AKA: Lizzy Lump Lump Fat Cat
Margaret didn’t want a cat. She grew up on a farm where the animals were banished to live in the barn. Even the dog and stray cats were destined to spend their lives outside, regardless of how cold it became during a long Minnesota winter night. Anyway, cats are feral and snooty, she thought. And since that had been her first-hand experience, she reasoned that it’s how all felines act.
Yet there she was, sitting in the “Getting to Know You” room at the Humane Society while her daughter, Janet, fluttered about examining potential feline companions for her. It had been more than a year since her husband suddenly died and she was, admittedly, lonely. But a cat?
When Janet carried Lizzy into the cordoned off room to meet her, Margaret nervously tried to figure out how to hold the vast, soft, limp ball of fur. She was flustered when Lizzy crawled up her shoulder and wrapped her body around Margaret’s neck. And there she lay.
Soon Lizzy began to murmur a faint purr. Surprised at herself, Margaret was actually a bit tickled by this cat slung over her body. She nervously giggled and asked her daughter what she should do.
Janet encouraged her relax and enjoy it. She sat next to Margaret and began to stroke Lizzy’s back. Janet explained that she thought Lizzy would be a great pet for her mother: she was only a year and a half old; she clearly wanted to be with Margaret; and she was used to being an indoor only cat. “Besides, she obviously wants to be with you. Look at her. Isn’t she beautiful?” Janet caressed Lizzy’s long torso.
Margaret smiled broadly and rubbed her cheek against Lizzy.
“Not particularly,” Margaret replied with a compassionate grin on her face. “In fact, I think she’s kind of ugly.”
“Mom!” Janet couldn’t believe her mother would say such a thing.
“Well, she is!” Lizzy stretched a paw further around Margaret’s neck and pressed more closely to the warm human beneath her. In spite of her opinion that Lizzy wasn’t gorgeous, Margaret unthinkingly began telling Lizzy that she was a sweet girl. She stroked the bottom half of Lizzy’s body, gently following Lizzy’s waving tail; it was the only part she could reach with her right hand. The colossal lump reminded Margaret of a soft, warm fur stole she had when she was young.
There Margaret and Lizzy sat when suddenly Janet jumped up and vanished. Meanwhile, Margaret wasn’t sure how to peel Lizzy off of her. Oh dear, she thought. I don’t know the first thing about cats. But she tried ever so hard to enjoy the feline affection while trying to calm her worries and get her head around the idea of caring for a cat.
When Janet buzzed back into the room, she explained that they were ready to leave and that they only needed to pay for Lizzy. Margaret tried feebly to protest but Janet didn’t even acknowledge her objection.
Margaret next found herself in the check out line of a pet store. Her cart was overflowing with an overstuffed red checked bed; a large bag of litter; squeak toys; a fishing rod with pink feathers; and a mountain of both canned and dried food-just in case Lizzy was a fussy eater. Margaret had no idea a cat needed so many amenities. A cat!
Lizzy stayed in the carrier that the Humane Society had let them borrow. It was a cool fall day, but not too cold for Lizzy to wait in the car. She laid on warm blankets and a window was cracked open every so slightly. Janet ensured they weren’t gone more than 15 minutes. Regardless, Lizzy did make her objections known to being left alone when Margaret and Janet returned to the car. In fact, she meowed her dissatisfaction the entire ride to her forever home.
Lizzy darted out of the carrier as soon as it hit the floor and sprinted through Margaret’s townhome. Before Margaret could sit down and catch her breath, Janet had the litter box set up, the bed tucked in a corner of the bedroom closet, and the pink cat paw dishes filled with food and water. She found Lizzy. She grabbed her by the scruff of her neck and placed her in the litter box. Lizzy bolted out, scattering the grainy mixture in her wake. Stunned, Margaret was ready to return the cat for fear that she would not use the litter box and instead, use her carpet. Janet reassured Margaret, explaining that Lizzy only needed to know exactly where the litter box was located and that she would now use it when she was ready. “Cats get it. You just need to show them once where you’ve put it.” Confused, Margaret asked quizzically “Really? That’s it? I find that hard to believe.”
As dusk enveloped the horizon, there was no sign of Lizzy. Janet handed Margaret a much-needed glass of red wine. Margaret still couldn’t accept the fact that she had somehow adopted a cat. A cat! Even the wine didn’t calm her anxiety and she worried that Lizzy had somehow gotten out of the townhouse and was wandering the streets or perhaps stuck somewhere. Janet put down her own glass of wine and got up from Margaret’s blue and green flower patterned love seat. She began to probe all corners and cubicles of Margaret’s abode. Janet knew that Margaret would not calm down until she was confident Lizzy was safely in the house.
