Out of the Blue
The Kitty Chronicles, Part VI
The odd couple and the cat lady
By Deborah Salomon
Happy New Year, and welcome to my annual kitty column.
Backstory: I love animals. More important, I trust and admire them. As a lifelong rescuer/adopter I have experienced many beautiful food-based relationships with stray and feral kitties, lost dogs, a retired racing greyhound, a pair of Pekin ducks and thousands of grateful squirrels, birds, possums and other wild creatures. Coyotes and foxes don’t make the cut, for obvious reasons.
Once I found homes for 32 kittens before capturing mama and having her spayed.
That year, when my family asked what I wanted for my birthday, I answered a Hav-a-Heart trap.
Enough, I thought, after moving here 12 years ago. I’ve done my part. Then a coal black kitty with satin-smooth fur and expressive eyes appeared at my door. He had been left behind by a family that moved. He made a nest beneath the bushes. I fed him outside for six months. Finally, on July 4, 2011, I opened the door to Lucky. He walked into the kitchen and sat down, awaiting bowl placement. After a good feed he hopped on the couch and fell asleep. He was home. I felt relieved.
Black cats are special, soulful. I cannot resist them. I probably needed him more than he needed me.
A year later I did the same for Hissy/Missy, who the neighbors called Everybody’s because she was fed by many. Hissy had a notched ear, indicating a spayed feral. She is a widebody, a patchwork of soft white underbelly fur and coarse mottled gray on top. One eye is crossed. She waddles.
Lucky — sleek and shiny — had been neutered and declawed (horrible) but no microchip.
I study them. I learn from them. They make me feel better.
Go ahead . . . laugh. At least I’ll never need opioids. And I’ve met interesting people, uh, pawing through bitsy cans in the cat food aisle.
Lucky has the best disposition I have ever encountered in an animal. He is a quiet gentleman, a thinker, a cuddler who literally looks before he leaps. I can honestly say that in eight years I have never heard Lucky hiss or growl, except when an unfamiliar cat passes by, and Lucky is safely behind a closed window. He gets along fine with a neighbor’s kitty. They hang out together on the porch, two old men sharing stories.
Hissy, in contrast, is a fussbudget. I almost named her Edith after Archie Bunker’s “Dingbat” from All in the Family. For the first month or so, she hissed at me, at Lucky, at everything. Hence the name. Then, suddenly, she became sweet as sugar so now it’s Missy, although she will always be Hissy to me.
They couldn’t be more different. But opposites attract, as evidenced by their relationship mimicking some marriages. He stands still when she grooms him. She follows him around, pushes him off his food bowl and his windowsill perch. He has nests all over the house, which she tries to share. When he asks to go out, she follows . . . and is not far behind when he meows to come in.
He accepts her affection and ministrations without noticeable response, let alone reciprocation. Except when Hissy was at the vet all day for treatment Lucky seemed unsettled, watchful.
They communicate by nuance, by intense stares and twitching whiskers.
“Supper could have been better,” Lucky twitches. “I like grain-free kibble laced with chicken livers best.”
Actually, he likes to lick the underside of my yogurt cup top best. Greek vanilla, please.
She reports the weather to him. “I went out. It’s raining. I came in. I went out again. Still raining. I came in. Went out again. Drizzling.”
Come winter, each has a flannel-covered heating pad on the bed. His, for an arthritic hip. Hers because she pushed him off his. I try to position one for me (arthritic shoulder) — a lost cause.
Since my catspeak is rusty we communicate physically. When Lucky wants something he finds me, paws my leg, makes eye contact and leads me to his objective — usually food or the door — front, in the morning, back in the afternoon, according to where the sun warms the chair cushion. If he wants laptime he just jumps. Missy is needy. She lives on attention, probably a result of a deprived kittenhood. Soon as I sit down, she’s there, kneading with her claws and purring. She thinks mealtime is whenever I’m in the kitchen. She rubs my legs, gets underfoot at the risk of having her paw stepped on.
At least she doesn’t wake me at 3 a.m., asking for treats, which I keep in the bedside table drawer to pacify Lucky when he quietly but persistently paws for a snack.
I rise early anyway, so I forgive him for reasons best expressed by Paul Simon:
When you’re down and out . . . when evening falls so hard . . . I will comfort you . . . When darkness comes and pain is all around . . . I will lay me down, like a bridge over troubled water . . .
You think I’m crazy, right? Did you hear about Dean Nicholson, the Scottish welder who decided to cycle around the world? He found an abandoned kitten in Bosnia, did all the necessary vetting, bought Nala a vest, a leash and a bike carrier and continued his journey for thousands of miles. When Nala gets tired of the basket she drapes herself around Dean’s neck and falls asleep. Their story made The Washington Post.
As for sweet Lucky . . . and to a lesser extent, Missy, they prove that I’m a nutty old cat lady.
But they’re just cats, right?
Yes, just cats. That’s the best part. PS
Deborah Salomon is a staff writer for PineStraw and The Pilot. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.