Sheba’s tale began, as with that of many kittens, with cozy snuggling with cat-mama. Love and comforts blended with contented purrs, and the nuzzling and bumping of the brother and sister kittens as they competed for cat-mama’s warm milk.
But, when kitten eyes opened, a hard and frightening world appeared. Living with her sister-kitten, most loved and treasured sister-kitten, and a swarm of brother-kittens, Sheba was born in a barn. That was not so bad a thing, as kitten homes go, except Sheba knew, deep down, this was not where she was supposed to be. The boy kittens, from several other cat-mamas, were content with this place and their lot in life. They wrestled, rough and tumble and played. Sheba and her sister-kitten, with their exotic blue eyes, thin, light bodies, and Siamese Lynx markings were odd outcasts in their midst.
Always, always, there was the jostle for food brought daily by the Man. And always Sheba was left hungry. Hunger became a constant gnawing beast as Sheba grew, but grew thin and boney.
Outside, where should have been sunshine and kitten fun lurked other fears, evil things waiting to snatch a kitten away. Hawks and foxes and coyotes appeared from the sky overhead, or leapt out from shadows. Sheba did not know the names of the dread beasts, but each day fewer of the kittens remained.
Some of the kittens, bold or foolish, ventured to the strange noisy place so near their barn the Man called, “four-lane highway.” The horrors little Sheba saw of the fate of her fellow kittens who dared approach that evil place haunted her.
Each day, too, Sheba grew colder and colder. White ice fell from the sky, numbing her paws and chilling even more her scarcely covered bones. With such scant fur as the Siamese sisters had, and such a light build, Sheba was certain they were not meant to live in this place, but in some place better, some place where one such as Sheba would live, be warm and fed all she needed, and loved as Shebas were supposed to be.
Then came the most nightmarish day of all for little Sheba. Her dear sister-kitten disappeared and Sheba was alone.
November the 5th of 2008 was the day I met Sheba. I had no expectation of finding a kitten. I was not looking for one. We had a full, fine cat-family and really needed no more. I was wrong. Apparently God or the universe decided I needed a kitten, and when you need a kitten, a kitten who needs you will find you.
Sheba found me.
I had just gotten a new pickup truck. It was a gigantic, blue Dodge Ram. No dainty city-truck was this, but a huge truck which could do proper work, and I needed straw bales. The straw bales were to build a Snuggie house for the two outdoor tomcats who had adopted us. Snuggie house consisted of a small-sized wooden dog house in which I put a heated floor pad, then the cats’ soft bedding. This I put up against our hottub, surrounding the whole thing with straw bales. It served to insulate the hottub against Minnesota’s winter, and gave the tomcats a warm, safe house.
Normally, I got the straw at a garden center nearby, but that November the 5th I missed my turn so decided to continue on to the farm alongside the highway which always had a hayrack full of straw bales for sale. The purchase was on the honor system, with a box there to leave payment.
I pulled in, got out, and even before I had walked up to the payment box, I heard a loud voice demanding, “You! Be my mama!” Though the words were spoken in Cat, they were entirely clear to my ears. An impossibly skinny, incredibly beautiful, Siamese kitten marched up to me (and the enormous truck) all the while shouting, “Be my mama! Be my mama!” The kitten, without a bit of hesitation, began to climb me.
Setting her on the hayrack, I explained that she wasn’t my kitten. Her eyes never left me as I loaded the straw bales in the back of my pickup truck. As I put my money in the box, the kitten continued her appeal, though sounding less confident with each cry.
I was terrified to back out of the farm’s driveway. She was a tiny cat and I had a huge truck. But, after again sadly explaining that she wasn’t my cat, the little girl huddled under the payment box, tucking her feet in against the snow and cold. As I backed out, she wore the most complete picture of misery that ever was.
At home, I told Husband about what had happened and the little girl who demanded I be her mama. Puzzled he looked behind me, asking, “Where’s the kitten?”
“I couldn’t kidnap her! How would I feel if someone just took one of our kitties?” I protested, but I knew, absolutely, that kitten was not a loved and treasured child who would be missed there, and that I should be her mama.
All that night I fretted. What if that had been the one and only chance for her and I missed it? What if she got on the highway? What if…
Early the next morning, far earlier than I normally get up, I back in my truck on the way back to that farm, to get my Sheba. Yes, even before she was officially mine, Sheba had a name. Sheba, Queen of.
At the farm… all was quiet. No one was home. No little person ran out of the barn yelling at me. Nothing. As my heart dropped ever lower, thinking I had, indeed, missed the one-and-only opportunity to save Sheba and love her, the Man arrived.
Kittens, hearing his car, spilled out of the barn. Joy? No. My heart sank even more as I looked over the swarm of kittens, a dozen or more, including several Siamese. Which one was Sheba? How would I recognize her?
Then, from behind me, from the other side of the barn, came a cry whose sound I will never forget:
It was Sheba. She hurried up to me. This time she didn’t say, “be my mama.” Sheba only said, “Mama!” It was her. I knew her and she knew me and from that moment to forever we belonged to each other and I was her mama.
Sheba came straight to me, not to the man. I scooped her up. Wrapping herself around my neck, Sheba locked her claws in tightly, holding on for dear life, purring.
I asked to buy her. The man was reluctant. They wanted to keep the girl cats to breed more barn cats. I understood. I did. A barn needs cats to keep down the mice, and it can be a good life for cats… for cats bred for it. Siamese cats cannot live as outdoor cats in Minnesota. Their fur is too thin, and their bodies don’t have enough fat to keep them warm. He was not a bad man and wasn’t meaning to hurt the kittens. He thought he was feeding them well enough, and for the other barn cats he probably was, they looked fine, but the Siamese kittens were not thriving.
He suggested I would like one of the Siamese boy kittens. The flash of the abject misery on Sheba’s face when I had driven away the day before magnified into the killing misery she’d feel if I came to rescue her and instead left her behind to take another kitten away.
Sheba’s claws curled in a bit more, and I held her tighter. I had not come for a kitten. I had come for Sheba.
I started pulling twenty dollar bills out of my pockets, continuing until the man relented.
She was mine, and I was hers, from then until the ending of forever.
There was no fear or hesitation on Sheba’s part as I carried her to my big truck, got in and put her in the carrier on the seat beside me. She purred the entire way to her new home, to the realm of Sheba, Queen of, her eyes never leaving me.
Sheba, Queen of — and that is her full name: Sheba-comma-queen-of — surely knew from the scents on my clothes that there were other cats in her new home. Papa was a bonus, a papa who loved her as much as mama from the first moment.
That first day on the throne of her new kingdom, Sheba, Queen of, set about establishing her royal authority. She never stopped talking the entire day, establishing rules and proclaiming her dominance. The other cats, used to Mama and Papa’s strange habit of bringing home new kittens, were only moderately concerned, accepting her easily, though not ceding all order of dominance Sheba demanded.
Oh! The food. Sheba wanted it all and all at once. She wanted a lifetime of food given to her that day, and was upset when we only gave her spaced-kitten meals. So thin was Sheba every bone in her tail could be felt.
Such a brave girl, was Sheba! Never a quiver, never a trace of fear. How much was sheer bravado we understood when we realized she had not slept for over twelve hours. Quite a feat for a kitten!
That night, with the other cats shut out, Sheba, Queen of, slept tucked safe and warm beneath her mama’s chin.
And all was right, at last, in the Realm of Sheba.