Oh, China. You have as many personalities as there are people in your namesake nation, and your own wacky way of making us love you even when you don’t return the sentiment.
Calico diva China has the distinction of being the sole non-elderly feline in the Tabby’s Place Community Room. Knowing China, it’s a distinction she carries proudly – and never lets her elders forget. Eight-year-old, glamorous China shares her space with 20+-year-old Hillary, 14-year-old Franny and Molly, and, depending on their moods, often 12-year-old Peachy and Mr. Grey, too.
Once upon a time, China, like most of our cats, lived in one of our regular suites. Suffice to say she was not a happy diva there, and made her displeasure clear by going on a hunger strike. No sooner had we moved her back to a cage in our Hospital for monitoring, than she turned into a happy, purry, rubby and healthy girl. The pattern became oddly obvious: life in the suite meant diarrhea and not eating, while sojourns to a cage made for a cheery China. We started to wonder if China might be the first cat to disdain the cage-free part of this cage-free sanctuary.
Since we weren’t about to stick China in a cage for life, we made a compromise with our imperious calico: she wouldn’t have to put up with the riffraff in a big suite, so long as she’d eat sufficiently well and live peaceably with a mere 3 roomies in the Community Room. China was game for the compromise.
And, for the first few blissful weeks in the Community Room, China was (yet another) different cat. While she’d always been one we’d handled with kid gloves (or, literally, can’t-bite-through-’em leather gloves), China now became a gentle, affectionate love-bug. I know it: I was honored to have this version of China as my desk-mate for about a month. She’d purr and show her belly, angling for a tummy rub as I worked, and gazing at me with sweet eyes. Smitten, I naively assumed that everyone else had simply misunderstood my calico friend. What of all these tales of her being a biting, snarling, proceed-at-your-own-risk bundle of cattitude? Not my China – she was a sweetheart!
All that time I thought China’s green eyes were full of love. I now know she was thinking, oh, Angela, it’s entertaining to see just how stupid you can be.
Yes, China’s “other side” was very much still alive. And (literally) kicking. One day, just as quickly as she’d begun keeping me company, China decided not to nap on my desk anymore, ever again.
(Side note: the arrival to my desk of Siamese Molly, who is 5 pounds of dynamite and will annihilate any cat, of any size, in her way, may have had something to do with this. Ditto China’s diagnosis with diabetes, for which others on the Tabby’s Place team half-jokingly blame me, since I have the “contagious” Type I human version of this condition. But I digress.)
Now the main conference table became China’s turf, and from that vantage she’d spend many happy hours growling at, biting and making threatening faces (really) at volunteers and staff. (Quoth one faithful volunteer who had historically caused every other Tabby’s Place cat to adore him: “She doesn’t like me. She always gives me that look.”) Yes, including me.
But I don’t love this complicated calico any less than I did in our desk-buddy days. Nice or nasty, she’s got us all wrapped around her tricolor paw, locked into that steely green gaze. And, I look forward to seeing which of the three jillion faces of China our girl will unveil next.