In 1998 I went to stay for a week during the summer with a friend I had met at barrel racing camp. This was my second summer to stay with her in Sanger, TX and I was 14 now ... much older than the year before <rolls her eyes at herself>


Anyway, half way through the week we decided to go out riding but we didn’t have anywhere to go until my friend Chelsie remembered HER friend had a cat that had mysteriously gotten knocked up and had kittens in this friend’s garage. So off we went 3 miles down the road, sharing one horse, to see a bunch of mangy kittens. (I was not ... and still am not a cat person, but that’s another story) but it was something to do. So we got to her friend’s house (after a rather unusual escapade involving beggar's lice and riding shirtless through a construction zone) and I borrowed a shirt and out we went in search of kittens.

We found them. They were kittens and we oohed and awwed over them for a few minutes and then the girl whose cat had produced them suddenly said "oh wait there’s one more, where’d it go this time?"  This time? Where’d IT go? The wheels in my 14-year-old (but obviously not as daft as some people's) mind began clicking. The 3-week-old kitten wasn’t crawling away from its mamma. Why would it do that? The mamma was removing this little obscenity from her other kittens but I kept my mouth shut - just another stupid cat right? 

So we started searching carefully, afraid of stepping on it and we found it. I say "it" because we didn’t know if it or any of them were girls or boys - they were just fuzzy little "its".  It was the runt and it was lying behind a piece of particle board leaned against the back wall of the garage and it wasn’t crying.

"Is it dead?"  asked Chelsie, the friend I was visiting.  Brenda, the other girl, said, "I'M not touching it!" and with that walks off to hold one of the more lively kittens.

"Well it’s YOUR cat!" said Chelsie, following after Brenda.

That left me <gulp>, and then very, very softly "Oh God, please don’t let it be dead." And as I touched it, it exploded into pitiful and pathetic but amazingly strong mews and cries and wigglings.

"Thank you." And so it became mine. Cat or no cat, my motto seems to be "everybody needs to be loved so if no one else will love you, I'll love you even if I can't stand you."

I scooped it up and went in the house (the others had left me there - some friends huh? but then we were 14 - enough said).  The whole time I held it, it dug its little claws into me and made itself stiff pushing as hard against me as it could and turning its little head to the side like I stank or something and screaming for a Mamma that was all too glad to be rid of it.

I couldn’t take it with me that day. I wasn’t going home for a week and Chelsie’s parents wouldn’t have the thing at their house. "God, please keep the kitten alive." Not my kitten. Just ‘the’ kitten. It was too soon to be attached.

I dragged Chelsie back everyday and everyday we hunted and found the kitten and moved it back with its Mamma, even trying to hold its Mamma down to let it suckle a little. 

Finally, it was the day. The little cat made it. God had kept it for me.  

  *RING. RING* "Hello?"


  "Hi honey! Are you enjoying yourself?"

  "Yeah, yeah sure Mom. It’s great really - but Mom?"

  " Yes?"

  *Mustering a big grin as if she can see it over the phone* "I've got a cat!

  "OH NO YOU DON’T! YOU'RE NOT BRINGING A CAT INTO MY HOUSE!" (Mom's not a cat person either...but it's cool because I get hot easy and I never would back down about things.)

  "Then I guess you can leave me here"

  " WHAT?! NOW LOOK..."

  "Its Mamma stopped feeding it and carried it off away from the other kittens and it’s going to die if I don’t save it!"

  "Your dad will kill you, Pam. You can’t save everything that needs saving. Pray about it and let God take care of it."

  (What? Can’t save everything? Yeah right - I'm a super hero, or at least I was back then!)

  "So you don’t care then Mom? If dad says it’s ok I can have it?"


  "But that’s what you just said!"


  "Yes ma'am?"

  "You will not bring that cat home..."

  "You’ll love it once you see it Momma!"


And so, burning with shame and anger at myself for being so terrible and at my mother and my father for refusing to understand, I had won because I had been determined to, but it was only the first fight. She came and got us (Chelsie was coming back to my house for a week) and we all loaded up in my Mom's Suzuki samurai (very, very tiny convertible jeep). There was no air conditioning, in the middle of July with a 4-week-old mostly starved and emaciated kitten, who from the very start wanted nothing more than for me to die and for her Mamma to come rescue her. On the way out of Chelsie's neighbourhood, I looked out the window and saw a confederate flag hanging limp in the still air and named my new kitten ‘Rebel.’

5 hours later (we didn’t go straight home) after wetting this little fuzzy thing down with water constantly because I couldn’t get her to drink any of it and I didn’t want her to die of heat exhaustion, and after constantly praying, we brought my little Texas Rebel home, where I wasted no time in fighting the battle over whether or not she'd sleep in my room. I won that one too, and then again, when daddy got home and I fought until he gave up. I knew they'd be mad at me for a while, but in the end they both still loved me, and I loved them, and the cat that wished I had left it to die was alive and I loved her after all. I guess fighting for things kind of makes us love them. 

Chelsie and I went to sleep around 1 the next morning. Rebel was already asleep on the floor on a towel. I didn’t put her in bed with me because I was scared I'd squash her, but she woke me up a while later crying, so I picked her up and brought her to bed to lay in my lap.  I tried to make her feel better, finally she hushed and crawled up my chest and fell asleep under my chin, and my juvenile heart was broken. I left her there until I could hardly breathe from her lying across my throat and then I put her back on the floor and went to sleep knowing I had a kitten and she was mine.

And here we are. I’m 19 and she's 5 and we're so alike we fight all the time and for the most part I guess that’s ok cause she still follows me around and wants to know what I’m doing. I still pick her up and tell her I love her. Neither one of us is as tough as we once pretended to be. We both love Jesus and Micha Petty and life is – for the most part – good!

By Pam Petty from Shreveport, Louisiana

And Rebel is from Sanger, Texas!

More from Rebel here

Dogs Come when Called

"Dogs come when called. Cats take a message and get back to you."

"Of course, every cat is really the most beautiful woman in the room."

Edward Verrall Luca (essayist)

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