The Christmas season of 2003 started out the same way it had every year. There was gift shopping and wrapping, the endless baking of cookies and pies, Christmas parties, travel preparations…and keeping the two cats I had at the time, Tigger and Noah, from becoming anxious over the holiday rush as well as keeping them out of the presents and pastries.
One morning the week before Christmas, instead of being ambushed by both cats in the kitchen yowling for breakfast, only Tigger made an appearance. He followed me around, meowing incessantly and pawing my leg. I found both his behavior odd—Tigger was usually a quiet cat who could care less if I was around or not—and Noah wasn’t anywhere in sight.
I searched the house, wondering where he was. It wasn’t difficult to spy a ten-pound orange and white tabby, but Noah wasn’t in any of his regular hiding places.
I checked the bathroom. Noah lay in the litter box—apparently dead for several hours. That explained Tigger’s earlier, out of character behavior.
I cried the entire day, even when I prepared him to be buried, wrapping his body in an old towel, the one he loved sleeping on, along with his favorite cat toy. I had no back yard, so a friend and I took Noah and buried him on a hillside from a beautiful cemetery which had a statue of Mary on a fountain. It was a perfect resting place for a cat who gave me such joy in the three short years I had him.
Five days later, the same friend called me. She knew it may be too soon since I just lost Noah, but would I be interested in a cat? Her supervisor from work just rescued a stray who had been roaming the neighborhood with another cat that was hit by a car and killed. Her boss rescued the gray tabby and was trying to find a home for it.
Meanwhile, I could sense Tigger was lonely, so I agreed to take the cat. On Christmas Eve, Spanky would come into my life.
He was three years old, and other than being underweight, healthy. From the moment he shot out of the carrier and explored his new surroundings, I felt sorry for the animal so skinny his spine was visible through his fur. Nevertheless, the rascal gave me his special brand of thanks by dropping a few turds in a corner of the living room and a claw attack on my sofa.
Most cats would hide in new environments, but not Spanky. The moment he spied Tigger, he was ready to play. The newbie was rewarded for his efforts by being smacked on the head and hissed at. Tigger was making it clear that he was both king of the house and Spanky wasn’t Noah.
Spanky didn’t give up, though. That first Christmas was interesting with Tigger and Spanky battling over turkey scraps, so much I had to feed Spanky in another room. He was painfully thin, and needed fattening up before I could get him to the vet to be neutered. It was amazing how that cat went through such a hellish existence before coming to live with me, yet was so affectionate and friendly with both humans and other animals—even with Tigger smacking him around. He still had rare accidents; I found “presents” behind the sofa.
Tigger finally tolerated him the moment Spanky stole ornaments from the tree and swatted them around in glee. The new cat toys were practically forgotten, and within two weeks, the two of them were even eating together without killing each other. Once he saw Tigger heading to the cat box a few times, Spanky’s accidents ceased. Evidently, Tigger didn’t teach him about covering his mess, because Spanky left it in the open. The odor was nauseatingly putrid, making me do a quick scoop and getting rid of the offending mess as soon as possible before we all gagged from the stink.
Tigger passed away the following February (I’m guessing from a broken heart. Even though he no longer minded Spanky being around, he never recovered from Noah’s death).
Six years later and another Christmas approaching, Spanky is still with me. He’s almost nine years old and twelve pounds. When some cats are ready to pack it in at that age, preferring to spend the days slumbering and ignoring human contact unless absolutely necessary, Spanky is a playful and affectionate “little rascal” as he was when he arrived Christmas Eve 2003.
He also has feline friends who were also rescued from a worst fate—Popeye, an orange and white domestic shorthair, and Tiger, an orange tabby. Did I mention Tiger is declawed and only six pounds, yet kicked Spanky’s behind more times than I can count? Their hardcore staring contest turned full-fledged combat have to be seen to believe.
As I type this, Spanky is staring at me with large green eyes. I wonder if he figured out that he’s being featured in a book called Talking Turkey? For some reason, I have a feeling if he did, I doubt Spanky would mind very much. He’ll always be my Christmas kitty, and I’m looking forward to many more with him and his furry roommates.