My sister Shirley and I love cats and always have. Years before she married Harvey, he and his mother gave Shirley a tabby kitten. Furious at being trapped and relocated, the little guy earned the name of Yowler.
He’d been born and lived quite comfortably in Harvey’s barn, thank you, and, furthermore, he wanted nothing to do with being domesticated.
Yowler, Yowler, Yowler!
I’ll never forget seeing Yowler sticking to the window screen in the good granary where he had been sequestered for his own good. He was holding on by the sharp claws on all four paws as if his life depended on it.
Yowler continued to voice his frustration loudly. When he would get hungry, he’d temporarily stop howling and then take up where he left off.
Shirley set to work on taming the unhappy kitten. Just as she later would do with unruly kids in classrooms for almost 60 years, she soon made headway.
In no time, Yowler turned into a charming, laid-back cat with a winning personality.
A table for two
Still a child at the time, I vividly recall inviting Yowler to a tea party. I set up the miniature china covered in red roses on my little wooden doll’s table and dressed him in an old cotton baby’s dress. Although I had learned the hard way to handle cats gently, a big tomcat wasn’t the ideal candidate to have his front legs stuffed through the sleeves.
Yowler didn’t refuse nor try to get away.
He sat on a little wooden chair across from me like a perfect gentleman. He sipped milk out of a doll-size cup and saucer and ate dainty bites of bread and butter that I’d cut up just for him.
It was a most memorable tea party.
Never once did Yowler consider giving me the big, double-paw scratch that I richly deserved. He was easy to get along with.
However, once and a while, especially during the winter, Yowler answered the call of the wild. Perhaps he got cabin fever. At any rate, he would disappear in the bitter cold and deep snow for weeks and we’d be frantic.
We once received a report that he was sighted near the church at Millarville, Alberta, several miles cross-country from home. But he always made it back.
Yowler would meow pitifully at the porch door until Mom let him in. Then he’d sink to his belly in exhaustion as he filled up at the cats’ dish.
When he had recovered, Yowler would bound joyously up the narrow stairs and into Shirley’s arms.
Best cat that ever lived
When we told Harvey’s mother what a wonderful cat Yowler had turned out to be, she wasn’t surprised.
“Cats take after their owners,” she said, smiling at Shirley.
Pecos, Pecos, Pecos!
Mrs. Goerlitz’s contention that cats take after their owners has stayed with me always. It has given me a little anxiety, too.
Let me explain.
There’s a tomcat in my past named Pecos. When I was single and traveled a good deal in my job, this longhaired black and white feline seemed quite content to spend time alone.
That may or may not have been a good thing.
I always saw to it that Pecos had plenty of dry cat food, fresh water and a presentable litter box. Wherever we lived, he had at least one big window where he could sit, catch sunbeams and watch the world go by.
But Pecos wasn’t a particularly amiable cat. He had no interest in building a fan club.
While on a work assignment in Puerto Rico that lasted much longer than I had expected, I knew Pecos needed attention. I emailed my friend Christie at the office, begging her to provide emergency assistance.
I did slide in a disclaimer mentioning that Pecos might be a little standoffish.
Christie emailed back that she would be glad to see to Pecos’ needs. Although she wasn’t fond of cats, her boyfriend had readily agreed to accompany her.
“Leonard loves all animals,” she confidently wrote back.
I was relieved, but still a little fretful.
As it turned out, I had every reason to be uneasy.
Feline trouble brewing
I later heard that Christie and Leonard unlocked the door to my apartment and stepped into the subdued light of the living room. Their exercise clothing that was constructed of a certain nylon fabric made a scratchy sound when they moved. Since I was a blue jean and t-shirt kind of woman, Pecos wasn’t accustomed to that peculiar noise.
He just couldn’t bear it.
Thus, only a few seconds after they entered, a furry trajectory smacked them hard broadside.
Grabbing the oversized cushions from the couch, Christie and Leonard managed to fight off Pecos, feed him and change his litterbox.
On Monday, Christie emailed that she hoped I’d be home soon.
“By the way,” she added, “Leonard loves all animals except Pecos.”
Oh, dear, I hoped our friendship would survive. It did, but I never asked Christie to stop by and see Pecos again.
Such a sweet kitty?
Then there was the day when my poor old furry friend seemed to be in a great deal of discomfort. I took him to the vet on my way to work.
