Izzy could be the most beautiful cat in the world. She is small and lean, with stripes and dots all shades of brown and gray and snowy white. She smiles lovingly and is likely to jump up on my lap no matter where I sit. She presses the top of her head against my chin and leans into my chest. The closest thing to a cat hug I’ve ever felt. If I tilt my head down to kiss her head she smiles more fully and presses up against my lips. Surely the sweetest creature ever to exist.
She sleeps away most days curled up on one of the kids’ vacant beds or ours, sometimes spread out widely on the cool tile floors of the upstairs hall and bathroom. She is short haired but still leaves a trace of sheddings on her favorite spots.
I picked her out at the animal shelter. She had a brother, Senor Guapo. He wasn’t a brother by blood but a brother of common roots at the shelter and shared dual adoption. The two kittens were just what my family needed at the time. A pair of babies to be cared for gently, and adored. Even our giant golden retriever was tender in his curiosity. Izzy was tiny and sick. She developed a cough that took some time to recede. Guapo was typically boyish and crazy. Where Izzy was cautious and skitty, Guapo was bold and stupid. He ultimately met with his demise as a result of his careless nature, simply not returning home one day. We live at the edge of significant wilderness. There are trails and some motorized traffic – four wheelers and dirt bikes. But for a cat, it is deep wilderness filled with prey and predator alike. We were able to keep the kitties confined for the first year but once they started sitting in the window sills and yeowling to be let out, crying to be allowed to follow us outside into the garden and around the yard, we installed a cat door.
They happily came and went, much relieved to bypass the litter box for the great outdoors. This was a sweet smelling benefit for us as well.
Izzy, for all her sweet demeanor and loving ways, is a fierce and successful predator. In her first few years as outside hunter, she would occassionally deliver a variety of goods to the floor of our bedroom, or the kitchen, or the upstiars bathroom, neatly on the bathmat.
This summer, she has graduated to depositing dead animals on all three floors. In addition, she brings live unwanted guests into the house. Squirrels, chipmunks, birds, and bats. I welcome them as I would my child’s friend whom I don’t much like, but out of love for my son or daughter, will smile and feed them a snack and make them feel at home. Long since gone is my sqeamishness at seeing something scurry across the floor. I only feel sympathy for them, knowing that if they were scurrying, it was likely to end soon.
Rodent guests are normally my husband’s domain. Sometimes, when we are awoken at 3am by the spasmodic scratching of a flying squirrel trying to out maneuver our carnivorous kitty, Ed will attempt to capture and free it. Sometimes, we just roll over and go to back to sleep listening to the sounds of the hunt move around us.
I grew angry at Izzy for exercising her birthright when I once arrived home from work to find bird feathers spread from one end of the living room to the other side of the dining room, in essence the entire first floor of the house. I looked around and found behind a closet door, a wounded dove, with featherless patches and obvious injuries, hiding in the dark. I gently picked it up and placed it outside, at the bottom of the yard under a small bush. The following morning, I went and checked the bush. The dove was gone. I hope she escaped the killer I keep in the form of a small, smiling cat.