Friday, February 23, 2024
adopting a catbackyardblack catscat behaviorfeline affectionfeline infectious peritonitisFIPgardengarden catskittensmimi's childrenmy household of felinesspare kitty room

A Nice, Nice Kitty

photo of a black cat looking out a window
Mimi at the Window

“Here,” she said, “she’s in here with the kittens.” My neighbor handed me a medium-sized box with the flaps closed.

I gingerly took the box, supporting the bottom, thinking of the little black cat and her kittens inside and afraid that if I jostled the box the wrong way she’d step on a newborn kitten. This was Sunday; the kittens had been born on Thursday.

Carefully carrying the box upstairs, I could feel little movements inside, whispers of paws on cardboard, but no cat noises.

Her name was then Maia, and we never did get along well. She lived across the street but I was constantly finding her in my garden and backyard, so full of life and little critters. She never came to me when I called her or acted in any way friendly. Later, when I caught her hunting and waved my arms and said, “Go!”, she cringed and disappeared under the squashes along the fence and was gone.

She was Lucy’s mom, though, the 15-month-old kitten I lost to FIP. I’ll tell the story of Lucy some time as I study and write about FIP, but I was bereft after losing such a young kitten, and to that disease in particular.

The day after I lost Lucy, I saw Maia in my garden but felt a sudden rush of fondness—Lucy had resembled her mom in so many ways I couldn’t tell her to leave.

It was one of those wonderful hot July mornings I’ve always loved in my garden, moist with dew made into diamonds by the sun just coming over the trees. Maia was expecting again and near due, her tiny body distorted by the kittens she carried. I watched her from the basement, waddling awkwardly across the brick patio outside the basement door to the little water bowl I always kept outside for Cookie and Namir. She had a little drink, a little face wash, then walked down one of the brick paths to observe wildlife.

photo of garden with black cat
Garden With Maia

And I knew, as I stood in the spot where Lucy had spent so much time, that I needed to take Maia and her babies into my household. I quickly debated the pros and cons. I knew it was right to get Maia off the street and get her spayed, and raise and find homes for her kittens, in the meantime learning more about the FIP Lucy had died from. I had no idea where Lucy had encountered the FIP and I understood how it spread, but really didn’t understand how contagious it was. Maia and her kittens could be carrying it, but then the remaining cats in my household had already been exposed. Still, getting Maia and her kittens out of the population of other cats could only help stop spreading it if they were carriers.

But the real reason was to heal my own heart. I had lost my four oldest cats in one year and tried not to adopt any kitten in the years they were growing older. Lucy and her siblings had come along in the middle of those losses, and while I found homes for the others, Lucy stayed on and I didn’t try to hard to find a home for her. Once I lost Stanley and grieved his passing, I turned all my love into raising Lucy, then 9 months. At one year I had her spayed, and immediately afterward she showed symptoms, then was diagnosed with, FIP. I lost her three months later.

Worst of all, I had begun to look at my other cats, all in their teens, as walking time bombs for hurting me with their illness and passing. I’d use the analogy of getting right back on the horse after you’ve fallen, and fill my house with new life lest I begin to fear and avoid my cats. I checked with my veterinarian to discuss the risks and see what she thought, and to my surprise, she hesitated, then agreed. Perhaps she understood my emotional predicament.

And heal my heart they did. I knew I’d love the kittens, but didn’t realize how wonderful little Maia was.

I had the room all ready and set the box on the table next to the cage where they’d live. Still no noise, no scuffling. I knew momcats could be fierce, though, and she could be ready to launch as I opened the box. I slowly pulled the flaps apart and looked inside from an angle…

I saw one round green eye glowing in the darkness. Round is good, round is curious, and round is encouraging. I opened the flaps a little more, and Maia poked her head up like a periscope and surveyed the room, then relaxed. Oh, I could imagine her thinking, I finally made it into the house. Our former relationship forgotten, she looked up at me as if to say, can you help me unpack these kittens? I felt such a strong sense of Lucy in the room I turned around to look at her; of course she was not walking into the room, but of course she was there.

photo of black cat nursing kittens
Maia With Her Babies

This was Sunday, and they had been born on Thursday so they had barely any features to distinguish them. She laid down and nursed them once we got them in the cage and we proceeded to get to know each other.

I renamed her Mimi for the lead female in the opera La Boheme, the embroiderer Mimi living the Bohemian life in Paris in the late nineteenth century. All the kittens began with names from the opera as well.

photo of black cat on drawing table
Mimi (formerly Maia) on Drawing Table, with Lucy’s Rainbows (more on that another time)

Mimi was only a few years old and is very tiny, yet she had had several litters of kittens. I think she sensed this was her last and that I would share the nurturing because she spent quality time with them, but she was really tired of kittens, and physically tired as well. She began migrating downstairs to my office, sleeping by the door and even curling up on my desk, fitting quietly in with the other cats as if she’d always been there and falling into our routine.

