About Our Cats – Ophelia

Ophelia Poses Reluctantly

Ophelia Poses Reluctantly

Wow… has it been months and months since I wrote about Lucius? Or has it been months and months and months?!?! However long it has been, somebody (Heather) has been pressing me (Christopher) to git’er dun (Texan for “go forth and accomplish”). Besides, Clyde has been harassing me to write about him, but I told him I had to write about Ophelia first. He did not understand why that was necessary and insisted I not dawdle if I insisted on writing about Ophelia first. Ophelia has been silent on the matter, though her claws have been cutting more deeply, of late… perhaps this is here way to emphasize that either I write about her soon or she will gouge out my eyes. So, here it goes… Ophelia.

Where do I begin? Well, Heather and I were living in “Gunspoint”, which is the colloquial name for the Greenspoint area of Houston. We were living in a cheap apartment in a complex on the western edge of Greens Road, which spanned to the east, lined on both sides with apartment complexes, and the further one traveled east, the crappier the apartment complexes became. Since ours was the furthest west, right next to some nice hotels and high-dollar corporate real estate, ours was the complex of choice – at least that is what we had convinced ourselves.

I was working on a contract with MD Anderson Cancer Center support their business continuity operations – this was why we uprooted from Dallas in late November of 2000. Heather wasn’t working at the time, so she had plenty of time to write, but the katkid Lucius kept whining for attention. Even when I was home, we could not give Lucius enough attention.

I had gone one Saturday early in December 2000 to the Petsmart on 1960 and I-45N to get litter and cat food, but then I noticed that the local pet adoption agency had several cats up for adoption. I don’t recall whether I was consciously seeking out another cat but one of them bewitched me into looking at her. There before me, looking at me with intent, was this beautiful short-haired black kitten with the most unique cat eyes I have ever seen – gold on the outside and green in the middle. I could tell she was female without looking at her chart, but I looked at it anyway to see her name: “Ophelia”.

I remember staring at her for several minutes, oblivious to the volunteer who had asked me whether I wanted to hold Ophelia. I think Ophelia had to look away for the spell to be broken so I could respond to the volunteer. Well, of course I wanted to hold little Ophelia. As soon as the volunteer placed her in my arms, she curled up and started purring. I am tearing up a bit at the memory… She was so tiny in my arms. She sometimes nudged her nose into the crux of my folded forearm. I knew she wanted me to take her home.

I remember calling Heather and telling her that I had found this kitten that wanted to come with me and that I wanted to know what I should do. I have this vague memory of driving home with the adoption forms to get them signed by the apartment people (the adoption folks wanted to make sure that as an apartment tenant that we had the landlord’s permission to have an additional cat, and they like that sort of thing in writing). I also recall, I think, getting the paperwork signed and then return with Heather and Lucius, who was in his carrier.

Lucius and Ophelia became introduced through the cage’s metal grating, and they seemed OK, well enough, at least. Well, we took Ophelia home that night. Per the volunteer’s instructions, we had planned to keep Lucius and Ophelia separated until they could become familiar with each other’s scents through the closed door. We put Ophelia in the second bedroom of our two bed two bath apartment, and Lucius was free to roam the rest of the space. I don’t remember if I slept with Ophelia and she slept with Lucius that night… I do remember, however, that either when we woke up, or perhaps it was after we went somewhere Sunday and came back, we received a big surprise.

You see, the door knobs in our apartment were intended to meet ADA standards, that is they were levers instead of round knobs. While we were gone (or asleep – I still can’t remember), Lucius had figured out how to stretch up to the door lever, pull down on it with his clawed paws, and push his body weight forward, because the door to the second bedroom was open, and Lucius and Ophelia were inside having a polite conversation, and they had not torn each other to shreds.

The two kitties have gotten along for the most part. Occasionally, Ophelia has seen fit to mount Lucius – a little gender confusion for these fixed cats, though perhaps Lucius was being a pain and Ophelia wanted to show him who was Goddess in our house. “Who’s your Goddess?” “You are!” Heather and I have even had to take Lucius to the vet because Ophelia had scratched one of his eyes with her claws. Lucius is so much bigger than Ophelia, such that when we had brought her home, we were worried Lucius would be beating her up… definitely not the case.

Heather and I both believe that Ophelia has been a bad influence on Lucius. The boy cat had been so well behaved – he stayed off the counters, off bookshelves, and off the fridge. After we brought home Ophelia, we started to see a pattern of mischief on the part of Lucius. We would find him on top of counters, bookshelves, on the fridge, and he even got on top of the kitchen counters! I remember Heather and I running around the apartment, looking into all of the cabinets and cubbies, looking for him, fearing he had escaped out the front door when one of us had last passed through it. Of course there was Ophelia sitting pretty in the kitchen with a slightly bemused expression, as if she knew something that she wasn’t telling. Then we heard a “meow” from above us, and upon looking up, there was Lucius, standing above the china cabinet seven feet above the floor. I had to get the step stool, I think, to get him down, since I think coaxing him didn’t work. When we finally got him down, I caught him staring long and hard at Ophelia, and it almost seemed like Lucius was chastising Ophelia for talking him into climbing up there.

