Every Christmas, every birthday, Heather asked for the same gift. She wanted a soft, cuddly kitten to play with and love.
Heather had no brothers or sisters but she really didn't care. She knew puppies were noisy and you had to take them outside often, even in rain or snow. You couldn't cuddle a bird or a fish. A kitten would be different. It would be her own special pet.
When Heather asked her daddy, he always said, "No, there will be no cats in this house!" Her mother explained that when Daddy was a little boy, he had been bitten by a sick cat. He needed to get shots from the doctor so he wouldn't get sick too. Ever since that time, Daddy REALLY didn't like cats.
Heather was soon going to be seven years old. A birthday party was planned with seven guests. There would be four neighbors and three school friends. Heather's best friend at school was Josh, a boy in her class.
On the day of the party, Josh came to Heather's door carrying a small plastic cage. Something inside the cage said "Mew, mew". Heather peeked in the little window. She squealed with delight! She saw a fluffy white kitten.
The party was fun but Heather never let go of the kitten, even while she ate the birthday cake. She thought it was the best present she had ever received.
After the party, when the other children had gone home, Heather's parents had a long talk. Mother and Daddy liked to see their little girl so very happy. Daddy agreed to try living with the kitten for a while. He wanted his little girl to have her wish. Heather named her kitten Tabitha.
Tabitha got a food and water dish. She got a toy mouse and a little red ball. She had a litter box in the basement. When Heather was at school, Tabitha rested or played hide-and-seek behind the furniture. When Heather was home, they played together. If it was sunny, they played in the yard. If it was rainy or cold, they played indoors. Tabitha was a lively, loving pet.
One evening, Heather was in bed asleep. Tabitha was going down to her litter box. She stopped to rest halfway down the basement stairs. Just then, Daddy started down to his basement workshop. He tripped over the kitten and tumbled down the steps. He hurt his back badly. He had to go to the hospital and stay overnight. Mother would pick him up the next morning, after Heather had gone to school.
Heather felt badly as she walked to class. She really loved her dad. She was sorry he had hurt his back. Mother said he would not be able to go back to work for a week at least. Heather knew an accident was not going to help him like Tabitha one bit better.
When she came home from school that afternoon, Daddy was in bed resting. Heather looked for Tabitha, but she could not find her pet anywhere. Just then, Mother called Heather into the family room for a special mother-daughter talk.
Mother told Heather that it was very important that Daddy feel safe and comfortable in his own home. He would never be able to feel that way with a cat around. Tabitha had gone to live on a farm. She would be happy there. She could run and play in the fields. She could chase real mice in the barn. She would have creamy milk from the cows to drink. The family on the farm had children to love Tabitha. She would grow up healthy, happy and strong.
Heather knew those children would never love Tabitha as much as she did. She cried for a long time that night. She did not eat her supper. For many days, she cried whenever she thought of Tabitha.
When Daddy was better, he took Heather to a toy store and bought her a stuffed cat, almost as tall as she was. Heather said "Thank you", but the stuffed cat just sat in the corner of her bedroom. Heather didn't even bother naming it.
Heather missed Tabitha for a long time, but days passed. Then years went by. Heather became a teenager, then a young woman. She went to school and finally became a teacher herself. She always remained friends with Josh.
One day, when they were both grown up, Josh asked Heather to marry him. She said yes. She had always remembered that Josh had given her Tabitha. She knew he loved cats as much as she did. As soon as they came home from their honeymoon, they went to the Animal Shelter and chose a kitten each. Heather named hers Tabitha Two.
As time went by, Heather and Josh had a family of four children, two boys and two girls. As soon as each child was old enough to care for it, the child was given a kitten. Heather had a very happy home of her own. In it, there were six people, six cats, six food and water dishes, six litter boxes and lots of toys, both for children and for cats.
Whenever Heather's parents came to visit, the pets, the food and water dishes, the litter boxes and the cat toys were moved down to the basement. Her dad never saw the cats but he loved his grandchildren very much. He always brought them stuffed animals and other toys and games.
Heather's mother loved her grandchildren too. But, every visit, Heather took her mother down to the basement to visit with the family pets. You see, her mother loved cats too. Every Christmas and every birthday, there would be many special gifts. Some were for Heather, some were for Josh, some were for the children, and there were lots and lots of toys for the cats and kittens too