My family loves animals. Over the years, we've had just about every pet there is. From parakeets to fire belly toads, mice to guinea pigs, rabbits to hamsters…we’ve had them all. We raised chickens in the backyard for nine nears, beloved pets that happened to gift us with delicious eggs. We’ve raised gerbils, turtles, fish, one neurotic dog who lived for nearly 17 years...and cats. Cats are the best, the one animal I can't imagine living without.
Our current cats are a brother and sister pair, Bo and Molly. We’ve had them about 14 years, since they were kittens. Oh, and the Empress of Evil, who lives upstairs and only ventures to the first floor to complain a lot. Her real name is Lady Augusta. I know. We didn’t name her, she came with the name. We mostly call her Augie. I voted for a name change when she first arrived, but my kids thought she was too old and traumatized to adapt to a different name.
Our second-born daughter, the cat rescuer, is an adult living her grown-up life in another state. She has always been a kindhearted sprite, and back when she was 17, she went on a hiking trip with a friend and her family. She called on the second-to-last day of her vacation, asking if she could rescue a cat. She made sure to tell me this cat was all black, with long, fluffy fur, because she knows that I have never had (but always wanted) a long-haired cat, and that I have a particular weakness for black cats.
I knew better, though. Hey, I wasn’t born yesterday. I handed the phone to my husband, knowing he’d say no. He is the one member of the household that often wonders why we need all these pets, and talks about "someday when we have no pets," as if that will ever happen. Keep dreaming, pal.
Anyway, considering Julia had just graduated from high school, her acquiring a cat of her own wasn’t something I was interested in. She’d be going away and would be unable to take this cat, so should she be thinking of rescuing one now? Did I want another cat myself? Well, in the sense that I love every single cat I meet, I was interested. Was it worth listening to Matt complain when we ended up owning this cat ourselves? No way.
What I didn’t think about was the whole daddy-daughter thing. If I wanted to bring another cat into the house, Matt would refuse. But when Julia asked, he simply said, “OK, honey-see you soon!” And boom! Our third cat was about to move in.
I made the best of it. Molly and Bo are not territorial or spiteful about their use of the litter box like some cats I’ve had. Matt couldn’t complain since he gave permission so readily. A long-haired kitty! A black kitty! I was ready to meet the new member of our family and prepared to keep her when Julia left home.
You might be wondering where the rescue part came from. Did Julia rescue Augie from a kill shelter? A life of neglect? A tree hanging over a raging river with a waterfall she'd plunge over if she fell?
No, no, and no. Julia rescued Augie from a lady who fosters cats, and who loves them so much she kept in touch with Julia for a year after the adoption. She kept in touch so much, in fact, that Julia finally blocked her number. She would ask what brand of food we fed Augie, if we went on vacation and left her home or in a kennel, and how many hours a day Julia played with her. She was relentless.
Now, I know people that foster animals, and they are fantastic, loving people. The lady that formerly had Augie is probably a good foster mom, but I have to say that she took advantage of Julia's soft heart and good knowledge of animals. I think when she realized Julia was not on vacation with her own family, she saw a way to rid herself of a cat that would never find another home. She was able to convince my girl that with love and affection, Augie would turn into the sort of cat she was used to--a sweet, domestic fluff ball that purrs, plays with catnip mice, and snuggles up in bed with you.
Augie came home, and it was instantly obvious that she was not friendly. She growled, hissed, and spat. She didn't want attention. We chalked it up to fear, smelling other cats and a dog in the house already, and her long car ride. We reasoned she needed some time. Eventually she'd see that we are cat people and then we'd all be friends.
Four years later, I can assure you that this hasn't happened.
Her nickname, the Empress of Evil, is totally apt. I will, in the interest of fairness, tell you that she loved Julia while she lived here, and when she moved out, shifted her affection to our youngest daughter, who still lives upstairs in the big room the three of them used to share. If I go up to Emma's room, where Augie feels most comfortable, she will allow me to sit next to her, pet her as many as ten times, and might even bump her head into my hand. When we meet downstairs, all bets are off.
Our home has an open-plan second floor with a door at the bottom of the stairs. That's good news, because the door can be closed and the cats can stay separated. Augie has her space with her own litter box, food, and water, and the door keeps Bo from going up to steal her food. (Molly is a good girl and never goes upstairs.) The bad news? When Augie decides she wants to come down, she stands on the stairs and yowls. Loudly and incessantly.
We have since realized that the cat lady lied (been mistaken, if we're charitable) to Julia about Augie's age. She told Julia the cat was "probably seven or eight," but when we took her to the vet we discovered she was more like 12, possibly 15. She also might have omitted the fact that the cat is deaf and half blind. I'm willing to concede this may be a later development that came with age. All I know for sure is that this kitty doesn't hear and might not even see you until you are right up in her face. We assume this is why her meows are loud enough for passersby to hear her outside with all the windows closed. And why she is always upset; because she thinks she's alone until all of a sudden, someone is bearing down on her.
When she comes upon any other animal she growls, hisses, and generally freaks out. This is exacerbated by Bo, who isn't the brightest bulb. He follows her around and acts like he wants to be friends, even though he knows Augie has no interest in being friends. The kids think he does it on purpose, that he is putting on a blank face to mask his true aggression towards Augie. I think he's just that dense. Whoever is right, the two cats scrap a few times every day, though it seems to be all vocal posturing rather than actual fighting. Still annoying.
As to her behavior with people, it's complicated. As I said, she can be nice-ish when you meet her upstairs. She snuggles with Emma, and in this past pandemic year has gotten used to Emma's constant presence in the room, doing remote school. This has resulted in her becoming pretty demanding. If Emma dares to want food, fresh air, or any human contact, the cat descends and yowls her displeasure, signaling that Emma's presence upstairs is immediately required.
When it comes to the rest of us, she often acts like she'd like attention. Mind you, the emphasis needs to be on the word act, because most times when you try to give her that attention, she will immediately do an about face and try to scratch you. For me personally, her adorable exterior always makes me want to swoop her up and kiss her...but since I know that would involve me getting my face shredded, I abstain. Complicated relationships with cats are not my favorite.
So here we are with the clock ticking. Julia has made a clean escape from this cat. Emma starts her senior year of high school in the fall and will go off to college, so I suppose I'm next in line for the title of Augie's Person. I have to admit, I'm kind of looking forward to the time when she wants to sit on my lap and demand my attention. I long to pet that beautiful fur and show her that I am her best friend. We'll see what happens when she finds out I don't live upstairs.
About the Creator
I'm a freelance writer who loves reading, theater, animals, and getting outside. Married to my college sweetheart, mom to 4 kids who aren't very kiddish anymore. Politically the furthest left you can imagine, I have zero patience for fools.