Hello, Kitty!

By Mary Anna Violi | @MaryAnnaVioli

I have always liked black cats. They are like a big ball of dark yarn. tangledpasta.net
I have always liked black cats. They are like a big ball of dark yarn.

Several weeks ago, my daughter forwarded me an e-flyer from our local Humane Society. The erstwhile animal shelter was holding a one-day cat adoption from 12:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Saturday. Since over 120+ cats were overflowing the facility, with another 300+ awaiting space in the new building, the 120+ strong could be adopted with the usual fees waivered, and taken home the same day if the application passed muster. If a person did not bring a cat carrier to the Humane Society, a cat transport could be purchased on site. If one adopts a cat or dog from the Humane Society, one must sign off that the animal will be taken to a veterinarian within seven days of the adoption. This equates to paying the veterinarian, and paying for any subsequent whatever the “vet” may find, for example, gingivitis, fleas, a heart condition, or nothing.

I admit that I miss my thirteen-year-old Maine Coon cat, Fellini. He was euthanized at a reputable animal clinic in May 2015 due to an aneurysm that had left his hind feet and lower extremities paralyzed. He was my feline writing muse and I loved him dearly. At age three, I selected my first kitten from my Uncle Ed’s. His cat had given birth to a litter of three kittens. My parents thought it would be fine for me to have a pet. My mother was cat fancier, and she had converted my father into a fondness for felines. I have had one to two cats ever since. For people who have never known the joys of a pet, and who constantly say, “I don’t like animals,” I say, those individuals are missing out on some of Nature’s greatest happiness. Studies have now shown that a pet cat or dog comforts college students suffering from anxiety and stress, soothes assisted living and nursing home residents, and provide companionship for the elderly and the not so elderly. At the end of my workday, no matter how good or dismal it has been, my pet cat has been there to greet me, exuding cat happiness by purring.

This fellow is worn out after a vigorous game of plush stick toy! - tangledpasta.net
This fellow is worn out after a vigorous game of plush stick toy! – tangledpasta.net

Not expecting to find another Fellini, for he was unique unto himself, off I trekked that sunny Saturday afternoon with a friend to look over the feline landscape at the Humane Society. I didn’t even take a cat carrier with me because I felt ambivalent about encountering a cat. After all, Coco Chanel is now our solo house cat in residence. I had decided to go to the cat event because the suspicion that a large number of “leftover” cats might be euthanized to make way for those on the cat waitlist. If a cat happened to connect with me, then I could fulfill my humanitarian role of saving a rescue cat. If not, I would make a nice donation to the shelter. As it happened, I donated a large, unopened bag of Iams Senior Cat Food that day since Fellini never had a chance to eat it.

Suffice to say, the newly christened Valentino chose me. He is a most happy addition to our family. I highly recommend adopting a rescue cat or dog.

Ciao for now.

Eulogy for Fellini

Ever since he was a kitten, Fellini loved sitting in large pasta bowls=tangledpasta.net
Ever since he was a kitten, Fellini loved sitting in large pasta bowls=tangledpasta.net

By Mary Anna Violi | @Mary Anna Violi

Thirteen summers ago, in July, a month after my darling Mama’s sudden death, my sister-in-law and I were walking across the lot of the Zionsville Outdoor Market. Under the umbrella of a shady tree, a mother and her two young daughters stood over a blue laundry basket that held two kittens. One was black and white female who seemed a bit shy. The other one, a vocal male, had the markings of a Maine Coon cat. Both kittens were longhaired, with glossy coats; they had obviously been well cared for. Picking up the noisy fellow, he nestled into my arms and began purring. I inquired about the price. The mother asked only that I take good care of him and love him. I tucked the little fur ball into my woven basket, and that is how Fellini Tomasso Amadeo burst into our lives.

Fellini also liked nothing better than sitting atop a basket of clean laundry-tangledpasta.net
Fellini also liked nothing better than sitting atop a basket of clean laundry-tangledpasta.net

I have had a cat ever since I was three years old. The enigma that is a cat has always intrigued me. For thirteen years, my market kitten behaved more as a kitten than a cat. He was my feline muse. Fellini possessed the soul of a poet and the sensibility of an artist. He proved a testimony to love and affection. His almond-shaped green eyes were as expressive as those of any I have ever seen. He lifted our spirits that summer of immense loss; Fellini made my father smile at his kitten antics at a time when my Papa’s world had fallen apart. My young daughter doted on the kitten and tried to have her older cat, Sparkle, make friends with him, for both were indoor cats. Fellini roused us momentarily each day from the halo of grief that enveloped us that summer.

