The pets were part of my married life. Over the years we had two dogs, several cats, birds, turtles, rabbits—yet this story is about a cat I never owned.
While our new home was being built, we lived in an older house now under the black top of Highway 51.
It was on a large piece of land where ducks frolicked in the green pool. There was nothing cookie cutter about that old house; even the frames of the single pane windows were solid wood, no screens.
An older grey and white cat began hanging around. I obeyed the warning not to feed it or have to live with it forever. Besides, it was plump. It didn’t look like it was starving. That’s what I told myself, until I realized it was a she and the she was pregnant.
She birthed her litter in an empty moving box crammed between the carport and the fence. Knowing my weakness for all living, breathing things, I stayed far away from that box. Shortly thereafter, our Great Dane awakened me in the middle of the night. He was barking like crazy and there was a lot of commotion outside—a cat screeching and crying—then all went quiet. So I went back to sleep.
The next day after school, the kids said they found two dead kittens near the carport. The she-cat wailed by my window for a few nights. My heart cried with her. As time passed, I saw her a few times when I took out the trash, when, just like that, she looked well fed again—translate: pregnant. Damn.
Today, shelters and rescues work to neuter feral cats, but if there were any of those back then I knew nothing about them. I didn’t know when she gave birth or where. I hadn’t seen her for a while.
One bright day, my window wide open to let in the fresh air, I sat sewing some pillows. The kids were in school. I was alone in the house when the she-cat hopped on the windowsill and stared me square in the eyes. My heart went into overdrive. She looked gaunt, her coat matted and tangled. Poor thing. We looked at each other then she turned, jumped down and disappeared. Five minutes later, she was back. Held in her mouth by the scruff of the neck was a kitten, a tiny white furry ball. She walked by my sewing machine, gently dropped the kitten on my lap then disappeared again.
I found myself mumbling. What? Did the mother cat understand me? Did she know something about me? I didn’t move. In all honesty, I had no idea what to do. She repeated the trip twice more, eventually leaving three kittens in my lap. After dropping the third, she went back to the window and paused for what seemed like an eternity. We looked at each other neither making a sound, and she left for the last time.
I cried so hard, I worried I might drown the three precious creatures that desperate mother entrusted to me. Hell, it’s been years, and I’m flooding my keyboard as I write this. I placed all three kittens with loving families, and we moved into our new house a few months later. I will never forget that brave mother.