Our first visit, we didn't fall in love. Our second one, though: these two black kittens, one of which was trying very hard to make a jailbreak, caught our attention.
They were probably three or four months old, and this was pre-digital photography, so although I do have "baby pictures," they're only hard-copy prints. If I can find them, I'll scan them and post. Because yeah: these kitties were awfully darn cute.
And also destructive! Oh my! Were we ever in for a shock. We'd just bought a nice new Italian leather couch, and it quickly became decorated with pockmarks (tick tick tick go the sharp little claws as the kitties jump) and loooooooooong sets of scratches (as the kitties chase each other up and down, over and around).
Fortunately, we're pretty Buddhist about such things (as in—what else could we do but just let it go?). And eventually the kitties calmed down.
We named them Java and Jamaica, after black coffee.
At first, they liked each other: snuggled up together, played together.
But pretty soon, it became clear that Jamaica, who was much slighter but also much feistier, had a "thing" about her plump, easygoing sister. Java needed to do no more than step into the room, and Jamaica would go ballistic, dashing at her full tilt, hissing and swiping just as she passed by. No love lost there.
It may have had something to do with food. At first, we tried to feed them what the cat food bag suggested, at set times. But Jamaica was a nibbler: she'd eat a little, then go do something else. Java, in contrast, had to eat all her food—and then she had to eat all Jamaica's as well.
We eventually gave up and installed a perpetual feeder for Java, on the floor in the kitchen. She never got fat fat. She was always 13 pounds to Jamaica's 7. Once she knew there would always be food, I think she relaxed.
Jamaica, meanwhile, always ate strictly out of her own bowl, on the dryer.
Here are a few shots of sweet Jamaica. Because with us, she was quite an affectionate kitty. As long as her sister wasn't in her sightlines . . .
Here's a little story I wrote about a visit to the vet, featuring fierce, furious, fabulous Jamaica.
At the VetI have been standing in the small examining room with its stainless-steel table for five minutes, after a twenty-minute wait in the lobby. I'm here to pick up my cats.
In the lobby, I saw a parade of large black dogs—one with a hurt foot (her name was Paws), another with bad knees (her owner had his own knee operated on a month ago and was walking with a strong limp)—counterposed by a small white poodle with purple-beribboned ears and a long curling pink tongue. I do not know what occasioned his visit to the vet, but he was unfazed. An English boxer came, a little brown terrier went. A gray cat was brought back, a catheter still in its leg from an operation earlier in the day (oops). All this was punctuated by the meek mewing of a kitty in a cardboard carrier punched with holes, waiting very patiently, and very unhappily, to be examined. I’ve found the cavalcade amusing, but I have someone to meet at four, and time is fleeing. The yowling cat in back isn’t contributing to my mood.
Finally the doctor arrives, bearing two carriers—20 pounds of cat, distributed 7-13. I am surprised by her pallor. “Which is the skinny one?” she asks sharply.
“Uh. Jamaica?” I inspect the doctor’s face. Her blue eyes are dark, all pupil. “She’s, um, a little feisty,” I try. Something is obviously not right.
The doctor shakes out her arms. “Yeah. That’s one word for it.” She glances at the larger box. “I’m still shaking.”
I realize that the caterwauling I heard was my little miss cat-of-many-names. Jamaica, Greeny, Fearless Flying Flagstad, Thumper-Puss, Pissy-Puss. Private-joke names. I sometimes wonder what her secret name, her “ineffable effable, effanineffable, deep and inscrutable singular Name,” is. And now, it seems, she’s acquired yet another name—one that is hardly inscrutable. I can guess it already.
The doctor collects herself, says, “Don’t worry, Jamaica’s fine,” then gives me the update: bloodwork, all normal; the abscess on Jamaica’s leg was already starting to drain, so she cleaned it out and will give me some antibiotics; the teeth-cleaning went fine, “It was nice to have no bad teeth, no problems at all.” As she says this, I think of the funny spare tooth in Jamaica’s mouth, jutting down between her tiny upper teeth. And I wonder how I’m going to get the pink liquid antibiotic down her throat without being bitten by the big incisors.
I want to say something to the doctor, who I know is loving and caring. I want to say something sharp to Miss Jamaica, whose ferocity has brought her here before—and will no doubt bring her here again. Abscesses. Torn ears. Patches of shorn skin. She’s a fighter, scrappy and fierce.
The doctor comes around the table, opens the small purple carrier, pats Java. “This is a fat, sweet one. You could easily brush her teeth if you wanted to give it a shot.” She shifts to the larger carrier, glares in at the glaring-back yellow eyes. “But don’t mess with the skinny, evil one.”
Devil-Cat becomes a new official entry in Jamaica’s a.k.a. registry.
* * * * *
Hours later, fat Java is happily ensconced on David’s lap, purring and helping him prepare a discrete algebra lecture. I go looking for Jamaica, and find her hunkered in the bedroom window. She allows me to pet her for a couple of minutes. Her eyes are weepy, and the shaved patch on her otherwise black forearm, where the abscess was cleaned out, shines eerily in the dim light from the hall. Finally, there’s a hint of a purr. She fights to defend her territory—our territory. That’s what the purr says, and it’s why she’s suffering now. She’s not evil; she’s bold, courageous, loyal. Why doesn’t anyone understand?