T. S. Eliot had it right—The Naming of Cats is a difficult matter…and my former neighbor might have agreed. That a cat must have THREE DIFFERENT NAMES…well, my neighbor was too practical for that, for once not seeing naming from the cat’s point of view, as Eliot did.
Elinor didn’t relate to humans very well, but she believed each cat must not only have a name, it must also have a home. So she gathered six homeless cats, and gave them the name that the family use daily, Such as Goober. Mindy Sue. Tiger. Mandy. Dolly. And All of them sensible everyday names. Good feline names.
The orphans became her “kitlings” after they did a thorough feline-oriented self-conducted home study that found Elinor’s home fulfilled all the requirements to meet their needs. After all, as orphans, they had to scrounge to survive, while Elinor offered luxurious digs.
Taffy-colored Goober was her first, Elinor said.
Goober’s elderly kitling sibling, bearing taffy and white stripes, was the second orphan whose home study placed a paw-stamp of approval on her home. Both Goober and Morris had taken up residence with Elinor when I moved in next door in July 1995.
Goober was a chubby contented confident cat. Why wouldn’t he be? He had the run of the basement and Morris was no match for him.
Morris looked like his hero, Morris the Cat, before I met him. I knew him as a thin skeleton of his former self, thin with age, alive long after his life span should have ended. Elinor spoiled both cats mercilessly. (Morris’ photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/carolyncholland/2462488733/in/photostream/ )
A stray calico beauty sniffed out Elinor’s residence. She was no fool. Elinor took pity on her and began to feed her. Shortly they were off to visit the vet’s office where Mindy Sue was spayed and had shots. This was the price of adoption by Elinor.
Another price was loss of roaming freedom. They were only allowed outside on a short leash (Photo of Goober: http://www.flickr.com/photos/carolyncholland/2463322654/in/photostream/ ), but could stare longingly out the barred basement windows at the nature they longed to run in (Photo of Goober and Mindy Sue: http://www.flickr.com/photos/carolyncholland/2462488831/in/photostream/ ). A small price for being otherwise spoiled.
Not long after Mindy Sue became un-orphaned, a huge gray tiger cat wandered past her yard. He who knew how to elicit pity, and slowly, Elinor befriended the homeless feline. His vote accepting her was marked by a shuffle off to the vet’s office. The common cat name Tiger became his every day moniker.
One day a streak of black flew through her yard as we simultaneously emerged from our doors. We spotted her racing about at odd times of the day, thinking she was eluding our discovery. Weeks of coaching convinced her we were OK, we would not hurt her. Elinor trooped off to the vet’s again. And chose another everyday feline name: Dolly.
The fifth orphan arrived. The taffy and white female adapted well, joining the feline gang in the basement, tied outside in the yard for fresh air time, or trooping off to the vet’s for routine care. This one she named Mandy.
Elinor didn’t stop there. Being very critical of how others cared for their cats, she added our twenty-pound two-hander cat, Gizmo, to her “poor cat” list. She had no qualms telling me I was “neglecting and depriving” our bright orange fur-ball.
“If you don’t like the way I feed and love him, you take care of him,” I shot back at her. And so she did, coming over to feed, water and play with him every day, at least once. And he became a spoiled cat.
Elinor was a fiercely independent woman who asked little for herself, but since she didn’t drive she relied on several neighbors, including me, to take her felines to the vet. He lived too far away for her to walk.
One morning when Elinor went to her basement to feed her kitlings Morris, sleeping on a blanket, couldn’t be roused. She lovingly buried him in her garden.
During the three years I was Elinor’s neighbor I heard her grieve that she couldn’t do more. Yet her love for cats extended beyond the care of her six plus one cats. She reached out much more, sponsoring an animal at the local animal shelter. Each month we excitedly searched the paper for the animal with her name under it. Would it be a cat—or a dog? More often than not, it was a cat.
When Elinor was overtaken by physical problems she turned to the neighborhood for help with her kitlings. Then her health deteriorated to the point she could no longer live alone. Her daughter arrived to pack her mother’s things and take her away to another state.
The cats couldn’t go. Elinor openly railed about their fate.
Miracles do happen. One of Elinor’s health caretakers wanted not one, not three, but all five kitlings. Tiger, the caretaker’s special pet, sleeps on her bed. Goober and Mindy Sue settled in as comfortably as house cats. Mandy and Dolly returned to being outside felines, enjoying the farmland without fear of city traffic.
Elinor mourned her babies when she moved into her new life. Thankfulness takes the edge off her grief, thankfulness that the kitlings were re-adopted again. Together.
Goober, Tiger, Mindy Sue, Mandy and Dolly live on as a result of one woman’s caring and love.
And Gizmo? He lost a good neighbor.
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