Fellini derived great pleasure from rolling around on the rug.-tangledpasta.net
Fellini derived great pleasure from rolling around on the rug.-tangledpasta.net

On Wednesday evening this week, Fellini raced up and down the stairs and through the house with Coco Chanel, our four-year-old cat. They played together, stalked each other, and pounced on each other, all very much as usual. Later that night, I gave Fellini his coveted bit of Greek yogurt, and then I went to bed. Fellini was in and out of my bedroom throughout the night, as he was wont to do. At 5:30 a.m. he jumped up on the bed, and settled down beside me as I rubbed his chin and tummy. About thirty minutes later, he jumped down from the bed, as usual. At some point, he wandered back into my bedroom. During his nocturnal rituals, he brought me his big, fuzzy, pink and black toy mouse. I finally rose at 7:15 a.m. Coco Chanel and my daughter’s visiting cat, Shelton Rae, came running out to the kitchen for their morning serving of Fancy Feast Primavera. When Fellini failed to appear, I called his name. He responded in repeated low moans. I located him behind the living room sofa in a place I had never before seen him. I crouched down and patted his head, yet he continued his throaty cry. He looked at me with his luminous green eyes, and I realized he could not get up, and then understood he could not walk. He dragged his limp hind feet behind him as I called for my daughter. She took over tending him while I hastily brought him water and Fancy Feast. He took only a couple of sips of water. Since Fellini’s own veterinarian does not work on Thursdays, another noted veterinary clinic had us bring him in as an emergency.

Fellini was neat and fastidious about grooming.-tangledpasta.net
Fellini was neat and fastidious about grooming.-tangledpasta.net

The veterinarian announced that Fellini had suffered a blood clot in a back artery. His temperature had now dropped to 94 degrees [normal for a cat is between 99 and 102]. She began to outline several scenarios for dealing with the clot, but first she injected him with a pain medication that helped him relax. Maine Coon cats, unfortunately, have a genetic predisposition for this particular kind of blood clot. In short, x,y, and z could be done, but the prognosis was less than promising: Another clot would likely form. Not wishing him to ungergo medical procedures when the long-term prognosis was grim, reluctantly I authorized euthanasia. She told me if he were her cat, she would do the same thing because of the gravity of his condition. Fellini raised his paw high for me, a ritual we had. I took his paw and stroked it, then gently laid it down. His paw was cold to the touch, I remarked to the vet. She said his hind feet were like ice. I kissed him on the head. Her assistant took him away for a few minutes.

Goodnight, my Sweet Cat Prince.-tangledpasta.net
Goodnight, Fellini, my Sweet Cat Prince.-tangledpasta.net

Fellini returned to us with a purple elastic bandage around his right front arm with an IV attached. The veterinarian told us to take our time with him and to press the red button on the wall when we were ready. We had been crying over our beloved Fellini throughout the time with the veterinarian. I knew he would never walk again. I could not bear seeing the pet I loved more than any other waste away or endure prolonged treatments that would come to nothing in the end. I pulled myself together, kissed him three times on the head as I did each day before I left for work, and forced myself to press the red button. She injected the narcotic into the IV opening. Crying over him, stroking him, kissing him, Fellini died within moments, peacefully staring at me.

I am heartbroken.

Ciao for now.

Winter Solstice

Coco Chanel the winter solstice cat - tangledpasta.net
Coco Chanel the winter solstice cat – tangledpasta.net

Frosty weather set in at the end of November.  I know this for a fact because if it had not yet snowed prior to my birthday, as sure as there are stars above, it would snow on November 30th.  Always.  Until the oft referred to ‘global warming’ began melting icebergs in Antarctica.

On December 21st, I realized that as the days draw nigh earlier, my awakened state is diminished.  I long to rest in the green leather wing back recliner poised near the Christmas tree.  Through the sheer patterned curtains I observe the blue-black of a night sky scattered with stars.  As I wrap my hands around a hot cup of peach herbal tea, my contentment is complete.  I am at ease in my domicile on these long winter nights.

