I didn’t dislike cats, I just hadn’t been around them much and always thought of myself as a dog person. So I didn’t deal well with the scenario presented to me one Halloween night in 1979. I arrived home after a long day’s work to have my husband of one year hand me a meowing, terrified little scrap of a kitten as he walked out the door on his way to work. He barely had time to tell me some neighbourhood kids had come to the door with a box of kittens and asked if he wanted one, so he took one. I was stunned, absolutely stunned. To make matters worse, on Halloween we typically got over 200 little visitors, so I was in for a busy night.
All evening as I ran back and forth to the door, I had a kitten permanently attached to my shoulder with razor-sharp claws. I don’t know which of us was more traumatized and every time I tried to detach those persistent claws an uncharitable thought about my husband crossed my mind. What had the man been thinking? We had no cat food, we had no litter box. Even if I knew what to buy, which I didn’t, I couldn’t leave the house because it was Halloween and I had to man the candy bowl.
I vaguely remember something about canned tuna and a box of dirt. And sleeping with a teeny tiny kitten who cried pitifully for her mama. I guess you could say we bonded that stress-filled night. I still wasn’t thrilled with my hubby for agreeing to take on a kitten without discussing it with me first, but I quickly realized I was an animal lover, not just a dog lover. Besides, she was so darn cute.
So what do you call a tortoiseshell cat? Spooky, of course – because we got her on Halloween. And it had to be a gender-neutral name because we didn’t even know what sex she was at the time. (An embarrassed trip to the vet confirmed her female status)
In no time at all, Spooky became an essential member of our new little family. She had a mischievous personality and kept us constantly entertained with the game of “Where’s Spooky?”. We never quite knew where we might find her at any given moment.
When Spooky began to put on weight, we realized our baby was going to have babies. She grew larger, day by day, and we wondered when the “blessed event” would occur.
One morning in June, I woke to the sound of Spooky moaning next to me. I quickly settled her into a comfy bed of her own in the spare room, then left her alone to do what she had to do. Actually, I tried to leave her alone. But every time I left the room, Spooky followed right behind me, meowing plaintively. I guess she figured she wasn’t doing this all by herself. I spent a long hot day sitting on the floor beside her box, watching in amazement as six beautiful little kittens were born. A calico female, an orange male, three black and white males and an all black female, who was born last and was the only birth I missed.
Having a nap with two of her little ones. How sweet is that?
One summer day in 1981, Spooky went missing. We searched and we searched and we searched. I put up posters, I put ads in the paper, we knocked on neighbourhood doors. Months went by and I refused to give up hope. I looked for my little Spooky everywhere I went. But we didn’t find her. I finally had to accept that the little scrap of a kitten who won me over on a cold Halloween night less than two years earlier was gone. My heart was shattered, my grief uncontained. I missed her for what felt like forever.