With STILL no kittens appearing, I thought I’d write about some of my cat history — long before fostering!
I adore Murphy and Jonesy and I suspect Murphy will break my heart one day. I’ve loved all the cats I’ve had. But I once read about the idea of “The One” pet. It’s a hard concept to explain, but most people who’ve had pets immediately understand. For some people, it’s the dog they had growing up. For others, the cat who got them through a hard time in their life. Tavi was that pet for me.
She wasn’t the first pet of my own after leaving home. I got her as a kitten when I was in third year university as a companion to a kitten my sister had found on the street and convinced me to adopt. She was tiny and adorable and had been born at the Humane Society. The guy at the HS was very gruff. As I was filling out the paperwork he said, “What are you going to do with her at the end of the school year?”
“Pardon?” I replied.
“What are you going to do with her at the end of the school year?”
“I don’t understand the question.”
“Lots of students leave them behind.”
“What?? Of course I’m not leaving her behind. She’s going home with me!”
Looking back now I wonder what he’d have done if I’d said, “Yes, I’m going to abandon her.” Seriously? (Though it was true; the student ghetto was filled with abandoned-now-feral cats.)
When I got her home my housemates helped me name her. Her full name was McTavish, in a nod to the Scottish heritage of my university, but Tavi she became and always was. The next summer we moved back to my parents’ house and after a few weeks the other cat ran away — she ended up at a friend’s farm. But Tavi never strayed far. She lived to be 19½ and was with me through nine moves and two other cats (plus two more who outlasted her). She had a cancer scare at 10 years old, but it turned out to be a cyst in her chest cavity. She was on thyroid pills and sub-cutaneous fluids for the last few years of her life. (She’d sit so quietly in her chair for her fluids that sometimes I’d forget her and come back to find her lying in a puddle of saline when the needle had popped out or with a large bulge of fluid under her skin when it hadn’t!)
She liked — and was very good friends with — the Jenny cat (who I got two years after Tavi) but just accepted the others she lived with. I don’t remember her being timid when she was little but, somewhere, somehow, she became a one person cat. She didn’t care about anyone else but me and wasn’t interested in making friends. But she adored me and the feeling was mutual. She knew my moods and worried when I was sick. Once when I was really quite sick, someone came to check on me. Tavi was sitting on my chest (I was sound asleep) and, though she’d usually run away from others, she refused this time and stared them down — daring them to disturb me. (Inexplicably, she immediately took to a friend of mine’s husband. Don’t get me wrong, he was a really lovely guy, but she was otherwise afraid of everyone. I always said if something happened to me he’d have to take her!)
When I was living with my sister out in the country, we went away for a weekend. For some reason, I can’t remember now, we left the cats (she had two as well) outside. There was an enclosed porch for them to shelter in but they weren’t locked in. When we returned, there were no cats to be seen. (By this time, Tavi had lived in a number of different places, though mostly indoors.) I was, of course, devastated. I stood at the edge of the yard calling and calling across the field. I will never forget the sight of Tavi bounding across that field of long grass, so happy to see me, and forgiving me for going away. (The other cats appeared, too, at a much more leisurely pace.)
Then there was “Tavi’s Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day” (with apologies to Judith Viorst). After I moved into the city, I would head back out to rural Pickering to visit my parents. Occasionally I’d take Tavi — and the Jenny cat — with me. They loved being out in the fresh air, though Jenny had to be harnessed and secured. But not Tavi; she’d never leave the fenced in pool yard. One gorgeous day I changed into my bathing suit, got a book, and got myself onto an inner tube to float around the pool and read. Now, my parents’ pool was no ordinary backyard pool. In-ground, cement, 20′ x 40′, and 10′ deep at the deep end. At some point I floated near the edge and Tavi came over to say hello. Then she climbed onto my chest. As we floated away from the edge she got quite agitated. I didn’t want to kick or paddle back to the side thinking it would just scare her more. Agitation quickly gave way to panic. Before I knew it, she’d decided to jump for the edge. She would have made it, too, I’m sure, if only she’d understood physics a little better and realized that the inner tube would move in the opposite direction when she pushed off. She just missed. Before I could get to her, she’d hauled herself out (I think there are probably still claw marks in the cement) and fled, under the pool gate, across the yard, to the door of the house. Since she couldn’t get in she took refuge in the window well beside the door. I had finally just coaxed her out to come and sit in the sun to dry when my father came roaring around the side of the house on the riding lawnmower. That was the last straw. Back into the window well she went and there was no coaxing her out. I had to force her out in order to put her in the house to calm down. She just didn’t seem as keen on her afternoons in the country after that. 😉
Tavi was timid and ran from just about everyone she ever met. She wasn’t extraordinary, she wasn’t more than typical cat pretty, she had only average intelligence. But she was extremely sensitive to emotions and, best of all, she thought I was the greatest person in the world. We were a team and, in 19½ years, we went through a LOT together. Tavi the Wonder Cat she was, and Tavi the Wonder Cat she will always be.
(Tavi lived in the old days, before digital cameras. Since you had to pay for every negative developed — bad photo or not — and every print you had made, you didn’t — sadly — take a picture of every adorable thing they did!)