Hotel Kittens – for Grandma Esther

As you may remember,   I spent childhood summers with my family in the small Catskill town of Liberty, New York.   (See MY HEART REMEMBERS MY GRANDMOTHER’S HOTEL,  Dec 20, 2013)

What you may not know is that one of my beloved childhood pets – a cat with a beautiful gray coat named Smokey – spent many a summer with us at my Grandma Esther’s hotel.

Many years later that Smokey was followed by another Smokey who I once feared had been sealed up in our apartment wall!  Actually I had accidentally locked him out in the hall.  (See MISSING PUSSYCAT,  Jan 10, 2014)

But unlike Smokey #2 – who was a rather lazy apartment tomcat –  my childhood Smokey was a frisky female who had the run of our Bronx neighborhood.  She would climb the magnolia tree in front of our house and go in and out through my parents’ bedroom window.  Any night she found the window closed,  she’d meow until my father got out of bed to let her in.

Smokey obviously had many amorous adventures in those Bronx backyards and alleyways with many resultant  pregnancies,  and then we’d call around to find homes for her litters.  (Just a few years ago my childhood friend Suzanne reminded me that her family had once adopted one of Smokey’s kittens.)

One summer soon after we got to Liberty we noticed that Smokey was pregnant again.  A few days later she disappeared,  and we knew why – when a cat is about to give birth she seeks a private place to deliver her kittens.  We knew in time she’d parade them out proudly for us to see.

But early the next morning an irate guest rushed into the hotel kitchen looking for my grandmother.

“What kind of hotel is this?”,  she demanded.  “There are mice in my closet!”

Undaunted,  my grandmother lined a carton with towels and followed the angry guest to her room – for if you’ve ever seen newborn kittens you know they look very much like little mice.

My grandmother lifted Smokey and her kits into the carton and carried them straight to my room,  much to my delight.  Eventually the angry guest calmed down and actually became somewhat of a hotel celebrity for the unusual happening in her closet.

In September when we got back to the city,  my parents took Smokey to the vet and had her spayed.  That ended her nighttime trysts and Smokey lived out her days as a pussycat of leisure.

But I’ll never forget what a good mother Smokey was to all her kittens,  especially to those lucky ones born in a closet at my grandmother’s hotel!

Dana Susan Lehrman


  • If I told you this story before, forgive me. Here it is again. I was baby sitting Alicia's cat when we realized we could hear her meowing, but couldn't find her. The sound seemed to come from under our king sized bed, but a flashlight beamed under the bed showed no cat. The meowing continued, so Bernie, with the help of our building handiman lifted the mattress and put it up against a wall. And there was the cat. She found a small hole in the bottom of the mattress cover and managed to get between the mattress cover and the mattress. But she was caught in between and couldn't get out. Bernie had to cut the mattress to get her out. As a result we had to get a new mattress. That was about a grand for a new king sized mattress, plus new mattress pads and covers. But she was a really cute cat who used to like to sit on my head when I was lying on the couch. When Alicia moved her new place didn't allow pets so she gave the cat to a neighbor who was retiring to Florida. Well this cat, named Onyx for her black cat, was the hit of the retirement village in Florida. She would cuddle on the laps of lonely old folks, many who were senile and hadn't smiled in years, and one could watch their faces light up with smiles and love. Onyx, long gone, has been replaced by Willow, also a black cat. It's interesting to note that the shelter said black cats are very hard to place because many people are superstitious and believe they are bad luck. But Onyx was good luck to those lonely seniors. It as as if she was destined to be a damn good caretaker of those whose last years were doomed to be spent in loneliness and without joy.

  • Ah, a grandmother, a little girl, kittens – what summers were like in a bygone time. Thanks for the sweet (and funny) recollection.~ Mike

  • When I was growing up in New Jersey we had a cat who was all white and had one green eye and one brown eye. We couldn't decide what to name her. In those days there was no such thing as a litter box or special cat food. She ate what we ate and she knew how to get the back screen door open and let herself in and out. She was a killer who climbed trees to get baby birds which she would carry by the napes of their necks and then present them to us as gifts. Once in a while she would catch a mouse. She didn't kill the mouse, she would torture it – flipping it over and then pouncing on it when it tried to get away. Eventually she would tire of the game and let the poor thing go,but it usually didn't survive so finding dead mice was left up to the person who cut the grass at our house. We did find a name for her. We called her Princess as she was spoiled and regal at the same time. I did not know what it meant when my father took her to be "fixed." I do remember that for a long time after that she refused to get in the car with my dad. The world has changed. Most cats are never let out of the house and live their lives sitting on window sills looking at a world they will never experience. Things change. Bernie and I had a cat which we got when we lived on East 51st. St. We got a "mouser", that is a cat bred to go after mice. We had a really nice apartment which we rented. But we did have mice – until we got the cat.

  • Love this story! Reminds me of my own childhood, and Tibsy, our only cat (died at 21) who had 2 litters of kittens (naturally stopped – some hormonal problem). Rick and I have 4 cats and a dog – all from the shelter and fixed! We have enough adventures with them, and thankful pregnancy is not In the mix! But, how I do love kittens and puppies!

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