My Tragic Childhood Cat Tales, The Legend is True – A Flashback Friday Repost

Time for a Flashback Friday post!
Originally posted on April 5, 2018. One of my favourite posts. Cat lovers, proceed with caution.

As a child, I loved cats.

However, the title of “Tammy’s Favourite Cat” was dubious because they all died. Natural causes. Alright, semi-natural.

My history with cats is traumatic – and a tad gory. Feline lovers, you may require 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. Then 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 throughout 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.

Gizmo, far right-hand side. Isn’t he adorable. Just look at the fear in his eyes.

*Graphic Content Ahead*

Our barn had two portions. Cow stalls and the hay area. When the cows were ushered into the barn, a heavy partition was secured to the walls to keep them from running towards the delicious hay. Nothing could break down that board.

A cow dispelled the myth. The Holstein pushed the board down, barging into the hay part. Stepping on the board. And subsequently on Gizmo, who was prancing behind the partition. Wrong place, wrong time.

After losing Gizmo, my mom’s friend gave me an adult house cat, Garfield. However, my mom refused to allow animals inside the house, and Garfield was sequestered to the barn. He couldn’t adapt, and he’d snub the other cats. At feeding time, he’d sit on his haunches, watching adult cats lap milk from two 24″ x 12″ containers. Eyeing kittens in disgust as they dipped their tongues into a bowl. Garfield would stare at the uncivilized cats, climbing over each other like animals. I’d pour milk into a separate container to appease Garfield. He’d look at me as though saying, “Thank you, insignificant human, for this gruel.”

One day, my dad called the local veterinarian to assist with a difficult delivery. Unfortunately, the calf died after its birth. When the vet was leaving, he backed up and saw a spray of blood. He leapt from the vehicle, and … well … first the calf, then my cat.

Garfield had fallen asleep on one of the tires. At least he went in his sleep.

“Pretend you’re sleeping, and she won’t pick us.”

Next was Cotton. Ah, Cotton. A short-haired white 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. If I’d only known Cotton’s future, I would’ve taken him for a photoshoot. He was that beautiful.

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 before my parents sold our first house, I sneaked Cotton inside. The television hadn’t been moved, and 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. But I knew he was out there – somewhere. 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? Well, this was new. 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, who was nine months old, had been buried in our pet cemetery for decades. Yes, we lost enough cats and dogs to warrant a pet cemetery.

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.

Cuddles, August 1987 – October 1987. Look at that fluffiness!

Calves were in another section of the barn, and I found Cuddles in a space under the wall. I made sure there was straw inside so he was comfortable. And I’d bring him – and his brother – their own tray of milk.

There were approximately eighty cats, and they’d stake out sleeping spots. Every barn photo shows cats on window ledges or on the slats that separated the cows. Each night, I made sure Cuddles was safe under the wall. However, Cuddles was a roamer, and I’d practically stuff him into his little haven. But he’d rather wonder around the barn at night than sleep on a pillow of straw.

But one October night, I didn’t check on Cuddles.

The next morning, I skipped into the barn to play with Cuddles. I reached into the wall, and I pulled out his brother. Not Cuddles. I told my dad, and less than 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 while in REM. 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.

“Guess who’s back! Have any salmon?”

There’s a beautiful orange cat who keeps jumping onto my veranda. He’s the neighbourhood cat, a.k.a., homeless. He likes salmon, tuna – especially 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 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.

I couldn’t lose another cat. Not for the eighth time. Yes, eighth.

I didn’t mention Cotton II and Candy Floss.

They died.