My Baby Girl has been with me since she was born early in the summer of 1985, only a couple of years after I had moved from California to Texas. First, I need to back up a couple of generations.
Once my six-month lease on a condominium in Brownsville was up, I moved to 1O6 Pecan Street, in Los Fresnos, Texas. At that time, I had a large male Siamese cat named Jude. He was a beautiful cat, friendly with people, so I think that someone took him while he was outdoors, or maybe he left in protest over my taking in another cat.
While Jude was still with me, I walked onto my closed porch one morning to find a very small black kitten there. Since the door was closed, but unlocked, someone must have put her there, assuming correctly that I'd take her in. I named her Cousin, or Cuz for short. I had to keep the two cats in separate rooms because Jude hated her and, despite the fact that she was very small, and female, he attacked her viciously, and persisted even while I was holding her.
Not long after that, Jude didn't return after I let him outdoors one day. It was a small town, and I searched everywhere, but to no avail.
Cuz grew to be an evil tempered little girl. While she had moments of affection, she didn't like me very much, perhaps because I had started a new job as EMS Director with the Community Ambulance Service, and was also serving as the health inspector, building inspector, and as a volunteer with the fire department, so I wasn't home a lot.
While I was having my roof replaced, I moved in with some friends of mine who lived on a few acres of land outside of town, taking Cuz with me, of course. They had cats, who lived in a shed outdoors, and Cuz took to being an outdoor cat as if that were her purpose in life.
Before too long, she had a litter of beautiful kittens. Until I found myself with five cats, I had felt uncomfortable spaying or neutering an animal.
When it came time to move back home, I left Cuz behind, because she was happier there, but I took one of her kittens, who I named Little Girl. She was the one who'd come out to greet me whenever I came near.
Little Girl was with me for about ten years, during which time I moved from Pecan Street to West 3rd Street, still in the city of Los Fresnos. Although I seldom let her outside, still she managed to have a couple of litters of kittens, all of which I found homes for, except for one, who I decided to keep. She was born early in the summer of 1985, and I named her Baby Girl. She looked just like her mother.
I made the mistake of letting someone stay in my spare bedroom for a couple of weeks. One day while I was at work, doing a 24-hour shift as a paramedic, he let Baby Girl escape. Rather than waiting for her to return, as she would have, afraid that I'd be angry, which was certainly a reasonable fear, he chased her. She didn't know him very well, and was probably scared, so she ran, and I never saw her again.
Then there was me and Baby Girl, since I was single then.
She was an easy cat, in that she didn't demand a lot most of the time. She would lay on my chest while I was sleeping, but otherwise wasn't one to want to cuddle a whole lot. Rather than being petted, she preferred to pet herself, as I called it, rubbing her head and one whole side of her body on my leg or, for that matter, furniture.
She would sit by me often, but if I sat by her, she'd usually move. Even in her last days, after she had been diagnosed with cancer, and I very much wanted to spend time with her, that didn't change. If she was lying on the couch, and I sat with her, looking for quality time, she'd move to a chair.
Over the years, she had several litters of kittens, but all of which were easy to find homes for. An indoor cat, who only went out during the day, under my supervision, still she managed to get pregnant. There were times when I couldn't think of an single moment when she was out of my sight outdoors, yet here we were again.
Her last healthy litter of kittens were born in 2OOO, when Baby Girl was about fifteen years old, already pretty old for a cat. She had one litter after that, but only one of the kittens survived, and she gave that one away to her daughter, Lydia, who had given birth to a litter of kittens at about the same time. After about a week of nursing her kitten, she carried it over to where Lydia had hers, and never looked back. Perhaps she realized that she was too old to nurse a kitten, or maybe she was just tired of it.
Cutie and Lydia were born to her in 199O or 1991, when she was five or six years old. All four of the kittens in that litter were black, the only black kittens she was ever to give birth to. I lived in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas at the time, where Santeria and superstition were prevalent, so I was very careful about who I gave a black cat away to, so I decided to keep the two twin sisters.
