Tuesday, October 14, 2008

When The Cat Came Calling

My mom had no fondness for pets of any sort. She tolerated us kids having a couple of dogs over the years as long as they were kept outside. But cats? Never.

One day I asked her why she hated cats so much. She said she didn't exactly hate them she just didn't like being around them. Being a kid and full of curiosity I of course badgered her to tell me why she didn't like being around them. She tried to put me off and change the subject but I was relentless. Finally, she acquiesced and here's what she told me.

She grew up during The Depression. People had a hard time feeding, clothing, and housing their family members let alone pets. When people lost their homes they'd commonly move in with relatives. Space being at a premium, pets often were not allowed. Consequently, there were a lot of stray animals roaming the streets.

One such stray animal in her neighborhood was a black cat. Nobody knew who it belonged to or what its name was. This cat would go from one back porch to another looking for handouts. If you gave it some food it would eat it and be on its way. If you weren't home or ignored the cat at your back door it would yowl for an hour or more. Eventually it would move on to another house but something bad would happen to the homeowners who for whatever reason didn't share with the cat.

Her neighbor that lived across the street fell and broke her ankle the day after she ignored the cat. The neighbor at the corner of the street got food poisoning. She'd been away visiting relatives when the cat came looking for food. The neighbors on her block became superstitious and started looking out for each other. If someone wasn't home and the cat happened to pick their house to yowl at neighbors would run over with some food for it.

Saturday, October 27, 1935 was a beautiful Indian summer day in Detroit. So warm and sunny in fact that people all over the city took off for walks, to parks, shopping, and visiting. That day the black cat happened to choose my grandparent's house to visit. As luck would have it, no one was home. The family had gone to the park for a picnic. Their immediate neighbors were gone for the day too. But the neighbor across the street who had the broken ankle couldn't leave because she couldn't get around all that well. When my mom's family got home from their picnic that day the neighbor told them that she heard the cat yowling in their backyard but she couldn't do anything about it.

The next day, Sunday, October 28th, my grandfather died. He'd been stricken with acute pancreatitis overnight.

My mom said that after that day it always gave her the creeps to be around cats, any cats.

Fact or fiction? What do you think?

Written for the 58th Edition of the Carnival of Genealogy. Cool poster courtesy of footnoteMaven!