Monday, February 11, 2019

Poems of the Week: Furry Feline Friends We Have Known and Loved

This week, we are looking at the furry felines we have known and loved, since last week was devoted to dogs. We hope you find these poems by Toni Spencer of  Kanzen Sakura, Susan Chast of Susan’s Poetry and Rosemary Nissen-Wade, of Enheduanna’s  Daughter as much as we do. Get ready to meet some beautiful creatures, so lovingly remembered by the people they adored.

Pugsley under the crepe myrtle

Twenty years ago, I was living in the Fan in a small two room apartment. It was a hard winter and snow was on the ground. I stepped out my door to fill the birdfeeders when I noticed a skeletal ginger cat gobbling up popcorn that had been thrown out for the birds. It looked at me. I called softly, Kitty? It made a step towards me. I ran in the house and quickly opened a can of tuna which I put out. I backed away and the cat began to eat as if starved. The cat was there the next day and I put out some leftover chicken. This time I walked towards the cat and it hunkered down. I rubbed its head and it stretched beneath my hand, grateful for the attention. I picked it up and it snuggled in my arms purring. I told the cat, not on my watch are you going to starve. It took it in the house and noticed it had on a rhinestone collar which had grown into its skin. You are somebody’s pet, I told him. I had determined the cat had been spayed. I put up notices around the neighborhood and three streets over, an old lady answered the ad and told me it had been her neighbor’s cat that had been tossed out when her neighbor died. I kept the cat. I renamed him Pugsley. He was quiet, well behaved and affectionate. My fiance’ was not happy but knew I was determined. When we married and moved into our home, Pugsley went with us.

A few years later, my PAP smear came back negative. I had cancer. I felt like I had been gut punched. I cried for several days and Pugsley never left my side. He walked around after me in the house and got in my lap when I sat down. A biopsy was done and the results were malignant. I started a round of chemo and finally surgery. When I went for the chemo, Pugsley rode with me and sat with me whenever it was possible. Often I was sick and exhausted. I did not complain or tell people what was going on with me.  But I told Pugsley and he reminded me that he loved me and listened.  He’d lick my face when I cried. I came home after the surgery during which I almost died due to reaction to the sedatives and painkillers. When I finally went home, my husband told me Pugsley had not eaten and meowed constantly. The first thing when I lay down, he jumped on the bed and lay by my side, purring softly. During the weeks of recovery he made me laugh and snuggled. I talked to him and he laughed at my lame jokes and loved me. My husband had the perfect baby sitter in Puglsey.

About five years ago, Pugsley stopped eating and didn’t want to be held. I took him to the vet who determined he had a huge tumor growing in his stomach. My heart broke. I talked to the doctor and then talked to Pugsley. He lay in my arms while the vet put him down. This cat who had been so loving and faithful, I could not save this last time. I had him cremated and when I inserted my mother’s ashes in her mother’s grave, I inserted Pugsley as well. He was the best boi in the world. I cry still at his loss. I take him flowers when I take flowers to my mother.

snow falls quietly –
a starving cat won my heart –
flowers bloom on his grave

Sherry: This poem went straight to my heart, Toni. Pugsley saved you indeed. I am so glad he was there during such a hard time. What a beautiful being!

Toni: That which we save truly does save us.  A few years ago I noticed, around the apartment complex at which I was living, a skinny orange and white cat scrounging for food. I saw him eating popcorn off the snow and I determined to bring him in. I had another cat at the time but they adjusted to each other. A couple of years after that I was diagnosed with cancer and my older cat died suddenly. Pugsley stayed by my side constantly as I mourned my Sam, while undergoing chemo and after my surgery. He showed me so much love. He truly did save me.

Sherry: He did. Beyond doubt. Thank you for this poem, Toni. It runs as deep as your love for him.

Let's meet Susan's Miracle kitty next.

