Saturday, April 2, 2011

Snicky Is Seventeen

Snictoria, the eldest of our two Doll Face Persians, turned 17 yesterday. She was the first – and very best — birthday present I ever received from my husband. We spotted her at the Upper Newbury Pet Shop, and thought she was a most striking and unusual kitten. She was my first pedigreed purebred. In those days, I didn't know about the serious health issues that are common in many breeds. No more purebreds for us.

We seldom take photos of her nowadays; she's ill and frail, bony and unkemp. She was never easy to photograph because her tortoiseshell coloring acts like camouflage, masking her features. In old age, her fur is a faded, balding, matted mess. When we try to groom her, she gets snappish and growly.

Her orange eyes are still astonishing, if more milky-looking now. I'm not sure how well she can see. When she plays with her fabric "moth" on a toy fishing pole — as she does many times every morning, after sitting by my desk chair and grousing at me or swatting my leg to make me play — it has to be under her nose for her to find it. She loves to carry it into the kitchen in her mouth — with me still holding onto the pole — where she'll ignore it to eat some kibble. She'll do this a dozen times a day and gets very cranky when I refuse to play. She's sitting there swearing at me right now as I write this. And she just whacked me with her paw, too.  Okay, I surrender...

No one ever told Snicky that Persians are "calm," "quiet-voiced" "sweet-tempered," and "lazy."

In her prime she was both Top Cat, dominating the others, and a diva to us humans — she's still a diva. She's never weighed much more than 8 pounds, and it was all muscle and fluff. It took two of us to hold her down for a pill or grooming; we needed every ounce of our strength, and we still got puncture wounds. Even though she was declawed, she still scares us when she's in a temper, fragile as she is. The other cats all feared her, too.

She would race around the apartment when she was younger, with such speed and grace that she seemed to fly sometimes. When hunting, jumping, and playing she was lightning-fast and athletic. She walked and sat daintily with her front paws in ballet's First Position: toes turned out.  Nowadays, her legs are weak and she stumps around loudly and slowly, and jumps with difficulty.

This getting-old business is really sad, until you consider the alternative. If I'm lucky, I guess I'll be bald, blind, cranky, and stumping around someday, too. I already jump with difficulty.

Besides her moth routine, Snicky spends most of her life sleeping curled up on our bed. She still enjoys drinking out of the bathroom sink, asserting herself with the male cats, and lying on my husband at night, stretched out like a tiny sphinx, purring. She doesn't like cats, except Wendy. She especially dislikes Snalbert since he went on a biting campaign last year and replaced her as Top Cat. (He even bit us; we rank below him now, too.) Snicky despised my beloved Bunnelina, and spent hours projecting "hate rays" from her orange eyes. I suppose she thinks that finally worked.

Snicky's beauty was riveting but odd, and we still see it in her face; she reminds me of a studio-era movie star — decades past her heyday. I used to tell her she was meant to be a beige cat, like Snalbert, but she was left in the toaster too long. She never had much interest in food; it was as if she absorbed moisture and nutrients from the air, like a plant.

Here are photos of Snicky in her prime.

She seems to be enjoying life in her own way, and not in any pain, so maybe we'll be lucky enough to celebrate her at 18, 19, and 20.

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