We have a Maine Coon cat who rode home from the pet store in my coat pocket as a kitten just before Christmas in 2007. It was one of those deals where the breeder found imperfections in her markings or whatever and she was not fit material for a cat show. She could not be registered and part of the deal was that she had to be “fixed” when she was six months old. So the guys at the pet store had marked her down to 10 bucks.
Months earlier, our old Siamese cat, Socrates, had passed to the great beyond just before he turned his 18th year on earth and Loretta had sworn that she would never have another cat in the house. (Too much mourning and sense of loss when they die. Too much turmoil of the heart.)
But I kept asking her; “What is a house if it doesn’t have a cat in it?” And she had no easy answer.
As long time readers already know, I have this keen superstition about mentioning pets by their first names in the paper because they seem to suffer a quick demise every time I do so. Which is why I am not mentioning our current feline by her given name. So, for editorial purposes, let’s just call her Underfoot Pussyfoot. Or UP for short.
We had gone into the pet store to get fish food for Lo’s aquariums and I saw UP hunkered in a corner away from the other kittens in the cage. She was not as big as my fist. I reached in and picked her up, much to the amazement of the store owners who swore that she was ultra human-shy and basically untouchable. But, she took to me like apple butter to biscuits and she cuddled in the crook of my arm as we walked about the store. I suppose that I should say here that my wife has never seen a tropical fish that did not interest her, which means that the shopping around took half an hour.
In the meantime, UP had gone to sleep there at my elbow and she and I had quietly fallen in love.
So, finally, I told Loretta that all I wanted for Christmas was this kitten and she finally acquiesced.
UP is now well over three years old and still growing and she is stunningly beautiful. The book says that Maine Coons grow until they are five years old. It also says that they are not lap cats, highly independent, but that they like to be around to “help” you do whatever it is that you are up to.
In my case, UP is my constant on-site consultant whenever I’m doing anything inside the house. If I get up at night for any reason, she is immediately on my heel. UP fits the cat book description of Maine Coon from attitude down to the photo illustration.
When I am writing or checking e-mail, she is never more than three feet away and her eyes follow my fingers on the keyboard. When I kick back on the couch to read, she sits atop the back behind my shoulder to make sure that I don’t miss a word. When we take meals in the kitchen, she sits on the floor nearby to make sure that Loretta and I clean our plates. She doesn’t beg unless she is hungry or if we are having fish for dinner and then she wants Purina in her food bowl.
Come bedtime, she either sleeps beside my shoes or bounces up to the foot of the bed and curls up as close as she can get to my feet without actually touching them. Several times a night she patrols her beat downstairs to make absolute sure no mouse is in the house. On at least three occasions, mice have made the mistake of entering our house and then venturing out onto a floor. I have found one, quite dead, on my pillow and two in my shoe but that was more than a year ago. Word is apparently out in micedom this winter that UP is one tough cop and takes no prisoners. We haven’t seen a mouse or, for that matter, any sign of one since UP took on the job.
Once or twice a week, she will hop up on either Loretta’s or my chest when we are reading in bed and demand a bit of loving. She will quietly purr for five or 10 minutes as she graces us with her affection and then she hops back off as if to say, “That’s all you get this time. You can thank me later.”
When company comes, UP disappears in favorite hiding places upstairs. As far as she is concerned, Loretta, son Christopher and yours truly are the only humans with a place in her heart. When we have house guests for a couple or three days, she will venture forth because even shy cats have to eat now and then, but she does not socialize with strangers.
Right now, she is sitting just behind me and staring down the monitor in case I misspell something. I reach down to pet her and she scoots back just out of reach as if to say, “I’m just trying to help, but let’s not get personal about this.“
And that’s just fine by me. I appreciate the company and I know of none that would be better.
UP is easily the best Christmas present I’ve ever received and Loretta will readily agree that a home is not a home unless it has a good cat in it. UP proves that premise well beyond denying.