Pets. Whoever invented this whole concept should be made to wash tile floors by hand with a toothbrush after a herd of 1st graders come in from playing in the mud next to a litter of mangy puppies. Every day. For 100 years.
Growing up, we had a couple of cats. One named Kit, the other named Kat. Then, one perished. That’s country life. It’s survival of the least fat out here. When the one perished, we renamed the other Kit-Kat. We had Kit-Kat for a very long time, and I remember always wanting to bring him inside, but the parents said no. He was an outside cat, erego, OUTSIDE.
We’d come home to find mice left on our doorstep from his hunts, and once, we even came home to find him batting a mouse head around. Boy was he smug.
Take that, Humans.
And since we just finished discussing a severed rat head and all the filth that implies, now would be a good time to mention the time that I snuck Kit-Kat in the house, in my arms. I’m not really sure where Mama was. The bathroom? The tub? (Now that I have kids, I can safely say maybe she was comatose in her walk-in closet.) I carried Kit-Kat in my arms all the way into my parents’ dressing room. I distinctly remember thinking that was the farthest I could walk with him in the house – except for maybe all the way into that walk-in closet. I stood there looking in the big wall mirror – the kind people put frames around now, because they are so severely outdated – with him in my arms. It was the weirdest feeling, standing there on carpet with a cat in the house. I felt like I was shaking hands with danger.
And then, goody-goody that I was, I quickly got him back outside.
Eventually, he got sick. Daddy took him to the vet. It was a Saturday morning. I was still in bed, sleeping like a lazy teenager. Then, Daddy came back home.
Without the cat.
I remember the drop in my stomach. Someone sitting on the edge of my bed, telling me Kit-Kat didn’t come back home. Tears because I didn’t get to say good-bye. Being mad at my daddy. The sunlight coming in the double window with the sheer green curtains hanging right under the sill.
He is the best Daddy. But The Pool of Emotions is not one he swims in.
I was pretty much done with felines at that point, but then my ex-boyfriend (Sorry to scald the page with that, Brady Love.) brought me a cat as a gift. A fully-white cat named Angel. Angel started out in the house as a kitten but was eventually moved outside, because CLAWS. And my parents are full-blooded country stock, and the only animals that belong inside of the house where you live are the ones that are actually out in the barn and not in the house at all.
Angel was so easy to spot outside. Initially, I assumed he was a girl, hence the very feminine “Angel,” but time proved me wrong, and how did I get an A in Biology? Anyway…he shone like a sun burst or a bomb going off outside in the sun. You had to avert your eyes from all the scorching white shine.
How apropos. Me – with skin whiter than the belly of a hard-boiled egg – hooked up with an albino cat. Huh.
Eventually, Angel either ran away or was abducted by Hollywood. We never found out. I even put signs up, just like in a T.V. sitcom. Nothing ever came of it, and then it was time to move out, college-bound.
Fast forward to shortly after graduation, 2001. I was dating the cowboy fireman (#studmuffin), and we were out in Piedmont for the day, helping his great uncle, Dwight. As we repaired some fence in the half rain behind the dairy barn, we heard whimpering and mewing. And then we found the most pitiful pile of kittens, half-drowned in the tall grass, without their mama. We put them in a brown paper grocery bag and took them home to my apartment. We spent several days nursing them back to health the best we could, but only one survived. Another mostly white cat.
He was small and tiny and puny, but it didn’t take him long to rebound and become the biggest feline I’d ever been around.
We bought a litter box and a food and water dish for him, and that was it: I had my first indoor cat. I was excited at the novelty of it. I hadn’t yet been baptized into litter and scooping and hair balls and spraying and neutering and de-clawing and oh my word the maintenance and the new budget line item called: LINT ROLLERS.
I had lint rollers in my bathroom, in my dresser, in my closet, by the front door, in my car console, and in my desk drawer. And still. Still, I looked like I’d dressed in pelts before breakfast.
But I loved that cat. I loved watching him chase goldfish in the bathtub that Brady bought strictly for his entertainment – please don’t call CPS. Or Pita. PETA? PetSmart? The animal-lovers.
He played on the circular staircase in that apartment and became best friends with the second kitten Brady brought me, Penelope Sue, which his baby brother trapped in a toolbox at their house. He lay on my head on the pillow with me all night. He lay on the bathroom counter while I took baths and showers. He lounged all over my lap and always tried to lick my armpits. (Don’t ask.)
He purred incessantly. He came like a puppy when you called him. He ate three times his weight every day. He yowled constantly if he felt he wasn’t getting enough attention. Or food.
Then, he moved to the house in Navasota with me and made himself at home in the new leather couch. He covered every pillow and sham and blanket in layers of cat hair, and I decided I’d never have carpet in a house, just so that his cat hair would be easier to clean up.
Now I wish I had carpet in my bedrooms.
Then, he moved with us into the pied-a-terre in Piedmont. We made concessions and more concessions to make sure he and Penelope were comfortable in the space. We always made the moves as easy for them as possible.
I loved him.
Then, he moved out to our current place with us. The house where we’ll be forever. The house that our babies will come back to and know as HOME.
The evening we were due to leave for the hospital to be induced with Katie, Sugar decided to make a trip through her nursery. While in there, he peed all in her crib and all over the wall behind it.
To be fair, we’d only been in the house for two days at that point, and he wasn’t adjusted, and all of her stuff was brand new. He’d never been around any of it before. He was exploring and protecting and marking territory.
I was two weeks past due and 25 minutes from leaving for the hospital to have my first child, and I wasn’t done putting my make-up on, and now I had to clean and sanitize her room and crib and linens. I think I just sat there crying while Brady did all of the cleaning up.
Needless to say, Sugar and Penelope were relegated to the back screened porch that night forevermore.
As I crawled out of my post baby blues, I learned that he was becoming increasingly hard to keep on the back porch. He kept sneaking out into the backyard to sun in the grass. He was going back to his dairy barn roots, I guess.
So we stopped fighting him and let him out.
As Katie grew and spent more time outside, she loved following Sugar around and spotting him around the house and in the yard and in the barns and down the driveway. It was a game for us as we meandered and let her practice walking. Then, one day: “Brady, have you seen Sugar today?”
“No, I haven’t.”
Days passed. Brady searched the barns and the pastures and the creeks and the woods.
I didn’t put up any posters this time. I just sat on the back concrete steps and cried after bedtime in the dark. Beating myself up for not taking better care of him when the baby came. For not keeping better tabs on him every day. For us not getting into the house sooner, so that he could adapt better.
He had the softest fur. Everyone commented on it. He felt like a lucky rabbit’s foot. He liked to touch noses with you.
At first, Katie would ask in her baby voice: “Where is Suga?”
“He’s in Heaven, baby.”
So I sat on the back steps and cried and cried and felt so very, very bad. And then I got up and went inside to make sure I was around to hear if the baby cried.
And I still love him.