Ten years ago a stray tabby showed up on our patio with three kittens. The mama cat was barely more than a kitten herself, less than a year old. She was thin and very skittish, but the kittens were chubby and friendly, easily tamed. We found homes for the kittens rather quickly, but it took us a little while to win the mama cat’s trust – especially after we put her in a cage and took her to a vet to be spayed (we are big proponents of spaying and neutering all pets, especially ones that will be outside making more homeless litters).
We were a little leery of bringing the cat we’d named Izzie into our house. At the time, all three of our kids lived at home, and several of us suffer with allergies, especially my oldest daughter. But our neighbor had an unfenced dog that had already killed two cats, a pet rabbit and a young goat — just that we knew about — so we were afraid to leave her outside. I’d read that the average life of a cat outside is 18 months and inside is 18 years. So, she moved inside.
Within a few weeks, Izzie owned the house and we were simply here to serve her wishes. If there is such a thing as a “Stepford cat,” Izzie is it. She uses her litter box. She eats only dry cat food out of her bowl, is not picky about the brands, and won’t even touch any other food that is left out on counters or table. She has never even wanted to step outside since we brought her in; she actively avoids open doors. Maybe she remembers how hard it was out there, especially compared to how very easy it is for her inside.
From the start, Izzie became my son’s cat. Actually, he became hers. If he is in the house, she is at his heels or in his lap. She loves all of us, and will sit in whatever lap is handy — if David’s isn’t available. Now that he is a sophomore in college, she soaks up his company when he’s home on the weekends. I took the photo above yesterday when he was here, stretched out on the couch with his laptop on his chest in a typical teenage pose and Izzie was on his legs, hugging him as if she knew he’d be leaving again in a few hours.
Izzie has her quirks. Less than a month after she moved into the house, she “adopted” one of my makeup brushes from the counter. She carried it by the bristles, meowed at it, licked the bristles as if grooming it. No matter how many times I put it away, she found it again, until I finally gave in and let her have it. She carries her brush all over the house — you never know when you’re going to step on it in the middle of the night. She’s actually on her second brush now, the first finally fell apart. That and a long braided string with a furry “mouse tail” (one of the rabbit hair tails off a pet store cat toy that my daughter tied to the string when the tail fell off the toy) are her only two possessions. They go where she goes.
She’s terrified of the vacuum cleaner and of small children, and disappears whenever either appear inside our house, only to creep out when she’s sure they’re gone. And she has a habit of grabbing a cellophane-wrapped peppermint out of a little wooden bowl on the coffee table and running with it. She does that only when one of us is watching. She thinks it’s funny for us to say, “Izzie!” and chase her to retrieve it. She is also amused by “stalking” my oldest daughter. She crouches down in cat-stalk pose and slowly creeps toward her until she is close enough to pounce on her foot and get into a friendly tussle. She does that only with Courtney — who moved across country last spring. We’re all curious to see if Izzie will remember that game when Courtney comes home for Christmas. My bet is that she will.
Izzie sheds copiously (she can’t help that, of course), necessitating the use of a hand vac and many rolls of that sticky pet hair tape on a handle. Frequent brushing helps, but cat hair is part of having a cat live inside. The allergies have adapted, especially since I try to keep the hair collected and use lots of Febreze allergy spray. That’s the only downside I can think of to having her inside with us, and the joy she has brought us more than makes up for a little extra cleaning.
When David is gone, Izzie can usually be found sitting with me while I work. Although my office includes a desk and office chair, I tend to compose in my easy chair with my feet on a stool and notebook computer in my lap. Izzie wedges herself between me and the chair arm where she sleeps and purrs while I type. Occasionally, she puts up a paw and pushes a key on the computer, which is either her signal that she wants her head stroked or an editorial comment on my writing. I like to believe it’s the former.
It’s hard to imagine our life without this former stray included. Or what hers might have been had she not come to us for a home. And now it’s time for Izzie and me to get back to work for today. She joins me in wishing everyone a great first week in November.