“Don’t get too attached to this one,” the veterinarian candidly advised, cradling the minuscule dollop of barely-there fuzz in her cupped palm. “I’ve never seen one so tiny survive more than a few days, maybe a week at most. It’s what we call ‘failure to thrive’, so don’t get your hopes up too high.”
Hah! Telling me not to get hopefully attached is akin to demanding I stop breathing; challenged, yes, but determined to see this adorable itty bitty kitty grow happy and healthy. I knew it could be enormously time consuming and potentially expensive, but felt an immediate connection with the undersized infant, no larger than a Shasta daisy.
My darling Daizee is miniature–barely the size of a four-month-old kitten. Delicate and dainty, her paws are barely bigger than my thumb and her tiny tongue is still baby smooth and silken. Her coat feels like velvet and she revels in gentle, quiet cuddling. If given the chance, Daizee nuzzles her feline and canine housemates in search of mammalian comfort. Ordinarily a loner, when the mood strikes she demands immediate attention. She sleeps a lot and shuns raucous play; most of the time she is barely more than a phantom, demanding little, yet giving much as the queen of vector control. Unadoptable, she holds an enormous place in my kitten smitten hearth, heart and home.
Daizee is seven years old.
We met when she was hours old, dropped at our doorstep by an anonymous human animal along with her four brothers and sisters and their dead mother. The other babies were hale and hearty, loudly demanding regular bottle feeding around the clock, a “nursery” maintained at a constant level of warmth and routine play times. Daizee asked for nothing, fed regularly the veterinarian-prescribed formula from an eye dropper, soothed by the times I held her close, whispering endearments into her tiny ears. And then she slept, silent and serene.
Daizee’s brothers and sister flourished – fat, mischievous, playful and quickly adopted. Not so for little Daizee who remained extremely petite, a basic, unremarkable black, beige and tan tabby with a pert pink nose and golden green eyes. She suffered from episodes of respiratory problems which defied medical intervention and required innumerable boxes of wipes to keep her productive sneezes from adorning everywhere she frequented. As she aged, Daizee became even more reclusive, but seemingly content with her favorite places, as well as any open container that happened to be accessible. It seemed, though, that she found particular comfort on a sofa arm adjoining my own perch of choice. The only problem with that was Daizee’s tendency to lose herself to sleep; almost every day she catnapped there, warmed by my reading lamp. Thoroughly zoned out, she gracelessly fell off, evoking laughter from me and silent disdain from her. When taken to the vet to discuss her clumsiness and a check up prior to spaying, it was determined that Daizee had no reproductive organs to remove; still incredibly small and the sniffling and tendency to fall not withstanding, she was declared amazingly healthy. It was like having an almost perfect, permanent kitten all the time.
But when Daizee celebrated her third birthday, a genuine cat personality evolved. She became a competent, dedicated, focused and fearless mouser. Though she rarely ventured outside, Daizee inevitably came home with a trophy clutched in her hamster-sized jaw. Praised for her lionesque skills, she calmly released her prey and voiced no objections when her still living catch was released in the neighboring woods. When an especially frigid winter drove a bevy of mice into the house, she nonchalantly contributed her skills to eliminating the problem, quietly accepting a catnip-marinated “schmousie” and a modicum of extra lap-time as sufficient reward for doing what she considered to be her job.
Innately sweet natured, of late, Daizee has become extraordinarily affectionate. Despite a very limited vocabulary – she trills, with an occasional “mer-owww” for emphasis – she delights in winding around my legs at mealtime. As I pound away on my computer, she nestles at my side, occasionally stretching a small paw onto the keyboard to contribute a random letter or symbol to edit my writing. If shooed away or unceremoniously placed on the floor, she returns to her original perch with amazing speed, completely nonplussed by all efforts to discourage her. Eventually, maybe 10 or 15 times later, she accepts the inevitable and either resigns herself to simply curling up at my side or sauntering off and totally ignoring me until meal or bed time.
Night time is Daizee’s second favorite “schmooze” part of the day. Every evening she waits patiently until I announce that I’m going to bed, sitting still as I hug and kiss my human family, pet all the critters and perform the remainder of my pre-sleep ritual. But as soon as I go to my room, she makes a dash for her pillow, trills in anticipation of a few minutes of “just us” time, then curls into a little ball and drifts off to kitty dreamland, virtually immobile until I awaken the next morning.
As for her very favorite “Just Janet” time – that’s very special for both of us. You see, when Daizee joined our family, I weighed a Springer-esque 458 pounds and lived in a wheelchair. Connected to continuous oxygen tubing, I was barely able to lift a cat to cuddle under my several chins and had no lap upon which to perch. Now, having lost 265 pounds and surgically having most of the excess skin removed, I have a lap. And every day, when Daizee leaps atop my thighs to trill, rubs against my solitary chin, gazes deeply into my eyes, then settles into position for a few moments of undivided attention and my random soliloquy, I remember those times I was unable to enjoy the comforting warmth and joy she shares and marvel over how much unconditional love this itty bitty kitty brings to my life.
I rejoice that no one wanted to take the kitten no one expected to survive. For me, Daizee embodies the definition of home.