Apr 21, 2011

Ode to Charlotte, the best cat in the world

Earlier this evening, my dude called to me from downstairs, "Hey! Can you let Charlotte out the front door?" and I told him sure and opened the front door, walked a couple of steps downstairs and called to Charlotte with the special kissing noise we use and an encouraging "C'mon!". Charlotte, excited by the prospect of outside at night, came galloping across the floor, intending to leap up the stairs and (probably) plop down immediately outside the open front door. But her claws found no purchase on the cold concrete floor and instead of making the leap to freedom, she slid and smashed her little calico face into the bottom step, momentum pushing her body forward and to the side, where it, too, thudded into the oak.

It was like that time at school when I saw a girl on rollerblades attempt to go down a too-steep hill and wipeout at the bottom in a heap of bruised body and ego: my concern about her potential injuries did nothing to prevent me from laughing my ass off.

Charlotte stood up and took a step to the side. Sneezed six or seven times, delicate kitten sneezes, then laid down on the unforgiving concrete. Chuckling still, but concerned, I knelt beside her. Are you okay, muffin? I crooned, running my hand over her skull and down her back. Poor honey. C'mere. And I scooped her up and pressed my nose into her fur.

I took her upstairs to the open front door and, as predicted, she walked outside and promptly plopped down on the porch. I stayed with her for awhile, stroking her face, wondering if it was possible to tell if a cat was suffering from a broken nose.

It is hours later and she seems okay now, if rather more on the snuggly side than usual.

Charlotte is the best cat in the whole world. Many cat owners will tell you this, but let me assure you that only I can make this assertion with certainty. She was a skinny little stray (or so we thought) when we discovered her loitering around my mother's fourplex apartment. She was already ours when we learned that she actually belonged to a neighbour in the building next door. Happily, said neighbour was moving and had planned on getting rid of the cat anyway. Her name is Charlotte, he told us, and we approved.

My mother's cat, Caesar, also approved of the new edition, as evidenced by the day he stood in front of her, raised his tail, and splashed a spray of urine into her face, marking her as his.

One winter, Charlotte tore her left Achilles tendon while playing outside in the snow. Equipped with a heavy plaster cast and under orders not to jump or manoeuver stairs for a month, Charlotte was forced to spend her days in a cage. Giving in to her kitten protestations, I slept on a mattress on the floor of the spare bedroom with her for four weeks while she healed. At night she would walk across my face, dragging the cast behind her, crying at the injustice of her captivity, her boredom. I gave up sleep for Charlotte, and you know that that means something.

As a kitten, she once got stuck in a tree and I climbed up and rescued her, her claws digging into my arms and back as she clung to me while I climbed down.

Charlotte still walks across my face at night before she curls up around my head, purring contentedly. She likes people and parties, and she'll steal your chair if you get up to refill your drink. She wigs out and tears up her scratching post when we play rock 'n' roll. She has never bitten or scratched anyone in malice, or used the couch as a scratching post, or peed anywhere other than the litter box or the neighbour's flowerbed, and she doesn't walk across the kitchen counter or sit on the table, so if she sometimes chooses to throw up a hairball on the carpet rather than the hardwood, I can't really complain. She sometimes wanders around the neighbourhood, doing whatever it is that cats do, but mostly she curls up in a chair in the backyard, or rolls around in the sun on the front porch, or hides beneath the bushes and watches the robins. (There was a time when she was a pretty decent hunter, but the Achilles injury has left her less nimble than in her kitten days. A little fatter, too.) She comes when we call her with the kissing noise or a high-pitched "Chaa-ar!", and if she is hesitant to come in, the promise of bacon gets her every time. We don't even have to have any actual bacon; we just tell her "bacon" in a sing-song tone, and in she comes.

I am a cat person. I find little use for the loyal and attention-seeking nature of dogs, for their constant need for approval. There were always cats in my house when I was growing up, but there has never been a cat as awesome as my little calico muffin, Charlotte.