Ricky and me

Ricky, who died last week, was the longest lived of any of my cats, which was definitely an accomplishment (and not a testament to my dubious cat parenting skills). He is also the reason for my decidedly racist views on the most desirable cats. If you look carefully at virtually any cat food packaging, cat food commercial or even any television program or movie that includes a cat, you will notice they have one thing in common: orange tabbies. This is not a coincidence. Aside from being almost exclusively male (the sexist component of my cat bias), orange tabbies are the most dog-like of cats (in a good way). That’s because they like being around people and are good a sucking up when the circumstance warrants. Which is how Ricky came to live with me.

I once lived way downtown in a neighbourhood best described as ‘transitional’. It was rife with back alleys that were ideal locales for entrepreneurial exploits that definitely did not show up on income tax returns. Our backyard, such as it was, consisted of a deck with a seven foot fence around it. We foolishly thought it would keep the cats confined in relative safety from the perils of downtown life. Of course it took them less than 30 seconds after moving in to figure out how to scale the fence and roam the wilds of downtown. At that point we had two cats, Lucy and Daisy, both female, and respectively the cat from hell and the cat with the personality of a turnip.

One evening in late September when we were sitting out on the back deck, an orange cat jumped over the fence. He was clearly not well nourished, so we fed him the remains of dinner. Every night for the next week, he showed up at dinner time. This did not bode well. While it is relatively normal to have two cats, three is entering crazy cat lady territory.

Coincidently, at the same time we were getting visited by an orange tabby, three or four other people we knew (in different parts of town) also had orange tabbies show up on their doorstep. We decided that this could not be an accident. Clearly these were not simply cats, but cat-like aliens intent on infiltrating human society. They had all been schooled in the best way to get adopted: simply target the houses that already have cats. Of course we felt sorry for him as the weather started to get cold and decided he could stay. But not before we took him to the vet to get the requisite shots, and in a supreme insult to the planet Zardoz, had his ‘communication’ devices removed before bringing him inside.

We decided to call him Ricky (since we already had a Lucy). Not surprisingly, Lucy and Daisy were not impressed by the new guest. The first issue was our version of the Hunger Games. After fending for himself on the inner-city streets for about a year and half, it is not surprising that Ricky was somewhat obsessive about food. This meant he had to be separated from the other cats at meal times if anyone was going to live to tell the tale (or retain their tail). Since my aggressively open concept house had only two doors, his dining room was the second floor bathroom. Eventually we settled into a reasonable facsimile of kitty detente.

Probably because he already pretty much owned the existing ‘hood, Ricky was well behaved until I moved to a different (and less gritty) neighbourhood. That’s when his figurative cigarette-package-in- the-rolled-up-sleeve made an appearance, which turned out to be strictly for show. Countless times he showed up gashed and bleeding (or worse, abscessed) after ending up on the wrong side of a territorial argument. The vet felt sorry for us and gave him a frequent fighter discount. But he always survived. I’m sure if his fur had been shaved, he would have looked like Mickey Rourke in The Fighter.

As he got older and his various nemesis’ left town or retired from active duty, we stopped funding the vet’s Swiss bank account. This did not make his life easier though, as he was then required to suffer the indignity of travelling to the cottage. His revenge was to disappear into the woods when it was within 12 hours of departure for home, no matter how careful I was about hiding the cooler or other evidence of packing up.
Anyhow, 18 is not a bad life span for a cat, especially one with Ricky’s history. I’m sure he will forgive me for burying him at the cottage (at least he will never have to travel home again) and maybe even for the insult of spending eternity with Lucy.