Faster than her mother could exclaim “Uffdah,” Janet confirmed that Lizzy was curled up behind the sofa. No worries, she told her mother; Lizzy just needed time to adjust. She told her mother that during the night, Lizzy would roam the house and explore her new surroundings. Margaret began to “unlax” as she was inclined to say.
The next morning, the litter box had been used and food had been consumed. Although Lizzy was still in hiding, Margaret was relieved to know that her new feline companion was settling in, albeit on her own terms. She called to Lizzy, but no mound of fur appeared. She poked around the living room, sun room, and pushed back the hanging clothes in the closet. There lay Lizzy, curled up in her new bed. She didn't even look at Margaret, but both were relieved to know the other was there. With her belly full, her tail touched her nose as she curled a bit tighter. Lizzy went back to sleep as she heard the distant voice and laughter of her new human. This just might be okay, she thought.
After her daughter returned to school, Margaret checked on Lizzy many times during the day and encouraged her to come out and say hello. But it took Lizzy a week before she approached Margaret who was sitting in her sliding chair. She was drinking coffee as she gazed out her large picture window that overlooked a frozen pond and a snow-covered walking path which hadn’t yet been shoveled. When Lizzy quietly approached the human and sat beside her, Margaret jumped in surprise. She still wasn’t used to having another being in the house. Lizzy looked up her with curious green eyes and released a soft meow. When Margaret bent down to pet her, Lizzy darted into the living room and looked back to see if her new human would follow. Margaret got up and again approached Lizzy – who walked quickly into the bedroom and made her way to her safe, secret sanctuary in the closet. Margaret watched her and closed the door, leaving it open a few inches so Lizzy could come out when she was ready. “You go back to sleep, Lizzy. I’m glad you’re okay.” Margaret shook her head, expressing both relief and, to her own surprise, a bit of pleasure. This might be okay, she thought.
Lizzy was a beautiful tortoiseshell-or- calico cat. Her first owners surrendered her because the man was allergic to cat dander. Luckily, Lizzy had spent only a few days in the animal shelter before Margaret was strong-armed into rescuing her. Lizzy slept and slept and slept. At night, she gingerly explored her new surroundings after she heard Margaret’s cacophony of snores. After a few months, the noise became a sound track to her night time adventures. Unbeknownst to Margaret, Lizzy would often jump onto the bed and simply watch Margaret sleep. Although the sound bellowing from her mouth was sometimes deafening, Lizzy was at the same time fascinated.
The two eventually settled into a routine. It was a quiet home, which Lizzy liked. Well, save the endless “nights of thunder.” For Margaret, having a cat companion continued to perplex her. When her son stopped to bring kitty treats for Lizzy, Margaret confessed to him that she found herself talking to Lizzy. Her son grinned mischievously and replied, “That’s what you’re supposed to do!” Lizzy emerged from the bedroom somehow detecting that there were treats to be had. She walked directly to James, brushed up against his jeans with her tail held high. James slowly reached down and cupped her in his arms. Lizzy tolerated it for a moment, but pushed herself away with all her strength and bolted back into the bedroom. James left treats on the cream colored carpet outside the closet door.
Officially, Margaret never allowed Lizzy onto her bed even though Lizzy asked every night, rubbing herself on the home made comforter hanging over the edge. Lizzy never got caught watching Margaret in the middle of the night as snoring filled the house. But as the years wore on, Margaret succumbed to Lizzy’s pleas and invited her up onto the bed; her armor melted away during the cold, dark winter nights. Lizzy gleefully jumped onto the soft bed, eager to be with her human. She would immediately try to nuzzle Margaret’s head. Believing that she had grown soft on her own rules, Margaret firmly but kindly insisted that Lizzy stay “on her side of the bed.” When Lizzy scratched at the covers as an indication that she wanted to crawl underneath, Margaret acquiesced.
Lizzy began to gain weight and Margaret affectionately called her Lizzy Lump Lump Fat Cat. For her birthday, Mother’s Day, and Christmas, Margaret always received a card in the mail with the return address of LLLFC. It took her awhile to decipher what the initials meant and that her other daughter, Marie, had sent the cards. When it finally dawned on her, Margaret threw back her head and let out a chortle that cascaded into laughter; it, too, became music to Lizzy’s ears.
And so it went. The two of them visited in the morning as Margaret drank her coffee. Lizzy approached the slider where Margaret would drop her hand and scratch Lizzy’s ears. She, in turn, would meow with great pleasure. Margaret told her that she wasn’t a very pretty cat, but her tone said otherwise. Lizzy always came back for more love and scratches and companionship. Margaret embraced the little soul and was grateful Lizzy was in her home. It was nice to again have someone in the house. Even if it was a cat.
For fourteen years they shared their routine, comforting one another as humans and felines do. When it was time for Lizzy to be put down, Margaret cried quietly for the first time since her husband died. The house was so quiet. It was so empty. She missed her Lizzy more than she ever, ever thought she would.