My Mangy Cat and Me
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My heart leaped as I raced barefooted across the cold mudroom floor. Pulling the door open, I found our little old mangy cat sitting just on the opposite side. Bending down to run my hands across her dirty winter coat, she rewarded me with a deep satisfied purr. Funny how someone so difficult to live with can suddenly become one we don't want to live without. Crouching there in my nightgown, I thought about the mercy of God.
Cats have a way of making their way deep into our hearts.
ZEBULON, NC - The mews from beneath our trailer instigated some investigation. Following the faint cries, my husband crawled under the mobile house and emerged with a tiny kitten in hand. Unaware that a mother cat had chosen the underside of our home as her birthing place, we were even more surprised to find she'd left this furry offspring behind.
Seeing as our little home was already bustling with two boys and two dogs, we figured what was one more mouth to feed? Turning to our small boys for guidance, we solicited a name for the newest member. I suppose our son was simply stating the obvious, but being pronunciation-challenged his response sounded like Ghee (think kitty) and it stuck.
It didn't take long for us to realize why that mama cat may have chosen to leave this feral kitty behind. Ghee was wild from the start. Initially, we tolerated her not-too-infrequent nips and scratches because she made up for her naughtiness with purr sessions on our laps. But in time she earned the nickname of Cujo Kitty so none of us were heartbroken when she had to be relegated outside due to our son's allergies.
We still kept a litter box in the laundry room for the occasional times when the weather was too harsh, but she'd let us all know when she'd had enough inside time by launching into attack mode with the kids as her targets.
And then there was the episode in which she discovered that I was providing temporary respite for three weak kittens. She not only liked to bully us, but every other living creature that crossed her pathway. I had the sickly cats locked in our laundry room since Ghee was residing outdoors, but on this particular day she decided to slink passed me as I filled her food dish. I guess her nose lead the way to my secret as she made a bee-line to the laundry. Stuffing her nose into the crack at the door jam, she inhaled as though she was a detective sniffing out the final clue. Just as my mind began speculating on how to handle the situation, she turned tail and ran straight at my bare legs. With claws extended, she leaped high enough to penetrate just below the knees. Blood dripping down my calves, I chased her out of the house for the final time.
By the time we were ready to relocate, she had become so ornery that no one was allowed to pet her without receiving a hiss in exchange. She petted herself by brushing against available legs when she was in the mood. Since we were all too afraid to pick her up, my husband suggested (repeatedly) that we re-home ourselves without the cat. I knew we couldn't shirk our responsibility for this creature even if she did treat us terribly. Though her mousing skills might have been enough to sustain her appetite, she depended on us.
It took some serious pre-planning, but, between my husband and me, we managed to throw a blanket over her and stuff the bewildered cat into a giant-sized dog crate just prior to the big move. Once we arrived at our new property, I placed the crate into a shed, cautiously unlatched the locked crate and then ran for the exit before she could repay our catnapping scheme.
Ghee has out-lived three of our pet dogs (all of which were deathly afraid of her though she was Ľ of their size), but each of the last few winters we'd assumed would be her last. Perhaps, she calculated the same because recently she's changed her persona (or should I say catsona). She's begun accepting our strokes again and we're even allowed to hold her for brief periods of time.
At 17 years old, she is fur and bones now. When she went missing for two weeks after the recent ice storm, everyone convinced me that she'd finished her last life. In fact, the kids were actively hatching a plan to bring a new kitten into the fold.
One would think that there would be no tears or regrets over such a cat. She'd lived a long life and she lived it on her terms. Certainly, she hadn't inspired warm, fuzzy memories or funny cat pictures to post on Facebook, but still I couldn't stop the feeling that I wanted her back home. I wanted her to die knowing (as much as a cat can) that she was cared for. She deserved a dignified burial in the yard with our other family pets. My hopes formed a prayer that I whispered to God (although I figured He had far more pressing petitions to handle).
Then, at midnight just late last week, after I'd fumbled out of bed to greet my sons who'd just gotten home from work, my prayer was answered. The boys had secured the back door and were heading to bed, when one of them off-handedly said, "Ghee is back." I went from half-asleep to wide awake in the split second it took for me to register the information.
My heart leaped as I raced barefooted across the cold mudroom floor. Pulling the door open, I found our little old mangy cat sitting just on the opposite side. Bending down to run my hands across her dirty winter coat, she rewarded me with a deep satisfied purr. Funny how someone so difficult to live with can suddenly become one we don't want to live without.
Crouching there in my nightgown, I thought about the mercy of God. I wondered how many times in the course of my life, I've strayed. How many times in my youth was I like a feral kitten, wild and hard-to-manage. It's doubtful I could count the number of incidents when I've lashed out or refused His loving hand. During tough times, I've been known to wander off and yet He continues to hope for my return.
St. Josemarie Escriva, founder of Opus Dei, used to refer to himself as a Mangy Donkey in relation to God because he recognized his own stubborn, insufficient nature. Stroking my cat reminded me of my own overly-independent, sometimes fussy, too often impatient, frequently domineering nature and maybe that is the very reason she was sent into my life.
Tara K. E. Brelinsky is a home schooling mother of eight living children, with six more heavenly ones who intercede. Married to her childhood sweetheart, they make their home in North Carolina where they teach Natural Family Planning, grow a garden, raise two dogs, a cat, ducks, roosters and a flock of hens (in addition to all those wonderful kids). Tara studied journalism a lifetime ago in college, but now she writes simply for the the glory of God. You can read more of her musings and inspirations on her blog.
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