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.

Most of the time, Yowler was content doing what we wanted him to do.

Never once did Yowler consider giving me the big, double-paw scratch that I richly deserved. He was easy to get along with. 

Yowler’s benevolence extended to small kittens who wanted to share the cushion on the old chair beside the wood cook stove.

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.

Even a little pig named Jess wandering around the farmyard didn’t bother Yowler.

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.

When I couldn’t find Pecos, I looked for telltale bumps under the bedspread or in the laundry basket. He didn’t like to be disturbed.

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.

Pecos was a law unto himself. I’m just grateful he tolerated me.

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.

As a joke, a friend gave me a sign that said “Beware of Cat.” The truth hit a little too close to home!

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?

SOS sounded

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.

Pecos was my pal through thick and thin for 19 years. During his long life, he became a legend in his own time, sometimes to my great embarrassment.

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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