"So, how many cats do you actually have?" I'm asked this question periodically. It's never in a way that is untoward or inappropriate. After coworkers have heard me name more than three cats they begin to wonder. That's natural. We work together and we care about each other, so it's natural to ask about something that I'm obviously interested in. It's not just coworkers, but that's a good example.
The answer? It really depends on who you ask. If you were to ask the two strays who come by the back yard for food, they would probably not count themselves in the roll call. I believe that – because we provide them with food – there are many authorities who would count them as belonging to us. If you were to ask my cat, Carmela, she would say that she was the only cat, because she lives in a make-believe world in which she is just that. (It's a surprise to her - to this very day - when she comes across another cat in the house.)
With the comings and goings of stray cats, feral cats and such, I put the current number at 13. That's shocking, even as I write it. It helps that there are several buildings on the property and the cats are divided among the buildings, with two living permanently outside and three spending just the evenings indoors. But, that's a lot of cats, no matter how you look at it. On top of it all, they are all growing old together. One has diabetes and we give her a shot twice a day. We're just waiting for the next geriatric issue to sprout.
We have finally reached October and the cooler weather this weekend was such a blessing. This morning I sat outside while I drank my coffee and looked at the mist on the field behind the house. All of the cats had been fed, and one or two of them came up to me for me to pet them, then they went on their way. If our dog was still alive I would have taken a walk with him around the field and two or three of the cats would have come with us, exploring the tall grass and trees along the edge of the field. Today the animals could feel as well as I could how beautiful a morning it was, the relief from the summer's heat.
After my coffee I began my day and didn't really keep track of everybody. I took a couple of naps (with cats), did a lot of social media work for myself and for Barry. I had brunch at a local café and took a walk through downtown, looking in at the shops that were open. The temperature only just reached the 80's and that was in the afternoon. Honestly, it could not have been a nicer day if it had tried.
Barry had spent the weekend out of town at an art festival. (I didn't go because one of us needed to give Clarice her shots.) When he got home this evening he put the studio cats inside and then came to ask me if I had seen Mozart recently. I went with him to look for her, and then while he unloaded the truck I looked across the property with a flashlight, through the trees and the grass where the mist had so peacefully lingered only just this morning.
The shocking thing was that I didn't really know when I had seen her last. As I've mentioned before, I take a medicine that has a certain central nervous system side effect. (It makes me dizzy.) (Thus the naps.) But, it has yet to make me completely lose my mind. I know that I saw her this morning when I let her out of the studio, but I couldn't even remember if she had eaten any of the canned food that I had brought them. All day long I was here, putzing around and I couldn't tell you if I had seen her or not. I generally do, therefore my answer would probably be 'yes'.
Barry, on the other hand, does kittie counts throughout the day. This evening he didn't show any sort of anger or frustration, but he didn't have to. I was projecting all sorts of guilty feelings right onto him. HE would have known the last time he'd seen her. HE brings them a snack in the afternoon to make sure they hang around and don't wander too far. I was beginning to feel very much like a neglectful parent. Never mind that Mozart is a 9-year-old cat and quite capable of taking care of herself.
And, I couldn't even think of the last time I had seen her. I could honestly have been talked out of believing that I had seen her in the studio this morning. I was beginning to wonder if she had been trapped in one of the other buildings. But, she always screams at us. She is rather demanding of attention and you can't come within 20 feet without her making some vocal demand of your time and affection. So, where could she be? Barry crawled under the house (because that's how any normal American would want to spend their Sunday evening after being out of town all weekend.) After looking around he was fairly certain that she wasn't there.
Then, after our looking through 2 acres of property in the dark with a flashlight, and up and down the street, Barry came out from under the house and the beam from his flashlight found her under a small palm by the fence. He called her, but she didn't make a sound or move very much. I went to her (getting all sorts of scrapes from the pointy palm fronds) and scooped her up. She didn't even struggle very much. We could tell that she wasn't well. She didn't seem to have any broken bones. Nothing was swollen, so I didn't think a snake or spider bite was likely. We didn't think she was particularly feverish. It was just very uncharacteristic of her to not call out to us and she seemed a little weak.
We took her into the studio and her sons acted normal around her. She ate the canned food with a vengeance, so at least she had an appetite. (There is a bowl full of dry food, by the way. These cats are not starved.) She's had a heart murmur for most of her life, so I was thinking that we had lost her. All things considered, it's probably not long before we do.
What a day; what a weekend. I went from the enjoying the most beautiful, idyllic day to being wracked with despair and guilt, and then ending up with a touch of melancholy at the fact that our furry little friends have such accelerated lifetimes. Nine years old is actually getting up there for a cat. I tell myself the same thing I tell other people who lose pets: We've given them the best life they could have hoped for. Thinking about it this way helps. But, there is the constant second-guessing myself when something like this happens. I had such blissful naps; was I neglecting Mozart in a time of need? How could I not remember if I had seen her or not? (Answer: I was busy and we have 13 cats.) I don't know what I would have done if I had noticed her absence earlier. (Answer: I would have looked for her and then called Barry.) I am just astounded that parents ever keep their sanity with little human lives in their care.
All images in this post are pictures that I had previously taken. All are of Mozart, but none was from this weekend.