Oodles of kittens. That’s me, lower left, & my best friend and cousin, Deb, sitting next to me. (Behind us are our sisters). This picture was taken in 1966 and we were 3, the same age as my grand-daughter MJ is today!
So … growing up on the family farm in rural Saskatchewan, I can tell you now that I lost track of how many kitty-cats we had.
We had Tigger, the orange Tom the size of a bobcat, Alley, the Alley-Cat, and Minnie Mouse, so named because she was an expert mouser. There was Flora, Fauna and Merriweather, named after the faeries in a Disney movie, Alice, who we named after Great Aunt Alice and her love of ruby-red lipstick and shoe-polish black hair dye. And I can’t forget William McDolphus, my cousins’ tomcat or Tia the baby Siamese who showed up just weeks before Christmas. As we grew up, our cats took on more sophisticated names like Black Magic, Rod the bod (as in Rod Stewart) and Meatloaf, the world’s fattest cat.
But the one who lives in infamy is Shorty-pants the Co-op cat.
Let me tell you the story.
You see, in my neck of the woods, farm families belong to a “Co-Op” association; it’s where they shop for gas and groceries, Christmas presents, farm tools, lipstick and romance novels, and everything else in-between.
Legend has it that Dad drove to town on a cold winter’s day, parked his car and left it running. You can do that in a small town. While his car was idling, out fell a cat.
You read that right.
Out fell a cat.
Now it was not uncommon in winters where the average temperature is -40F to have cats, ours or otherwise, climb up on a tire and warm themselves next to the engine. However, it was uncommon for a cat to survive a 9 mile ride to town and several thousand turns around the engine.
Dad came out of the Co-op with licorice and groceries and the mail and heard the most terrible sound coming from under his car. Peering through the snow and the muck and the ice there he saw it — a most pitiful sight: a bloodied kitty shivering in the cold with the back end of his fur .. scorched off.
Now Dad was the softest of the softies and he wasn’t about to let this cat freeze to death. However, this was not our cat. Not one he’d ever before seen. He somehow managed to catch the poor thing and get it into the car and, let’s just say, his ride home was …. interesting.
Next we come to my Mother’s reaction, which consisted of, “How did you make out at the store, dear?” “Did you remember to get Canada Dry?” “Did you pickup the paper, too?” And then came “What in the hell is that?” Picture this before her: a bitterly cold January day and here’s Dad hauling groceries and a half naked cat. And behind her were five – count ‘em – five
Downstairs went the cat and back up to the kitchen went my Mom.
It wasn’t long before all of us discovered Dad’s little secret: the secret living in the basement! You see Mom is highly allergic to cats. As in can’t breathe allergic. As in probably not a good idea to have a cat – even a half-naked one – living in the house with the rest of us.
We kids didn’t care; one by one we made excuses to sneak away and play with Shorty Pants, and, day by day, he found his way into our hearts. We rubbed salve onto his exposed skin and found ways to play with him that didn’t make him hurt. It wasn’t uncommon to find one of us – at any hour day or night – shivering in that cold basement with a warm and smiling cat cuddled in our laps.
The thing is, that cat’s hair never fully grew back and his name never changed. He lived to the ripe old age of 17, siring dozens of litters and I’m sure there are still descendents of his tucked up into wheel wells on cold winter days.
Forever and a day, he was known as Shorty-Pants the Co-Op cat and, to this day, he remains, my very favorite.
“Animals are such agreeable friends–they ask no questions, they pass no criticisms.” ~ George Eliot
Did a pet of yours come to you in a most unusual way?