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My Three Puerto Rican Cats:

by Catherine Radke 4 months ago in cat · updated 3 months ago
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Two Creamsicles and a Metrosexual

Oso, Cesar, and Freddy watching my neighbors goat fiasco below.

I write this from my slanted tin roof wood bungalow in the hills of Puerto Rico, while roosters sound their alarms in the distance.

I’ve been awake longer than the roosters on this starlit Caribbean morning.

Coqui frogs are beginning to wrap up nightly mating rituals, their chirpy love calls thinning in the air and I think of the lyrics, “you don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here”, blasting from the juke box during the last 30 minutes of my bartending shifts-decades ago.

My three opportunist, time challenged cats swirl around my unsteady bare feet like feline sharks and I wonder if they would eat me if circumstances warranted. I can’t imagine which circumstances, but I suspect they might if I slept too long.

I affectionately refer to my two orange and white cats as The Creamsicles because they looked so delicious and sweet as kittens, just like vanilla and orange ice cream. Today they are slightly smellier versions of Creamsicles, but still mostly sweet and scrumptious.

Oso is my metro-sexual green eyed black cat. More concerned with grooming and standing around looking impeccable than he is exerting too much energy swirling at my feet for food during the Witching Hour. But when he does swirl, it's not without dramatic poses and pivots, making The Creamsicles look like awkward shaggy beggars, which for all practical purposes, they are.

Beggars that might eat me alive if I slept too long.

Cute little beggars.

Oso is too classy and polite for that, I hope. He might never leave my side, even after the other two picked my bones dry Oso would find a warm space amongst my bones to mold himself into. There he would live ordering takeout and grooming himself forever.

Clearly, it’s too early for sweet thoughts and cat breakfasts. Don’t they know this?

“Don’t you know no one in their right mind eats breakfast at 4 am?", I ask the three catsharks swirling at my feet as I clumsily pour food in their plate.

No one answers.

My rule is that I need coffee first but I need them to leave me alone long enough to make coffee.

This rule is broken every single morning.

Crazy Cat Lady

Last year my home was also home to ten cats-seven of which were the kittens of Mariposa, my mama rescue cat, plus two other rescues. If you crave cats, I invite you to Puerto Rico where cats are as plentiful as mangos. Bring them home and share with friends who also crave cats. Please-it takes a village.

l hadn't planned on becoming a crazy cat lady, but I only needed cats to fulfill that role and here I am now, the crazy cat lady we all dream of becoming.

Lucca, one of Mariposa's kittens, sneaking up on me

It’s nearly impossible to find homes for cats in Puerto Rico because all anyone needs to do if they want a cat is walk outside and get one-or a dozen. When looking for homes for the kittens I tried passing them off as exotic plants on social media- to no avail. Someone joked that one of my kittens looked like it was pole dancing. But did she adopt the pole dancing kitten? No, she did not. Clearly, these kittens were exceptionally adorable and talented. How could someone not need just one tiny kitten?

Yet, even friendly acquaintances became complete strangers when they saw me coming. Either they had too many cats, were allergic or knew someone who was, had dogs that would eat the cats or kids that would torture them-all kinds of excuses not to adopt a kitten.

Pole Dancing Kitten

Puerto Rico’s homeless animal population is staggering which among other things, means that anyone has a chance to become a crazy cat lady.

Even you.

I hadn’t planned on rescuing cats, but I went to great lengths to do just that when I heard tiny kitten cries from somewhere deep down the side of a steep hill from where I lived. A few rope climbs, small lacerations, and chicken bribes later, my one rescue turned into 10.

Funny how that happened.

How Did One Cat Turn into 10?

Here’s how that happened.

Making a standard vet appointment in Puerto Rico can be an enormous hassle but it's a cakewalk compared to getting cats sterilized. If you get an appointment before it starts raining kittens, you’re crazy lucky.

I was only half that-and not the lucky part. Even after calling, emailing, messaging, begging, and sob storying dozens of veterinarians across the island, most of whom don't answer phones, the best I could do was secure an appointment after Mariposa’s second litter. According to the vet, she wasn’t pregnant when she was pregnant with her first one. A few weeks later she had one kitten-Valentino. She dropped him at my feet when he was less than a month old and I had to dropper feed him while she went out and got pregnant again-something the vet told me wouldn't happen before her next appointment.

That’s a story for another day.

The Boys

Today it’s just the three boy cats; Oso, Cesar, and Freddy.

