Throughout my childhood, my family had many pets; primarily cats and dogs with a rabbit or two in the mix. Most were strays, looking for a place to call home, which we were happy to provide. While caring for our animals, I discovered that I preferred cats over dogs. Don’t get me wrong, dogs are cute and lovable but needy and dependent, unlike cats, who are independent and cannot be bothered unless they are looking for attention. I can honestly say that my love for cats has not changed and my heart will always belong to them.
Since we have been married, my husband and I have welcomed four cats into our family. At first, my husband did not want to have any pets, let alone a cat, but once he met our first cat, lovingly nicknamed Monster, he quickly fell in love.
Monster was our first cat as a married couple. His fur was all black, except the white on his tummy and the symmetrical white stripe on the length of his nose. We picked him up from a friend when he was six weeks old. I remember the ride home and how frightened he was as we drove on the freeway. He quickly crawled from my lap onto my shoulders, then wrapped around the back of my neck and held on tight until we arrived home. Ever since that day, we developed a bond that was so strong no one could interfere.
He grew up to be a big cat and was very territorial. Roaming around the neighborhood, he was always getting into trouble which led to him getting hurt. One night, after getting into an awful fight and barely making it home, we decided to make him an indoor cat. Years later, he developed diabetes, which required insulin shots and blood sugar checks. Daily, he allowed me to prick the veins in his ear to check his blood glucose levels, followed immediately by insulin. We had an undeniable bond, and he trusted me unconditionally, right up until the moment we said our final goodbye, 14 years later.
When Monster was about two years old, The Sweet One, also six weeks old when HE came into our lives, was found, running in the middle of our street, behind our neighbor, as he walked around the block. My husband, yep, the one who didn’t want a cat, scooped him up and brought him home. I was pleasantly surprised by his rescue and elated to have another cat in our house.
Covered in black fur with a white chest and white paws, The Sweet One was small and fragile, probably the runt of the litter. He was sweet, affectionate, and determined to survive, so full of spunk and love. Monster, who ruled the house, was not too happy about having another cat in HIS home and frequently annoyed The Sweet One, who didn’t let that bother him; he remained calm and happy to be part of the family.
When he was about six years old, he developed a heart condition called Cardiomyopathy. After years of living with this condition, his heart finally gave out, causing his unexpected departure. Fortunately, he gave us 12 enjoyable years.
Several years later, Pretty Girl came into our lives. Her fur is brown, beige, white, and symmetrical throughout. Part Siamese, she has the bluest eyes which, add to her beauty. She came to us by a friend who found her in the gutter of their complex. She, too, was about six weeks, abandoned and determined to survive. The instant we saw her, we were in love. We knew she was the perfect fit for our family.
She is different than the boys; I often say she is like a dog because she wants to be with and around us most of the time. She likes to play chase, not with an object, but with people, often with us chasing HER around the house. When I cook dinner, she sits in the kitchen, on her barstool, watching me cook. When dinner is done, she gets her own plate, usually filled with chicken and she eats dinner with us. I could go on and on about all the cute things she does, but that is another story. Daily she brings us happiness, endless love, and entertainment.
Shy One, another abandoned cat, came into our lives when Pretty Girl was about five years old. He was an older cat, who I believe was searching for the family that abandoned him when he wandered into our backyard AND our lives. After a month of gaining his trust, I was able to get him in a carrier and to the vet. Unfortunately, he was sick with Feline Leukemia Virus, also known as FeLV.
Upon hearing this news and at the risk of getting Pretty Girl sick, we decided to bring Shy One inside and give him a forever home where he could receive the love and care he deserved.
Shy One was so thankful to be in our home that he frequently showed me an abundance of love. While sitting on the couch, he would lay on my lap, and at bedtime, you could find him curled up either on top of me or next to me. We were both happy and at peace.
Pretty Girl was not happy with her new roommate and often let me know her feelings. She would frequently give me looks of disgust and ignore me. However, despite her initial feelings, she would let him lay near her, and sometimes she would clean him.
Unfortunately, the illness progressed quickly, and Shy One’s time with us was short, leaving me sad and heartbroken. In the brief time that he was with us, he has left an indelible impression in my life and will forever have a special place in my heart.
I am happy to report that even though he lived with us and had a close relationship with Pretty Girl, he never transferred the virus and she has remained healthy.
The pets we welcome into our lives provide us with joy and companionship.
Unfortunately, as they age or become ill, death is certain, leaving us longing for their return. But the memories they provide along the way remind us of their unconditional love.
A friend recently said to me, “We don’t own animals; we rent them from heaven,” reinforcing my belief that we don’t own our pets, we coexist together, each taking care of the other.
The love and companionship our cats have given my family through the years are priceless. As I remember all the cats I’ve loved and lost throughout my life, I am overwhelmed with sadness, but the happiness they provided while I cared for them will live with me forever.
“Am’s View” appears on alternate Sundays, exclusively in The Orange County Tribune.