New cat in town

Friday, July 1, 2011

For weeks after we lost our beloved Miss Kitty, my wife and I couldn't bear to think of having another cat.

But time does heal, if you let it. And so the day came when we started noticing cute cats again. Our neighbor's newish cat took pity on us from time to time and showed up on our patio, always willing to drink a small dish of milk -- a token of affection from my wife.

One day we said maybe it was time to get another cat. Then we backed off, saying nothing of the kind for days. Some scabs are stubborn.

Last Saturday morning, my wife said, "You want to look at cats today?" Answer: "Yes."

We found Safe Harbor Animal Sanctuary, a no-kill facility, down a gravel road in the Fruitland area. The chief-animal-in-charge is named Alice Wybert.

The cats under Alice's care include one whole section that are HIV positive. Another has cats that have feline leukemia. Another area has cats with both maladies. They all get loving care and medication from Alice and her volunteer helpers.

And there was an area for wild cats. We didn't know that when we drove up, and my wife stood next to the wire mesh stroking a large black and white cat that clearly appreciated the attention. "That one bites and scratches," cautioned the volunteer. My wife -- yes, this is the wife who is allergic to cats -- kept petting and was rewarded with a loud purr.

When we started walking through the dozens of cats, it was hard to keep them straight. My wife could only stand to be surrounded by clambering, clamoring cats for about 10 minutes before her breathing became alarmingly labored. Remember? She's the one who suggested we look at cats.

I spent another hour or so holding and talking to cats of literally every stripe. In the end, I fell for a young, maybe a year old, female tabby shorthair whose fur is predominantly gray-black with tan undertones, a beautiful blend. Her hind feet are snow white. The front paws were dipped in white paint. She had a white chest and belly.

But it's her eyes that make her a cat that cannot be refused. She has what I call Egyptian eyes. There are distinct mascara lines from each eye to each ear. When she looks up at you, she looks like Elizabeth Taylor all gussied up as Cleopatra. I can see why Richard Burton married Liz twice.

At her new home, the new cat is quickly acclimating, easing much of her nervous energy. She is constantly in motion until whatever is new becomes familiar. Then she curls up and sleeps. Before that, though, she is a cross between the Energizer Bunny and a wad of rubber bands.

Welcome, new cat, which we have decided to call Missy Kitty. I'll bet you'll be hearing more about the new princess.

Joe Sullivan is the retired editor of the Southeast Missourian.

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