We took our sweet MamaKitty to the vet this morning to be put to sleep. In much the same way as her son YinYang, she had greatly degraded in health in recent weeks. Just more slowly. By the time we decided that today was to be her last day with us, she was having trouble walking, was eating and drinking less and less, and hadn’t purred in days or weeks. It was obviously her time to go.
The only thing that made me doubt our decision in the slightest, and then only fleetingly, was that she still wanted to be with us. But she had always wanted to be with us. She had always shown the highest gratitude for the life we had given her. New Year’s Eve, 1996, I finally let her freezing, pregnant self into my kitchen to eat tuna fish. I got tired of seeing her huddled next to the steam vent on my furnace outside when she had a perfectly good home next door that was neglecting her. She was one of a pack of mostly and completely feral cats that roamed the block, and she was the only one friendly enough to let me touch her. In fact, she was very friendly and would let me pick her up. That’s how I discovered she was pregnant.
Our landlord had given tentative permission to have a cat but only with further discussion. Further discussion be damned, I let the poor thing in. She was starving, and let me know just how much by the plaintive wail and platter-sized eyes she displayed when I started opening the can of tuna fish. She scarfed an entire family sized can of tuna in less than twenty minutes. I left the back door open so she could do as she wished. Within a couple of hours, she was curled up on my couch. And so Babalon came to live with us.
She was very thin and fattened up so much over the next couple of weeks that you couldn’t tell she was pregnant any more, but that changed after another couple of weeks. Before long, she looked like she had a large cantaloupe in her belly. She slowly grew unable to lay on her belly, and then her side, and was eventually only able to sleep mostly on her back, partly propped up by her belly undulating with baby kittens. She grew very insistent about asking for her food in the morning.
I knew that cats like to hole up somewhere private to have their babies, so I made a nice spot for her out of a large cardboard box once home to a stereo. I taped up the bottom flap so it had a protective wall and propped the upper flap up on the sides so it had a bit of a protective roof, and put it in the corner of the bedroom. One evening she kept coming up to me with an anxious expression on her face and repeatedly walked back to her box. I walked back with her and encouraged her to hop into the box, which she did. I walked away, and she followed me. We repeated the dance a few times. Finally I brought the box out next to the computer where I sat every evening. Happy, she jumped in and laid down.
A while later she issued a single loud growl, and didn’t make a single sound for the rest of the night except to brace her paws against the sides of the box to push. Her first baby was born at 12:45 am, Valentine’s Day, 1997. That was YinYang, her only son, who died last month. The rest were all girls, each one born about 45 minutes apart. The last one was the runt, who I only knew was the runt because Mama tried to ignore her by laying on her rather than putting her with the others to nurse. An awful squalling came from the box. I quickly looked in to see what was wrong, saw the kitten underneath Mama’s back, and carefully picked it up and put it with its siblings. She eyeballed me warily but didn’t object. She would try to abandon that kitten twice more over the next week, but I would have none of it. She gave up after the third try. That would be Samadhi, now our last surviving cat, ironically.
The other kittens found homes and eventually we had our happy little trinity of cats. Babalon became our shadow. We lived a block or two from a convenience store and went there frequently for smokes, beer, and the like. She always followed us to the corner, waited in the bushes of the house there, and followed us back home, or walked in front of us. She was a beautiful cat, a tabby point Siamese, and as such the bottoms of her feet were black, so it looked like she was floating if you walked behind her at night. When I was pregnant and we frequently walked up the hill to the local university, she also followed us. She followed us so far one night that she exhausted herself and we had to make her stay home after that. She waited for us, though, right where we had left her when she couldn’t follow us any more. She must have walked through a dozen other cats’ territories, but she was going to stick with us.
She was an awesome mother, too. Not just to her own children, but also to mine. When we brought our daughter home from the hospital, she looked at her very oddly, but in a special way that I suppose Mother Nature reserves between all mothers and children. As if to say, “Ah! You made another one!” Our daughter was a fairly demanding baby and cried a lot. If she had been crying for too long or too loudly, even if we were right there with her, Babalon would come up to us and plaintively meow and look at us as if to notify us that we really needed to be tending to this problem now, it was important. As our daughter grew older and got to the tail-grabbing stage, she was very patient with her and didn’t get the claws out until it was really necessary, and even then she looked very sheepish and apologetic about it. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to!”
I’ve never had such a beautiful cat, either. She had a very long tail with beautiful rings of black and brown, and the combination of the tabby stripes and Siamese coloration gave her the most gorgeous face and markings. She was every color of brown from the lightest to the darkest. It was a privilege to have been graced by such a creature for so long. She was nearly 17 at the time of her death, almost precisely four weeks to the minute after her son died.
There are now two small mounds in the back of our yard. The cat statue stands between them, on guard. We have had quite enough of death at our house for a while. My husband would very much like to not have to dig any more small graves, and I would like to not have to cut any more death shrouds. We are now a one-cat house. It will seem very quiet, at least when she’s not yelling at us (Samadhi definitely got the Siamese vocal cords in the cat family). We will do our very best to relish our time with her.
Fair sailing to the Great Catnip Field in the Sky, Babalon.