I’ve previously posted photos of my two cats, Lucy and Boomer. Well, before these two, we had Marmee and Bella. Marmee was an orange tabby we got as a kitten, and he was a terror. In order to slow him down a little, we decided to get a female kitten to keep him company. They were always indoor cats, and they were like spouses, sleeping together, grooming each other and never getting into fights unless one of them had been to the vet without the other. When we moved from West Hollywood to a condo in Studio City, they viewed it as a great adventure and never looked back. They loved chasing each other up and down the loft stairway in the new digs, especially early on Saturday and Sunday mornings!
When the Northridge Earthquake hit on January 17, 1994, we spent the day digging through the mess (and it was quite a mess, believe me!), picking up things and moving them into piles, trying to figure out what to do next and the most important issue– where to go. We were still having substantial aftershocks, the condo was damaged, and things were falling as the subsequent earthquakes shook the building. There was also no power. I worked for a law firm downtown at the time, and we had done a lot of business with the new Hotel Intercontinental on Bunker Hill. I called to find out if they would take us (and the cats), and under the circumstances, they had no problem with it. We found Marmee in a closet, quickly put him in the cat carrier and then started to look for Bella. There had been no sign of her all day, but this wasn’t surprising. She often went into hiding when she was stressed by something. After half an hour of looking under beds, behind furniture and in closets, I started to get a little concerned. Keep in mind that any piece of furniture that was not bolted to the wall had moved and fallen, and even a couple that were bolted still fell. I began to worry that Bella had been crushed under a piece of furniture or might have been buried under heavy books, somehow knocked unconcious or worse yet, killed.
By this time, Marmee was loudly protesting from the cat carrier so we let him out and told him to find Bella. Now, for those of you who are not cat people, please do not laugh! My daughter had treated these two like puppies from the time they came home with us as kittens, and they were more like dogs than you might think! They occasionally came when you called them, would fetch something you asked for if they were in the mood to play, and as I said before, they settled into life with each other like an old married couple. We took Marmee into the master bedroom and told him to find Bella. He ran to the office bedroom, leaping over debris as he went, and sat in front of the bed there. We looked under that bed, we even moved it out from the wall. No Bella.
Next we took Marmee to the loft bedroom and asked him to find Bella. He ran down the stairs and returned to the office bedroom. We moved the bed again. Still no Bella.
The kitchen was a total mess with everything piled 3 feet high in the galley space, so we took Marmee in there and asked him to find Bella. When he ran to the office bedroom a third time, we knew he was trying to tell the stupid humans something. He sat in front of the bed and started yowling at the top of his lungs.
We moved the bed further from the wall and took the mattress off the springs. No Bella. We pulled the box springs from the frame, and again, no Bella. The operative word here is “box.” If you have ever turned over your bed’s box springs, you will know that there are spaces between the coils, and that the whole thing is covered by a thin film of gauze on the bottom. Well, in her terror of the earthquake and the aftershocks that came in waves all day long, Bella had found a loose piece of gauze and crawled INTO one of the spaces. When we finally turned the box springs over, there was Bella wrapped around one of the coils. I wish I had taken a photo of this scene, but at the time, we were so happy to find her, we just pulled her out and tried to comfort her. She was still terrified.
We had to walk down all the stairs from the 4th floor to the basement garage because the elevator was out. We got into the car and drove downtown (no damage in the underground parking, thank goodness!). Leaving the San Fernando Valley was like leaving a war zone. Buildings were damaged everywhere, especially the older ones, and people were packing their cars and departing all over the valley. Marmee protested from the cat carrier throughout the trip. At that time, he only associated the car with a trip to the vet, and he seemed to be telling us that he’d been through enough already that day, how could we possibly be adding insult to injury by taking him to the vet? Bella occasionally added her own voice to the protest.
When we got to the hotel, the pair of them went instantly quiet. They knew this was something new and different. We checked in and took the elevator to the 8th floor. The cats ran straight under the bed as soon as we got to the room. They were not interested in cat food for the first couple of days in the hotel. I finally ordered swordfish and enticed them up on the room service cart to have a few bites. They were OK after that. Every time the room service cart arrived, they thought it was their breakfast or dinner time!
Marmee and Bella moved with us to temporary digs in Pasadena a couple of weeks later, and then moved to the house in Woodland Hills in October, 1994. When I moved to the townhouse in 2004, they once again moved without any issues. They were definitely people cats and not environment or territory cats. They went with us wherever and never had any problems.
