Scary Monsters: The Cats
1982 to 2006
I've always liked cats and I've always liked dogs. I lived in apartments from the time I got out of the Air Force in 1982 until I bought my first house in 1996, and cats are more practical for apartment living. For practical reasons, Hanna and I have opted for a state of catlessness since we got married, but we're both fond of the little furballs.
Here, for the historical record, is my photographic tribute to the cats who have shared my life over the years. Don't tell my dogs, but I still miss my cats.
This was my first cat, who moved in with me in my first apartment in December 1982. I had just moved to Pennsylvania and was having a rough time adjusting to life after the military. Some friends of mine decided I needed a cat in my life so they gave me one of their spares. She was originally named Ragmop. I usually just called her Cat, since she was my only cat for four years or so. For reasons I don't recall, in her later years she was renamed Ancient Kitty, or just Ancient. This picture was taken in 1983.
Ancient was the sweetest, friendliest cat I ever knew. She was a wonderful cat. She would spend hours sitting on my lap. In fact, most of Shipbase III and my other early game designs were written and programmed with Ancient on my lap. She wasn't very bright but she had the nicest temperament for a cat you could ask for. She was born sometime in 1980 I think. In 1994, at about 14 years old, she developed a large tumor in her head and passed away. I hope she's up in Pet Heaven, welcoming all my other cats and dogs as they come up to meet her. This photo was taken in 1994 before she got sick. As this photo shows, she was a beautiful cat.
During my third year in college, late in 1985, I brought home a kitten to keep Ragmop company. Originally I just called the kitten Kitten, Cat, or Other Cat, depending on which cat was closer. Since neither responded to anything I said to them, it didn't matter what I called them. In later years this one became Skitzy. She was generally friendly and got along well with Ragmop, but she always had a skitzy personality. Or cat-ality, whatever you want to call it.
Friendly, but not too bright. Here she is in 1997, staring at a spot on the wall. There's nothing there, she's just staring at the wall. Skitzy lived a long time, about 16 years, but she was sick during the last few years of her life. She had some sort of thyroid disease. I had pills for her but she didn't like taking them, so I had to wrap them in little bits of meat to try to trick her. Half the time I had to shove the pills down her throat. Towards the end of May 2001 she stopped eating altogether and got sicker, and she slipped away on June 1. Losing Ancient was very hard on me, but losing Skitzy was even harder. She had been with me through so much.
After Ancient Kitty passed away I got a new kitten, originally named Boudiccea but soon renamed Kinten. She was a very friendly but very dumb cat. Here she is in 1994, shortly after coming to live with me, eating a plate of scrambled eggs. (My pets tend to be a little spoiled for some reason.) Like Ancient, she also had a sweet personality. When I came home from work late in the afternoons, Kinten would sit and "talk" to me for a long time, making weird cat sounds, as if she was telling me about her day.
Kinten liked climbing up on a wooden beam that crossed the ceiling of the kitchen and sit up there for hours. I think she jumped up onto the fridge from the staircase next to the kitchen, and from the fridge jumped onto the beam. This stunt earned her the obvious nickname "Beam Kinten". I preferred keeping the cats inside at all times for various reasons, mostly for their safety, but she loved to play outside. One day in 1998, when she was only about 4 years old, Kinten got out of the house somehow and was hit by a car. One of the neighborhood kids found her and brought her home. I rushed her to the pet emergency hospital, but they said there wasn't much they could do for her and sent her back home. Kinten passed away that night, right next to my bed. I hope she got reincarnated as a bird. She used to love to sit on window sills and watch the birds in the yard and make clicking noises in her throat when she saw the birds fly away.
Sam was adopted from the used cat store. He was already full-grown when I got him in 1995, and I soon found out why his previous humans had left him at the used cat store. He was a very friendly cat, but he always had stomach problems. He was good about using the litter box but he was always, er, a bit messy. Sam never photographed well. He was a black and white and round blob. Couple that with my poor photography skills, and all his pictures look pretty much like these two shots. This one was taken in 1995 in my last apartment. Notice the tank book on the table in the background.