Cesar was one of Mariposa’s kittens and is the only left out of the litter. I like to believe that because he was nurtured by his real cat mom, that he is the least neurotic, but every day he proves me wrong. Just last night he was hanging out with a rooster in the top of a mango tree. I'm not sure if they're friends or if he chased him up the tree and decided to stay a awhile, but he looked awfully comfortable up there. The rooster-not so much.

Cesar zipped out of the nest before the others even opened their eyes. With precarious balance and his own little kitten eyes barely open, he couldn’t be stopped from exploring the world around him.

Cesar loves to be loved and gets my attention through biting my ankles and other exposed flesh. It’s not the best attention, but he gets it.

Cesar trying to bite me as I write this, but he's just too comfortable to execute the deed

Little Freddy was swooped from traffic as a kitten and arrived in my arms a filthy, oozing, traumatized, matted bundle of pure love and purrs. His little bum leaked constantly, and he smelled of exhaust for at least a month - regardless of how many times I washed him. I didn't think Freddy would make it, but months of sleepless nights, antibiotics, swaddling, dropper feedings, tears, and mountains of poopy bedding later (all washed or discarded, mind you) he wears the cat pants in the family.

Bossy little thing that he is.

Freddy has come a long way.

Swaddled Baby Freddy in his early days

Oso was cut out of a wall via a chainsaw. He had been living in that wall for God only knows how long, mother-less and starving in the dark. Oso is my little fancy cat, always gracefully poised and beautifully self-groomed. He was, and still is, the most emotionally needy and sensitive being I’ve ever encountered.

Oso relentlessly meowed for things he never got when trapped in the wall and is the only cat I've ever known, or heard of, who will stand inside the shower not to be alone.

He was in my arms a lot listening to me sing, “You’re not alone Oso, you’re not alone, I love you Oso, I love you!”

I still sing this to Oso when I sense he's going a wee bit off the deep end and needs to be reminded that he is wanted and adored.

Oso was instantly rejected by Mariposa. She loathed him, even though he was still a kitten himself he was not allowed to cuddle with the other kittens without risking a lashing from momma cat. So, I became his momma cat, further enabling his codependent behavior. Oso means bear in Spanish. I chose this name because his paws remind me of bear paws. As large as his paws and claws are, Oso has never used them on me, not even accidentally.

My three cats follow me almost everywhere. They scale trees while I pick fruit in the orchard, leap over bamboo while walking in the jungle, and meander behind me while I trudge the hills of our little barrio-sometimes I feel as if they are stalking me- keeping tabs on their source of love and food. I've had far more disturbing stalkers so I’m not complaining, theirs is a rather sweet stalking, love stalking, protective stalking, the type of stalking that makes me smile and feel purposeful in that crazy-cat-lady kind of way.

Freddy sometimes opts to stay behind, guarding his castle from looters. He has gone through a lot to stay alive and claim his space so this has become his official job. And he's good at it-the best.

Freddy has the power to stand down dogs, sending our two neighborhood hooligans, Luna and Thor, scurrying into the bush with tales between their legs with just a hint of his presence.

But Oso is always close. So, so, very close- lurking in shadows or poised in trees-awaiting discovery by agents of Cat Vogue. I spot his flawless ebony coat gleaming behind trees thick with vines, his emerald eyes watching everything and always finding me.

Oso on one of our outings. Doesn't he look so Vogue?

Cesar is like a ghost. Now you see him, now you don’t. He wafts in and out with no real agenda and sometimes I don't even know he is around until he does that maddening zippy catshark move beneath my feet. He is mostly interested in lounging. In fact, he is the most lounging cat I’ve ever seen in my life, which makes sense considering he has never had to really worry about much. He wasn’t trapped in a wall or faced with death by traffic. Cesar is also shamelessly affectionate and doesn’t care who sees his gooey love bombing.

Oso on the other hand remains stoic, void of demonstrable affection until the very second I lay down at which point he morphs into a nursing kitten, kneading my hair, nuzzling my back, sucking on sheets or my clothes, and repositioning himself until he is almost inside my ear. I can smell his breath, that’s how close he is.

It’s almost noon and time for lunch.

Having accomplished the important job of alerting the world of the days approach, the roosters are doing what they do best-roosting, mating, and patrolling neighborhoods.

Having eaten themselves silly, scared away the canines, and knocked over my one remaining real glass, my three cats are taking an early siesta- dreaming of when food will again magically appear in their plate. 4 am is long gone and I have the rest of the day before me.

Another purr filled day in the journey of life with three Puerto Rican cats.


About the author

Catherine Radke

Creative adventurer with a passion for raw, unedited versions of real life stories.

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