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POOKA NINI KITTEN FACE
I've never met another cat, before or after Pooka, who understood the principle of chasing rubber bands. She knew that it wasn't the motion of your arm or hand that mattered, the important thing was to keep her eyes on the rubber band itself. You can fake out most dogs and cats with a throwing motion, but she never fell for it. If you picked up a rubber band and stretched it slowly over one finger, pointing it ready to shoot, she would hunch up, the intentness palpable, her eyes widening, and wait. As soon as the release came, she was off like a shot, often landing precisely in the same spot at the same time as the rubber band. After its flight, it was completely uninteresting. It was the thrill of the chase that mattered to her.

Pooka was a tiny cat. She weighed only 4 pounds and next to her, Toby was an elephant. My roommate and I picked her from a huge litter of farm kittens, where she was the scrappiest one, standing her ground despite her size and ignoring the rambunctiousness of her siblings.

She was so small I worried about crushing her when she crept into bed and curled up beside me. When I sat on the sofa, reading, she would perch on my shoulder or around the back of my neck, a tiny black and white collar. I could walk around with her like that.

A little princess of a cat, Pooka kept her fur clean and soft and her paws perfectly white. She had, however, no compunction about showing her displeasure if things didn't go her way. Forget to clean the litterbox a day too long or commit an unwitting transgression and you'd find a smelly present waiting for you, usually on the softest surface she could find: the bed, a rug.

If I lifted her up from the front, thumbs under her armpits, she would stre-e-e-e-tch her body long and hard, front legs up in the air, back arching, in what was obviously real cat pleasure.

Toby disturbed her greatly, with his big dog-like dumbness and his clumsy attempts at camaraderie. They rarely fought, but she would smack him with a paw and a hiss if he came too close to the royal person. The only time I every saw them happily within 10 inches of each other, was in the only apartment I ever lived in with a working fireplace, each stretched out in opposite directions, basking in the heat. Mostly Pooka ignored him completely.

Once she disappeared in a new apartment, and after frantic searching and the beginnings of panic, partly because we weren't supposed to have pets in the building, we heard a faint response to the calls of her name and finally realized that she had managed to crawl down a mouse-sized hole under the bathroom sink, into the inner crevasses of the pipes and plumbing between the walls. We lured her out with ham and Pounce cat treats.

I find now, writing about her, that I've forgotten many of the good Pooka stories, and all I have left is the love I had for this small furry child of mine. She was a comfort in a time of great sadness and despair in my life, and a joy for many years.

When Anders and I made the decision to move to Sweden, there was never any question that we wouldn't take the cats with us. Toby, however, died 6 months before our move, and so we went through the procedure of vet checks, cat carrier exceptions and quarantine reservations for just one cat. In November of 1996, we came to Sweden to look for a place to live, prior to our move after Christmas. In order to get at least part of the quarantine period over with before we arrived permanently, Pooka came with us, tucked in a sturdy little fabric cat carrier under the seat in front of me. She seemed to know that she couldn't meow and only made a few solitary protests during the long flight. I kept the carrier in my lap most of the trip, with my hand inside petting her, and occasionally her little head poking up to look around.

We took the catamaran from Copenhagen to Malmö across the worst choppy seas I've ever had the misfortune to be on and both Pooka and I were green with seasickness. We staggered off the boat 45 minutes later and collapsed on the dock. I took her out of the carrier and sat with her in my lap, recovering. The lady from the quarantine came out to meet us, to my dismay, and I turned Pooka over to her to begin the 4-month quarantine.

Back in Chicago, 2 weeks before Christmas and our departure, after receiving weekly bulletins on the health and happiness of my cat, I came home from work to the hotel we were staying in, and Anders told me he had received a fax from the quarantine facility. Pooka had been fine the evening before, playing with the keepers and content, eating her dinner, and curling up on the blue cheneille blanket we had sent with her. In the morning, she was dead. Only 11 years old, and in perfect health, the quarantine could find no cause of death.

