Saturday, June 27, 2015


It would be easy to conclude that our new kitties are a gift from God. After all, with impeccable timing, they fell right out of the Arizona sky and into our hands – kitties from Heaven. They say He works in mysterious ways.
We had driven a thousand miles from our home in Oregon to Bullhead City in order to get two kitties from a wild momma cat who had decided to have her litter in our friends’ desert patio.

Why would my wife, Eva, and I go to such lengths to get the same kind of kitties you could find in a local shelter or a give-away box in a supermarket parking lot?
We Were Not Worthy

For nearly a year we had been trying, unsuccessfully, to buy a new cat. After nineteen years, our beloved old cat, Lucy, had given up her ninth life. Thinking about filling our pet void, we had gone to a couple of cat shows and it was the big and charismatic Maine Coon Cats that caught our eye. We wanted one. Maybe two.
We quickly discovered, however, that when it comes to buying a Maine Coon Cat, it’s a sellers’ market. The breeders have waiting lists, so it’s not as simple as handing over the going price of $1,200 and driving home with a kitten. Each breeder first must determine if you are worthy of owning one of their precious Maine Coon Cats. It seemed a lot like trying to adopt a kid – prying questions about what kind of parents we would be. Apparently, not good enough since no one would sell us a kitty.

In a last-ditch effort, last winter we went to a cat show in Portland, certain we would find a breeder who would put us on a waiting list for their next litter. Lots of Maine Coon Cats and several breeders were there. Eva dutifully smiled, bought their home-made cat calendars, and promised that if only they would consider us, their darling ball of fur would be given a dog-free, kid-free, smoke-free, indoor castle as a home. We offered to put down a deposit. When one breeder insisted that a sole kitty would be too lonely, we said we would consider two. “Stay in touch by email,” was the typical response.
So we did, but our entreaties went nowhere. We started to feel like rejected supplicants before Those-Who-Would-Bestow-Cats, apparently not worthy of such a noble creature as a Maine Coon Cat.

That’s why when we saw on Facebook that our old friends, Ray and Ann, in Bullhead City were looking to give away wild kitties born in their courtyard, driving a thousand miles just seemed like the thing to do. Besides, with their palm-shaded pool, good wine, and spectacular desert sunsets, why not? The kitties would be a bonus – a timely gift from the cosmos, warranting the long trip to claim them. To hell with those uppity Maine Coon Cat fanciers.
Gone Kitties

“They’re gone,” Ray said to me on the phone, just a week before we were to leave.  “Momma took them over the roof and into the desert and they’re gone.”
He explained that Momma Cat had gotten nervous about the increasing attention people were giving her cute progeny. She had no patience for people handling her babies so had carried them off into the wilds, Ray had concluded, one kitty at a time.

After giving me the bad news, he paused to let it sink in. “We’re coming anyways,” I said. Ray seemed relieved.
Kitties in a Palm Tree

When we got to Bullhead City, we stared at the empty olla lying where Momma Cat had birthed her babies. The quiet, enclosed patio is dominated by an immense canary palm tree – to ring arms around its trunk would take two people – and its great fronds drape the house’s tile roof. The palm tree and desert shrubs gave Momma Cat easy access up and over the roof to the surrounding Mohave Desert. We marveled that she had so quickly vanished with her brood.
It was Eva who heard them first, that faint but unmistakable mewing of kittens. As we stared up into the palm tree’s impenetrable tangle of sword-like vegetation just a few feet beyond reach, Momma Cat’s face materialized like Alice’s Cheshire Cat – but no grin here. Her eyes burned with maternal savagery that said, “Put a hand up here and I’ll rip it to shreds.” She had moved her kittens only as far as the palm tree.
Over the next few days we learned Momma Cat’s routines, which consisted of nursing her well-hidden babies in the palm tree, coming down when the patio was deserted to eat and drink from the bowls provided by Ray and Ann, and heading into the desert for evening carousing and hunting. It was during one of her absences that we first spotted several of her kittens out exploring the palm’s canopy.
Maybe, I thought, maybe we could catch one of them. So we placed ladders in strategic locations around the patio. I headed to the Bullhead City Walmart to buy a long-handled fishing net.

