Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Inconspicuous Cat

About 15 years ago, almost to the date, he was caged at PetLand in Greensboro, NC, at Friendly Shopping Center. He was “up for adoption”, for a small fee of $150. I asked the shop clerk “how much did he cost” and he corrected me that “he is not for sale. But he is up for adoption, for $150”. He was ugly, if I have ever seen such a thing as an ugly cat, skinny and had big, ears, full of mites. His eyes were sleepy. He had gorgeous orange tabby markings with not a speck of white or other colors in it. He was a true tabby. A true redhead! In more ways than one. 

I could tell he was making an extra effort to sit as close to the middle of the cage, so kids who were poking their skinny fingers to touch him won’t reach him. I told myself: he will never get adopted! He is too ugly and he is too old to be a kitten. Not old enough to be quite a cat. And he looked angry. Annoyed with all the kids’ poking. No one would see a “family cat” in him, I told myself, as I walked out of the place with my cat food in hand, and I sighed. 

I went home and told my then husband about him. We had $300 in the bank and the mortgage of $750 due in a week. 

Two days later, a Saturday, sometime in the fall, my husband and my then step kids showed up at the door with him in their hands. The ugly kitten, all mites, bones and ever so soft orange fur was now ours – our second kitty, after his bigger brother, Fero.
My first reaction was “We cannot afford HIM! We cannot afford the mortgage this month and you go out and buy a CAT????”. My husband said: “OK, fine, he has a 48 hour warranty, I am going to return him! Give him back”. 

I had him in my hands, and he was scratching and hissing and angry. All claws out and clinging onto my skin for dear life! I said: “NO WAY! He has been through enough already! We’ll love him up to be beautiful!” And the rest, really, is history! 

He never did get a real name. Fero was Fero, and the “little kitty” we just got became Little Kitty. And on his vet certificate, he is still Little Kitty. Not just Kitty, but “Little Kitty”.  
If God went out to design a perfect mold for a kitty, He must have fit my Little Kitty in it. He was the softest cat I have ever touched. The cleanest. The quietest. Like any cat, he was fiercely independent and stubborn. He liked company on his terms and he made those terms very clear! By biting, and scratching and hissing. You always knew his boundaries. And he only had to tell you about them once. 

He was my one true hunter cat! When I lived in a house in the woods of Summerfield, NC, we had mice. He caught them every time they’d dare wander through my kitchen, and would bring them to bed, in the middle of the night, in his mouth, to show me his catch! He was upset when we killed the mouse. It was his pray to kill, so understandable. 

He sneezed, occasionally, because he was allergic to clay, I found. He was even allergic to almost every brand of litter except two! I tried using clay bowls for his food – not a good idea! His nose would get as red as Rudolph’s and it would drip and drip, as he sneezed with all of his body. 

He always let Fero be the alpha cat, and always protected the baby cat, Gypsy. He was stoic, devoted to all his duties and respectful of everyone’s space, as long as they respected his.  

For years, I lived alone, after my divorce. We were all a team, me and the three kitties. I clipped the nails of the other two cats, but I could never do it by myself to him. He was impossible to pill or to put in the cat carrier singlehandedly. It was always a two people’s job. I figured, he was feral for a while, before he ended up at PetLand. You could tell, he did not trust people. 

He slept with me, for years. But always at the foot of the bed. Just enough to be close but not enough close where I could touch him. In true cat fashion, he spited me: with a name like Little Kitty, he grew to be the largest cat I have ever been owned by. 

A very rare sight: Little Kitty bonding with my sister. She was amongst the very few who "got him". And he, her.

Just like I promised him on his first day with me, I loved him up, I think, to be beautiful. Even gorgeous. He still had dreamy eyes and a serious look, all of his life, but the mites went away, and he filled into his large ears and paws.

He never once, that I can remember, got in trouble! He never broke anything, always groomed religiously, his breath never smelled. His moves were ever so calculated and slow, just like a tiger, which gained his nickname in his later life of Richard Parker, the tiger in Life of Pi. He was my tiger. Or “pumpkin”. Or “pinkie”, because of his pink paw pads. Because of his serious allure, he became “Mr. Kitty” to my now husband. And lived up to that name. He always kept a low profile. He ate the longest, because he always took his time, with everything. He was a typical middle child!

Just like with all my cats, we built a whole life together. Some people tell me that 15 years is “old” for a cat. To me, 100 would not be enough! We had to say ‘good bye’ to Mr. Kitty tonight. Just as quietly as he slipped into my life, he slipped away, on his own, after a two month heroic battle with kidney failure (I swear Utah water is killing my cats!). He was 15 and 5 months today. 

I’ll miss so much about him! His constant presence just beside me. His long grooming sessions, his lazy an watchful swagger down the stairs, swinging his fat belly left to right, while sheepishly glancing over his left shoulder to make sure I am following him. His quiet meow. His habit of “rearranging” my coasters: he would knock them on the floor, from the table or the arm rest of the couch. We never quite figured out why just the coasters. 

I hope kitties go to heaven and this way he can meet his brother, Fero, and compare matching bracelets of shaved fur on their paws, from the IVs they got for their kidney diseases. I hope he runs free, with no one chasing him down to clip his claws. I hope he makes someone as happy as he’s made us, and as fulfilled. 

He never asked for much. Not even for attention. A bowl of food, a clean litter box, a bowl of water, and a window with fresh air where he could watch birds, squirrels and cars.

I’ll miss his presence the most. To me, he was the ultimate symbol of coming home.
He ended up being so much more than a kitty with no name. 

Rest in peace, Little Man! We ache and cry and hope you make another world as happy as you made ours! 

Little Kitty:
 May 15, 1999 - October 15, 2014