My charming, talented and hipster co-worker Ian knows of my “single in the city with cat(s)” status and perhaps in an effort to give me hope, revealed that his current girlfriend has three cats of her own. And that he himself is a cat-loving man who’d grown up with a feline fanatical father.
It was Ian’s idea to have Cat Man Monday as a way for IHC readers to celebrate the cat men in their lives (we know and love “Cute Boys With Cats” but they’re just that – boys).
I bring you IHC’s first installment of Cat Man Monday featuring Ian’s very own dad Larry, who shared with us the story of his first cat encounter along with other formative cat
“I’m Larry, and I am married with kids (and three cats). Not sure if I am ready for fame, but I am game to help kick start your column on cat dudes.
My first exposure to cats was from my very Irish immigrant grandparents. My grandfather Charles Daly was more of a dog dude. He had. I was 4 or 5, and pretty small. The dogs always seemed on the edge of frantic. Not mean but a kinetic force that, at my size, was unnerving.
In contrast, my Irish grandmother Ann Daly had two cats, Teaco and Kitty (the Irish love their tea so Teaco was named because of her orange tea color). They were fluffy and aloof, but had me pegged as a cat dude, allowing me into their little circle and permitting me to pick ’em up and pet them- preferably in a location off the beaten dog track. And so my pet orientation was formed at a pretty early age.
The first real pet I had was when I was around 6. Some older kids had found abandon kittens in the woods. My mom agreed to try to nurse one along – his eyes were just opening. While the story doesn’t have a happy ending, my brief encounter with Woody* bonded me even closer to felines.
*I must have leaned on my grandmother’s straight forward cat naming method
The first cat of my very own came just before heading off to undergraduate school in Michigan. I was dating Ian’s Mom at the time and one of the ladies who hired us as a frequent babysitting duo called me for help. There was a cat in her garage that looked injured. Hence began another Larry-cat relationship that would help place me as a future Tamar column candidate.
There she was, a young black cat with moonlike eyes howling and zipping around the garage (quite ambulatory for being injured). I coaxed her into coming to me with the help of some lunchmeat. Somehow, her collar had slipped around a leg in addition to her neck. It had cut deeply into the flesh around her neck and torso, and in the course of time the wound had been healing right over the collar in many parts. Sensing I was a cat patsy, she allowed me to examine her actually purring throughout the entire process.
I called a local vet to see if we could get some charity care and learned the hard lesson that medical care doesn’t come cheaply. But since I was a college student the vet made a deal with me. If I would remove the collar myself, he’d give me the medicine to treat the wound and prevent infection. When I asked how he expected me to do this he replied,“Well you seem to have the cat’s trust, just cut it, use some clean rags, warm water and work it off.”
It was one of the longest and offensively smelling hours that I ever spent. And it was quite surprising to me halfway through the job to find live maggots in the wound. It prompted another quick call to the vet, and another lesson – sometimes maggots are a good thing. The cat cooperated and purred during the ordeal, and once the collar came off I had a friend for life. She just would not stop rubbing gratefully on me.
The vet made good on his promise and Rubonya’s wound cleared up, but as you’d expect in the world of stray cats, she we pregnant. So healing from her trauma and getting ready to deliver her first brood, Rubonya headed off to Kalamazoo with me. I’m not sure how many onion-skinned “free kittens to a good home” posters I typed, but I successfully found homes for the kittens and got Rubonya to the vet with leftover pizza funds to have her spayed. And that’s when I learned another heart heavy pet lesson.
When she returned from the vet Rubonya didn’t seem to be getting back into the swing of dorm life. On the second day she was hardly moving, so I took her back to the vet. She’d gotten distemper. Simple vaccinations would have prevented this, but she’d obviously had not received them before I found her, and I naively thought she was safely living in a dorm.
I had to make the decision to put her down and held her close during those few terrible, gentle minutes. I cried all the way back to the dorms as I’d likely done the day we buried Woody that spring day in New Jersey.
There have been many kitties in my life since Rubonya, some dogs, too now that I’m a little bigger and not so unnerved. I love both dearly and as any pet lover will tell you they really do enrich our lives, with good times and even with the bad times. For me, I just seem to bond more with the cats because they got my number. They come to me. I can go over to someone’s house I’ve just met, and if there’s a cat it finds me. I must smell like tuna.
And I think it is something with heredity, too. My late father became a cat dude in the latter years of his life. During his last days in the hospital my father spoke lovingly about us, his children. But I had to smile inwardly when I saw the same kind of sparkle come into his eyes when he spoke about the two cats, Sega and Sheba, he had at home, and his requests for us to make sure to share some love with them since he could not be with them. (note: first photo in this piece is of Larry with Sega)
Shortly after I lost my Dad in December, my thirteen year old, 20 pound, lovable-and-wouldn’t-hurt-a-fly tiger cat Fritz, came down with kidney failure. A mortgage payment later I learned there was nothing that could be done, and I had to go through the same scene I’d gone through with Rubonya three cat generations earlier. It was no easier. But I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
Fritz is my current wallpaper on my Blackberry, and just a little while ago I was playing fetch with our new tiger tabby Abby, recently rescued thanks to Forever Rescue. She’s amazing. I gotta make a Youtube video…”
Can’t see the video? Click here to see Abby and Larry playing fetch.
ARE YOU A CAT MAN? DO YOU HAVE CAT MAN IN YOUR LIFE? You could be IHC’s next Monday Man Cat! Tell us how you came to love cats, how they’ve enriched your life, and share stories of your cats (past or present). Email photos and a post for consideration to ihavecat (at) gmail (dot) com.