The rottenest cat. Ever.
I was thirteen on the day that my parents heard the sounds coming from the woodpile. At first, they weren’t sure what they were hearing, but after a day or two, they became certain that what they were hearing was probably a kitten.
Every time they got close to the woodpile and made noises, they heard a faint mewing start up, but they were not able to find the kitten. A day or two went by, and every time they passed the woodpile, they heard mewing. They would have left well enough alone, but one of my parents had seen a cat that had died as a result of a hit-and-run accident near their house. Suspecting that the cat was the mother of the kitten, they decided to dig around in the woodpile to see if they could find the kitten to help it.
Shortly thereafter, they found two kittens, both solid black. One had died—probably as a result of exposure to the brutal July heat. The other was weak and sick, but alive.
He was a little slip of a thing, this kitten. Flies and maggots had found him, sensing sickness and death, and were swarming him. My mother, ever the practical softie, brushed him off as best she could and took the kitten to their vet.
He wasn’t terribly optimistic. He cleaned up the kitten as best he could, but warned that the damage might well be permanent. He estimated that the kitten might be two weeks old, and warned that it—he, actually, for it was a male—would need to nurse every few hours for the first week or so.
He wasn’t able to keep warm on his own, so Mom fashioned bedding out of washcloths, and put the kitten to sleep on a heating pad. She had cat’s milk and a bottle, but the kitten was too tiny to get its mouth around the nipple. Instead, he took milk from an eyedropper she had lying around the house.
Someone in the family remarked, “He’s such a little bit of a thing.”
For lack of a better name, Little Bit he became.
I was away at camp at the time. I distinctly remember being at the campus bowling alley that night, and getting the short version of this story told to me over a pay phone. At that moment, I was standing next to a new friend—a chap named Andrew Granade.
When I came home, I was aghast at what I saw, even though Mom and Dad were proud of his ‘progress.’ He was obviously going to have some scarring on his hind leg and tail from where the maggots attacked him, and he was painfully thin, but Mom assured me that what I was seeing was an incredible amount of progress over what the kitten had been like when they first found him.
My only recollection of his size comes from a small, flashback memory: Bit’s entire front paw was the size of my thumbnail.
We cheered his advances. When he ate a teaspoonful of moist cat food, we rejoiced. When he walked the length of the hallway without stopping, we rejoiced. When he desperately wanted to keep up with Mom but didn’t have the strength, she took two clothespins and pinned the front of her shirt into something resembling a kangaroo’s pouch, and carried him—purring—there.
Twelve years later, Little Bit is the most rotten, most spoiled, most imperiously superior kitty I have ever had the pleasure to know. Jeff likes to tell the cat that he’s getting ‘soft’ in his old age—previously, he imperiously resisted any non-family attempts to make friends or provide scritchies.
Now, he purrs, drools a little, and allows it.
In the time being, he has trained my parents well. Dad slips Bit bacon whenever Mom isn’t looking. Mom spoils him with his favorite brands of wet cat food, no matter how much she thinks they smell.
But today, I saw the most egregious example of well-trained humanity that I’ve ever seen in my entire life. We had just finished eating dinner, and Bit had come sniffing at our plates. I had brushed him away, and forced him to mind his own business.
After my mother finished her meal, she patted the couch beside her and said, “C’mon, Bit.” I assumed that he was interested in the remnants of the smoked sausage we’d had for dinner, but in fact, this was not the case.
Mom picked up the remnants of her ear of corn and held it out to Bit, who proceeded to delicately, but repeatedly, gnaw at it. She looked up to me and said matter-of-factly, “What’s the problem? Bit likes corn.”
I nearly fell off the couch.
Note to friends: Never, ever, ever tell me again that Tenzing and Edmund are the most spoiled cats in the universe. If this isn’t enough proof for you, I don’t know what will be.
Merry Christmas, all.