“Meow-thering” by Julie Hatcher

This story appears in the anthology “Not Your Mother’s Book…On Cats.”

As a teenager, baby-sitting didn’t appeal to me. However, my fascination with cats drew me into the whole mothering phenomenon.

Mese, a Siamese kitten I adopted after graduating from high school, taught me a little about “meow-thering,” which is a close second to mothering. Let’s just say he dared me to think outside the box, the “litter box,” that is.

Fortunately, working full time and leaving a new kitten at home alone didn’t set off any alarms to Social Services, because I would’ve been in big trouble. I guess I didn’t read the book, A New Mother’s Guide to Raising Kittens, under the heading “Beware of Poisonous Novelty Items.”

One evening after work, I returned to my apartment to find Mese half-dazed and sprawled out on the carpeted floor. Beside him lay a small black snake, partially eaten and regurgitated in a puddle of cat spew!

Mese appeared more cross-eyed than a Siamese cat should. Determined to stand on his own, he stepped forward and drunkenly ran into the wall, collapsing. Bing! A light bulb illuminated in my new-mother noggin. Although unintentional, I had given Mese a toxic toy—a rubber snake. The proverbial “Mr. Yuck” symbol for poison control must have escaped me.

Frantic, I called a veterinarian. Explaining my kitten’s state of distress, the vet simply instructed me to pour milk in a dish and offer it to Mese, thus letting Mother Nature take its course. Shortly after he drank the milk, Mese began to walk surefooted and his turquoise eyes appeared less crossed. Meow-thering had its challenges, but it taught me a valuable lesson—to develop hunting tactics for cat-safe toys. Otherwise, milk may do the trick.

When Mese was two years old—or age 14 in human years—I faced his rebellious teenage stage. He often attempted to sneak out of the apartment. I insisted he remain strictly an inside cat, but he tested my parental controls. A door left ajar for a split second would beckon him to clamber into the wild blue yonder. Of course, my first command, “No, Mese, the world is a scary place,” only taunted him. So, with car keys in hand, I clanged them like bells to startle him into submission when I had to go outside. It worked like a charm . . . for a while.

Mese, a clever opportunist, learned consistency was the key to success. One day, he fell beneath my radar and slinked through the sliver of space between the door and the doorframe. Like a dandelion seed in the wind, he wafted into the great wide-open. I had failed as a mother. My juvenile delinquent, both declawed and defenseless, had left me a tearful, nervous wreck. I searched through bushes and underneath cars, and I posted flyers at every doorstep.

Two weeks passed, and like any mother of a cat worth her whiskers, I held onto faith. After returning home one night, on the walk between the car and the apartment door, I chanced a summoning by jingling the once-enchanted car keys.

“Meow,” a cat answered.

Shaking the brass keys again, I listened for the magical catcall. It came again, allowing me to single out the meowing bush. Pulling back the shrubbery, I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was Mese!

I gently tweezed him through the bramble. Harboring my humbled cat within the warmth of a mother’s arms, the two of us returned to our four walls of civilization. My feline boy, dehydrated and famished, held his head high and stepped over to his food dish to satisfy his thirst and starvation. Perhaps he had to find out for himself that independence is a bear and hissing snakes will attack. But through it all, he learned that Mama’s keys were the way to safety. Conversely, I learned to never give up on runaways and to look for the bush with the silver whining.

Angel (left) and Mese (right)

Angel (left) and Mese (right)

Meow-thering has taught me a little about cat courting. As a mature adult cat, Mese was responsible for wooing a female gray tabby, probably luring her with cat-eyed winks through the window. She literally knocked at the door on Christmas Eve, with the dragging of a paw. This feline version of Scarlet O’Hara sashayed her way into Mese’s heart and humble abode. She demanded her claim with all the grace of a winged cat. Giving her both the name Angel and a new home, I essentially betrothed Mese to her. And the wedding vow would’ve read, “To provide all the cuddling and licking, for better or for worse, until their hearts content. Amen.”

Unfortunately, I thwarted any opportunity to have a conversation about the birds and the bees with my boy. I hoped the subject would be an innate cat trait—however, I’m not sure Mese ever figured out what procreation was all about. On occasion, he saddled up in his attempt to ride Angel like a racehorse, but completely on top, not from behind. She must have been a pillar of patience to Mese’s half-witted effort. As a spectator, it reminded me of a skit from The Carol Burnett Show, when Tim Conway readied to fire a cannonball and Harvey Korman yelled, “Fire!” The ball never made it out of the chute. Mese had afforded me another meow-thering lesson—to be prepared to laugh my hiney off over his bedroom shenanigans.

Meow-thering not only taught me that raising a cat was perfect practice for mothering, but it had other perks, too. No one ever said, “Oh, what a bad mother you are for giving your cat a toxic play snake.” And luckily, I was never interrogated by a police officer on the suspicious disappearance of my rebellious teenage cat. Furthermore, having been helped by a humane organization, I chose sterility over fertility for my catty boy, just in case he ever really fired that cannonball.

Cats 250_rgb Julie Hatcher lives in South Carolina with her husband, two sons and two attention-seeking cats. She’s been a full-time mom for the past 13 years. Unsure if a counseling degree has helped with raising kids, she’s certain raising kids has helped her writing.

Again, this story appears in “Not Your Mother’s Book…On Cats.” The book is filled with 62 cat-approved stories written by their humans. Purchase this book today from your favorite retailer, Amazon (http://amzn.to/1CdPXYt) or Barnes & Noble (http://bit.ly/1zFY1kd).

To submit your stories for consideration in future NYMB titles, go to http://www.PublishingSyndicate.com and click on the “Not Your Mother’s Book” tab.