A Tale of Three Kitties

Speech #3 - August 24, 2006

It was the best of times It was the worst of times. I'm wondering if Charles Dickens had experienced being a cat owner.

We have three cats: Midnight, Princess and Cleo.

Midnight, named for his jet-black fur, is the oldest and has been with us nearly 12 years. As a kitten, he was a favorite of our son Brad, who was then 11 years old. He carried Midnight everywhere and slept with him at night. Life was good for all of us. The cat was friendly, purred a lot, played with toys, and gave us a lot of pleasure. As he grew, he became a fat, contented, happy cat.

Enter the Princess. Princess was a charity case. Friends of ours were moving to a pet-free apartment and could no longer care for their cat, and asked us to take her. She was young, about a year and a half old, and had been obtained from the SPCA. She had been given her shots and we thought she would make a good companion for Midnight.

We took her in on a trial basis. Within the first week, we were ready to call it quits. She was vicious, had sharp claws, did not get along at all with Midnight and pretty much hissed at everything. But, by the end of the two-week trial period, she had begun to calm down. She wasn't perfect, but we decided to have pity on her and her former owners and keep her.

A few years passed, and although they co-existed, they never really got along well. Midnight would demonstrate his size and superiority by chasing Princess whenever he had the urge. Princess would find her small space to hide. Yet at times, we would find them sleeping on the same sofa or at opposite ends of one of the beds.

We pretty much figured that two cats were plenty, but fate had something else in mind. On one Easter morning, my son Matt's girlfriend discovered a box with two abandoned kittens at church. She decided it would be nice to keep one of them, which she named Cleo, because she thought the kitten looked a bit like Cleopatra. The complication: she lived in an apartment where pets were not allowed. She would care for the cat and take care of its initial medical needs, but the cat would have to live with us. A further complication: a few months later, she and Matt would break up and we would be stuck with another cat.

Certainly, we thought, Midnight and Princess would enjoy having a new companion kitten. A fresh start; they would be "Uncle" and "Aunt" to Cleo. We were the proud grandparents.

The cats did not agree.

Cleo, ever the playful kitten, wanted only to be with them. Midnight and Princess, the older, wiser adults, would have none of it. Still, Cleo was a happy purring kitten, loved being held, loved being in the family.

Being responsible pet owners, Cleo needed to be "fixed." Somewhere along the way, the vet appeared to remove her purr mechanism and installed an evil eye, for she did not forgive me for some time for the indignity forced upon her.

Eventually, the cats achieved a sense of mutual tolerance, although none of them became "buddies." Now, they each take their turn at the dinner bowl, although Cleo still wants to share. They generally maintain a personal perimeter, and if any of the others comes within their space, he or she will let them know.

So, is everything the "worst of times?" Certainly not! Each of our cats has its own unique personality which endears each of them to us. Midnight still shows the most affection, even as he wakes us at 4 AM to jump on our bed, purring and nuzzling. He and I share a favorite food: Swiss cheese.

Princess loves to sleep on a high shelf in our bedroom closet, where she can keep an eye on the neighborhood though a porthole window. As the warm sun streams through the window, she purrs. When she allows herself to be held, she is cute and cuddly. She loves her little cat treats, and the occasional rubber band.

Cleo waits until after 9 PM before she chooses to jump onto my lap as I watch TV. She has regained her purr, and nuzzles my belly. She also likes the cat treats, and an occasional tortilla chip or cracker.

It's been said here that dogs rule, but I contend that cats reign, and with royal names like Princess and Cleo, and perhaps King Midnight, it's no wonder that we are subject to their every whim.

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