In 1985 Lori and I bought our condo, and one of the first things we did was go out and get some kitties. Three in fact, Fred, Lucy and Ethel. We lost Ethel after she was hit by a car, and the spring of 1998 we had to put Lucy down as her health was failing.
Before Lucy’s death there was a feral cat that often visited our yard. We tried making friends with her by bribing her with food. She was a skinny little calico, and she was willing to accept food from us, first from a distance, and finally she became brave enough to accept food out of our hand, but would quickly run away with it. One day Lori was lucky enough to sneak a pet in, and I was able to capture that on film.
After we had to put Lucy down, we thought we would get a couple of more kittens, but we were soon leaving on vacation for three weeks to England, so we put it off until we got back.
A couple of days after our return home, I found an orange kitten wandering in our backyard. Later in the day, I found a grey kitten. With no sign of the mother, I gathered them up and brought them inside. Finally the concerned mother showed up, and it was the cat we had been trying to make friends with. We couldn’t believe she had been pregnant, she was so skinny when we left on vacation.
I rigged the cat door so it would swing in but not out. That way she could come visit and nurse the kittens but we could make sure the kittens were safe. Every time we’d let her back out she’d run across the yard, hop the fence and visit the neighbors behind us.
A few days later I was in the backyard, and our neighbor asked if we had seen any kittens. He said he had two of them but couldn’t find the other two. I explained that we had them, and they were being taken care of. It seems the momma cat had the litter in their attic. A short custody battle ensued, but I was determined to keep them as the neighbors behind us were, well, let’s just say they were a bit rough.
Momma cat finally settled the issue by bringing the other two kittens to us. She figured out our porch was way more comfy than an attic during a San Jose summer. So at this point they all got names. The four boys were Ricky (to complete the I Love Lucy family), Wedgewood (gray one I caught after he got himself stuck in a picket fence), Einstein (always had crazy hair) and Galen (named after Galen Rowell because he was the climber of the group). Momma was named Meg, since Lori liked that name from the book Little Women.
With the cat door still rigged so she could come in but not leave, we got regular visits from Meg, but she remained a feisty, wild cat. I have never seen a cat get so pissed off as Meg would when we were in the room with her. We kept the four kittens until they were weaned. Then Einstein and Wedgewood went to live with my brother’s family, and Meg was taken to the vet, fixed, and released.
Then a funny thing happened. Once we started letting the kittens out in the backyard to play, Meg, who had been hanging around missing her kids, suddenly transformed. She calmed down, started letting us pet her, soon wanted to come back inside with her kittens, and within a few weeks was sitting on our laps, purring.
I honestly think there must have been a conversation between the kittens and Meg. “Mom, mom! They feed us every day, there’s lots of toys to play with, a comfy bed to sleep on, treats at bedtime. You should come and live with us. It’s a lot better than that hot stuffy attic you call home.”
And so, in the summer of 1998, Meg came to live with us. She really liked not having to hunt for her food, and within a few months you wouldn’t have recognized her as the cat in the first picture.
Meg quickly became the best lap cat ever. She had the softest fur and was a pleasure to pet, as long as you didn’t try to pet her paws or her tummy. A cat is not a cat unless it has some personality quirks, one of Meg’s was the fresh blanket.
When Lori and I sit on the couch we usually have blankets on our laps both for warmth, and to protect our skin from the cat’s claws. At the slightest hint of a blanket being moved on the other lap, Meg would have to go try that lap, hence the “fresh blanket”. It got to be a running joke between Lori and I. If Meg was on your lap and your legs were going asleep or you needed a potty break, the other person just had to fluff their blanket, and sure enough, Meg would be over in a flash.
With most of our cats, Lori’s lap seemed to be the default, but Meg was good at sharing. But most often than not, you’d find Meg curled up with Ricky on her lap rather than mine.
Once in a while Meg would play, and when she did, her deep past as a feral cat would come through. She utterly destroyed this Christmas present in minutes.
Mostly what she liked doing was eating and sleeping, and commanding us to pet her.
After we lost Galen, Meg seemed even more devoted to her son Ricky. If they weren’t both sitting on Lori’s lap, they could usually be found napping somewhere, cuddled together.
For the longest time Meg ruled the house as queen. After Fred passed away, Trevor showed up to replace him, but Trevor was a sissy cat and Meg easily dominated him, keeping Trevor on alert at all times. When Galen passed away and Artie showed up to replace him, she was in for a surprise. Artie didn’t take shit from her like Trevor did. So while she was still enemies with Artie, she at least respected him and gave him a wide berth.
So I was very surprised one night to find Meg sharing her bed with Artie. Must have been really cold that night because hell froze over.
Befitting her royal aspirations, Meg had a fondness for the color purple, usually in the form of catnip filled mice that bore no relation to those she used to make a living from. I think it was her way of distancing herself from her meager beginnings. So while photographing some jewelry for a client, I decided to see how Meg would look adorned as an Egyptian queen.
There was also that big day where she traveled to my photography studio for a family portrait.
Sadly, in the last four months, we’ve lost three of the four cats pictured. Ricky passed away in October 2013, Artie in December of 2013, and now Meg, on Jan. 13, 2014.
Even though we didn’t get her as a kitten, she spent 16 years with us, and at 17 years old, she was the oldest cat we’ve had.
For the first time in a long time, Lori’s lap was empty last night. Meg, you will be missed.