I refrain from reading news updates these days; the sensational and the aberrant impinge upon my tranquility.  I seek refuge from the restlessness of the world.  I envy the luxurious slumber of beasts that snooze throughout the winter.  Each morning I coax myself into abandoning the warmth of my bed in order to march once again into the breach that is the working world.

There is nothing that makes the winter solstice more comforting than knowing I will converge with friends over the course of the frosty weekends over brunch, dinner, or drinks.  I bask in the witty discourse and laughter of friends and family.  Yet I likewise cherish the solitude of my quiet life, my writing life, my inner creative life.  Yes, the comfort of winter brings serenity to my spirit each time I observe Fellini and Coco Chanel asleep next to the Christmas tree.  We should all be so relaxed and peaceful.

Fellini the winter solstice cat - tangledpasta.net
Fellini the winter solstice cat – tangledpasta.net

Ciao for now.

Remembering Sparkle, Part III

Few things upset Sparkle.  She had no quarrel whenever the mailman placed the mail in the box.   Sparkle remained staunchly in place whenever the doorbell rang; retreat was not part of her vernacular.  Calico Cat down the block would stroll up the steps to our front porch and wait for a reaction. The minute Sparkle caught a whiff of Calico Cat, Sparkle would hurl herself headfirst through the mini-blinds.   Snarling, hissing, back arched, nose hot pink with fury, Sparkle vented her wrath toward Calico Cat for daring to venture into Sparkle Territory.  Never mind that Sparkle lived the life of Club Med Cat as an indoor cat; her territory extended to the porch and yard as well.  Sparkle was adamant that we not interfere in feline territorial disputes.  Frankly, we were too terrified of her to intervene.  The irony was that Sparkle was the sweetest, gentlest cat imaginable ninety-nine percent of the time.

Sparkle presiding over her domicile – tangledpasta.net

A bona fide homebody, Sparkle despised her annual trip to the veterinarian.  Even though our veterinarian took only feline patients, Sparkle wanted no part of her. Anjelica always took care to place a clean fluffy towel in the bottom of Sparkle’s cat carrier.  They rode together in the back seat of our car to soothe Sparkle’s anxiety.

“Mama, please play classical music on the radio.  Sparkle likes Chopin.”

No matter how gently Anjelica attempted to placate her, it was to no avail. Once we arrived at the veterinarian’s, the situation deteriorated rapidly.  Once Sparkle nipped the doctor.  While lashing out at the vet another time, Sparkle bit her own tongue and bled profusely.  Another vet visit resulted in Sparkle urinating all over an assistant who was trying to weigh her.

After a particularly ill-fated visit the previous spring, the veterinarian placed a note in Sparkle’s file:  Henceforth Sparkle would be sedated.  Whenever I called to schedule an appointment, I felt certain the office staff drew lots to see whose fate it was to handle Sparkle.   Gingerly an assistant carried a spitting, snarling Sparkle back to the examination room.  By this time, we had grown accustomed to hearing cat screeching on the car ride to and from the vet’s and throughout the exam.  However, this time Sparkle was positively operatic in her high-pitched yowling.  Finally, the bedraggled assistant appeared:  Sparkle was wrapped in a bath towels [not ours] from which ominous growling was emanating.   Handing me a wild-eyed Sparkle, the exhausted woman said:

“Sparkle is very angry.  She broke loose from my grasp and jumped from the examination table on to the sink table.  Unfortunately, the sink was half-full of water.  You might want to keep the bath towel around her.  Just bring it back when you get a chance.”

And with that, the vet assistant turned on her heel and fled behind closed doors.

We peered down at Sparkle.  The pupils of her eyes were black. Rage caused her to breathe heavily and rapidly.  Her wet fur looked like mousse had been applied.

Somehow we managed to get Sparkle home.  She would have nothing to do with me until bedtime, but she happily snuggled up with Anjelica for bedtime stories.  Clearly she held me responsible for the entire disastrous experience.  She did sleep hard that night.

Sparkle on the bathroom vanity waiting for a drink from the faucet

Sparkle was the most vocal cat I had ever had, yet her vocal timbre was less than sonorous; it was downright shrill.  Each morning as soon as I set foot in the bathroom, Sparkle would charge down the stairs and leap up on the vanity.  As I was taking care of my personal needs, Sparkle would look me squarely in the eye in my compromised state and utter,

“Aaaaeeeeiiiioooouuuu!  Aaaaeeeeiiiioooouuuu!” at an ear shattering pitch.  Translation:  Get my Fancy Feast breakfast on the double!

