Sunday, January 22, 2006

Hello Kitty

Just a word or two about my wonderful cat, Cleo. Ain’t she the cutest little thing? She was adopted by my family in 1998, back when my office was located near an animal shelter in Boston’s South End. Both Daughters Number 1 and 2 came to visit me at work one day, and, on a whim, after we had lunch at a local pizza joint, I took them to the animal shelter to see the doggies and the kitties. There, in one of the cages roughly at eye level, was little Cleo. Stuck to the thin metal bars at the front of her cage was a small placard that gave her basic information: her name (which was, as it is now, Cleo), the fact that she was a 2-year-old Siamese, and the reason she was given up, which was because she “talked too much.”

Well, I took one look at Cleo and I knew there was no chance I could leave without her. For one thing, she was exactly the same type of Siamese my old cat was who I grew up with, Junior. Other than lacking the crossed eyes and crinkled tail Junior had, they looked very similar. But what really did it for me was how forlorn she appeared. Cleo at that moment was very thin and you could read the sadness on her face. When I tapped on the bars and said, “Hey kitty!” she meowed in a plaintive way that utterly vanquished my heart.

When we brought her home, she spent nearly an entire week underneath the futon/sofa in the TV room. One time I dragged her out to show her where the food and water dishes and litter box were kept, which she then used only surreptitiously. Respecting her unease at being so abruptly placed in such strange surroundings, I did nothing further to force her out. She would allow me to stretch my arm in underneath the sofa to stroke her, which evidently pleased her from the loud purring it elicited. I could only imagine what horrors a poor, dumb creature such as herself might have experienced: expelled from her home of two years, kept in a small cage to be gawked at by strangers, and then suddenly finding herself in this unaccustomed environment.

After that week, however, Cleo fully took possession of her new home. In some ways I’m a little soft-hearted, and I quite consciously took pains to give her as much attention as I could. Because of that, I think, I became her favorite. To this day, whenever I’m home (and provided she’s not napping), Cleo is in the habit of following me around, hoping to play little games we’ve invented, or to hop onto my lap when I sit down. I like watching movies on the big television set downstairs, and, once I have installed myself just so, comfortable and prepared to stay in that position for an hour or two, I’ll call to Cleo and she’ll run to me, spring onto my lap and stay there for as long as I’ll let her.

I know we humans are fond of assigning certain characteristics of our race to the lower animals (remember: we’re animals, too!). We allow ourselves to think our pets are in sympathy with us, that there exists between master and pet an understanding and mutual regard. I remember my grandmother insisted her little tabby understood every word she said when she talked to it. You hear of great acts of heroism dogs perform for their masters, and we call this proofs of love. Well, here is one I sometimes dupe myself in believing: I could swear Cleo almost has a schoolgirl crush on me! For instance, I sometimes play rough little games with her where I sort of throw her around a bit on the bed and she takes playful nips at my hands in return. When at last I finish and walk away, often Cleo comes running after me and tries to hook me by the ankles with her paws, not willing to let me go so easily. When I walk into a room and shut the door against her, she’ll stand outside and yowl for me to let her in. Whatever room in the house I choose to be in, that invariably becomes her room of choice, too. She’ll stay there as long as I do. Such loyalty, respect, admiration and love I couldn’t possibly wring from my wife or daughters, but Cleo gives them to me freely!

Do you have a pet? Or did you? What kind? Any unusual pets out there, like snakes or lizards or falcons or orangutans? Are you as soft-headed about cute, furry creatures as I am? Let me know.


What can I say? Monday’s Monty seems somehow appropriate!


Blogger Farrago said...

Angel, my 12 y.o. female Dalmatian loves to play this game with me. Whenever I sit down and cross my legs "man-style," - i.e. like a figure "4," with a big hole in the center - she loves to poke her head through, at which point I playfully slap her snout and bonk her on the head, and she playfully and gently bites at my fingers. I grab her snout, her nose, her top jaw/snout, and "wrestle" with her. I also taunt her with toys, which she will lunge after through the hole formed by my legs.

Yes, I'm a big softie, too. When we had to put down my wife's dog, also a Dalmatian, even though I only knew him for five years, I cried like a baby as we watched the life leave his eyes. And Angel is probably not long for this earth, either.

Great! Now I'm crying again. DAMN YOU, SCHPROCK!

10:38 AM  
Blogger mr. schprock said...

Farrago, how about you write a post soon about Angel? And perhaps show a picture of her if you do?

12:07 PM  
Blogger Farrago said...

If you'll recall from my recent post, "A Smile in the Dark," I mentioned a likely future post about her. I'll have to stock up on facial tssues before I write it, though.

6:16 PM  
Blogger boo said...

my family always had animals in the house, including us, the kids. my first cat died when he was almost 21 & i was 19. i was so devastated, i cried for 2 days. i also had a grey persian & a russian blue when i was in uni in HK. now i have my own apartment & am in the lookout for a cat to share my home. so 'helllloooo kitty' :)

p/s cleo is bootiful & she has fantabulous skills. of cuz.

