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"The smallest feline is a masterpiece" "Never try to outstubborn a cat."
         -- Leonardo da Vinci          -- Robert A. Heinlein
Lucky's Photo Gallery

Our longhair tortoiseshell cat was a rescued feral newborn, abandoned by its mother in our back yard.  (The tortoiseshell morph is a unique female-only feline anomaly with a reputation for "attitude.")  The mother had a litter of four or five torties, and for many days she moved them around among several yards in our neighborhood before finally abandoning this one practically on our doorstep.  Several of the cat lovers in the area tried to get at the kittens but the mother never allowed it, and the rest grew up wild, occasionally appearing in our back yard as yearlings, and then disappearing altogether.

Found!

My wife first became aware of Lucky because she was crying desperately from hunger and thirst outside our living room window.  Rescue was never in question because my wife is the kind of person who loves every living thing -- except voles and slugs; she’s a flower gardener!  Everyone is welcome in our back yard and every visitor receives a meal.  We have a dozen bird feeders and every morning an apple is placed out for the squirrels and bread crumbs for the turtles.  We live in extended suburbia so there’s woods all around, which shelters plenty of wildlife.  We’ve seen raccoons, opossums, foxes, and the occasional deer.  The bird feeders attract hawks and owls plus an occasional eagle, looking for prey.  A pileated woodpecker sometimes joins the family circle.

My wife chose the name Lucky because Lucky was lucky to have been abandoned at the home of one of the most dedicated cat loving families in the neighborhood -- we have had as many as four cats at the same time (affectionately known as the Vole Patrol), all strays and rescues, although at that moment we had none -- and as it turned out we are lucky to have been granted the privilege of caring for and sharing our lives with such a unique and special creature.  At first, because she was feral, we were going to keep her outside, so we arranged a box for her, with a water bowl and feed dish nearby.  That lasted about one night, and then fear that hawks or night denizens might get her brought her inside.  Thus began a lasting relationship that has been filled with love, constancy and irreplaceable memories.

Lost!

Although now with a home, and an immediate and enduring affectionate disposition, Lucky had been born wild, and as a result she had an inbred need to be outside and to hunt and explore, even as a kitten.  We let her out when she cried at the door but kept a close eye on her, concerned that she might become hawk food.  She was immediately all over our yard and the surrounding woods.  And then it happened -- despite our best efforts one day the little kitten disappeared.

My wife was utterly devastated.  She walked through the woods by the hour, calling Lucky’s name plaintively.  We searched into the night with flashlights.  The next day my wife was out again, this time with a tone of desperation in her voice that I’d never heard before, but with no success.  Finally, after we had virtually given Lucky up as lost to a hawk, my wife caught sight of her in the window of our garage, sitting on something and peering out at us.  Her curiosity had led her into the garage unnoticed and she had become trapped there.

This “Where is Lucky?” trauma was of a type that was to be played out many times in the coming years – I once came home, to find her sauntering along unconcerned in the middle of the street, well away from home and near a high traffic connector road.

Tortitude

Tortoiseshell cats are not a breed but rather a genetic variation that, with few exceptions produces only females.  They are generally black, yellow-gold and orange.  They are known for their lively, distinct and high energy personalities, an attitude apart that is often referred to as "tortitude."  Although no rule is without exceptions and many experts tend to discount the idea of unique tortoiseshell behavior, torties are often perceived as "strong-willed, a bit hot-tempered, and . . . very possessive of their human" as well as "fiercely independent, feisty and unpredictable."  This complex of behavior patterns, together with their graceful elegance makes them adored by all who have been lucky enough to share their lives with a tortie.

Physically, Lucky is striking.  She is predominately black, mixed with yellow-gold mottling and scattered orange streaks.  She has an orange blaze on her forehead and she has black stockings.  Her eyes are a startling and penetrating gold.  She appears large because she's a longhair, but in reality at only nine pounds she's merely long, lean and rangy.  As a result, she is incredibly athletic and a great leaper (as the video at right shows) and climber of trees.  In the winter, her fur grows so long everywhere except for her black stockinged feet that she resembles a musk ox -- a musk cat, as it were.

The fur around her neck is so thick that it somewhat resembles a male lion's mane when viewed from the front.  When she was a kitten she had such a tiny little stub of a tail that we thought she would be deformed.  However, like Topsy it just growed -- and growed and growed!  By the time she reached adulthood it was enormous, a ridiculously extravagant fur feather duster that serves as a rudder as she bounds through house or yard, dashing thither and yon at madcap speed.

She definitely has the strong-willed and hot-tempered traits that torties are known for.  She is especially vocal when she wants something, at which time she is downright insistent.  She will come get you when she wants food or needs to go out.  If you don’t respond in a reasonable time she will give you the well-known tortie glare, lay her ears back, turn her back on you and stalk off in disgust.  In the case of my wife, she may lie in ambush and then launch a sneak attack on her leg.

Knock, Knock

She never uses the litter box, always letting us know when it’s time to go outside -- well, unless there's so much snow on the ground that she sinks out of sight and absolute necessity forces her indoors!  She has her own cat communication system to convey her wishes and needs.  To announce that she wants in she knocks on the front door, which has a thumb latch rather than a knob -- and in the summer, when clearances are looser, she can open the door herself.  Oddly, when she wants out she will ignore my wife, who might be sitting next to her, and search me out wherever I am in the house and meow for attention.  One Christmas my wife placed a strip of bells on the inside doorknob.  Soon she was ringing the bells to announce her wish to go out.