I have many others, but I'll share a few stories about Baby Girl's maternal instincts.
First, although I'm sure she didn't realize that I was a paramedic, she insisted that I be there with her while she was giving birth, and it would go on for hours. If I fell asleep, she'd wake me up. Once, she had given birth to four healthy kittens at about 3:OO in the morning. I waited with her for awhile then, thinking there weren't going to be any more, I went to bed in another room.
I was awakened by Baby Girl, who had jumped up onto the bed and was poking me in the face with her paws. Turning on the light, I found that she was actively in the process of giving birth to a fifth kitten, and insisted on my being there for the event. There were only five but, afraid to put her through that again, I fell asleep on the floor next to her, and didn't get a lot of sleep that night.
Another time, I think it was the same litter, when they were a few weeks old but still nursing, I was sleeping during the day, having been up all night doing paramedic stuff. I woke up to find all of her kittens in the bed with me. Baby Girl had carried them into my bedroom, one by one, leaving them in the bed with me, to babysit while she took a break to sit in the window for awhile.
She was a doting mother, although not always a sensible one. Other than a few necessary breaks, she would usually stay with them all the time, and didn't much appreciate anyone interfering, unless it was her idea, of course. If she were away from them and one of them would meow, she'd run to answer their call.
Once, I had taken one of her kittens into the living room. It was already old enough to walk, and to eat on its own, but Baby Girl kept dragging them back to the place she had chosen for them, under the sink in the bathroom.
I guess she had done a head count, because Baby Girl soon came looking for the missing kitten. Finding it on my lap, she jumped up and, taking it by the nap of the neck, tried to carry it back to its place in the bathroom.
The kitten meowed. Baby Girl let go, jumped down, and went running into the bathroom to see what was the matter. Yet, the kitten that had meowed was the one that was on my lap, and in her mouth at the time.
Her kittens were always her kittens, no matter what their age. She often tried to carry Cutie and Lydia back to their place, even when they were five or six years old, and about the same size as she was. Throughout her lifetime, she cleaned, consoled, and doted on her kittens. Even when she was 23 and they were 17 years of age, they were still her kittens and she was their mom. Especially Lydia, who was always a momma's girl.
The only exception was her last kitten. She was too old to be having kittens, and most of her last litter were stillborn. Only one survived, and she tried to nurse it for awhile, then, probably realizing that she was too old to nurse a kitten, she carried over to the place where Lydia had her kittens, and left it for her daughter to nurse.
Always eager to please her mother, Lydia took it in as if it were her own.
Baby Girl was also fearless, and quite a terror in her younger days. Her typical reaction to a loud noise was to go see what it was, rather than to run from or avoid it.
When she was about a year old, my neighbor got a Rottweiler, a very large dog. There was a chain link fence separating our two yards though, so as long as she stayed on our side, she was okay.
I was in the back yard with her one afternoon. The Rottweiler started barking at her, and before I was aware of what she was doing, she had run to the fence, and crossed it, to see what the dog was barking about. I was afraid of that dog, but he looked down at this little cat, looking confused, sniffed at her a few times and walked away.
Unafraid of Rottweilers, she was fearful of bugs, most especially June bugs, but that’s reasonable. She was not a predator. In her twenty-three years, I don’t know of her having ever harmed another living thing. Once I had a mouse in my house, and a perfectly healthy cat who ignored the mouse completely, as if she were incapable of seeing it. She did attack other cats though, although I don’t think she ever hurt any of them.
Sitting in the window of our living room, if she saw another cat, male or female, she wanted to go out. As soon as the door was opened, she’d attack it. Several times, she crossed the street, chasing the neighbor's cat out of its own yard.
She liked to ride with me on the bicycle, to be carried around the house in a box, or to be dragged across the room on a carpet fragment or small rug. She would get an excited look in her eyes whenever I offered to drag her around the room on a rug, or carry her in a box.
I did that the morning before she died, after her cancer had run its course. Sometimes I like to think that that look was there, but it wasn't. Not really.
She was my cat, my oldest friend, and I miss her very much.