In late 2011, while searching for information about the 1978 episode of The Waltons in which Elizabeth is haunted by a poltergeist, I found a most remarkable (non-Catster) blog. Kindertrauma is the brainchild of Lance Vaughan and John Powell, a married couple in Philadelphia who are even more obsessed with horror movies and retro pop culture than I am.
I sat on the couch reading Kindertrauma for 12 consecutive hours the night I found it. My memory of every disease-of-the-week TV movie, horror-movie trailer, and public service announcement I’ve ever seen is unmatched among my friends and family, but Lance Vaughan puts me to shame. At 7 a.m., eyes burning, I emailed him to tell him I was pretty sure he was my (non-cat) spirit animal.
Lance wrote back, and thus commenced a friendship that often feels like actual brainwave transfer. In fact, we have come to refer to one another as “Psychic Cat,” because one of the many things we have in common is our slavery to kitties. Not long after we met online, I hopped a Bolt Bus to Philly to make a pilgrimage to the shrine to ’70s and ’80s childhood that is Kindertrauma Kastle.
Gato, Wally, Figgy, Rory, and Kevin (the girl) are the lucky felines who did something right in their last lifetime to end up with Lance and John. Here, in Lance’s words, are their stories.
Lance Vaughan writes: I met the first of the crew in a bookstore when he came running in through an open door and asked me to take him home. He is ornery and orange and named Gato Malo. After many years together, Gato and I moved in with my now-husband, who also had a cat, an oblivious, snow-white Persian named Wally. The four of us got along fine and were not in any way on the lookout for additional family members.
Then, one fateful day, I was drinking in the backyard with some now-defunct friends and I spied in the unused yard next door to us a tortoiseshell mama cat with three kittens. One was a tuxedo and looked like Figaro from Pinocchio, so we named her Figgy. Her sisters were a spotted farm cat with a face that resembled the daughter from The Gilmore Girls, Rory, and a grey squirrely cat with a zany grin that we mistook for a boy and deemed Kevin.
I busted a hole in the fence and later pretended it was always there so that I could put cans of food and bowls of water down for these weary whiskered travelers. Later I built a rather impressive kitty shantytown of connected lean-tos so that they had a place to hang out when it rained. Of course, spring days spent playing with kittens who live in your garden are too perfect not to come with a ticking expiration date. It was pretty clear that we had to keep the most gregarious and personable of the siblings, Kevin, but the other two would have to be adopted soon, as it wasn’t safe outdoors and their mother was beginning to untie her apron strings.
Trusting, amiable Kevin was easy to capture, but her sisters were clearly cut from wilier cloth. Rory was (and is) as clever and formidable as a raccoon, and Figgy was (and is) as sly and fleet of foot as a fox. Our work was cut out for us, but we had a bounty of canned cat food on our side. Eventually all of the sisters were indoors, though some of them were happier with the new digs than others. So began the slow process of gaining their trust.
Although Rory bit me hard enough in the hand to make me get a tetanus shot, it was Figgy who proved the hardest to convince of our good intentions. She needed and received the most attention from me, and I’m happy to say that today she and I are joined at the hip and she is the main reason I had a crying jag while watching How To Train Your Dragon.
Watching these cats coming out of their shells and observing their unique personalities develop was gratifying and therapeutic. I’m quick to admit that if they hadn’t have strolled into my life, I too would be a little less tame and a lot more brokenly unbroken.
Soon after we got the sisters indoors, their mother, Shelly, was pregnant once again, and the kitten farm scenario repeated itself in the backyard. Don’t worry, we found nice homes for the five additional cats and vowed to capture fertile Shelly and finally get her fixed. We called a couple who captured, neutered, and released cats to come scope Shelly out. The plan was for them to return the next day and pick her up, but Shelly, who had made our yard her home for half a year and enjoyed free meals on a daily basis, got a whiff of what they had cooking and fled the scene, never to return again.
How did Shelly know our plan? I don’t know; she just did. I guess it’s the same way cats know when you are ill or upset or when it’s time to go to the vet or when someone is about to die. Cats are psychic.
Folks make light of the fact that the Egyptians worshipped cats, but I think those guys were onto something, even if they did walk funny. What’s not to worship?
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About the author: Stacy Pershall is a constant traveler currently settled in Astoria, Queens, New York, where she lives in a Greek Archie Bunker house and loves it. When she’s not tending to the needs of her two street adoptions, Carbon and Tiki, she writes stories and teaches writing at Gotham Writers’ Workshop and the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth. Her passion in life — besides cats — is her work as a suicide prevention speaker for Active Minds. She is the author of Loud in the House of Myself: Memoir of a Strange Girl. Find out more by following her on Facebook.