Eleven cats and one dog have lived with us here over the past 15 years or so.
They just keep showing up.
Living on a farm – even if it is a farm in name only – attracts all sorts of creatures.
I have loved each of the 11 cats and the one dog who showed up, moved in, and stayed.
(Sure, there have been others who have stopped by for a day or a week or a month and just moved on. I don’t count them.)
I do not like the groundhogs who dig bowling ball-sized burrows in our yard and waddle all smug and nasty and fearless when I yell at them to stop eating the tomatoes. (You can call them woodchucks or whistle pigs and I still will not like them.)
Over time the numbers of animals who live with us has dwindled. The cats and the dog came, grew old or ill, and then passed on.
I hate that part.
Because it breaks my heart every time I have to say “goodbye.”
Now there are only three.
This week the “goodbye” was for Lamar. He was only eight or so.
He was the most feral of the feral cats we’ve taken in. And, because there was so much wild in him to begin with, it was easy to grow very attached to the sweetness that seeped out around the feral edges.
I like that a cat’s love for a person is not unconditional. I like that there’s some wild independence in there. I like that we humans are always on probation with cats, and they can and will withdraw their affection at any moment.
I’ve always had an issue with dogs. I don’t like the unconditional love thing with dogs. I want to earn your friendship.
Bingo, the Border Collie, loved me, but she also loved Tim, the UPS driver, and our neighbors, and the vet, and complete strangers, and anyone with food.
I’m also not a big fan of that dog-breath slobbery thing and I don’t understand why, if they’re so much smarter than cats, they can’t learn to use the litter box and cover up after themselves. Using the cat’s litter box like a salad bar really doesn’t make the case for “We’re smarter than cats.”
(I loved Bingo and she would want me to add that she never bothered the litter boxes.)
I’m pretty much a cat person.
When Lamar showed up seven years ago, he was so feral that it took me many months of sweet talk and food to soften him up enough just to touch him, and a few months more before he would let me lift him off the ground.
He was tough and built of muscle, but one day when he came out on the wrong side of a cat fight, his front paw was injured and he was hobbling just enough that we were able to catch him and get him into a pet carrier. Antibiotics and neutering followed.
Lamar became our farm protector. He protected Oscar, a very old cat that had left our neighbor’s house to live in our barn.
Oscar was too old to fight or protect himself, but refused to come inside. It seems odd to say Lamar tended to him, but that’s what he did.
In the same way that cats will sometimes bring their people mice and moles and other “gifts”, Lamar brought a cat to us a couple years ago and let her eat out of his food bowl.
She followed him like a shadow.
She became Stevie and, when she discovered the warmth and creature comforts of being inside, she moved in.
Not long after, Lamar started losing more cat scuffles than he won, and then, much to his initial dismay, we decided that, feral or not, it was time for him to come in the house. And, feral or not, he quickly settled in, and he was the one cat in the house that every other cat in the house got along with.
Lamar was fine on Thursday morning, he slept with us on the bed the night before. (He always slept wideways on the bed, taking up a lot of space and forcing me to curl my legs up tight so he could stretch out.) He was fine when we left for work.
His heart gave out that day – as cat hearts often do, quickly and without warning. And, that night we said goodbye.
He was a good cat. Handsome, wild, and sweet.
I can’t believe he’s gone.
I’ll miss him. I miss every one of them.
Photos: © The Baseball Bloggess
I’m so sorry. It’s so hard to say goodbye. I hate the holes they leave in our hearts. And knowing how much you love your kitties, I know this is SO hard for you. (((hugs)))
Thank you Martha … I know you have given your heart to animal friends, too. So, hugs back to you and to the animals you love!
Oh, Jackie, my heart is breaking all over again. I am so sorry. Lamar was so beautiful, and way too young to go away from you. My thoughts and prayers are with you, while I hope that our little guys are getting to know each other and tussle a bit somewhere in the great beyond….
