my cat curse

as i seek balance
a little of yin
a little of yang
i find that my life
is a braid
not a teeter totter
bits of me
winding together
into a tapestry
making me beautiful
& bringing me peace

have i told you about my cat curse? it is a sad story. i am cursed so that if there is a kitten to be found–i will find it…and for some reason…it is usually a brown tabby of some sort.

but that isn’t the sad part.

midnight was my first cat. as you can guess, he was a black cat. i got him as a kitten when i was eight? nine? my sister adopted his brother, tiger, a brown tabby. tiger died before he could grow up. he was slammed in a car door. one of my early (but not my earliest) pet traumas.
but i digress.
midnight grew up to be a massive tomcat. being country people, my folks did not neuter him or let him in the house. he was always coming home with bits & parts of him missing from fighting, and i loved him fiercely.
one day my baby brother was given a pet rabbit. one day my older sister put the rabbit on the deck in a cardboard box.
midnight did what came naturally to a big–never a housecat–tomcat who finds a prey animal in a cardboard box outside. he broke nester the long-eared rabbit’s neck.
my dad promptly, and with a smile, shot my cat.

salem was my next attempt to love a cat. he was black also. i got him from a pet store when i was barely old enough to be a grown up. he came complete with an upper respiratory infection. his sickness repelled me in that i could see his mortality…and i failed to bond with him. i found him a new home.

sylvia was a black kitten given to me by my ex-boyfriend when i asked him if i could cat-sit his brown tabby, mishka,  while he went to study abroad in russia. i didn’t want a real cat. i wanted a temporary cat. sylvia was adopted by my roommate.

then i started finding kittens–or were they finding me?

jack was a brown tabby kitten i found while i was visiting home in illinois and walking country roads. he followed me all the way home. i took him to the vet to get shots, and he mauled the vet who then told me, “this will never be a pet cat.”
i never returned to that vet, and i was able to find jack a home with my sister & her husband where he lived to be an old cat.

gruesome was a brown tabby kitten i found in northern kentucky where i was squatting with my redneck boyfriend. gruesome had the upper respiratory infection that many cats get–he was crusty & snotty &, well, gruesome. i reluctantly agreed to my horrible, awful boyfriend’s proposal that we should just put him out of my misery. then i changed my mind & decided that i would take gruesome & leave my boyfriend…but i was too late.

gomez was a brown tabby kitten i found in downtown lexington kentucky. when i took him to a vet, i found out he had feline AIDS and could not be around other cats. i thought, “perfect, then i cannot adopt another cat.” and i took him in & my dog loved him and then one day the neighbor’s dog burst into my apartment and chased gomez away. i never found him again.

maude was a one year old torti-tabby i found in athens, georgia when i was taking my girls from the at-risk shelter to visit the animal shelter. we were going to go to the dog shelter, but one of my girls had the wrong shoes on–so we went to the cat shelter and i fell in love with this beautiful cat named “moonshine” and ended up adopting her and changing her name to maude. things were going well with maude until…

lola, a torti-tabby kitten, and  her brother came running up to me in my backyard in rural georgia. lola matched maude, so i thought it was kismit. however, maude had been surrendered after having a litter of kittens that her owners kept–deciding to get rid of maude instead. needless to say, maude hated kittens. she began over-eating and pooping everywhere and i spent a lot of money to save her, but my bond with her was disrupted (as i am unable to bond when i think i might lose someone–it’s in another post about my dead turkey….) and lola was a bit of a jerk–so i never really bonded with her either. i did keep both of them for many years before lola was surrendered to the humane society because i was afraid she would bite the kids…and maude ended up at my mother-in-law’s house where she died naturally.

at some point when i was in georgia–someone i knew found a pair of neonatal kittens and didn’t know what to do. being one of those people who volunteers to do things when no one else will–i took on the kittens and learned how to care for neonatals. they were later adopted once they were old enough.

in wisconsin, working at a humane society, it was discovered that i knew how to care for neonatal kittens, and being that no one else was very willing to take on this task, i started taking care of litters of kittens that came in. i figured it worked for me because i am one of the few people in the world that kittens have power over, and i would gladly give them back to the humane society once they were old enough to be adopted. then came…

moose who was a brown tabby kitten…maybe one week old? (she was so named because i was also fostering a squirrel baby at the time–get it? moose & squirrel?) she was a singleton and the humane society usually just euthanized singletons because they used up the time of volunteers who could be caring for an entire litter, but it was no longer kitten season and i had no other litters to raise. so i agreed to take her on.
another reason singletons are risky is due to the fact that not having litter-mates & a mama to learn manners from, they can turn into violent, little jerks. moose, at six weeks, started showing the personality of psychopath kitty. i had maude & lola…and my huband had a beige tabby named max…but i knew that if i returned moose to the humane society and she bit someone, she would be euthanized. so i adopted her. she was always good with us–only biting company–and remains my favorite ever cat, but after i started having kids, i started to worry. then one day maude had a stroke, and after that moose got even more squirrelly. i was able to place her with “friends of ferals” recognizing that she did not want to be an indoor cat and that she was half-wild.

