Monday, August 6, 2007

The Cats Of My Life: Yentl

Picture from

After Georgie died my mother was adrift without an anchor. She had had that cat for so much of her life. It was a devastating blow. But, we were in touch with a woman my mother at one time said was her sister, then later said wasn’t. That woman had seven outdoor cats and all gave birth at the same time. Suddenly, her house was my dream, a house filled with cute little fuzzballs.

My brother and I begged our mother to bring us there as often as possible. We helped name them all and loved watching feeding time when the floor of the kitchen became a writhing mass of kittens. My brother and I were very protective of the kittens and when potential adopters came made sure they weren’t researchers (yes, one admitted to wanting the kitten for a research project.) From the litter my mother picked one curious black cat to be her next companion. This is why she said she liked him:

“He was on my lap playing, and then suddenly he just shot off! I didn’t know where he went but found him in the litter box. He’s very clean and held it in until the last possible minute because he wanted to be with me.”

At the time, my mother thought Barbara Streisand was the best thing ever, hence the name.

That cat did love my mother with absolute blind devotion. And he didn’t continue running to the bathroom as he had when he was a kitten. Often times my mother complained of waking up with the cat still nestled in her armpit, and poop extruding from his behind. On multiple occasions he chose her warmth over the litter box. But I think she adored it. What more could she want then such love? Her children couldn’t give her that. As much as we tried we still had free will and she still saw us as hiding things from her, as not trusting or loving her as much as she deserved. After all, we wouldn’t soil ourselves just to remain in her presence.

My mother had gotten a leash to try and train him – as he was an outdoors cat – but it never worked. However, if she flicked the leash back and forth across the rug in an arc, he would jump after it often doing backflips in the process. Oh how her laughter would echo through the apartment as she flipped the leash across the floor. She did this until tears streamed down her face and Yentl, tired, curled up in her lap and fell asleep.

Yentl was a sleek black cat with sunflower yellow eyes. My brother and I joked about him seeing his ‘girlfriends’ around the block. There was the sweet tabby across the street and a calico a few doors down.

At the time we lived on a hill on the second floor of a two story building. Our landlord was old world Italian and kept a key to the place. On more than one occasion we came home to find evidence that she’d been there – and usually the evidence was the cat was let out. I don’t think she was a fan of black cats.

Our downstairs neighbor, well, I only remember my mother calling them ‘white trash’ as they constantly had cars up on cement blocks. They weren’t too fond of us, but my mother was known for insulting people loudly. Not the smartest thing to do.

The thing my brother seemed most fascinated about with Yentl was that despite the deep midnight black of his coat, he had the pinkest little behind. My brother always joked that Yentl had hemorrhoids. It was such a pervading joke, that when I attempted to sew as my grandmother did (but without patterns or a sewing machine) I made a little Yentl doll. It was simple, just cat shaped pieces sewn together. But on the back was a bright pink piece of fabric and when you pulled a thread, it wrinkled and bunched together and made my brother laugh as he repeated, ‘hemorrhoid’ over and over.

As Yentl was an outdoors cat he did get fleas. I remember watching my mother give him flea dip. I was horrified as the fleas ran to his eyes and ears to get away from the water and chemicals.

Yentl always knew when my mother was coming home from work and would run to the door meowing. Thus, when he wasn’t at the door as my mom pulled out of the driveway one night we were worried. I don’t even remember how we found him, just that he was bloody. Very bloody. In searching for something to wrap him in my mother grabbed my coat. My pink coat. My only coat. A coat that we couldn’t afford to replace. There is still some anger over the fact that I had to go to school in a coat with his blood stains on them after this.

But at that time, it was extreme emergency. We wrapped him and held him in the back of the car as my mother somehow drove to the vets amid tears. While driving she concocted the story of what happened to Yentl. “It was those white trash neighbors of ours,” she seethed, “they knew he was our cat and that’s why they hit him with the car.” I forget where she got that idea, but it’s what we believed.

Yentl was rushed into surgery and within a few hours we were told that his jaw was broken and would be wired. The vet went over instructions with my mother and sent us all home. We could not visit him as he still had a lot of work to be done.

The next morning came the call. It was believed that a blood clot moved into his lungs. Either way, he was dead. There would be no more little black cat to poop in my mother’s bed, or make her laugh as he jumped after a leash, or run to greet her when she came home. All that remained was the blood on my jacket.

Yentl was buried in our ‘aunts’ backyard. Or maybe it was our backyard. I think it was ours. Shortly afterwards my brother began burying animal after animal in the yard. He made crosses from sticks and branches and, for Yentl, out of bricks he found. Although he insisted he found the animals already dead, we weren’t entirely sure if that was true.


Amel's Realm said... cat won my Mom's heart by doing the same thing...he always knew when my Mom came home from the market and he'd follow her home, knowing she'd bring food for him. Smart little cat.

Btw, I visited my English friend today as she'd just adopted 2 kittens. I took a short video of the kittens but I have to upload it first. I hope it turns out well. I'll post it tomorrow. I'm pretty tired today.

My cat was also an outdoor cat, so he got fleas allright. We bought a can of talcum powder and it worked SO well. We just had to powder him all over (he didn't like being powdered as it made him sneeze LOL!!!) and then the next day or so all the fleas would be gone!!! ;-D However, the powder made him look "albino" as his ginger fur became lighter-coloured due to the white powder HI HI HI HI...LOL!!!

Nice story. I'm sorry to hear about the blood stain on your jacket, Vic. :-(((

it's the little things... said...

Thank you for commenting on my blog and directing me over here. Wow. I can't wait to dig in.
Like you, I suffered abuse, but not sexual. I always found this confusing.
I've now come to realize that had sexual abuse been heaped upon the rest of it, I just may not have been able to survive at all.
Good for you for making it!