Memories of a Contrary Kitty

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She died as I was petting her and I didn’t even realize it. I was too busy crying and murmuring over and over how much I loved her; how I would miss her; and that she’d been the best kitty ever. We had a few minutes of privacy while the vet prepared what he needed to put Felicity to sleep. Though I knew she had to go, I dreaded watching it deliberately done. I like to think that Felicity knew this too and wanted to spare me the added grief. After close to nineteen years together, we were completely in tune to each other’s needs and emotions. And so she gave me one last gift. She left my life as she entered it: taking the lead, easing my burden and filling the emptiness with wonderful memories.

The shelter attendant emptied a box full of squirming, meowing, adorable kittens on to the table. I wanted to take all of them home with me. How could I choose just one? It was a dilemma easily solved by a tiny, determined, blue-gray piece of fuzz who emerged from the wriggling mass, walked directly towards me, climbed up my arm and parked herself on my shoulder. She chose me as her companion. I obviously had no say in the matter. I took the eight week old kitten home. It was the best non-decision I ever made.

Felicity reacted to her new domicile by immediately sequestering herself underneath the refrigerator. Worried she would either get stuck or be crushed, I tried to coax her out. Typical feline, she took her time responding. Over an hour later, she slowly inched her way out and began to explore her surroundings. My apartment presented a wonderland of curiosity for Felicity and no nook or cranny went unexamined.

A friend of mine nicknamed her Brillo due to her supposed resemblance to the scouring pad. A big Star Trek fan, I thought she looked like a Tribble. Regardless, she was adorable and cuddly and loved nothing better than to fall asleep while sucking on my fingers. I guess she missed her cat mom.

My cute little creature also caused lots of mischief. Like the time she upended a heaping plate of spaghetti and meatballs on my blue rug. Or the day when my favorite hurricane lamp shattered into a million pieces as Felicity decided she was an Olympian gymnast who had to somersault over all the furniture so she could snuggle on the couch with me. Apparently cats don’t believe that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. Why should they? That wouldn’t be any fun at all.

Felicity was tenacious too. Because I lived in a studio apartment when I adopted her, I slept on the pull-out couch. I knew the space underneath the back of the couch would be too much temptation for a kitten with sharp claws. To ensure a full night’s sleep, I corralled Felicity into the hallway leading to the bathroom and blocked the space with a card table, smooth side facing kitty. There was no way my little Tribble could gain purchase and escape her confinement. It worked for a few days until she rudely awakened me with a swat to the head.

I stared hard at her and asked, “Just how did you manage to break free?” She didn’t answer. I picked her up and plopped her back behind the card table and waited. Two seconds later came a series of thuds as she tried valiantly but failed to jump over the tall table. I turned to go back to bed when one little paw curling over the top of the table caught my eye. Another paw appeared and then her face. With all the strength she could muster out of her small body, she heaved herself over to freedom. So much for a peaceful sleep.

Six months later, Felicity was none too thrilled to find herself at the vet’s office to get spayed. She was still loopy from the anesthesia when we got home. The vet suggested keeping her isolated to prevent her from jumping on things and injuring herself before she came down from her high. My only choice was the bathroom. All was quiet for a minute until the unrelenting meowing and clawing at the door commenced. I let her out. She wobbled on her feet and walked in circles. But did that stop her from jumping on the furniture? Of course not. Once ensconced on the couch, she proceeded to chew off her stitches.

Her young cat life continued on that path of determined tenaciousness with one glaring exception: she completely lacked a predatory instinct.

Petrified of spiders, I was thrilled that I would no longer have to kill them myself now that I had a cat to do the job. I was so pleased when Felicity caught sight of her first arachnid. Her body low to the ground, she stealthily approached her prey and pounced. The spider lay trapped beneath her paw. The paw lifted, the spider scrambled and the paw came down again, gently. With a curious look on her face, Felicity kept repeating the action. She kept it up for about five minutes until she lost interest and the spider scurried off. Spiders weren’t prey for her. They were playthings. Back to spider detail for me.

And then there was the basement incident when Felicity was seven and we lived with my parents. Poor Felicity had to spend the night in the basement, but it had plenty of room for her toys. Ever the contrarian, though, she had a habit of dumping her toys in her food bowls. One evening after cleaning the litter box, I went to check her bowls. Felicity was eating her soft food. Next to her was the dry food and sure enough a toy mouse lay on top of her kibble. I bent over to pick it up while chastising the cat for leaving her toys in such a silly place and noticed that it was twitching! I jumped back in shock then shook my head in disbelief. There before me was my cat contentedly eating and sharing her bounty with her new friend, a live mouse.

She was hopeless as a predator. On the plus side, she had a strong pacifist streak. Live and let live seemed to be her motto…until she entered her dotage and finally embraced her predatory nature. It only took her seventeen years. Her victim: a gecko.

As anyone who lives in Florida knows, if you leave your front door open for any length of time, you will gain a roommate. And those geckos are really hard to catch. One snuck into my house leaving me with visions of it crawling into my bed during the night. It had to go. Though I knew it was useless, I called for Felicity. True to form she didn’t respond. At her age her priorities were sleeping, eating and demanding a petting session from mommy.

It took me awhile to find the gecko and direct it to the front door. On the threshold of freedom for the little lizard, it happened. Swoosh…a paw landed hard on the gecko. Teeth clamped onto its torso and swoosh…in a flash, my wuss of a cat took off for the bedroom. I followed. A girly scream escaped my lips as I watched Felicity’s head swing wildly from side to side, the bottom half of the gecko hanging out of her mouth. I almost gagged when I realized that the gecko’s head and front legs were in her mouth. I couldn’t watch any longer and left. A minute later Felicity came into the living room and deposited the bottom half of the gecko at my feet. I got paper towels to pick up the remains of the dismembered victim. Before I could get a hold of the torso, Felicity grabbed it again and began to chew. She bit off the tail and ran to the bedroom. I threw out the torso and waited until the cat lost interest in the tail to take it to the garbage. I never found the head and upper torso. I assumed that was Felicity’s lunch. Gross. Needless to say, I wouldn’t let her lick me for a couple of weeks.

In the twilight of her senior years, my cat finally logged her first, and only, kill. I should have cheered her achievement. It took her long enough, but I was too repulsed. In the two years after the kill, she still played with the occasional spider and stared at birds and butterflies from the living room window. No other creatures were ever came to any harm.

She was unique, my Felicity, and her contrarian nature extended to her diet too. Cats are known to be lactose intolerant. Not my cat. In the last five years of her life she went crazy for dairy. She had the oddest cravings: whipped butter, ice cream, cannoli filling, skim milk and her ultimate favorite, butter cream frosting.

It’s these memories that occupy my thoughts and my heart today; on what would have been Felicity’s nineteenth birthday, barely four months after she passed away. Today, I choose to celebrate her life with a cupcake topped by butter cream frosting.

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