To divert her attention momentarily, I would turn on the cold water at a slow stream.  Sparkle’s penchant for water from this tap only was then indulged.  She had us all well-trained.

Ciao for now.





Remembering Sparkle, Part I


Sparkle the cat – tangledpasta.net

The summer Anjelica turned six, she informed me she wanted a cat of her own.

“But we have Lulu, our Houston cat,” I protested.

“No, Mama.  Lulu was your Houston cat before I was born.  I want a cat all my own.”

I sighed.  “Let’s look for cats to adopt,” I suggested.

“I drawed a picture of the cat I want,” announced Anjelica.

She handed me a drawing of a predominantly white cat with gold ears, a gold tail, and several gold spots on its body.

“Sweetheart, it will be hard to find a cat that looks exactly like the one in your lovely picture.”

“Let’s start looking, Mama!”

I felt this was a doomed search from the get go.  The odds of finding a cat with such particular coloring specifications seemed like searching for a needle in a haystack.

We went to the local Pet Refuge and Animal Control.  In the meantime, I queried colleagues and friends.  There were a plethora of black cats, gray cats, tortoise-shell cats, and variations thereof, but no cat remotely resembled the one of Anjelica’s dreams.

Finally, one Saturday morning, we drove to the county Humane Society.  Rows and rows of black, gray, black and white, gray and white, tortoise-shell, and calico cats greeted us with meows both sweet and frantic.  On a ledge in a huge cat cage, was a heap of kittens, stacked on top of one another snoozing the sultry summer day away.  From the bottom of the kitten pile, a gold-ringed tale lay draped over the edge of the ledge.  Upon closer inspection, Anjelica noticed a white foot.

Sparkle the cat – tangledpasta.net

“Mama!  Mama!  My cat! My cat!  She’s there!” Anjelica almost pulled the tall cage door open herself before the volunteer reached for it.

Gently, the volunteer moved each kitten until she reached for the gold-ringed tale, white-footed cat.  She placed the kitten in Anjelica’s waiting arms.  The kitten deigned to open its green eyes for a moment, then fell back asleep purring.

“See her gold spots, Mama?  See her gold ears?  Her white paws?  She waited for me.”  Anjelica paused, peering at the kittens pink triangle nose.  “Her name is Sparkle.”

“Welcome to the family, Sparkle.”

Ciao for now.


Ode to a Cat

A six-week old kitten.
A six-week old kitten. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As a person who has been owned by various cats ever since I was three years of age, I feel qualified to address the elusive allure of cats.  At age three, I have a vivid memory of Mama driving us to Zio Eduardo’s farm to select a kitten.  A calico kitten mesmerized me with her grey white, gray, tan, and black dappled fur. I anointed her Kitty Carbon.  Why, I have no idea, but “Carbie” and I became inseparable as we romped and partook of afternoon teas.

The good-natured Kitty Carbon permitted me to dress her in my doll bonnets and sometimes even in a doll dress.  We took catnaps together on sultry summer days.   My Papa made her a cozy bed of fresh hay covered with a gunnysack, and piled high with plush towels. She snoozed away the nights on a shelf in the garage behind closed doors.  I didn’t understand why “Carbie” sometimes disappeared for a night or two or three.  Shortly thereafter, she puffed up.  Even though I was mystified, Kitty Carbon would bless us with four to six kittens several times a year.  Mama would always search for fine homes for “Carbie’s” brood, amid protests from me.   I wanted to keep them all.

After nine years, perhaps one for each of her mystical nine lives, Kitty Carbon passed away.  I mourned her deeply and lamented her loss.  Yet in those nine years, “Carbie” taught me the ying and yang of felines.  She manifested fearlessness when it came to hunting, but gentleness reigned whenever she was with me.  When drowsy, “Carbie’s” eyes became slits that covered most of her green eyes, while still aware of the world around her.  Enigmatic, she thrived on human love, and the company of neighborhood cats, especially in the spring.  Throughout her life, Kitty Carbon meowed sparingly, alerting us to her immediate needs.  She particularly excelled at purring.   Only two photos survive of her, and they are not of primo quality.  The above photo is as near a clone of “Carbie” that I could locate.  The photo may not be perfect, but Kitty Carbon burns brightly in my mind and in my heart.

Ciao for now.