Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Wanted: Fluffy Calico Lap Cat

I'm in the market for a new cat. After losing Bunny, I didn't expect that a long mourning period would coincide with cat-hunting; I thought I'd interested in meeting new cats only after a decent interval. But life is short and I seem to have strong survival instincts, which are telling me to start looking for another cat now.

Either that, or I'm cold-hearted and deluded enough to think Bunny can be replaced. I honestly don't believe that, but I'm lonely. I miss her terribly; even with two charming and personable cats doing their best to fill the void. There's a sad emptiness around here without her; she had tremendous presence, awake or asleep. We miss stepping over her when she's spread out on her back, snoring with four white feet stuck in the air. I miss the way she'd appropriate my lap, or my pillow, or a third of our bed. I miss her swearing at us under her breath because we're not feeding her quickly enough. I really miss talking to her; we had so many long, heart-to-heart conversations about how wonderful she was. I need a similar bond with a similar cat.

Unfortunately for the adoptable cats around Boston, I'm ridiculously fussy. Unlike my sister, who aims to take the hardest case in the shelter — the cat no one wants because it bites and scratches, or doesn't like people — I'm seeking perfection. With two humans and two cats in close quarters in this tiny apartment, we want a cat who'll be a good friend to us or and a non-threatening companion for our Persians (one of whom doesn't like cats). And while we're at it, we want a decorative cat. I think cats are the most beautiful creatures on earth and I admire ours every day. I don't need another purebred, but I do appreciate a lovely face and a fluffy coat. I'm shallow, I know.

I've been through this before. About 12 or 13 years ago I began haunting shelters after losing another beloved longhaired calico. Margalo. I wanted a similarly affectionate and sociable cat with a certain look. Margalo had wildly patterned fur, a raccoon-like bandito mask over her eyes, and a massive body with a huge, ringed tail to match. She looked like a wild forest creature who'd had a run-in with an abstract-expressionist painter. After losing her, I visited the MSPCA and Animal Rescue League about every week for more than a year; it might have been closer to two. I saw hundreds of cats and kittens but none were right. But when I finally saw Bunny, I just knew she was mine. She was asleep with her back to me; I couldn't see her face and she didn't have Margalo's wacky patches, but I knew. I took the papers off her cage to adopt her even before she woke up, looked at me, and sneezed. And that settled it: a sneezing cat doesn't stay alive for long in a shelter. Her information sheet said only, "Fluffy is a lap cat. She likes to play with toys." Well, I'd been looking for a bona fide lap cat and here she finally was. Fluffy — renamed Bunnelina — became very ill in the next few days with an upper respiratory virus and adopting her saved her life and gave us 11 years of everyday joy and companionship.

That was back in 1998, before Petfinder.com. It's a whole new ballgame now, and I hope to be so lucky again. I spent last weekend surveying the more than 6,800 calico cats for adoption across the country as well as hundreds of purebreds and purebred-mixes. I am so neurotically particular — or else the photos and descriptions of the cats are so sketchy — that I didn't immediately discover the "one." I want a longhair, so that rules out the majority of the cats. We think a young adult cat or "old kitten" might settle in best with our teenaged Persians, but I wouldn't rule out an older cat with the right personality. But what can you learn from photos? Something, I hope, because I see expressions on the faces of some of the cats that speak to me.

So I found a few prospects I'm inquiring about, from as far away as Arizona. I figure that flying somewhere for a cat could save me zillions of trips to the MSPCA — I might break even if I add up all those Charlie Card fares.

I'm already being lectured by my family that there are plenty of great cats who need homes in Boston and told that "all cats are alike, so just pick one." I disagree!

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