Her name was an unholy cross of feminism and blasphemy
Chris had always said that he wanted to name a cat Jehovah, so that when Jehovah's Witnesses came to our door, we could say, "Oh we're already Jehovah's witnesses: there he goes, right now, and we're witnessing it."
I thought it was ridiculous, not to mention horribly disrespectful, to name a cat after the Lord.
See, Chris really wanted a cat, as he'd grown up with animals, but I hadn't, and culturally I was a little squicked by the idea of animals living in human homes. So we decided to get a kitten, because then I would get to know it as it was growing up. Otherwise, it would always be a slightly icky presence in my home. And when the Humane Society said they had a four-month-old kitten in, off we went, after buying the necessary cat accoutrements.
Got there and I couldn't. Couldn't. I didn't know from cats; I'd had no idea that a four-month old kitten looks, mostly, like a slightly petite full-grown cat.
I felt horrible; Chris had so been looking forward to having a cat in the house, we had all the stuff necessary, but I just...
So the next day, before he woke up, I called a bunch of local pet stores, seeking kittens. Yes, we have a bunch, said one way out of town: five-week old kittens. I don't recall how I got Chris to make the drive without telling him the store had kittens, because I didn't want to disappoint him, but somehow we got there, went to see... and "OMG we can take any of these," I told him at first sight.
We finally picked one. One of the smallest, black-and-white, very active.
"Boy or girl?" Chris asked the worker-bee.
"Girl," he said, after checking I have no idea what.
"Oh. I guess we can't call her Jehovah, then," said Chris.
I raised my eyebrows. "Excuse me? Why not?"
As it turns out, we never did use the Jehovah's Witness line.
She was wonderful. And terrible. So very tiny, and so very fierce. Even as we were taking her home, she was trying to crawl out of the little carrier.
She was adorable, and cuddly, and really painful. She'd perch on our shoulders a lot of the time, and leave them all scratched to heck.
I took her to work with me at first, and had a sign on my door saying, "Watch out: Kitten." She'd mostly just sleep on my shoulder or on my lap, but when the building was empty I'd take her out into the long hallways, and she'd scamper around trying to chase me and hiding ineffectually behind doorsills.
I took her to my mother's house over Christmas, on the same reasoning that even a confirmed cat-disliker couldn't resist a little kitten. My mother fell in love with our little furball, who fought mighty battles with the needles on the Christmas tree, puffed herself up to nearly hand-size when she was trying to be fierce, and left her ears poking up when she hid craftily behind the presents. She became one of three domestic animals my mom ever had a soft spot for, and to the end of her life every time my mom dropped by Jehovah would break her usual pattern of hiding from or hissing at strangers, and come to sniff at her.
She was our problem child. Into everything, destructive as hell, and pathologically unfriendly towards anyone she didn't know. Our friend Michelle took her for a couple of days when we went away, and declared she would never do so again, as Jehovah perched on top of her fridge and growled at her every time she washed the dishes.
We tried to make her an indoor cat, really we did. I'd read so many things from cat lovers saying that there was no need to force cats to go outside, they could live perfectly happy indoors, and indeed it was cruel to let them out, where they might get hit by a car or injured by a dog... yeah, no. It wasn't a matter of forcing her outside; you just couldn't enter or exit the house without her trying to dash out, endangering everyone's lives and limbs.
She would lick any food left out unattended. Shed everywhere, usually onto our dark clothing. Got into everything we didn't want her to get into.
The vet? Had her file marked with a big warning: WATCH.
Then I got pregnant, and she started to claw me. Suddenly it wasn't so funny any more. After trying various ways to cure her of this, we ended up getting another cat, Siva, to keep her company, which she did. Though they didn't exactly... play together. It was more like Jehovah, who had stayed fairly small, would spend her spare time pestering huge, placid Siva, who just patiently sat there, and occasionally yawned.
Hey, at least she wasn't clawing me any more.
And then one day, Siva had enough. Jehovah came up and started pestering her, Siva sat, and sat, and sat - and then suddenly swatted Jehovah across the hallway. Jehovah squalled and went rolling, hit the wall, and never ever bothered Siva again.
Siva was a big hit at the vet's. Very friendly and calm. One vet took a look at our client card, saw Jehovah's name on it, and looked a little stunned. "Hang on. This cat... lives with that cat?!"
