Many years ago, shortly after my first husband and I were married, a tiny ball of black fur wrapped in a towel curled up in a shoebox riddled with holes, arrived at our front door. This precious kitten was a wedding gift given to us by my husband’s Best man, who happened to be Professor Irwin Corey’s son.
In case the name Professor Irwin Corey doesn’t ring a bell, he was that famous double-talking “know it all” American Comic who was dubbed “The World’s Most Foremost Authority” on just about everything. But enough about Professor Irwin Corey! This story is about one of the most remarkable cats who ever owned me. I fell in love with him the second I opened the box. And when I reached into the box to hold the tiny seven-week- old kitten in my hand ever so gently; it launched an incredible love affair that lasted over 17 years.
I was greatly concerned that the kitten seemed too young to be taken from his mother. Fortunately, however, he was eating wet cat food, was using the litter box had perfect feline manners. But as tiny as he was, he proved himself to be a very curious and intelligent little rascal. He was into everything and discovered the most incredibly bizarre hiding places. He was so creative in finding them that he constantly kept us on our toes trying to keep up with him. His favorite disappearing act was crawling into our bed’s mattress lining. But to preserve his privacy, we never let him know that we were onto him. The kitten’s behavior and demeanor inspired his name, “Nemesis” which fit him to a “tee”.
We learned that Nemesis was half-Siamese. His mother, (an indoor-outdoor apple-headed Siamese) would spend endless hours when she was in estrus would spend calling for a mate. Her reverberating, raucous calls were heard throughout the neighborhood. Her Siren-like songs paid off since they caught the attention of a traveling salesman, (a dapper orange-tabby) who swiftly responded to her invitations and stole her heart. Nemesis was born nine weeks later; the result of his parents’ very short but passionate honeymoon.
Nemesis grew into a magnificent black cat, sporting a tiny white fur locket on his chest. However, due to his high I.Q., his passion for exploring, coupled with his drive to conquer the universe often got him into trouble. In a blink of an eye, he could escape out the front door of our apartment without our even realizing he was gone. So you can only imagine how startled we were one afternoon when one of our upstairs’ neighbors knocked on our door holding a squirming black cat in his arms. We figured out that Nemesis snuck into his apartment when he opened his door to receive a delivery.
Although very little frightened Nemesis, the one thing that brought him to his knees in abject terror. Just the sight of the vacuum cleaner would leave him shaking, crouching on all fours with his tail tucked between his legs. And when the vacuum cleaner was turned on, the sound of its motor caused this muscularly built seventeen- pound feline to immediately duck under the bed, trembling in fear. The moment I finished vacuuming, I quickly would stow the dastardly vacuum cleaner monster into the closet so Nemesis would feel safe enough to come out of hiding.
But one day I was too tired to stash the vacuum away. The silent canister lay in the middle of the bedroom carpet. Upon spying it, Nemesis started looking for a hiding place, but he was in conflict since it was our play time.
Initially, he stood motionless in front of the metallic beast, and then slowly started to move. His movements resembled a feline preparing to stalk and kill his prey. He arched his back, puffed up his tail and assumed a highly threatening posture. He moved very slowly toward the fearful object. Then he raised his paw and dealt death –blows to the vacuum, thwapping it repeatedly until he was assured he had jettisoned the “monster” into the netherworld.
Nemesis was indeed a courageous kitty. I was so delighted with him that day while I watched him swelling up his chest while proudly sauntering around the apartment. His enormous grin truly rivaled the Cheshire Cat‘s. Nemesis never demonstrated fear of the vacuum cleaner again. Instead, he would hurl threatening evil- eyed glares in its direction; albeit from the safety of a chair in whatever room I was cleaning.
By: Jo Singer, MSW, CSW, LCSW, (Ret.)