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Tabitha June is a Shoulder Cat
by Nina M. Osier

Category: Family/Relationships
Description: A writer muses on the ways of cats and other creatures, in a book filled with characters both feline and human who invade the heart.
eBook Publisher: ebooksonthe.net, 2004
eBookwise Release Date: February 2005


1 Reader Ratings:
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Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [146 KB]
Words: 34647
Reading time: 98-138 min.

Chapter 1

A Shoulder Cat

She leaped onto my shoulder like Honor Harrington's Nimitz, while I was bending down to take off my winter boots. She was six weeks old, and her smooth coat had a tabby cat's typical markings in silver and gray and black and white.

Her nose had a white diamond on it, and she greeted everyone she saw with a stentorian, "Prrrttt!" She already had a name: Tabitha, for obvious reasons.

I didn't need another kitten. I'd come to my brother's home to meet Tabitha's litter mate, a tortoiseshell kitten who would (I had already agreed) become Cat Number Four at my house in a few more weeks, after mother cat Patches finished nursing her family. But what could I do? Tabitha had me by the heartstrings, and that was that.

So Tabitha June (who added her own middle name--don't ask me how or why, because I can't tell you what I don't know myself!) became Cat Number Five when her sister Anabel became Cat Number Four. My life has been like that, starting with Cat Number One.

Her name was Rascal. I was two years old when my parents added her to my life, and she was (predictably) a female with a black coat that had other colors mottled into it. Sometimes I think that coloring got imprinted onto my psyche, leaving me forever afterward with a weakness toward any cat that my maternal grandmother would call "brindled" and the veterinarians and animal shelter staff members I've known call "tortoiseshell." Such cats are almost always females. Male "tortis" are so rare that they're quite valuable when they do occur.

Rascal was for sure and certain female. My father, who had occasion to stay in the house alone with her at times, swore that she decided he was her kitten and ordered him around just as she would her real offspring. When he didn't do as she wanted, she disciplined him, too! Her method (as it would have been with a kitten) was to administer a sharp pinch with her teeth, a good, solid nip that hurt because it was meant to hurt.

Rascal was well named. As much as I loved her (I'm told that while I was learning to talk I once fell asleep muttering to myself, "Cat-th!" in a baby's lisp), she knew she could tease me and she delighted in doing so. Her favorite trick was to find me sitting on the floor at play, and approach me silently from behind. Then she would poke her naughty head over my shoulder without warning--and I would, invariably, leap into the air and scream.

"Hey cared of Rascal!" I would proclaim, dropping the initial "s" from "scared" but leaving no one in doubt about my meaning.

She also liked to perch on a door frame (they were wide in the old house that we rented, in the Maine coast town of Thomaston) and put her head down into my view, just as suddenly as she might have thrust it over my shoulder. It got similar results.

It's a wonder Rascal didn't convince me that all cats were evil creatures, and instill me with a lifelong terror of them. Instead, she taught me to prefer tortis.

Who knows how? Maybe the friend who tells me that such cats are my "familiars," is right!

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