Friday, August 04, 2006

I'm lying on my back right now, on our new(ish) comfy couch, my laptop on my lap.

Between the screen and my face is (Miss) Scarlett, my cat, reclined on my chest, suckling her leg, eyes closed and purring. You can feel and hear her contentedness.

About this time 6 years ago a roommate of mine showed up to our shabby, sewage flood prone basement apartment with a kitten as an early birthday gift for me.

She came in a box from the Cambridge Humane Society and was the runt of the litter. She was one of 6 kittens who were seized from an abusive home. Her ears looked way too big for her head, and her tail was way too long for her body. Her kitten-sized collar was so big for her tiny little neck that we had to tape a loop of it together so that it didn't fall off. She was awkward, gangly, and very, very scared of everything.

For the first weeks she slinked along the walls, never stood up tall, and hid under the bed 99% of the time. She was very afraid of people, especially men.

Slowly, and with a great deal of coaxing with food, and me pulling her out from underneath whatever she was under she became less fearful.

Out of nowhere she switched from timid and terrified to being a complete princess. She would spring out from wherever she was when she heard a treat bag opening. She eventually even started sleeping out in the open and coming up to me on her own just to visit.

With her newfound fearlessness came a sense of play. That whole summer I tried not to wear shorts, knowing that the moment I did she would try to climb my leg like a telephone pole so she could sit atop my shoulder.

Every kitten has an appetite to play, but she was something else. She would splash the water in the toilet, carry socks out of my room in her mouth and shake them dead and run full speed after more conventional cat toys. She managed to eat several "feathers on a stick"type toys that summer. I think every toy she had at one point was dropped into the toilet bowl.

The apartment itself, apart from being a sewage-smelling death trap, did have a nice (non broken) window at shoulder height beside the sink. The window ended up being her favourite place to look out, but given that it was almost 5 feet off the ground she used me as a jungle gym, claws out the whole time. to get to the window. I don't think I managed to do the dishes once that summer without acquiring a new scratch.

When I took her to the vet's to get spayed we learned she had a heart murmur. The vet was too worried to do the surgery and risk having her die under anaesthetic. We declined to do it right then, and took her to our vet at home who is not only nice, fantastic, and wonderful, but a fantastic vet I knew I could trust.

She stayed with my parents after being spayed, and quickly wormed her way into my parents' hearts, especially my dad.

She trained him to take her feather toy upstairs and play under the covers of the bed so she could pounce and attack it. Anytime he even walked close to the stairs she would run, full speed, claws out for traction upstairs to wait for him in case he wanted to play (he usually gave in)

No wonder she's such a princess. We're happy to spoil her and cater to her (almost) every whim six years later.

She is nothing like the kitten that first summer, save one thing.

She still suckles her front leg. She'll only do it curled up on me (or Dave, or other people in my family) and I can only describe it as a very deep need for her.

As she gets up off my chest she stretches, looks up at me, and licks her leg to hide any signs of her fur being messy from the suckling. She nudges her face against mine, swats the dog's nose for coming too close, and jumps down.


TB said...

Awww. Both of our cats were strays too and watching them come out of their shells has been so rewarding.

Loved this post.

The Waghorns said...

Reminds me way too much of our life with Sadie & Langley. A very sweet post.

sunshine scribe said...

Oh she is so lovely. You could be on a humane society infomercial. I know, I know ... dare to dream :) But I'm just sayin.

Nancy said...

What a sweet baby.

Our girls were rescued from the animal shelter and each retains a little bit of suspicion over strangers -- but nothing but love for her "parents."

Sta said...

Wow... Our cats really look (and sound) quite similar! I have some photos on my page if you want to compare.

Also, hi. Just stumbled in here today.

Brooke said...

Sooo cute. And anyone who loves the kitties is FINE by me!

Thanks for stopping by and thanks for your kind words as well!

Heather said...

TB: Rewarding is just the right word.

the waghorns: I'm sure our households are a lot alike.

Sunshine scribe: I think our house IS a humane society infomercial. :)

nancy: Scarlett does have a bit of suspicion over strangers still but usually warms up once she sees us interacting with them. Everything is on her own terms.

sta: our cats do look very similar! I actually have two who (at first) were hard to tell apart, then Rhett got chubby and it became easier. Thanks for stopping by!

Brooke: our kitties are definitely loved in this house. thanks for stopping by.