Sassy was knocked up. 100% preggers. And cursed.
We'd found Sassy when she was a young cat, homeless and hungry. Nobody at church wanted her, so naturally my family (the family of birds, dogs, cats, hamsters, frogs and ducks) adopted her. She was full of pizzazz and spirit, as adventurous as they came. And she was NOT affectionate. In fact, if you got too close, she'd dig into you with finely sharpened claws.
We called her Sassy for a reason.
I can't recall how long we had her before the trouble started. All I know is this: One night, she meowed softly and was much cuddlier than normal. This went on for weeks. And then one day while she was lying in the sun, watching the bluebirds from the window, Mom saw it. The tummy ripple.
"Sassy's pregnant," Mom stated matter-of-factly and with a hint of surprise + excitement.
"No..." Dad argued. He gave Mom a look like Really, Diane? You want kittens that badly? But then his face changed and he said, "You think so?"
My parents hovered above the sunbathing Sassy. Then came tummy ripple number two.
Sassy was always too cool to stay inside. She straddled the line between house cat and outdoor cat. She came and went as she pleased. She ate dinner when she pleased. She (apparently) canoodled with other cats around the neighborhood as she pleased.
I can't be sure, but I think I got to stay home from school the day Sassy popped out her kittens. Mom placed a big cardboard box in my closest and stuffed it with blankets. We slid the closet door closed, leaving just a minuscule opening to peep through. Then we waited. All day. Ripple. Ripple. Ripple.
MEW. MEWWW. MEWWWWW. MEWWWWWWWW.
Sassy gave birth to four kittens. The eldest kitten was a short-haired, black and white cuddler, the most affectionate of all the kittens. We named him Patches. The second was a shy, grey kitten, whom we named Tigger. He was my mom's favorite. The third kitten was a fluffy, grey fur ball whose name escapes me, but we'll just call her Fluffy. The fourth kitten was a jet-black, skinny crazy daredevil. Naturally, her name was Inky.
If Sassy were a human, there's no way she'd know who the baby-daddy was. Sassy herself was a marble color. None of her kittens looked the same. It was like she was impregnated by artificial insemination. #theories
Although he'll deny it when I ask him now, I know my dad fell in love with Tigger. Tigger was the shyest. He was, I guess you could say, the runt of the litter. And that's the kind of animal my dad seems to gravitate toward. The outcast. The sad one. The one who he can pour his love into and create the strongest bond with.
Tigger was just as fond of my dad as my dad was of Tigger. I can barely even recall Tigger, because apparently Tigger didn't find 7-year-olds all that interesting. He avoided me, and I didn't care about him. Tigger was either hiding from me or riding around on my dad's shoulders. But I was OK with that, because I had Patches.
Patches was my buddy. My pal. My confidant. We did everything together. We watched Full House together. We played with my Polly Pockets together. We chased our Poodle, Frosty, together. We climbed trees together. Patches was a vocal kitten, always wandering around meowing until he found a human to love on him. I don't remember him and Tiger ever interacting. It was like sibling rivalry.
Of the four kittens, we kept Patches and Tigger and gave the other two away.
Fluffy was adorably cute, but she had no personality. She was like a mini version of her mother, full of sass and not about to get those paws dirty. She didn't fit in with our dog-filled house or red-clay, star-thistle yard (especially as a long-hair). Nope, she was destined for another family, and that family happened to be my cousins who lived in Arizona.
So, one fine summer day, we packed up our Honda for a mini vacation to the scorpion/cacti/blistering-100-degrees state. I sat in the back with Fluffy to take care of her. Pretty sure she meowed pitifully the whole way. It was 985+ miles from our home in California to Arizona. I can't remember how long it took us, but I remember having to make sure Fluffy didn't get overheated and that she had plenty of breaks between each leg of the trip.
But we finally made it. Fluffy became an Arizona kitten with two kids to love her, plus a clan of turtles.
Inky, as I've stated, was a crazy cat. I say that because all I remember is Inky jumping off a second story balcony at my friend's house and living to tell the tale. Always skinny. Always hyper. We gave Inky to my best friend. Luckily, she only lived a few minutes away, which made the transition a lot easier.
My memories of Inky sort of end there. I think the last time I saw her, she was scampering across the road in front of my tricycle into a horse pasture.
This is where the story of Sassy and her four kittens takes a weird turn.
Both Patches and Tigger were indoor/outdoor kitties like their mom, although Patches would have given his tail to stay inside always. We'd bring them inside the house during the evenings and let them roam as they pleased outside during the days.
Then one day, Tgger didn't touch his cat food. He wasn't feeling well. So Mom and Dad rushed him to the animal hospital up the road.
He never came home.
Somehow, little Tigger had swallowed a foxtail (Google it), which is basically a weed that grows rampant in California. The spikey end had gotten caught in Tigger's lungs, and it had been there a long time, long enough that there must have been an infection or something terrible, because Tiger died on the operating table.
My dad was heartbroken.
I moved on.
A few weeks later, we received word from my cousins in Arizona that Fluffy had gotten outside. I can still remember my Mom grimacing on the phone as she heard the news. "Oooo, no!" A rattle snake? It was probably a rattler that killed Fluffy. Poor white ball of fluff didn't stand a chance in the great Arizona desert.
My Mom was sad.
I got over it pretty quickly.
