TortietudeJanuary 24th, 2011
As you know if you’ve been following my Twitter feed, my cat Henrietta has been having some health concerns. Nothing life threatening . . . unless you call inexplicably pulling out her own fur and then spitting it across the room life threatening.
Which of course I do, because now there’s a bald spot across her butt that resembles the one on the back of Prince William’s head.
Not to mention the fact that every time I come into the room I find wads of fur on my pillow, like a gift from the Fur Fairy.
So we contacted the mobile vet.
Because the worst part about going to the vet is getting Henrietta into her carrier (claws flailing, skin slashed) and then the car ride over (screaming, projectile vomit), and then pulling her out of the carrier (revenge poop flying everywhere), and getting her examined (vet giving up, insisting she needs to be anesthetized for the safety of everyone concerned, Henrietta instituting a riot in the back room where all the other pets are quietly waiting their turn, me having to go in there and break things up, B.A. from the A-Team style).
PS None of the above is exaggerated in the slightest. I only wish it were.
But now, blessings upon her, there’s a vet who makes house calls!
I was sure we’d be able to fool Henrietta into thinking nothing out of the ordinary was going on. She’d just be lounging around, spitting fur across the room, and then . . . SURPRISE! Thermometer up the butt.
Because really, Henrietta is a sweet little angel who fell down from heaven to be with me seventeen plus years ago. The only reason she misbehaves so badly when we remove her from her home environment, I’ve always insisted, is because she was found as a tiny one-eyed stray in Brooklyn. Brooklyn girls, as we all know, are very tough. They don’t like to be messed with.
This was before the vet suggested that perhaps Henrietta’s problems stem from “tortietude.”
“Tortietude” is the “attitude” commonly found in tortoiseshell cats, which “tend to be very nervous and jumpy, and prone to hyperactivity. They are also very sweet and loving when calm—” especially around their owners, to whom they are fiercely loyal, very much one-person cats “—but are easily riled up and very high strung.”
Of course, I’m not sure Henrietta is a tortoiseshell. She fits the personality profile, but tortoiseshells, or “torties,” are cats with “mottled” fur, usually with patches of orange or cream and chocolate, black or blue (they differ from calicoes in that calicoes are predominantly white).
Henrietta, as you can see, does have the colors listed above . . . but she has all of them. She looks like a frappuccino threw up on her:
In case you didn’t know, according to their Wikipedia entry, torties are believed to bring good luck. The Japanese Maneki Neko figurine is a calico cat, which is a subset of the tortie (or the tortie is a subset of the calico, whichever).
It’s said to bring money and good fortune, which is why you always see it in Japanese restaurants.
One thing I do know for sure: Tortie or not, Henrietta outdid herself in tortie behavior with the mobile vet when she showed up.
As soon as she saw her, Henrietta started out with a few casual warning hisses. Then when I tried to get her to stand up for the examination, she not only decided to pretend her legs didn’t work, she began making sounds like a ninja warrior getting ready for a full on attack. And no one but me was even touching her.
Then she went in for the kill.
It took three of us—He Who Shall Not Be Named In This Blog included—to hold a nine pound, seventeen year old cat, screaming and spitting her head off, down on the back porch table.
I’m pretty sure my neighbors thought we were sacrificing a goat.
It was at this point that our other cat, Gem—or as I like to call her, Slutty-McSlut-A-Lot, my husband’s black and white tuxedo cat who wandered over to our house shortly after we bought it and decided to stay—apparently felt it would be a good idea to jump up onto the table and see if anyone was free to pet her.
Why not? We didn’t seem to be doing anything other than holding down a wildly screaming, maladjusted seventeen year old cat. Why not go up to each of us while we were standing there and start rubbing her head on our body parts that happened to be sticking out, including our boobs? Surely that wouldn’t distract us, or antagonize the other cat as much as possible.
Oh, and why not stretch luxuriously at the end of the table, right in front of the other cat, who was doing her best imitation of someone who was having a limb being severed off when all we were doing was trying to check her for fleas? That wouldn’t bother anyone, would it? Surely not. Look. Look at me. I’m FANTASTIC:
I know you will think I am making this up, but at one point Gem actually climbed up onto my husband’s shoulders and sat there, leering down at poor Henrietta and purring, JUST TO SHOW OFF.
I have seriously never seen such a slutty cat.
After we’d shoved Gem out of the way and Henrietta had been humiliated as thoroughly as possible (in her own mind), we let her down from the table. She huffed off and went to go curl up in her cat bed, from which she threw us many malevolent stares for ACTUALLY TRYING TO HELP HER (and cleaning out her ears). You could clearly hear her thinking, TRAITORS.
Henrietta is quite elderly now and is a bit stiff—although there is nothing actually wrong with her, as she can run VERY fleetly when she hears food being opened—so I’ve bought her a lot of stairs to help her get around. She has a set to help her get into her favorite bed (which she also uses to walk across the nightstand to get into MY bed, which of course she infinitely prefers to her own bed, especially to throw up in and, as previously mentioned, spit fur in):
She also has some stairs to get up onto the side of the bathtub, because of course all cats like to sit on the side of the bathtub while their owner is reading and scream for no reason for her to fill tiny water bottle caps for them to drink from, right?
Henrietta, who is already on the tiniest amount of thyroid medication imaginable, is now on the tiniest amount of steroid medication imaginable. Her food (much to her mortification) has also been changed (like me, she is now on a gluten-free diet, and of course she HATES it. Though why a cat would hate being on a fresh meat and fish diet is beyond me. But then, it is Henrietta), and so has all her bedding, just in case it turns out there is anything that might have been causing an allergic reaction.
And it’s worked. The hair pulling has stopped! Fur is growing back over the bald spots. Her butt now looks like it’s had a tiny comb over. Soon it will be back to full frappuccino glory.
Unfortunately, she still hisses at everyone who walks into the house (except me, with whom she insists on cuddling at the most inopportune times, such as when I am writing, bathing, or trying to sleep).
But, as everyone points out, it would be out of character for her to behave otherwise.
Because, tortoiseshell or not, she’s got tortietude. And we wouldn’t want her any other way.