Wednesday, August 24, 2011

My Black Cats

The adoption rate for black dogs and cats, when compared to lighter colored pets, is a lot lower. As someone who has been loved by three black cats in my life, I want to join in the conversation and share just how wonderful a black cat can be.


My first black cat was Midnight. I don't remember how Midnight came into my life. I think I was in about second grade or maybe third. Midnight was a very calm cat for a little girl to have. She let me dress her up in doll clothes and push her down the street in my pram.

A pram is like a stroller, but the baby lies down in it, and it has a folding hood to keep off the sun and rain. My great aunt bought me mine while she was visiting us when we lived in Scotland.

How many cats do you know who would let an 8-year-old put doll clothes on her and then go quietly to sleep while being pushed down the street in a baby buggy? Certainly, none of the ones I have now would let me do that!

Midnight also loved to play with my stuffed tiger, which I'd had since I was a "little" girl! So, when my dad brought me home a puppy (Snoopy, a beagle mix), Midnight considered him her living toy. He would toddle through a door where Midnight was waiting to pounce on him, but he never minded. I think he thought he was a cat, except that he couldn't climb trees.

The only time Snoopy ever chased a cat was when he went to live with my grandmother (my dad was Navy and we moved someplace that we couldn't have a dog). My uncle lived two houses over, and his family had a cat (a black cat) named Ebony, who was kind of snooty I guess, and she didn't want to play with Snoopy. She ran from him. Snoopy was used to a black cat who would play with him, so he chased her. Nothing malicious at all, and I think if he'd ever caught her, he would have said, "Tag, you're it!"

We used to take Midnight (and Snoopy when he joined the family) camping with us. We had a motorhome, and my parents belonged to the Good Sam Club, so at least once a month, we went on a weekend campout. Midnight would stretch out on the front dashboard while we were on the road, and she'd play with the wipers if it rained. People seemed to get a great kick out of seeing her up there, especially when they realized she was a real cat! When we got to the campground, she'd walk on a leash, right alongside the dog.

I don't remember what happened to Midnight. I seem to recall my mom saying that she "disappeared." Maybe she did or maybe she got hit by a car or something. She's part of the reason my cats now stay in the house.


We adopted Mystery on the first Saturday in May, 1978. My mom and I were going to yard sales that morning, and we'd just recently moved to someplace we could have a cat. I saw this beautiful fluffy black cat come walking around one of the houses, and I said, "Wouldn't it be great if she had kittens?" Turns out, she did. We asked, and the kittens were only five weeks old, but at that time there were no rules about adopting kittens only after they're 8-10 weeks old, and none of us knew any better, I guess, because we took Mystery home with us. My mom had a Navy wives party that night, and as it started getting later, the novelty of Mystery's new home wore off. She wanted her mother. After a couple of hours of her crying, I wanted my mother, too. My mom never stayed out late, but she did that night. I even called the party looking for her, and I imagined her dead on the side of the road with no one knowing she had a daughter and a grandkitten at home. By the time she got back, I was crying just as much as Mystery. Pretty soon, we both calmed down and went to sleep, Mystery with an old sock stuffed with other old socks to give her something fuzzy to curl up with.

During the period when I didn't have a cat and Snoopy was at my grandparents, well, I had to have a pet, so I got a mouse. Long story short, I had three mice and a rat by the time we adopted Mystery. She never tried to get to the mice, but she did enjoy watching them run on their wheels and play.

In 1979, Mystery had kittens. Two of them looked Siamese, and I named them Muffet and Meringue. After that, Mystery got hit by a car, Muffet disappeared, and Meringue also got hit by a car. One of Mystery's kittens was a tabby who went to live at my grandmother's house. She named him Tiger. Then another tabby, called Silver Cat, showed up at her house. In 1980, Silver Cat gave birth to Mystery's grandkittens. My great-grandkittens. Two of them looked Siamese, and I named them Martini and Taminar Rossi. Obviously at that time, none of us thought about having our cats spayed or neutered. Martini had several litters of kittens, and some of them had kittens, leaving me with a legacy of love for more than two decades.

 Mystery's last living descendants, her great great grandkittens, were Mouse (1985-2005, pictured at left) and Allie (1987-2005).

Kali likes to be under things.

During a road trip in October 2008, I found Kali at the side of a busy intersection. She was about five weeks old and literally less than a foot from the road, hiding in the grass. It took me just minutes to fall in love with her. It took two weeks to convince my husband to add cat #8 to the family. During that time, she lived in Tim's workshop out back, so she was all alone, locked in her carrier (for safety), except for a couple of hours in the morning and a couple of hours at night. Is it any wonder that she turned mean? She could be quite a little terror when she started biting, kicking and clawing, but I always blamed myself for that.

She's calmed down a lot since her killer kitten days, but she is still very independent-minded. She will only rarely sit in my lap, even though she likes to be near me. When she is doing something wrong and I scold her with a sharp "Kali Malicious," she will usually stop. If she doesn't stop and I try to move her or spritz her with water, she just gets mad.

Kali makes me laugh a lot. When she was tiny and went into berserker mode, I found a caterpillar stuffed toy that was about the same size as she was, and I would extricate my arm and replace it with the toy. I wish I had video of her rolling around and kicking that thing. One day, she rolled right off the bed with it! I waited a few seconds and asked, "Kali, are you all right?" A moment later she hopped back up on the bed, dragging that caterpillar with her. As soon as she got settled, she started biting and kicking again.

Another time, she'd been playing rough with Trickster, one of her big brothers. He'd had enough and he let her know it. With a "Hmph!" Kali moved away about six inches and sat with her back to him. So he started playing with her tail. She jerked around like she was going to smack whoever it was, saw it was him, and said, "Hmph!" again and turned back away. That happened three or four times in a row. It was really funny to watch them together.

I remember teaching Kali to play with her first toy ball, an orange ping-pong type ball. She had no idea what to do with it when I sat it in front of her, so I started batting it around for her and she caught on very quickly. She now has a variety of practice golf balls (with holes, easy for cats to pick up), two sizes of whiffle balls, balls with bells in them, big balls with little balls inside them, a tennis ball, a mini-soccer ball, and a volleyball. One of the best toys, until she destroyed it, was a beach ball with the world globe printed on it. I won it in a "Get Smart" movie giveaway, and I had blown it up and tossed it in the closet. She kept sniffing around it, so I pulled it out and threw it down the hall. Now, this thing is regular beach ball size, at least 18" across, so much bigger than baby Kali, but she chased it down the hall and leaped on it, spreadeagle, and rode it until she fell off. As many times as I would toss it down the hall, she'd chase it down. Of course, being an inflatable vinyl ball, tiny pinholes began to show up all around it. I covered them with tape and kept going for as long as we could, but the beach ball finally died its last death.

Kali is also big about covering things up. She tries to cover the water bowl, meaning toys and scraps of paper show up in the dish all the time. If someone yaks up a hairball, Kali is right there, dragging any nearby toys, socks or garments on top of it.

One day after work, my husband walked into their room, saw a toy or two in the water, and said, "Your cat has left you another art installation." After that, I started taking photos of her Kallages and I've posted some of them on DeviantArt.


Those are my three black cats, and as you can tell, they all had or have their own distinct personalities, just like any other cat. I believe it was good luck (and in Kali's case, a guardian angel) that brought my three sleek black cats to me. I don't love them because they are black or in spite of it, I just love them.