This article by Ray Spitzenberger appeared first in IMAGES for January 10, 2019, East Bernard Express, East Bernard, Texas.
There is something mesmerizing about a cat sleeping on your lap on a sunny winter afternoon. You feel that you and he both need to be out in the bright winter sunlight soaking up some Vitamin D, but these lazy, after-New-Year’s days make you both drowsy-frowsy. The bite-size birds chirping outside the patio door don’t call Gatsby to the hunt, and watching my neighbor rake leaves doesn’t call me outside to the tool shed either.
It has all the makings of a long winter nap, and Santa Claus has already come. What can you expect from an old man and an old cat who have grown old together!
Like most older cats, Gatsby has stopped grooming himself as thoroughly as he used to, so sometimes he smells a bit musty. May be the same reason some elderly folks bathe only twice a week. He looks healthy, got a good report from the Vet a couple days ago, and eats as much as a teenage football player.
But a smelly cat on your lap can interfere with an afternoon nap, and if I wanted a smelly pet, I’d get a dog.
From the very beginning when we acquired Gatsby during a hurricane, there was something unusual about him. His being black is not that unusual, and I’m certainly not superstitious about black cats. There are plenty black cats in the world, but it is a fact that more of them are males than females (not sure why). The old Medieval superstition about witches turning themselves into black cats is just silly folklore, but makes the black cat a Halloween symbol.
Still, from the beginning, Gatsby seemed odd, different from all the past cats that lived with us. He was/is a large black feline with a glossy black coat and yellow eyes, causing me to wonder when we got him if he were half panther.
The second day we had him, he angrily leaped at me when I pushed him away from me with my walking cane. He would cuddle with you as long as you did what he liked, but a wrong move could trigger his anger. Over a period of time, he bit me on the chin twice, both deep bites, and clawing us was commonplace. He chased and killed not only birds and lizards, but also squirrels, — I had never before seen a cat with such speed and such hunting skills.
More and more, I was convinced he was part wild panther. One of our friends called him a “devil cat,” and she wouldn’t go near him. Other people, however, would just say, “Aw, he’s just a cat!”
A little research on my part revealed that he was neither a panther nor part-panther. My research showed there are 19 breeds which can produce black cats, and one of those is the Bombay Cat. His glossy black fur and yellow eyes are a giveaway that he is a Bombay.
Further research found that Nikki Horner, a cat breeder, created the first Bombay cat in the late 1950’s. Horner’s objective in developing this breed was to create a miniature “panther” with glossy black fur and yellow eyes. She succeeded only too well.
My wife and I came to love Gatsby, and he, us, though there were times when I was ready to send him back to where he came from.
And he did have a “wimpy” side, too. He was terrified of thunder and lightning and would hide under the couch during a thunder storm (and still does). He was and is even more terrified of dogs, and when any stray dog got into our backyard, he was traumatized and would disappear for the rest of the day. He loved to be cuddled and wanted to be stroked constantly, but always on his terms.
Now that he is an old cat with failing eyesight and a slower running speed, he has mellowed even more, and like most old codgers, felines or homo sapiens, he has become more lovable. We will continue to grow old together.
Ray Spitzenberger, a retired college speech and English teacher and a retired Lutheran pastor, has recently published a book, It Must Be the Noodles, on sale at amazon.com]]>