Sunday, June 28, 2009

New Beginnings Sunday

Cathy Neri's tale of the kitty cast that fills her home with excitement and love:

Sir Edmund Hillary

Just before Christmas 2002, my husband and I were "owned" by a pair of brother-sister kitties. Hillary is a tuxedo cat with extra toes, named for Sir Edmund Hillary (we originally thought SHE was a HE). Tipper was a gray tabby without extra toes but with an exceptionally large personality (he ran to answer the doorbell and loved our UPS guy). He was officially named for Tip O'Neill, the late Speaker of the House (my DH once caddied for Tip).

Anyway, during the summer of 2002, a family in our NY neighborhood
was losing their home to foreclosure and they abandoned their house and their thirteen cats under cover of darkness. A few days later, animal rescue people were called, and they came in and scooped up twelve of the kitties. One, an orange longhair, eluded them and roamed our neighborhood for months. Many of us fed him. We called him the Mayor. Eventually he came to be known as Julius (after “Orange Julius”). He certainly knew how to cozy up to people, but he didn't want to be adopted, at least not just yet.

Then, winter came. It was a late seasonal arrival in our corner of NY, and most of the local humans were keeping an eye out for Julius. He hadn't been around for a few days and we were all worried.

Maybe he got himself trapped in someone's garage or shed, but Julius started making his rounds again just before Christmas. In fact on 12/22 he walked up *our* front stairs to *my* studio window and knocked. Yes, he knocked. (He couldn't reach the doorbell.) By now Hillary and Julius were almost officially senior citizen kitties, and we were all coping with the onset of an autoimmune disease in Tipper. So while we were thrilled to see Julius, we couldn't just throw open the door and put out a plate of salmon.

Fast forward: we caught Julius. We brought him to our vet and he was given a clean bill of health (remarkable, actually, since he had been on the street for months). Gradually he won our hearts as well as Tipper's companionship (we think Hillary has always secretly wanted to be an only cat). He recognized that even though he weighs in at sixteen pounds, he was the junior member of our feline contingent. Julius was an excellent addition to our family.


Then, in 2004, we moved to NE Pennsylvania, and not long after, Tipper lost his battle with IBD. We were all heartbroken but Julius really missed his pal. Fortunately our home overlooks some wild open spaces, so Julius occupied himself watching the deer and the bunnies and the bears which roam our property. But he was lonely.

Thus, I segue into my second rescue story. In the years Julius has lived with us, he has been an indoor cat. (He doesn't ever want to be an outdoor cat again.) So last summer, when he accidentally got out onto the back deck and was mesmerized by some activity along the rock wall twenty feet below, I paid attention.

It was a mama cat and her litter. How Mama saw the neon sign (visible only to itty bitty kitties) indicating that this home was a Cat House, I'll never know. Mama bore a strong resemblance to Hillary. It was such a strong resemblance that Julius came running inside, went upstairs to make sure Hillary was snoozing in her usual afternoon sun puddle, then ran back down to watch Mama and her kittens. It was a routine which was repeated many many times over the coming weeks.

Naturally, we started feeding Mama (who was apparently ready to wean The Kits). Mama was never ever going to be domesticated, but I held out hope for The (three) Kits. I spent many happy hours watching the little cat family cavort in our weeds and get more comfortable with human interaction.

Soon I was able to capture Mama and have her spayed (I wasn't planning to run a kitty commune, after all). By now The Kits were weaned and were almost friendly. By the time I was packing to go to Houston for Quilt Festival in October, The Kits were indoor Kits and had been spayed (all were girls) and Julius officially had His Hairem. In the meantime, Mama took off for parts unknown.

Oreo, Lil Bit & Moo

So, now, our Cat Census is officially four. (One of the Kits, Lil Bit, succumbed to a respiratory ailment in December. But at least she experienced the joys and comfort of living as a kept kitty for a chunk of her little life.) Now Julius struts around with Moo (like her Mama, she's another tuxie with bovine-like spots) and Oreo (mostly black with a strategic white stripe—my DH works for Kraft Foods, which makes Oreo cookies?) and Hillary watches all of their craziness from atop her seven-foot cat tower.

It's almost a feline version of West Side Story, I'm not kidding.

New Beginnings Sunday is a weekly series featuring the story of a rescued pet and the ways in which the life of the animal and person has changed. This series will run through the end of 2009 in conjunction with Breaking Traditions Art Quilt Exhibit’s fundraising efforts for Bernie Berlin’s animal shelter, “A Place to Bark.”

**If you have a story that you would like to share, please email it along with a picture or two of your pet to

1 comment:

norma said...

What a great story, Cathy. I'm pretty sure that I met Julius at your house in PA. I lost my last kitty this year at age 20. She was also a stray who found us at about 4 years old.