Niff, looking glamorous
Niff is the most amazing little person in a feline body. She was a rescue. Her former owner was a young man; from what I understand, he was diagnosed with cancer, went into hospice and passed away, and his landlord tossed both his cats out on the street. My friend Michelle, a cat rescuer, was told about it and she went over and collected Niffy and her sister and took them back to her place. Michelle always has a houseful of cats, but Niff and her sister pushed the balance over the edge. Niff was vastly unhappy; the rest of the cats beat up on her and she spent most of her time avoiding them.
When I visited Michelle, I wasn’t in the market for a cat. I lost five cats in the two years after my divorce. It was too much. I took a break. A ten-year break.
Niff and I bonded almost immediately. After a couple hours of socializing with Michelle and her kitties I was on my way out and went over to say goodbye to Niff. She was sleeping on top of a bookshelf, and when she saw it was me she opened one eye, reached out and put her paw on my hand, put out her claws ever so slightly, put her head on her paw, heaved a great sigh and went back to sleep.
I was hooked, quite literally. When I moved into my new apartment, Niff came with me.
It hasn’t been entirely smooth sailing. Niff was at least three years old when I got her, and her life wasn’t always easy (although I am not blaming the young man because I don’t know how long she was with him, either). One night after work when I was taking off my shoes, she bolted from the room–it was obvious someone had thrown shoes at her. So we’ve had to do some cat therapy. It’s mostly amounted to me just loving her and respecting her boundaries, and teaching her to trust me. It hasn’t always been easy, but we’re getting there.
I have learned that when I pick her up I must make sure she’s facing away from me, so she doesn’t feel controlled or smothered. If she tenses up or gives me a warning meow (which I’ve learned to recognize), I understand that she’s not in the mood and generally I set her back down. I am starting to challenge this now, but slowly. If she is crabby, I tell her “no” in a soothing but firm voice; she is learning that sometimes all I want is to kiss her, then I’ll let her down.
She stresses at the vet’s, but at home, she has turned into a love bug. She loves to cuddle; when I get home from being out she will greet me at the door with a happy “mrrow!” and sometimes rolls over and over in an ecstasy of welcome. Often she will jump up on the counter and walk over to me and butt her face against mine, giving cat kisses. We also do gentle nose-to-nose kisses and sometimes she licks my nose. She is amazingly smart—she has learned a great deal of English and knows “Eat your
breakfast,” and “Kitties don’t eat cereal” and “Are you hungry?” and “Do you want to play?” I suspect she knows more but is not letting on. Michelle says gray cats are the smartest in the world and I believe her. One of my former kitties was gray and he had an extensive vocabulary, to the point I swore he could read my mind.
In the morning Niff often wakes me before my alarm. If she’s terribly hungry for her breakfast, she will gallop over my body, straight-legged (it is amazing how heavy an 8-pound cat can be). Usually, though, she knows I’m getting up when the radio kicks on at 5 a.m. so she’ll wait, then start grooming my hair because she knows that makes me laugh. Her purr is very quiet and usually it’s difficult to even hear her, but first thing in the morning her motor is definitely running, and if I’m too sleepy and don’t get up right away, sometimes she will saturate one side of my head with her grooming. I always tease her that she’s going to get a mama-hairball.
She is quite particular about wanting company while she eats. Often she will come back into the kitchen after I’ve set down her food dish—she herds me out of the kitchen and over to her dish, where I then sit so I am close by while she digs in. I have offered to bring a candelabrum and put on some nice music, but she seems indifferent to the niceties and simply requests my presence. Once she is done eating, I am permitted to return to the kitchen and finish fixing my dinner.
Niff is very athletic and when we play she sometimes executes the most incredible leaps. She likes to leap off both hind legs at once, sometimes hopping in place and even changing direction before springing: very un-catlike. Her favorite toy is a wadded up piece of paper but lately I can tell she’s getting bored with it, so I suspect I’ll have to go to PetSmart soon and find something more intellectually
stimulating. Sometimes she’ll just sit and watch me toss the ball back and forth; she has me well trained.
She is easily amused by bugs and would rather play with them than kill them. When we lived in a townhouse close to a nature preserve, she discovered that scorpions sting, so, instead of being a stealth assassin kitty and taking them out with her speed and efficiency (which she is more than capable of doing; I understand many cats consider scorpions a delicacy), she would point them out to me and
wait for me to kill them. I suspect she wanted me to feel useful. She did, however, once kill a large spider that had taken refuge under the folded towel she was using for a bed. I discovered its pummeled carcass while vacuuming. She has a paw-over-paw method of critter-killing that is most effective. She has used it occasionally when I play with her before we go to sleep at night, wiggling my hand under the covers, and I have discovered I must be extremely careful that the blankets are THICK because she is amazingly powerful. The spider didn’t have a chance.
I think she knows I’m writing about her because she keeps coming over and rubbing up against me. Either that, or she’s ready for her dinner. No candles necessary.