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Liz Ciancone

February 3, 2014

LIZ CIANCONE: Few can top the tale of 18 cats

TERRE HAUTE — I joined the other ladies at the round table at the Sports Center the other morning, and someone asked Frieda about her cats. I’ve met these two fortunate felines who are dear to Frieda and clearly special.

Although Frieda was unsure about how her pets would adjust to moving to a new house, they seem to be doing very well. At the old place, they were allowed out only on a leash because of heavy traffic. The new place has a screened porch where they can sit and admire the birds they cannot quite reach.

When Frieda first got these two, she named them “Hannah” and “Emily” in honor of the granddaughters of the friend who presented the kittens. Frieda’s husband cut to the obvious and chose to call them “Whitey” and “Orangey,” and those names stuck. Unless Harry is trying to serve up a curve ball, the white cat is Whitey and the red/gold cat is Orangey. The cats don’t seem to care. Whitey likes the master’s lap, while Orangey “gets into things.”

Since both of our sons are allergic to cat dander, I have little to contribute to conversations about cats. I really enjoy the adventures of Whitey and Orangey, but because I sat quietly — unusual for me — Frieda finally asked, “Don’t you like cats?”

As a matter of fact, I do. I have been catless since my early teens, but we once owned 18 cats, none of them house cats. Our herd lived in the chicken house, where they were responsible for controlling the mouse population. These 18 were the descendants of a single cat that Ed and I had talked Dad into letting us bring it home from Wisconsin — a cat we were assured was male.

Then “Johnny” was blessed with issue — three issue to be specific. As a result of a misdiagnosis, we gave away the only male, and the remaining two were blessed with issue — repeatedly — and thus the eventual 18 cats.

Ed and I awoke one morning to a catless back porch. Mom and Dad called it a mystery. Years later Dad confessed that he had loaded all 18 into a box and dispensed cats and kittens at every farm from Yorkville to Morris, where, I suppose, the mouse population trembled in fear.

I didn’t ask about the sexual orientation of Whitey and Orangey, but I suppose Frieda would love any offspring — preferably in smaller numbers than 18.

Liz Ciancone is a retired Tribune-Star reporter. Send email to

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