I got my cat Qif right after losing Mif.

It was December 1999. On the way back from the vet where I had Mif put to sleep, I drove straight to the local SPCA. I was bereft and sad, and could not bear to go home and walk into the house and no longer see her there. I thought I will just go and look at cats, not necessarily to get one to succeed Mif but only to check out the range of potential candidates for adoption. I thought I might look for a black cat this time. For decades my cats have been tabbies. The last two were marmalade, and the two before of darker tiger stripes. Then, at the SPCA, I found a black kitten in no time, and I took an immediately liking to it. It had just arrived, and won't be released until two days later. I registered my name, and I was told that the first to arrive that day will have it.

The teaching schedule did not allow me to get back to the SPCA until 11:00 two days later, and the black kitten was gone. I was going to wait for another black cat to come in, and planned to check in now and then. But then I saw a funny looking cat, older than what I had in mind. It was a calico crossed with a marmalade tabby. The body was mostly mottled tawny brown with two broad blurry black bands, and here and there the light tabby pattern appeared like an undergarment showing. It wore white socks on its paws; but the hind legs didn't match -- calico on the right and tabby on the left. Its bib was snow white under the similarly white chin; but the face had an asymmetrical marking with a black patch covering the left eye, à la Veronica Lake as I like to put it. I was intrigued by its quirky appearance, its totally unique marking. The kitten wore its mongrel status proudly; and it was frisky the way I like my cats, not sleepy and inactive. It didn't take much effort to convince myself that I didn't really want a black cat which I won't be able to see and catch easily after the lights are turned off at night. What if it slipped out into the dark at night? I won't ever be able to find it.

I always look for a frisky kitten. It is more likely to be healthier, and it also tends to continue being playful into mature years. It may be naughtier but it also learns discipline quicker and better, and being playful it is generally more sociable, too. A gentle cat is not always gentle when provoked or when it thought it was provoked. A kitten that snarls will growl when it is a cat. I would definitely avoid a cat who suffered a traumatic experience before arriving at the shelter. I have my friskiness test that I give when I choose a kitten.

I check the sight by moving the tip of my index finger up and down and then left and right and watch how quickly it follows the movement with the eyes. I check the hearing by clicking my finger lightly behind the head and see how quickly the ears flick, and then repeat the action some distance away. I also hiss very quietly and observe the reaction. I test the smell by bringing the tip of the finger to the kitten's nostrils and observe the reaction. Finally, I push down the head and see how quickly and vigorously it bucks its head back, and I touch the tip of the tail and see how nimbly it turns around. My Veronica Lake passed the test with flying colors. I signed the papers, and I could pick it up the next day.

I decided to call the kitten Qif. The two tiger tabbies I had in succession were named Ciro and Micia. Ciro, pronounced <cheerro> is a baby talk for <shiro>, a name conventionally given a white cat because the word means white in Japanese, and that's why I gave the name to my tabby with a dark motley fur. Micia is the Italian word for kitty cat; it was a cat called Cat, like the tabby that belonged to Audrey Hepburn's Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany's, 1961. The two honey tabbies were from the same littler and they were adopted together. They were named Pif and Mif after the title of a children's book I picked up in Prague which I couldn't read but found charming the cover picture of two bright colored cats, one red and the other blue, named Pyf and Myf, who sit at a table sipping tea. They were little kittens when we got them, both female, and sickly at first, but, having managed to survive, they grew strong. They played well together, and curled up into each other when they slept, Yin and Yang. Pif was always smaller, trimmer, and friskier. Mif acted protective of Pif, like a big sister, and would yield, for example, when Pif having finished her own dish would move over to her sister's. But Pif died earlier of liver ailment.

I made up the name Qif as a successor to Mif and Pif, and if I survive Qif, I will name her successor Zif. I should then be the first to go. Otherwise, I will track back to Vif or jump to Jif.

Qif was conjectured to be about 6 months when I adopted her. She hid the first day in the basement but quickly bonded with me very successfully. She is sprightly and cheerful. She can go down the stairs in two huge leaps if chased, and almost as fast up. She more often hops rather than walks. When I come home after a few days absence, she jumps down from the window and waits inside the front door, and she follows me around like a dog. Mif is frisky and companionable.

Qif is a cat with a temperament that I would like to have if I were a cat, except that I don't think I will sleep quite so many hours every day.

sorry no pix for now

T. Kaori Kitao, 05.20.02

My Cat Mif, 2



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