As a child, I loved cats.
However, the title of “Tammy’s Favourite Cat” was dubious since they all died. Natural causes. Alright, semi-natural.
My history with cats is traumatic – and a tad gory. Feline lovers, you might need tissue.
I grew up on a dairy farm in the hamlet of Geysir outside Arborg, Manitoba. Hamlet sounds so quaint.
Our farm was overloaded with cats. In the evening when all 70 to 80 meowed at once – it was Alfred Hitchcock-like A main contributor to the feline population was Puffballs, a tabby tomcat who visited every winter. He’d ship off, and lo’ and behold, the following spring would bring baskets of kittens! Most resembling Puffballs. Luckily, we had a large barn.
Like a beehive has its Queen Bee, we had a monarch cat: Lucky. A sleek and sophisticated tabby with her own sleeping area – and milk bowl. When Lucky birthed kittens, a hush fell across the farm. Lucky’s kittens were coddled – and the first-born was held up by a mandrill … wait, that was The Lion King.
Lucky birthed my first favourite kitten, Rainbow, who was brown with orange dots. We kept Lucky’s kittens in a silicone castle with padded carpet. So, an extra large red plastic crate with straw. One day, I couldn’t find Rainbow. Until I dug into the straw. What kitten dies when they’re barely a month old? The start of the curse.
I moved onto Gizmo, who looked similar to Rainbow.
*Graphic Content Ahead*
Our barn had two portions. Cow stalls and a hay area. When the cows were ushered into the barn, a heavy partition was secured to the walls – a division. Nothing could break down that board.
A cow dispelled the unbreakable myth. The Holstein pushed the board down and bolted into hay portion. Stepping on the board. Which Gizmo was behind before it fell.
After losing Gizmo, I received a house cat. An older tabby named Garfield. He had trouble adapting to barn-life, of course. Our cats were milk-fed. The adult cats ate from the two large containers and the kittens, from a smaller one. Garfield would sit there, licking himself, watching the other cats climbing over each other like they were animals. I’d pour milk into a separate container to appease Garfield. He’d look at me, as though saying, “Thank you, tiny human, for this gruel.”
One day, my dad called the local veterinarian to deliver a calf. After the cow delivered, the vet entered his vehicle, backed up and … there was spray of blood. Apparently, Garfield fell asleep on one of the vet’s tires. At least Garfield went in his sleep?
Next was Cotton. Ah, Cotton. A white short-haired kitten with three orange dots. An orange tail and orange “H” on his face – and one orange paw. I have one photo of Cotton – hidden behind other cats.
Cotton was loyal. He recognized his name. He’d greet me off the bus with my dog, Patches. When I was reading or writing, he’d climb onto my lap and sleep. Outside, of course, because cats weren’t allowed inside.
In 1986, my parents sold our first house. Since they hadn’t moved the television yet, I sneaked Cotton inside. We fell asleep watching The Wonderful World of Disney. I held up Cotton’s paws, and when we woke up, he turned to me, yawning and blinking his sleepy blue eyes.
But on August 20, 1986, Cotton went missing. According to my diary, I searched and searched for him. That October, my sister said she saw Cotton, bloody, as though he’d been in a fight – and he probably went somewhere to die. The following February, my family was driving home from Winnipeg and there was a storm. I cried because I imagined Cotton fighting against the snow – meowing and shivering.
In my mid-30s, I learned the truth. My “legendary” cat history came up – along with Cotton and his death. Death? This is new information! The day Cotton went missing, I also wrote: “… dad killed a skunk, He got sprayed.” I learned this translated to: Cotton verses skunk, Cotton lost, skunk held accountable. Cotton, nine months old, had been buried in our pet cemetery for decades.
I couldn’t imagine another cat jumping into Cotton’s paws. But, a year to the day when Cotton disappeared, Cuddles entered my life. A fluffy, spunky, grey kitten.
Problem was, Cuddles liked to roam. With around 80 cats, they’d stake out sleeping spots. Every barn photo has cats on window ledges or near cow stalls. Cuddles and his brother slept inside a wall.
One October morning, I skipped to the barn to play with Cuddles. I reached into the space. No Cuddles. I told my dad – and not a minute later he found Cuddles.
Cuddles, true to his name, decided to cuddle with a cow. It’d been a chilly night and the cows were kept inside. The cow must have turned over in her sleep. Again, at least Cuddles died in his sleep.
Cuddles was my last favourite cat. I thought maybe his brother? I could name him Cuddles II. But he kept hissing at me. Point taken.
There’s a beautiful orange cat who keeps jumping onto my veranda. He’s the neighbourhood cat, a.k.a., homeless. He likes tuna, salmon – and really likes the tuna from Subway. He came by last week, and I gave him a can of cat food I had on standby. Just in case he dropped by. I’ve been told not to feed him, but I’m not letting him starve. I named him Shane since he’s the twin of my childhood cat of the same name. That Shane escaped the “Tammy’s Favourite Cat” curse.
But I can’t keep this Shane. First, I rent my home, and I’m not allowed pets. Second, cats shed. And third, once Shane becomes “Tammy’s Favourite Cat,” it would substantially shorten his life span.
I couldn’t lose another cat. Not for the eighth time. Yes, eight.
I didn’t mention Cotton II and Candy Floss.
If you find a stray cat, here are tips from D’Arcy’s Animal Rescue Centre
D’Arcy’s is a no-kill shelter.