Discovering Tortitude: Under Thisbe’s Peach Paw

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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Coming Friday: My review of Cross My Path

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14 Comments on Discovering Tortitude: Under Thisbe’s Peach Paw

  1. Nancy West
    July 3, 2018 at 7:47 pm (5 months ago)

    I cried reading about how you have let Thisbe into your life! What a beautiful little tortie! And, of course, tears flowed reading about your Musetta. (I have a soft spot for tuxedo kitties.) I can’t wait to read your new book! Many blessings, Clea!

    Reply
  2. Alice
    June 29, 2018 at 6:38 pm (6 months ago)

    I fully understood how you felt about missing the feeling of “having that other life in the house.” When my first cat, Abby, died of kidney failure, I thought I would die, too, the sadness was almost too much to bear. She had been so loving and lovable, as Persians tend to be, even though I had adopted her from a local shelter, that the thought of going through such devastation again was too much to even consider. Yet the first night I came home without her, the loneliness was so much worse. So 2 days later I went to a local shelter and to my amazement discovered – and adopted – another Persian, a tortie this time, my first tortie. And I’ve never been cat-less since. Our little furry companions have tremendous therapeutic qualities that would never be understood by those who have never shared their lives with one.

    Reply
  3. Diane Baumer
    June 28, 2018 at 10:49 am (6 months ago)

    I had to laugh when you mentioned your new kitty chewing on the head of the toothbrush! I had to hide mine eventually, when I realized my tortie Silk was chewing on mine. My tabby had not interest, but Silk seemed to love the taste of the leftover toothpaste. She still licks my cups and glasses if I forget to put them away.

    Reply
  4. ConnieV
    June 27, 2018 at 6:17 pm (6 months ago)

    What a beautiful story. I adopted my first tortie a few weeks ago named Fendi. I had lost my 14 years old kitty to cancer after 4 years of taking care of her and I missed having a kitty. Everything you wrote is so on point and I too do not remember any of my previous kittens being as smart and loving as my Fendi is. I wish you years of happiness and I too love the name!

    Reply
  5. Kat
    June 27, 2018 at 2:07 pm (6 months ago)

    sorry for your loss of a beloved friend and companion. we too lost our tortie in sep 2017 after having her for 13 years, moving from nc to wv to fl, noticed in wv she had lump on side of jaw – cancer. but we loved her, she had many of the same qualities and antics as both your beloved torties. we have 3 other feral kitties, so reluctant to get another right now. we still see Missy all around, I cant get used to feeding 3, still look for 4. enjoy your newbie, hope thisbe has a long life with you. God bless, thisbe is beautiful by the way.

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  6. Sharon
    June 27, 2018 at 12:51 pm (6 months ago)

    Lovely story, thanks for sharing. I’m glad you let new life in, in the form of your adorable tortie Thisbe (great name by the way!). My tortie is actually the most insecure kitty I’ve ever had. In a roomful of kittens running around, she was the one hiding in the corner and I was drawn to her. Nine years later, she’s still just as skittish, but she’s a sweetheart and we love her.

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  7. Allison
    June 27, 2018 at 12:31 pm (6 months ago)

    Thisbe sounds like the perfect addition to your family. Kittens are a lot of fun! Enjoy the moments, and seeing her grow up.

    By the way, I recently read your book Feline Mystique. I enjoyed it and will be checking out your other books!

    Reply
  8. Catatopia
    June 27, 2018 at 10:53 am (6 months ago)

    What a sweet story and an adorable kitty! Has anyone warned you tortitude might be addictive? My first tortie was into everything and even convinced me she had exclusive rights to what seemed like a bed for people. Despite my determination never to get another tortie, I found myself carrying home another one a sad year after losing the first. I suspect Thisbe will prove great company and inspiration for your work.

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  9. Roby Sweet
    June 27, 2018 at 8:46 am (6 months ago)

    Thisbe is beautiful, and her name is perfect! Our tortie, Paisley, came to us at 6 months old and immediately took charge in a household with 3 senior cats. Now, over 12 years later, she has matured into a more laid-back cat but still has a strong sense of mischief and being in control of all pets and people.

    Reply
    • Clea Simon
      June 27, 2018 at 10:12 am (6 months ago)

      Thank you, Roby! And greetings to you and Paisley!

      Reply
  10. Janine
    June 27, 2018 at 7:55 am (6 months ago)

    I enjoyed hearing about your new baby. She sure is cute and it seems she keeps y’all on your toes. Makes me want another kitten.

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    • Clea Simon
      June 27, 2018 at 10:13 am (6 months ago)

      She is definitely getting us in line! But we love it!

      Reply
  11. Leon
    June 27, 2018 at 2:01 am (6 months ago)

    What a beautiful cat.. I know the feeling. We lost our dear Cat last year, suddenly. She passed away while crossing the street and a car bumped into her. Still so so sad about it.. but not long after that we adopted two new cats and we’ve never been happier! Hope you’re alright with grieving and enjoying your beautiful new cat.

    Reply
  12. Clea Simon
    June 27, 2018 at 1:14 am (6 months ago)

    Thanks for having us here, Ingrid!

    Reply

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