Jerry Zezima, a Newsday assistant editor who writes a nationally syndicated humor column for his hometown paper, The Show More
At the risk of starting a scandal involving promiscuous sex and teenage pregnancy, I have been living in a cathouse for almost two decades. And the madam of the establishment was the mother of nine children.
I refer to Kitty, one of a quartet of felines that have resided in my humble and frequently fur-flown home over the years. At the ripe old age of 17, the notorious party girl has gone to that big litter box in the sky.
Kitty became a member of the family in 1998, when my wife, Sue, and I moved with our daughters, Katie and Lauren; our original cat, Ramona; and our dog, Lizzie, from our hometown of Stamford, Connecticut, to Long Island.
Not long afterward, I started getting strange phone calls at work.
"Meow," purred the voice on the other end.
"Who is this?" I said the first time it happened.
It was Lauren, who would have turned our home into Old MacDonald's Farm if she could have and was primarily responsible for Ramona, Lizzie and the veritable menagerie of goldfish, frogs, hamsters and gerbils we have fed, supported and done everything for but put through college.
"What do you want?" I asked.
"A cat," Lauren replied.
"You already have a cat," I said.
"Ramona's an idiot," Lauren declared. "I want a real cat."
This went on for a couple of weeks until I finally relented.
"OK," I said. "Go get a real cat."
Lauren went to a nearby store -- it wasn't a pet store -- where the owner had placed in the front window a box that housed a litter of kittens. Lauren picked one and, at the cost of absolutely nothing, which was approximately what the cat was worth, brought her home. We tabbed her Kitty, even though she wasn't a tabby, until we could think of a better name for her. We couldn't, and Kitty started responding to it, so the name stuck.
Unfortunately, Kitty also started responding to cats of the opposite sex. Unlike Ramona, who was strictly a house cat -- and probably too stupid to find her way home if we had let her out -- Kitty was a nature lover.
One day, I got another call from Lauren, who had just turned 16.
"Guess what, Dad!" she said excitedly. "You're going to be a grandfather!"
I dropped the phone. When I recovered sufficiently to pick it up, I found out that Kitty was pregnant. In cat years, she was even younger than Lauren.
Kitty had a litter of four, two of which we found good homes for. The other two -- a female Lauren named Bernice and a male she named Henry -- got to stay in our home.
Do you think motherhood ended Kitty's wanton ways? Of course not. Shortly afterward, she was in a family way again. This time she had quintuplets, four of which were born one day under a bed. Kitty waited until the next day to have the fifth. I could have used a fifth myself.
We found good homes for all five kittens and took Kitty for a lady's procedure, even though she was anything but a lady. As a precaution, we also arranged snip jobs for Henry and Bernice, who were starting to have a sibling revelry.
Thereafter, Kitty's platonic affections were directed toward me, Sue and anyone else she encountered, including our real granddaughter, Chloe, who loved to pet her. Kitty was sweet, smart and small.
By contrast, Henry was practically the size of a mountain lion. He died a few years ago at age 12. Bernice, the sole surviving feline, eats like a mouse but is so fat she should have the word "Goodyear" emblazoned on her sides. She dwarfed Kitty, who ate constantly and wouldn't have flinched if you had set off a string of firecrackers right next to her while she chowed down.
Now that Kitty is gone, we have cut down considerably on the food bills. Still, we miss the old girl. She was -- pregnant pause -- the cat's meow.