Around this time fourteen years ago, a litter of kittens was born in the crawlspace underneath my house. They didn’t come out till it was far too late
to tame them.
One by one, as feral cats are wont to do, all of the kittens went missing. Except one–a scrawny tortoiseshell we named “LC.” Short for Little Cat or something
like that. I wrote a column about her way back in 1999, telling how LC had given
birth to her own litter when she was less than a year old and how we finally stopped the vicious cycle by trapping her in a box with those mewling kittens
and taking her to the vet to be spayed.
It was the last time anyone touched her.
Most cats like LC don’t live long. Or have what could be described as a happy life. She was the exception. Sort of. LC didn’t take up residence in the barn with
countless other strays, but hung out in the yard with our tame cats Pete (who we rescued from the Dacco Quarry Road dumpsite when he was a tiny baby) and
Diamond (who showed up on our front porch ten years ago and never left).
The thing I liked best about LC was that she didn’t act like Pete and Diamond. Instead of charging toward me every time she heard the door open, she ran away. She didn’t try to weave between my legs when I was weeding the zinnia bed or jump, uninvited, into my lap while I was reading a book under the big maple tree.
Never once did I hear her purr.
I don’t know where LC slept at night, but on cool sunny days she could be found napping on the hot tin roof of the old log smoke house in our back yard. (And, yes, every time I use that expression I think of the Elizabeth Taylor-Paul Newman movie, which is one of my absolute favorites of all time.) When temperatures were more moderate, she favored the holly bushes that grow under the windows along the west side of our house.
First thing every morning for the past twenty-something years, I’ve shuffled outside to dump a generous serving of dry kibbles into a feeding pan for whatever cats might be hanging around our place. Even the strays come running. But LC never did. She always waited until I was back in the house before venturing toward the food.
I’m pretty sure she could have survived without it, because she—like most other mama cats—was an outstanding hunter. Mice, rabbits, frogs, and my dear little songbirds didn’t stand a chance if LC wanted a snack. It first dawned on me that LC was growing too old and tired to hunt when squirrels—those taunting,
birdfeeder-destroying, bushy-tailed devils–began to invade our yard.
Over the past several months, although LC still darted away whenever a person invaded her space, her steps were slower. Her haunting yellow eyes grew dull. She no longer kept her mottled fur neatly groomed.
And then she went missing.
It’s hard to say exactly when it happened. One day she was here and then she wasn’t. Had I seen her day before yesterday? The day before that? And if she
really was gone, what had happened to her? A speeding car? Hungry coyotes? An aggressive copperhead?
Chances are, I’ll never know. I hope LC sensed that her time on earth had grown short and went off to someplace peaceful to die. Maybe she curled up in a pile of
leaves on the tin roof. Perhaps she breathed her last under the hollies. She
might have even found her way back to the crawlspace under the house where she was born all those years ago.
Wherever she is, may she rest in peace. In a crazy sort of way, I’m going to miss that crazy little cat.
(April 15, 2012)