Who knows what kind of despair a little cat goes through in the midst of apparent abandonment? Despite the kindness and some familiar objects, with no end in sight and everything and everyone she'd ever known gone, perhaps she just gave up. But, knowing that tough little heart, I suspect it was just time for her to go.

 pensive
mood: pensive
music: Dire Straits—Lions


Comments

You always tell the saddest cat stories. I was afraid to move with my cats after you told of the cat that died of a heart attack in your parents' car. Luckily, three of them slept most of the day and a half drive. My tiny cat, Cheyenna (5 lbs), we decided not to put in a carrier and that was a good decision. The whole first half of the car trip, I had her in my lap petting her and she was fine....
(Now she is pregnant at 12 and I tremble in fear that she will have a bad miscarriage or die in kittenbirth!)

I'm sad for you that your moves have been so traumatic as far as your pets go ;-( Stay put! (a tiny giggle)

I know they're sad but it feels good to finally write about them, after 7 years!! I'm sorry I scared you about moving your cats, though. We should have known that Toby would freak out in a cat carrier. He'd moved twice before that (once long-distance) with no problem because he was roaming the car. How exciting that your cat is pregnant :) New kittens! I'm envious. We don't have cats now, since Anders developed asthma with the 2 we got upon arriving in Sweden (started by Pooka and Toby, unfortunately). I'm still hoping that some day we might be able to have a Siberian cat, if he doesn't react to those.

Poor kitty-babies. :( I will always remember my Snowball. I'm glad she was able to stay with my Grandparents in Idaho. She was a bit neurotic and would never have managed a quarantine period of 4 months, I'm sure.

After living the first few years here with Lennart travelling for business, and me alone at home, I knew I needed a companion. We got Kem, and I decided that I'm never living without a cat again, if I can help it. (This is typed with one hand, btw, as kitty is laying with his head on my left hand. hehe)

The last 6 years are the first time in my life I haven't had cats, and it's a constant heartache. I miss cats in my home!! Where did you get the name Kem?

what a sad story :( she was a beautiful cat!

The end was sad, but the 11 years before that weren't :) She WAS a beautiful cat :)

Merry Merry Queen of the Bush is She

I told a Pooka Kitty story the other day in my class. Somehow cats got brought up and one of the other trainers said that I didn't have a cat, indicating that I wasn't a cat person. Little did she know and I told the story of her having yogurt all over her head from sticking it all the way in a big Dannon yogurt container that one of our roommates had left on the floor. I told them how little she was and that we got her at a farm from a litter of a kabillion cats. And we got 'cause she was such a fierce survivor. You couldn't open a can in the house of anything without her climbing up your leg screaming: IS IT TUNA! And I would painfully reply: NO IT'S PINEAPPLE!

Re: Merry Merry Queen of the Bush is She

Our little pookitty!! :) I miss her!! I knew I should have called you and asked for more pooka stories before I finished writing this. LP will probably email me with some later if she's still reading my journal. :) :)

Re: Merry Merry Queen of the Bush is She

lp, you mean the lp from state? Cool. Pooka was the only cat in the world that I truly loved and will ever love. I still have the picture that Molly gave me of her.

Re: Merry Merry Queen of the Bush is She

Yeah, the one and only LP the great! :) Lynda that is. She's in touch on and off. And you KNOW you loved Toby too, don't try and deny it! :)

Re: Merry Merry Queen of the Bush is She

I remember that story too, of getting Toby, which then in turn leads to the story of having to take the both of them to the vet to get the ear mites out of their ears, that Mr. Toby brought with him. Do you remember that story, of Pooka in the car after being at the vet? Are you laughing now remembering it? You have to admit it, Toby did not have an auspicious start.

Re: Merry Merry Queen of the Bush is She

I was laughing when I remembered it the other day, but I couldn't remember any more of the circumstances, just the end...um...result. :) hahahah! You have a WAY better memory than I do! I had forgotten about the ear mites. Remember the mouse in the basement? and the leaping from the highest bookcase in our first apartment? (street name escapes me, as usual)

Re: Merry Merry Queen of the Bush is She

I remember all that! I do have a good memory but it would probably be better if I hadn't damaged so many brain cells. Do also remember that Toby had a cold too, when he first moved in and how the 2 of them would sneeze?! And remember how Pooka could sit in your hand when she was a kitten? There was that Halloween party we had in the white house by BK lounge, I don't remember streets either, we were playing euchre (of course) and some guy, I don't remember which one it was, put Pooka in his shirt and she fell asleep wrapped around his tummy! I have to think of something for your Nostalgia issue, maybe something about school. If you're going to get nostalgic then school is the best, that was living in the moment for me.

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