We'd been married for not much more than a month, and I'd made it very clear from the beginning that if I had to live in a gritty apartment above a Chinese takeaway and a Portuguese hair salon, that I'd be needing a critter. Actually I'd be needing a critter to keep me company no matter what. I could only survive moving off the farm if I had an animal living with me. We went to the humane society one Friday evening to look for a cat who needed a home.
I knew I wanted a black cat. I think black cats are beautiful. And I love anything black.
In a room full of flicking tails and disinterested looks, there were four black cats. One was called Ebony. She was very cute. She blinked and mewed and purred. She had a little jingle bell on her collar. I couldn't deal with it. Just too cute. Too much competition.
The second black cat was a perfectly acceptable male who made absolutely no impression on me. I hope some perfectly nice people picked him up.
Another cat sat in composed stillness in the back of his cage, staring haughtily at us. I looked at the name tag on the door. Lucifer. The damn cat was called Lucifer. I had to object, because at that point, I still had three grandparents living, and I wanted them to come visit us, and couldn't imagine introducing my pastor Grandpa to a cat named Lucifer. For cryin out loud. Of course I could have changed his name, but...he was damn scary. The cat did not move. Not even the tip of his tail. I was convinced this cat would murder me in my sleep. Next.
In my memory he was the last cat we saw, but he may have just been the one we kept coming back to. He was a big rangy cat with a white spot on his chest and crooked ears. His name tag said Manny; he was a year old. The keeper told us that he had arrived there in pretty bad shape. They'd had to sew that ear together because it was ripped.
He meowed pleasantly at me. I stuck my finger through the cage. He pressed his nose to my fingertip, totally lost any composure he had, and rubbed his cheek along my finger before rolling right onto his back. "I'd like to see him," I breathed.
When the keeper handed him to me, he -I kid you not- laid a paw on each of my shoulders like he was wrapping his arms around me. I think I groaned with happiness. "This one. I want this one."
It'll be fifteen years this August! He has been the best cat I could ever have hoped for. He's friendly, affectionate, clever, and damn funny. He's helped me raise two babies and in that time only scratched once. (And she really deserved to be scratched.) In fact, our second baby was born in our apartment. Our cat was on the other side of the bedroom door, trying to meow patiently. It was a quick 45 minute birth, luckily for the Cat, because he wanted to help. Once we opened the door, he settled himself in at the foot of the bed and only left for necessities for the next day and night. He usually takes turns tucking the kids into bed at night.
He's raising the puppy well too. Clearly, the cat is the boss, the way nature intended.
He's an indoor cat. So often I think it would be nice for him, and natural, to get outside, but he's spent so much of his life in the house, that when I tried to let him out he was very nervous. Animals do adapt. He simply rules the house.
When I was growing up there were only two kinds of cats: house cats and barn cats. The two did not ever meet. For my mother, having an animal in the house at all was a new thing. Animals belonged outside. We didn't want our house cat to get fleas or diseases from his outdoor cousins.
Our current barn cat really does appear to be a cousin! Here's my Dad's barn cat:
I took these just this morning after I got up. Notice how my cat is still holding down the bed. He's very good at his job.
By the way, we didn't keep his pound name. We fully intended to name our black cat after our favourite British rock guitarist.
But not the one you're thinking.
And not this one either (although old Lucifer there would have made this guy a great pet)
Not this guitarist.
Not this one either, because he's too young.
Or his little brother...they were babies when we named our cat.
We named our cat after this British rock god.
No wonder my cat rocks!