Now, now, get your dirty little mind out of the gutter you pervert. I am referring to two pussycats, Peni and Ari. This month marks one year since they passed on, but that is not the focus of this post. I simply want to share a little of them with you.
Peni was never really my cat. Mr. Brat, my first cat, brought her home one day to be his, ahem, lover. I sat on the couch reading when he walked in the door with this little creature in tow. Now Mr. Brat was a big cat- he stood knee high and was three feet long from head to to tail. When he was normal weight, he was 16 pounds, but he was fat and weighed 19 pounds. This little skinny kitty trailing behind him couldn’t have been more than 6 pounds, and she was full grown. She also had a strange feature- her tail was
flat. Completely flat. I had never seen anything like it.
I sat there stunned for a moment as they filed into the kitchen. Mr. Brat didn’t like other animals. What the heck was he doing bringing home a kitty? He came out of the kitchen towards me, meowed loudly, and ran back in. I got up to follow him as he repeated the gestures. He kept running to his food bowl and meowing excitedly. She sat eagerly next to his bowl, waiting. Since Mr. Brat was so fat, I kept the bowl empty. He was like a Hoover, inhaling every bit of kibble he could get his tongue on.
I assessed the situation. Clearly he wanted me to put food in the bowl. But if I did that, would he suck it all down, sending his diet into a tailspin? I debated, then decided to add some food. I watched in amazement as Mr. Brat lay down nearby. He made no move toward the food (this would be the only time in his life he would do this) and allowed this new kitty to eat.
When Peni had her fill of food, Mr. Brat led her into the bedroom. I stood in the kitchen staring at scraps of kibble trying to figure out what had just happened, then went back to the living room to finish my book. A while later, I went into the bedroom to get something and found the two cats entwined on the bed. They both froze and looked at me as if I had just walked in on something. I grabbed what I needed and got out.
For the next 11 years it would be that way. I would always feel like a third wheel in the room, like I had just walked into an intimate moment. They were inseparable. Peni was physically attached to Mr. Brat at all times, unless he shook her off because he needed some space. When he died in 2004, I expected Peni to die. She stopped eating and spent all her time sleeping. But she pulled through and lived another five years. The main difference was that for the rest of her life, she was physically attached to me at all times, unless I shook her off because I needed some space. But she was still never mine. She was always Mr. Brat’s.
Ari was mine from the beginning. Some young girls brought him and his two siblings into the emergency veterinary clinic where I was working. They had found them in a parking lot. Since these kittens were only about 10 days old, they needed ’round the clock care. So I took Ari home. I bottle fed him and carried him around in my backpack (protected) to all my classes at college. I would take him out and feed him every four hours. We named him in philosophy class, Aristotle, and I had big plans for him. I would train him to walk on a leash and do tricks.
Then I noticed he wasn’t normal. His reactions were odd, his gait was off, he was clumsy and would fall constantly, never landing on his feet. As he got older, I noticed his eyes were just a tiny bit crossed. He was my Jerry’s cat. If a cat could be autistic, then he was. Looking at him was like peeking through a crack in a wall. You could see someone was on the other side, but never get a full view of them. The only way you could have contact with them was by touching the wall. So I touched him a lot. I held him and hugged him and carried him and scratched his ears, and he would purr, or try to bite me, depending on his mood. He offered me joy and laughter, lots of laughter, and in his own way, he loved me, saw me as his mother.
When he was a couple of years old, he lost the tip of his tail. I was talking on the phone with a friend, pacing around the living room, when Ari ran in from outside growling and snorting. Still talking, I wandered out the door and looked around. I saw what looked like one of those black snake fireworks, the little black tabs that you light and they start to create ash in the shape of a snake. I picked it up and rolled it between my fingers. I stopped talking. EW! I realized I was holding the cap of his tail! I hung up the phone and ran inside.
Ari stood squarely, in the middle of the living room, growling and snorting. He flicked his tail. A stream of blood painted the wall behind him and the ceiling above. Damn! As I said, his reactions were not normal. In his anger, he turned and started chasing me. I ran, frantically looking for protection. He ran, looking to take his frustration and pain out on me, painting my apartment walls and ceiling with blood. I leaped onto the bed and grabbed a pillow, holding him at bay like a lion tamer. He circled me, snorting and growling. I don’t remember how I did it, but somehow I managed to corral him and throw him in a carrier without losing any fingers.
I toted him off to the vet where I worked, and we repeated the lion-tamer scene to sedate him. Once he was out, I could see why he was so distressed. There was nothing but exposed nerves and bone at the tip of his tail. The doctor removed that, stitched it up, and then we bandaged the area. When Ari woke up, he checked out his bandage and seemed pleased. He liked it and paraded it around proudly.
Two weeks later, we removed the bandage, and had to sedate him to do it. I took him home, and when he woke up, he was NOT happy. He growled and snorted and whipped his tail around breaking open his stitches and streaking my newly painted walls and ceiling with blood. I was not happy. I corralled him and toted him back to the vet to repair the damage.
This time, we bandaged the end of his tail so well it was like a ball on the end of a chain. The bandage ball was heavy and the end of his tail drooped with its weight, but he was pleased when he saw it. Now he paraded about the house swinging the ball on the end of his tail and bonking the other cats on the head with it. They hissed and growled, but I swear I saw Ari smile each time he clubbed one of them. The bandage stayed on for a full month, mostly because Ari got a bit hysterical if I made a move to take it off. By the time it was removed, he was completely healed.
Ari lived to be 14 years old. He developed a squamous cell tumor behind his eye July of 2009 and had to be put down two weeks later. I had expected Peni’s death, but Ari took me by surprise. And while I was devastated by his passing, over time I knew that he was off in some better place, the wall that blocked him from the world removed. I like to imagine that he gives joy and amusement to some giggling god in some afterlife. At the very least, he made my life a little richer just by being a part of it.
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