anyway, I was shocked in August when HillTopperwas playing on the bed at 7 while I made the bed, then playing with Rocky in the living room, then….gone by 8. His sudden passing has triggered what I have named Feline-Death-Paranoia. Poor Rocky has been awakened from more naps than he’d care to lose due to my suddenly yelling his name to ensure he’s still breathing. This morning, as I looked for photographs for my blog post, tears fell when I got to ALL of Topper’s photos. They were either of him playing with Rocky or him nuzzling my neck during his naps. What a sweet and playful kitten he was. HillTopper may have not been here long, but his impact on my heart was great. He & Rocky proved that felines can choose to cuddle and be lovable. After more than a decade of Jasper’s aloofness, it was a welcome change. For his cuddly disposition, I am thankful
Losing a pet is never easy whether you’ve had them a few months, a few years, or over a decade. However, to avoid Rocky becoming territorial like Jasper had been, I decided to get another cat “in a week or so”. Well, that same day a friend posted about a litter of kittens who needed homes. She specifically mentioned a black cat who had had a home for a small time, but due to too many pets, it came back. She shared how all it wanted was to be held and due to her allergy…she couldn’t oblige. So, my methodical planning went out the door, and I went to give this outdoor stray kitten an inside home.
I was so out of sorts with the suddenness that I referred to him as Nameless for several days. I took suggestions from friends. Then, FB friends and a class of third graders voted, and BlackTop became official. [You see, third graders think it makes sense for both cats to have ‘the same last name’.]
RockyTop wasn’t so sure about this new roommate. He didn’t warm up as quickly as he did to Topper. Perhaps it’s because he’s older or perhaps it’s Blackie’s unique spirit. The poor kitten isn’t the brightest bulb in the bunch, but what he lacks in cat smarts he makes up with in feline enthusiasm.
Rocky? He’s my walking cottonball who loves to eat! I’m talking…he may love food more than sleeping which says a lot for a cat. The funny thing is….until recently, he’d never put a cat treat in his mouth. As you can see by the picture, anything that I eat seems good for him to try (Don’t worry…I always research whether the items are safe before sharing.) Just like Jasper, he lets me know when it’s time to be fed. Only where Jasper would literally nip my ankles, Rocky meows. Then, the volume increases just like on some alarm clocks. He’s all about his food!
He has other similarities to Jasper as well. He has turned on his predator skills. I believe there must be an intruder somewhere in these walls, as he’s often on full alert. Between him and Blackie, I’m confident that I won’t have to assist like I did with Jasper. Perhaps it’s because they both lived outside prior to moving in with me. Who knows.
A final similarity between RockyTop and Jasper is the welcome home they extend me. At least once a week, I’d find Jasper’s face in the window as I’d walk up to the door. A few weeks ago, I saw this pretty boy beckoning me to pet him. He wasn’t quite sure how to get through the glass to me. As soon as I opened the bedroom door, he came running….right through the living room and to the kitchen, where he meowed for a scoop of food. Yep, the boy loves to eat.
The most noticeable thing about Rocky are his pretty blue eyes, but close your eyes and you’ll know he’s still there. Why? His motor is loud enough to hear across the room. What a sweet boy he is! Yes, I’m thankful for this MEOWvelous roomie.
My students ask if my new cats will get to write books too. To which I say, of course! I hope “Tales from Two Kitties” will begin next summer. I told my class that I need to “learn” Rocky & Blackie’s voices, so I can write as them. So far, Rocky is the smart one who loves to eat. (Did I mention that?) BlackTop is the not-so-bright little brother with a bushy tail and loud meow. I kid you not…when I first got him I didn’t know if I could get used to how loud his meow was. Thankfully, as he adjusted to life with Rocky and me, his volume decreased. Funny thing is, that his hearing must be extraordinary. Why? If I call Rocky’s name or give an “air smooch” to him, BlackTop will come running from wherever he’s been and do a running jump up onto my chair. Hmmm, I think he may be a little attention-seeking.
Yes, I am thankful to be “the cat lady”. No, I don’t want another cat, though I’ve been offered countless since becoming a 2-cat home. Yes, I talk to them. Who knows if they understand, but eventually I bet they’ll figure some things out just like Jasper did. So, as my final thankful thought…I’m honored to be the human who shares her home and her heart with two sweet felines.
So, for what are you thankful? Perhaps, as Jasper suggests in “his” memoirs, you could consider giving a cat or kitten a home. I know for certain that the animal shelter near you will have one who is waiting for YOU! Think about it. I think it’s a PAWSitively MEOWvelous idea!