Bella was a gray tortoise shell mix, and at times, her markings made her face look a little raccoon-like. She was a tiny little thing, not even 7 pounds, and her face was shaped much like her Lynx Point Siamese mother’s. She also “talked” like a Siamese, but she was not vocal very often. Marmee made enough noise for the both of them. Her “official” name was Annabella Cruiser. Don’t ask me why! The name evolved to Bella, then Miss Bijoux, and finally Bijikins and Miss Bella. She always appeared timid and shy and when someone new arrived, she usually went into hiding. If after a few minutes she returned to the stranger, sniffing and smelling, it usually meant she approved of the newcomer. The highest stamp of approval was when she rolled and put her scent glands on your shoes or purse. This only happened with about four people throughout Bella’s lifetime. She did have a fierce side that did not surface until we moved to the house after the earthquake. The design of the dwelling was mostly French windows and doors, and Bella liked to watch the birds, squirrels, possums, gophers, deer and other wild life that sauntered through the back yard from time to time. One evening at dusk, I heard her making primal noises the likes of which I had never heard before. I ran into the dining room to see her throwing herself at the windows as if in attack on a very large coyote who was standing outside, looking at her through the window as if he was figuring out how he might get to this tasty little morself. When he saw me, of course he took off, but it took Bella all evening to settle down after her “attack” on the coyote. She was very brave through the windows!
Bella lived two months past her 19th birthday. We finally put her down rather than put her through months of treatment which would not really improve the quality of her life. The vet thought it was time. Even though the cats had gotten very elderly, Bella’s death hit us very hard. The two of them had been with us for so long that we just never thought about the end…they had become important members of the family.
Marmee lived for another four months after Bella was gone. He had long been treated with medication for over active thyroid, and like Bella, his kidneys began to fail. He would not eat the special kidney diet food, even mixed with more appetizing things, so I made the choice to give him whatever he would eat, whether it was good for his kidneys or not. His favorite thing was to lick whipped cream from a spoon. Marmee’s “official” name was Meadowlark Marmalade. He quickly became Marmee, and that evolved into Mr. Marms, and then Kitty Boy. As he got older, he became Old Kitty Boy. In his youth and middle age, he was a real bruiser, hitting the scale at 17 pounds at one point. As he got older, his weight dropped to about 13 pounds. He tolerated visitors a little better than Bella, but if someone arrived who didn’t especially dote on cats, Marmee sensed it. My cousin Blake and his wife Peggy came to visit in 2000, and I put them in the guest bedroom. They always had dogs, and loved animals in general, but I don’t think cats were Blake’s thing. The guest bed was one of Marmee’s favorite places to sleep because no one would bother him there. By this time he was nearly 16 and he liked his naps uninterrupted. At bedtime the night of my cousins’ arrival, they found Marmee sound alseep in the middle of their bed. When Blake tried to move him, Marmee set up a growling and hissing fit which made Blake reluctant to go further. I had to be called to coax Marmee onto my bed. I will never forget the dirty look he gave Blake and Peggy as I carried him to my room!
Marmee started to fail in the spring of 2006 and one night was having trouble keeping his balance. He went behind his favorite chair in my bedroom, and I could not get him to come out. As a side note, Marmee absolutely HATED going to the vet. He yowled and carried on, hissed and spit, and as he got older, he had to have a mild tranquilizer a couple of hours before a visit. Even with the tranquilizer, he still had to be put into a muzzle because while he never tried to bite at home, at the vet he would bite anyone who got in his way! The vet techs wore their heaviest gloves when Marmee was examined. On the day he died, as sick as he was, he still knew we were taking him to the vet. Once we were in the car, it was as if he simply was NOT going back to the vet one last time. He died in my daughter’s arms just a few minutes before we arrived. He was two weeks short of his 21st birthday.
So what does all this have to do with the title above, CONOR and the CATS, you may be asking. I have obviously digressed. Well, Conor’s arrival in October, 1998 was taken in stride by Marmee and Bella, just like everything else we put them through. You read stories about cats that have difficulties moving, or have difficulty when a baby arrives, but not our two. We had had many small/infant nieces and nephews visiting from time to time, and now Conor came almost daily and was obviously the new center of the universe. Marmee was already 13 at this time and while he couldn’t really be bothered much over the arrival of yet another small person, he was protective. When Conor napped on one of the beds, Marmee slept with him. See photo below. The look on Marmee’s face clearly says, “Will you please put that camera away and let us sleep? I have this situation under control!”
Bella was another story. She was curious about Conor. She would sniff him and then sit and stare at him, watching over him for hours at a time. See photo above.
Hard to believe that a person would miss cats after all these years, but I still do.