"How does that work?"
"Pretty well, actually." And I told her the Siva-batting-Jehovah story. She smirked.
Happily, she never clawed the baby, when he came. Sniffed him, didn't seem to know what to do with him, but never attacked.
I took her to a new vet when we moved to Ottawa, and we ended up, after trying to get her into her carrier for twenty minutes, calling one of the vet assistants ("We call her the Cat Wrangler") to get her in, yowling and spitting and clawing all the way.
"Aaw. That's our girl," Chris said fondly when I told him that night.
Small Cat Syndrome, the vet called it. She liked Jehovah. "I always smile when I see her name on my appointment book. I can almost hear her saying, 'I am an angry, jealous god.'"
The kids' friends? Called her Psycho-Kitty.
She never really warmed up to strangers. When we had cat-sitters, the only way they could tell she was still alive was that food disappeared from her bowl and um, stuff appeared in her litter box. Otherwise, nada. She didn't even like the kids, for years. It wasn't until she was elderly that she finally started allowing them to pet her, and even occasionally (gasp!) seeking them out for cuddles.
She got older. Started to pee on things, both out of orneriness and out of incontinence. I have oh-so-fond memories of the time we realized she'd decided our DVDs were a fine place to do her business, and used the shelf for weeks before we clued in. They involve me, a pile of DVD cases, and soapy water, for hours. The sting of ammonia in my nostrils lingered for days.
She also got slower, hissier. She lost weight, and got little nodules of something on her eye. Started coughing up hairballs regularly. Became a regular at the vet's, and went through all manner of medication she wouldn't take and special food she wouldn't eat and syringes and droppers she rejected vehemently and sometimes painfully.
Watching Lord of the Rings one night:
Legolas: This forest is old. Full of memory, and anger. Daniel: Like our cat.
We adopted a rescue kitten, Apollo, this year, and it went about as well as any intrusion of a new God into an older God's domain. We tried to make them friends, but she hissed at him endlessly, and he followed her everywhere. Chris called it "a love-hate relationship; he loves her, and she hates him."
We got her a collar that had some sort of calming scent embedded in it. Got cat-calming scent vaporisers wafting everywhere. Sprayed calming scent into particular problem areas so she wouldn't pee on them. If she'd been human, she would've been zoned out of her gourd, and probably writing poems about ferns and flowers or something.
Eventually she got kidney problems, and was put on special kidney-friendly food. It helped somewhat. Then we saw she was getting slower, and seemed to be walking stiffly, and didn't jump on the windowsill to let us know she wanted to come inside any more.
"Stop me if we're not on the same page, here," said our vet, who really liked her despite herself, "but when a cat gets to her age, I start to think she needs comfort more than longer life. The medicated food she's on, to help her kidneys, isn't good for her joints. If I put her on medicated food for joints, it won't be good for her kidneys."
We asked for the joint food. We were slowly easing her into it, and it was making a big difference. She was jumping up onto the windowsill, moving faster, and she and Apollo weren't hissing so much any more.
That's what she was on when we left for Europe. We had been worried about her before leaving, but she was doing better. Chris and Daniel both said they suspected she might not make it through the trip, but I hadn't. To be honest, I'd been much more worried when we went to Calgary and left her alone with Apollo for the first time, but we returned to see her actually fatter than when we'd left her, so I figured this time would be the same.
It wasn't. She passed away while we were gone, in her happy place under the sewing machine table. Thankfully, our friend Karen was able to tell us before we got back home, and although I will forever wish we'd been there with her at the end, I'm grateful we didn't see her body as Karen did. I want to remember her, old and skinny and ornery, but full of (cranky) life.
We buried her outside, under our apple tree, to keep her near us. A few people told us she would be waiting for us and watching us lovingly from the other side, because "Even if you don't believe in heaven for humans [we don't, btw], it's real for cats!"
We had to smile at that. Though, as Chris put it, "Yeah, she's there. She's not waiting for us, though. Her idea of heaven would be a place where everyone just leaves her the %@$# alone all the time."
Just in case she is there, watching us, and has somehow gained the ability to read post-mortem:
Sweetie, we miss you, horrible old thing. Thank you so much, for being in our lives.