Zoe was a beautiful cat, obstinate and aloof, yet a softie sweetheart to those she knew well and loved.
She had to have things her way or not at all, and since I wished for nothing more than her happiness, this inevitably led to a spoiled furry princess under our roof. She got first pick of the best furniture; we sat elsewhere or worked around her. There were days when I didn’t get up from the couch nearly all day because she ordained my lap to be her throne for the day. She loved her pettings and the occasional brush (only on her head and face), but only on her terms. She would even take any scraps you were willing to give her (and beg fervently), but she never worked too hard for them.
We joked that she was the Chuck Norris of our house; sunlight came to her. I’d have to tempt her with special food before she would deign it worth the effort to come eat. I’d also have to follow her around in my attempts to brush her mat-prone fur. When we lived in a high-rise, the window sill came down to the floor, just for her. Even as she ailed, she found herself with food, water, and litter box within short reach.
One of the few things for which she did go out of her way was feet.
Perhaps she felt they were less likely to pick her up and carry her elsewhere, or she just knew socked toes were perfectly designed for massaging under kitty chins. A posed foot + a bit of wiggle = Zoe comes running. She would make love to our shoes for hours, rubbing her face against them obsessively. She was a strange one.
She was so clumsy. I chalk it up mostly to the fact that I picked her up and carried her a lot when she was a kitten; I always thought I never gave her a proper opportunity to develop her grace. She “plopped” to the floor on every landing and noisily banged her back legs against any vertical surface beneath her intended roost. She was also a large cat, able to leverage her brute strength in tiffs with her house-sister, Holee. They had some good ones. She swore up and down that she hated the little annoyance who infiltrated her territory, but she let her tolerance (if not affection) slip through now and again.
As a kitten, I kept her in my room at night. I encouraged her to take a potty break before she was without for hours, and I thought it clever to tell her as part of the routine, “go now, or forever hold your pee.” We eventually let her roam freely at night, and at some point – I couldn’t begin to remember when – she started crying after the lights went out. She occasionally got lost in the big house, when it was cold and dark, wondering where everyone had gone. Being unable to ignore her, I taught her that calling out would elicit a comforting response, even if she didn’t care to come join me.
As she got older, the frequency increased, until it was a nightly occurrence. Aaron and I found if we locked her up in the bedroom with us, she would stay quiet throughout the night. But this also meant she was anxious to be let out at the first sign of our returning consciousness. “Ooh, you’re up! Let me out, let me out!” She had a cute raspy meow, but she reserved that for dire situations of kibble depletion. Instead, as the alarm went off, we’d also hear a soft “flop.” Flop. Flop, flop. Flop, flop flop flop. On the floor at the foot of the bed, she’d stretch one way, then flop to the other side.
Back and forth, back and forth. Flop flop flop. We teased her for being a fish out of water. And then she’d lay there like a furry rug, all belly and no dignity. That, I think she got from Miralie, the dog with whom she spent her kittenhood.
She played with the typical fuzzy, jangly balls and laser pointers, but she really enjoyed the more passive toys. We have a cat-shaped toy stuffed with catnip that she could nuzzle, and she’d go crazy over the ball in the circular track.
Later, she was obsessed with a little squeaky mouse on a spring, especially if it was sprayed with the catnip “bliss mist.”
I used to take her for car rides. I figured if she got used to them as a kitten, she wouldn’t fear them as equating a trip to the vet. Unfortunately, she’d still get nervous enough that she sometimes had accidents, so I decided to spare her the stress.
She was a real champ during our move across the country, though. We had both kitties slightly sedated going into the trek (it took them a long time to trust tuna juice again). As we were delayed, it was cruelly hilarious to witness them drunk, stumbling around our empty apartment. We had a truck with a cab large enough that we could fit the litter box and the carrier stacked between our seats, but it also had a very large dashboard, with convenient, kitty-shaped alcoves. This afforded them a perch from which to observe the country whizzing by, which was a bit more exciting than hiding in the carrier or litter box. Our dashboard kitties.
