Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Babette's Story pt 2

When she was first found this kitten didn't seem like an abandoned animal. She was clean and well fed (no bones sticking out) and her claws were clipped. My mother was convinced that someone was missing this cat. For the next week we placed ads in local papers and walked around neighborhoods near the school asking if people were missing or knew of someone missing a small gray cat. After awhile we stopped knocking on doors, and the ads were never answered. My mother had to concede that she was not stealing anyone's beloved pet and she was welcome to become our beloved pet.

We needed to settle on a name for her. I was leaning toward something romantic and knightly like Galahad before getting to know her and realizing that she was an exceptionally prissy cat. Maybe it was her finicky eating habits, or the dainty way she held her tail as she ran, but there was something that was girlish she needed an appropriate name. I toyed with Genevieve and Guenevere, even Precious crossed my mind. But shortly after adopting her a friend and I went to see the stage production of Beauty and the Beast based on the Disney cartoon. In watching the charming romance between Lumiere, the candelabra, and the sexy feather duster, I came up with my new cat's name. Babette. In one word it summed up her sweet yet exacting nature (and it shortens to "Baby" perfectly).

My mother decided that Babette had been foully abused as a kitten before being abandoned on high school property. The favorite imagined scenario was that some husband or boyfriend took a disliking to the cat and got rid of her before coming home and comforting his sad significant other. Our only evidence of this was Babette's extreme misandry. The moment she sniffed out a human male in the vicinity she turned into a hissing spitting growling force of nature.

If she hated any man in particular it would have been my father. To this day I can't tell you why because he did nothing to harm her, and had always been a cat person himself. His only comfort was that while she hated him, he was not alone in her contempt. My brothers were no exception. Even visiting men like dates were not immune. As she got older she became slightly more tolerant and by tolerant I mean she would approach a person, let them pet her, sniff them and if that whiff of human pheromone was male she hissed, growled, swatted and if pressed, bit. Sometimes I wondered if she didn't enjoy lulling them into a false sense of security with her big green eyes and soft fur.

"You have to come closer so I can smell you!"
the baby Babette

The only exception I ever witnessed to her hatred of men was my mother's second husband. She seemed to accept him into our family almost immediately. Perhaps because my parents divorced the summer before I went to study abroad, for 2 years my mother lived in our large suburban home alone with Babette. I can only imagine that Babette not only liked having a second warm body to snuggle between when I was not at home, but she knew that my mom needed more than feline companionship and wasn't going to stand in the way.

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