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This isn’t an account of Raining Cats and Dogs as much as it is a story of the flooding that resulted.
Mr. Cowgirl and I had both been raised in a world of animals. His family did cattle ranching, and mine did dairy farming, and that world always included cats and dogs. Our barn cats had an essential role in keeping the cow grain safe from rodents. Beef cattle and milk cows will follow directions from dogs much more quickly than directions from humans.
After our marriage, we lived in a big city where Mr. Cowgirl was stationed in the Navy. It wasn’t long before we started to acquire animals. It was our natural longing for four-legged friends. We started with two kittens, then added a puppy, and a short time later, a second puppy. The kittens and puppies grew up together and got along fine. We added another kitten when an acquaintance’s cat had exactly one baby, and neither the mother cat, nor the human wanted it. One of our cats adopted this new furry doll as his own, and we now had five pets. It was when I “rescued” another cat family that all the trouble began.
I worked at a dry-cleaner/laundromat a few blocks from our house. I kept the washers and dryers clean, filled up the coin machine, and did laundry-by-the-pound for some customers. The dry cleaning was done at another site—just picked up and dropped off in this location. One day, I realized that a cat with a kitten was living outside the backdoor of Betsy Brown’s Cleaning Town. I’d catch glimpses of the mother, as she snatched her little offspring back into the shadows whenever the door opened.
The mom was so skinny! I started putting out cat food I’d brought from home. And it worked, eventually. I caught her and the baby in a box and brought them home. We checked them both out. The mother had very few teeth, so I assumed she was old; but the baby was in great shape. My mistake was thinking that cats could be “too old” to reproduce!
Apparently, I’d rescued a pregnant, skinny, toothless mother cat. We’d had her only a few weeks when she gave birth to five little kittens who all died within days because of the malnutrition of their mother during their gestation. We felt sad, but a little relieved, because—hey, instead of ten cats, and two (growing big, really fast) dogs, we were back to only five cats and (the giant puppy-brained, one year old) Samoyed and white German Shepherd/Malamute.
Did you know that cats do not experience menopause? Did you know that a female cat can get pregnant almost immediately after giving birth? Did you know that the word “caterwauling” actually means a sound cats make? Did you know that cats will make that sound while the male is impregnating the female? And that it can happen in your living room, and that your sweet little adopted Cosmos, who is slightly over one year old can be the father??
So, he went to the vet that week…and Mother (who was by then being called Muttero) gave birth, again, a few weeks later. Then, we quickly rushed her off to the vet, too. Whew…no more reproduction by pets!! But, here we were—six more healthy little kitties!
Luckily, we lived in a house where it didn’t matter how many pets we had. Our house was on a lot that had formerly been an avocado orchard, now it was just a big field with willow trees, and grass. The dogs could roam, the cats could go hunting. It was quite idyllic for all of us, until this new batch of kittens started to grow up enough to leave their mother’s side.
The babies loved Casper, our German Shepherd/Malamute. Casper was a mellow, relaxed, big fluffy creature with lots of thick soft hair. The kittens thought his tail was the best plaything ever! He’d lie there on the floor, waving it back and forth, and they’d leap and attack, and grab, and get flung side to side. Whew! That made them exhausted, so one day, they just cuddled up next to their big white “playground” and fell asleep.
Which would have been okay, except that Muttero hated dogs. We knew this because of the reaction these two canines had generated when they first met our rescue cat. She heard them dashing into the kitchen, where I was dishing up their evening chow, and leaped out of her box to hiss and slash them! I didn’t even realize that she hadn’t met them! After that, whenever the two growing dogs heard us preparing their meal, they would first peer around the doorway to see if the White Tornado was anywhere near, before bounding cheerfully into the room to eat.
So, when Muttero came into the living room that day, to find her kittens snuggled up next to the Evil White DOG…poor Casper…he got punished instantly for being such a marvelous kitty-sitter. Sigh.
We were able to find homes for all that batch of offspring. We’d successfully put an end to the reproductive cycle of this prolific kitten-factory. Eventually, Muttero made a truce with the dogs when there were no more babies to protect.
And then one evening, she just went to sleep in the corner, and died. She’d been a part of our lives for only a couple of years, but she’d made an extreme impact. She came into our lives before we became parents ourselves. But her example of devoted motherhood gave us a standard of excellence that was an inspiration.