Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Kitty-Kitty: Unoriginal Name, One-of-a-Kind Cat

I've written a lot {an ENTIRE blog} about Bear, the incredible cat I share my life with now, but in their own ways, every single cat is memorable, unforgettable, and irreplaceable. Two of my closest friends recently lost their feline companions and it got me thinking about how each cat is completely unique. When you lose your furry best friend - NO OTHER cat is going to fill that void - EVER - even if you have twenty other cats. Each cat has its wonderful peculiarities and ways of relating to the humans that share its life - in varying degrees and combinations. Many non-cat people don't understand this and claim you can just get over it; they suggest getting another feline friend to fill the now gaping hole in one's life. However, when a human loses another human close to them, no one ever says, "It was just a husband/mother/friend/daughter, you can get another one!" Anyone who's truly loved a cat knows that his/her furry friend is not, "just a cat." 

The greatest example I can share is my own. While I've dedicated this blog to admiring, loving and appreciating Bear, he is not the only cat that owns part of my heart. And even though his lovingness and personality fill my life with little room to spare, I still feel the void left by Kitty. And that is amazing to me because if any cat could fill any void - it would be Bear: his heart and charisma are bear-sized and really do take up most of the room in my life. But if you'll indulge me for one post, I'd like to share Kitty with you as a testament to the uniqueness and extraordinariness of each feline spirit. I want to show you that even in the midst of a cat as full of love and spirit and life (Bear), that I still mourn and miss Kitty. And that there is a hole that only Kitty can fill. In exchange, I'd love to hear your stories and maybe create a page on this blog, or a blog solely dedicated to the purpose for everyone to share all of the cats in their hearts. I want to remember and help others do the same - because these felines live in our hearts even (and long) after they've left our physical world.

Perhaps the most significant quality of Kitty is that she was, without a doubt, the feline version of me. Often, it felt like we were the same spirit; that commonality gave both of us the freedom to be our imperfect selves and yet find a way to love each other fully and completely. In all honesty, loving her is probably the closest I will ever get to loving myself; seeing my traits in her - which I loved - showed me that those same traits could be just as lovable in me. Were there times one of us needed more than the other one could give? Probably. But we never held it against each other and instead focused on what the other could give. I love that Bear loves to snuggle (although this was a huge adjustment for me that took some time), but I miss Kitty's cuddles so much it hurts. You knew she loved you. She chose you. It wasn't luck, opportunity, or availability - it was genuine affection and appreciation. And it was so unexpected, unpredictable, and overwhelming that you were left with no doubt that it was heartfelt. 




So what traits do Kitty and I share? We both hate being watched or being the center of attention - you can actually see us try to shrink back into the scenery when the focus turns to our direction. We're both aloof and sometimes scare others by appearance because of our reticence to show ourselves and connect. In new situations, we sit on the sidelines and observe the action closely without putting a hand (or paw) in the fray. We don't whine or cry or mope - we live what we have to live and do it the best we can. But we are tough - we're strong - and we don't give in when life gets hard. We don't suffer fools lightly, but we also don't hold grudges. And we are truly humongous softies when in the presence of someone we trust. That intense tenderness also can be scary to people who do not know us.

My brother never lets me forget that I chose Kitty. We had a litter of kittens to choose from - a bunch of gray, fluffy kittens, and a tabby (Kitty). My brother wanted one of the gray ones that were all over him with eagerness and affection. But I wanted the "pretty" kitten that was more standoffish. In the end, she was perfect for me, but because of her personality, my brother often felt left out of the joys of owning a pet. Why? Kitty was a one person cat. And even with that one person, she wasn't overly affectionate. I once took a "fun" quiz about the type of cat she was, and the descriptor of "secret-service agent" was perfect. She always wanted to be in the same room as her person (unless she was bird watching out a better window) - but there'd be little interaction between her and her person. I knew she loved me by the times she initiated contact and by the fact that she was normally within the same room as me. Why did we name her Kitty? Because no one in my family would admit to having ideas of what to name her. One day, a week after we got her, my mom noticed she responded to, "Here, Kitty-Kitty," so my mom decided that would work. I shortened it to Kitty, though her vet records and my mom still called her Kitty-Kitty (my younger brother called her Kitster - ugh).

