History of My Cat Ownership
My first experience with cat ownership occurred while Pam and I were dating. I was living in an apartment, and a couple with a cat named Sneakers moved in next door. Pam first noticed Sneakers on my front porch and commented, "Boy, that's a neat cat." I probably would have never even noticed him, but Pam has always loved cats and had a Persian named Sheba at the time. She began paying more and more attention to Sneakers, and when my neighbor had to leave town for several days, we volunteered to take care of the him. When we did this, we let Sneakers in my apartment and fed him there. From this point on, I think he began to consider my apartment his home.
Sneakers' owner's name was Joe, but Joe was very sick and almost always in the hospital. His wife didn't seem to care much about the cat or Joe, for that matter, because she left him after it became clear that he would probably always need to be under the supervision of a health care professional. When she moved out she asked if we wanted Sneakers, and we quickly said yes because by this time we had become quite attached to him. I also talked to Joe on the phone, and he seemed pleased that someone was so eager to adopt his cat. We seemed to be, with Sheba, a two cat family, but things aren't always as they seem.
Joe's mother, Laura, lived a block away, and she, as a mother should, had hopes that Joe was going to get better and once again be able to take care of Sneakers. She wanted to keep him herself until that day arrived. The next several months were not very pleasant. Laura kept Sneakers at her house, but every time she would let him out, he would show up at my apartment. This situation was rough on everyone involved. We were sympathetic to Laura's position, but, at this point, we really felt like he was our cat and so, apparently, did he. Finally, Laura got tired of having to come and fetch him everyday and gave up. Sneakers was now officially ours. Unfortunately, it was also around this time that Sheba died after a rather long illness. She was around twelve years old. We buried her in Pam's sister's yard in Hopewell, VA.
When Pam and I got married and bought Our House, we were worried about how Sneakers would adapt to his new surroundings. After about an hour long adjustment period, during which he hid under a couch, it was as if it had always been his home. We were now a happy family of three living in a new house. As we got settled, Pam began doing some research as to what kind of cat Sneakers was. After perusing numerous pictures of different breeds of long haired cats, we determined that he looked very much like a Maine Coon Cat. The more we read about these cats and their temperament, the more we were convinced this was what Sneakers was.
We never really knew how old Sneakers was. I think I remember Joe's wife telling me once that Joe had had him for about eight years, but I'm not sure she even knew. He was certainly a mature cat by the time we first encountered him, and we knew him for about six years. He lived with us in Our House for about four years. In early 1996, we began to notice that Sneakers was sometimes short of breath. A chest x-ray and ultrasound test revealed a serious and rather advanced heart problem, another characteristic of Maine Coons. We were told that he was not in pain, and that there was a remote possibility, about 25%, that with medication, he could get better. He didn't. He died in my arms in March of 1996. We buried him outside of my workshop, next to the alley where he loved to play.
After Sneakers died, we felt incredibly alone. The day he died was the worst of my life. As the days dragged by, it gradually got better, but there was a tremendous void. We quickly concluded that we had to get another cat, and it had to be a Maine Coon. After an extensive search, we found a breeder with a kitten who reminded us a lot of Sneakers. There was one more cat in the litter and the breeder told us she would give us a deal if we took both cats. Figuring that Sneakers was worth at least two cats, we decided to take her up on her offer. We got them in April of 1996.
Our two new cats were both gray, but the one who first caught our eyes had all white feet, a white chest, and a white nose, all characteristics of our late pet. We named this one Sneakers Jr. which quickly became simply Sneakers. The cats had been born on Super Bowl Sunday 1996, and even though the Steelers lost to the Cowboys that year, we named the other one Steeler after the world's greatest professional football franchise.
We decided to let the cats go outside because Sneakers was an outside cat, but we tried to get them in before we left for work in the morning. One morning in October of 1996, I couldn't get Sneakers to come in, and I was running late, so I left him out. When we got home that afternoon, Sneakers was nowhere to be found, and a neighbor finally told us that a gray cat had been hit by a car earlier in the day. I found his collar and name tag near the spot on the road where he had obviously been hit. After calling several area vets, I found out where his body had been taken and discovered that he was basically dead on arrival. The vet had already disposed of the body which upset me at the time but, considering the nature of his death was probably for the best. We buried his collar and favorite toy next to the original Sneakers behind my shop.
Sneakers Jr. was a great little cat. He reminded us so much of Sneakers that it felt like we had lost him all over again. We decided to get another cat, so we went back to the breeder, and she had a brand new litter of kittens. All but one had colors similar to the original Sneakers, and one of them took to me right away. The one who was different was gray and very cute, and Pam took to him right away. We ended up buying three cats that day, the aforementioned two and one for Pam's mother. The one we bought for Pam's mother is a female, and her name is Sugar. We considered naming our two new kittens Smokey and the Bandit because I love the movie, and one of them was the color of smoke. We decided against that, but we stuck with the name Bandit for the one with Sneakers' colors and named the other one Slate because he was the color of slate, and it just seemed to fit him.
The following two items were posted on the Home page of this site in the Spring of 2002.
My cat, Slate, died on Sunday, March 10 at about 7:00 p.m. He apparently had a rather large tumor in his lungs that eventually caused his heart to fail. He will be missed by all who knew him. Please visit A Tribute To Slate to view a slideshow and access other links about Slate.
I got a new cat on Thursday, April 18. Actually, he is a kitten. When we got him, he was about three to four weeks old. A student at Pam's school found him on the side of a road in Prince George County and brought him to class with her. The student could not keep the kitten, so Pam brought him home, and he has been here ever since. His name is Stray. Click on his name to see more pictures.
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