Tag Archives: cat

Old Writing: Part 9::Puff?

I wrote this on November 3, 1970. I was in 8th grade and 14 years old. I got an A+/B for the paper. The teacher wrote at the end:

“Yes, there are times when tears are impossible, we just hurt so much.”

and

“Dona, you have told this beautifully, for you have made me feel as if I knew Puff and shared your hurt in having to give Puff away. Thanks for sharing it so well. By the way, you have a very interesting writing style. Keep it up.”

My take on this is: it is forced and feels stilted. It is too formal in parts, yet too informal in others. I do not consider this one of my better old writings. And why the question mark in the title?

Puff?

My love for cats is very great. But my father is just the opposite, he hates cats. So I have had only one cat in my life. (I have a five-month-old kitten at the moment but she acts so much like a person I think of her as a sister). This cat — a white half Persian, male. Mother Persian, father unknown. Born in a box in a breezeway by the side of a garage. He was my “birthday cat” as I called him, but every cat or pet must have a name so I had to find one. I tried every name I could think of: Prince, Whitey, Snowball, Pumpkin, etc. I finally settled on Puff. Everyone laughed. I said I didn’t care because Puff had been my favorite story character in Dick, Jane, and Sally. Also, my favorite song was “Puff the Magic Dragon.” Sometimes I made up “real” names such as “Prince Puff Patrick” (PPP). Yes, Puff was my cat and I loved him.

One and a half years after I received Puff, my kitten had grown into a cat. A large, long, slim and beautiful cat. He was all white except for a long black or gray streak down his back from when my friend and I accidentally left Puff in the charcoal burrner overnight. I thought that Puff didn’t love me anymore for he had always faithfully returned home after a day outside.

Another time I thought I had lost Puff was when he was caught between the screen door and inside backdoor. Around midnight my father heard a strange noise coming from the back door. He must have thought that a burglar was trying to get into the house for he went and opened it and was surprised to see a white streak running up the steps and under the table.

Finally, the sad part of this gleeful lifetime must be told for I have put it off long enough. Although Puff and I had happy times together, there were still some bad ones. For Puff was getting to be a nuisance. He would get hold of a piece of wool or a sock or any material and eat a big hole in the middle. Puff also, like any other cat, had a desire to catch and eat birds and rabbits.

So my mother suggested that we take Puff to Wisconsin for my grandparents’ house to catch mice. Naturally, I didn’t want to give up “my little cat.” After weeks of pondering about what to do with Puff, we finally decided on giving him to my Aunt and Uncle to take to a farm. By that time I had started to dislike Puff, or so I thought, for the cat would make my father angry, so angry he would get angry with me and that made me angry. The cat would sit in the middle of the living room and pull his hair out. Also, the cat was getting mean, very mean. He even made a sort of growling noise in his throat when he ate. This noise was not purring, he never purred, not even when he was a little kitten.

Well, the day came when my parents asked my Aunt and Uncle to come and take my cat to his destination. My mother tried to tell me that Puff would be happier at the farm, but I really didn’t care about anything at all anymore. My cat was leaving me. I handed my cat to my Aunt and I think she could see a tear in my eye. I gave Puff one last kiss and after they left I went into my room. I didn’t cry, I couldn’t cry. I was beyond crying.

The next day we received a call from my Aunt and Uncle saying that about halfway [to the farm] Puff jumped out the window, which was down about 6 inches. He didn’t get run over, but he ran into a cornfield. This was the last time anyone in my family saw my cat, Puff.

Now that I have heard of Pica disease in cats, I am pretty sure Puff’s habit of eating fabric, pulling out his hair and his meanness came from an underlying issue that we didn’t consider.

Several years after Puff ran off into the cornfield my father did some appliance repair for someone not too far from the place where Puff disappeared. The family had a large, white cat who apparently walked out of a cornfield and into their lives years before my father did work there. He believed it was Puff. I hope it was.

My cousin Jeff, my brother Kevin, my cousin Pam and Puff. Jeff always opened his mouth like that when the cat was in the room.
Kevin, Puff and Jock. Puff is dirty because he spent the night in an outdoor grill. Oops.