I’d observed other customers cradling their precious felines wrapped in a towel like a baby. Since I didn’t yet own a cat carrier, I followed suit. Pecos did a little squirming but felt so poorly he never attempted to get out of my firm grip.
A preliminary examination showed Pecos had a bladder issue. However, it wasn’t his diagnosis or the price tag of the associated treatment that left me apprehensive when I set off to work.
I knew my cat and Pecos wasn’t going to like this clinic, especially as soon as he began to feel better.
About 11 a.m., my office phone rang. Could I come to the vet’s office immediately?
Alarmed that Pecos had taken a turn for the worse, I couldn’t follow what the technician was diplomatically trying to tell me. She finally admitted that Pecos was fine, but he had the entire clinic – animals and staff – in an uproar.
I explained the crisis to my boss and said I needed to rush halfway across town to check on my cat. He wasn’t impressed but agreed I could make up the time later that afternoon.
When I slammed my car door shut in front of the vet’s office, I thought I heard a familiar howl. It became progressively louder as I neared the front door.
Pecos was swearing at the top of his lungs. Where he learned such nasty cat talk, I have no idea.
I slunk up to the front desk and the receptionist asked my pet’s name. Over the din, I admitted it was Pecos.
Her mouth dropped open.
“But you seem like such a nice person,” she said, looking me over.
The vet was summoned and attempted to talk to me over my cat’s fracas. She said Pecos had come through the surgery fine but he wouldn’t be ready to go home that evening. She needed to keep him for observation.
What puzzled me was that she asked me to settle Pecos’ bill. Wasn’t it customary to pay for vet services when you arrived to take your pet home?
Leave Pecos? Never!
“Yes, that’s true in most cases,” she said. “However, we had a similar situation when another disturbed – err – I mean rather difficult cat was brought in.
“The owner never returned. That’s why we are requesting payment now. We want to ensure you pay the bill and come back for Pecos.”
While I kept my chin up, I lowered my eyes to hide my embarrassment and fished out my credit card. As the technician took it, she turned to the receptionist, rolling her eyes.
“Guess who is spending the night?” she said.
When I came back for Pecos the next day, he still was cursing loudly. Across his exit papers written in giant black letters was a warning.
“MUST BE CAGED.”
Pecos preferred the old carpet
Another time, Pecos decided that the crew I’d hired had no business removing and replacing the wall-to-wall carpeting in our home. He gave them such a bad time that I found Pecos locked in a small linen closet when I got home. He was still in a huff long after the workers had finished the job.
These incidents might lead you to believe that Pecos didn’t get along with anyone, but he did. He and I were good companions. Pecos also became quite fond of my future husband, Emil.
Pecos was simply a cat who liked his routine and his privacy. I could respect that.
Heading to the country
When I was in the process of moving to rural Texas for good, Pecos was 19 years old. His once shiny fur had a slight yellow tinge and his eyes were milky as if he had developed cataracts. Although he and I had moved three times in Houston, it had never been a distance greater than four or five miles.
Then I loaded Pecos into a cat carrier for a 90-mile one-way trip.
Emil had successfully navigated the sharp turn on the exit ramp from Houston’s 610 Loop and we were headed west on I-10 when Pecos threw up. I turned around in my seat and spoke soothingly to my old friend, who stared at me through the bars of his cage.
I apologized for his discomfort and the disruption to his peaceful life but explained it couldn’t be helped.
Pecos continued to study me wanly as if to say, “Are we there yet?”
I promised Pecos right there and then that he would never again have to move and he didn’t.
Our many feline friends
Shirley and I both have had many wonderful feline friends since Yowler and Pecos were part of our lives. I don’t know whether any of hers was as beloved as Yowler, but not one of mine has ever measured up to larger-than-life Pecos.
However, several of my later cats definitely have had rather odd quirks. Is it any wonder that I still worry a little about Mrs. Goerlitz’s assessment?
What if cats truly do take after their owners?
* * *
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Love your story about cats. I had one special cat growing up on the farm who’s name was “Cookie” and he loved attention.
I’m glad this story reminded you of Cookie, a cat I’d have appreciated knowing, too. Thanks for writing, Junette!
Thanks, Elaine, for another very enjoyable story. Your descriptive account brings back memories of some cats that I’ve owned that also had some quirky personalities, but were still affectionate companions, each in their own way. A few of my female cats were the sweetest, most lovable lap cats that one could ever hope for, but trips to the vet were always challenging when they changed into “howling, frantic felines”, who remained angry for hours after coming home.