I was Kitty's person from the beginning. The day we adopted her, we'd jumped at an opportunity and hadn't prepared our home or bought supplies. I stayed home with our new, terrified, little (8 weeks old at most) kitten while the others went shopping. But by the time they got back from the store she was cuddled by my side like she belonged there.

Our new kitten picks her person

In those first few days, when I was not available, she hid under my mom's rocking chair. From the first night, she liked peas, pasta, cheese and lettuce. Up until she died, cheese was her favorite. Even when she didn't show much enthusiasm for other food, she'd gobble cheese down before you could turn around. When she was younger, occasionally, she'd play (and end up breaking) the toys that hang from a stick (always breaking the plastic stick). And she loved chasing pantyhose around the house. We ended up having to get separate food and water bowls because we'd wake up to find her combined bowl pushed across the kitchen, with the food and water combined. One morning, within the first month we got her, I was walking to the kitchen for breakfast - which passes the front hallway to the front door - and I heard very faint meowing. It took me a few minutes to figure out what was going on, but as I opened the front door, Kitty came running inside. Apparently, my father, unused to having to check for escape artists, had gotten the newspaper off the lawn and hadn't noticed the little kitten that had snuck outside. I was pretty amazed (and felt very lucky) that she'd sat on the front porch until someone let her back in. Her meows were usually hard to hear anyway, even as she got older. Even her purr was quiet . . . quite often I had to either feel her purr or put my ear against her body to hear her purr to know that she was content.

Her favorite activity was watching the birds and squirrels outside. During the warmer months, she spent the entire day in our screened-in patio and during the colder months, you knew you could find her by looking for the blob behind the curtain. Occasionally, while Kitty spent time on the screened-in patio, a neighbor cat would visit. They'd just kind of stare at and sniff each other through the screen. A couple times, in our innocent ideas of what might make Kitty happy, my brother and I decided we'd let her out to "visit" with the other cat. Neither time it went as planned - what actually happened involved Kitty chasing after the other cat - as fast as they could - and far faster than my brother or I could run - until the other cat was WELL out of our yard. Needless to say, my brother and I learned our lesson. My mom's favorite story was about the day Kitty got outside and managed to catch a bird. No one saw how it happened, but all of a sudden, there was a great flapping commotion, with Kitty struggling to stay on the ground. Of course, my mom made her let go - and the bird was fine - but my mom enjoyed telling the story nonetheless.

Kitty never really misbehaved or vexed us - for attention or otherwise. When we got home from vacation we'd find shredded napkins all over the place and one year, she cleared the top of my furniture of trinkets (breaking a few) and knocked over my desk chair (that was made of heavy wood). Other than knocking the trash can over once (for the leftover gravy in the trash from a microwave meal), she really only got herself into a situation she needed help with once. I was sorting coupons and had left a coupon from her treat bag (that was on the inside, so covered with treat crumbs) in the box. I heard a bit of a struggle and turned around to find Kitty's head wedged in to the box. I have to give her credit for trying to get in there, even if things didn't exactly go as planned and she needed help getting her head unstuck.

Most of her naps that didn't occur in the sun, either happened on the back of the couch or in a box. She LOVED boxes. And once she claimed one, you could forget about moving it, taking it away, or otherwise messing with it. I became a master at "cleaning" boxes of hairballs and other feline unpleasantries. Yes, it would have been "easier" effort-wise to replace the box, but then you'd have a very irritated looking cat staring at you for what seemed like days at a time.

LEFT: Kitty's favorite box (at the time)            
RIGHT: Kitty couldn't believe her luck when it came time to move and she got all kinds of boxes to try 

She was well known for the strange places she'd squeeze herself into to sleep - so that she wouldn't be obvious (or so she thought). And quite often, you'd find her in box-like spaces - like the open drawer of a filing cabinet or the cubby in a dresser where a drawer was removed. The only place she never slept? The very nice cat bed I bought her as slight compensation for having to share me with the Big Dodo. 



