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Caturday Journal

Elliott suggested I do a journal for cat lovers. Hmmm, what a good idea. So let’s talk about cats, kittehs, tigers, pooties, whatever your favourite name for the domestic feline happens to be.

My first feline was an 8-week old kitten delivered in the wee hours by my musician dad and a guitarist friend, both of them hammered at the time. I never knew whose idea it was to give me a kitten for my 12th birthday. I named him Wow, for the sound he made. After I joined the Navy at 17 it was a number of years before I had another feline to call my own, so to speak.

After returning to the world in 1970 my wife and I had 3 cats. Chu Chu and Chugar Bee, both female, were Lyn’s cats. They had been treated to a 2 year stay in Japan, where they were joined by a male stray I found and named Tama-chan, which roughly translates to "little ball of fur." The Japanese are very fond of cats and refer to them as "the tiger that feeds from your hand." Now you know why I call my critters tigers. Sadly, these 3 loving creatures allegedly fell prey to a woman who lived across the street from us. It was discovered that this woman had had a penchant for poisoning cats in our neighborhood over the years. The police could never prove their case so she was never held to account.

Lyn and I were looking for another tiger when she saw the ubiquitous "free kittens to good home" ad. When we arrived the guardians of these precious little things said they had decided to keep the kittens but wanted to find a home for the queen. I said we’d take her. After 3 days of hiding under the couch in the den she came out and was Daddy’s tiger from that day on, ignored Lyn like she didn’t exist. Tiye filled out and became a gorgeous long haired grey with white paws and a feather boa tail. She loved to hang out up the street (we lived on a steep hill) but when I came home from the naval station each evening I’d jump out of the MG A in order to watch her running down the sidewalk, so fast she was ahead of herself, looking like she was running sideways. During our divorce Lyn got the jade and ivory and I got Tiye. Still think I got the better of the deal.

Fast forward to today. I’m now the caregiver for 10 tigers, having lost Gigi to cancer on 6 August at 15. My oldest, three pairs of siblings, are pushing 7. Tama-chan (II) and Bapu, Gabby and Shiimsa, and Ptah and Skoshi, Skoshi being the only female in that crew. Next comes Feurae (5) (the name compliments of DWBartoo and his significant other), Igraine (3) and the latest additions Maste and Nagi. Nagi is a natural Manx while Maste had to have his tail amputated. Both are about 1 year old. Bapu is a Hindu term of endearment (Gandhi was called Bapu). Shiimsa is an Ojibwa word for "little animal friend." Igraine was the mother of Arthur and Morgaine (see The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley). Ptah (the "P" is silent) was a minor Egyptian god. Skoshi is Japanese for "a little bit." Maste is Lakota for "sunshine" and Nagi is Lakota for "shadow." Eight males and 2 females.

Domestic cats are intriguing. We’ve all heard the complaints about cats killing birds and other wildlife if allowed to run loose. I keep my tigers inside because it’s safer for them. I don’t have to worry about cat fights, dogs, cars or mean humans. I’ve got birds, squirrels and other critters in my little neighborhood but the strays aren’t very successful as predators. My MIL had a huge tiger named 9 O’Clock. Amazing animal. 9 O’clocks are spiral stickers common to canyons in southern CA. When found his fur was totally matted with these things, hence the name. 9 loved the canyon that Alveda’s house sat on the edge of. One evening he appeared out of the canyon with a possum in tow. A few days later it was a skunk. Over the years these critters brought their young to Alveda’s patio where there was food out for them every night. We’d sit on the living room floor and watch the critters through the sliding glass doors. One evening Alveda heard a noise in the garage and went to investigate. There was a skunk who had gotten herself trapped behind the water heater when a board had slipped and blocked her exit. Alveda figured she’d get sprayed but had to free the little skunk. She walked up, moved the board and this little critter just looked up at her as if to say "thanks" and waddled out of the garage.

Big cats and little cats are all predators. You can raise a Bengal tiger in captivity but it’s still a wild animal and can be dangerous to be around. Domestic cats, however, choose their caregivers. We may think we made the choice at the shelter or wherever but the reality is that if the cat doesn’t want to be where s/he is, they’ll simply split. Not being pack animals they do not accept the authority of an alpha figure. Many people who say they hate cats do so because they can’t control them like they can a dog. For those who say that dogs are smarter than cats I have only one question: When was the last time you saw 12 cats pulling a sled and human through snow?

I’m honoured by the fact that a number of predators have allowed me to care for them, love them and handle them. In return I get unconditional love. It doesn’t get any better than that.

Tell us your tiger stories.

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