I remember the night. I heard screeching battle cries in the valley below our house, a house perched on the banks overlooking Conneaut Creek. And then silence. I sat up in bed, sleepily mumbled, “Something just got et…way of the wild.” and fell back asleep.
“We’ve got a visitor!” I heard Len say the next morning.
“Blossom the possum’s in the garden?” I inquire.
“Nope. It’s your fondest dream come true, that’s what.”
Well, that got my attention so I hurried to check out the garden. Yep. There it was: a small ball of black fur, a lonely mewing kitten about two months old. I’d been wanting a new kitten and here it was. My dream came true!
Not that we don’t have any cats. We do. Oops! I have to say “I’ do” ’cause Len refuses even a “hint” of cat ownership. I’ve got plenty of ’em starting with Button in the spring of 2013. Button? I haven’t told you about Button? I’ll catch you up…it won’t take long. Then I’ll get back to Ratzo.
I just couldn’t shake my sadness after Chockie passed in July of 2012. I picked Chockie out of a litter of four Siamese kittens for my 51st birthday. He stole my heart with his stubby, Fuller brush- like tail. I made up the KitKat song for him with a lot of silly verses like this one:
I’ve got a kitkat, he’s my kitkat…I love to hear him purr
I’ve got a kitkat, he’s my kitkat…When I pet his fur!
But he got old…almost nineteen years old. He stopped eating, then drinking and quietly passed away.
A steady stream of feral cats traveled along the bluff behind our house. I knew that and dubbed it Cattail Alley. Why not? I thought. Why not befriend a ferail cat? So…I did. I picked out a smallish black cat with white paws. To the left of his mouth he had a round patch of white fur that looked just like a button. How could I name him anything else?
It wasn’t long before Button’s belly began to bulge. Uh oh, guess I lost that gender bet! When Button didn’t show up for breakfast,lunch or dinner one day, I guessed he…oops!…she was busy giving birth. I’ll save the stories of Button’s kits for a later date. Suffice it to say, Button delivered two litters before she was spayed. Now…back to Ratzo.
Poor little guy! (Here I go again laying odds for a male cat!) All alone…no mom, no sibs. There are lots of safe nooks and crannies on the property for a little ball of fur to hide. I would see him peek out, nibble at the dry cat food I put out, then duck out of sight if he sensed danger. He tried hanging out on the deck with the Swamp Kitty Gang: Wheezie, PurrBaby and Pippi, sibs from Button’s second litter. They, too, have a snappy song I sing to them. My favorite verse is:
Swamp kitty, swamp kitty, What did you do last night?:
Swamp kitty says “I preyed with all my might!”
The Swamp Kitty Gang members are savvy indoor/outdoor survivors come hell or high water and, believe me, there are times when PurrBaby comes home drenched, dirty and smelly from a night’s adventure in the swamp valley. We’ve seen Wheezy prancing with pride on the other side of the creek and discovered he, adventurer that he is, has made his own discoveries. The swift river current recently took down a tree, which landed across the river affording a convenient bridge to the other side. Wheezie travels the Tree Bridge regularly and sometimes returns home smelly with slugs on his underside.
The Swamp Kitty Gang isn’t too thrilled with the new kid in town. Pippi, probably because she’s a she, is a bit more genteel than the guys. She roams the neighborhood, not the valley swamps. If she weren’t spayed, for sure she’d have “hot mama” “reputation. However, given half a chance, she’s quite the vixen and gives Ratzo a hiss and a quick one, two, three with her claws when he tries to get close enough to nurse.
The boys are more tolerant of Ratzo and his playful attacks. Boys will be boys as they say. Both PurrBaby and Wheezie enjoy a good chase around the house ending in an all out, no-holds-barred wrestling match. I keep telling Ratzo he ain’t gonna win, but hey, boys will be boys, and he never listens. By the way, I caught sight of Ratzo’s fuzzy balls during a recent tussle so this time, I win the bet!
There’s no way Ratzo will ever join the Swamp Kitty Gang. He seldom strays farther than the deck or garden during the day and prefers spending nights indoors. He’s definitely a lap kitty, which is OK with me. Guess I’ll have to make up a new song just for Ratzo!