Comfort Kitty

I’ve never considered myself a cat person. I do have a cat. Actually, since I’m cat-sitting for my brother’s feline, technically I have two cats. But I’m not one of those cat people. I like cats who act like dogs, which means that for me to like a cat it must have at least one of the following character traits:

  • Affection is given freely, not begrudgingly or only after a treat is proferred or litter box is cleaned.
  • Greets me at the door, or at least acknowledges that I’ve entered their abode.
  • Responds when I call his or her name. Preferably that response is not something that requires cleaning solution.

Nina fits all of those and more. She’s a short haired black cat that looks like a manx. Her left ear is permanently bent and her short tail has a slight kink. I’d lived in Chicago all of about two months when a coworker at the restaurant where I was employed asked if I could take her. When I said no he pulled out all the stops: “She’s already had kittens so she’s mature.” “She was a stray so she can take care of herself.” And my personal favorite: “She’d be a great Christmas present for your son.” Who was 8. And it was December.

But I stayed strong. I had just moved to a new city and started a new job and had put my last cat to sleep because of diabetes less than a year before. I was in no shape to start taking care of another.

Then the resident alcoholic said he’d be more than happy to bring her home. “Fine,” I said. “I’ll take her.”

I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but this 1 1/2 year old ball of black fur took to me like a cat to a can of tuna. My son changed her name from Nora to Nina, in honor of both her name and the dog we used to have named Mina. (Clever kid, eh?) My first Christmas in Chicago included cat toys under the tree stuffed in her very own stocking.

But I’m not a cat person.

It’s been ten years now, and I swear that cat understands me when I speak to her. Spring of last year I had a big scare when I came home and she was sitting in her own urine. I had noticed that she’d become more and more lethargic, but when I saw that I knew there was something really wrong. I happened to be on the phone with my boyfriend and he heard my dismay. He lived in St. Charles, but he made it to my place in about 35 minutes. If you know the Chicago area, you know that St. Charles is 45 minutes from anywhere. That’s when I knew he was someone I wanted in my life for a very, very long time.

That’s also when I knew that yes, I am a cat person. I am that cat’s person.

We took her to a veterinary emergency room. They ran some tests and the doctor told me she might have leukemia and I should prepare myself for the worst and I should run a few gazillion more tests to make sure. I ran the minimum and felt like a complete shit, but I could only afford what I could afford. Turns out she had a simple ear infection (whew!) and once we started administering the ear drops she returned to normal. I doted on that cat and watched her every move until I knew that she was going to be A-OK.

This week she’s returned the favor.

Last Sunday I was injured in a camel race. That’s a story in and of itself, but the result was that I couldn’t move, couldn’t breathe, couldn’t laugh, couldn’t talk. I completely lost Monday and Tuesday’s a blur. I was lucid enough to cancel my meetings and other appointments, but that’s it. Last night I finally slept in my bed and this morning I could sit up without screaming in pain.

I don’t remember much, but what I do remember is that Nina was right there.

She curled up next to me or on my legs, all day and all night. The only time she’d move was when I got up to use the bathroom or try to eat. Then she’d be right back by my side as soon as I was settled in. A few times Jim tested her: he’d pick her up and she would struggle and push away and finally escape and run right back to my side.

Because of that we’ve taken to calling her Comfort Kitty.

I’ve known for years that when I don’t feel well Nina is even more affectionate. I think this time was more obvious because it was so extreme. I don’t get sick that often, and I’ve never been incapacitated for this length of time.

So yes, I am a cat person. I am that cat’s person.

And this year she’s getting a stocking as big as a Christmas tree.

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