They say cats choose their people, and twice now I’ve received this honor. Last week, I brought home my new feline companion and “creative consultant in charge of moxie”, a little girl named Beatrix. I’d visited her several times at the shelter, and it wasn’t long before she was claiming my lap and growling at the other cats to stay away. She’s not a lap cat, said her carers, and it was pretty clear what she was telling me. “Take me home.”
It’s been a little over a month since Ninja died. Since then, life in the apartment has been odd – a sort of post-cat Twilight Zone where I became self conscious about talking to myself. I’d moved the furniture around and dusted off the top of the bookcase where she had spent her private moments. But I always knew that another cat would call this place home someday. It seemed like the right thing to do – giving another a cat a home.
Beatrix is a delight. She also marks a few firsts for me. When I met Ninja, I’d moved into her house and became a part of her environment. Now, I had to bring a cat into my space and have her adapt. I thought it would be a bigger challenge than it was. The moment Bea came home, she was out of her carrier (Ninja’s carrier, actually) and exploring. She had no need to stay safe in the bathroom. She didn’t mind using Ninja’s litter box or finding Ninja’s scent on the cat tower.
She’s not Ninja, and I don’t expect her to be. I appreciate that she is her own little creature, with her own ideas. Physically, she’s smaller than Ninja, who was longer in the body than the average female cat, and her coloring is a distinguished tuxedo, as opposed to Ninja’s abstract tortoise shell. Bea is petite and rather chic with every appearance of a V-neck sweater and little white gloves.
And she has personality.
From what I understand, two-year-old Beatrix was a young mother and fostered other kittens at the shelter. Since then, she’d been roommates to four other cats, all with their own opinions on things. Bea wanted me all to herself and her hisses and growls were so vicious I thought they were directed at me. But no, it was about nosy Tabitha and sonic-purrer Tiara. “Get away,” she was saying, “this human is mine.”
The evening I brought her home it took three people to wrestle Beatrix into a towel, muzzle her and trim her claws. A ten pound cat is far stronger and more wily than she looks. And if that lion’s roar was any indication, she was deeply enraged. It was hilarious and yet worrisome – would she be a ferocious hell-beast in the apartment? I’d never had this worry with Ninja, who had been front-declawed, and had grown to be a rather blithe creature in her final months – either from her illness or simply growing older… or both.
Beatrix reminded me of a cat in James Herriot’s All Creatures Great and Small stories named Boris. Half wild, the cat caused nothing but trouble for the veterinarians, who had to wear gauntlets and chased him up trees, and more often than not retreated to their car in defeat.
But Bea didn’t turn out to be Boris. She’s a completely different cat, with a soft mew and a loud purr… in utter feline joy at living in a quiet place.
As a writer and creative person in general, it is a good thing to have a little furry creature nearby. Not just for inspiration, of course, but a source for spontaneity, something to ground one in reality when the writing proves itself difficult. Reassurance. Perspective. Watching Beatrix run around the apartment and spring out from behind my trunk in the living room or skip after me into the kitchen makes for a better day. And what can replace the softness of a little cat head?
I’ve got my eye on her, though. Ninja, a furtive beast, liked to play the nice, sweet kitty routine so that she could bite me – the classic ploy. As I was the only recipient of this painful love bites, I suppose I should be honored. I wouldn’t put it past little Bea to try the same. But I’ll take it. She’s a happy girl. And knowing that is a help to me when I find bits of Ninja’s fur stuck to the shower curtain or a discarded black whisker.
This new Creative Consultant In Charge of Moxie has no editing power, and a poor command of the English language, not to mention literature in general, but she has something valuable nonetheless – a zest for a life and a sense of humor. I think we’ll get along splendidly.