Monday, January 29, 2007

Accidental Friends

They were dropped with their mother at my house in downtown Bastrop about 12 years ago. Two scruffy little girl kittens and a mother who was part banshee. True feral cats, half wild. The mother was so evil-tempered that she was run out of the neighborhood by the other stray cats who fed at my house every day. She disappeared without a trace. Fortunately the kittens were old enough for solid food.

The stray cats came and went at that house on Jefferson Street. They would find that there was a steady food supply at the back door, but most would move along after they had fed themelves well for a few days. The "girls" stuck around, living in my back yard and wandering as far as the back yard of the neighboring house that stayed empty most of the time. There were old outbuildings in that yard that were probably full of mice and the girls would ramble around over there and poke around, but were always back for breakfast.

One of the kittens we named Pawla for her polydactyl front feet. She was a sweet-tempered cat who would hop in our laps when we were out in the yard. The only time we ever got crossways was when she would indulge her fondness for bird-hunting. Her sister was more wild and would refuse to come near us for several years. She was dubbed unimaginatively as Sister.

Sister overcame her distrust when the cold weather hit. I would let the two of them spend the coldest nights of winter in my utility room. She would ponder the idea while I held the door wide open and stood back as far as possible. Finally, she would race past me and hide behind the washing machine until I closed the door and retreated to the main part of the house. She gradually came to the conclusion that I wasn't going to kill her, but she refused to let me touch her willingly.

There came the day when she disappeared for the better part of a week. I had just about given up on her when she appeared at the back door one day, thin and dragging a broken leg. She was still just a stray cat at that point, but I let her convalesce in the utility room for several weeks until the leg had healed. We established a thin line of trust during that time and I started to think of them as my cats.

When we started making plans to move, we decided it was necessary that we make an effort to move Pawla and Sister with us. It took some manuvering, because they were aware that something was up, but I coaxed them inside one night and the next morning took them to board at the vet's until the move was completed. When they came home to the new house, they lived in the garage for a full month, more or less terrified at the sudden change that had come to their lives. Pawla was the first to venture out of the garage and make a cautious circuit of the house. A few days later Sister followed her example. Before too long they had claimed the deck as their daytime sanctuary, sunning themselves for hours at a time. Concerned about the coyote problem in the area, I would let them in to spend the nights in the utility room.

Sister, top, and Pawla.

They came to love their wooded back yard and their deck. All was bliss for a couple of years until Pawla developed an aggressive cancerous tumor in her abdomen. I truly did not know how Sister would take the loss of her only trusted friend. Surprisingly, she finally decided that she would join the family. She proved herself trustworthy enough to be allowed the run of the house and she took up residence in the guest room. Every morning she would go outside and spend her days on the deck or out under the blackberry vines in the back yard. Every evening she would be waiting for me to open the back door and invite her in for the night. She loved the dogs and would rub her head on Xana or Coco and they would snuggle into her fur. For several years she lived the rich life of a pampered house cat.

About a year ago Sister suddenly developed a health issue that the vet could not pin down. Everything checked out okay, but she became congested and the situation got steadily worse. Last week it became painfully obvious that it was time to make the last trip to the vet. Her passing was peacefully accomplished and the vet was able to confirm that her final problem was an aggressive cancer. It had probably been the root of the problem all along.

Two little feral cats caught a lucky break one day when they were dumped in my yard. They lived 10 and 12 years in comfortable yards, with good food and regular attention by a good vet. We started out strangers thrown together by fate. We ended up friends.



1 comment:

David said...

Pawla and Sister are no doubt curled up tight with each other again, in that great patio chair in the sky.