A few weeks after that, my friend called. Inky hadn't come home. It had been a week. She'd been exploring the great big world, coming and going as she pleased. Staying out all night. Climbing poles. Playing chicken with cars.
My dad told us that most likely a coyote had eaten her. Or that she'd been hit by a car. We never knew for sure, but coyotes were prevalent in the area. Their incessant yips still haunt me at night.
At this point, our family wasn't as sad as we were flabbergasted by all the death. We started making sure Patches and our other animals were in by 5 p.m. every night. No excuses.
Years passed and I thought we were in the clear. I thought, OK, the weak were weeded out and the strong survived. Patches is going to make it. He survived adolescence and was surely street smart by now.
But then one day my dad came running into the house. "Diane, grab some towels. Patches is hurt."
My heart sank, but only before catching in my throat. "What?!"
Turns out, my dad found Patches hiding in our dog house with a dislocated shoulder blade. "He was hit by a car," my dad explained. I'd find out later that this was a lie. The truth was too much for a grade school kid to understand, so my dad didn't tell me the truth until years later. Here's what actually happened: Our neighbor KICKED Patches because Patches was in his yard begging for sweet cuddles.
Yeah. Insert your disgust here: __________________!
I was furious.
I think my dad cussed out my neighbor, but that could just be me hoping my dad stood up for my kitten. Nevertheless, we took Patches to the vet, and they fixed up his leg. He made a full recovery, but I remember he was never truly the same. It was as if the mean ol' neighbor had stolen his innocence, and Patches no longer trusted anyone.
It wasn't long after that that Patches disappeared. One day, he just didn't come home. Was he a run away? We weren't sure. But months after his disappearance, I realized that all of Sassy's kittens had been cursed. Doomed.
I wish I could've sat down with Sassy and had a heart-to-heart. I wish I could've spoken Cat. Got into her head. Understood why she was the way she was. What she had done to deserve such a fate for her kittens.
Instead, I ignored her. She was still a wild, independent feline. At this point, she didn't come in the house much. She lived in the garage and roamed the great outdoors. She scared off strange cats who wanted to cut through our yard. She caught snakes and brought dead birds to our door. She was just a cat, and I was OVER cats.
And then one day, it happened.
I walked outside to get something out the car. As I rounded the corner to get to the driveway, I saw Sassy. Well, I saw half of Sassy. I saw her head and her pink tongue sticking out of her head.
Sassy had been crushed under the garage door. Crushed.
I raced inside, knowing full well that Mom had been the last to use the garage door, because I remembered Mom saying she'd let the cats out for the day, which meant she'd opened the garage door a few feet so the cats (we had at least one other cat at this time from before we'd adopted Sassy, which is how I KNOW Sassy was cursed) could get out.
Mom was in the kitchen making breakfast. She saw my face and asked, "Dee, what's wrong?" But I ignored her and went to get Dad. Mom would be D E V A S T A T E D. (And she was. There were lots of tears.) Dad took care of it, and then we told Mom.
We buried Sassy next to Tigger in our pet cemetery on top of a hill.
And just like that, Sassy's curse came full circle.
Or so we thought.
Years later, and I mean YEARS, suddenly Patches showed up in our yard. He was sitting on our hill, licking his paws like, "Oh, hey guys. What's up?"
I remember seeing him out the window as I was watching Dragnet. (OK, maybe it wasn't Dragnet, but that was DEFINITELY a staple of my childhood.) I screamed, "MOM! It's Patches!" And we ran outside to see if it really was him.
It was. It was Patches. He was alive. It had been at least 5 years. I want to say it was more like 8 or 10. All I know is it had been a very long, long time.
I know. What the heck? Where had he been?
Turns out, he'd been living inside our neighbors house. Not PSYCHO, I KICK CATS neighbor. A different neighbor. He'd been living INSIDE her house all this time. That's why we never saw him. He turned into a real house cat. I imagine he got all the cuddles and affection he could ever dream of.
And then one day, she let him out.
I feel like it's because she died, but let's not rely on my guesses right now because that would make this story even MORE morbid! But, for some reason, Patches was out. In our yard. Wanting to be petted.
We all thought it was too good to be true.
Well, it was.
Patches came home to die, as my dad said. Because he either A) knew we'd pour money into his treatments or B) he wanted to make amends for leaving us and never writing.
We soon found out that Patches' kidneys were failing. And it was swift and painful. Despite treatments, his little body withered and shrunk, and be became a skinny, old cat hopped up on kitty drugs. I still vaguely remember my dad inserting an IV into his veins in the kitchen sink to help him feel better.
Luckily for Patches, he got to live his last days in our house, under the loving care of my Dad, who did his best to make him comfortable.
And then one day when it was time, we took Patches to put him down. He was a young cat. Too young. We buried him next to his mother and brother on the top of the hill, and then the curse of Sassy finally came to an end.
Since then, we've never had cats die such young, traumatic deaths so frequently, but that's most likely because we never had outside cats again. And if the story of Sassy's any indication, maybe you shouldn't either.
[Disclaimer: Some details above may be slightly inaccurate, as I'm just going off my childhood memories and/or best guesses. Also, I know there is a misspelling in the title. It's supposed to be a play on words.]
[Update #1: Turns out the neighbor lady who took in Patches did, in fact, die, which is why Patches came back. Per my dad, it's also why he was in such bad condition: he'd been neglected for many months after she died.]