I’m writing about Pork Chop some eight years after his untimely death. I felt that enough time had passed and I could write without getting too overly emotional about how the “kitten who beat all odds” conquered some of life’s biggest obstacles.
I once lived in an ideal place for people to just “dump off” their unwanted pets in the country of the Rocky mountains. “Shnook-ems” and “Busybody” were two wild cats that we tamed while they were kittens, but they were just like the busybody nickname suggested, nosy. They’d follow my [then] boyfriend and I all over the yard and wanted in the house to dig in the bag of cat food. They had a bad flaw and loved to get into cars if they could find a way. Therefore, I suspect that they hitched a ride and were never seen again.
There was a stray mother cat that lived with us for many years. There was something not right about her from the start. She was a very affectionate calico cat, but she was also not quite all there and would, for no apparent reason, growl at nothing as though she was being provoked. All the time she would put the run on any of the other cats. She also loved to get under our feet whenever we were outside. We felt sorry for her and let her stick around. Thus started off a kitten boom that had its good experiences and its unexpected tragedies.
A stray cat showed out of nowhere one day out our way. We could tell that she had definitely been somebody’s cat at one time. At first she was very friendly and sweet. I named her “Sweetie pie”.
The reason why I suspect Sweetie pie was dumped off was because she more than likely had worms and was ready to drop a litter of kittens as well. The neighbors would complain to us to do something about our fur ball population because they were an eye sore for the neighborhood. We had no objections to re-locating the cats and clearly understood that the cats were a nuisance.
For one, we lived in the country. Secondly, we had no control over the strays that were dumped off on the country road. The cats lived outdoors. They huddled in the wood piles at night, and stayed in an unused portion of the garage “the hen house” I called it when the weather was severe. We made sure that the cats had food and supplied them with ample bowls of clean water as well. My boyfriend and I didn’t have the heart not to care for the cats.
The tom cat that hung around would stop by whenever he felt like it. He never liked to stay long and we suspect that the tom cat had other homes in the neighborhood aside from ours. I nicknamed the tom cat, “Mr. Thomas Cat” after a forgotten song I heard online from an Edison Blue Amberol cylinder record of the aforementioned title. I also liked the inventor, Thomas Edison and felt that the title of the song befitted the tom cat. Ironically, the tom cat would come to his new name when I called him. He was the main cat that sired a lot of litters.
Mr. Thomas Cat was from very good stock. He was a husky, long haired tabby cat. He was very wild at first and it took me some time to tame him down enough to where I could pet him with my work gloves on. Then, after a while, he became friendly to where I could pet him without my gloves (never picked him up as I knew he hated that).
For the longest time, Mr. Thomas Cat was the only male cat until, a few of the male cats from the calico’s first litter became old enough, then they had offspring. I wasn’t sure what exactly killed Mr. Thomas Cat. He showed at the back patio one day with a bum hind leg and a foot that was festering and oozing blood and infection. We knew to be cautious of him. Mr. Thomas Cat had turned cantankerous as a result of his infection.
Late one night he overstayed his welcome on the indoor back porch. I was trying to shoo him out the back door and he wouldn’t budge. He fought the broom I was using. He drug his swollen foot around like a club, and I felt sorry for the husky tabby.
I sat on the floor by the couch and Mr. Thomas Cat gravitated toward me and began to purr really loud. He was so affectionate that he let me pet him for an hour and he licked my hand. When Mr. Thomas Cat had received much love and affection, he left out the back and never returned. He died somewhere out there my ex and I speculated.
We had countless litter of kittens that had all kinds of health problems and some of those kittens didn’t live more than a week at most. Sweet pie’s first litter of kittens nearly all died. They were born during the wrong time of the year, around late winter if I remember right. One of the baby kittens was discovered laying outside one of the coal sheds, frozen to death and I buried it out back under a pile of snow, went inside to rid my mind of that grim undertaking and suspected that was all there was of the litter.
