Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Introducing Reserve Cat

One year ago this week, our old German Shepherd Blitzen died peacefully in his sleep, stretched out across the doorway to the sewing room.

Two days later, the spousal unit pointed out that if we didn’t get another pet soon, the Drama Queen was going to kill us (his exact words). He suggested a kitten, but one old enough to stand up to her. So, in the middle of a blinding snowstorm, we drove to the local no-kill shelter, which located in an old barn next to the gun club on Route 9 (I’m sure that’s a coincidence).

It’s a privately run shelter and is very much an ad-hoc shoestring operation. Their definition of small animal appears to be somewhat elastic as there were half a dozen horses, three beautiful Malemutes and a couple of ostriches among the residents when we arrived (one of the ostriches had been beaten over the head by some upstanding citizen to the point where its right eye was missing).

The cats were in the top of the barn, in a series of partitioned-off small rooms overflowing with every age, size and color of felines. We had almost succumbed to a coy black fluffball when a little redheaded cat in the next space noticed us and immediately began trying to tear down the partition with his bare paws, yelling at the top of his voice all the while.

We entered the other room and the redhead leaped a good nine feet across the floor, dug his claws into the spousal unit’s Carharrt, and frantically turned on the purr. After that it was no contest; he wanted us so badly!

The paperwork was handled by one of the shelter owners, a gentleman with a strong resemblence to Santa Claus. As we waited, the office cats checked us out while the redhead still clung to us, purring if anything even more loudly. We were head-bumped by a very large, sleek and friendly tabby. Santa looked over his eyeglasses and said kindly “That’s Soldier Boy. I’m afraid he’s not available.”

Seems Soldier Boy’s human was called back to active duty for Iraq and, having nowhere else to take him, the young man brought him to the shelter in the hopes they could find him a good home. Santa and the rest of the staff determined that Soldier Boy would be kept and cared for until his human returned.

(I sometimes wonder if the young man has made it back. If he did, his cat is waiting for him.)

We managed to detach Rufus (his shelter name) from the spousal unit and insert him into the cat carrier, a new experience and one he let us know he really did not care for. When we got him home I’m afraid the Drama Queen regarded him rather less as the answer to a maiden’s prayer and rather more the way the mayor of Atlanta regarded William Tecumseh Sherman.

It was not love at first or even second, third, or fourth sight.

Granted, he stank. The unmistakably ammoniac aroma of an overcrowded and understaffed shelter clung to him until I coordinated an introduction to some waterless pet shampoo. He also had (still has) a high prey drive and attacked my knitting, my running shoes, the remote, and the most recent issue of National Geographic with equal zeal. He didn’t attack the Drama Queen—he wasn’t in her weight class yet although from the size of his feet it was only a matter of time.

He made himself right at home; letting us know that his likes include poached eggs, toes under the covers, anwed welkerring acwroiss compiwerter kurwobards. Dislikes included the vacuum cleaner and being ignored.

It was also clear that he was/is a calculating charmer. As a shelter animal, Reserve Cat spent his first four months without the petting and cuddling that goes with belonging to a family. It has left him greedy for affection and not a little insecure—how long is this good life going to last?--and he never misses a chance to throw himself into the closest available lap, flopping over on his back and writhing blissfully, all the while vibrating like a furry orange Evinrude. Standoffish, he’s not.

He sits at the position of attention, feet together, paws at a 45 degree angle, shoulders back, chin up; and then gives you that wide-eyed gosh-I’m-so-cute-it-hurts look. He drapes himself across the spousal unit’s legs when the man is lying in bed watching tv. He chases wadded up balls of paper, small stuffed toys, and golf whiffle balls, proudly carrying them back to be thrown again. He’s sweet-natured and loving and utterly adorable.

The Drama Queen still hates his guts.

She hides in the linen closet and watches him with her eyes narrowed and a speculative look on her face; and if she had opposable thumbs and could get the hatch open, I think she’d probably push him down the laundry chute.


T-Mom said...

What a great story! And pictures. Thanks for sharing.

Elizabeth said...

Oh my, I laughed 'til I cried. We have an orange tabby shelter cat too who sounds very similar in temperament - he grabbed onto us (and they don;t keep up with the nail trimming in those places!) and wouldn't let us leave without him either.

Congrats on your new family member. :-)

Shay said...


his other "shelter habit" which only lasted a few months was to take all the kitty toys and pile them in a little fort on the bed.

The other cat did not care (they were her toys but she never played with them!). We would kick them off the bed every night, and next morning there he would be, asleep on his pile of little furry-belly-bally-jingly things.

That and a Beanie Baby alligator I won in a Scrabble contest. He just loved that alligator.