When I was younger I aspired to be that crazy old lady in the neighbourhood, the one who lived all alone with her house full of cats. This goal came to me after a time, after I started acquiring cats as household pets.
In my earlier life I was a dog person, and for most of that time had one, if not more, dogs in the house. It was after my divorce, from the husband and, unfortunately, from the dogs, that I was given my first cat. The children were used to having a pet, and as I was working full time, a cat seemed easier than a dog. We obtained the cat, one of a four kitten litter, from a friend of my daughter.
There were three male kittens in that litter that the owner had named Thomas, Magnum and PI. That should tell you I got my cat when Tom Selleck was on TV, running around the beaches of Hawaii in his shorts, to the approval of a grateful, female viewing audience. Thomas was our cat, affectionately called Tommy within the family.
A long haired white cat, Tommy had soft camel coloured spots, one on each foot and one on his back with a matching coloured tail. He was a good cat in spite of the fact that he ruined all the corners on my sofa. When he was left alone during the day all the furniture had to be covered, for its own protection. No matter what scratchy toys I bought him, Tommy still loved the corners of the furniture the best.
Even though he was an indoor cat I refrained from getting Tommy declawed, on the very insistent advice of the vet. Apparently it's not a nice procedure and leaves the cat defenseless. Tommy was affectionate and well adjusted...well, except for the couch thing, but he didn't like change. Unfortunately change is a fact of life and the kids and I had to move when I took a job in another town. I was working even longer hours and the kids were older, busier, and the house was often empty for hours on end. As it seemed to be my inclination, to remain single, I decided to get another cat, for companionship...for Tommy.
We found a cat shelter and picked out a young tabby cat that we named Guido. Let me be clearer, that the kids named Guido.
That was when I started my aspiration to be that old lady with all the cats. My plan was to get another cat each time I entered another decade of my life. My two cats and I could live happily, for another few years, before we cast another 'boy' into the mix.
Cats, like any living creature, can be prone to health issues. Poor Tommy was plagued with recurrent bladder problems which eventually led to chronic renal failure, a progressive disease for which there is no cure. We watched our fat Tom cat lose weight and become less and less active. He was watched over by his younger friend but there was no saving him. Shortly after I lost my beloved Tommy and lost heart with the idea of adding a new cat for the new decade.
Guido became the king of the castle and took over the time honoured responsibility for destroying my furniture. He also didn't respond well to change and didn't like the new house, didn't like being the 'only' cat and started escaping from the house for days on end. One time he was gone for such a long time I had almost given him up for dead. I was calling the animal shelter frequently but they had no cat like our Guido. When I stopped in at the shelter, after weeks and weeks of looking, we finally got our Guido back. He'd been found in another neighbourhood, so far from ours that I couldn't believe he’d traveled such a distance and remained safe. He had disappeared in winter and was picked up when he'd taken shelter, for days on end, in a basement window.
He was thin, very skittish and was never, ever, the same. His health deteriorated, he never regained the weight and he, too, fell victim to chronic renal failure.
For twenty years I had had the companionship of my cats and now, within a few short years, instead of adding a third cat, I had lost both of my 'boys'. The down side of having cats; the maintenance of the kitty litter, the destruction of the furniture and the constant shedding was never too much for me as the positives outweighed the negatives. These cats had been true friends.
Both Tommy and Guido had been able to pick up on my moods, usually better than anyone else. I could never sit and have a cry without a cat pressing into my side to remind me I was not alone. They were always close by, closer when I needed, but otherwise a companion, a living thing to talk to, a reason to come home to an otherwise empty house.
I hadn't realized how much I missed my cats until recently, when I entered yet another decade. If all had gone according to plan I should have been out looking for another cat, instead I'm reminiscing about the ones who have come and gone. Tommy and Guido were invaluable friends, at a time I needed such friends and I will always remember them.
And what about all those aspirations to be that crazy old lady with the cats? Well, it doesn't take cats for people to think you're crazy, if that's what you want. Maybe in this phase of my life I want to be known for something else, something more positive. Maybe I'll start with something easy...like the lady in the poem, 'When I'm an old lady I'll wear purple.....”