Monday, September 3, 2012

Cat Stories: Long-Lost Taffy

It's been months since I posted anything other than articles relating to cat breeds, cat care, and cat anatomy. So I thought I'd mix things up a bit and post a story about a cat I once had when i was a kid. Well, sort of had. Her name was Taffy and she came from a farm not far away from us. She was an excellent mouser, scared off dogs, and was sweet and affectionate with us kids. She also produced a litter of kittens every summer to our delight.

But as she got older, Taffy started to disappear. At first, she'd only be gone for a week or so. Maybe two weeks. But time marched on and she'd be gone for weeks at a time. We'd worry, but she always came back, and always in one piece.

Finally, she wandered into the field one spring just before the snow melted and this time she didn't come back. We watched for her for weeks, but as the snow faded away and the flowers began to bloom, we finally gave up hope. My two sisters and I cried over her, assuming that she'd been killed during her wanderings. Perhaps she'd been hit on the road or eaten by a coyote. Or maybe a cougar as one had been spotted in the area. Whatever had happened to her, we were sure we'd never see her again. So sure that we held a little funeral, as little girls are wont to do, attended by our others cats, our dogs, and our horses. Most of our stuffed animals were there as well. It was a moving and depressing spring afternoon.

Time moved, as it always does, and while we grieved for our lost feline friend, the summer soon washed over us. We found ourselves running in the fields and tearing through the garden without a care in the world. July melted away and August was in full bloom with a heat wave upon us as we had a picnic out in the hay field. The sun beat down as we drank lemonade and caught grasshoppers. The afternoon wore on and we eventually packed our basket so we could head back to the house.

As we gathered up the picnic blankets, a sound floated over the field. At first we thought it was one of the barn cats wandering out into the field to hunt. But my older sister happened to glance over her shoulder and she suddenly turned, focusing on the distant grasses.

"Look," she whispered to no one in particular.

My younger sister and I did, straining to see what she saw. The sound came again and a flash of beige fur caught our attention. We caught our breath as if we were one person. The sound. The flash. I was the first one to speak, though I'm sure we all recognized her.

"Taffy!" I squealed the way only a little girl can.

We all started running toward the cat who was leaping through the field, heading toward us will all possible speed. We abandoned the basket and blankets as we fell to our knees and cuddled her to us, thankful that our little sweetheart was back in our arms. But she was different, and we'd seen her in this state often enough to understand.

"She's pregnant," I stated, running my hands over her swollen belly.

"Not just pregnant," my older sister replied. "She'd having her kittens. Right now."

We didn't waste any more time. My older sister bundled her up in her sweater and we all but ran back to the house. My mother saw us coming and pulled open the door, ushering us into the house while firing questions at my older sister.

"Mom, not now," she replied quickly. "Taffy's having kittens."

"Again?" My mother rolled her eyes as she said this, for Taffy had indeed blessed us with a litter every summer for the past four years.

No one answered as Taffy squirmed in my sister's arms and finally sank her teeth into the exposed flesh of my sister's hand to gain her freedom. Without any hesitation at all, Taffy ran to the back of the house and down the stairs to the basement. We, excited little girls that we were, dashed down the stairs after her.

At the time, all three of us had cute little rooms in the basement. It was an old farmhouse and didn't have central air conditioning, so it was much cooler in the basement during the summer heat waves. Taffy, being familiar with the bedrooms that had been set up only a year before, headed straight to my bedroom. Why my room? Because I had this habit of never pushing the draws shut on my dresser.

Taffy took a flying leap into the first open drawer, the one that held my socks and underwear. She moved around for several minutes and finally settled herself on my cotton panties, fluffing them up and making herself a cozy little nest. Not five minutes later, the first of four kittens squirmed his way into the world.

We'd seen it before, this cat giving birth to anywhere from one to four kittens. But it was still  miracle, still made us shut our mouths and watch with wonder. These kittens were larger than normal and had little tuffs of fur on their ears, but they were still sweet little bundles of joy. We smiled as Taffy cleaned them up and revealed their sleek fur.

It would be the last litter of kittens Taffy had at our home. But that's another story ...

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