This June marks major feline milestones in my life. I'm not a crazy cat woman. I'm an animal person. We grew up with: cats, dogs, horses, ponies, chickens, pigs, goats, sheep, rats, gerbils, bunnies, and a few random newts/horned toads/lizards and robins. I love them all. However, there are always those signature animals that have stood out from the rest and gained special precedence in my heart, like Britta Ann our brood sow, or Nemo the horse born on our property that I rode through my teenage years, or Sandy the spastic dog who defended us from bully dogs and let me brush his teeth and put clip on earrings on him. Yuki stands supreme in the realm of our kitties, a statuesque part of our family unit from 1987 till last week. My uncle found him as a kitten in a dumpster in LA, and somehow my dad wound up bringing him home on his way back from Japan- hence the uber inappropriate Japanese name (Yuki means snow in Japanese, Yuki was jet black). As a kitten he was called Spaz and spent his hours wildly chasing milk rings on the linoleum, or one of our braids as we held him and teased him. At night he slept with my sister and I, and we would often wake up with the lacey fronts of our matching nighties wet from Yuki sucking and kneading.
As the years went by, Yuki became a god among the Bennion cats. He was gorgeous, a mini panther with eyes the gold of an Egyptian sun and an ego as wide as the Gobi desert. He was a hunter- mice, birds, squirrels even gophers were fair and frequent game. He owned the house and he owned us. It was always a matter of when he wanted to be loved, not when we wanted to give him loves. Usually his whims where right as I sat trying to do homework and he was set himself demandingly in the middle of my work. At one point he suffered a midlife crises during which he started obsessively licking himself till his belly and inner legs were bald. After a few months of kitty prozac and some substantial weight gain (we started calling him the King. . . very Elvis reminiscent) he regained his stately composure and character. He aged gracefully, even when he began to lose his hearing and his coat began to match his name. Sadly, Yuki perished last week at the jaws of Red Bear, a foster dog we were taking care of. Needless to say there was some serious grieving, it's hard to lose an old friend, especially in such an unnecessarily harsh and violent way. I can't help but feel we somehow betrayed our old boy. But in a way it fits. . .he died claws slashing and tale swishing, forever the mighty hunter.
June also marks the one year birthday of my current feline flame, Reuben. Reuben is a hairless sphinx cat and came to me last year by way of a friend in vet school who was looking for homes for kittens. While having a cat in some ways cramps my wanderlust ways (though his grandparents are always happy to kitty sit), I love having this little shadow companion always waiting for my return from school, and happy to curl up next to me each night. So happy birthday Reubs. Maybe I'll get him a live mouse for his birthday.