Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Cats of My Life: Cleo

Cleo was a white cat with gray spots. The white on her forehead happened to form the first initial of my mother’s name, so she loved that. We had been mourning the loss of Yentl for a while and, except for One-Day Kitty hadn’t had much feline companionship. A friend of my mother told her how her neighbor was going to throw out a cat she got for a valentines gift. So, instead, we took her in.

Cleo was skittish at first. We were informed that the person who had her hadn’t fed her so all Cleo had eaten was what she could steal around the house. She was very smart and able to get into all sorts of food which she’d hide in corners and under rugs throughout the house. We named her Cleopatra because when we first got her she was sleek and long with big ears and that perfect cat face with sharp cheekbones and she looked every bit like a Pharaoh’s dream cat.

Even after Cleo became fat with our open feline food policy she still hid things around the apartment. We’d be walking and hear a ‘crunch’ and see nothing under our feet, but a closer examination would reveal a bump in the rug and a cracker underneath it. Once it was to the point where she would even raid the popcorn bowl taking up kernels in her cheeks as if she was a chipmunk.

We had Cleo spade through a clinic and she never looked the same afterwards, as her stomach just kind of hung.

Cleo had this huge green eyes that were just so full of life and energy and inquisitiveness. She loved to nurture things (like my stuffed bear) and would sit there grooming it until it was sopping wet. She licked the hair off of every fake mouse we gave her. She would also come up and pet you and she loved stroking her paws through my long hair. However, her true love was my brother. Never have I seen such devotion to him.

My mother and I joked how sickening it was. Cleo would follow him around like a lovesick teen and would start to cry if a door closed between them. Whenever he had a girlfriend over Cleo would stay in between the two of them and just glare with the evilest of cat eyes at the poor thing until she left. Then, to show my brother her displeasure she would turn her back on him the rest of the evening. Although, she always forgave him by bedtime and still curled up next to him.

One of Cleo’s favorite foods was cinnamon donuts. Whenever we left donuts on the counter we’d see nibbles taken out of the cinnamon sugared donuts, or sometimes a trail of cinnamon dust that led to her latest spot to hide food. These were also my brother’s favorite donut.

My brother used to love seeing how much he could do to Cleo. For example, he’d pick her up and wrap her around his neck like a mink stole. Then he’d drape her down his legs by her hind legs and all the while she’d just purr so loud the neighbors could probably hear.
She smiled too, this huge grin came on her face when she saw my brother.

Cleo was a cat ruled by her passions. She loved my brother, and she loved Whiskas cat treats. She would attack you if she even saw the can and would stretch up your leg to reach for them. She was very long and would pass my hip when she fully extended. However, if you didn’t give her the treat in time she would scale you with her mighty claws to get it. The joke was to hide them in a family members pocket or drop the treats down each others shirts as Cleo would be on you like a piranha.

The funny thing about Cleo was, as much as she adored my brother, she really just loved all men. I recall a time when the plumber came over and we heard him yelling for help from under the sink. Cleo had gone and lay down across his hands and he was afraid to move her. She ‘presented’ herself to many a man that came through the house. Women, she tolerated only if they didn’t take time away from HER men.

After about two years with Cleo my mother took in Penny. Penny was a lot scrappier a cat but Cleo still got to lick and groom her and we’d often find them curled up together, despite earlier fights. Penny did love to bug her ‘big sister’ though, and a primary way was to take away her fake mice and rip off the fur. I’ll never forget the time that Penny was zooming through the house while Cleo was licking her new mouse. Cleo saw her coming and quickly shoved the mouse under her body and sat on it. Penny sniffed around her a bit but, not seeing the mouse, left her alone.

As mentioned, Penny liked a good fight or two. But Cleo learned quickly how to dominate her. Whenever Penny charged Cleo would get up on her hind legs and grab Penny with her front paws, quickly flipping her over. With each charge Cleo would just turn her like a pro wrestler until Penny got the hint and figured out another way to torment her. One of these involved jumping off the fridge on Cleo’s head. But, as Penny had an incredibly long tail to Cleo’s short stubby one, Cleo took to standing on chairs and biting the tip of Penny’s tail as she sauntered by. However, once the fights were over they’d be cleaning each other’s ears and nestled together like a feline yin-yang symbol.

Cleo waved to you from the window. I loved that. Whenever we left in the morning she’d sit in the window and if you waved to her, her little dainty paw would go up patting the window in her feline wave.

Because my mother loved Cleo so much she got her regular shots. Penny (as she became my cat) did not. Unfortunately, this show of love was the downfall for our wonderful sprite. Feline Injection Site Sarcoma. They didn’t call it that back then, but that’s what it was. Shots were administered at the clinic by pulling up the scruff of the neck and jabbing in the needle, and that’s where the tumor started. I remember how sad my brother was the first time he felt it, but we couldn’t really afford any extra vet care and my mother figured it would go away. But it didn’t take long before the thing was the size of a fist and Cleo couldn’t even hold her head upright. My brother cried and screamed at my mother for not protecting her. Cleo was his true love, the unconditional love that he needed and he wasn’t ready to let her go. Soon the inevitable came and Cleo was put to sleep. I think my brother buried her at his current girlfriend’s house, though I’m not sure. I wasn’t party to her last rites.

I felt sad for my sweet Penny too. For about a week after Cleo passed she went meowing through the house searching every nook and cranny for the only other cat she’d known, and coming up empty. I didn’t have an answer to her inquiries as I, too, didn’t know what happened with the body.

picture taken from encylcopedia brittanica online.


Amel's Realm said...

I felt a mixture of feelings when reading this story.

I find it FASCINATING that cats are VERY clever and that they have VERY different personalities and that their past life also influenced them.

I felt sad reading the last part when Cleo couldn't held her head upright. That must've been a sad sight to behold. :-((((

All in all, I LOVE the way you write your stories, as always. ;-D

Victorya said...

I think they are very much like us in that they remember and their personalities are based on past experiences. The running theory as to why she loved men was that the person who had so mistreated her was female. Yet, she learned to trust myself and my mother.

And each cat is so very different from the last, they are just wonderful creatures.

I'm glad you like my stories! Ah, I love my kittes.

Amel's Realm said...

Yeah, they're really very much like us, eh? I only got one cat so I had no real comparison, but reading about your cats made me realize that even more deeply! ;-D

Yeah, your theory about Cleo makes perfect sense. ;-D

Yeah, thank GOD for cats!!!!


Chewy said...

I'm a cat person too. Although at the present time I don't have one. My cat, Weenie, would jump up on the counter and take bites out of tomatoes. He also would play fetch with little plastic mermaids, the kind served on the edge of margaritas.

Rachelle said...

I too felt such a range of emotions while reading this!
It is wonderfully written by someone who truly cherished a unique kitty.

So sad what happened to her, but I can't help but feel that she had a lot of love in her time.
I am glad you had her in your life. I had a Bassett Hound when I was surviving childhood. She was my best friend until I had to give her up due to my allergies.

Victorya said...

Rachelle - I love the way you put it, 'surviving childhood'. We had a dog once too, but my mother gave it away (or alternately had it put to sleep, her story changed depending on the story) while we were at school. Animals are such life savers!

Chewy - I knew you had to be a cat person! Taking bites out of tomatoes? That's a new one for me. Wait, wait, let me use a bad pun, he liked CATSup!