Losing a member of the family is never easy and this week we had to part with a pet who has been part of our family almost since day one.
When Stefan and I started dating back in March of 2000, we knew very shortly after meeting each other that things were going to last for a long, long time. But we didn’t really expect to have a cat wander into our lives who would act like glue…although that is just what our “Princess” did. Each and every day after her arrival, she ruled the house and definitely set the ground rules for everyone else in the house, even Ayla. She was never a large cat, but she was always in charge!
Princess came to us as a tiny kitten. She wandered over to my mom one day when she was outside in the garden. That cat was such a small little thing that she easily fit in the palm of your hand; and not wanting to let a baby kitten risk trying to fight the elements on her own and survive the wilds of Florida, mom brought her home.
As I walked into our house that afternoon, I was confronted with a gray and black handful of fur. Stefan heard us cooing over her in the kitchen and when he first saw her, he asked, “What is that? A hamster??!”
That night, Stefan and I drove around half of Miami trying to find kitten-friendly food and cat shampoo, which was far more difficult than one would imagine. And we discovered that the kitten must have been sleeping in a car engine or something else filthy because she was actually gray and brilliant white. In fact, Princess had the whitest, softest fur of any cat I’ve ever touched. There were times when she was older that we joked that petting her actually almost hurt your hand because she was just SO soft.
But although soft and now very clean, that cat was about to show us who the boss was…and that the name I selected for her that first day was absolutely fitting.
As a kitten, Princess loved to terrorize us. She would keep you up all night, chewing on your earrings and elbows. And if you tried to kick her out, she would throw herself against the bedroom door. All. Night. Long. When we gave in, we had to make sure she slept on the pillow because she was so tiny that we feared we would squish her. She also managed to destroy my brand new leather sofa in just a week, would race around our house like her tail was on fire and no number of loud noises, water guns or swats at her would cause her to stop. She laughed in the face of cat trees and, if need be, would wait until you were in bed to destroy the place. And she is the only cat I’ve ever had which actually ate shoes…in fact, I lost at least 4 pairs of shoes to that cat, which is more than I ever lost to a puppy!
I think the only thing that allowed her to survive as long as she did was the fact that she was just so darn cute.
Ultimately, we decided that either the terror would stop when we got a second cat — or the first cat would have to go. So our family of two became a family of four. We found our Siamese, Marilyn at the animal shelter and introduced her to the family. At that point Stefan and I had only been together for a couple of months, but talk of marriage had been in the air since week 3.
The two “sister” cats never seemed to like each other much…but didn’t terrorize us anymore and that was the most important thing. In fact, at times, the two cats even seemed to hate each other. We have found memories of one of our apartments with open-back stairs, where Princess would sneak up on Marilyn while she was sleeping and spook her, causing her to fall through the stairs to the floor below. It was never far and no one got hurt, but that was definitely a well-loved game for at least 6 months in that apartment.
For the longest time, we thought Princess was just a Persian mutt. Until we were watching TV one night and heard them talking about Norwegian Forest Cats. It became very clear that she came from this breed, from her toe tassels to her ear tufts to her distinctive fur and markings. And I swear that the moment that cat heard she was something more than just a mutt, she became more regal and snotty than ever before!
But to be honest, there were many times that I think Princess was plotting world domination, a la Pinkie and The Brain (she was definitely The Brain.) We always joked that her facial expression conveyed that she fulled intended to kill us while we slept, although in our minds she always said (with her best Persian accent), “I kill you in my sleep” which clearly never worked out.
I’m also not entirely sure that Princess wasn’t at least part alien. She loved to lick us in strange places like elbows and eye-lids — which over the years came to be known as “brain scans” since those tongue-to-skin moments where the few times that she touched us instead of the other way around. She was not the most cuddly of cats and you always knew when she wanted to be left alone. But she was my snuggly bed companion night after night and her presence is already being missed.
We never imagined that she would be the first to leave us, since the mean ones tend to die last. And my last cat was with us for 21 years. But the last few years have been up and down for Princess and it was definitely time to say our goodbyes. That little pink nose and her demure, pathetic, high-pitched “mews” will be sorely missed. Thanks for all the nights when you kept my side of the bed warm and startled me awake as you sat and stared at me, two millimeters from my nose.