From 1967 on, since my move to Los Angeles from San Francisco, I have lived in an apartment. Thanks be to God, He has, however, provided me with three different cats during this period as “roommates.”
Cats are such great companions and become family. That’s why I refer to them as my “furry son/daughter.” They are extremely intelligent, have a personality of their own, quickly learn and comply with your routine. They, however, dislike extreme changes in your routine and will let you know fairly quickly that they are unhappy with any changes.
The first one was a Maine coon cat. While shopping at the Del Amo Mall in Torrance, a lady had one adorable kitten left. She offered him to me and I took him and gave him to Mama because Mama loved cats. He had three different colors on his body, so Mama named him Miki.
Mama and Miki had a beautiful relationship. He was almost human in the things he did. When Mama was not feeling well lying in bed, Miki would come to her side and rub her shoulder. Whenever Mama called, “Miki,” he would run to her. He let Mama know when he wanted to go outside and would hit the back door with his paw when he wanted to come in.
I noticed Miki was out of food, so I was about to fill his plate when Mama said, “Jibun de suru” (He will feed himself). I couldn’t believe I actually saw Miki paw his food into his own bowl from the food bag that was placed next to his bowl. I have never seen anything like this before and it made me laugh with amazement.
Since Mama was placed in a convalescent home , she gave me Miki. I visited Mama every Tuesday and Thursday and Saturday and Sunday and took Miki with me. He would greet Mama with a soft meow and jump on the bed and lie beside Mama for 30 minutes while I visited with Mama.
Miki would willingly let me dress him in my doll clothes and even wear the doll’s bonnet and posed for me while I snapped a picture. I look at these pictures every now and then, and the tears still flow even though this was way back in the mid-1970s.
He had no fear riding in the car and would sit quietly by my side while I drove to the laundromat every week. One Saturday when I was holding him standing by my car at the laundromat, a fire engine roared by and frightened Miki, making him jump into the air. I looked under every car parked, asked about him in the stores surrounding the laundromat, but he had literally disappeared. I cried all the way home and the rest of the day.
That was the last time I saw Miki. I had Miki for three years after Mama was placed in the convalescent home. I still ache when I think about Miki. If there is a place in Heaven where cats go, Miki is there.
My next cat was a male tabby. A friend of my brother’s gave me this six-week-old adorable kitten in June of 1966. I named him Toughy. Believe you me, he lived up to his name for 18 years and 4 months. I raised him, but he owned me. Only a cat lover would understand the previous statement. Toughy was a cat who really thought and reasoned himself out of predicaments and/or wanted my attention when, shall I say, I ignored him.
As an example: When he was hungry and no food was in his plate, if I was lying in bed, he would jump on top of the dresser, pull one Kleenex at a time from the box and drop it on the floor, or he would jump on top of the dresser and land right on my stomach! I wouldn’t stay lying in bed long, for sure.
At times he had a habit of walking on top of the cupboard for exercise, I guess. He somehow liked heights for one reason or another. One day I was sitting at the table having lunch and I saw Toughy going toward the wall on top of the cabinet, making it to the end of the cabinet. He didn’t want to jump down because I had a wastepaper basket and a few boxes in front of the cabinet. He turned his head toward me and then he began to slowly walk backwards toward the opposite end of the cabinet until he made it to the end and then jumped down.
I lived in an apartment where there were two Korean families, and you know Koreans cook with garlic and the smell penetrates the air. Toughy sat on top of the bookcase by the window and moved his head as his nose followed the odor upward. It was absolutely hilarious to see him do this.
I taught Toughy how to shake hands. The first two weeks when I approached Toughy with an outstretched hand, saying, “Good morning” or “How do you do?” he would hit me with his paw or scratch me. On the third week when I approached him, he put his paw in my hand and we shook hands. What an exciting moment that was! Thereafter, before I left for work, we would shake hands and it got so that when I came near him, he would offer me his paw first!
He understood my commands, such as “Sit, Toughy,” “Keep quiet,” “No,” “Get off there,” “Come here,” “Bad, Toughy, bad,” and other short phrases and such.
