Friday, January 14, 2011

Introducing the Boys: Rex

Rex is my handsome little cat. Aidan is my husband's regal little pug. Until recently, the two animals had had no occasion to meet. Now that Davey and I are married and living together, however, it is a completely different story.

Rex, being my especial pet, is clearly my favorite. He is a black furred little gentleman, still kitten soft at the distinguished age of five years old. He's not the most successful cat. Even as a kitten he didn't play fight or climb the furniture with the same verve and tenacity as his sisters, including the one that turned out later to be a boy with invisible testicles. After their eyes opened, the rest of the kittens started climbing out of their nesting box for the first time to venture forth into the wider world of the home office they were kept in. Rex, on the other hand,  was still getting stuck trying to clamber over the edge of the box. He would peer over the rim of the nest at his gamboling siblings, his eyes still a little crusty. I could almost see the longing to play filling up his tiny body and pouring out his ears.  Enticed, he would hoist himself up onto the rim of the box and try desperately to get his little hind legs up over it. Sadly, the task proved repeatedly to be too daunting and he would begin to cry pitifully before easing himself backwards into nest to watch his sisters (and secret brother) frolic until the longing became too great once more. I sat and watched him try and fail for a full twenty minutes, mesmerized by how close he would come to making it out of the box before giving up and retreating. Once, he even got three of his legs over, paws firmly planted on the carpet. His rear left leg, however, was stuck. Rex began to mew for help, which I would not give. He needed to learn to do things for himself. He looked at me blearily. "I can't do it," he sobbed.

"Arrrg! Keep going! You're almost there!" I urged, exasperated by his ineptitude.

"No," he wept. With three legs out of the box, he retreated, poking his head back up over the edge to watch his sisters some more. "That looks fun," he sighed.

I threw up my hands in disgust.  "I don't want this stupid kitten anymore," I huffed.

I had laid claim to Rex a long time before all this. From the moment Rex's mother birthed her first stillborn black kitten I put a standing reserve with my then-boyfriend and his family on the first non-deceased black male their cat produced, although for some reason it seemed harder for her to keep the black ones alive in her womb. When she became pregnant with Rex's litter I was all atwitter waiting to find out if she would fulfill my demand. I made a point of impressing upon my boyfriend and his parents the seriousness of my intent to possess a black male kitten. If someone else got him first, I was going to be pissed. I had this idea that he was going to be a man's man of a cat, with a strong cat jaw and a mean left hook. I couldn't have been more wrong. My first indication that all was not right with my little warrior was when I went over to their house a day or so after the kittens were born and flipped them on their backs so I could see how many boys and how many girls. Even more important was finding out whether or not the two nearly identical little black kittens were boys or girls. I picked up the first one and flipped it over in my hand. A girl. She stoically bore my inspection without a peep or a squirm. Rex, on the other hand, squeaked frantically from the moment I picked him up to the moment I placed him back at his mother's side."Hmmmmmmmm," I murmured, thoughtfully tucking away this information.

The kittens were too young to really do much besides drink milk, sleep, and poop themselves at first, so it was still impossible for me to tell how good Rex was going to be at jumping and killing. I figured maybe his squeaking was actually a brutish yowl of rage that only seemed wimpy because of Rex's small size and undeveloped vocal cords.

But here he was a few weeks later, unable to get out of a box while the other kittens were out on the carpet practicing jumping. Rex wouldn't become a good jumper until the other kittens were busy becoming accomplished climbers. This was no burly man cat. This cat was a dud. I didn't know what to do. I fancied myself a mean and cranky girl who needed a cat to match. I really wanted a black cat, and the one I had dibsed was useless for my purposes. His almost identical sister, however, had been a badass from day one. Yes, I decided. She was the one I wanted. Immediately upon making my choice I picked her up and put her in my lap so I could play with her a little bit. She looked at me coldly and left. She didn't have time for my games.

I tried every day for weeks to win her over, but she would just squirm out of my grasp and flounce away. "What the hell?" I sulked, watching her engage one of her sister's in play-battle. Rex climbed on my shoe and stared inquisitively at my face. "Urrrrg," I groaned. "I don't want you anymore. You suck at fighting." He ignored me and made his way up onto my knee, where he curled up and fell asleep.

As the kittens grew closer to being old enough to take home, it was becoming more clear that that girl did not want anything to do with me. Rex, conversely, would run out into the middle of the room as soon as he heard my footsteps and stare at me as I stepped over the baby gate and into the room. "Prrrrrrrrrip!" he would cry out joyfully, scurrying over to me as I sat down to watch the kittens play.

"You aren't her are you?" I'd mumble, flipping him over to check. He squirmed a little until I set him down on the floor in front of me dismissively. Undaunted, Rex would crawl up onto his favorite spot on my knee and curl up to watch his sisters with me. I would scratch him on his tiny back and try not to jostle him as he fell asleep.

"He doesn't do that to anyone else," observed my boyfriend's Mom one day, watching Rex's excited dash for me. 

"You really like me, don't you?" I said, scratching the downy fur under his chin. He purred contentedly. "You'd be pretty happy to come live with me, huh?" I asked, settling down onto the floor so he could take his customary spot. He paused to gaze at me adoringly on his way up my ankle. I smiled at him fondly. "I changed my mind again. You're going to be my little cat," I said, giving him a kiss on his little head. So I took him home with me and never looked back.

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