Last of the Cat Tribe
Ungodly howls emanated from the pet carrier, making 20-minute the ride across town seem to last forever. I watched Mike intently for any indication he might pull over and leave me on the side of the road with my cat. Poking my fingers through the air holes, I attempted to comfort the distraught animal.
"He sounds like a fire truck," Mike grumbled. The only pauses between the gray tabby’s wails were when he refilled his lungs for the next bellow. I suggested rolling down the windows to see if other motorists would pull over upon hearing our ‘siren’. We tried it, but traffic refused to cooperate.
Combining our households would prove interesting. He was a ‘dog person’ and I am a ‘cat person’ complete with two felines who had no idea what a dog was. Mike and his Pomeranian were outnumbered.
Sim-Sim was lifted from the box and introduced to the bouncy, spinning pooch. He didn’t know enough to be spooked; perhaps imagining Jingles was just a very homely looking cat. The howling had ceased and my husky cat began exploring his new surroundings.
"One more cat to go," I sighed. We set out again with the pet carrier.
It was Jasmine’s turn to go for a ride. She was a tiny-boned, delicate Lynx Point Siamese who came installed with the most obnoxious voice imaginable. Jasmine also had a nervous stomach, causing frequent accidents when startled or upset. (I conveniently forgot to mention that little quirk to Mike.) Other than an occasional blast of air past those Siamese vocal chords, this transport went smoother. Even the introduction to Jingles took place without any gastrointestinal mishaps. Despite being energetic and full of play, Jingles never molested the cats.
Our zoo coexisted peacefully, although Mike had the most adjustments to make. He was stuck with a litter-box in what was once his private bathroom and now two adults plus three animals vied for the choicest positions in bed.
The human half of the family coveted additional space, so we built a house and moved a year after our lives blended (somewhat) in harmony. The animals demonstrated their appreciation by continuing to crowd us. Two laps and three animals made relaxing on the sofa a contest of speed and determination. It was our nightly version of musical chairs.
Jingles passed away at the age of 14, leaving an empty spot in our hearts. Mike missed his little buddy dancing happily underfoot: he had a much longer relationship with the dog than me and I don’t even dance. It took several years before my husband was ready to discuss adopting another Pomeranian, but life has a way of changing the best-laid plans . . . .
When the phone rang, I was so focused on the task at hand I literally jumped.
"What’s up?" Mike inquired.
"Why?" my response was guarded. How could he know? I’d only been home 10 minutes. Are there hidden cameras in the kitchen?
"Someone at work said you called. Is everything okay?"
"Um . . . fine, but I didn’t phone," I stalled. He’s going to find out when he comes home anyway.
"What are you up to?" my dog-loving husband asked in all innocence.
I took a deep breath and casually answered, "I’m just giving a bottle of milk to a kitten.
"There was a significant pause before I heard, "Oh."
"I promise to try and find her a home," I interjected, while mentally compiling a list of people I could count on who would absolutely refuse.
"Where did you find it?" Mike had no doubt we’d just become a three-cat family with no room for a puppy: his puppy.
I had been visiting my father’s house. His acre of property was becoming too much for him to handle. While pulling weeds, I heard a series of loud, desperate cries, guiding me to a gray and white ball of fur under the walnut tree. Her eyes were closed, the umbilical cord still attached, and she fit in the palm of my hand with room to spare. The warmth of my hand silenced the pitiful mewing instantly. I had just experienced love at first sight.
"Better put it back so the mother cat can find it," Dad warned me.
Reluctantly, I placed her among the dry, sepia-brown walnut leaves. The heartbreaking cries began immediately. Something probably happened to her mother while relocating her kittens to a new den and this little one got dropped. Somewhere her cold and hungry litter-mates were probably crying for their mother, too.
Two hours passed and I checked on the kitten before going home. There was still no sign of the mother and I just couldn’t turn my back on her. I became ‘mama’ to a two-day-old, feral kitten. Was it coincidence that she was born on my birthday?
The $20.00 my mother-in-law had enclosed in my birthday card ended up purchasing powdered kitten formula and two nursing bottles. I was blissfully feeding the kitten her first bottle when Mike’s call from work jarred me back to reality.
When Mike arrived home, I held out the kitten, "Isn’t she cute?"
"She’s a cat," Mike stated.
I had been rehearsing strategy all afternoon, "Hold her while I cook dinner."
Mike knew from the beginning there wasn’t any point in discussing whether the kitten was staying or not. I wasn’t entirely sure I was on safe ground until we began considering names. I offered Mike the naming rights. His inspiration was from the exploits of the last survivor of a Native American Nation in northern California known as the Yahi. This remarkable man sought the company of white settlers rather than remain isolated. He became known in literature as Ishi: The Last Yahi.
"I’m calling her Ishi," Mike proclaimed, then added for emphasis, "Last of the Cat Tribe." The message was clear. No more cats.
Jasmine was getting up in years and less than pleased to have a kitten pouncing on her tail. She expressed her irritation with frequent hisses and growls. Three years younger, Sim-Sim was a pacifist. Maybe "sissy" would be more accurate: he was known to cry at the sight of a dead bug. This gentle pussycat befriended Ishi, allowing her to nap next to him. Nighttime sleeping arrangements were another matter.
Mike never allowed any of our pets to sleep between us. They could crowd our feet or cling to the outer edges of the mattress, but not in the middle. Jasmine learned the lesson quickly and chose to sleep next to me on the outside. Sim-Sim tired to bend the rules every once in a while, eventually ending up behind my bent knees. Their personalities were in complete contrast to Ishi’s feral heritage. She was headstrong and the only issue was how long her human servants managed to hold out.
Ishi won the right to jump up on the kitchen counter, which Mike detested. She stood her ground and refused to be intimidated by ‘rules.’ Sim-Sim was slow to learn, but he didn’t forget once Mike got it through his head. Jasmine simply didn’t know the counter top even existed; if something was out of her line of sight, it wasn’t in her world. The right to sleep between us with her head on the pillows was also one of Ishi’s victories. Ironically, if she hadn’t, we wouldn’t have become aware of a developing health problem.