The next day I went about my usual house chores and opened the back door to dump out last nights leftovers. Two very tiny rat-like black and dark gray long haired kittens tumbled backward and managed to regain their sense of composure– both of them barely weaned, shaking, and cold. Their blue eyes had just opened. I left them outside hoping that the mother cat would find them and take them back to wherever she had dropped her litter of kittens.
The evening was dwindling and the temperature outside continued to drop. It was going to be another severe chilly night and still the mother cat didn’t pick up her kittens. The two little munchkins huddled together to keep warm. I scooped them up and brought them in feeling bad for the near calamity I almost caused earlier.
The living room was warm and I watched the kittens like a hawk. They weren’t completely weaned. I went out the very next day to get the kitten formula, bottles, and eye droppers just in case. We made the kittens a bed on the front porch, but it was so cold out there that we didn’t have the heart to leave them there and brought them back in. They were very skittish to sudden movement and loud noise. Gradually these kittens learned our voices, knew our schedules, and whatnot.
Still we tried to make Sweetie pie accept her kittens, and she refused. Finally we held her down so the kittens could feed with the rest of the litters. I soon realized why these little kittens were probably abandoned out in the cold. They developed eye infections. I tried my best with no antibiotics, ointment or veterinarian know-how to treat the kitten’s eye infection. Then, I worried if it wasn’t something we could potentially catch like a viral or bacterial infection. Therefore, I placed the kitten in the harsh outdoors and hoped that the mother cat would care for it. I watched and waited and felt terrible. The little munchkin huddled by the back porch door and meowed. There was no chance that Sweetie pie would come by to claim her kitten. I brought the kitten back in, warmed it up, and couldn’t think of what to name it. I didn’t want to get too attached emotionally because both of his eyes became infected and remained closed. He could hear, walk, meow, and the little kitten tried to spray on everything. I was right there to tell him, “No” and whisk him to his litter box out on the front porch. He potty trained easy.
About three weeks later he was still alive, gaining weight, and now very attached to me. I still had no name for the little fur ball and was surprised that he made it this far. The infection began to go away when my boyfriend’s mother used a small amount of Borax, warm water, and I think even a little bit of saline solution dabbed on a clean, dry cotton ball. She got one of his eyes to open and it healed fine with no further problems, but the infection had done so much damage on his other eye that the infection itself protruded out of his eye. Despite that, he seemed like a content little kitten. He could see out of his good eye and never let me out his sight. He would meow so loud that it would hurt my eardrums. It was a continual “don’t leave me” meow that was annoying, yet always tugged at my heart strings.
One night while my boyfriend and I were trying to have supper, the little kitten didn’t want to be ignored. We tried the “time out” thing, where I wouldn’t rush in to check on him and see if he’d settle down after a while. He continued to meow a long drawn out wail. Finally my boyfriend told me, “Give him a Pork chop bone.”
So, I let in the little kitten and held the pork chop bone close to him. Surprisingly, he didn’t care for it. He was content to weave himself around my feet and purr. When he figured out it was food I was offering him, he ate the scrap of pork that was still on the bone. His name derived from the Pork chop I gave him because he was a tough kitten.
“We named him Pork chop.” I relayed the news back home via a phone call when I spoke to my mom late one night with Pork Chop napping on my lap. My mom thought that his name was lug nut or wing nut. I have no idea where she came up with those names. I’d have to remind her his name is Pork Chop. She only seen pictures of Pork Chop, but never had the chance to meet the little kitten.
I was extremely exhausted babysitting my new kitten. I continued to wean him sometimes getting up on the hour, every hour. Pork Chop went through two bottles and shredded the ends with his teeth like a teething ring. It was out to the store and back in thirty minutes. Pork Chop would continually meow in our absence. He hated being placed on the cold front porch during our trips to town and back. Weaning a kitten from a mere two weeks old was like taking care of an actual human baby in many ways. This experience not only tested my resolve as a pet lover, but also tested me emotionally, physically, and mentally.
