I have to start this story long before MiMau's arrival; please bear with me for a minute. When we were married five years and bought a house, we bought our first poodle. He was black, fiercely beloved BeauBear, ill with Addison's Disease from age 3 to his demise at nearly 11. Toward the end of his life, my sister acquired a new barn cat. A tiny kitten, she had been removed from a household where the toddling children had been manhandling her, dipping her in and out of mop buckets full of dirty water and the like. The poor little rescue was not successfully assimilating into the existing barncat population. She wasn't allowed to eat at the communal dish, not accepted into the group at all. Sister worried about her and begged me to take her. I had not had a cat for a long time, although I always loved them. The overwhelming amount of attention required by the sick dog made me a little leery of taking on another pet, but I met the little girl, a dark tortie, fell in love and brought her home. Named her KittyBear. BeauBear didn't like her, but she would cuddle up behind him on his bed at every opportunity, just to be near. She began to gain weight and to thrive, and by the time poor BeauBear reached the end of his road, she was well-established as The Beloved Cat.
We sold that house and moved to a rental home while this house was being built. KittyBear liked the big back yard, behind which was a new street full of new homes with big yards. Torties, I think, are nearly always great hunters because of their natural camouflage, and she often brought us offerings of mice, leaving them on the back step. For eight months, KittyBear was our only furchild. And then we brought home two tiny chrysanthemum-petal-headed baby poodles. KittyBear observed and hid and generally stayed out of the way while I overmothered the puppies and worked hard at housebreaking them. One night at 11:30, as I struggled back through the kitchen toward bed, after what I strongly hoped was Last Time Out, I caught KittyBear's eye as she lolled on the kitchen counter archly watching the two tiny dogs passing by below.
"You could help, you know!" I said to her. She stared back.
A few nights later, Husband and I were in bed. We heard thumping, sounds of merriment and activity, coming from another room. I got up, crept down the hall . . . to find our three pets sitting in a triangle . . . in the center of which was a small living mouse. KittyBear had undertaken to teach the poodles how to deal with small rodents. Angus loved it, learned the lesson and loved KittyBear. Max watched and didn't much care about anything except cuddling and fetching. When the poodles were six months old, I got up one Sunday morning and found a tiny deceased mouse on the back step. We never saw KittyBear again.
Max went on happily, playing with his toys and being cute. Angus looked for his kitty sister. When he would hear, in our conversations, the word "kitty," he would pay close attention until nothing further happened to produce an actual kitty. Husband felt sorry for Angus. "Angus wants a cat. Should we get him a cat?"
I put out the word to people: If you hear of an adult female cat who needs a home, let me know. Months went by. Angus continued to exhibit signs of wanting a kitty sibling. I would not go to the shelter. With two same-sex puppies from the same litter, I already had a lot on my plate, petwise. If a cat fell from the sky, I'd happily take it in. If not, Angus would be fine.
My friend Juanita, something of a Cat Lady, called me one afternoon.
"Are you still looking for a cat?"
"Yeah, I guess so. Why?"
"The prettiest cat I have ever seen just walked into my back yard. I've been up and down the street, and nobody knows who she belongs to. Why don't you come over after work and meet her?"
So I did. Juanita met me at her gate, wearing a dark sweatshirt thickly frosted with cat hair and holding a loudly-purring dilute tortie cat. "I think she likes me," she laughed. The cat had come walking confidently along the fence into Juanita's back yard, sat down and waited for a proper acknowledgment. Juanita's neighborhood was home to a number of college students. It was the end of the semester. We concluded that someone, knowing Juanita was a Crazy Cat Lady, had offloaded their young pet near her house, confident that all would be well. I thought the cat was homely. I'd never had a dilute tortie, couldn't make sense of her markings, thought she looked kind of blah. But if ever a cat had dropped from the sky, here, certainly, was one. I had no carrier, so I picked up the cat, got in the car, and started home.
My new little girl settled happily in my lap, curled up and was still: I took that to be a good omen. We were about two-thirds of the way home, twenty minutes' drive, when I looked down at my new pet. She was looking up at me with her green eyes and her tiny pointy chin. She lifted one paw, reached up and softly, softly, touched my cheek for a few seconds.
Cats are born knowing how to seal deals.
Now, of course, thirteen years later, I can't believe I ever thought she was homely. It must be living with us that's done it: she is the most beautiful cat I have ever seen.
10/18/2011 For English Rider, MiMau's photo added (from MiMau and the Importance of Keeping the Upper Paw). There's another fun picture of her at CamoCat.
I have no digital photos of KittyBear and no scanner available . . . but she was beautiful too.