My sweetie was so beautiful. I’d show her off to anyone who would look.
Part Maine Coon, Zoe had the raccoon tail, the fluffy fur, and a luxurious mane. She’d sit pretty, with her tail perfectly curled around her toes.
She had the tell-tale “M” of the tabby adorning her brow. The stripes spilled across the white of her front legs; I always remarked how the pattern lined up perfectly, as though they had been painted.
I loved her fuzzy toes. She wasn’t much of a kneader, but we saw hints during her happiest moments. She had so much fur between her toes, making running across our hardwood floors entertaining.
The pads of her feet were an adorable pink and black, and the dark splotches extended to her lip and the inside of her mouth. She had the cutest pink nose.
My heart would melt when she curled into these tiny balls, head upside down, paw across her face.
One touch would elicit a slight purr-meow, but she was simply too soft and fuzzy to resist. She protested when I picked her up (which was all the time), claws immediately sunk into my shoulder, unsure of where I was taking her, but she could easily be found if I offered some tuna or kitty treats. Zoe preferred quiet corners. She wasn’t terribly social, but she’d make an appearance every so often, and she got much sweeter as she aged.
She had her favorite spots in the house. When we had stairs, she was always the tripping hazard sentinel keeping watch from high above.
The birds taunted her through the window and while she was out on the deck, and bugs and tiny rainbows in my room set her chattering from the foot of the bed.
She’d curl up on the couch cushion, armrest (which is forever infused with cat fur), or on the highest point on the back.
When we got a couch with a footrest, it came installed with a cat magnet. Or we’d come out to the living room to find our rug kitty dead center, just lounging on her back. “Who killed my cat?”
She liked to hide under the bed, or behind the couch, amongst the many houseplants, or in a strange cubby between our upper kitchen cabinets.
Our papasan is super fuzzy, like her, so that was immediately hers, and she loved all of the warm spots, be it in front of the fire (that we obviously lit just for her), under the illuminated Christmas tree (complete with fuzzy tree skirt), or the ottoman – her throne – that was conveniently placed in front of the heater vent.
She always sought the sunshine, even when it was hot outside.
As she got sweeter in her old age, she even took a liking to laps, something to which she had never succumbed in the past. After all, she wouldn’t suffer herself to be so vulnerable as when she was curled up on top of someone. It was such a shock when she first settled in Aaron’s lap, but eventually, I couldn’t sit without her immediately seeking out the warmth.
My favorite memory of her is a recent one. She would laze on the armrest next to where I usually sit, so I absently offered her some chin scratchings. As she pressed into the sensation, curling her fuzzy toes, she gradually slid off of the armrest and oozed into my lap, a puddle of purr. And then she laid there, sprawled across the armrest and my lap, head upside down, perfectly content, all fluff and rumble. She did this on several occasions, only during the chill of winter, and those are the moments I cherish most.
I called her by many names. Sweetheart, Sweetie, Fuzzcat, Beautiful, Pretty Kitty, Gorgeous, Baby Kitty, Boo, Booba, Purrball, Silly Kitty, Crazy Cat, Dufus, Little One.
Zobella, Zofur (fly away on my Zofur…), Zozo (courtesy of my mother).
My kitty. My girl. My Zoe.
As a photographer, I obviously took endless pictures; any pet owner can understand that. She was the perfect test subject with which to improve my technique.
I’d like to have gotten more videos, but I love the ones I got, and now they’re all I have. Zoe was quick to provide the glare every time the camera made an appearance, but she put up with me and my crazy ways, just as I did hers. We were quite the team, and I now have at least 880 captured moments (not counting physical copies), documenting 15 years, to make me smile.
Thanks for the memories, the warm fur, the adorable poses, the nuzzles, the antics, the purrs.
I love you always, Zoe.