News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Opinion Columns

February 12, 2013

LIZ CIANCONE: There are always cat stories to be told

TERRE HAUTE — I was asked the other day why I write about dogs I have known, but never about cats. “What’s the matter?” they asked, “Don’t you like cats?”

The short answer is that I like any household pet which can sit on my lap and keep my knees warm these chilly winter days. I’ve owned cats. We once ended up owning 32 cats. But we haven’t owned a cat in years, chiefly because both Number One son and Number Two son are allergic to cat dander.

If my family owned a cat before “Johnny” I don’t remember. Johnny came home from a vacation with us with the assurance that “he” was 100 percent Tom cat. The misdiagnosis of sex resulted in a litter of three kittens, and yet a second misanalysis of sex left us with the two female from the litter while the cutest of the three turned out to be the only male.

Johnny, rechristened “Johanna,” didn’t last much longer, and after the two remaining knee-warmers gave multiple births, they became outdoor cats. In due course, we ended up with 32 cats and kittens.

“Fish Face” was a mouser and would bring a well-gummed mouse to the back door at feeding time. Maybe she thought she was repaying Mom for her supper. “Sour Puss,” her sister, didn’t feel she owed anyone anything. There were few mice in the chicken house, and Ed and I thought all was going well.

But Mom tripped over cats every time she opened the back door so was not as convinced.

One morning Ed and I awoke to find all 30 of the kittens missing. Mom and Dad professed to have no knowledge of the mysterious disappearance. They vetoed a missing kittens poster as well as our suggestion that we advertise in the Kendall County Record for the return of our missing cats.

It must have been almost a year later that we spotted a cat who resembled the kitten we had christened “Charlie Chaplin” because of a little black mustache. We were visiting friends on a farm south of Yorkville and wanted to take Charlie home, but Dad insisted it was coincidence.

It was years later that Dad confessed. “Farms never have enough cats to keep mice out of the barn,” he said. And since Dad was manager of the Farm Bureau for Kendall and Grundy counties, he had loaded up our surplus kittens and distributed them to farms throughout his territory.

Maybe if only we had had Fish Face and South Puss altered?

Liz Ciancone is a retired Tribune-Star reporter. Send e-mail to opinion@tribstar.com.

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