This was not the last time Lucius was caught doing something naughty where Ophelia was close by. Let’s see… toppled garbage can with trash strewn about, dishes knocked crashing to the floor from counter tops, unattended people food eaten upon, books pulled from bookshelves… all of these things and more Lucius was caught doing in the presence of Ophelia. Each time, Lucius seemed to say, “but Ophelia talked me into this,” or, “Ophelia made me do this.”

So let me tell you more about Ophelia. When she was younger, she, like Lucius before her, liked to get on my back, when I was on all fours, and ride me around. I would crouch under one of those cat toys that hung from a plastic arm hooked over the top of a door, and she would jump and stumble, but she loved playing like that, for a while anyway. Now that she is an older cat, over ten years now, she doesn’t play as much.

When we pet her, she makes biscuits / kneads her fore-claws, left then right then left again, all the while purring. She does this whether she is on the carpet, furniture, bedding, clothing, or bare skin. She will even do air biscuits, though she tries to grab something, typically my arm or even my face, when she is so aroused (being petted). She loves her belly rubbed, and she will sometimes lift her leg and wrap it around my or Heather’s arm while we are petting her. I joke with Heather that Ophelia is trying to get more leverage… Ewwww…..

Ophelia loves chewing plastic. She will scour the house looking for it if she is feeling slightly peckish. She rarely actually eats the plastic, but she does chew it to death. I think she also likes the crackling sound it makes, which is why she is attracted whenever Heather or I are eating a snack from a bag. As soon as we start making that noise she loves, Ophelia comes running, jumping into the lap of whomever has the treats – human treats. She will nuzzle the bag and get in the face of whomever is holding it. If one of us passes the bag to the other, Ophelia soon follows. Ophelia is also a flirt, and she really loves the guys. She is all over any man who visits, and she really likes contractors. She also likes shoving her fanny in people’s faces and whapping them with her tail – she loves doing both to me. She is such a flirt… However, she hates women. She hisses at both Heather’s and my mother and other women who happen by. Of course she loves all over Heather.

That reminds me… some new age health fair we went to did some kind of past life regression for cats… weird, right? Well, we thought it would be a lark, so we paid the money and had a reading on both cats. I think I already covered Lucius’ reading in the previous post… Ophelia was believed to have been a 1920’s flapper who had become a burlesque dancer, and apparently she had lived a long life.

Anyway, Ophelia used to sleep with us more often, that is before Clyde arrived in our lives. Lucius owns the bed and chooses to stay curled up between my ankles. Ophelia, however, would either curl up between Heather and I. Now she demands Heather’s pillows. When Ophelia was ready for us to feed her in the morning, she would whap Heather’s face and head until she would wake up. Now that we have Clyde, I have to carry her to bed, but she will only stay for a while – longer if I pet her. She nearly always leaves to sleep on the couch in the front bedroom or on one of our recliners. During the day, she sleeps on Heather’s discarded jeans or my shoes. She is friendly when she wants food, and she demonstrates her hunger by first rubbing up against my legs and then sitting in the kitchen in a posture akin to Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter in that scene where Agent Starling first sets eyes on him. I have to wonder whether Ophelia wants to devour cat food or me…

Sometimes, Ophelia can be downright vicious. I mentioned how she hisses at women; well, she is even worse when she goes to the V-E-T. Every time… EVERY TIME… she has to go to the V-E-T, it is an effort to first get her in her cage. She whines on the way, and when we get there, she will not come out. She swats with full claws any appendage or object that comes near the opening of the cage. Every time, we have to disassemble the cage in order to get her out. Until recently, that meant unscrewing a bunch of fly nuts. She would hiss, she would growl, she would spit… For some procedures, the vet or vet assistant could immobilize her, somewhat, with a towel, but in some cases, she would have to be chemically sedated. It’s like she is some wild animal, not the sweet, loving cuddle monster (and I say monster because of her excessive use of claws as my multiply-scarred shoulders, arms, and chest can attest to) that I know and love at home. I am genuinely embarrassed by her behavior every time I have to take her in. When she comes home, she has a running hissy fit with Lucius. I have to put vanilla extract on all three cats so they smell alike – that actually works. I loathe taking her to the vet – the other cats are so well behaved, Clyde even more so…

The vet is not the only place where Ophelia’s animal nature has reared itself. One weekend, our friend Laura and her hubby Gary were visiting us, and they had brought both of their dogs with them, neither was larger than Lucius, but each was more densley packed with muscle and exuberant energy. One of them, Trinity, I believe, had sneaked behind me into the bedroom the cats were sequestered within and proceeded to prod the cat’s food dish. Ophelia was cowering under the bed, and barefoot me walked over there. Then suddenly, OWWWWWW!!!!!!!! Ophelia had leaped at my unprotected feet and raked both sets of talons across the tops of both feet – I don’t think I fell, but boy was in pain. Ironically, I was about to head off to a podiatrist appointment. I think she had thought my feet were Trinity’s and that Ophelia was protecting her food; she had reacted, and caught me instead. Well, I am glad Trinity wasn’t hurt, I just wish I had not been either.