Miracle at the table

My ancient kitty sits tall and still as a sphinx
gazing at me with her clear celadon eyes—
measuring me, memorizing me, saying to
me “Hey there.  I love you” with a spiritual
softness that is new. 
                            She has turned a corner
in her life—sleeping more than she’s awake, alert
to meal and playtimes out of habit rather than
need, looking for dark quiet places to curl up
and dream of pleasures.
                                                I show her my gratitude
for the latest of her gifts—feline fortitude—
by gazing back, combing her itchy places and
giving her more time and touch without lifting her—
Oh my darling cat!  You don’t complain at each new
                                                you simply go on and on
as is your job and mine: live life to the fullest!
I did not anticipate learning this from you,
my dear.  Have I given you enough love and food?
Have you felt my affection through your fur and my
skin, touching, being?


Sherry: What a beauty she was! Her eyes are so clear, her gaze so wise.

Susan: A picture of my dear Miracle Kitty is in the side bar of my poetry blog.  She died in 2015 at the age of 21, but I keep her alive as a character in a novel I may never finish writing.  Except for blood relatives, my relationship with her was the longest I've ever had.

Sherry: Pup was my longest, other than nuclear family relationships. These loving creatures are the source of perhaps the only unconditional love we receive on this earth. This must be why it is so hard to lose them. Thank you, Susan. Miracle was a beautiful being.

I have been moved by Rosemary's poems written to the beloveds who have passed during these years we have been sharing poetry: her dear husband, Andrew, and her beloved cats Levi and Freya. In the following poems she remembers them, singly and together.


Walking down the hall, I see
through one door, Andrew
at his desk by the window
(where the second bed is now)
pantherish Levi snuggled at his feet;
or glimpse Freya through glass
reclining outside in sunshine –
cats and man, all gone,
always remaining.


The heat cools to comfortably mild.
I look out the front door
and see, on the top step,
my dear man taking the air
in his chair on the landing.

Our pantherish old black cat, Levi,
sprawls near him on the mat.
Tortoiseshell Freya is curled up neatly 
close by on the second step.

And there's me. I am sitting  
on the top step, leaning back
against the rails: positioned to see,
talk to and touch all three....


It's five years ago and more. 
All of them are dead now.
Even on such a pleasant evening
I never sit, these days, on 
the front steps, enjoying the air.


Sherry: Oh, I feel this! Impossible to sit out there without them. Yet how lovely, that you get glimpses of your beloveds, from time to time. Sigh.

Rosemary: Levi and Freya came to be with Andrew and me when they were only seven months old.  We were renting a house on a horse stud at the time; plenty of room inside and out. A friend needed to leave a violent relationship in a hurry, phoned and asked if she could come NOW and of course we said yes. She arrived with her 7-year-old daughter, one puppy and the two young cats. Another friend offered the puppy a home, so he wasn't with us very long. We were happy to have the rest of the family, but as we were renting we couldn't make it indefinite. After seven weeks our guest found a flat for herself and her daughter but wasn't allowed pets. 

Meanwhile, these delightful kitties had been in our home for seven weeks and won our hearts.  I said to Andrew, 'I've been catless too long.'  He looked at them playing together and said, 'You couldn't possibly separate them. We'll have to have both.' Our landlords were fine with it, and so they became ours. By that time they were used to us and our home, so they weren't anxious when their previous humans left them with us. 

Levi had been more the mother's cat: the runt of the litter when she got him, on whom she'd had to spend a lot of time and care to make him healthy. Freya, consequently, had been more the little girl's cat, and ever afterwards young girls were Freya's favourite kind of people. When any visited us, she was enraptured, and made a huge fuss of them.

It wasn't long before we were referring to our new pets as 'the children'. We still did as they grew to be mature and then elderly. Andrew and I met and married late in life, when all our real children were adults. Our fur children became the family we had with each other – to the extent that Andrew sometimes absent-mindedly addressed Levi by the name of his first-born son.

People who rent are liable to move around. Landlords, sooner or later, for whatever reasons, tend to decide they want their homes back. Over the years we moved five times, and the cats with us, before finally settling in the home I'm in now. Some places suited them and us better than others, but cats are very adaptable – and they had each other, plus they had us. We were always lucky enough to have good friends who were able to come and look after them in their own home whenever we went away – as we did a few times, with all our children living interstate.

