Take a look at these two handsome kittens and what do you think? A little Tonkinese, a little Snowshoe? Well, here’s their mom!
Decidedly not a purebred, but very cute and petite. You just never know what will pop up from generations of genetic material.
These are their “adoption photos” from a few days after I took them in. I still have several sets of them as I’d taken a roll of them, chosen the ones I needed and had about a dozen reprints made to hand out like business cards, social networking in 1992. This little family was one of my first customers, after Sophie and two orange cats as well as a few others, but even predating Cookie.
From a neighbor
Back in the 90s, a few neighbors brought me cats they’d “just found”, a few of them more than once. I was not fooled, as I’m sure they thought I was, I was only eager to get an unspayed female and her kittens who were apparently not wanted out of their hands, sure their next stop wouldn’t even be a shelter but some dirt road out in the woods or in farm country just a few miles from us.
In this case my neighbor stopped on his way home from work to tell me he’d “found” this mother cat and kittens near where he worked, he couldn’t keep them, could I take them? He might like to keep one of the kittens because they were so beautiful, but maybe not. I just told him to bring them as soon as possible. He did not, but stopped by again a week or so later and admitted they were his. I told him just to bring them to me.
I didn’t like to carry loose cats through the house so when he brought them I had a carrier ready and in his car he put the mother in first and I took her inside, up to the spare cat room, let her out of the carrier and headed back down for the kittens.
As he was putting them in the carrier I heard yowling and scratching sounds and looked up at the window to see the mother cat clinging to the screen, which was slipping out of place—just one of those casement screens held in place with turnbuckles that would let go with any weight or force. Into the house and up the steps two at a time and into the room just as the screen was falling with her still clinging. She let go before she hit the floor, but my worst fear was that she’d bounce right back up and out the open window from the second floor!
Before I could even reach to get the window closed, though, I had to do something with this cat who’d suddenly turned into a dervish, twisting around to get out of my arms, then practically spinning as I scruffed her and held her in mid-air, and yelled down for him to hold off for a minute with the kittens. Poor mama cat, suddenly scooped up and put in a car, then stuffed into a carrier and transported up into a room that smelled of plenty of other cats.
I wound the casement windows closed as she slowly stopped writhing on her scruff, set her down on the top of my sewing machine table to see what she’d do. She growled at me. Well, not as easy as I’d thought. I urged her to the other end of the room so I could get out the door. Maybe she’d feel better with her kids in the room.
The neighbor tried to embellish his story and I told him I’d better get back up there to her and get these kittens settled.
She did growl as I entered the room, but was obviously calmer. The boys sat in the carrier until they saw her, then s-l-o-w-l-y crept out. They were larger than I’d expected—I’d been thinking the usual six-week-olds but they looked more like three months, possibly a little larger than their mother already and promising to be much larger yet.
I know I probably sat down on the floor and talked to them, but new kitties are always concerned with examining their space so I let them have at it, thinking, after a little experience so far, that it would be good if I was in that space while they examined, which is something I did through the years with each new feline if it was possible. I know they were cautious but friendly after an hour or so, momcat growled now and then, but there were no more outbursts.
In a few days I took the photos you see above, then later I took the others in this post. The boys continued growing, and with other cat rescuers all working on these three and other rescues, we had no takers for the mom but some interest in the boys. I know I would have preferred they be adopted together, but in those days it was nearly impossible to convince someone to adopt two cats together.
I took them all to my veterinarian for shots and exams prior to spay and neuter, and one of the technicians, who was new on the job but who I knew from earlier visits, expressed a big interest, and agreed to adopt them both the following week. She could get discounts on the remainder of their early veterinary care and neutering; in those days we didn’t spay or neuter until six months and they were by that time only about four months.
The adoption didn’t work out, though, and in just a week or two she said she couldn’t adopt them after all. I took them back, of course. In the meantime I’d had their mom spayed and though some time and changes had happened they were still familiar, and without mom’s hormones—she’d gone into heat—they could be buddies.
Some time before their first vet visit I had come to call her Tess, after the Thomas Hardy novel Tess of the d’Urbervilles, the first of a long line of momcats named for famous unwed mothers in literature, such as Hester for Hester Prynne in The Scarlet Letter and Danaë, mother of Perseus by Zeus, who…it’s complicated, but you can read about it here. Unwed mothers they were, but all strong and independent women, fitting, I thought, for cats who had no home but risked life and limb to raise their children.
I think I had names for the boys, but in all the time I’ve been trying to remember those names I have not. My notes on the envelope of photos and everywhere else say “Tess and her boys”, so unless it comes back to me in a flash of memory, or someone reminds me, that is who they are.
Eventually, a young woman in the area who had recently graduated from college and was moving out on her own with her first job agreed to adopt the two boys, excited to have her own cats as part of starting her new life. A few months later she sent me a letter thanking me for the two. A year or so later she moved for another job in some state south of me, not sure which, and the boys moved with her. I presume they all lived happily ever after.
Finally, a friend of a friend agreed to adopt Tess. She and her husband had one cat and wanted another so they could each cuddle with one. By that time Tess had become quite the lap kitty and very playful, though I never managed to integrate her with my household. She had some differences with the other kitty in her new home, but the house was huge and modern with rooms at different levels and picture windows and it was off in the woods, so she had plenty to keep herself occupied. I believe the couple renamed her Penelope, who is the faithful wife of Odysseus in Homer’s Odyssey, who kept her suitors at bay all the years he was gone, actually a nice name for a happily spayed housecat.
As a side note, when Mimi came here, she reminded me just a bit of Tess in their petite build and their ultimately friendly and playful personalities.
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Above you see the original floor in this room, and it was originally my library, with bookshelves, a rocker and a hassock, and my sewing machine. Those were the days.
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