When I began this exercise and wrote my first post using the letter “A” what, or who, I’d be telling you about by the time I got to “Z” was a foregone conclusion: It could be none other than my beloved tabby, Miss Zazu.
Several years before I moved to Toronto, I adopted a cat in Montreal. He was a gorgeous chinchilla persian. A friend of mine had a neighbour who had the mother and father. The litter was unusually large for persians — six adorable kittens. In a one-bedroom apartment there was no way this girl would have been able to keep eight cats, so she was keeping the parents and one kitten and the rest had to be adopted.
I lucked out. But he picked me, I didn’t pick him. The first time I saw them, when I went to this gal’s apartment to decide which one I wanted, I just gasped when she opened the door. They were the cutest little critters I’d ever seen. I immediately threw myself down on the living room floor. And all of a sudden, the chubbiest one waddled over and sat down on my lap. I named him Buddha (because he had this big, round belly and he sat like the statues we see of Buddha’s) and he and I were devoted to each other for almost nineteen years.
But when he passed, I decided I would get two cats the next time. I always felt that he was lonely all day when I went to work. And that it would have been more fun for both of us if he’d had a buddy. I’d mentioned this to a friend of mine, another
cat lover one day, not long after Buddha died.
So I wasn’t surprised when my phone rang one afternoon, and it was her. She’d just come back from a Vet with a new kitten. This kitten had two siblings and Debbie (my friend) gave me the phone number and told me to call immediately. I did, but one had already been adopted. Even though I’d had my heart set on two, I knew there were way too many babies out there who needed homes, and I’d have no trouble finding a second one; so I told them I wanted the cat; and that I would stop to pick up some supplies and come and get her right away.
A lot of Buddha’s things were still in my house, tucked away, out of sight in my basement. But, in the end, I didn’t want my new cat to have hand-me-downs. So I stopped and picked up a litter box, litter, treats, food and water bowls and some toys. Food would be purchased at the Vet’s. I was ready to pick her up.
She and her siblings had been found on the porch of a Chinese restaurant, where they’d been living. The Vet, who lived in that neighbourhood, had been watching them; and finally picked them up and brought them to the Veterinary practice. They figured they were about three months old. When I got there, I told them who I was, and why I was there. The receptionist gestured at the waiting room. “She’s in there”, she said to me.
Turning, I noticed a slim, lanky little thing sleeping on top of a huge dog. The dog seemed oblivious to the fact that there was a cat on top of him. In fact, he was sleeping, and snoring. As soon as the cat became aware of my presence, she leapt off the dog and started prancing around. I swear she knew I was there for her. I picked her up, and she started to purr and lick my face. I was hooked. So, it seemed, was she.
And then, in a nano second, she jumped out of my arms and again, started running ’round and ’round in circles, jumping up, prancing a bit. Just like a whirling dervish. It was hysterical. When they asked me if I had a name for her, Zazu just popped right out of my mouth. Why, I don’t know. It just came out before I could even think about it. It just seemed to suit her. Anyway, that was it. She was Miss Zazu forever more.
Within ten minutes of being in my house, she’d made herself right at home. She’d staked out her place on the couch. Her favourite chair. Where she liked to lay and enjoy the afternoon sun. And of course, she slept in my bed. Or more to the point, she let me sleep in hers. It was as if she’d been waiting for me. She walked in, looked around, decided she liked it, and that was that. She was home. There was no period of adjustment. It was like she’d always lived there, and had always been with me.
Even on day one she was a bossy, little thing. She ruled the roost. And did so until the day she died. And she didn’t tolerate fools gladly, either. If you didn’t do as you were told, she let you know it, in no uncertain terms. She was not to be messed with. She also thought she was a dog. Her favourite thing was to drop her toys at my feet and wait, somewhat impatiently, for me to catch on; and pick them up and toss them. Happily she’d run after them and bring them right back. This amused her for hours.