They eventually forgave me and changed their attitudes, so that our lives could return to normal. They all have a special place in my heart, though, just like you have for Pecos.
Thanks, Carolyn! Yes, where would we be without those faithful feline friends? They certainly earned a permanent place in our hearts. Lots of lessons learned while caring and cherishing them, too.
Thanks, Elaine. So much fun. I needed this today.
You’re welcome, Rox Ann. I remembered one more story. I hosted a wedding shower for a dear friend of mine. I thought I knew Annette well but didn’t find out until after all the presents were unwrapped and the cake and punch had been eaten that she was afraid of cats. All afternoon Pecos sat on the top of the banister below where she was seated. I noticed that she turned around and looked at him several times, but all the other ladies thought it was cute when Pecos lifted a paw when he made eye contact with the guest of honor. Annette finally broke the news to me when she was leaving. I was horrified because Pecos sensed she was afraid and taunted her as if she was a mouse. Annette never visited my home again!
I truly enjoyed reading this!! It made me laugh out loud and brought back so many memories of cats I have known. I think anyone who has had a relationship with a cat has many stories-I know I certainly do!
I’m a neighbor of your sister Shirley and look forward to more of your posts-thanks! Jan
Thanks for touching base, Jan, and letting Shirley and I know that you can relate to our cat stories. We are delighted that we share those kinds of fond memories with you.
Hysterical! Thanks for the laughs.
I thought you might need a few chuckles this windy January morning!
Yes, thanks, Elaine. I am not feeling up to par today and I needed these wonderful cat stories. I was able to forget my own troubles and worries today.
I’m very sorry that you’re not at your best today, Barbara. I hope you have a hot cup of tea beside you and are under a nice warm quilt while you mend. Take good care of yourself. Shirley and I are glad that our old pals, Yowler and Pecos, have lifted your spirits!
What rascals Yowler and Pecos were. Add fiesty cat owner to your list of accomplishments. Great story.😸
Thanks, Martha! I’m still a feisty cat owner who is a tad concerned about Rags, our little feral who showed up in the middle of Hurricane Harvey more than three years ago. She has been gone for three days, but seems to need to get away from it all now and then. Perhaps she and Yowler have something in common. Thanks for writing!
Did Rags ever show up, or is she still gone?
Thanks for asking, Barbara. Rags made it home and was safe and snug in her catbed in a wooden box during the Big Freeze.
A great set of stories about cats. I love cats!
I had two cats: Felix and Mittens. Both lovely fellas. Felix was a stray, as was Mittens. Felix, we brought out to my uncle’s farm, east of Carstairs, as he was not handling city and house life easily. (He hated the car ride!!) He lived a few more years out in the country, making his way between the one uncle’s farm and a second uncle’s farm. Mittens sometimes accompanied my husband and me on walks (without a lead). When we moved to our present home that backs onto Nose Hill, Mittens had the best of both worlds: city living, but the country out his back door — he was a hunter of mice, voles, and birds. When he was eleven, he did not return from his explorations on the hill. We have wondered if the coyotes caught up to him. The circle of life.
(My cousin had a cat that was very anti-social. Whenever she had visitors, he was put into the spare bedroom.)
Oh, I hate to hear that Mittens didn’t make it back from his Nose Hill outing one day. You’re likely right – coyotes likely ambushed him. It’s so sad when we lose a beloved pet because it’s a member of our family too. Felix probably must have been so happy to get out of the city to the farm! I bet there was a running joke between your uncles about where he was spending more time and who fed him better. Great stories! Thanks for sharing, Anne.
Sweet friend! Loved your cat story! Wish we could have those occasional lunches with you and Emil! I have lots of cat stories. Miss you.
Thanks, Sharon. So good to hear from you. Maybe one of these days you’ll venture back to Fayette County and we can have that lunch to hear your cat stories! Take care and stay safe.
Love your stories. I am pulled into your story and feel I am right there with you. I did not grow up with cats but instead a dog and a pair of bantam chickens. We couldn’t have a cat as they would want to stalk the chickens. Once I was grown and on my own, I had dogs and cats. Our current cat “Crazy” is appropriately named. She keeps us on our toes with her stunts. Thanks for these wonderful stories.
Gesine, for a woman who did not grow up with cats, you have made the grade if you now have a cat named Crazy! I know there must a lot of stories that go with that name. Thanks for writing. By the way, did you name the bantam chickens and how long did they live?