We loved both of them and they loved both of us, but Levi became a little more Andrew's cat and Freya a little more mine. Freya was my familiar, adding her energy at crucial times. If I was hosting a meditation group, she would claim a chair and join the circle. If I was doing a healing or a psychic reading for someone, she would place herself nearby for the duration. Levi was more the guardian, warning us when strangers were approaching, needing only a fierce glare and a bit of a yowl to keep any bully-boy cats in the neighbourhood from terrorising his sister. They both slept on our bed in later years, Levi at the foot where he could also guard the door, and Freya curled up between us, purring long and loud.

Freya was a soft, gentle girl – except, unfortunately, for being a mighty hunter. I was pleased when she eradicated mice from under our house, not so glad about her other prey. I never let my cats out at night,  discouraged birds from our yard as best I could, and even saved a few from the jaws of death, but sometimes she caught them. She learned to clamp on to them with an iron grip of her teeth so my rescue efforts didn't work. It didn't matter how I scolded her, she never reformed. Bells on her collar didn't seem to do much good. She would bring her catch inside through the cat door and into the kitchen, I would try to take it from her and she'd clamp on hard, I'd yell at her to take it outside and open the front door, and she'd dash down the steps to demolish it elsewhere.

Eventually she taught Levi how to hunt too. He would make himself sick eating nasty things like spiders, which I'd see as he sicked them up. One time he regurgitated the remains of a small-eyed snake – venomous! – but the vet reassured me it couldn't have poisoned him from the inside; his digestive juices would have taken care of that.

Like me, and unlike most domestic pets, they adored thunderstorms. Instead of cowering and running for cover, they would sit with me just inside the open front door, thrilling to the flashes of lightning and cracks of thunder. In hot weather, even though they were allowed inside the house whenever they pleased, they loved to curl up in their own personal leafy spots under the hedge, almost invisible. In winter they preferred the spare bed in the northernmost room, to get the winter sun.

Neither of them was a lap-cat, but they did love snuggles. Freya was usually the spokesperson if either or both of them needed anything. In the way of felines, from lions down, he was lordly while she was the doer. No cat likes going to the vet, but Freya was well-behaved there. Levi, on the other hand, changed from being a great big pussy-cat (sic) whom I could do anything with to a fierce hissing devil, all fangs and claws – not to me but to the vets and nurses. They managed him somehow, but I think they dreaded his visits. I always used to think of him as my panther-cat; on those occasions he lived up to the name in more than looks. The rest of the time, he loved people.

Andrew died in September 2012 at the age of 83. The cats were old too by then. They missed him badly. Levi in particular grieved visibly for many months. Freya still slept with me, but it was a long time before she began purring again. Gradually we adapted to our new lifestyle with just the three of us. It was a great comfort to me to have them in those first years of widowhood, and gave me a reason to go on functioning. Then Freya developed breast cancer. It took a while; she went into remission for nearly a year, then downhill fast. She died two years, almost to the day, after Andrew. She was 16.

Levi stayed another 11 months after that, during which time we two survivors became even closer. On both sides, our relationship became intense and possessive. He would groom me, nibbling gently at my fingers as if to clean them. I would gently butt his forehead with mine, knowing that is cat language for 'I claim you'. He slept on the pillow beside my head on what had been Andrew's side of the bed. Without Freya to speak for him, he finally became very vocal.Then he suddenly started dying before my eyes, losing weight fast and in obvious discomfort. The kidney disease which we had kept at bay with medication for years finally claimed him. An adventurous lad in his younger days, who survived various injuries, he must have used up all of his other nine lives by then. I didn't think I would ever get another cat.

As it happens, I have never actually gone out and sought to get a cat. They all come to me as gifts from the Universe (via some human agency) and so it was with Selene, who came to live with me six months after Levi died – already mature, not a fur child so much as a Significant Other. She is both familiar and guardian. I love her dearly, but she is not a replacement. She is loved in her own right, while I still love and mourn her predecessors, those beautiful beings who were part of my life so long.

Sherry: I love how exactly the right cats have come to you, Rosemary. Lucky cats, to find such a loving home! I have enjoyed watching Selene settling in and learning to trust.


Thank you, my friends, for sharing your wonderful fur companions with us. It has been so moving, reading of the journeys you have made together. I think of the phrase "what we save, saves us"; I think this is exemplified especially in our rescuing of and giving loving homes to these beautiful beings.

Do come back and see who we talk to next. Who knows? It might be you!


