As we speak, our cat, Henry, is sitting on my desk. He is a black and white “tuxedo” kitty, and even though we will celebrate his tenth birthday this year, he still has the air of a kitten; playful, mischievous, and affectionate.
We were extremely lucky with Henry. He was the last of a litter of kittens born to a barn cat in Tennessee. I had gone to visit a friend, and she was acting as foster mother until he could be adopted out. Renee insisted that I take a look at him. We already had two cats, so I knew this would be a “tough sell” to my husband. I almost didn’t want to look at him, because I knew I would fall in love, and then I would have to bring him home. So Renee led me into the laundry room, and there at the foot of the washer was this tiny little thing, no more than six weeks old, and no more than six inches from the tip of his nose to the tip of his tail. When he saw me he rolled over exposing his tiny white tummy and mewing loudly. I picked him up and he immediately began to purr so loudly that he filled the laundry room. Renee laughed, “No muffler!” As I held Henry for the first time, he purred and mewed alternately, walking all over me as if I were nothing more and nothing less than a big mountain he had to climb. As predicted, I fell in love immediately.
I called Art and said, “I want to ask you something and I want you to think about it before you answer, okay?” Knowing something was up, Art gave me a laconic, “Okay”. I told him about the tiny kitty, and he had but one question: “What’s his name?” When he heard “Henry”, he said, “Well, that’s alright, then. Bring him home.” I was so relieved and happy. (It must have been a sign – “Henry” is Art’s middle name).
It was a long way back from Renee’s house to ours. I had driven over with my friend Betty Blair, and she offered to drive back so that I could hold Henry. All the way home Henry mewed and purred and climbed all over me and piddled on me about ten times. Betty Blair was aghast, but she laughed with me when I said, “That’s why God invented washing machines!”
Well, Art’s reaction to Henry was exactly the same as mine. It was love at first sight. I knew I’d married him for a reason.
Our other two (much older) cats – Natasha and Charlie – were less than amused. As soon as they got wind of Henry, they began hissing and arching and puffing up to show how ferocious they were. We had to keep Henry in the powder room for the first week or so that he was with us so that our other cats wouldn’t kill him.
Gradually we brought him out into the rest of the house and we supervised visits with Charlie and Natasha. As time went on, the older cats resigned themselves that this little guy was here to stay. Charlie tended to ignore Henry, but Natasha gradually came to believe that she was his mother. She began to groom Henry at every chance, carefully licking every part of his little body, fairly clucking her tongue whenever she caught a glimpse of a hair out of place. I think she interceded for Henry with Charlie, acting as a distraction so that Charlie would chase her instead of the little one.
At this writing, Charlie and Natasha have crossed over the rainbow bridge, and Henry is our only remaining cat child. He stopped piddling on me as soon as he discovered the kitty litter, and he stopped sharpening his claws on the furniture as soon as we got a couple of scratching posts. But he loves to climb up on my desk while I’m working. He thinks that he should be the focus of our attention at all times. He sleeps on our bed most nights, and he will present himself at three o’clock in the morning demanding to be groomed and petted and generally fussed over. I don’t mind a bit.
Henry is one of those rare phenomena in life. You can’t help but smile when you look at him. Even if it is three o’clock in the morning and he calls you out of a sound sleep to rub his tummy. Even if he has just stood on your computer keyboard and caused you to lose half an hour’s worth of work. Even if he leaps on the table you’ve just set for breakfast and lands on your plate. Even when he has miscalculated a jump, causing a plant to topple over, and leaves a pound of dirt on your freshly mopped floor. For some reason that I can’t fully explain, all you can do is laugh. And I always get the feeling that Henry is laughing right along with us.
Thank you, Renee. What a precious gift you gave us!
© 2005, Robin Munson