A new kitty
After my cat Paul died last November, my surviving cat, Clem, began to seem increasingly neurotic. He would stand by the door and meow until I let him into the hallway. When I left for work, he was despondent. And when I came home he seemed especially needy. As time wore on, it occurred to me that Clem might be lonely.
Some time ago, my father suggested that my mother’s cat Sammy might benefit from having a kitten “to mentor.” Of course, I laughed uproariously when I heard this idea. “Cats don’t mentor,” I said, as if only a fool would believe such a thing.
Meanwhile, my mother informed my father that she didn’t want another cat. “I want the cats to dwindle,” she explained. Which I thought was an interesting euphemism for die — one that I now employ with some frequency. In any case, when Paul dwindled I found myself becoming less contemptuous of the idea of feline mentorship. “Maybe Clem needs a little mentee,” I said. “Maybe he needs a companion.”
A few weeks ago, I learned about a 6-month-old cat living in a colleague’s basement. I was told the cat had initially lived in the rafters, avoiding human contact. But she had become friendly over time, and my colleague’s children adored the cat. But they were also allergic, and the time had come to find the cat a new home.
I decided to visit the cat and see what I thought. The first thing she did, when I entered the basement, was hiss at me. But she did play with the string I dangled. And she was cute — a tortoiseshell cat with a brown coat flecked with patches of yellow and orange. I agreed to take the cat, and returned a few days later. She sensed something was afoot, and hid behind the electrical box. We decided to leave her alone. When I returned almost a week later, she had already been placed in the crate and was ready to go.
The cat was very quiet on the drive to my apartment, which I found encouraging. I had envisioned a torturous drive from Scotia to Albany, with the cat’s howls drowning out the music from the radio.
When I let her out of her crate, she darted beneath the La-Z-Boy chair, which is where she spent the next few days. Occasionally Clem would poke his head underneath the chair, and she would hiss at him. I would occasionally lie down on my stomach and pull myself beneath the footrest, where I could look at her and talk to her. Though she refused to come out from under the chair, she allowed me to pet her and would bat at the cat toys I dangled in front of her. I wasn’t surprised when she eventually emerged, chasing around a feather and darting beneath the bed.
“What should I name her?” I asked a friend.
“How about Clempanion?” my friend said. “Since you got her to be Clem’s companion?”
“I don’t know,” I said. “Clempanion doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue.”
Eventually, I decided to name the cat Goji, which is short for Gojira, the Japanese word for Godzilla. During Goji’s brief residence under the La-Z-Boy chair, I wasn’t sure she was going to make a very good Clempanion. But in the past few days, she’s really come into her own. She’s very playful, and has developed the bad habit of attacking my feet, which now have little scratches all over them. Every day, her territory expands. She sleeps on and under the coach, and likes to jump on the bed and run around. Sometimes, she sleeps beside me, or in my lap. And she purrs very loudly. Instead of hissing at Clem, she likes to approach him and sniff his nose.
For the most part, Clem has handled all of this with aplomb, though he occasionally feels the need to assert himself. When Goji attacked his tail, he hissed at her. And he always looks a little perturbed when she dive-bombs his food after I place it on the floor. But for the most part, he is adjusting to his new friend, and last night we were all able to hang out comfortably in the living room together.
The father-in-law of a family friend once voice the opinion that his cat was “the total package” — i.e., the perfect cat. According to the father-in-law, the cat was friendly and playful and cuddly, but had none of the negative qualities one might associate with cats, such as destructiveness and aloofness.
Of course, I scoffed at the idea that any cat here on Earth deserves to be called the total package. Cats are just too persnickety and stubborn to merit such a lofty title. But I’m beginning to rethink my position. It’s too early to say for sure, but Goji just might be the total package. If I can get her to stop attacking my feet and pulling the stuffing out of the La-Z-Boy chair with her teeth, that is.
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