By Joyce A. Laird
Always the cat remains a little beyond the limits we try to set for him in our blind folly.
My next-door neighbors were in their mid-seventies and very much into a healthy lifestyle. Part of their regime was a five-mile walk every day. One spring day, while out watering, I saw them striding toward me, heading for home in their blue-and-white jogging suits. They walked to my front gate and handed me a very small gray bundle of fur and told me that the kitten had been following them for at least six blocks, so they decided to bring it to me.
We have a huge area about a half a mile from the house that is designated for community gardens. They told me that the kitten saw them walking past the gardens and jumped out of the bushes and ran to them meowing. They tried to put it back inside the garden fence, but it kept coming out.
They walked away briskly, figuring that the little fur ball would give up and go back inside to its surely wild mother, the gardens being full of feral cats. It didn't. The tiny paws beat the pavement as fast as they could to keep up with the pair, mewing all the way. Finally they relented and decided to bring the little vagabond to me.
I didn't want another cat since I was on the road a lot with my business, but my daughter said she would help with the kitten. The neighbors also traveled a lot, but they said they would share in her upkeep if I would let them take her to their house when their granddaughters came over to visit. I agreed.
Although very tiny, she was completely weaned and eating regular food. She immediately showed my old tomcats who was boss, and she walked right up to my Husky/Samoyed mix Lady, like a flyspeck on the nose of an elephant, smacked her away from her food, and started chowing down on Lady's meal. We laughed and named her Sassy.
The first thing we did was to take her to the vet. After a full checkup and her shots, the vet gave us bad news. Sassy was FIV positive. She would need special care, and even immunizations would not help her. Her first germ could be her last. He recommended we put her down, rather than go through the stress and expense of trying to keep her healthy. After a short confab, my daughter and I decided she was worth the risk. Sassy fought to find a family and we were not going to deny her.
Sassy was no ordinary cat. She got a kick out of alarms, particularly the stove timer. As soon as she was large enough to jump, she figured out how to move the timer dial on the back of the stove to make the timer alarm go off. She'd delight in setting it and jumping down to wait for it to go off so she could watch someone rush into the kitchen to turn off the noise. She was so persistent that I had to put duct tape over the dial.
Sassy visited the neighbors whenever their granddaughters came to visit. The girls would come over and ask if Sassy could play, and I'd hand her over. Sassy was always gentle with the girls. At the end of the day, they'd bring her back. I often wondered if being with the girls and watching them taught her the best trick in her bag.
Sassy started avoiding the cat box. I cleaned it and so did my daughter, and we both noticed there was less to clean. We started searching and sniffing around the house, and within days we tracked her down. She was using the toilet in our front bathroom. My daughter was first to figure it out, and I didn't believe her.
I'd heard of people potty training cats, but had never heard of a cat potty training itself. But sure enough, my daughter pulled me to the bathroom door, and as I peeked in, there was Sassy, poised over the commode, doing her thing. Afterward, she walked daintily around the toilet seat, scratching at it as if she were covering up her deposit with cat litter.
I went into the bathroom and flushed the toilet, figuring it would scare her away from the toilet and back to her litter box. It didn't. She sat on the rim of the seat and watched as I flushed.
After that day, we tried to keep the front bathroom door closed, figuring it would force her back to using the litter box. We only got a messed up paint job on the front of the bathroom door. Sassy would stand, scratch at the doorknob and meow until someone opened the door for her. Then she would rush in, jump on the toilet and relieve herself. She would paw at the handle to try to flush it until someone came in and did it for her. From the time she was two until she passed away in her sleep at seven years old, Sassy refused to use a cat litter box and only used the toilet.
I hope the toilets in kitty heaven are easier to flush than down here.