Nearly twenty years ago, in December of 1994, Clarice and I had what seemed like a good idea, but in fact was a terrible one: we would get our friends Patty and Jon a cat. As a surprise.
Note to self: giving pets as a gift is not a good idea, particularly a cat.
I went down to the Erie Avenue SPCA and walked past rows of cages of kittens up for adoption. Most were cute, cuddly and affectionate. But I wanted a CwA — Cat with Attitude. And then I spotted a black-and-white kitten, swallowed up in an enormous cage, looking at me without any intention of being cuddly. This was the one, I knew.
Days later we presented her as the surprise to our friends, with the caveat that if they decided against keeping her, we would readily take her back, no questions asked. But I knew this would never happen. They’d fall immediately in love with her.
The call came within a week to come retrieve her. I don’t fault our friends — they simply decided that a cat at that time was not right for them. So this kitten was ours; our older cat Sammy had a new companion, and we called our landlord asking for permission to keep a second cat. I took her home and Clarice immediately decided — rather, knew — that her name was Mona. There was no debating it.
Mona proved over the next dozen or so years to truly be a Cat with Attitude. She deferred to the mild-mannered Sammy, her elder, but she was a pistol, a hellion, a troublemaker. One year, during the holidays, we woke to the sound of the Christmas tree crashing to the ground. Ornaments shattered, water leaking through the hardwood into the basement. Neither cat could be found, but we were fairly certain Mona was the culprit.
When we got our Corgi mix, Tyler, Mona would taunt him. She’d sneak up behind him and take claw-extended swats at his butt while he slept. He would open an eye, utter a low growl, and she’d go on her way, mission accomplished.
In 1998 we moved from a rental to our first house, just four blocks away in Center City, and Mona disappeared while the movers had left the door open. We searched the house, then enlisted friends for a neighborhood search. Signs were created and posted in the vicinity. Clarice cried.
After the movers were gone, we stayed on the stoop of our old place, a bowl of cat food at our feet, hoping she’d find her way back. We waited, and waited. And after waiting some more, I happened to look back at the rental and down at a tiny basement window at street level. And of course, behind the window was Mona, peering out contentedly, seemingly oblivious to our angst.
So Mona moved with us from one block of Waverly Street to another. Then six years later, now with Olivia and Aaron, we moved again, to a much bigger house in Mt. Airy. Many more closets to explore, and windowsills on which to perch for our CwA.
Then life warped out of control: Aaron’s disease reared its ugly head in 2006, and among his many issues were respiratory problems and allergies. Eventually we realized that we needed a cat-free house. This was probably around 2008. Sammy was old and suffering numerous medical issues, so finding her a new home was not an option. And she, in fact, passed away a short time later. But Mona was hail and crazy as ever, and we needed to find her a new home. We posted signs in the neighborhood. Our hearts, heavy enough with the weight of Aaron’s illness, sank further. Though we’d gotten her originally as a gift for someone else, the task of giving her away was wrenching.
Weeks went by and no response. In the meantime we kept sequestered Mona in a fairly large guest room. No longer would she have run of the house. Clarice vowed we’d never just return her to the SPCA — she’d stay in that room for good if we couldn’t find another home.
Finally came a response, from three young women who were rooming together in our neighborhood. They wanted to share a cat, and they wanted an adult cat. They knew our signs had been up for a while and were delighted that Mona was still available. They came over for a first meeting. We all sat on the floor of the guest room and Mona sauntered over, checked out each of the visitors, then plopped herself down in the middle like a queen on her throne and swished her tail. They loved her attitude.
And so Mona moved again, but this time without us. She left our lives. The ladies were kind enough to let us visit on occasion, and we learned that the trio later got a kitten — Tigershark — so Mona had a partner in crime. We were thrilled. She had a happy and loving home. Still, she was gone from our lives.
About a year ago we heard from one of the three young women, Rosanna. She was moving to St. Louis to purse a masters degree, and Mona (though not Tigershark) was going with her. St. Louis! Missouri! Another state and another adventure for Mona. By this point Mona was 17 or 18, and we hoped the journey would not take too much out of her. Months went by, and with them the knowledge that Mona was getting quite old, and at some point we’d learn she was gone.
Last week I stopped by the food co-op and ran into Rosanna, visiting for the weekend. She said Mona was doing well for a 19-year old, well-traveled cat. She sent me the photo above and the video below. When she sent the video she wrote, “Mona is missing hair on her paw because she was overnight at the emergency vet and they gave her an IV because she was having a UTI and vomiting and very dehydrated, but in the video she is clearly much better and she has been better the past few months, generally does okay except that she has occasional UTIs and a thyroid problem and kidney problems, but really for 19 this is quite good I think. She is very playful and happy most of the time.”
That’s the tale of Mona the Cat. From a runt kitten in a huge dank SPCA cage in Philly to a plush blanket in St. Louis. A cat with attitude, a survivor, perhaps with more journeys ahead.