7:21 PM  
Blogger mr. schprock said...

“I'll have to stock up on facial tissues before I write it, though.”

Do what you have to do, Farrago. But I’m dying to read about her.

“now i have my own apartment & am in the lookout for a cat to share my home. so 'helllloooo kitty' :)”

Aren’t cats perfect for apartments? They’re so adaptable and low maintenance!

7:40 PM  
Anonymous Dreadmouse said...

My brother and I always lusted for a big shaggy dog to goof around with when we were kids. Sadly, my mother is deathly allergic to dander. Since she was also a neatness fanatic, the only pets we ever had growing up were canaries. They're more fun than you might guess, but not much more. A dog was my dream, preferably a collie or samoyed.

After several years of living with my folks while I struggled to find success in university and college, I finally graduated, got a paying job, and moved into my own apartment downtown. Once I was settled in I decided that I could finally have my pet. My new place didn't have any lawn to speak of and it was just too small for a real dog. So, I decided to content myself with a cat and found myself a kitten.

I easily chose her from a litter of tumbling furballs. She was the bravest kitten of the bunch, eager to play when she was only a handful of weeks old. I took that ferocious scrap of fuzz and needles home and we settled in together wonderfully. It took me a few days to figure out her name, but I eventually christened her "Lockheed" after Lockheed-Martin, the jet company, because Lock purred and rumbled like a jet engine with any physical contact.

I can't tell you how much I loved that maddening little person. She was endlessly playful, loved to cuddle, and NEEDED to be around people. I've rarely seen a cat so attached to humans.

Life takes turns, however. Ms. Dreadmouse has violent allergies and rampant asthma. After we met and got started to get serious it became terribly obvious that I was going to have to make a choice. Poor Ms.D couldn't spend any longer than half an hour in my place unless she was drugged to the gills. Despite the fact that Lock and Ms.D adored each other (which in itself was rare for Ms.D, given her condition) there was no way I could have it all. One of them had to go.

I still try not to let Ms.D know how close that choice was. In the end, I found a co-worker whom I liked and trusted. She agreed to adopt Lock and gave me unrestricted visiting privileges, freeing me to propose to Ms.D.

I haven't been back to see Lock since I dropped her off at her new home. I just... couldn't. I need to believe that she's happy and has totally forgotten me.

I still miss her.

8:39 AM  
Blogger mr. schprock said...

Awesome story, Dreadmouse. I love how you came up with her name! And I definitely go for the gregarious, loud-purring cats. Does Ms. D fully appreciate the sacrifice you made, do you think?

On a completely unrelated note, Lockheed-Martin, whose nickname in the industry is “Lock-Martin,” exactly matches the name of the actor who played the robot Gort in “The Day the Earth Stood Still,” possibly the greatest science fiction film of all time.

9:15 AM  
Blogger Kathleen said...

You can read about my Tikal here:

I now have two cats: Boris and Igor. Igor is all black and looks a bit like my first cat, Zapata. Igor has six toes on each paw and it's so damn cute. He is exceptionally affectionate and has to sit on my lap. He also sleeps with me to the point where I wake up and I'm clinging to the side of the bed, because he keeps nudging me.

Boris is grey and white and looks a bit like an English bulldog. He has grey markings on his legs that make him look bow-legged (or he really is). Sometimes I'll stand at the end of the hallway and call his name just to see him run. It's so damn cute. Within the past year he's gotten more affectionate and will sit with me and sleep with me. I'm a big fan of having two cats curled up with me.

10:41 AM  
Blogger NYPinTA said...

I have two cats that are the exact opposite of each other in all ways possible, but they love each other. They are practically inseperable.
Stanley is long, quiet, easily startled, and doesn't really like strangers.
Misty is short, fat and round, easy going, mouthy, and loves people.
We had Misty first, but I decided to take Stanley in. (I read in the paper that an animal should have a companion.) Before we had Stanley, Misty never purred. I don't think she knew how! He however, purrs at the drop of a hat, and now, she won't stop either.

10:47 AM  
Blogger mr. schprock said...

“I now have two cats: Boris and Igor. Igor is all black and looks a bit like my first cat, Zapata.”

I think I’ve gone on record saying Boris and Igor are EXCELLENT names for your kitties. Zapata is great, too. Does that make you a Zapatista?

I’ll check out your link soon.

“Stanley is long, quiet, easily startled, and doesn't really like strangers. Misty is short, fat and round, easy going, mouthy, and loves people.”

They’re kind of the kitty odd couple, aren’t they?

I sometimes wonder if we should have gotten a kitty friend for Cleo, but I think she might prefer it this way, getting all the attention for herself.

11:31 AM  
Blogger Kathleen said...

I'm definitely a Zapatista.

10:34 AM  
Blogger trinamick said...

I don't know how I missed this post before. Must have been the lack of sleep.

I grew up with all sorts of pets. Perhaps I'll post about them sometime. For now, my domestic shorthair tabby who is the size of Cleveland is enough in one house. And my two horses are forced to stay in the corral. Otherwise, they'll hog the couch.

12:22 PM  

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