Dainty as she was, she ate like a truck driver. When I yelled out, “Who wants candies?”, she’d tear into the room at high speed, jumping up on the kitchen counter, pacing back and forth until I gave her some. And no matter how many she got, it was never enough. She also loved men.
To the point of embarrassment, actually. She didn’t care who they were, either. The cable guy, a roofer, a mover, colleagues, dates, it made no difference to her. The minute she heard a man’s voice, she was there. Meowing. Rubbing herself on their legs. Running between their legs. Screeching if they didn’t pay attention. And she kept it up until they bent down, talked to her, and patted her. Then she’d purr. If they sat down, she sat on top of them. If they were only there briefly, she walked them to the door.
Women didn’t interest her at all. Except for me and my mother. Friends would come over and she’d be like, “Yawn”.
No matter where she was in the house she’d come running the minute I called her name. I loved her run, because she bounced. It was really distinctive. She was always as happy to see me, as I was to see her. Until the day that she decided she needed some fresh air, and some freedom. I opened the front door to get the newspaper and, without my noticing, she slipped out. For about ten minutes, I continued with my morning routine.
But all of a sudden there was a stillness in the house. I knew she wasn’t there. I called and called and called her. “Zazu. Zazu. Zazu“, I screamed. Nothing. No response. Not like her. I freaked. She’d never been out (I’m neurotic, my cats are indoor cats, and no, I never remove their claws) and hadn’t lived with me very long. There was an enormous park across the street and an alley that went the length of the street, out back. And while I was on a small cul de sac, major downtown streets (and traffic) were very close by. Too close by.
First I called my office, told them what had happened, and said I’d be staying home until she was found. I called my mother (why I don’t know), who had recently moved to Toronto. She loved Zazu as much as I did (often babysat for her when I went out of town), so the next thing I knew, there was my mother careening down my street in her car. Wearing a coat over her nightgown. Thank God she didn’t get stopped by a cop for speeding.
The cat rescue I called told me not to worry, that she’d show up when she was good and ready. They told me to sit outside, on my front stoop, so she could see me; and I’d be able to see her. Some of my neighbours pitched in and started looking for her, while I sat outside, as instructed. My mother sat on the back deck, ready to pounce if she came home that way.
Sure enough, about three quarters of an hour after she disappeared I saw her prancing down the street. Confident as all get out. Very happy with herself. Preening, almost. About three doors from mine she noticed me. Smart, little bugger that she was, she knew the gig was up. So she took off. Started running from house to house. Up the front walks, up the stairs, down the stairs, through the front garden, up another walk. Took me a while but I finally cornered her.
What did she do first? The instant she was inside the house she ran up the stairs and high-tailed it into a small room at the back of my house. It faced the alley. It had an all-glass, french door that led out to a small balcony. She stood, on her hind legs, with her front legs pressed on the door. Screaming at the top of her lungs. I knew then that she’d been in that alley, hanging out with the dozens of cats who used to congregate there every day. And she was yelling at them to come rescue her from the evil witch who’d caught her and brought her inside.
We both recovered from the experience, and she soon took up residence on her silk pillows once again. In the end it was her kidneys that did her in. At one point she was so sick I had to learn how to give her an I.V. We had to do that every day for about four months. I hated to have to do it as much as she hated having it done. But we managed. And it saved her life. That and three different kinds of pills she was on for the remainder of her life. We got a little over a year, together. A year where she enjoyed an excellent quality of life. We made the most of it. And then, one day, she was done. Just done.
It was a Saturday morning. I woke up and she wasn’t with me. She was on the living room couch, curled into a tiny ball. I knew something was wrong. She tried to jump off the couch and fell over. I took her to an emergency Vet (mine was closed) near my house. It was her time and I had to let her go. We were together until the very end.
Over the years my little Zazie led me on many a merry chase. She was a total character. One of a kind. A true diva. She was like medicine for me, always making me laugh when I was sad or angry or frustrated. Whenever I think of her, I have to smile.
She was a real treasure. Eccentric. Zany. Zazu.