The year was 2006, and the place was Gallup, New Mexico, where Anton and I lived for a year after University. The event: someone found a litter of kittens, abandoned under a bush. We decided to take one.
The kitten was grey and white, and tiny and adorable. He was too young to be away from his mother, so we got a tiny dropper and fed him milk. We were united in our affection for this tiny thing, and also in our annoyance for how he kept whining all night. It was good practice for the children we had not yet even started to plan for.
The cat’s name was Jeter. After the New York Yankee, Derek Jeter. I am a forward-thinking woman, so I made Anton agree that if he got to name the cat, I got to name all of our future children. He is much more focused on the moment and a fan of instant gratification, so Jeter it was. He was so cute, and we loved him.
At this point in our little story, you’re probably thinking that this title makes sense, as we are clearly the lovely “foster” parents of this poor abandoned cat. You’re wrong, though.
You see, the bigger our kitten got, the more temperamental he became. He loved to cuddle and rub up against our legs, but then would randomly just bite us, and run away. If we were sitting on the couch watching TV, we’d have to wrap a blanket around our legs for safety. It was a weird situation in which Jeter always wanted to cuddle, but then that cuddling would all of a sudden turn into biting.
When we moved back up to the Vancouver area, we brought the crazy cat with us, along with all his papers proving that he was healthy, neutered, and up-to-date on all his shots. He transitioned quite happily to our new home, but didn’t change his wild ways.
The final straw for Jeter was when a friend of mine was visiting with her baby. Jeter was in the other room when suddenly he bolted into the living room, clawed the crawling baby by the sleeper, bit her on the leg, and then ran away again. The baby was fine thanks to her thick pj’s, but I was no longer fine. Having children of my own was becoming a part of the short-term plans by then, and I considered this my warning. But what should we do with this cat we still loved but couldn’t live with anymore?
Jac’s parents to the rescue! I don’t remember how exactly this negotiation happened, but Jeter moved to my parents’ farm to be a barn cat, a job for which he was perfectly suited. He was an excellent mouser, hearty and tough enough to sleep in various outdoor (but sheltered) locations, and free to attack whatever he wanted. He also destroyed the weather-stripping on the outside of their door, scratched up the house paint in several locations, and terrified all the grandchildren with his very existence. He became a regular part of life at Grandma and Grandpa’s house — a total pain, maybe, but exciting to have around at least.
And so it went for seven years, until we moved onto the second house on my parents’ property last year. Jeter had always generally ignored this part of the property — his food is not over here, for one thing — so my kids would have to walk to Grandma’s house to visit Jeter, just like they always had. Baby N, in particular, fell in love with the now-huge cat. He has bitten her a few times, but she is quick to forgive and loves to pet him and follow him around.
Last month we noticed Jeter was spending time on our deck, waiting for his toddler friend to come out into the cold to give him attention. Soon he was there every night, and by now he’s completely destroyed our weather stripping, and he keeps scratching up the siding. Now he’s even been sneaking into the house and hiding upstairs whenever he can, even making himself comfy on my bed for as long as I let him. It’s been over seven years since I’ve thought of him as “my cat,” but now he’s back again, like the cat who came back in that song you’re all thinking about now.
The other day my dad stopped by, and as we stood chatting in our yard, Jeter wandered out of my garage. My dad mentioned that the cat was spending a lot of time over by our house, even though his food was so far away, in Dad’s barn. He said hoped the mice were still adequately dealt with, at least.
“Yeah,” I said. “Looks like we’ve adopted him, huh?”
My dad’s response: “Adopted? He’s your cat! You’re just finally taking him back!”
Right. I’d forgotten about that. I guess that my parents (who were actual foster parents for years, I should add) were just fostering him this whole time, and now it’s back on us to deal with fur on our white comforter, the house’s scratched-up exterior, and the fact that most of my kids are scared to go outside.
Welcome home, Jeter-Cat. Welcome home.