I met her first at a humane society in Brookings, South Dakota. It had been several weeks since the death of Mollie (“the best cat ever”), and it was time. I had been looking through the listings on Petfinder and saw a cat that I thought would be a good match for resident cat Russell. When I got there, the cat I originally had in mind just wasn’t demanding to go home with me. So I started browsing around; and I noticed a petite dilute calico in a cage in the corner of the room.
Liza (I don’t recall the name they had given her at the shelter) had been brought to the Humane Society when she was young and pregnant. She lived in a foster home until her kittens were old enough to be adopted. The whole family was brought back to the shelter, where the kittens all found homes very quickly. Liza remained in her cage in the corner, watching her family and her cage neighbors be adopted one after the other. She was very shy; she didn’t know the flirting tricks that so many shelter cats have learned. So she watched from her corner as others left the shelter, and she remained.
I have always loved the coloring of dilute calico cats; my first two cats were dilute calicos. Dilute calicos are gray, tan, and white; regular calicos are black, orange, and white. If dilute calico is a new term for you, think of a calico cat painted with watercolors instead of being drawn with crayon. Once I saw her in her cage in the shelter, I kept coming back to her. Finally, I asked to have her brought to one of the visiting rooms. The room that was available was a large room with lots of cat toys and a couple of other resident cats. Liza wandered the room, gradually getting closer to me, the stranger. As she got close enough, I would reach down to pet her. Finally she was staying close to my chair, so I picked her up and brought her into my lap.
We continued to get acquainted, at least for about five minutes. That’s when Liza had made up her mind, and she curled up in my lap and went to sleep. I didn’t want to tie up the room forever, so I eventually had to wake her in order to do the paperwork and bring her home with me.
For the past seven years, Liza has been charming me and anyone who visits my home. She continued to be very shy around strangers; but once the house was again quiet, I could expect to see Lisa peeking around the column on the stairway. During her stay, Liza acquired a hose of nicknames: Elle-Belle, Liza Bellissima, PrettyGirlKittyGirl, and occasionally when she wad being difficult, Liza Beanhead. Despite being the smallest of the three critters in the house, she successfully trained Russell and Sadie to treat her as the queen of the house. If she wanted to sleep in the dog’s bed, Sadie found another place to sleep. If she wanted the top perch on the cat tree, Russell took another spot. And mostly, when she wanted to take an afternoon nap right in the middle of my bed, Russell would soon join her, and Sadie would take a nap on the floor at the foot of the bed.
She did know how to scare me, though. Sometimes she got carried away with hiding. She would find a corner of a closet or a spot in the basement and stay there for long enough that I would get worried (five days was her record). And one evening while I was watching late-night television, she came into the living room carrying one of her felt-and-catnip mice (or so I thought), dropped it on the floor, and it ran for a hiding place!
A few months ago, we found a small lump in her abdomen. It was removed, and the lab results showed that it was malignant. She had more extensive surgery at the end of January, and for a few weeks she was recovering energy every day. Then, apparently, the aggressive cancer had taken root in her abdomen and continued to grow. Her last two weeks were spent napping in the sun or curled up on the soft cushion of Sadie’s bed. Late last Friday night, she just slipped away from the body that could no longer sustain her.
I will miss her. Russell and Sadie both miss her. We will probably be bringing another cat into our home in a few weeks, but Liza will always be part of my favorite memories.