Feeding time is, of course especially important to her.  We keep a bowl of crunchies -- i.e. dry cat food -- available at all times, and she's a good sport about availing herself of said bowl.  But, naturally she'd rather have the good stuff -- canned cat food of the most flavorful kind.  She has conned me into feeding her on the kitchen countertop -- but only in the mornings.  And she is very insistent when she wants real meat.  Once when I was very busy with a task I had to go to the door to let her in.  Hoping that she would go to her crunchy bowl, I headed back to my task.  Suddenly she came racing across the floor and blocked my path, not allowing me to take another step.  Of to the kitchen and tasty canned food we went.

Cat's Play

She has different roles for each of us.  My wife is her mother, and she follows her around all day in her flower garden, hiding under ferns and then leaping out to make mock attacks on flowers or chowing down on a little grass salad.  She absolutely adores tassel ferns, and she will lay down with her face in them and wrap her paws around them and hug them.  When my wife takes a break to sit on our shaded glider, Lucky jumps up and rests beside her.  When she feels she's been ignored too long Lucky will jump up on my wife's back, and at that point she will let my wife pick her up and hold her for half an hour or more, often falling asleep while my wife pets her.  Every night she hops up on the table next to my wife to be groomed with a cat comb. 

As for me, I am assigned the role of playmate, and we play “Get the Cat”.  She will hide, leaving the tip of her tail out so I can find her, and my task is to stalk her.  I’ll stick a foot (sock only) under her hiding place and she’ll ambush it a few times and then run to another hiding place.  This goes on until she tires of the game and wants to be petted or groomed or fed.  We vary this with a game of chase the laser dot or toy on a string. 

Lucky loves to play far more than any cat we've ever had -- in fact she demands it and can become downright resentful if I don't respond to her cues.  Her play is vigorous, and if you're not careful, you'll get what the mouse got.  Having left her tail out where we can see it, she can reverse ends faster than one can withdraw a hand; hence the use of socked feet -- she sometimes scratches by accident, always in play, never with intent to injure.

Adventures

Lucky’s exploits are multitudinous.  We first learned of her tree climbing skills when she was just past kitten stage.  Two huge Labrador dogs came bounding into our back yard one afternoon.  Terrified, Lucky instantly levitated up the nearest oak tree and quite far out onto a limb -- a rather high limb at that.  Long after the dogs had been shooed away, she remained there, unwilling to move.  My tallest ladder and longest arm stretch barely managed to retrieve her.  However, she's not afraid of much else.  Recently, we looked up to find her 15 feet up and out on a limb of a large oak tree, surveying the landscape with casual insouciance, like an explorer of earlier times.

Once two deer showed up in our back yard.  She immediately went into a crouch and began stalking them.  Amazingly, the deer took one look at her and retreated.  She is a persistent and successful hunter, with a tendency to bring ”gifts” inside after she’s caught them.

She has also begun to summon us to come outside to see her catches.  The first time this happened, she knocked on the front door as she usually does when she wants food.  I let her in but she simply laid down on the foyer rug briefly and then went back to the door.  Well, that's odd, I thought.  I opened the door for her, and she stepped to the threshold, but then she stopped and looked back at me.  It took me a moment to catch on, but finally I followed her outside onto our porch.  She then proceeded down the steps, looking back several times to make sure I was following her.  She stopped at the sidewalk below, and at last I understood.  There lay the remains of her latest catch -- all that was left after she had devoured the edible parts!  She had brought me outside to view her accomplishment.

Bat Cat

She uses a tree near our garage to get onto the garage roof and then jumps to the breezeway connecting it to our house.  Once there, in typical cat fashion she prefers to be rescued rather than get down herself.  We keep a long 2X4 handy for the purpose, and she “walks the plank” down from the roof to safety.  Once, bats came to roost outside the louvers of our screened garage ventilation vent.  Being ever curious about the garage, she noticed the bats on one foray inside.  She used one of our cars to leap to the drive box of a door opener and thence to the roof trusses in order to investigate the bats.

The rather spooky flying mammals are long since gone, but any time Lucky manages to sneak into the garage we can be certain that she will be in the trusses looking for them.  Keeping her balance on the trusses is natural for her, although it tends to panic my wife.  Once again, our 2X4 serves as a rescue pathway.  Not to be thwarted by absence of bats from the garage, however, she has taken matters into her own paws, so to speak.  She now catches bats on the wing right out of the air in the dark of night.  She long ago started bringing live catches into the house for "show-and-tell."  This unnerving habit now extends to bats.  You can imagine the chaos that ensues after she places one on the floor for our inspection and it becomes airborne -- thence to be hotly pursued by wife, cat and myself. 

Mail Call

She is an ever-faithful companion.  Every day she accompanies us down our very long driveway to retrieve our mail.  All we have to do is go out the front door and call out, “Lucky, mail call,” a couple of times and she will materialize, no matter how far away she is or what she is doing at the time.  Once, when we forgot to call, she came running after us at a full feline sprint, mortified at having been left behind.  After we have the mail, she may hide under a certain bush and then pounce out in a mock ambush.  Unless she decides to climb a tree or walk our split rail fence!  She has the most personality of any cat we’ve ever had, and as you might guess we treasure every moment with her.

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