Another amazing thing about Toughy is he would let me know when the phone rang when I was in the kitchen washing dishes and didn’t hear the ringing. He would run into the kitchen and nip my ankle and I would turn off the water and hear the ringing. Another thing — and I kid you not — if I talked over 20 minutes on the phone, Toughy would nip my ankle again and let me know, “Hey, you’ve talked long enough.” This really tickled me, but I would keep talking until I was finished with the telephone conversation.
Toughy developed a serious kidney ailment and died in my arms in 1994. I submitted a poem to the National Library of Poetry entitled “In My Arms.” It was about Toughy in his last moments and was published in their book “Forever and a Day.”
I have Toughy’s urn on top of one of my bookshelves in my apartment and think of my “furry son” often and the wonderful moments we shared and the trials and tribulations we went through. Having Toughy for 18 years and 4 months was like raising a child from kindergarten through high school. To this day, I think of Toughy often and carry articles about him, published in The Rafu and pictures of him in my wallet.
Tika became my roommate in April 2007. She is a beautiful Himalayan cat. She does very well at 13 years of age and she, too, is extremely intelligent and a caring cat.
She was my neighbor’s cat and lived with three dogs who chased her. The neighbor wanted to give her a good home, so he asked three friends to adopt her. One friend could not have any pets, another was allergic to cats, and another moved out of town. When I passed by my neighbor’s apartment and saw Tika outside, I would hold her and talk to her. My neighbor said he was going to take Tika to the animal shelter and that is why I adopted her.
Himalayans have problems with their eyes and the discharge from their eyes has to be wiped at least twice a day. Tika knows exactly when I am going to do this and immediately jumps up where she is seated or lying and goes under the coffee table. She knows I can’t reach her there.
Later, she lets me clean her eyes. I clean one eye and will say, “Turn your head, Tika,” so that I can clean the other eye and she turns her head.
It is absolutely amazing how well she knows my routine and/or schedule as to when I am going to have breakfast, when I am going to take a nap, when I am going to bed, etc. As a matter of fact, she waits until I sit down for breakfast and then she goes to her bowl and has breakfast with me. Ain’t that something?
If she is lying on the bed and I come into the bedroom to get my purse to go to work, I’ll come near her and say, “Goodbye, Tika, I’m going now.” She will roll over on her back as if to say, “Please rub my stomach before you leave.” If she is sitting on the arm of the sofa and I say goodbye to her, she will look me in the eye and slowly wag her tail.
If I come home after 5 p.m. instead of 4 p.m., she becomes very unhappy with me and when I say, “Hi, Tika, I’m home,” she looks at me as if to say, “Why are you late?” and turns her head. When Tika is unhappy with me, she turns her head; otherwise, she looks me straight in the eye with her beautiful brown eyes.
I was away from my apartment from April 18 to May 10 due to unavoidable circumstances and Tika was left alone in the apartment. My neighbor gave her food and cleaned her eyes during that time. When I arrived home on a Saturday morning, May 11, she greeted me with a strange meow. For the next two days, she followed me to the kitchen, to the bathroom and to the bedroom and went to the side of the bed making, sure I was there. I guess that was her way of telling me she missed me as I missed her.
Tika is still with me and continues to amuse me with her keen intelligence. Every so often when she is lying on the couch in the living room, I will come and stand in the middle of the room, wondering what I came for. She will open one eye, look at me and actually shake her head as I stand there, then closes her eye and goes back to sleep. This really amuses me and I laugh out loud to know that even a cat thinks I’m not all there.
It has been hot these past few months and Tika has discovered that she can cool down by sitting and/or sleeping on the rim of the bathtub. I walk into the bathroom, take off my robe and put it on top of the seat cover of the toilet to take a shower. I used to have to say, “Tika, get down.” Now she leaves the bathroom without my telling her. knowing that I am going to take a shower.
The above tails of the three meows only touches the surface. They are so many other tails I can tell. Perhaps some day I may write a book about the tail of three meows. **Quien sabe?**
Amen and Meow!
Maggie Ishino is a Rafu typist. She can be reached at [email protected] Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.