In the spring of 2010, three kittens were born to a feral mother under an overgrown bougainvillea bush in my side yard. The mother hissed if anyone came near her babies. A large tomcat helped guard the offspring. One kitten died young.
The remaining kittens were weaned by six months old. They scampered around the yard but would run away if I or my husband Les tried to pet them.
The following summer, one of the kittens circled Les’s legs, planted himself on Les’s foot, emitted a loud meow, and looked up at Les with large green eyes. My husband was smitten. We bought cat food.
It took almost six months before the kittens trusted us enough to enter the house for food, which we set up right inside the open front door. Prior to that, they’d wait on our doormat for the food to be left on the porch.
Mama cat had another litter. When the five kittens were weaned, my next door neighbor (who was also feeding the cats) found homes for the new babies and neutered Mama and the two older boys. Mama died a year later, probably killed by coyotes.
Of the two brothers, Big Bro (the larger white-and-tabby cat in the foreground) is still semi-feral. We can pet him if he’s in the mood, but he doesn’t like to be held or picked up. He lives outdoors 95% of the time and only comes in for food.
Little Bro (the black-and-greige tabby) is fairly domesticated. Most days, he sleeps on his chair in the house for up to eight hours, until 4 AM when he wakes me, not Les, to let him out.
The night before I start chemo, I alternate between jangly nerves and depression. Little Bro comes up to our bedroom where we’re watching TV, paces in circles on our bed, and curls up in my lap for the next two hours until my legs fall asleep and I move him. In four years, this is only the second time he has voluntarily crawled onto my lap.
There isn’t a pill in the world that can calm me faster than a purring cat.
The next night, when I’m exhausted beyond exhaustion and the pain is starting to creep in, Little Bro curls into my lap again.
I don’t know how he knows, but he knows.