  1. Thank you for giving us the chance to talk about our beloved cats who are as loyal as dogs. they may play pranks on us or disapprove of our actions, but they still love us.

    1. Thank you for sharing your wonderful story with us, Toni. It is so true that what we save, saves us. If i had not rescued Pup, i might never have experienced deep, unconditional love.

  2. My own poem has me tearing up--imagine how these clustered together have me full of tears! They are happy drops, at least, for the animals who befriend us and allow us to care for them are blessings. All of these were exceptional in the cat world, for they let us know directly that they loved us. My current two rescued sisters love me and show me indirectly, but they are bonded to each other after 5 years of being the only constants in each others lives. After 3 years, they don't run away when I approach to pet their soft and silky fur. Maybe after 5 or 6, they'll come to me without fear. I'm patient because they are filling my house with more presence of our supernatural reality than I can possibly do alone. Thank you Toni and Rosemary and Sherry, too. So much love.

    1. So much love, indeed. I enjoy watching your two girls growing in trust and love.

  3. Being a crazy cat lady myself, I found myself alternately smiling and crying while reading this wonderful trio of cat poetry. Thank you, Sherry, Tony, Susan and Rosemary for a feline-filled Monday. Mojo and Luna send love.

  4. It was so deeply satisfying, outting this feature, and last week's, together. Sigh. What next? Wolves? Elephants?

    I am at an all day writer's retreat, so will have to catch up with comments when i get home later this afternoon.

  5. Thank you for sharing your stories/poems about your beautiful cats.

  6. I so enjoyed every story here! Cats are so wonderful and like Toni said "that which we save truly does saves us!" Thank you ladies for sharing and thank you Sherry for such a wonderful interview and feature!

  7. It was my pleasure, friends. Am happy you enjoyed it.

  8. Don't have to be a cat person to appreciate and be touched by the love... fabulous, heartwarming stories. Thank you for sharing, Susan, Rosemary and Toni.

  9. What moving and wonderful stories and poems Your loss must be hard. I am a bit of a cat person My son went through a lot and our cat is always close to him and makes a lot of noise when he isn't there at night. I am grateful for his support

  10. One could read the loving heart behind these beautiful words. Thank you for this wonderful selection Sherry and thank you Toni, Susan and Rosemary.

  11. These 'cat tales' are indeed wonderful. Shows again how intense one's relationships with one's animals can be. It is obvious that these cats enriched their owners' lives & vice versa. Toni, I am sure that your cat made your chemo journey much more bearable. What a wonderful and loyal friend you had in your cat. Susan, I was touched by Miracle Kitty. Yes, they do teach us lessons....accepting each new disability and continuing on. (hadn't thought of that before) Rosemary, I loved the story of Levi & Freya. And, ah, I too refer to my dogs as 'my kids.' I come home, and greet them with the words, "Hi Kids!" Ha. Your words captured their personality & your relationship with them (which did not end when they passed) so well. And then, of course, there is Selene. Sherry, thanks for putting together this wonderful feature - and all of you, thanks for sharing your beloved pets with us!

  12. Toni, Susan and Rosemary have all been so lucky to have these loveable little creatures in their lives. I enjoyed their stories and the poetry that allows these wonderful cats to live on.
    I think those of us who have a relationship with animals have a little more exposure to what it means to love.
    Thank you Sherry. This was such an enjoyable read.

  13. Thank you all for reading and appreciating these wonderful lives, both human and feline. We are blessed when we live with animals......they are such giving spirits.

  14. I cannot tell you how completely each story reached deep into my heart and squeezed, tears flowing and such love expressed. These are amazing poems and truly inspirational love stories. Thank you!

  15. Thank you Sherry for putting this together, and to everyone who has been moved to comment. It was wonderful to read Toni and Susan's accounts of their beloved and very special cats too. They do leave such a lasting imprint on our hearts!

  16. Thank you, Rosemary, Toni and Susan, for loving such wonderful cats, and for sharing their lives and your memories with us. I just loved putting this feature together!

    1. And I love that you had the idea and included me!

  17. "The smallest feline is a masterpiece" - Leonardo da Vinci

    "If you want to be a writer , have cats."- Alduous Huxley

  18. Such a wonderful experience reading this post...much love!


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