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A Matter of Torti-tude

January 22, 2012

Lilly. Little Miss Sunshine and Storm.

As a baby, Lilly showed her love of heights.

She is the third oldest of the kitty quartet, but the last to have her story shared. Her’s is the hardest to tell because it is so deeply entwined with Cole’s. I almost needed to tell his story before I could even begin to tell hers.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Lilly was abandoned before she was even born. As the vet’s office tells it, her mother was brought in by someone who wanted her spayed, but they could tell that she was already heavy with kittens and would give birth any moment. The man didn’t want kittens or a cat with kittens, so he turned the cat over to the office and one of the vet’s took her home. By the weekend, the cat gave birth to eight kittens — far more than her petite frame should carry.

As an adult, she still loves heights.

But the biggest surprise was not the number of kittens she was carrying. Rather, it was that it appeared as though she was carrying two different litters that we’re conceived about a week apart. Four of the kittens were normal size and were shades of gray and peach. The other four were black and white and clearly premature. Thanks to the loving care of the vet, all eight babies survived despite their rocky start.

I first encountered the kittens in the vet’s office. Lilly was the last of the full-size kittens available and they had just put the premature kittens up for adoption. While I liked Lilly, I was also drawn to a tiny black male with a crooked tail and a malformed front leg. The vet explained that his leg had been twisted in the womb and would never develop properly. The plan was to remove it as soon as he was big enough for surgery, but they already called him Tripod.

Tripod and Lilly were polar opposites. While both liked attention and to play, Tripod was definitely the cuddly one of the two and Lilly had a feisty spirit. When I thought about where I was living and the other cats they would have to deal with, I knew that Lilly would be a better fit. I was worried that the other cats would be too rough on Tripod and the stairs would be a barrier for him for quite sometime.

So, Lilly, who was all of 12 weeks old, joined the little family.

She was the first kitten I’d ever had and the learning curve was steep. Weighing in at a tiny three pounds, she wasn’t a match for the other cats. Thankfully, I had a spare bedroom where she sleep safe and sound overnight, so that I didn’t have to worry about her getting into trouble or being harassed by the older cats.

Lilly snuggling with her hero, Cole.

Not that I really should have worried about the latter. Lilly proved that she was going to be a spitfire from the start. Apparently, she comes by it naturally. See, Lilly is what they call a “diluted torti.” The word “torti” is short for “tortoiseshell.” Normal tortoiseshell cats have coats that are mottled with orange and dark brown, black or blue. “Diluted” versions have the same mottled coat, only in lighter peach and gray colors. During my first vet visit with Lilly, one of the vets told me (as Lilly was busy squirming away from every attempt they made to take her temperature) that diluted torties are among the cats most likely to bite a vet. The only ones more prone to bite are cats with orange or dark tortoiseshell coats. And, since all three are typically found in the same litter, the vet speculated that the cats had some sort of genetic predisposition to be feistier than the average cat.

Gee. Thanks for sharing that before I adopted the little snot.

Not that I really consider her a snot. Just determined. And self-assured.

Water is sooooooo fascinating!

From the first day I brought her home, she latched onto Cole and practically wouldn’t let him out of her sight. She played with him, snuggled with him and always seemed ready to challenge him despite the fact that he was king of the house. Often, I had to separate them, not because I was concerned that he’d hurt her, but because I was afraid she’d over-tax him. I think she gravitated toward his calm, confident presence, but also liked the challenge he presented.

She was also never shy about making a space for herself, whether on my desk, at the top of the cat tree or weaving through the uprights of the banister at the top of the stairs (I practically had a heart attack every time she did this).

Lilly and her ever-curled tail.

As she grew and matured, she constantly surprised me. One day, she wandered around all day meowing. The next, she wandered around making what I could only describe as noises of distress and pain. As I got closer, I discovered that she was trying to make the same chirping and trilling noises as Gus. That’s when I realized that she had been testing out the different vocalizations that surrounded her every day. The day before, she’d imitated Cole, while that day, she was imitating Gus. Eventually, she settled on a quiet, trilling meow — a little Cole, a little Gus.

But her meow is not the only fascinating thing about her. Like the split sun-and-cloud coloring of her face, her personality can be at extremes. When she wants love, she will climb on top of the closest person and cuddle and drool in contentment as you pet and scratch her (this generally happens once a day with me). But when she’s done, she’s done and she’ll smack your hand away to let you know it. She’s generally a low-key type of kitty, stealthily moving through life. But when she wants to play, she will fly through the air to get to her target. She’s fascinated by water. She loves to play in it, stick her head under it and generally roll around in it, given the chance.

And then there’s here tail. I have yet to see her hold it straight. Instead, she saunters around the house with a perpetual hook at the end of it. When she’s irritated, just the very tip of it will flick around, making it clear that people should watch out.

It’s been almost a year and a half since Cole passed, and Lilly is now almost two and a half years old. In the time since Cole left us, I have yet to see Lilly cuddle with any of the other cats. It may be that she’s still smarting over his loss. It may be that she hasn’t found another who is quite his equal (although Gus is definitely trying to fill his mighty paw prints). Whatever the reason, it’s hard to watch such a beautiful and interesting kitty keep her distance from others.

I really don’t know how much of her personality was innate and how much of it was influenced by those around her, but I’d like to think that she picked up a bit of her calm and regal demeanor from Cole. It would be an incredible legacy to see continue.

Lilly watching over Cole on his final night with us. While the others stuck close, she was the only one who snuggled with him and groomed him when he came back from the vet's office.

From → Animals, Cats, Cole

  1. Pandora LiVecchi permalink

    I got my tortie, Pinky when she was 4 . My older cat Mittens was a tiger striped Tabby with white paws. He was 20 and in his final days, Pinky would be kind and take care of him. She would groom him and cuddle close to him to keep him warm. Pinky now has Sonny an orange and white tabby who is the same age. When Mittens passed she would cry. As a dilute tortie Pinky does have a tortitude. She is clearly the boss of the house and when Sonny tries to take that title away from her, she puts him in his place. Yet, Pinky can also be so warm and loving to Sonny. Out of the humans in the house, she chose my daughter right away. When she gets ready for school, Pinky follows her around the house like a little puppy. Tortishells are great cats.

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