After sixty plus years on this earth and zero desire to have an animal share her living space, my mother has suddenly become a cat lady.
First of all, let me tell you that she’s a softie. Not a pushover, but someone who sees a person in need and instantly has the urge to help them even if her own resources are slightly strained to make that help possible. We’re nothing alike. She raised an only child who barely tolerates other people.
Anyway, on with the story.
Over the years, there has been a marmalade cat having babies under my mom’s deck then moving on once the kittens are old enough. This latest litter is a batch of three tabbies. Cute as buttons – that is, if you think buttons are inherently cute.
As usual, mother and babies hang out under the deck. Gradually though, since my mom noticed them and started leaving food, they migrate to the deck itself, just outside the sliding glass doors. The babies are wriggly cute. Mama Tabs is super protective but tolerant.
One day, Mama Tabs disappears.
Mom continues feeding the kittens, thinking nothing about it. Maybe Mama Tabs is on walkabout or something. But then that notion is laid to rest when she discovers Mama Tabs in the backyard, basically dead.
The kittens continue being cute and Mom starts to worry about them in their newly orphaned state. During her worry, one of the kittens disappears and Mom worries some more. Maybe there are predators in the neighborhood waiting to pick off these innocent tabbies one by one. Perhaps there’s a budding serial killer practicing on cats in preparation for their human victims.
Weeks pass. Mom continues feeding the kittens and ponders out loud to me about bringing them inside to keep them safe. She sends me endless videos of them being adorable.
While this is going on, my mom realizes that she’s starting to inexplicably lose weight. At the doctor’s, she gets some bad news – she’s diabetic. It’s scary, and it sucks. She begins to worry about herself in addition to the kittens. My mom and I talk on the phone even more than usual. During those phone calls between Florida and Madrid, vibrates the awareness of Mama Tabs, of mortality, and the important things we can leave behind in the pursuit of our own dreams. She asks me to come back to Florida, so I do.
Diabetes is so common in the black community that there are endless jokes about it. Doctors routinely check me for it though I never ask them to. This thing that has always lurked in the background is suddenly right there in front of me. Insulin and horror stories about foot amputations, falling asleep and never waking up, blindness. One of my mother’s co-workers shared with her how his diabetic wife is frequently in the hospital. All comforting stuff.
After some weeks of understandable panic, Mom takes a class on diabetes and learns more than her doctor ever told her. From her house in Florida – with growing kittens now making regular visits to her deck for food – we tackle this new thing. It’s not easy, but it slowly becomes manageable.
In the midst of all this, Mom suddenly says, “I want to bring my kittens inside.” Of course, I’m shocked at everything in that sentence. My kittens??? Inside??? Where we grew up in Jamaica, animals stay outside. They eat table scraps and chase away undesirables – mongooses, burglars, salespeople, etc. This is huge.
But since this is the woman who never asks for anything, I set about making it happen.
Which is why – after two separate kitten-catching fiascos and corresponding visits to the vets – there are now two feral tabby kittens being house-trained in the spare bathroom.
They are disgustingly cute. When Mom calls them “my babies” I try to be adult about it and not be jealous, but there’s just so much an only child like me can control.
Now, everyone’s learning in this house – my mom how to be a cat-carer, the kittens how to be inside (without the need to fight off psychopaths and other vicious neighborhood beasts), and me how to share. Or whatever. I won’t admit this to many people, but it’s kind of nice.
So, if you have any advice on feral kitty taming, I’m all ears.