Italian empires

Italian empires

9654723075_4fe4aa8c9a_zAs you surely know, our country — that is, the United States of America — is presently closed. It’s Government Shutdown time, and it’s a cryin’ shame.*

Fortunately, Tabby’s Place is a sovereign nation.

Milan the magnificent...
Milan the magnificent...

Much more than that, we boast a cosmopolitan cast of characters ready to solve all political squabbles. National parks may be closed, but the International House of Cats is wide open.

At a time like this, perhaps what we need is a hero from the land of da Vinci, Dante, and Sophia Loren.

What we need…is an Italian.

Not since Luciano has the moon hit our eyes quite so much like a big pizza pie as it did recently. No sooner had we seen the scrawny calico with green-olive eyes, than everyone sighed, “Bella bambina! È Firenze!” (OK, everyone except Cecille, who just looked at us and muttered, Quelles morons! Which I’m pretty sure meant You are all so awesome and witty all the time! I love humans!)

Every cat is unique. Every cat is a special snowflake. But if this new baby wasn’t wearing the face of forever-loved Florence, the Mediterranean is full of espresso. Dilute calicos are rare enough, but dilute calicos with this exact face…it could only happen at Tabby’s Place. In honor of her long-lost wild-woman lookalike, we named the newcomer Milan.

Like Florence before her, Milan exuded more style than Prada, Dolce and Gabbana combined. Like Florence before her, Milan was wrapped in a coat of pastel patches to put fields of flowers to shame. And like Florence before her, Milan was a tumble of troubles.

It had been a long time since this bambina had enjoyed a spicy meataball. In her too-thin-for-the-runway state, Milan was so weak she acted more like a 90-year-old nonna than a proper toddler. It was almost eerie how calm she could be, serious and sedate with eyes as ponderous as planets.

...and her long lost paesana, Florence.
...and her long lost paesana, Florence.

But we’d been schooled by Italians before, so we knew this wasn’t the whole opera. Florence had once been quiet and sickly. Florence had once been sedate.

And Florence became the feline equivalent of pasta arrabbiata: sauce so spicy, the translation is literally “angry pasta.” In her meteoric romp before leaving us all too soon, Florence left no living creature unscathed or unenchanted by her wild, wonderful, violent-yet-violently-affectionate ways.

So you can’t quite blame us for bracing ourselves for Florence II.

But it turns out our newest signorina has a different sort of wisdom for her humans. Unlike her mirror image, Milan is entirely devoid of insanity. Even as she regained her strength, her health and her weight, Milan has been more like soothing gelato than pasta arrabbiata.

If there’s anywhere in America where Milan’s brand of calm sweetness is in short supply, it’s the halls of Congress. But we don’t believe in cruelty to animals, so Congress can’t have her. Besides, we could use a little serenity right here in the Community Room.

Toscanini could never write the sort of symphony we hear in here: Paquita screams for a mamma, Queen hisses at tutte le persone, Sinatra tumbles back and forth and back and forth (and back and forth and back and forth) through the crinkly tunnel. Peachy makes her patented brand of Angry Sounds at all lesser felines. This is not a realm of exceeding sanity.

Milan with her purring baby doll, Paquita
Milan with her purring baby doll, Paquita

But enter Milan, and let the wonder of a sweet soul do its work. Milan plays, but gently, as though she respects her toys themselves. (You can almost see her saying, “Don’t worry, little crinkly ball; I won’t press down too hard with my teeth when I carry you.”) Milan prances, but lightly on her feet, with her long tail neatly tucked over her back. And Milan romps with the other cats, but not once have I seen her engage in that classic kitten game of I’m Gonna Get You Sucka. Kittens usually practice hunting on other kittens, causing other kittens to scream (“STOP KILLING ME!!! MOM HE’S PLAYING I’M GONNA GET YOU SUCKA AGAIN AND I DON’T WANNA BE GOT!!!”). This is a natural behavior with important educational purposes; when Victim Kitten screams and flees, Conqueror Kitten learns, “That must be biting too hard. Note to self: don’t draw blood.”

Florence somehow never learned this lesson. But Milan has never needed it. She’s a study in gentleness, an aria of peace.

Perhaps most delightfully, she’s a sort of surrogate mamma to our eternal infant, Paquita. Although Paquita may be the one who initiated the relationship, it’s commonplace now to see the girls curled up, spoonlike, in a toasty round bed. She may only be 5 months old herself (and we may have made it literally impossible, short of a miracle, that she’ll ever have her own kittens), but Milan has the motherly spirit that Paquita’s been crying for — with plenty of affection left over for humans.

These days, peace, joy and love speak Italian at Tabby’s Place. Are you taking notes, Congress?

*Breaking-ish news: It has come to my attention that the shutdown has shut down, Congress has shut up, and America is open again. I would like to thank Milan Rosenberg for her successful diplomacy in this matter.

Thanks to our eccellente volunteer, Jess, for the first and third photos from the top.


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