From Felines to Rodents
I’ve had a variety of pets over my lifetime but cats have always been my favorites. They’re intelligent, independent, soft, cuddly (on their terms), and full of personality. Most of my cats have been shelter animals except for a retired Persian “breeder” I got from a couple who bred purebred Persians, and a wonderful Burmese kitten, a gift for my father, which I bought from a local petstore.
More than twenty years ago, a woman on her way to drop off some kittens at the local animal shelter stopped by my office to show me one of the male kittens. Bear was almost eight weeks old and fit in the palm of my hand. When he lifted his head and I looked into his huge blue eyes, I was in love! His coloring was Sealpoint Siamese even though his mother was a domestic shorthair of unknown ancestry. Of the litter of four, two kittens had Sealpoint markings and two had “domestic” coloring.
As Bear grew up, his Siamese personality evolved. He was strictly an indoor cat and I had him spayed and declawed. I’ve since done a lot of research and will never declaw another cat. Bear was gentle, vocal, and a wonderful companion. He romped with the rabbit when it was allowed out of its cage and kept a safe distance from the Bare-Eyed Cockatoo.
Bear was about a year old when my father’s Burmese kitten died due to a tragic accident. A few days later, as they were leaving for a trip north, my mother asked that I find them another kitten, preferably Burmese or Siamese. I called the local shelters and found one in another county that had just taken in a pair of one-year-old Siamese sisters. The kittens were a special case having spent their lives in a pet shop cage. They were brought to the shelter supposedly because they were too old to sell. Rather than split them up, I said I would take both; I’d deal with my parents’ reaction later.
Only one of the kittens was at the shelter when I got there, the other was at the shelter’s booth at a local flea market. Even though I said I would take both kittens, the person working the booth didn’t get the message and she took the friendliest of the two kittens along with several other shelter animals to the flea market hoping to find them new homes. I hurried to the flea market, explained the situation, and went home with both kittens.
My parents weren’t scheduled to return home for another two weeks so I turned my enclosed front porch into a temporary home for the kittens. It was warm, dry, had food, water, a litter box, and more space for them to roam than they had ever experienced. I didn’t let Bear near the kittens just in case they had health issues.
When I took the kittens, who my father would name “Missy” and “Misty,” to the vet for a check-up and to have them neutered, Misty turned out to be pregnant which is probably the real reason why she and Missy were left at the shelter. They also developed feline distemper which made me exceptionally glad I had kept them separated from Bear. It was a fairly intensive two weeks of kitten care before Missy and Misty were ready to go to their new home.
A couple years later my father died. A few months after that, my mother, opting for a less complicated lifestyle, decided to find new homes for Missy, Misty, and a female Burmese acquired from a breeder. A friend of hers was particularly fond of Misty and the Burmese but didn’t want all three cats. I took Missy, hoping that she would accept being separated from Misty. It took a while for Bear and Missy to bond but when they did, they became inseperable. Missy remained skitterish her entire life. She did not care to be picked up, petted, or otherwise handled. Bear, as he bonded with Missy, became less inclined to be companionable with humans although he tolerated being handled.
This is one of the last photos of Missy (lying down) and Bear together. Bear and Missy crossed the rainbow bridge several years ago. Bear lived almost 17 years; Missy lived six months longer. Missy grieved for Bear and spent much of her remaining time sleeping next to an animatronic kitten.
I knew they might be the last cats I would have as pets because we have such an unpredictable schedule. For more than a year, it seemed they might be my last pets of any kind.