Our Cats – “Oddball” and friends

We live in the country, three miles from a town with a population of about 1000 or so. When we first moved there, we had a problem with mice, even though we had two cats. Over time, though, the mouse problem just kind of went away. And, when we got new furniture, the cats went outside — permanently.
Living on a highway, even though it’s not heavily traveled, poses a couple of problems with cats.

The first problem is the highway itself. Young cats often do not survive their first year. It’s unfortunate, but that’s the way it is. You can’t fence ’em in and you can’t put ’em on a collar and chain. That’d be cruel — and they’re not coming in the house.

The second problem is stray cats. Over the years, most of the cats that we’ve had were ones that wandered up to our place. Some came to live; some just visited a while and moved on. I realize that many of the cats wandered in from somewhere else. However, some of them were obviously dumped. Some were friendly and came right up like they owned the place. Others were skittish and afraid, but it was obvious that some wanted to be petted and have attention paid to them.

Another problem for us is that we like to travel on occasion. In order to be able to do it, though, we have to have some one feed and water the cats when we aren’t there.

I don’t even know how many cats we’ve had over the years. I do know that it had been a long time since I had seen a mouse. However, a while back, the longest surviving cat, Muffin, disappeared. We figured she had wandered off someplace in the woods and died. At the time, she was the only cat — and we decided we didn’t want any more.

We forgot about the mice.

They came back, probably descendants of the originals that were there when we moved in — many generations removed from those early mice, of course.

So we started talking about what we were going to do, which included the possibility of cats. Our daughter told us that her boyfriend’s family had an outside, half-wild cat that just had a litter and that we could have the whole litter if we wanted. We decided to go for it.

Having experienced with cats that turned out half wild, we decided we wanted to get them when they were young enough that there was a decent chance their growing up friendly. We also knew that just bringing them out to our house that young probably wouldn’t work unless we had some way to keep them from running off into the woods. To keep that from happening, I built a good sized cage that we would keep them in for several weeks before we let them out on their own.

There were four kittens in the litter and they certainly were a mongrel bunch. There was one striped tabby that looked so much like the last cat we had that we gave her the same name. Another cat looked just like a Siamese and, from the beginning, just clung to you with his claws when he was picked up. He earned the name “Clinger.” There was a solid white kitten with a blue eye and a kind of amber eye. I jokingly suggested that we call him “Oddball,” and the name stuck. I can’t remember the fourth cat’s name. She was a calico looking cat.

All of the kittens were a little wild to begin with. The two males calmed down pretty quickly.

The days and weeks passed. We paid attention to the kittens and they grew to know and trust us, for the most part, and eventually the cage went away. The cats stayed.

The calico stayed a little wild all the time that she was with us, but she did get to the point where she would come to us and allow us to pick here up.

Muffin was a little standoffish, a little shy, and very stiff when she was picked up, holding herself

Oddball and Clinger were best friends. They were always together. And they both loved attention. Oddball, I think, was the best cat that we have ever had.

The first to go was the calico.

She just disappeared.

As I said before, that just happens, living in the country.

About the same time, a stray started showing up. He was really nervous and stayed away whenever we were around. He had the loudest meow of any cat that I’ve ever heard. We thought that there was going to be conflict with our other two males so we started running him off whenever we saw him.

Then the first problem that I talked about at the beginning of this essay, the highway, took its next casualties. Early one morning, as I was heading out to work, the two buddies, Oddball and Clinger, both silently sprawled out on the highway.

I stopped, got them off the road and, upset, buried them, before continuing on to work. Later, when I knew that she would be up, I called my wife to let her know what had happened.

Oddball, I think, as I said before, was the best cat that we ever had. The buddies, though, were the best two that we ever had at the same time.

Today, we have three cats. Muffin, like her namesake is now the one that we’ve had the longest, though she is a pretty young cat.

She had two kittens in her first litter. She showed them to us right away, and then kept hauling them off to the worst place she could. We had an addition to our house in progress and she took those kittens up into the attic and built a nest in the blown in insulation in the heat of the summer! When we found them the first time, they were dehydrated and their throats were full of insulation. She kept insisting on taking them up there, though. The runt did not survive.

Finally, I just went ahead and built another cage to keep Muffin and the kitten in so that there would be some chance of it surviving. And survive it did and, eventually, we stopped using the cage.

But then it wandered off. Just like so many, though most were older when they did.

What a let down after putting so much effort into giving it a fighting chance despite what its mother wanted to do with it.

Then after a couple of days, it was back. And it was so, so happy to see its mother — and its father — and us. It was bounding all over the place, climbing all over us and its parents. It still comes running whenever it hears the front door open, very unusual for a cat, even a kitten.

We still haven’t named it though, an attempt, I guess, to keep from becoming too attached to it, since we’ve already lost it once.

It’s a neat kitten, though, almost as good as Oddball. It’s a male, striped like its mother.

Its father?

Its father is a black and white cat, a stray, with a very loud meow, the loudest I’ve ever heard. We gave him a name, not very original for a cat, “Sylvester.”

I still miss Oddball.

Updates:

After, this article was originally published in October 2004, Muffin had another litter, this time with three kittens. The father, Sylvester, disappeared after that. There was only one left of this newest litter, “Frisky,” another not-so-original name.The kitten from the previous litter? He was still around — grown up and aloof — and still didn’t have a name. We just called him “Kitty.”

Then again, I guess that was his name.

October 2, 2007 – Time has passed and all the cats are gone. We travel quite a bit and our daughters no longer live in the area, so there’s no one to feed any critters when we’re gone. Maybe we’ll have pets again someday, but not soon.


February 26, 2010 – A few years back, when moving the blog location, I lost many of my older blog posts and images. Recently, while exploring the Internet Archive WayBackMachine, I discovered much of what I had lost.  I’ll be restoring the lost material and will share some of the better “recovered blog posts.” I’m also restoring some previous recovered posts to their original dates.  This was originally published on blogger on or before October 19, 2004.

around home, critters, Uncategorized, writing
3 comments… add one
  • CatherineL Oct 3, 2007

    Hi Mike – Oddball was cute. I have not had cats in ten years, since Misty was knocked down on the road. My son is allergic to them, so we couldn't have another. And like you say, it would be cruel not to let them out, no matter how dangerous it is.

    It is difficult when you're travelling. There is always the cattery option – we tried that once, and the cat sulked for ages afterwards. They don't like change much.

  • teeni Oct 3, 2007

    I don't have much to say about this one but that I am sorry about the cats. I love them and hate to think of them disappearing or getting hit on a highway. Do dogs keep mice away? Maybe a dog would be a good pet someday who you could keep inside at night because he would not ruin the furniture.

  • Opal Tribble Oct 6, 2007

    Wow you brought back memories with this post. We had a lot of outdoor cats as a child and like you said some of them would go away. The majority of them were friendly although some were more friendlier than others. There was plenty of rodents outside to keep their bellies full. We also supplied them with food.

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