Our thirty year journey

Our story starts in 1989, the first post "Meeting Jim" lays out the framework for the events that follow. The subsequent posts will build on that narrative.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Poppy a most extraordinary cat

In the spring of 1991, Jim and I picked up an orange tabby kitten from a lady who had a Bed and Breakfast reservation service in Napa. She made many bookings for us and we had a rapport. When she told me about her kittens, I couldn’t wait to see them and bring one home. When we arrived at her home in Napa, she didn’t let us choose.  She selected the orange tabby and said that he would be perfect for us because he needed a lot of space. His fur stood straight up and he seemed docile enough when he was put in his cat carrier. Little did we know what we were up for. We named him Poppy, because he was the same color as the poppies in bloom. 

Because Poppy was only about five weeks old and so tiny, he needed to be in a safe place till he grew bigger; so, we moved him into our bedroom. This decision cost us three nights sleep and lots of cat scratches from Poppy’s nightly forays. He must have slept all day in anticipation of the evening attacks. When I spoke to the lady who gave Poppy to us several weeks later, she admitted that she was concerned that we might return Poppy. It seems he terrorized his litter mates and had to be removed quickly, so that's why we got him. 

Within a short time, we found a way to have restful sleep again. We got a second kitten, Jake, named after the man who gave him to Jim. This cream colored tabby kitten was feral, he had not had human handling. When Jim brought him home, Jake was paralyzed with fear and catatonic. We immediately brought him to our bedroom to meet Poppy. For the next three days, Poppy terrorized him and he took to hiding behind a dresser. This situation was a bit disconcerting except that we were no longer Poppy’s target and we could get a good night’s sleep. By the third or fourth day of this, I happened to go into my bedroom in the afternoon and found Poppy and Jake sleeping together so I knew that everything would be okay.  

Poppy grew up with the dogs and was the most unusual cat I have ever come across. He liked to ride on the truck around the ranch. He would jump on the back of Jim’s truck and then make his way to the hood by gingerly working his way across the side window and through the arm of the rear view window, or he would just jump on to the roof of the cab. It seemed that he enjoyed the wind in his face and knew how to brace himself for the turns. We tried to be very careful when he decided to act like a hood ornament. However, there were times when he jumped on the roof and rode around without us knowing it. When the truck stopped he would hop down to the hood to let us know he had been on the ride.

Besides riding on the truck, he liked to get into parked cars when their windows were open. In one instance he ate a half pound of pate some guests left in their car. On another occasion he must have fallen asleep in a guest car because after leaving the ranch, they returned several minutes later and dropped Poppy back at the ranch. 

Poppy didn’t have a lot of patience. He needed to patrol the ranch in the middle of the night so he figured out how to get out of our house on his own.  He would lay on his side by the sliding glass door and pry it open by wedging his front feet against the door and bracing his back feet against the door frame to slide the door wide enough to escape. We finally saw him perform this amazing stunt to solve the mystery of why the sliding door was always open in the morning.  Although he would leave quietly in the middle of the night, he would arrive home in the middle of the night with lots of fanfare. 

Poppy would disappear for several days, then would announce his return in the middle of the night by clawing his way up the screen door, and suspending himself on it to get our attention.  We’d let him in and he would curl up and sleep on our bed for two days; he wouldn’t even lift his head when we would come in and out of the room. Then he would stick around for a few days before leaving in the night. On one occasion he disappeared for 10 days and as we were sadly coming to terms with his demise, he reappeared.

Poppy was plagued with urinary tract infections and kidney stones which resulted in several emergency trips to the Pope Valley Vet. We finally determined that it was the spring water with its high mineral content that caused his problem so, along with his urinary tract special diet kibble, we made sure he only drank well water.

He frequently returned home at night with injuries from fights and needed first aid. He once fell into a bucket of oil and we had to rub all the oil out of his fur. The lady who gave him to us was right, he needed a lot of space and the whole ranch was his territory.

Poppy liked to go on hikes with Jim and me and the dogs. He explored every corner of the ranch and would show up just about anywhere on the ranch, even in a remote area where Jim might be working. Jim would hear him meow from a distance as he seemingly appeared out of nowhere. 

Poppy was a very social cat as well. He liked to attend parties at the winery. He attended  picnics, lunches and weddings as though he was an invited guest. He always showed up when there were big gatherings of people. He liked to sashay through the crowd and then sit at the table (on his own chair or on a picnic bench) and participate in the festivities. For the most part he behaved himself.

Sadly, the day we knew he wasn’t coming home again was when we had a big party at the winery. He didn’t show up that day so we knew something was amiss.

Poppy on the hood, Bo and Buster in the bed the truck
Buster, Poppy and Bo at the winery

He brought us joy 
and we loved him well
He was not ours
He was not mine
-from Out of Africa