Whenever she disappeared, she usually turned up in the basement or in the garage. We spent a lot of time trying to get her out from under our parked cars when she snuck out into the garage. I didn't know the danger of antifreeze at the time, but I usually got upset at whoever had been careless enough for her to sneak either to the basement (it was messy and had toxic stuff all over) or into the garage. A few times, we were certain she'd gotten outside because we couldn't find her anywhere. So where was she? She liked the rafters in the basement and we didn't really look up when we were searching - it was a pretty amazing feat that she got up there and fell asleep as happily as a clam. Once, she was found squeezed into the living room of my doll house. She didn't seem to mind the dolls or the furniture and just curled up and went to sleep. That required more searching on our part than any other incident where we couldn't find her - because it was so unexpected.

While she never really stuck her nose in our food, she definitely knew how to beg. She'd sprawl out close enough to wherever the cooking was done to be seen, but not close enough to be stepped on. My first creative stories about cats started with the joke that she was a lobbyist for the HCA {Hungry Cats of America}, because her begging was so insistent and her "starvation" believable.

Kitty in her HCA position, on the edge of the kitchen

After she was diagnosed with hepatic lipidosis (fatty liver disease), we fed her a bit of wet food every day just to make sure she ate. Since we had an island counter in the kitchen, it was always funny to see this little tail pace back and forth on the other side, awaiting her yummy wet food; it looked exactly like a shark fin circling its prey.

Oddly enough, she became a mouser at nine years old. We'd had mice for at least five years by that point and she frustrated my parents by seeming not to care. We still speculate what in particular made her go after the mice all of a sudden, but it was swift and focused. All but the first were left in my room - which wouldn't have been so terrible had they been completely dead. I quickly learned that if I heard weird noises in my room at night, NOT to turn on the light. Inevitably, it would distract her and she'd drop the half dead mouse - which would skitter under my furniture. Otherwise, she was thorough and determined. I'm pretty sure she caught a mouse eating her food and that led to war. Although, she was also the patient type, so I imagine she could have waited for the mice to become fat and complacent before picking them off easily, one by one.

Unfortunately, Kitty was infamous among those who dared to touch her (even if you were her person, she had limits). Some people would probably even tell you she was mean - and they wouldn't be completely wrong. What usually happened is that someone would know her reputation for not being friendly and would think she knew cats better than other people and that she could certainly convince Kitty to let her pet her. It never went well. In retrospect, it makes sense, and I've even done the same thing with other, similar cats. You think you understand cats enough to not pay attention when they warn you not to touch them - so you force it on them. I've never gotten mad at a cat for being upset - because I knew on some level I was pushing past a boundary the cat had set, but there were a few people with Kitty that didn't understand that when she hissed at you as you were about to touch her, she didn't care how much you loved or understood cats, she was going to make you leave her alone. That said, she was well practiced in self-defense. She didn't have front claws and lost a fang, but she had a skill for drawing blood when she wasn't happy. The few times I needed someone to take care of her (insulin shot and a pill - something that required someone else to actually touch her) - there were stories and battle wounds galore. One of my friends insisted she had to wear her heavy coat, several layers, thick pants and heavy gloves to get the job done (despite our hot summers). My father almost lost the tip of a finger even though he was wearing the heaviest work gloves we could find. The cat was never injured. Though she did start peeing and pooping on people who tried to take care of her (other than me) - if they passed the physical assault. On one visit where the vet wanted to test Kitty's blood sugar, the poor vet tech (who'd been warned multiple times) was stunned to find that a cat with no front claws and only 3 fangs split his hand open. I felt really bad - especially when he was telling me that he'd worked with animals his entire life and that this was the first incident like this (and he was 50-60ish). That was my Kitty. Like me, she knew how to fight tooth and nail (even without claws) to survive. I can't tell you how many boxes or clothes she destroyed between the door and the car on the way to the vet (we didn't have a carrier so we used boxes with netting or just took her in our arms . . . and I still have the scars).