Joe’s Best Friend

We have two cats, Joe and Halloween. Halloween is aggressively friendly (read needy), has a very large personality and has thumbs so she tends to be talked about more. Joe, on the other hand, is what I call a pillow cat. He lays around like a decorative pillow (he’s colored like a Holstein cow — so he’d fit in a room with a ranch theme quite well) and he loves to sleep on pillows. He doesn’t do much else but eat, complain if his food dish is only half full and use the litter box (or anything shaped like a box, depending on his mood — just ask Diane).

Joe's Best Friend
Joe's Best Friend

However Joe does have one personality quirk. When he was very young, perhaps still a kitten, he became attached to a small plastic creature that came with a game that one of the kids got for a gift. It is a 2-inch-tall  turquoise dragon(?) with a round ball in its belly that clicks when you push it. I think it was used as the spinner or dice in a game, but since the rest of the game is now gone, cannot be certain.

Joe and his Best Friend
Joe and his Best Friend

It has a tuft of hair on the top of its head and Joe picks it up by that tuft, much like a mother cat would pick up its kitten (or like a cat might pick up a mouse) and walks from room to room with it. He also knocks it around the hardwood floors very noisily at 3 in the morning. If we find the toy and click the belly-ball, Joe usually comes quickly (for Joe — running is not his style) to check out the noise. I think he knows what we have, because nothing else but food brings him to us that quickly.

Sometimes the toy is lost for months at a time — usually under furniture and when we get around to dusting under or vacuuming behind the furniture we find it and stop what we are doing to click the belly-ball for Joe. Then he plays with it for a few days until it gets lost again.

Last night I woke up when I rolled over on something solid and realized it was  Joe’s favorite toy. He must have found it somewhere and brought it to me in bed. I hid it under the pillow so he would not decide to play with it when I wanted to sleep. He’s been playing with it this morning, though — it was on the kitchen floor a few minutes ago.

So Joe, despite his unassuming demeanor, does have at least one quirky quality — one just has to find it among the dust bunnies.

And two cats in the yard (house, actually)

We have two cats, Joe and Halloween. They were litter mates, born at what we called “the kitty farm” outside Elgin, Illinois. The farm was (and still is) Dean’s brother’s farm and used to be crawling with cats, many of whom were polydactyl. There are no cats left there now, thanks to a busy road and coyotes. Joe and Halloween may be the lone surviving cats from the kitty farm.

Clare was 6 and Andrew was 4 the year we decided to let Clare pick out a cat from the farm. Carol, Dean’s brother’s wife, pointed out a black and white cat that she said was really friendly, which was unusual since these cats didn’t interact with people very often. She was right about the black and white one — it was friendly and liked to be held. There was also a black cat in the same litter that caught my eye. I had a black cat as a teenager and young adult and loved her. I pointed out the black one to Clare and she ran and picked it up. It, too, was friendly — and curious — and polydactyl.

A note about the polydactyl cats on the farm — a cat with one extra toe is unique and cute. A cat with two and three extra toes is kind of freakish. Some of these cats seemed to have trouble walking with all their extra digits. Inbreeding at play.

At some point we decided to let both kids pick out a kitten to take home (the more the merrier?). Andrew chose the black and white one (a male) and Clare chose the black one (a female). We had one cat at home already, a 13 year old calico that only liked me. When we brought the kittens into the house, we tried everything the books said to introduce the kittens to the older cat. I suppose it worked, but she let them know who was the boss cat of our house.

While Velcro (the older cat) was alive — even when she was ailing, she was the alpha cat — there was no mistake. Both kittens stayed away from her, after their first few slaps.

An over exposed photo of Joe
An over exposed photo of Joe

After Velcro died it was not clear who was alpha cat for a while, but it seemed to be Halloween. Then the tables turned, for some reason, and Joe seemed more dominant. Halloween showed her grief of losing her dominance by licking the fur off her belly and legs. That’s the way things were for many years. Joe ate first while Halloween waited for him to finish. Joe got the comfy chairs and slept on my pillow. He’d groom Halloween if he felt like it, but he’d also bite off the whiskers that grew above her eyes. (the vet thought it was one of the kids cutting her whiskers off, but we once saw Joe doing it).

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Clare and the Alpha Cat

This past month, however, there has been a power shift. Halloween has been the one to sleep on my pillow, hissing at Joe if he got too near. Joe now sleeps at my feet — where Halloween used to sleep. Halloween eats first and has been found sleeping in the places Joe used to sleep. Halloween’s fur has grown in on her belly — I never see her licking and licking and licking herself like she used to.

I think that Halloween has become the alpha cat in the house. About time!