Screw the landlord, I'm keeping a cat in my apartment.

He's the tuxedo, the dark-colored one, the last one standing of six kittens from the litter Mama Cat had when I first found her this time two months ago.

Since he was dark-colored and very shy, he was my least favorite kitten of the bunch.  I've had solid-colored black or grey cats all my life (except for a brief stint with a tuxedo named Gus which I try to wipe from my mind), and the white and orange tabby kittens were of much more interest to me.

But for some reason, Little Bit was the only one who stuck around.  Three of the kittens found homes, two disappeared, but Bit stayed with his mother, despite the apparent terror my presence caused him.  I did like every good foster would do: tried to socialize him, used the safety of his mother to help make him comfortable around people.  But I despaired; he would not come out of his shell.  It would be difficult to find him a home if he ran at the sight of people. 

Then, Mama Cat got herself knocked up again.  I was reasonably sure when I saw the tuxedoed tom wandering around; I was dead sure when Mama Cat turned up at my door looking like she'd swallowed a dodgeball.  I'd made her an appointment to get spayed today, actually, but that's another ordeal to tell.

Mama Cat thereafter wanted nothing to do with her remaining son and began reprimanding him for breathing her air, in that special clawy-bleedy way that cats do.  Which is normal, but a bit heartbreaking.  Mama Cat has wanted less to do with me as well, but Bit has completely changed his tune.

He has become my dream kitten.  He has become the cat I've always wanted, the cat that will actually cuddle with me instead of allowing me to touch him on his terms.  Bit will let me hold him for as long as I can stand and longer, he will curl up in my lap wherever I sit and purr until it gets awkward, he will cry and cry and cry until I pay attention to him, and whatever attention I give he will cherish.  In turn, I try to give him as much attention as I can, offer him as many playthings as I have on hand (sacrificing a pair of socks, a dish towel and a set of shoelaces in the cause), and welcome him with a purr of my own whenever he seeks a warm place to sleep.  I love him deeply, as much as I have loved any animal, as much as I swore to myself I could not.

In the back of my mind I knew I had to find a home for him before I leave for New York, but in the rest of my mind I gripped jealously to the hope that I could take him with me.  But I made a vet appointment in any case, and I took him to get his vaccines yesterday.

Imagine my surprise when he stepped out of the cage and the vet tech dropped her jaw and went "Oh my God."

What?  I know I'm not schooled or qualified, but I'm not blind.  Is there some horrific ailment on him that I'm not seeing?  What??

"Is...is he... brown?  What color is he?"

"I... don't know.  I guess he's brown.  Brown-grey."

"I have never SEEN a cat that color," the tech squealed, and called in the rest of the staff that was not elbow-deep in animal.

I thought Little Bit was black when I first saw him, but as he got older his coat lightened to a shade that I couldn't really call grey, was too light for black and was too black for brown.  Not that "brown" would be a cat color, not like the earth-brown of a chocolate lab or the flecked agouti of a rat.

Like brown horses, brown cats just don't exist.  In the genetics of horse coloring, there is no "brown" gene, but two base colors, black and red, and a series of "dilute" genes that bleed the melanin out of these colors in different patterns and make all the variations you see.  The closest to true brown you can get are the diluted-black combinations of bay, liver chestnut, and a seal color that's really just a black mane and tail and tan highlights in the flank, muzzle and underbelly.  Since I had never seen a brown cat, I figured something like the genetics in horses applied to cats as well, so though I was seeing "brown", I thought "grey". 

"Cats like you just don't exist," the veterinarian cooed as she held the ever-purring Bit up to examine him,  "especially not in tuxedoes."  The doctor told me that some rare exotic breeds are just straight-up brown, also called seal, but without much of the highlights horses have.  She asked me what color his parents were.  I said his mother was white and I thought his father was a black tuxedo, but I wasn't so sure.  She asked me what color Bit was when he was littler, and I said I thought he'd been black, which is why I named him as I did.  She nodded sagely and said, "He probably was black.  I really wonder if he'll change color again."  I asked her if she thought he would, and she said she'd no idea.

"You're a little chocolate kitten, aren't you," she said, which set off a flurry of chocolate-related names from the staff all crowded into the room.  "Godiva," said one.  "But he's a boy," said another.  "Hershey," "Nestle," "Ghiardelli," "Too fancy!"  "Truffle," "Cocoa,"... it went on.

I for one preferred "Chococat", after this fellow.

He's cousin to Hello Kitty and cuter than her, I think.  I also tried "Charlie", after the famous book about a chocolate factory, and so far Bit has yet to show his dislike.

But really, it's not up to me.  It's up to the lady that will be coming to pick him up later today.

Since he was such a celebrity, if not for his color than for his patience, good temper and surprising lack of nervousness that most cats exhibit when being poked and prodded in uncomfortable places, the whole staff said that they'd find someone to foster him right away.

They weren't lying.  I was barely home when I got an email from one tech who gave me the phone number of a foster lady.  I called her and that's that.

I will miss my Little Bit a lot-a-bit.


1 comment:

  1. :( happy and sad, you are stronger than I, I could not have let go! You're a wonderful foster parent, and that kitty will not forget you.

    The story is bittersweet (chocolate).