She was a beautiful tortoiseshell cat, originally known as 'Spitter', mainly because she would hiss and spit at everyone, especially her former human. When we met her in 2004, she had been living on her own on our apartment complex property for about two years. She had had at least three litters that we knew of; we had one of the kittens from the first one. That summer we noticed her taking her three kittens to drink at the pool, which is next to our living room window. We started bringing them water so they wouldn't drink out of the pool, but of course, that turned into bringing them daily food as well. She never meowed at us; instead, she hissed. We soon learned to translate these fairly well:
"Hiss." (Oh, it's you.)
"Hiss!" (We're hungry, feed us!)
"Hiss! Hiss!" (You're late, where's our food?)
"Hiss?" (More, please?)
"HISSSS!!" (Don't try to pet me, you idiot, I'll rip your arm off!!)
We named her Scathach, after the Scottish warrior woman who trained many of the great warriors of Celtic mythology. It seemed fitting, as her weaponry was rather formidable, considering she weighed only around six pounds. However, she never once actually scratched or bit either of us, although once she did warn Martin off with a hiss-and-swat when he tried to pet her. He got off VERY lightly, with only two tiny pinholes from one claw instead of a shredded arm.
While she still had this litter with her, she got pregnant again. The five kittens (four black females and an orange/white male) were born just over the fence from our bedroom. Three weeks later, when construction work was threatening the tree she had sheltered them under, we brought them in and set up a nursery in our master bathtub. (Thank goodness we have two bathrooms!) Scathach willingly followed, and graciously allowed us to stay while she raised her babies.
Well, we found homes for two of those kittens, but Scathach and the other three stayed with us, along with the older two that were still with her and the one we already had. (The new orange and white kitten was Chango, whose 'In Memorium' is posted here.) It didn't take long until she stopped spitting. The day she climbed into my lap, settled down, and started purring, I held my breath in disbelief, afraid if I moved she would hiss and run. But she didn't. After watching her continue to nurse her last litter for months, even after being spayed, we changed her name to Pachamama (or Mama, for short), after the Inca fertility/earth goddess. Over the years, she has never stopped being "Mom" to them, running to see what was going on every time she heard one of them cry, growl or hiss. Since Gandalf took over as king of our 'herd', she has also been affectionately referred to as the "Queen Mum".
Then, this last Sunday morning (the day after the one-year anniversary of my mom's interment), Mama came up to me crying; she couldn't close her mouth and was drooling all over herself. We rushed her to the vet and he found a HUGE tumor in her upper jaw, wrapped around an infected tooth. We all felt she probably wouldn't survive surgery, so we let her go while we were there. I am honestly surprised she lived this long; we think she was around 16 or 17, and was down to 4 pounds, all bones, organs and skin. She has been 'forgetting' to use the litter box for the last 4-5 months and was pooing on the carpet frequently unless we led her to the box. Unlike the other cats we've lost, we didn't think she would want to be buried up on the hill in the local regional park (our private 'pet cemetery'), so we put her in the back yard where she can watch over the place she lived all her life. It feels really weird not having her here, but once we knew she was suffering there was no question about the right thing to do.
Rest in peace, Mama. May your children who have gone before you greet you with love. And may Bast and Sekhmet welcome you with honor to the Field of Reeds!