Miss Elsie Mae
Originally Elsie Mae was a California cat, who came to me through my niece, whose husband was in the Air Force. I got a phone call from Stacy, who was visiting my sister in Pennsylvania, asking if I would consider taking her cat to keep when they came down to visit me. At only a couple years of age, Miss Elsie Mae was making her displeasure known about being an Air Force cat leaving my niece at her wits end. Even though Elsie Mae was always mildly sedated for air plane rides, she still yowled loudly every time she traveled and at my sister’s house terrorized her house cat. A meek and mild cat Elsie Mae was not.
Although I agreed to help my niece out, secretly I wondered what I was getting myself into as I also had a tame house cat. True to her nature Elsie Mae let me know right off she was not impressed with her new owner or house once Stacy left. Most attempts at petting her resulted in this white and gray lump of fur laying back her ears, whipping her long skinny tail back and forth, and threatening to bite even though she meowed piteously asking for attention. After informing Elsie Mae that she was now a Tennessee mountain cat (forget any fancy brand name canned cat food for her finicky appetite, I only bought dry cat food), and it was time she started acting like one, I began to ignore her.
In a couple of days Elsie Mae decided it was time to take matters into her paws and set out to conquer her new territory. She promptly squashed my long- haired calico cat, Sarah Annabelle’s status as the head cat, but ran into a challenge when faced with Lucy Lou, my mixed schnauzer/poodle house dog. Suddenly here was someone who would chase her back. Not only did Elsie Mae have a new house to explore but outside gardens as well.
After a year Elsie Mae decided to accept me into her catty heart as after all I was the lady, who gave her treats whenever she let me brush her and tuna on rare occasions.
Whenever I’d sit down in my recliner by the fire, Elsie Mae, who was still growing and quite clumsy for a cat, would jump onto my lap roll around for attention for a bit then soon leap onto the top where she would drape her long body out and snooze often falling down on top of me during her sound sleep.
I never had to worry about Elsie Mae sneaking up on me as she galloped down the hallway or across the room often crashing as she took a corner too sharp or tried to jump over an object; graceful was not her middle name.
By the second year Elsie Mae’s gray fur turned dark and she turned into a large gorgeous black and white cat who measured around a yard long from the tip of her tail to outstretched front paws. Visitors were always fascinated when they caught sight of her, but I always warmed them against any petting as Elsie Mae was not a friendly cat. Her pride and joy was her long tail that registered all her catty emotions- something she didn’t even tolerate me to play with.
Elsie Mae learned how to open the bi-fold closet doors and would often hide in among my towels whenever anyone strange came. Soon she was opening all the drawers as well. Every morning I never knew what doors or drawers the cat had opened during the night for her catty inspection.
Elsie Mae was quite the hunter. She loved to jump and catch any flying bugs in her paws and when no mouse ventured inside the house she took to hunting outdoors often bringing into my sun-room through the cat door her latest catch. I’ll never forget the morning Elsie Mae brought in a live mouse and dropped it in front of Lucy Lou as a gift. The mouse took off, Lucy Lou in pursuit barking and racing in circles while I yelled directions and jumped around myself to keep from getting run over. Amidst all the commotion, Elsie Mae calmly sat and washed her paws.
As Elsie Mae got older she would let me carry her around the house on my shoulders every so often curling her long body around my neck her head twisting back and forth, ears perked up, and long whiskers twitching checking out all the details of each room we walked around in. Whenever I changed the sheets on a bed the crazy cat loved to dive under a sheet playing a catty version of hide and seek.
At times when I sat in my recliner reading a book, Elsie Mae would jump in my lap, poke her head under the book, lay her long body against my chest and put both paws around my neck rubbing her head on me and licking me with her scratchy tongue until I’d scratch her chin, rub her ears, and run my hands down her sleek body. Then with furry paws still around my neck she’d purr tilting her head back looking like an enlarged version of a mouse with her pointy nose and whiskers.
When I worked at my computer, Elsie Mae would jump on my lap, check out my keyboard with her paws until I pushed her off, then sit on the floor beside the printer giving it an intense stare with a tilted head trying to figure out how the machine worked that spit out paper, until she got bored and climbed to the top of one of my book cases to take a cat nap.
Lucy Lou used to always sleep in bed with me, but as she got older with arthritis in her hip, some nights she slept on the floor beside me. Any attempts Elsie Mae made to get on the bed were met with fierce growls. Not deterred Elsie Mae would wait until my dog went to sleep, then with a huge leap she’d land on top of me waking me up from a sound sleep and begin doing a wild cat dance pouncing on anything that moved underneath the sheet. When I’d groan and roll over in exasperation, Elsie Mae would settle her long body comfortably down on my back and begin doing a thorough cat bath while I’d gratefully go back to sleep.
After only four years of having Elsie Mae and expecting to grow old with her, it was quite a shock to find her dead one day from no apparent cause. My house is suddenly quiet with no Elsie Mae around. I miss our catty chats as Elsie Mae was quite vocal usually greeting me first thing every morning when I woke up and went to the bathroom. I miss the shadow of her following me from room to room to see what I am doing, peeking under the bathroom door when I shut it to take a shower, and sticking her head around a corner to keep an eye on me or my dog.
I buried my independent cat wrapped in a soft towel in my enclosed garden where she loved to play near the goldfish pond where Elsie Mae used to sit, put a paw in the water, and keep a catty eye on the fish.
Good-bye my sweet Elsie Mae. You left me with so many wonderful memories and pictures of our time together.