We had chickens for eggs and butchering but my dad loved animals like me. He hatched out some bantams and I named my pet rooster Oliver and hen was Lisa from the show Green Acres. They would follow me around and stayed in a nest on our back porch. I was in the habit of naming the baby chicks but then I wouldn’t eat chicken because I raised them. My mom couldn’t have that so she told me that while I was at school she boxed up all our cleaned and frozen chickens and took them to the local country store and traded them for chickens I didn’t know, I spent my childhood eating chicken and believing my mom. Fast forward to young adulthood. We had completed butchering one day and I asked my mom about the butcher who traded chickens with her. There was dead silence. My brother, who is six years older, stated he could not believe I really thought any store would trade chickens. He stated it was moms way of getting me to eat chicken. I was twenty or so and looked at mom in disbelief. To this day, I say an extra prayer when eating chicken. Plus I thank God for a mom who would go to such trouble to get her youngest to eat what we had butchered.
What a great story! You’re so right about the extreme anxiety associated with birds and animals we knew ending up on our plates. I can certainly relate, Gesine.
AW, THAT WAS A SWEET MOM, TO HELP GESINE GET OVER THE IDEA OF EATING HER OWN CHICKENS. SHE REMINDS ME TO SOMETHING THAT MY MOM WOULD HAVE DONE, TOO
I thought that was a really sweet thing too, Barbara!
I didn’t have any chickens that were pets. To me they were the farm animals that we raised to give us eggs and we would (watch out: tragedy ahead. The skittish persons must not read the rest of the story!) chop their heads off, fling them aside and watch their body jump around a while. They were then placed in hot water and we would pluck their feathers off, wash them off, then cut them up into pieces, then cook them. Delicious, fresh chicken!
I remember that! When relatives were coming for Sunday dinner (at noon, not in the evening), the chickens had to make themselves scarce or else they be in the cast iron frying pan!
I loved this story having had pets of my own for most of my life. Animals enrich our lives! Martha
Thanks, Martha. I’m with you. I can’t imagine growing up without pets. Of course, when we were kids, the cats were expected to catch mice and not lay behind the stove soaking up the heat all day! I appreciate you writing.
Fun cat(s) story Elaine. Sorry you lost Pecos but he certainly created his own story for you to recall and share.
I have had cats and/or dogs always. Several of the cats acted like dogs. Of the two I have now, one is very mature and wise (Prissy), the other is a softy (Pancake) who enjoys being held and petted. He follows me around like a dog but will suddenly run ahead, fall and roll over in front of me just to get attention. It always works!
Thank you for sharing more memories and wonderful pictures of your furry pets/family.
I’m glad you liked both the stories and the photos. Shirley and I had to do some digging to find them and Emil had to correct a starburst in the photo of Pecos with his attack cat sign. Lots of fun and good memories! It sounds like Prissy and Pancake are a delight and often put a smile on your face. I’m sure the admiration is not one-sided! Thanks for writing, Susan.
What a great story Elaine!!! I so enjoyed it! I had a few cats in my life…..but now it’s strictly dogs for me…lol
Lynette, I’m glad I made you smile with Yowler and Pecos’s stories. Do you recall that occasionally when you and Alvin came to visit we had a big orange cat named Oliver who would walk around the house with a ball in his mouth? Now Oliver was Emil’s cat, LOL! One day, we’ll have to tell some dog tales!
I had to laugh at your worries that cats’ personalities take after their owners. If so we must all suffer from have multiple-personality disorders! Through the years and many beloved cats, I have to say that they, like children, seem to be born with interesting and different personalities. I guess we should treat comments like we do with our children. When they are good, smile and say, I can’t take the credit, because I don’t want to take the blame when they are bad!
Thanks for another so beautifully told delightful story to curl up and smile over along with a nice cup of tea on a colder winter Texas morning. Be well and safe!
Thanks for the reassurance, Lemae! Isn’t it the truth that people who say all cats and dogs are alike have never loved one? I like the analogy to our children.
Elaine, I see a children’s book here! You’ve even got the title, Yowler and Pecos. I can envision the accompanying illustrations and hear children laughing at feline antics.
Thank you so much, Linda, for this great idea and the encouragement! I apologize for my slow reply. Your comment just arrived even though you sent it weeks ago. (I had some Christmas cards to Canada that just got delivered this week, too!)