Sam got along well with people, with all the other cats, and even with all the dogs. He was the only cat that Bailey and Pookie tolerated, probably because he just slept most of the time. He didn't startle when the dogs started barking and running around. Like Skitzy, Sam was sick with thyroid disease for the last few years of his life. He's still big and round in these pictures but he got very skinny during his last year or so. I had pills for him too but he wouldn't swallow them. I'd try to force the pills down his throat but he would spit them out later. I would find big piles of little white pills behind the couch or under the bed. When I moved back to Pennsylvania in 2003 and bought a house out in the middle of the woods, I let Sam play outside as much as he wanted to. There are lots of critters in the hundreds of acres of forest around my house, but Sam loved being outside so much and he'd been sick for so long I let him have his fun. One morning in May he stretched his legs on the porch in preparation for a full day's hunting, turned to me and meowed, then ran off into the trees. I never saw him again. I looked around in the woods for him for a while but I knew he was gone. He was doing exactly what he wanted to do most, so I didn't feel bad for him. I wished him well wherever he was.
I've been carefully avoiding any explanation of why most of these cats ended up living in my house, or why there were so many of them. Trust me when I say it isn't important. This small black and white cat, named Scully after the TV character, was a feral kitten. She was a bit shy at first but reasonably friendly, until I took her to the vet to be spayed. After that, she never wanted any human to touch her. She was fine with all the other cats and the dog, but whenever a person came near she would run off and hide under the furniture. Capturing her and putting her in a cat carrier to go to the vet was always an ordeal. This picture was taken in 2001. That's Xena's head in the corner of the shot.
Aside from the skittishness, Scully was a nice cat. She would sit at a safe distance and watch me for hours at a time. She was particularly close to Sam. I don't know if that was because Sam was so friendly, or because they both had the same black and white coloring. I think Scully came to live with me in late 1995 or early 1996. I brought her with me when I moved back to Pennsylvania in 2003. She lived in the basement of the new house for a few weeks and then disappeared, probably out the open garage door and into the woods. For a few years after that I would occaisionally catch a glimpse of a small black and white cat lurking in the woods near the house but I couldn't get close enough to tell for sure if it was her or not. I figured she would be much happier back out in the wild. Other than Polly, she never really liked the dogs.
After Kinten was hit by a car and died, I ended up with not one but two new kittens. Panzer (pictured here) and Xena were sisters and came to live with me in late 1998. Xena was a little bit darker and slightly smaller but they looked so much alike I could only tell the two apart when I could see their faces. Xena had a vertical stripe down her nose, light on one side and dark on the other, and Panzer had a solid light-colored nose. Both were friendly cats.
After I moved back to Pennsylvania in 2003 and Sam and Scully disappeared into the woods, I was back down to two cats: the two sisters, Panzer and Xena. They didn't really like being in the house because of the dogs; Pookie and Bailey in particular chased the cats around when they could, and barked at the cats when they were out of reach. The cats spent most of their time in the basement during the cold months. The rest of the year the two cats spent outside, in the yard around the house. They loved it out there. The edge of the woods is only a few feet away, and there are mice and rabbits and birds and chipmunks and squirrels and snakes and lots of other critters to hunt. Note how skinny Panzer is in this photo, taken in 2005, compared to the photo above of her sitting on the couch taken in 2003. I left food out for them and let them inside whenever they wanted to come in, but they prefered to be outside day and night unless it was raining. They divided the yard between the two of them and each stayed in her own "zone". Panzer commanded the front yard, around the kitchen area, and Xena controlled the back yard where the grass was a bit thicker.
This is Xena, named after the warrior princess on TV. This picture is from 2001. She and her sister were friendly but Xena always had that "I'm going to eat your soul when you're not looking" expression on her face.
Xena in 2002. She was one of those cats who, for some reason, liked to sit in boxes a lot. It probably made sense to her at the time. In 2005 when Hanna and I started dating, it was apparent that Hanna's new puppy Tansy did not like the cats, and the cats didn't like Tansy. We decided that five dogs and two cats were too much for one household, by about two cats, so before we got married we found a new home for Xena and Panzer. One of Hanna's relatives was looking for a cat or two to live in her barn on her farm to keep the mice down. Xena and Panzer weren't as keen on the idea however. Both left for greener pastures, as it were. One cat went to live in a different barn on another nearby farm, and the other cat went to live with a family in a nearby farmhouse. I don't know if either cat is still alive, but if they are they'd be over 16 years old by now. Happy hunting, cats.
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The content on this page was written: June 1, 2013
Last updated: June 10, 2016