I talked about how quiet her purr and meows were earlier. But she could be loud. She had a growl and a roar that sounded like a wild cat 50 or 80 times her size. Since she was the first cat we'd had, her growl didn't seem remarkable to us, but it was the first thing most people commented on (Don't touch me . . . growl . . . hiss . . . bite!). And had I not been used to it, it would have scared me (plus I was her person, not that she never gored me, but I got the courtesy of a few extra warnings before she did). Her hisses were also infamous. She hardly ever hissed at me - but she had no problem telling everyone else to back off with a well placed and drawn out "hiss." Unfortunately, a few times she ran away as she had her head turned around to hiss, and she ran into things. Given how frequently and well she hissed, I can't help but laugh when Bear hisses (and he usually only does it when I'm trying to get him back inside - so it's not life of death) because it seems so puny in comparison. On the other hand, his purrs make Kitty's sound puny - and he purrs as much as Kitty hissed. There was only one time (besides the growling/roaring) that she could be loud. She got in the habit of sitting on the back of the couch and meowing loudly, in the morning when I was still in bed - and home alone. Because she never meowed like that, I'd always jump up and go running to find out what was the matter - only to find myself chased back to bed with her biting at my ankles. At least once, I walked into the trap a few times in a row, on the same morning. I'm sure there's a reason why she did this - maybe for reassurance? - but it was certainly disconcerting at the time because I was so worried about her loud meows that were not characteristic of her at all.

Kitty really did not like to share her person or her territory. Every night, she would examine every inch of her territory and, as my (then) husband learned, evaluate the contents. Apparently she'd give him a look that almost made him feel like he didn't belong there in addition to the comment, "Oh, it's just the idiot." I knew when the process was in motion because I'd always hear him say, "Yeah, well, I don't like you either!" I could have saved myself a lot of trouble by listening to her assessment of the Big Dodo (as she so aptly named him). After he and I moved in together (we didn't share a bedroom right away) - she started peeing on the foot of my bed everyday. It took a while for me to figure out what was going on - I usually got a shower right before I got in to bed, so at first, I thought my feet were still wet. Kitty'd NEVER had an accident outside the litter box, so it took me awhile to even suspect her. Oddly enough, it ended when he and I started sharing a room. No physical reason was ever found for the incidents, so I'm just assuming she was not pleased with sharing me with anyone else. My (then) husband also quickly learned that Kitty laying on her back WAS NOT an invitation (she hated belly rubs from her person, and from everyone else was provocation for war). But she looks soooo cute (especially that one white paw and the bushy tail)!!!


NOT invitations!

She also had her favorite spots to evaluate the surroundings and preside over her territory.

"This is all mine . . . I see EVERYTHING!"

And occasionally, Kitty rubbed up against some very strange things. How did this happen? Momma had a habit of filling the vegetable and fruit bins in the refrigerator - which often meant taking everything out to get at what was on the bottom. More than once, Kitty found that object to be worth her attention. Melons (not so easy because they roll away), salad . . . . it was a bit strange. This particular bag of salad she became attached to and after her first attentions, my (then) husband refused to eat it, so every night until it was rotted, I'd get it out and this would happen . . .



Of course, she did not appreciate when Bear came to live with us . . . it didn't help that Bear REALLY wanted to be her friend and followed her EVERYWHERE; she felt just fine with them ignoring each other completely. Not only did their personalities clash, but so did their expectations, likes and territory. To get an idea about how different they really were, you can read a collection of their conversations: What Your Cats Are Really Saying - To Each Other.


"This is MY couch, cracker!" 


"Please stop following me EVERYWHERE!"


The closest the cats got to each other . . . without fighting.


Under the bed: easiest defensible privacy for Kitty (as Bear watches) 



Water on Bear's chin . . . from Kitty's water bowl . . . because it tastes better :) 



"All she does is sleep!"

I give Kitty credit for her ability to handle Bear: she was clearly annoyed by his enthusiasm and efforts to be her friend - and thought he was an idiot. I worried that with her age, lack of front claws, and missing fang, she'd be at a disadvantage whenever the cats had a confrontation (and I was overprotective of her because she was my "baby"). I clearly underestimated her: even when Bear ignored her growls/roars, she always landed a pretty solid bat to his nose which he was forced to grudgingly respect (and back off, if only for a little while).

Despite her dislike of Bear, I think she tried to impart her wisdom upon him, though he never learned. In the dialogues I linked to above, I share how she tried to convince him to stay off the counter when food was out (it made me more likely to share - especially if they stayed out of the way on the floor) and how she also demonstrated to him that he didn't need to go nuts chasing the flashlight, if he just waited it would come back to him. It was really funny to watch the flashlight lesson. I'd move the flashlight away and Kitty would pretend she didn't care, until I brought it back close enough for her to reach out with her paw and "catch." Unfortunately for Bear, his enthusiasm and excitement for food and play overwhelms his reason and ability to wait for a reward. He just can't "wait" and needs it NOW!

