‘What would St. Francis do?’
My Brother Scott swears our cat Wombat does not exist. He and his boys once spent 10 whole days here and did not glimpse her once. I finally took this picture as proof that she does indeed live and breathe, even if, like the snipe, she is hunted, but never ever seen:
But this story is not really about Wombat. After all, Wombat, though you will have to trust me since you will never actually see her, is still with us. This story is in memory of The Cat of The Child’s Childhood, named (by The Child herself) Tuna.
Tuna was, as were all the cats in my life—those gathered randomly while growing up Lutheran in semi-rural Southern Illinois, and those adopted, serial-monogamy-style, during my Single Womanhood, Seriously Dating, and Moving-in-Together-But-Negotiating-Marriage Years—a stray. A ‘rescue’, a ‘shelter’, a ‘Heinz 57 Varieties’, a ‘mutt’. Tuna came to us from The Dude’s Cousin Charlie’s Friend, the one Who Had Too Many Kids Who Liked To Pick The Cat Up By The Tail.
Tuna was a very beautiful, though very crabby cat. (You might be somewhat crabby too if kids kept picking you up by the tail.) I apologize for not having more photos of her. But those were the days before Personal Electronics. Selfies with Tuna, regrettably, do not exist.
I do have this shot of her helping The Child with her homework:
She also liked to sit on top of The Dude’s piano while he played. She was, in fact, his best audience. She never got tired of ‘Maple Leaf Rag’. But Tuna did not like to sit on a lap. Which, when it comes to cats and people is, in my opinion, the very least a cat can do to show her gratitude for food and water and litter-scooping.
Anyway. The years went by. Years in which we settled for Feline Beauty From Afar. Then, when The Child was a sophomore in high school, she decided she wanted her own cat.
Enter Wombat. She’d been rescued, along with her two miniscule siblings, after being found motherless in the Montauk Dunes. I honestly don’t know why ‘Wombat’, since she doesn’t seem to resemble one all that much. But then again Tuna didn’t look much like a tuna, either.
I’ll skip all the stuff about how somehow The Child’s Cat (‘I’ll do everything, Mom. Honest!’) became my primary responsibility, and cut to the chase: Which is what happened when Tuna clapped her cat eyes on Wombat.
See, here’s the deal with cats. (And, yes, I know I’m opening the Comment Floodgates here, but I just have to get this out there.) People are always saying that, if you have one cat, you’d better get another, because ‘cats get lonely’ and ‘they need company’. Well, yes. Cats do ‘get lonely’. For you. and they do ‘need company’. Yours. Bringing home a second cat (at least it’s been this way every time I’ve tried it) is kind of like your husband bringing home a second wife. ‘Here, Honey. I thought you might like some company.’
Suffice it to say that Tuna did not greet Wombat with open, furry, arms. We could (possibly) have ignored the hissing and pouncing and flying fur and let them sort things out on their own. But then the really unpleasant behaviors arose. Behaviors involving bodily fluids—from both ends.
Well, I wish I could report that we showed patience and restraint and reached Kitty Equilibrium. But nope. We shipped Tuna off to live with Gramma. (If she’d been nicer about laps, she might have been the one to stick around. I mean, check this out):
See, Gramma lived in a nice house with a yard in a small town. (Yes, the same house where I grew up.) We pictured Tuna coming and going (literally), frolicking freely as she pleased in the country-fresh litter-box-free air. True, Gramma already had a couple of cats. But we figured there was plenty of room for each to lord it over his or her space, and that Tuna wouldn’t even have to see those other cats, much less make friends if she didn’t want to.
We figured wrong. Tuna terrorized poor Petey and Polly (short for ‘polydactyl’). And soon the bodily fluids were flowing even worse than before. From three cats times two ends.
What to do? My genius Aunt Marilyn, during the course of her career as a nurse, had come across cats living quite successfully in nursing homes. (Nursing homes for people, you understand, not special Kitty Nursing Homes.) She suggested that this might be a good solution for our Tuna Trouble.
And yes. Things worked out perfectly. The older folks took to Tuna, and she took to them. When I went to visit, she hissed contentedly at me from her little satin pillow, where she was reclining while sporting a sparkly new rhinestone collar.
And get this: she even sat on their laps (!) There was one lady, in fact, who only became aware of her surroundings when Tuna was in her lap. She would actually speak while thus encumbered. (I only hope it wasn’t because Tuna was digging her claws into her.)
But, as big a hit as Tuna was, she did get into a bit of trouble. With the nuns. See, it was a Catholic nursing home. And, as nice as her satin pillow was, Tuna much preferred sleeping on the altar in the chapel. Right there in the middle, directly under the statue of Mary, beneath her loving gaze and sheltering arms. Smack dab in the Baby Jesus Sweet Spot.
Well. That’s it for Tuna. Since Evil Kitty, EK for short, (dubbed thusly by our friend and neighbor Ruth) has long ago moved on to the Great Litter Box in the Sky. Where she is undoubtedly having a wonderful eternity hissing and spitting at the angels.
But if that’s not quite enough Cat Content for you, please do check out ‘The Cat is the Hat’, which features a couple of rubes as well as a feline.
New York City, May 2015