Friday, June 08, 2007

A Tale Of Two Kitties

My mother, a charming fifty-something academic, currently lives alone in exactly the sort of quaint inner-east cottage one would expect a charming fifty-something academic to inhabit. It is decorated as one would expect; gourmet olive oil and foreign postcards in the kitchen, papers and files and folders littering the desk around the laptop in the study, an old love seat under a towering bookshelf in the lounge.

Obviously, though, there is one thing every charming fifty-something academic single woman needs in her charming cottage, and that is a cat. Since the familial familiar passed away peacefully some time shortly before the cottage was bought, a new cat was called for. So, about a year ago, my mother started looking about herself for a suitable feline.

She ended up with Amelie. Amelie was a Scottish fold-ear, a tiny little thing with quite the most ridiculous face I've ever seen. She was also extremely active, extremely inquisitive, and mind bogglingly stupid. And wanted to be friends with everybody and everything. My mother spent thousands of dollars on secure fencing. To no avail. Amelie just squeezed through the smallest of cracks, leapt the highest of walls, and wandered off to see what belly-rubbing opportunities were out there.

Many was the time, I am told, that my mother looked out of her window to see a gang of youths gathered in a tight and somewhat menacing circle, only to realise that said youths were in fact taking turns to pat and awwww over her cat. Many was the time that she answered a knock at her door to find a stranger carefully holding her cat and saying 'I found this kitten, is it yours?'. Once, she received a phone call from the local primary school asking her to come and collect Amelie. Most cats would shy away from a horde of 6 year olds. Most cats, indeed, would fail to fit through the security bars that surround primary schools these days. Not Amelie. Twenty small children patting her at once was her idea of fun.

The primary school, with its duty of care to ensure that its charges didn't have allergic attacks, was less amused.

Unfortunately, Amelie's lack of smarts extended to traffic. She liked to lie on the sunbaked road. It's a narrow street, and so most cars tend to drive slow enough that they managed to drive around her. But it was never going to last.

And so one day, poor little Amelie, the stupidest cat that ever was, was no more.

Fast forward to last week, and I receive the following email from my mother:

"After nearly a year of mourning and a lot of inner debate I decided I was ready. So yesterday I went to the animal welfare league, the place where you can go and stroke kittens and play with them and so on. Basically you get to test drive a whole bunch and see which ones you like.

Well the idea of a kitten with all those puddles and pointy sharp edges didn't appeal so even though they were very pretty I demurred. Then I found myself in the cage of a lion - and he adopted me. He is 2 years old, very plain to look at and huge. Even worse, since the description on his cage said ''Big super-affectionate boy", by the time we had discussed him for half an hour he had acquired the moniker ''BigBoy''. It really is too embarrassing."

I find this email charming in so many ways I can't begin to tell you. For a start I am tickled by the fact that she needed to describe what the animal welfare league was, and that her chosen description is 'you get to test drive a whole bunch of kittens'. The image of kittens with pointy edges brought back memories of the summer that the husband and I looked after a friend's kitten. At the time we lived in a very open plan house with a loft bedroom. So there was no way of denying the kitten access. And it was a very pouncy kitten. And it was a hot summer. And we had no air conditioning, so we slept naked with a sheet over us. Which meant that every time one of us moved, the kitten would pounce. Which meant…well, I think we're all familiar with my stories of pouncing kittens, yes?

Anyway, the husband and I went over to the cottage for dinner a few days ago to meet the Cat of Unusual Size. I had rather expected its name to have been changed by then. Apparently not.

It's a lovely cat, as it happens, and the antithesis of Amelie. It sleeps, it purrs, it shows no desire to run away and it hops up onto one's lap without protest. The perfect companion for a charming fifty-something academic.

But I tell you, you haven't lived until you've watched your mother lounge on a sofa with a glass of wine, calling out "Come here, Big Boy...come here."


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