When I was 14, our family cat, Chester, passed out of this world. My mother was devastated. She had raised him from a kitten, long before I was a sparkle in her eye. She swore she would never have another cat.
Around the same time, our neighbors across the street had a little accident involving a lit candle that fell over, resulting in a bout of homelessness. Mom had always helped this family out when she could, and this being a desperate time of need, she offered them everything she could.
They were a very large family with very little money, so Mom helped them find a place to live, brought them food from Aldi, donated all of our old clothes/shoes/toys/etc to the family, and made sure that the kids had Christmas presents and school supplies (every year for a good 5 years). My mom has a really huge heart, and she wanted to help them in every way she could.
The family had two cats, Sheba and a little black cat, whose name I don’t recall. They were both mostly outdoor cats, who roamed the neighborhood. Both were lady cats that often would drop dead carcasses at the feet of our former male cat. While the family could hardly afford to feed themselves, they certainly couldn’t afford to feed two cats. They became the neighborhood cats.
Sheba was a pretty, but mean, black and white cat who roamed the neighborhood in a sulking manner. Many of the neighbors, my family included, understood her situation and left cat food out for her to munch on (in addition to the various creatures she would hunt).
I was a sophomore in high school, and was constantly coming and going from my house. Sheba was often standing outside our front door meowing for food. I had taken a liking to this feisty cat, and decided that I would try to pet her. Of course, this did not work out as planned. She hissed and ran away. Many. Many. Times.
After a few months, Sheba warmed up to me a little bit. She would come close enough to let me pet her, and even purred a little bit. I tried picking her up a few times, before she finally let me. Her fur was soft and silky. I wanted her to love me forever. During this time that Sheba and I became pals, she did not befriend anyone else. She would walk or even run away when anyone else was near. She was my stray.
When the Chicago weather started doing what Chicago weather does best (changing), my mom would leave the garage open a few inches, so that Sheba could hide in the semi-warmth of the garage. It, at the very least, would keep her out of the wind and snow.
One especially cold morning, I was snuggled up in my bedroom, and my mom came to wake me up. She opened the door and was shocked to see a ball of black and white fur atop my comforter, curled up in between my knees. Surprisingly, she wasn’t too mad. She told me that Sheba had to go…but after a few more smuggles, Sheba became a fixture in our house.
She wasn’t my cat; I was her human. She would sleep cozy in my bed, enjoying the warmth of snuggling with her human. She still only had eyes for me, and I loved her. Sometimes, she would wake me up by nuzzling against my face, other times, by walking across my stomach. When she was feeling playful, she would attack my moving feet in my sleep, clawing through the blankies.
When I left for college a few short years later, she was heartbroken. She peed all over my bedroom closet, ruining several of my formal gowns from high school. Including this beauty:
So with her human gone, Sheba sold her soul to everyone else in the house, vying for love, affection, and attention. Gone were the days when she would have nothing to do with any human. She was an attention-whore who wanted everyone to pet her, snuggle her, and feed her. She went from having one human to having dozens. Not bad for a homeless and abandoned cat.
Look for gratuitous cat photos next week. 🙂