pepper is a brown tabby me & the kids adopted from the humane society in wisconsin when we lived somewhere where the only allowed pet was a cat and my kids were going insane about wanting a dog. pepper’s shelter name was “talisman.” he is wonderful with kids and still lives with us, but i still struggle with the whole having a cat reality. he has become more of fidgit’s cat than anyone else.

then we came back to rural illinois–stray cat central. both springs we have been here, i have been taking the kittens of a feral calico into the humane society (yes, i know, i need to trap her & get her spayed–it is on my to-do list.)  this spring i even had to use my neonatal skills when we found one of the kittens too soon. i thought i was in the clear for the rest of the year…but then, driving down the road while dusty was visiting, i spotted a kitten. we passed it and ran errands as usual and then driving home, dusty slowed down.”
“are you looking for the kitten?” i asked jokingly.
he was not–he just drives slow sometimes.
“well, there it is,” i said, spotting an 8 week old kitten, brown tabby of course, hanging out on the side of a country road.
dusty, a cat person, stopped.
i got out, and the kitten meowed & ran up to me. little fucker seemed to know me…so as i write this, he sits on my lap. sleeping. watery eyes as he fights off an upper respiratory infection and he is not using a litter box–pooping everywhere–because he is a wild baby who has never seen a litter box and i do not have the money for another pet or for vet bills and it is just a bad bad bad idea…yet somehow i cannot bring myself to drop him at the humane society as i have every other kitten i have found here (seriously, they probably spot me coming & know i have kittens for them)….

am i ready, universe? am i ready to accept this talisman and to let the wounds heal? the betrayals i have felt by my pets when they have turned out to be…mortal & flawed? the deep anger i have at myself for my own human flaws and inabilities to love and be a good person?

am i ready now?

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death of a turkey…

when i was a kid
there was so much violence
so much abuse
so much animal death
my pets gone–just like that
that i learned to disconnect
to stop loving
to stop caring
to stop bonding
and as an adult this continued
this disconnect
i had trouble with relationships
sure that they would leave
or god forbid they had self-destructive tendencies
it was too much for me
i disconnected
i could not bond
and i would try to have pets as an adult
but it was easier to hate them then to love them
love is a fragile thing
so easily killed
i was repulsed by neediness…repulsed by being needed
i closed down
shut off
i often wondered if i could ever even have kids?
was i capable of love at all?
sometimes i still wonder….

shortly after the above picture was taken, a raccoon killed one of my turkeys and injured the leg of another. i named the injured turkey isabeau and took her into my house. i dressed her wound, fed her blue berries and honey and put apple cider vinegar in her water and bathed her when she got too stinky.
months went on. spring turned to summer. her leg healed, but she stopped walking. her non-injured leg became palsied. one wing became disfigured by her always laying on the same side. i would try to put her on her other side–or in a sling–but nothing seemed to help.
and while her brothers & sisters grew huge and mature

she remained frozen in her juvenile state, a third the size of them.

i felt myself turn off. i mean, i cannot pinpoint the exact moment, but it happened. i started being annoyed by her. frustrated with her. dreaming at night that she finally got up and walked again, while watching every day as she just kind of flopped around. i admired her perseverance…but in the end, she just gave up.

i just wish i hadn’t given up first.

i thought i would be relieved when she died. she had become a burden…a difficulty…one more thing to take care of on a busy day. i mean, i knew she would die eventually. there was no way she could continue on like that–what if she tried to lay an egg–that alone would kill her–painfully. she was so vulnerable….
and now she is no longer suffering….

so why do i feel like i failed her? because my heart shut down? because i could no longer muster the energy to care about her even though i was still caring for her?

i don’t like that i learned to shut down when there was danger of pain by abandonment (be it death or whatever.) i want to feel the pain & live through it. i want my heart to warm back up and not be so quick to disappear.

i cried today. i did not expect to cry over my dead turkey.
but, like most mourners, i am not crying for her…i am crying for me.
as i try to assure my kids we did everything we could for her…in my cold heart i feel as if i should have done more…i wish i were capable of having done more.