There is one other occasion where she attacked me at home. We were living in San Antonio when I had gotten a job offer in Kingwood, Texas, of all places – that is northeast Houston for those unfamiliar with Houston – Greenspoint was north central Houston. Anyway, for three months, I commuted between San Antonio and Kingwood each weekend, and every trip I made, I hauled a load of boxes and furniture with me to a storage room I had rented on Kingwood Drive across the railroad tracks from work. Well, a couple had made an offer on our house, which we had accepted, so in February or March 2008, I think it was, we decided to rent a U-Haul truck and auto trailer and move the rest of our stuff into a storage room next to the one we were already using. The cats knew something was up. We had even given them drugs we got from the vet to knock them out for the long drive.

We had just finished cleaning up before leaving the house either Friday or Saturday night when it was time to pack up the cats. Lucius was easy to get into his carrier, but Ophelia would not abandon HER home. She cornered herself in the kitchen, I think, and refused to let me get close. Well, I had to get her into her cage, so I tried to rush her, but she dug her claws in and went to town. Though bloodied, I managed to grab her, and I carried this spastic ball of claws and teeth to her carrier. She would not go in willingly, so I had to restrain all four legs, all the while she is wiggling and biting me, but I managed to get her inside and close the door. I was crying, and I am tearing up now thinking about it – not because I was in pain, and boy was I hurting. No… it was because I hated myself for taking Ophelia away from her home. Her home. I’m not sure she has forgiven me.

Well, we found out that Sunday, after spending the weekend packing, driving to Houston, handing the cats off to Heather’s parents in Katy, and unloading in the wee AM hours on Sunday at the storage place, the mortgage company for the buyers of our home went out of business (the economic crisis of 2008 hits home), and the buyers could not find alternate funding… Damn was I pissed, and in the American sense, not the Australian or UK sense… We had moved all of our stuff, taken Ophelia and Lucius from their home, Heather left her job (though she was able to work from Houston for a time after that), all for nothing…

Three months later, we were able to sell our home, thanks to our wonderful real estate agent. We were staying with Heather’s parents until we could sell our house and buy another home. The cats sometimes had to stay in our bedroom, but most of the time, they had full roam of the house, save for Janice and Jim;s bedroom and Jim’s workout room. Well, we bought our new home August 8, 2008 and moved in two days later, per the previous owners’ request. As soon as we got to our new home, the cats explored it. Lucius and Ophelia seemed to like all of the window sills and windows around the house. They have since become accustomed to their new home and have even found favorite napping places. Ophelia likes the couch in our library (dining room), the bed in our front bedroom, the second chair in Heather’s office, the tops of either cat throne, or any of the cloth recliners. Her preference varies with the seasons and the time of day.

Well, both cats were getting older and becoming more sedentary. Heather and I felt we needed some new blood in the family, someone to play with the older cats and perhaps get them more fit. That’s why we adopted Clyde, but that is another story I will continue later.

Back to Ophelia… Things had been going well in the new house. Lucius, Ophelia, and later Clyde were getting along as well as before, and until Clyde came along, Ophelia still considered herself the baby of the family. Then a few months ago, I noticed that Ophelia was feeling bony and was acting lethargic. A regular vet visit indicated that she had lost a few pounds, but that was attributed to her diet. However, she continued to degrade in body fat and weight. I had also been noticing that she wasn’t eating – she would sniff at dry food but not eat it, and she barely nibbled at wet food. I remember taking her in for another visit, when the doctor noticed an odd growth and wound on her lips. Her initial prognosis was that this was a cancerous growth and that it could only be treated with chemotherapy, which was horribly expensive. The doctor had taken some blood work and tissue samples and was sending them to a lab for analysis, but it didn’t look good. Heather and I began to come to grips with the possibility that we would need to put Ophelia down so she would not have to suffer.

Fortunately, the tissue was not cancerous, and the doctor was able to remove the bad tissue and stitch up the wound. Ophelia’s wound healed, and she felt well enough to return to eating. She had been 7 pounds when she went in for surgery, and she is back up to around 12 or 13 pounds, where she needs to be. I am glad she had healed up, and so too are the other cats.

Today, Ophelia is still somewhat sedentary, but Clyde, as intended, manages to get her up and running quite frequently. Both she and Lucius get much-needed exercise, thanks to Clyde. Ophelia still likes to cuddle, but she just loves digging in her claws and climbing up to my neck, digging and purring all the way. She seems to love to inflict pain. I still love her, as whacked as that seems. She is my little girl, after all… Daddy’s girl.

I hope you enjoyed that brief (yeah, right) tale of Ophelia. One of these weeks, I will write a follow-up story about Clyde Monster. Until then…



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