Sweetie pie didn’t take care of her first litter. She became cantankerous to the other cats even toward me whenever I dumped out the leftovers of food or re-filled their bowls with fresh water and cat food. Finally, we had to trap Sweetie pie in the pet taxi and re-locate her to another part of town once her kittens were eating solid food.
Pork Chop was spoiled and he knew it. He had several hiding places in the house where I couldn’t reach him. He’d run and hide under the RCA phonograph console and purr when I crouched low and looked at him. He would sometimes scramble for the front porch and hide behind our road bikes. I never felt like reaching through the cobwebs. His third hiding place was underneath the microwave cart in the kitchen.
Pork Chop’s favorite table scraps were small cut up pieces of chicken. A majority of the time he received dry cat food with a little bit of wet canned food. We tried to limit his table scrap intake. He’d eat the scraps of pork, but not with as much fervor as he had for chicken or the kitten bottle. He still liked the kitten milk on occasion as a treat, but I had to quit that when he clawed my hand while trying to grab the bottle. I was very fortunate to be able to take twenty second videos of Pork Chop, although the films are silent because they were taken using a simple HP digital camera. It still pains me to watch those videos and see those pictures.
Very early one morning I was in my usual routine of feeding Pork Chop before I put him out for the day. I had to get some sleep whenever I could, and by this point Pork Chop hunkered down in a nice run down camper on the neighbor’s property, so he had a form of shelter to go to while the weather was still frigid. However, on this particular morning the other outdoor cats were waiting by the back door, and the minute I put Pork Chop out and closed the door, I heard a cat fight break out. There was Pork Chop sitting on the patio. He got hooked pretty bad and bled from his infected eye.
Horrified, I brought him back in, returned with a first aid kit and very gingerly tended to his eye. All the while he was content to remain were I sat him, upright and quiet. I figure he had gone into shock, and likely wouldn’t make it much longer. I washed and dried my hands, went to the kitchen and returned with his favorite meal and gave him some re-heated chicken. The claws came out and he started growling as he ate his chicken mixed with a little bit of wet canned food. I stayed up with him to make sure he’d be okay and he was. He pulled through, which amazed me. His eye injury eventually healed.
I watched Pork Chop whenever I put him out from then on. He’d sprint through the snow drifts toward the camper shell, then I’d go in once he was safely inside his little hide-away. Like clockwork after supper I’d call his name and here he’d sprint through the snow and couldn’t wait to eat.
I fed him separate from the other cats because they disliked him. Whenever he ate his meals on the back porch, he growled if anybody neared his food plate and pretended to show interest in his food. And when he finished his meal, he’d clean himself for an hour, then go to one of his three hiding places and nap for a while, then want to be let out.
He became accustomed to staying outdoors full time when he became a young adult kitten. Pork Chop didn’t grow much because he was the runt of the litter. He gained weight and was probably healthier than the other outdoor cats though.
My parents were able to come out and see me this summer and like always, it was great to see them again. It was only day two into their vacation, when one evening, I decided to take them for a ride in my car. I was learning how to drive and had my learner’s permit.
We were returning to the side of the street where the car was normally parked. I saw something laying on the side like a little black lump. As I pulled in a little closer that’s when the head lights caught Pork Chop’s body. Tragically, he’d been struck by a car earlier that same morning. My boyfriend told me that the neighbor lady ran over my cat at about seven in the morning. There, was my little Pork Chop, the kitten that had beaten all the odds, and one that I spoke so highly of, dead by the side of the road. My boyfriend didn’t want to tell me because he didn’t want to mare the evening.
Losing Pork Chop devastated me and affected me so bad that I swore I’d never take in another kitten. My parents offered to replace him and help me pay to get another kitten like him. I kindly refused their generous offer. We had too many cats already and I didn’t want another one.
The pain I went through after Pork Chop’s untimely death was ten fold, if not more. I had never felt emotional pain quite as bad other than losing a relative and my two favorite pygmy hedgehogs. The bond I made with Pork Chop and vise-versa was unique and special.