Thursday, August 25, 2011

My Sweet Katie Bug


In July, 1989, my boyfriend (now ex-husband) Mark and I moved from Charleston, WV to Bluefield, WV…a small coal mining town in the southern part of the state, right on the Virginia border. There was not much there. We rented a single-wide trailer, Mark went to work every day, and I couldn’t find a job.

One day, while driving around, I found the Mercer County Animal Shelter. I stopped in, to look around. There were a lot of kittens, and I thought “That’s what I need….a companion!” When Mark got off work that afternoon, we rode up there together.

“I like this one!” I chose a fluffy orange tabby, which looked kind of pissed off. I was choosing on looks alone.

“No,” Mark said. “This one is the one”. He chose a tiny Tortoise shell tabby, who was casually lounging in one of the litter boxes. She was cute and had unusual markings, and seemed friendly enough.

We left, with the kitty in tow. I named her Katie, after my mom, because I thought she was beautiful, like my mom, and also because I missed my mom so much.

Katie was a little spitfire. She loved to run from one end of our trailer to the other, knocking over things as she went; a whole dish drainer full of clean dishes, the broom and mop leaning up against the wall, my breakable glass figurines in the living room. She also played fetch! She loved the plastic rings that came from the milk cartons. I’d say to her “Want to PLAY?” She would meow, and run over to me. I’d toss the milk ring, and she would run and get it, and bring it back to me in her mouth! She was so tiny and cute…and I loved her. I got her used to riding in the car…we’d go for rides, over to the radio station to visit Mark at work. I bathed her, coddled and held her. She was spoiled rotten.

Eight months after we adopted her, we moved to Fort Myers, FL. She rode with us in the cab of the U-Haul, under Mark’s seat. When Mark would light a cigarette, she would start meowing, and come out from under the front seat, and continue to cry until he put his cigarette out. She also rode part of the way on his lap, while he drove.

Upon arriving in Ft Myers, we stayed the first couple of nights with Mark’s elderly Aunt Helen, who despised cats. Poor Katie had to sleep in the cab of the U-Haul at night. During the day, she was with us, in our car, while we rode from place to place, searching for an apartment.

We finally found a one bedroom right up the street from Mark’s work place. We settled in. Katie was strictly indoors, so she amused herself with sitting in the windowsill, watching birds fly overhead…sometimes seeing the big Pelicans glide by. Her eyes would grow huge at the sight of them. “Look! Look – look!” I’d whisper to her, and her mouth would open, making tiny little chittering noises. After a short while, all I’d have to say to her is “Look-look!” and her eyes would turn dark and big, and she’d hop up into the window sill, tiny meows coming from her mouth.

One day, she came trotting into the living room with something large and black in her mouth. “What do you have?” I asked. She danced away from me, then dropped the thing on the floor, and began to bat at it. Upon closer inspection, I thought to myself, “Gee, that kind of looks like a Scorpion…” Black, curled forked tail…..Shit! A Scorpion! Just as she was leaning down to pick it up in her mouth once more, I screamed “LEAVE IT!!” She darted away, and I ran to Mark’s closet to get a heavy dress shoe to smash it with. I pounded it, then threw it’s carcass out the front door. A Scorpion! I had never seen one before. Welcome to Florida.

Katie got a friend in December of 1991, when I went to work part time at a veterinary clinic. I brought Punkin home, and they took right to each other, although Katie remained The Queen. She was a well-traveled girl, going with me to WV, then back to FL, then to Massachusetts, Tennessee, then finally North Carolina. She took it all in stride. She was a healthy cat, and easily adjusted to her surroundings. She never had any health problems, and was very independent. She was with me through a marriage, a divorce, living single, then finding love again. The night that my new boyfriend came over for the first time, she climbed right into his lap, surprising both of us. Steve, because he didn’t like cats, and me, because Katie didn’t normally warm up to strangers right away. She climbed right up into his lap, lay down, and began a low, contented purr. Steve changed his cat-hating ways when he took up with me. “They were here before you” I pointed out “and they aren’t going anywhere.” He still complained occasionally, but he came to love them as much as I did, although he would not admit it for quite awhile.

Kate always became playful when I cleaned the house. I would turn on loud music when I cleaned. While living in Florida, I would listen to Bread while I cleaned. To this day, the song Sweet Surrender reminds me of Katie. When it would come on, I would sing loudly and she would race around the apartment, her eyes big as saucers, her tail fluffed out to full bottle-brush mode.

One time she got angry with me because I wouldn’t let her mooch food from me. I was sitting on the loveseat, and she was next to me. “I said NO!” firmly to her. She quickly bent down and bit my knee, then took off fast as lightning, for the bedroom. “I can’t believe she just did that….did you see that?” Steve was laughing….”She took off because she knew she shouldn’t have nipped at you!”

Another endearing Kate-ism, was her searching through the grocery bags when we’d get home from the store. “Are you looking for your DINNER?” I’d ask. She’d meow furiously, pawing through bag after bag, until she’d find the one containing her cans of Fancy Feasts. She then would nose at the bag for me to unpack it. I kept the cans under the sink, and one morning, I slept in, past her breakfast time. When I got up and went into the kitchen, the cabinet door was open, and there was a can of Fancy Feast in the floor, Kate sitting beside it. I don’t think I have ever laughed as hard as I did when I saw that. I wish I could’ve taught her to open the cans.

Kate slowed down as she aged, and became a permanent lap cat. As soon as we’d sit down, she’d climb on our laps and settle in. Steve nick named her “Kate Moss Kitten” because she was rapidly losing weight. We found out that she was hyperthyroid, and the vet put her on medication. She never gained her weight back, though she ate like a horse.

She began to have sneezing and nasal problems. Her little nose would run and run, but sounded clogged up at the same time. I began taking her to the vet, to get her sinuses flushed out. The vet suggested that she may have a cancerous nasal polyp, and wanted to scope her nasal cavity. They could not do it at the office, so she wanted to send her to the vet school at NC State University, the procedure would cost over a thousand dollars. At this point, Kate was nineteen years old. “No, I want to just continue with the nasal cleanings” I said. “No scope”.

Throughout her long life, Kate shared her home with 7 other cats, and still, she reigned Queen. Everyone else was submissive to her, and no one ever picked on her, even as she aged. She and Punkin remained close, and she grieved when Punkin passed away unexpectedly. She did not get along with any of the other cats as well as she did Punkin...when Mark and I were still together, he would refer to them as The Lesbian Lovers, because they bathed each other constantly, and got into occasional lover's spats.

Kate’s weight got down to 6 pounds, and one morning she refused her food. She had never done that before. She was always ravenous. I tried everything from canned tuna to stinky salmon. She purred, and rubbed me and wanted to be held…but did not want to eat. Steve and I gathered her up, and took her to the vet. She stood on the table for a few seconds, and then just laid down. Her breathing was rapid, and she appeared to be exhausted. “It’s time” the vet said.

We whispered to her….”We love you, Katie Bug….you’re such a good girl….we love you so much…” In seconds, it was over.

Nineteen years old, My Sweet Katie Bug, My Kate Moss Kitten. We love you, and talk about you all the time. We will see you again….until then, run and play, and hear Sweet Surrender in your dreams.

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