Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Wayback Wednesday: A Cat Tale

Every Wednesday I'm going to explore my past.  Oh, memories.  I figured this would be a good method for me to write down some of the memories I have, and it would also be a way to explore my creative side a little more.
Today it's a cat story.  Bear with me, non-cat people. 
Ritz was born in a barn someplace in Maryland on April 22, 2000.  Sometime, roughly eight weeks after that, I decided I wanted a cat.  I cleared it with my roommates, all five of them. Then I answered an ad with one of my close college friends tagging along to help me pick out the kitty. 
The lady who was giving them away had a little apartment close to Spring Valley, Maryland, and we hopped into my 2000 Camry and drove over there to see the cats.  The lady really wanted to sell me this bright orange cat who was frolicking and playing all around the apartment, but I wasn't really interested in him.  Hiding underneath one of the tables was a cat, the color of a Ritz cracker, and when I went up to him he crawled out and right onto my lap.  I knew he was the one I wanted.  The lady hemmed and hawed because he was the cat she wanted to keep, but finally she gave him to us (or maybe I bought him for his shots-I don't remember).
Driving home we named him Ritz, after the cracker, not because of some ritzy lifestyle he was going to lead or anything. 

And yes, I’m about 21 in this photo, even though I look 15.  Sorry for the quality, I still don’t have the scanner hooked up and this was pre-digital photos!

Poor Ritz had a tough life at first.  Within the first few weeks of coming home, he somehow got himself stuck on the window crank, hanging there by his break-away collar, and whining for dear life.  He was also tortured by one of my roommates, though I'm not naming names, and chased by a three year old boy, the child of one of my friends.  To this day poor Ritz cannot stand children, much to my kids' chagrin.  Life kept going on and Ritz grew.
I graduated from college, and I moved into a little basement with Hubby (who was not Hubby at the time).  Ritz loved to sit at the top of the stairs and look down at us.  He also loved to go roaming around the D.C. neighborhood at night, and I was always afraid he'd get hit by a car.  Of course this never happened.  He's a pretty durable cat.
In November 2001 we moved to Gaithersburg.  We needed a bigger place, and the flooding in our basement apartment had given us a bad taste for our landlord.  It also gave us an out.  We found a great second-floor apartment in Gaithersburg and moved right in.  We also adopted a beagle, Beasley, the same day as the move.  Both of these incidences proved to be traumatic events for Ritzy.   After hiding in our closet for a few days, Ritz saw an escape when Hubby left the door to the balcony open.  Ritz made a run (and a jump) for it, and Hubby could not find him.
When I came home from work that evening, Hubby told me he thought Ritz had run away.  I was so upset.  I loved that cat.  He had made me a pet parent.  He was my first baby, and I was so sad that he was gone.  Hubby, several children who lived in the apartment, and I put flyers up with a photo of Ritz.  I looked around for him, called his name, and called shelters, all to no avail.  Time went by.  The winter dragged on, and Ritz did not come back. 
The weekend before Martin Luther King Day, I sat down with Hubby and I said, "I guess it's time to get a new cat. Ritz is gone, and I'm pretty sure he could not have lived through this winter."  (It was incredibly cold and snowy that winter).  Hubby agreed, and the next weekend I went away to visit my sister, thinking that the weekend afterwards I’d adopt a new cat.
One night, while I was visiting my sister, my phone rang.
I answered, "Hello."
Old roommate says, "Hey Lauren.  I just needed to call you, because some lady in Silver Spring just called here saying that she has your cat."
I said, "That is not funny.  Why would you even call me, knowing how devastated I am about him being running away." Yes, I seriously thought she was shitting me.
She says, "I'm serious, Lauren.  He still had the collar on that had our phone number on it.  She called here looking for his owner.  At first, Michelle answered, and she had no idea what this lady was talking about.  Michelle took down the lady’s number and asked me about it, and I said that it had to be your cat!"
I was in total shock.  I think I may have even cried.  My old roommates were kind enough to have the Lady drop Ritz off at their house and get him so medical care.  I called the Lady, and this is what she told me:
"I often feed cats in my neighborhood.  Usually I leave a bowl of water and food outside, and there is this one cat who I like to call Mama Cat who brings other cats around to eat.  They live near a large garbage bin behind a grocery store near my house.  Well that particular day, I was putting food out for Mama Cat and her gang of Ferrell cats and I saw her sneaking up with this tiny cat behind her.  I thought I saw something on his neck and stuck under one of his armpits, like a collar, and I wondered if he belonged to someone.  I could not grab him though.  The next day, they came back for more food, and I was able to corner him.  He hissed at me (something Ritz usually did not do), but I was able to contain him in an area and get the collar off of him.  It had a number on it, so I called and, voila, it was your roommates!"
When I came home from my vacation a few days later, I went to my old college house to pick up my long lost cat.  I sat on the floor, and he immediately crawled into my lap and starting rubbing his head all over me.  He knew me instantly.  He was home again. 
The break-away collar had become stuck under Ritz's armpit when he had attempted to remove it.  Miraculously, it did not come off all the way.  When I took him to the vet, they said he was very dehydrated, and he had lost half his body weight.  He'd been a 12 pound cat, and he weighed 6 pounds when he came back to us.  The collar had rubbed a hole underneath his arm, and he had to have surgery to debride the wound.  He had walked approximately 30 miles from our apartment in Gaithersburg, over many a large highway to some lady's house in Silver Spring trying to find his home.  Overall, the vet said he was in amazingly good health for being a mainly indoor cat and surviving the winter on his own.  He's tough and still is. 
Now he's an old cat of 11 1/2.  He has some quirks from his adventures: he won't wear a collar and he won't touch water if it has the least bit of dirt in it.   He's been through six moves since those first two, and he's never strayed far from home since.  I love my Ritzy.

*Please note: I have changed the name of the roommate in this story.  Also, I took creative license and dialogue may not be exact.  My memory from 9 years ago isn't perfect!


  1. I've always loved that story. I think you need to write a book for kids about Ritzes' adventures!

  2. Good idea. Maybe I will. Do you think your teenager would like to illustrate it? Who could we get to publish it?

  3. I'd forgotten all about this!  That cat is one cool dude.

  4. He is.  Did you notice that I stuck "pet parent" in there for you? ;-)


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