Penny and I met at the Humane Society 15 years ago when she was about 6 months old. She was a beautiful short-haired, copper-colored piebald tabby, calm, affectionate and sick with a cold. The “calm and affectionate” was left behind along with her cold when I adopted her and took her home to my sunny apartment. I thought we’d live together happily ever after, but she had different plans. No sooner did she hit the white carpet in the front room than she was off investigating, bold as if she owned the place. She soon did.
Up on my kitchen counters, behind the stove, on top of the kitchen cabinets, on the dining room table and all living room furniture. No spot was off-limits as far as she was concerned. I tried everything I could think of to keep the kitchen sanitary, from rattling a tin box filled with metal screws and nails to scare her off the counters, to spraying her with water from a water pistol. I even covered the food prep areas with aluminum foil. Nothing fazed her.
There came a point fairly quickly in our relationship when I realized if we were to live together amicably, I’d have to back off. It meant scrubbing down the kitchen before any cooking, but so be it. I wanted to enjoy my feline companion.
Much of that enjoyment I expected from physical contact. I imagined sitting in my rocker with her purring contentedly in my lap while I stroked her soft fur. I think she may have agreed to sitting with me for a few seconds, but petting her then, or any other time was something she didn’t like and wouldn’t tolerate. (Over time, however, she’s grown to enjoy it.)
It will may come as no surprise to learn I eventually had to let her outside. She was much too active to be an indoor cat, despite all the toys, scratching posts and attention I provided. So with trepidation I let her out. I didn’t see her again for 8 days. I nailed up signs around the neighborhood, called animal control and went out looking for her every day. When I’d finally come to terms with losing her, I heard her at the door one night, howling like a wild cat.
For the past 13 years we’ve lived in a little house in the country with a fenced yard that she guards with her life. She’s a happy inside-outside animal, but last summer she refused to come inside. I ended up with a terrible infestation of fleas. I couldn’t get rid of them until she decided to return.
And once inside she began behaving like the aged cat she was. She slept most of the time except to eat and make brief forays outside. No more climbing on kitchen counters. She was perfectly behaved, the kind of cat I thought she’d be 15 years before. But I also realized she probably wouldn’t be around for another winter. I was sad.
I realize now there’s a lot of truth in the saying that cats have 9 lives. Rather than her body lying in a little grave in my garden now, she’s back to her old ways, as frisky and feisty as ever, and I’m back scrubbing counters to avoid eating her fur with my food.