19 years ago..
I got my first cat. She was my first pet ever, my first kitten, my first friend that I can remember. Later, she would give birth to the best friend I ever could have asked for. My confidante, my security blanket, my snuggle buddy, the reason I went into veterinary medicine. This is how I got there.
I’ve always been an animal person. When I was 5 years old, I lived in China and had a neighbor who had 2 giant, at the time bigger than me, German Shepherds. They were trained as guard dogs, but they would always come up to me to say hi. Not sure if they thought I would be a fun squeaky toy, or if they actually liked me, but I’d like to think that they wouldn’t have tried to eat me had I ever actually pet them. The son of the family once brought home a kitten from the market. A tiny, 6 week old, calico kitten. Into a house with two giant guard dogs. Needless to say, the parents were not impressed, and wouldn’t let the kitten stay. Who better to give it to than the young European girl who lived next door? My parents let me keep her, and I had my first cat. We quickly became the best of friends, and she slept in my bed every night. In China, a tri colored cat is considered lucky, so Lucky is what I named her. Lucky was an indoor/outdoor cat, which wasn’t the smartest idea in China, as outdoor cats are often struck by the many vehicles on the roads, but we lived in a safe gated community, and she never really roamed far. Then one day she came home and had a noticeably bigger stomach - Lucky was pregnant! Being young, I was ecstatic over the prospect of having even more kittens to play with, while my parents were less thrilled. And by ‘less thrilled’ I mean shocked at the fact that she got pregnant two weeks before she was due to be spayed. But alas, she was pregnant, so the surgery was canceled and a birthing box was set up.
Halloween circa 1998 - around the time I was gifted Lucky
One day, my mother was lying on the couch with Lucky on her stomach when she felt the contractions start. She quickly moved her to the birthing box in our garage, and that is where I found the two of them when I got home from school an hour later. I got there just in time for the magic to happen, and I’m thankful that I did, otherwise I’m not sure I would have met my ‘Soul-Cat’. That’s a lie, I totally would have. That orange kitten and I had a bond that I’m certain I’ll never feel again.
It all started when Lucky pushed out her first kitten. It was a white kitten which later developed a perfectly round black spot on her head. Mind you, all my five year old eyes could see was that it was a weird mix of rat and kitten and that it was covered in goo. Lucky did her best to clean off her baby and dry her up, eager to get the kitten to start drinking. She was so busy, and overwhelmed, that she didn’t notice that a second baby had come out. Worried that the kitten would be neglected, I decided to clean up the second kitten gently with a towel. I remember putting her in my lap and rubbing her down with a towel, until all of her bright orange tabby fur was cleaned, and she tried suckling on my fingers. My mom helped me give the orange kitten back to her mother so that she could eat while the rest of her brothers and sisters were being born.
Lucky had 9 kittens, which means I had 9 new things to love and cuddle. Dream come true for a 5 year old, right? Lucky and her babies followed me around like little ducklings, I couldn’t go anywhere without them following me. The only time they weren’t with me was when they were terrorizing my father. My dad is a 6 foot 5, really scary looking German man. He’s essentially a giant teddy bear, but you wouldn’t know it by the look of him. He would take naps on the couch, with his feet hanging off the ends because he’s such a giant. And what do kittens see when they see feet dangling off the couch? They see 10 fleshy opportunities to sink their teeth and claws into. I don’t think dad ever had one peaceful, uninterrupted nap on the couch while the kittens were in our house. The kittens and Lucky also slept in my bed. Lucky would sleep in the small of my back, the kittens would sleep behind my knees and around my feet. But one would sleep on my pillow, nuzzled against my face. Every night, the little orange tabby would get up on my pillow and cuddle into me, never wavering and always purring.
When it came time to pick two kittens that we would keep, naturally I picked my orange best friend, and the white kitten with the black spot on her head. I hadn’t been allowed to name them, as my parents didn’t want me to get attached, but since I had made my decision, I came up with two names. At the time I was reading the Garfield and the Charlie Brown comics. You would think that I was a smart enough kid to name the white kitten with the black spot on it’s head (and a little bit on her ears), Snoopy, and the orange female some variation of Garfield, right?
What Snoopy looked like at age 9 or 10. Always with the grumpy face, but always purring in my lap.
The black and white kitten was named Blacky, and my orange best friend was named Snoopy. I was a really smart kid, you guys.
Sorry to end on a cliff hanger, but it seems this post is getting a little long. Stay tuned for Part 2 next week!