An Infestation of Cats

“Fisherman?” asked the Walmart checkout lady as she rung up my net.
“That would be a good guess, but no.”

“Bingo!” I gave her an abbreviated story of our kitties in the palm tree.

“Oh, you should get pictures. Put them on the Internet. Or Facebook, or something,” she said.
I smiled.

As other customers in line waited patiently, she proceeded to tell me all about the litter of cats in “the abandoned house trailer next door.” She didn’t know what she was going to do about them. Apparently, the city was being overrun with an infestation of feral cats. There was talk of trapping, spaying, and releasing the females, but nothing had come of it.
“Well, one thing for sure,” I said as I took my receipt. “If we catch these kitties, it will be like them winning the Kitty Jackpot.”

Back at Ray and Ann’s, now armed with my net, we waited and watched for the kitties to venture out again. But the week sped by with no more sightings. On our next-to-last evening, we decided to have dinner at a sushi restaurant. It was Ann's birthday.

After a less-than-memorable meal, we sped back to house in hopes of catching the kitties out and about just before sunset. Plus, I had some pressing business to attend. Eva took up watch in the patio while I sped to the bathroom to deal with the impact of our less-than-memorable meal, missing the drama unfolding in the palm tree.
It seems that Momma Cat had chosen just that moment to lead her litter out of the palm tree, onto the roof, and into the desert for somewhere she felt was safer for her kittens. As I returned, Eva pointed to the roof and I sprinted up the ladder, Walmart net in hand.

When Momma Cat spotted me, she ran to the ridge of the roof where she stopped to wait for her kittens toddling along the roof’s edge. But the leading kitten lost his footing and slipped over the edge, landing with a soft bounce on the patio pavers. Below, Eva, now joined by Ann, scooped up kitty number one. I moved gingerly over the roof’s clay tiles, hoping to net at least one of the other kittens. Momma Cat yowled in horror. That’s when kitties two and three slid off the roof, landing shaken but uninjured.
We knew there were two more kittens in her litter, but there was no sign of them, apparently still impossibly hidden in the palm tree’s tangled fronds. I retreated from the nearly dark rooftop to the patio.

There they were. Three kittens, two of them now ours – a calico female and a cream-colored male. Ours. Winners of the Kitty Jackpot.
Had we returned from dinner a few minutes later, they would have vanished into the desert night without us ever seeing them. Had we returned earlier, Momma Cat probably wouldn’t have risked leading them from their palm tree haven until after dark. Strange, how the timing worked out so perfectly. Divine providence? If, as the gospel song claims, His eye is on the sparrow, then why not kitties, too?

Sonny & Skye
We spent a good share of our two-day drive back to Oregon trying out names for our new kitties. Sonny & Skye fit. They now are about nine weeks old (we’ve had to guess about their exact birthdays), healthy and happy, and living a life of cat luxury. Grain-free kitten food, wet and dry. Toys and more toys. A cat play tower that I built. You might even say they’ve landed in a cat’s Heaven on Earth.

Kitties from Heaven
We don’t know the fate of Momma Cat’s last two kittens. Since Ray & Ann have observed Momma Cat already behaving again like the cat slut that she is, I’m guessing that those kittens won’t survive Bullhead City’s searing 115 degree summer.

If it helps, you can believe that those kitties “have gone to a better place.” Or, “God wanted them in Heaven.” Or, “they’ll be reunited with their family one day.”
The trouble is that we really don’t know if they were Christian cats. They might have been Buddhist cats. If so, maybe God will send those lost kittens back to Earth, one day to fall out of a desert palm tree into a life of cat luxury. Kitties from Heaven. It happens.

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