Yes, I agree with Linda! You should write a children’s book about Yowler and Pecos! I see Linda’s perspective in this. It will be a best seller!!
Thanks, Barbara, you’re really, really tempting me to put this project on my list! It would be fun for Yowler and Pecos to live on!
Great story Elaine. I have an on-again/off-again relationship with cats. I’m down to 3 now, all of them outdoors. I don’t miss the litter box one tiny bit!
I bet your outdoor cats still benefit from a whole lot of TLC! There are cats who actually prefer being outdoors if they have a safe, dry place to stay and call home. Thanks for writing, Liz!
Love all these cat stories. I’m a push-over for hungry or thirsty stray pets (cats & dogs) showing up in my yard. And I greatly appreciate the stories of others to care for their stray visitors too. Had many in my last 2 1/2 decades. No abandoned, feral or wild animal goes hungry nor thirsty around me, including, fox, coyote or birds that appears in need. I feed & water them.
I have a typical Black & White cat which in my early years I never, ever saw a Black & White cat. So in honor of my experience driving Texas roads in the 50s, I named this cat BW. In those years all or most Texas Highway Patrol cars were Black & White and some of us who drove too fast referred to a Highway Patrol car as a “BW.”
My immediate neighbor had a pre-teen kid & they had a birthday party with a few neighbor kids over for an ice-cream & cake deck party. My foundling half Maine Coon Cat went to explore all the cackling laughter racket & more importantly possible food availability at that birthday party. When my cat became frightened at the kids trying to pet & hug her, she fell off their deck rail 14 feet to the ground. A parent of one of the visiting kids told me days later she became very alarmed when her birthday participant son later at their evening meal conversation described that “Anne Montgomery” came to the birthday party & fell off that tall deck to the ground. Alarmed, the mother immediately rushed to telephone the birthday boy’s mother inquiring how badly the girl Anne Montgomery was injured. The birthday boy’s mother laughed long & hard explaining that Anne Montgomery was not one of the visiting birthday party children but a neighbor’s large, very fat Maine Coon cat. Adding that Anne Montgomery picked herself up from her embarrassing 14-foot fall, apparently uninjured but sadly walked away w/o having eaten any of the birthday food.
Fred – If I were a stray I’d head to your house and just hang around until I got your attention. Perhaps like the hobos during the Depression who used to leave marks on fences to show those that followed them where they could get a handout, your good nature is known among wild and tame animals that are in need. I laughed out loud at your story about Anne Montogmery! Thank you so much for writing and sharing these great memories.
I laughed out loud at the Annne Montgomery story!! I have seen cats fall from a high porch or some high place and they always twist their body so quickly that they don’t even know they did fall!! My two younger children love cats and dogs. Dianne and her family have always had two cats. Less than a year ago, they found a dog that they love. Actually they think that the dog, which they named Sunny, picked them when they gave up looking and went to a dog shelter! This poor dog was at the end of the cages, shivering at all the other dogs barking. When he saw Al , Dianne’s husband, he stood up and smiled, so Al said.
Thank you, Barbara, for your kind words. I am so glad my memories of Yowler and Pecos made you laugh! I am also a dog lover, so enjoyed hearing about Sunny. He is one lucky animal to have found a forever home where he is greatly loved!
Yet another wonderful story, Elaine! We pet owners do love our charges, don’t we. Your story vividly reminds me that each pet has distinct traits that both entertain us and, at times, might bother us. Yet we love them so! Thank you.
Marvy, you are so right! We pet owners do love our charges and they love (or at least put up with us)! Thank you for writing and sharing your feelings.
I smiled almost the whole time I read this story. Loved it! : ))
So glad these cat stories brought a smile to your face, Glynis! Thanks for telling me so.
You have brightened the ‘Post Holiday, Covid 19 tragedy, and Political Stew’ that has dark clouds swirling around all of us.
What a Cat-Tale! The facial expressions that felines of all shapes and sizes are equipped with leave no doubt as to what they are thinking – at any given time. They are attention getters, comedians, experts on creating terror [especially to home décor], and able to purr you to sleep, rattle your cage and totally endear themselves to the hardest shelled Dog-Lover! Thanks for sparking the memories.
Jeanie, you have very accurately described the range of emotions that typifies our feline friends! We must not forget to add aloofness. Some are better roommates than pets. I always appreciate your humor. Thanks for treating us to some of it today.