Thank you, Lynne … we’re still in a bit of shock, since it was so unexpected. But, young or old, sudden or slow, it’s never easy to say goodbye to the friends we love and whose purrs rumble our bones. I know that you are still healing from your loss … sending you hugs.
Jackie, Randy, so sorry for your loss. Goodbye is very hard when it comes to animals. That you gave them a loving home for as long as they were on earth is a blessing. I am a certified nutty doggie person but I found an injured kitty that was also feral and I had her for 21 years before she passed in 2013. She left a huge hole in my heart so I think it’s just I am a nutty animal person. You have beautiful memories and pictures to carry them with you always in your heart.
Thank you, Sandi! It always makes my heart so happy to hear stories of feral cats who crossed paths with just the right person … the person who could see the sweetness under the dirty fur and the wild outside. Those are very special friendships and bonds.
I saw our cats in your eyes – the splitting image of our 2 feral cats. I am so sorry to hear of your loss(es). I feel with our 2 we are peeling off a layer a year to get to know them. We have noticed they are getting silver flecks in their coats – we figure from the stress of never feeling comfortable in their own skin. I often think that they will final realize one day they can trust us unconditionally. Love your stories and pictures of the loves that graced your home..
Thank you, Sharon. We were so amazed by how quickly Lamar went from outdoor “wild thing” to indoor “love bug.” It was such a gift to have him in the house for a couple years. I’m glad that your ferals have found love with you! :)
I’m very sorry to hear of your loss. It’s so hard to say goodbye to the critters who come into our homes and hearts. Give Stevie some extra cuddles; you’ll both be better off for it.
And I’ll be thinking of Lamar when we feed Meezer Mommy and the Backyard Boys tonight.
Tail high, Sister!
Thank you, Casey. I know you understand our “cattiness” and how hard it is to say goodbye. Stevie is a little lost, and she looked so alone on the porch yesterday. The other two cats — Squeekee (18-ish) and Polly (17-ish) — want nothing to do with a little princess like her. We’ll all figure out the new order with time (and the upcoming Alpha Cat election).
Oh, yes, the “abandoned cat” syndrome. It’s always tough on the surviving member of the feline couple. We’ve had several eventually reorient their affections on one of us bipeds instead of another cat.
And you never know how the election will turn out. At least it’s one where none of the negative attack ads are funded anonymously–they make it very clear who is behind each and every campaign statement.
Condolences on losing your cat. We lost one earlier this year (he was black like Lamar, but named for Henry Aaron). We currently have 2 cats, one is sure we exist to feed cats and the other currently lets us live in HIS house. I’m afraid we may be on borrowed time.
Enjoy the ones you have left. Cats Rule.
Thank you, v. I’m convinced that baseball fans are predominantly “cat people” … now I just have to figure out why. Maybe because we bond with cats during the 3+ hours of “lap time” while we’re watching games. (I believe cats support instant replay and the constant readjustment of batting gloves, since they extend the length of games.)
So sorry about your loss, too. It’s never easy to lose our animals friends … I love that your cat was named for Hank Aaron! Long ago, we had a cat that we named Poncha, the “spanglish” term for strike out/punch out. And, we had a Yogi (named mostly for Bear, but a little for Berra).
So sorry to hear :(
Thinking of you. They just aren’t in our lives long enough. xx
Oh, Jackie. I wondered why you seemed subdued yesterday. Now I understand. I’m so sorry to hear about Lamar and know too well the ache his loss has left. My own “holey” heart goes out to you and Randy.
A dog that does not dole love out freely is maybe medium rare, but they do exist and some of them eat birds and leave the bones on the back step; some sort of gift for the humans who live in the house. No joke here. I took care of a cat and a dog many moons ago and i hid and watched them tag team with cat hopping a ride on dog’s back and cat opening up basement door.
That dog was clearly just a plaything for the cat. Cats are like that. And, you know the dog was all, “I love you, Cat, I love, love, love you. This is great! LOVE YOU!” And, the cat was all, “Sit still, Dog, I just need a ride to the food bowl. Now put me down and go away.”