Continuing the tale of Lilith, in which a little black kitten rocked harder than any boy band.
May 1998. We adopted and took her home early on a Saturday. Lilith was tough, but in bad shape when we got her.
Her black fur was dry and brittle. Strands fell and broke like twigs. She had parasites, a wide array of them, so many that the thought makes me itch to this day.
The animal shelter folks suggested that we limit our exposure to her until she got a check-up. We had to keep Lilith isolated from the other cats in residence (more on them in a second), so we kept her in the bedroom with the door shut.
Limit our exposure? Were they talking about the same supposedly feral kitten who had just glommed onto me? Tiny Lilith pounced on me, purring and kneading her paws into my torso, at every opportunity without failure or mercy. I washed up a lot and brushed her fragile splinters of hair off me every chance I got, all the while thanking God for not making me a hemophiliac.
Our regular vet wasn’t available till Monday. But she did do house calls. A little more pricey, but really convenient when you have temperamental kittens. Or just one with a hell of a right hook.
The vet ran a full battery of tests. Lilith was fairly cooperative until the very end. When the vet drew some blood, Lilith threw the hypodermic out of her leg, clear across the room, bounced it off a wall. Thump. The vet and her assistant scrambled for it. The vet found the hypo… with a 90-degree bend in the needle.
“Did we get enough?” the vet assistant asked.
The vet stared at the bent needle, either horrified or impressed. “I think we have enough.”
Ph33r the kitteh.
Now if that wasn’t funny enough, let’s cut to the cats already in residence, Mina and Nita. Their first encounter with Lilith was priceless.
Mina was the blue-eyed mom cat, a stern and downright aloof Birman and self-appointed queen of the household.
Nita was her retiring daughter, a flashy-looking dilute tortie with a long, long tail and a shy personality which was in total contrast to her eye-catching paint job.
At first Jamie was looking forward to introducing them to one another. The more we talked about it, all the science and behavioral stuff, the more nervous we got. Cats that don’t get along can respond two possible ways. They establish a pecking order and enforce it brutally, with one terrified weakling become the pariah of the litter. Or they could simply tear each other apart. Or both.
All through the weekend, little Nita kept howling and hissing at the bedroom door.
On the following Monday, the vet gave us the all-clear to introduce Lilith to the others. We shoved squirming Lilith in the pet carrier and let the other cats enter the bedroom, holding our collective breath.
The resident felines approached the strange new cat in the pet carrier. Nita came in slow and close to the box, chancing a sniff. A warning hiss. Then she walked out.
Don’t mess with me. A typical cat greeting. Sort of Klingon, in a way. Nuqneh.
Mina sauntered to the carrier. She took a dainty sniff. Then shrugged. Her fluffy grey shoulders went up a fraction and went right back down, lacking any tension whatsoever. An actual shrug. Not impressed, still in charge. Mina usually didn’t care about intruders anyway. I’ve seen cats full of confidence, but never like this. Regardless of the threat, she could take ’em. She was the queen and she knew it. So for Mina, after motherhood and her own adventures out in the mean streets, a new kitten was strictly small fry. Completing her aloof tour of the outer marches, Mina went on with her royal day.
Wow. Lilith was officially in.
And yes, they all got along very well. They were the Three Who Ruled. Mina, She Who Must Be Obeyed, had executive power. Nita was the heir apparent. And Lilith was in charge of security.
No, really. Lilith did regular patrols of the perimeter, namely the edges of our apartment. She took positions at every other window in the place, watching for intruders. Once in a while, she would make a quizzical squeak (presumable catspeak for “How long have you had these ‘droids.”) A rare facedown with an outdoor intruder (usually some other curious feline) ended in Lilith baring teeth and emitting an ominous hiss. Kids were welcome… though watching them play got Lilith riled up.
And she was tough. Can’t be stressed enough. The strength of her “rejection” of the vet’s hypo wasn’t a fluke. Lilith was built like a tank, bearing a musculature that often made even professional cat show judges wonder about her gender. And she had grace as well as power.
She just didn’t use it climbing on our shelves and counters, that’s all. It became a running gag. She traveled through our place just like Godzilla stomping through Tokyo…. only not as many fires.
That was how she earned one of her many names. (Being a cat, obviously she had several.) I’m a little embarrassed by this one. But it’s my fault. I started calling her “Godzilla-head.” I’d pet her and talk to her, calling her names. And in my head, I heard the goofy baby-talk of Elmyra from “Tiny Toon Adventures.” It sounded like the sort of thing Elmyra would’ve said.
But that wasn’t the only reason. Through all her patrols and furniture stompings, she still liked to pounce into my lap and knead her front paws on me. Lilith and I often found ourselves face to face, especially when I was in bed. Hell of a wake-up, let me tell ya — staring up at her dark feline countenance which was wrought with concentration, loudly purring, head low. Lying down and looking up at her like that — often — I noticed a resemblance to the 1970’s Godzilla.
She had the tail too. I can feel her whacking me in the face with it, whenever she insisted on quality time with me, kneading her paws, turning around (whack) three (whack) or four (whack) times. Then she’d sit down in my lap, piling herself up my front until we were face to face again. Maybe she’d sit there and purr for a while. Sometimes she’d nap.
So yeah. Godzilla-head.
The other names? More on that later.