I feel like this post is not nearly adequate to share Kitty with you. I feel like she deserves better - the best - a professional who knows proper grammar and can provide a flawless post without any distractions from the subject. I've already postponed the post for weeks trying to remember every little thing - and making the post as perfect as possible: because Kitty deserves at least that. The simple fact is that Kitty was mine. She was with me during the worst times of my life - and was a part of many of the best times. While she shared her opinion in nonverbal ways (mostly by her facial expressions), she mastered the art of just listening and just being there. I didn't need to tell her anything - we communicated on a level beyond speech and vocabulary. For anyone who's experienced this with a cat or any other animal - it is quite extraordinary. You can just be without explaining or justifying - especially with emotions and other things that are not easily, adequately, or best, expressed verbally. And this is probably where I fail Kitty the most - in verbalizing what we shared, who she was to me, and why I ache that she's no longer physically with me. But there are so many things she taught me and so many things I learned - that I've used to make my life, and also Bear's, better. In that way, she is still with us and never forgotten. Composing this post has been a blessing and a curse in remembering, missing, and grieving. Perhaps the person I need to convince the most is myself - it's so easy to tell myself I should be over it - and let her go completely. Her memory isn't minimized, replaced or even shared, with Bear. My love for Bear is only heightened by my love for Kitty. And maybe that's the best we can hope for - to love and appreciate these unique beings while they are alive - making sure they know they have a home, a place where they belong, and that we love them. Too many cats and other animals don't get this basic foundation - though every single one deserves it. And that makes me grieve for entirely different reasons - mainly, if every cat is unique and irreplaceable - and not all cats have homes and love - think of all us humans are missing out on!

10 comments:

  1. Kitty was very bootyful. We's so glad ya'll had each other. Bet'cha' Raena and me have a lot of those same conversations she and Bear had. MOL Sendin' hugs and purrayers.

    Luv ya

    Dezi and Raena

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    1. I feel sorry for Kitty just a tiny, itty, bitty bit now ... if I had a little pipsqueak come in and try to share my stuff and follow me everywhere, I wouldn't be happy! And Miss Raena is very brave too! At least she helps you Dezi to see that not all scary noises are scary. I still hide under the bed. Hmmm. Maybe a need a little pipsqueak of my own ... ~Bear Cat

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  2. Thanks for sharing your Angel-Kitty. She was a true beauty.

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  3. This is a very sweet post paying tribute to Kitty. I think you did an excellent job and she would be proud. I think it is wonderful that she chose you as her human. XO

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  4. I fully understand your feelings about Kitty. I was not fortunate enough to have as many years as I wished with my beloved Abby, we had 8 years and 2 months. I know she was my soul kitty. She was nearly a senior (one month shy of 6) when she was adopted by me. The man in the family she was in hated her because she abused him. i mean she was a six pound cat?? She abused him? The thing I do know is that she was a very strong personality and dominated everyone who was in her domain. She made me earn her loyalty and trust but once I did, she was all mine and I was hers. I promised her that I would love her and take care of her and never desert her. I kept my word as she passed from this world to the next in my arms as I told her to fly. My heart still aches for her even though it's been just over three years now that she has been gone from my arms. I miss her with every cell in my being and I always will. I truly believe in the ever after and I believe she is waiting for me. So I settle into the knowing that she has just gone ahead of me of this Journey, she's right around that bend I cannot quite see. She's there very still, watching patiently for me to turn the corner and then I know she rush into my arms and we'll be together again forever and ever and there will never be anything to separate us.

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    1. Thank you for sharing Abby with us. I love the imagery of the reunion ... that's the one thing that makes it possible to go on ... the promise of a reunion just as you envision it.

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  5. Kitty reminds TW of Faith who was 6 weeks when we got her. TW and her brother brought her home and axed if they could keep her. It was night and they had to get sand from the yard for a litter box. The next day they went and bought supplies. *head bowed* to remember Kitty and those who left way too soon. xoxo

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    1. It's funny that the cat we need walks into our life at just the right time. Thank you for sharing Faith with us.

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