And so she continued, always settling on my desk; in the time I have written this she has walked in front of me four times. I added a shelf over the phone and adding machine on one side so she could keep watch on the neighborhood as I worked, and that is where she sits, looking out into the night. I write all the time about her kittens, the Fantastic Four, Mimi’s Children, but she doesn’t get the notice she deserves.

Even though she’d always been an outdoor cat, she had no interest in going out. Once she looked intently out as I came in, so I held the door open and she looked more intently, then looked up at me, Why are you holding the door open? Aren’t you coming in?

But even though she hangs near me, she is a little distant. Sometimes when I reach to pet her because she’s walking right in front of me, she draws back and gives me a horrified look, Who the hell are you, and why are you trying to touch me? She can modify her shape so that my hand glides just one-quarter inch above her fur, then she moves away gracefully.

But not always. Tonight as I was sorting end-of-year stuff in my office, she was all over me, mewing in her squeaky little mew, rubbing her little face all over my hands and my legs, trotting after me and purring so nicely and looking at me with her round eyes, then walking on the two piles I was sorting, biting the edges of the papers I was holding. She thanks me for saving her all the time in her quiet little ways and her sudden bursts of enthusiastic affection and I’d have to be a fool not to recognize it.

I had had a home for her that didn’t work out, and I’m glad. I think she and I will be friends for a very long time. Every home needs a sweet little black cat.

Mimi has had quite a bit to say since I’ve been blogging:

May 11, 2010: Mimi Introduces Giuseppe, Mr. Sunshine, Jelly Bean and Mewsette

May 9, 2010: Mimi’s 2006 Children: Lucy, Charlotte, Angus and Donal


From health and welfare to rescue and adoption stories, advocacy and art, factual articles and fictional stories, "The Creative Cat" offers both visual and verbal education and entertainment about cats for people who love cats, pets and animals of all species.

11 thoughts on “A Nice, Nice Kitty

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  • Eve LeCrosse

    Beautiful <3

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  • Isn’t that strange? You took she and her babies in and protected all of them. Now it appears that she feels a need to protect YOU! That is no coincidence….I believe there are no coincidences. She is taking care of you. You KNOW cats are like that!

    Your photographs are gorgeous too I forgot to mention that….I love the solitary black cat sitting on the brick pathway, stunning.

    You are most welcome! It is my pleasure to have read this beautiful post. Thanks for touching me so deeply! xoxo

  • what a beautiful, beautiful post about Mimi and her kittens. I am so happy she is there with you.
    I am so sorry about the loss of your Lucy but she definitely lives on in her Mama….you are an Angel with those cats. I wish you all the best, thank you for sharing this beautiful posting with us.

    • Caren, when Mimi first came I was so taken with her babies that she took a big, long back seat, but she never complained, just quietly took her place in the household. I think I am only now realizing how very special she is as she escorts me around the house and talks to me. Thanks for reading!

  • Thanks for writing! I think FIP is more common but hard to diagnose, and because the wet FIP is always fatal and sometimes very quickly, and illness and death can come years after the infection, it’s hard to determine the cause of death because it came so fast. Lucy was as healthy as a rock until she was spayed, and it’s often that physical experience of anesthesia and recovery that allows the FIP they are carrying to get a foothold and take them. I’m so glad you still remember the little girl. I know I’ll always remember Lucy.

  • Karen Lucas

    We adopted a pair of female Tuxedo kittens who were 4 months old at the spca 15 years ago this month – they were only there 1 day but long enough to develop an upper respiratory infection which they recovered from – they were so adorable and our resident boys loved them to pieces – when they were staying in the bedroom before being allowed out into the rest of the house, they would crawl up our clothes purring and kissing us – just a pair of love bugs. After a month, the smaller kitten, Jane, began to slow down and we took her to the vet who told us that she was pretty sure she had FIP. She died a couple of weeks later. However, her sister and the two older cats never got it. The kittens had been with a woman for several months before they were surrendered because she developed a severe allergy to the cats. I always wondered if the shock of going to the spca and then to our vet to be spayed lowered her immune system just enough to let the FIP that she had encountered somewhere along the way to get a foothold. We cried just as much as if she had been with us for 20 years. Her sister, Jenny, is still with us though. The boys are all gone now. Last fall we adopted a 4 year old Tuxedo female who had been abandoned when her owner went into a nursing home. The last two boys had died suddenly two days apart last July and we and Jenny were missing them so much so having a new family member was just what we needed. It’s been a new experience bringing an older cat into the family – I didn’t raise her so she doesn’t always trust us but it’s getting better all the time. Anyhow, this is really about the FIP and I will be very interested to see what they find out with the study

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