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Alpha Cat

By Gay Published: June 1, 2009

Over the years, my husband and I have been fortunate enough to have as our housemates wonderful, loving cats. We’d been married about a month, and I was a bit lonely as my husband worked full-time and went to school full-time, and I didn’t have company when I got home from work. He had been at a friend’s, a teacher and mentor, who had a wonderful observatory, and while they were observing the heavens, my husband heard a mewing.

"Oh, yep, our barn cat had kittens. Want one?" Well, there were two kittens, so Buz brought them both home.

"Their names," he said, "are Castor and Pollux." They were great cats, especially Castor, who grew to twenty pounds of muscular feline. Pollux was a few pounds lighter, and he was the more timid. When Buz was in the Army, we moved to an apartment complex, and Castor would leap off the porch to get out. Pollux wouldn’t do it and would go down a flight of stairs and stand by the door until someone walked by. They were well-known through out the complex, because they were so sociable. They’d take walks with us. We’d stroll along and they would follow, taking a few side trips to check out a mouse or other field creature. We noticed that Castor disappeared on Saturdays, about 7 p.m., and he would return about 9. One day, a resident on the floor below asked me if I missed Castor on Saturdays, and I responded in the affirmative.

"I have guests for dinner every Saturday night. Castor comes to the door and scratches, and I let him in. He sits quietly through cocktails, and during dinner, everyone gives him a piece of something. He is very polite and never tries to jump on the table, nor does he annoy anyone."

As happens, Castor and Pollux died, and we were all heartbroken. We had four children by then, and each had enjoyed the comfort of a cat cuddled up beside them. We got another cat who had been rescued by a tech at our vet’s. We took him for keeps and the kids named him Mitzelplick. He was a wonderful docile, loving boy. Soon, we added more cats, all of whom came to us in some odd way or other. At one time, we had five cats and were hoping an orange cat would turn up. Eventually, he did—sort of. Of Turkish Van ancestry, this immense cat has an orange head and tail. The rest of his twenty- five pounds are covered in white fur that sheds unbelievable amounts of fur.

Smith was the alpha cat. He was an amazing animal, and the smartest pet I have ever owned. He also did wonderful tricks, and he knew exactly when someone needed his presence, be it due to sadness, pain, depression. Smith just knew how to comfort our dogs during thunderstorms. Our daughter was visiting one time with her cat, Harp, who was terrified by our menagerie, and her brothers were poking a little fun at our daughter and her cat. She burst into tears. Smith looked at her, then walked over to Harp, who was in a defensive posture, hissing and spitting. Smith stretched out a paw and pulled Harp close and began grooming him. Immediately, Harp relaxed and all was well.

Smith, Hobie, and Spooky were best friends. They hung together. When a tiny gray kitten showed up, I approached him, but he would dart away. I’d leave out food, and he would creep close and eat, eyes constantly assessing his surroundings. It was a bitterly cold winter, and Hobie and Smith showed him how to keep warm on top of a car, and the three would huddle together. Eventually, I got a humane trap and caught a cat. He was frightened—he had never been held by anyone, but at one point, he had somehow got a broken tail.

We approached him gently, and I picked him up and deposited him on our down comforter. He looked astonished and began prancing on it, his feet settling into the warmth. Smith was elsewhere but he knew something was afoot. He jumped onto the bed with Hambone and began to groom him. Bone was absolutely gentle and loving, but he still remained a bit frightened by anything out of the ordinary. When Smith died, Spooky took over as Bone’s best friend. Tibia and Frogger lived somewhat apart from the others, but they all got along. Sadly, Bone died two years ago, and Frogger has tried to insinuate himself as alpha male. Spooky, loving and docile, isn’t interested in the job, nor, I think does Frogger actually want the position. He just wants to eat everyone’s food, and he likes to swipe at tiny Tibia.

All our animals are old. In the past five years, we have lost three cats and a dog. The remaining pets are quite old, although in fairly good health. We know there is heartbreak ahead.

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