— By Elizabeth Speth
This is Ursula. We got her from a rescue organization for feral cats, and though she is nearly Ten now, she never grew much bigger than a kitten. I don’t know anything about her parents. I’m assuming Dad was a drifter. A randy Lothario. Probably a poster boy for the SPCA’s Spay and Neuter campaign. Maybe a traveling litter salesman. We can safely deduce he wasn’t fixed and he wasn’t a family man.
Mom clearly couldn’t keep it together either. She gave up on her whole litter, and they all ended up in a box at a foster home, looking like a Crazy Cat Lady Starter Kit:
We chose Ursula from the group. I can’t remember why. Possibly for cuteness reasons. She came home and immediately began manifesting the multiple eccentricities that today define her furry little self.
She has tiny little paws and a little round face that is mostly eyes. It is the eyes that tell you she is completely bonkers. Koo-Koo-Ka-Choo. Totally cray – cray. They usually look something like this:
(Note: I have used a stunt double for this photograph.)
This look means many things:
‘My water bowl is getting low.’
‘I think there is a mountain lion outside.’
‘Isn’t it time to eat?’
‘The icemaker sounds like it wants to eat me again.’
‘Can you rub my belly?’
‘You left the TV on downstairs.’
Every single day of her life she has forgotten she has a tail until it has snuck up behind her, tapped her lightly on the leg, and scared the bejesus out of her. Every. Day.
She is remarkably heavy on her feet. We have wood floors, and no one in the family has slept between 1 and 3 a.m. since she came to live with us. Those are the hours she gallops endlessly up and down the hallways for no apparent reason, like a herd of zebras on the savannah, punctuating the running with an occasional screaming slide and scramble on an area rug.
She lurks in shadows, and visitors never see her. My sons have friends who visit every day who actually doubt her existence.
She likes to go outside, but only thirty seconds at a time. You have to hold the door for her while she darts out, throws herself on the deck, rolls enthusiastically, and then races back in like the devil is at her heels.
- (Ursula trying to decide if she wants to go outside. Observe the tail sneaking up from the right flank. )Then she has to tell you, in her harsh, squeaky voice and for about a half hour, about how brave she was, and everything that happened to her out there.Ursula is a good conversationalist. If you look her in the eye and say something, she will always, always meow back. You can tell her about your day, your marital problems, your secrets. She’ll talk as long as you’ve got time. The longer you talk, the more adamant she is about what she has to say, and eventually the meows turn into howls which sound very sympathetic. You will come away from the conversation feeling understood.
If you can, I very much recommend you take a nap with Ursula every day. Even if you are not sleepy, you should lie down on your side and she will find you. From across the house, she can hear you lie down on your side, and she will be there in seconds, curling into the little hollow your body makes, her breathing belly against your breathing belly, and she will drop instantly asleep. As you lie there, feeling that warm, rising and falling ball of fur, your stress will start to ebb, and in its place will be gratitude for the little, weird, quirky, chatty agent of its removal.
If you don’t have time for a nap, she will arrange herself prominently on a pile of pillows and wink beguilingly at you until you abandon all thoughts of going to work and you take a nap.
See what I mean?
Sometimes I wish she had her own room, where she could do her sleeping thing without tempting the rest of us. If she did, we would have to hang this sign on the door as a fair warning:
This is Ursula.