Monday, May 26, 2008

"Princess" -Tomcat Extraordinaire

When I was two years old I was given a tiny, grey, tabby kitten I named Princess. My parents tried to convince me to name him something a bit more appropriate, but I insisted. Why was gender such a big deal? I was certainly old enough to know a ‘Princess’ when I saw one.

At first an adorable kitten, Princess quickly grew to be a tough, burly tomcat. Perhaps, like the subject of Johnny Cash's song, A Boy Named 'Sue,’ his name made him stronger. Regardless, I take full credit for the many early-life challenges that prepared him to become the feline version of Chuck Norris.

One of those challenges was my penchant for dressing him in frilly doll clothes. Years later this would keep my therapist happily occupied. At the time, however, Princess was less than thrilled. Typically I’d have to wrestle the outfit onto him. Dressing a Barbie doll was for wusses - try keeping a decent outfit on an uncooperative barn cat. Once nicely outfitted and accessorized, Princess would then strut away, his machismo challenged, his tail twitching, and his angry male cat bottom peeking out from beneath pink lace and taffeta.

He soon learned to vent his gender-confusion by killing mousies and kicking canine butt. I had a ringside seat to some of his best fights. When a new dog moved in down the street, it decided to put Princess in his place by barking and charging at him. Any other cat would flee. Princess sat down, waited until the dog was nearly upon him, and swatted the mutt once, hard, across the muzzle, flipping it into the street. The dog yipped, got up, and ran home shaking its head. Princess yawned and went back to looking for mice.

We had some rather large rats living in the barn, some of them nearly the size of cats. They were incredibly quick. I once saw one jump at my dad's head, almost six feet off the ground. Our dogs would often tangle with them, but Princess is the only pet I saw singlehandedly take one down. While the dogs yapped and yipped and more or less acted like dogs, Princess was absolute economy of motion, remaining stock still until his claw or teeth would turn a rat’s mistake into a deadly checkmate. Ninja warriors could learn a lot from him.

Rodents were his favorite snack. He’d consume them head first, a nasty vision if you happened to be around when he was mouse-munching. As disgusting as it was, you just had to watch until the tail was out of sight down his gullet. Weird kitty ambrosia, for Princess, was his furry Mickey kielbasa.

These victories didn't come without a price. Somewhere along the line of countless battles, Princess lost his right eye and his left ear. As he aged eventually his ‘meow’ would be lost, too, replaced with a tape-delay sort of ‘ow’ squawking noise that seemed to emerge long after he opened his mouth.

Gnarly animal that he was, and despite all the emotional cross-dressing abuse he endured, Princess was still an affectionate pet. After seeing him beat up a dog and consume a mouse or a snake, it was a bit off-putting to have a one-eyed, one-eared, squeaky cat purr in your lap. But even Chuck Norris needs a hug once in a while, right?

Me: So, how was your day?

Princess: Me....orwf (fine...and yours?)

Me: Fine, thanks. What did you do?

Princess: Me....orwf (the usual...smacked that stupid dog....ate a mouse...and you?)

When he grew older, in the chilly dead of a New York winter, Princess would disappear for months at a time. Every year I accepted that he had finally passed on - perhaps a bobcat had gotten him, or a trap, or he had starved. After all, he was ancient. But he’d show back up in February or March, fatter than ever. Later I figured he was doing what all proper, elderly New Yorkers do – wintering in Palm Beach.

1 comment:

rita said...

What a wonderful way to remember Princess!

My daughter used to dress up her German Shepherd in her dad's clothes. Dumb dog just sat there and grinned. Her barn cat, Chessie, barely tolerated the dressing up in doll clothes, but oh, she looked so cute.

Chessie lost an eye in her later years. She'd disappear for a few weeks, we'd be sure she was dead, then come back and frantically meow at the front door, dash inside and have kittens under my son's captains bed.

Good times, good times.