Suzanne's Second Estate

A web log of my thoughts, activities, life....

Tuesday, April 17, 2007


Me and Kitter at a Christmas party in 1985

I've been wanting to post this essay for a long time, but I was waiting until I could scrounge up a photo to go with it. Kitter (who we later called "Hoy") was the family cat whose life spanned 20 years of Hadfam history. I wrote this essay two years ago at the same writer's retreat I mentioned in my last entry. When I read the piece in front of the group, many reached for a tissue and several approached me afterward to share their own stories of beloved animals. There is something very special about a family pet.

She came to our family when I was 6. A beautiful, short-haired calico with neopolitan fur of orange, gray and white. We named her Kitter.

The calico was quick to purr and didn’t seem to mind grabby little hands or sudden shrieks and giggles. Photographs from a childhood Christmas party, depict neighborhood first-graders with toothless grins, struggling under the weight of a cat one quarter their size. She posed for 14 photos without scratching.

Kitter had six litters of kittens. In the days before animal control advertisements, my parents let her go un-spayed. And each time she socialized with neighborhood Tomcats, a batch of kittens soon followed — to my delight. My brother, sister and I learned how to stuff towels into a cardboard birthing box, and we watched, fascinated as the slimy objects — looking more alien than feline — emerged. When my youngest sister was born, we didn’t have any questions.

Shortly after I turned 11, we moved from Pennsylvania to Washington. I cried when I had to leave my friends. But Kitter went with us. She seemed comfortable in her new surroundings, and when we moved again a year later, she sniffed around the new house, found a sunny window seat and licked her white paws. She was right at home.

As teens, my brother and I learned to play the piano. In those many hours of scales and sometimes chopsticks, Kitter often curled up on the piano bench, adding her steady purr to the rhythm of the music. She loved my brother most of all. And it was common to see Matt sitting cross-legged on the carpet strumming his guitar while Kitter gazed up at him as if he were a Greek god.

When I was 15, we got a dog. Ace was a gentle collie-Australian shepherd mix. On the day he arrived, he jogged up to Kitter and received an I-mean-business swat to the nose. From that time on, he preferred taking the long way around rather than passing through the living room where Kitter lay on his large, cedar chip dog bed. We delighted in finding ways to lure him into her domain. At such times, he hung his head and ran for it, sidestepping her menacing paw.

As the two grew older, they developed an odd friendship. Ace still kept his distance, but they could almost always be found in the same room. Ace died the year my younger sister left for college. Mom said Kitter went from room to room, looking for her old friend.

Our family changed — I got a job in Colorado, my brother got married, my sister went to college. Kitter seemed unfazed by the changes. But she was happiest when her whole family was together. She’d plant herself in the middle of our family room, proudly watching the family she’d raised.

This past Christmas was our last with Kitter. She was 20 years old. Though mostly deaf, she still sat at the piano bench when Matt played. Christmas morning the whole family was together. Kitter purred in my lap as I stroked her calico fur. Nothing had changed really.

Copyright © 2005 Suzanne Hadley.


At 10:34 AM, Anonymous Kelsey said...

What a great, I needed a tissue after that too!!

At 12:45 PM, Blogger Sarah said...

What a sweet story! Cats are the best!


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