Guest post by Clea Simon
How soon is too soon to invite another feline spirit into one’s life? That’s a question I still don’t know the answer to. We lost Musetta, my beautiful feline muse, in September – nine months ago – and I miss her still. Something will trigger a memory – the sight of another tuxedo cat, though never one with whiskers as long and graceful as hers, a shadow falling by the window where she used to lounge – and I am thrown back into mourning.
And yet, a few months ago, I realized that my sadness had another cause as well. I missed not only Musetta, but having that other life in the house. That other spirit. And so, after a good deal of searching and several false starts, in April we welcomed a rescue from West Virginia, a fluffy little tortie whom we’d only seen in one blurry Petfinder photo.
Since she was being transported up to New England, we didn’t get a chance to meet her. And so, unsure of what exactly we were getting, we prepared our home by setting up a “kitten room,” blocking off the spaces under bookshelves and behind drawers, lest a scared and possibly feral creature wedge herself into some inaccessible space. But the kitten who emerged from the carrier did not run and hide. Instead, she looked around with aplomb, as if to say, “Yes, this will do. I could stay here.” And that night, when we left her downstairs in the kitten room, as all the guidebooks advised, and headed up to bed, we heard how loud she could get. Our newcomer was not going to be segregated, not even for her own good. We lifted the makeshift barrier that had locked her into our living room, and she immediately ran up the stairs to join us, sleeping on the bed with us, as she has every night since.
Is this tortitude? I’ve learned from Ingrid about the mysterious quality of these tri-colored cats, a combination of wit and confidence in their particular genetic composition that can make them more challenging than, well, simpler pets. Certainly, shortly after our kitten’s arrival, we realized that Serena – a name we’d toyed with – was not right, and settled on Thisbe, from Ovid, with the silliness of Shakespeare’s “Midsummer Night’s Dream” forefront in our minds.
That she’s silly and strong-minded, creative and determined, we quickly learned. We’ve seen how she’s incorporated our hardwood floors into her wild bursts of activity, “sliding” into her toys and around corners like a veteran base runner. We’ve witnessed the games she plays – and the ones she creates, like when she “hides” a toy in one of our shoes, and then has to wrestle that shoe around the room, seeking the elusive prey. And we’ve had a few surprises, as when I turned on the bathroom light and found her on the sink, chewing on the head of Jon’s toothbrush.
Do all kittens do such things? Did Musetta? I remember her hiding toys, that’s for sure, and being grateful that the “mouse” in my slipper was stuffed with catnip. But if our beautiful little muse was ever so energetic, it was years ago, and dim in my mind.
Is this simply the joyful new energy of a young creature? I do know that Thisbe keeps us laughing, and on our toes. Alll the while, she is firming her grip on us. I still mess up, occasionally, and call out “Musetta!” Especially when our new fluffball is teetering on the edge of a table, or about to push a glass off a ledge. And, yes, at times like that, I miss my old companion, who had mellowed into a properly contemplative writer’s cat.
In some ways, the wait was too long. In others, not long enough. A faithful reader (and blogger) who is also a cat lover saw an early photo of Thisbe and noted a similarity to one of her own cats. She wrote to me about letting new life into our lives – and welcoming our new little girl into what she called the “pink-toed sisterhood.” At the time, I was so caught up in the craziness of those early days that I hadn’t noticed: Thisbe does indeed have one peach-colored toe on the inside of her left front paw. It is fitting that she should have such a distinctive mark – and that a wise reader should notice it. For while Thisbe does not have the extra digits we usually consider “thumbs” on cats, we are certainly under her little paw.
Clea Simon is the author of three nonfiction books (including The Feline Mystique: On the Mysterious Connection Between Women and Cats) and 25 mysteries, most of which feature cats. New this summer are the black cat-narrated Cross My Path (Severn House) and the pet noir Fear on Four Paws (Poisoned Pen Press). She can be reached at http://www.cleasimon.com