Friday, January 23, 2009

Winston Comes Home

My first cat after I left home was a beautiful seal-point Siamese that I adopted in law school named Samantha (aka, Sammy Cat or Slammy Cat). One of her most notable eccentricities was that she HATED other cats. With a passion! She would sit on the balcony of my apartment and growl at other cats sitting on their balconies, and on the rare occasion she actually encountered another cat, she would react with the Banshee Scream From Hell and scare the bejeebers out of them. Truly obnoxious.

Sammy Cat died after a bout with a nasty form of cancer and I was devastated. A co-worker whom I knew bred and showed cats had been kindly following the saga (it was 8 months from her diagnosis 'til her death) and had offered support throughout. She saw me a week or so after Sammy's death and stopped me to express her condolences. I told her that as much as I missed Sammy, I was going to have to get another cat soon because my apartment was way too quiet, and coming home to an empty apartment was just worse.

Janet paused and looked thoughtful. Finally, she said, "I normally wouldn't offer a cat to someone who had just lost their beloved pet, but I have a unique situation." Janet was getting ready to get married, and she was marrying another cat breeder that she had met on the show circuit, so they were going to be combining catteries. Between them, including pets, kittens and everything they had almost 40 cats, so they were looking to thin the herd! They had agreed that they were not going to keep any more kittens that they couldn't sell-- they had to find homes for cats who were not already household pets.

She went on to explain that she had this one kitten... he was five months old and all of his littermates had been placed. The folks on her "kitten list" didn't really want him because his markings were very poor. She said that he was a very sweet boy, very social, and from a litter from one of her favorite cats, a melanistic (black-on-black) girl. I asked her what kind of cat he was and she said, "A Bengal. Specifically, he's a seal-lynx point, or snow leopard Bengal." My first thought was, "What's a Bengal?" I had to go back to my office and look them up on the Internet to see what she was talking about.

The next morning, Janet played a very dirty trick. She left two Polaroids of this adorable kitten on my desk! He looked for all the world like a lynx-point Siamese: A cream colored cat with tabby markings on his face, ears, feet and tail. As it turns out, that was the problem: He was supposed to have spots on his body, and he didn't. He looked like this:

Now, I ask you, was this fair?

Cut to a year or so later. Winston was driving me crazy. He was certainly fun and lovable and incredibly goofy, but he CRAVED attention! From the time I got home he was Velcro-Kitty: Every time I sat down he was in my lap. He wanted to play all of the time, and we would play fetch with his furry toys for half and hour at a time. Winston was always a Night Crawler, so after I went to bed, he'd be up and around, getting bored, and he'd start to bring me toys. I would wake up surrounded by cat toys-- mice, fur balls, pom-poms, even his fishing toys with the long sticks! When he really wanted to get my attention, he'd dunk the soft toys in his water dish first then drop them on my bed. There's nothing like reaching over and finding a cold, wet, slimy fur toy right next to your pillow... If I still insisted on sleeping, he'd jump up on one of my dressers and start knocking things off until I yelled at him.

I was getting pretty exasperated and asked Janet and my vet what to do. They both had the same conclusion: Get another cat. Why on earth would I want to do that when the one was driving me insane??!! Janet explained that Winston had been raised in a house full of cats and was very social. He was lonely, and I was his only playmate. Get him a playmate and some of the neurotic behavior would cease. What sealed the deal was that my sister went out of town for 2-3 weeks and I kept her cat Ivan for her. Winston and Ivan were already friends (they were the same age), and Winston's behavior improved dramatically as soon as Ivan was there. After he left, the antics started up again. I was convinced.

I asked Janet if she had any more cats available. As it turns out, she did. She and her husband also did Bengal rescue and they had brought in a mother and kittens shortly before. They had all been placed, but when they came in they brought feline herpes virus with them, and two of Janet's kittens had gotten infected. The kittens would outgrown the virus (it's like a bad cold, but it lasts for several weeks or months), but she couldn't sell them because they had snotty, crusty noses and teary eyes and just didn't look healthy. She brought me: Cinnamon, a tiny brown spotted Bengal with the cutest turned-up nose you've ever seen.

I think Winston thought that I had brought him a pet, but he quickly discovered that even though she was a fraction of his size, she was clearly in charge. They remained best buddies until his untimely death in 2007.

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