Every cat with a pulse is, to use a technical scientific term, “alive.”
Some cats, however, are more alive than average.
Such a life force is Mimi.
Inevitably, every cat at Tabby’s Place acquires at least one staff member who is hopelessly, shamelessly smitten with him or her. (By “smitten” I mean “willing to take a bullet, commit a felony, and/or submit to repeated viewings of Battlefield Earth for said cat.”) We all love all the cats, but, against our best intentions, everyone acquires favorites. You can’t plan it, but some felines just make you hear strains of Puccini and see everything in rose-tinted slow-motion magic.
Mimi, however, has everyone.
There is not a single Tabby’s Place staff member who does not feel a personal, soul-shaking connection to Mimi. This is not a passion that can be resisted. To meet Mimi is to have your entire heart twisted into a balloon heart and wrapped around her black-and-white magnificence.
This may be because Mimi is just that alive.
It wasn’t long ago that Mimi was skirting life’s shallows in south Jersey. The life of a feral cat is always precarious, but with her wobbly walk and wracking cough, Mimi was more frail than most.
But Mimi had one advantage that made all the difference: wherever she goes, Mimi has everyone.
Even in her weakened state, Mimi easily wrought the Mimi Effect on all the humans in her orbit. Her orbit, in this case, so happened to be the grounds of a minimum security prison. The male inmates were no match for Mimi’s charms, and they committed to doing everything in their power to care for her.
Yet all the love in the world couldn’t calm the men’s worries that Mimi wouldn’t survive long outdoors. What made her so weak and wobbly, and why wasn’t her cough getting any better? The details are fuzzy at this point, but someone (an inmate? a guard? Jiminy Cricket?) reached out to Someone Else. Someone Else was in Michigan, so she (that’s Someone Else, not Someone — confused yet?) called Tabby’s Place on behalf of Someone, on behalf of Mimi.
But through all this confusion, Mimi had everyone.
Mimi made the journey to Tabby’s Place in a one-of-a-kind carrier. Lovingly “handcrafted” by the inmates, Mimi’s carrier was a cardboard box peppered with holes, and decorated in pen with the words “MIMI – PRISON”…and hand-drawn hearts.
Perhaps part of the reason we went gaga for Mimi so unanimously was that she came in such a carriage. It’s hard not to pre-adore a cat once you see she’s been so loved.
But Mimi’s not the kind of girl to rest on her laurels, and she soon went about stealing our hearts personally.
At only five pounds and ten or eleven months of age, this little wiggle worm is the latest CH cat to weeble and wobble her way into Tabby’s Place history. Since CH — cerebellar hypoplasia — is a nonfatal, nonprogressive, non-anything-but-adorable neurological condition, those wobbles were no cause for worries. (Although, like Ike and Edward before her, Mimi had been against stiff odds trying to survive as an outdoor CH cat.) From her first moments with us, still in the nest of her “carrier,” Mimi wiggled and played and loved life right up to the max.
As for that cough, we were confident it was just an upper respiratory infection (URI). Those suckers are as common in new cats as jeggings are in a Jersey mall, and they’re never anything deadly.
Mimi had scarcely been with us 48 hours when I saw Denise sprinting down the hall of Tabby’s Place with a tiny wrapped bundle in her arms. “What’s going on?” I asked, uselessly trotting after her to the X-ray room.
It had all happened so fast. Mimi’s breathing became labored, she was as weak as a noodle, and now her chest X-rays were showing something huge.
Pneumonia? Cancer? There was no way to know for sure. But our little wonder — now not wiggling at all — had to get to the emergency vet, and fast.
Denise blazed down the highway to Dr. Fantastic, Mimi sputtering along the way, and we all hovered over our cell phones awaiting word of any kind. How could one so fully alive be so overtaken by something so sudden?
Even the doctor was unsure. Mimi’s chest thing didn’t seem to be a cancerous mass, but we couldn’t rule that out without a biopsy — and the little wobbler was in no state for exploratory surgery. Other possibilities were even more chilling: it could be the always-fatal FIP.
Or it could be something we still can’t name.
Days of testing yielded days of non-answers. It wasn’t cancer. It wasn’t FIP. It wasn’t the shrunken head of Napoleon, or a Snoop Lion T-shirt. It wasn’t anything that anyone could identify, other than “cells” and “inflammation.” (That may sound like an answer, but it really isn’t. It’s essentially a sciencey-sounding way of saying “things” and “stuff.”)
Whatever it was, it was getting better with antibiotics. Mimi was coming back to blazing life. And finally, she was coming back to Tabby’s Place.
At this point, Mimi’s mystery is far behind her, and she’s back to the business of living so brightly, her life force can be seen from space. (Actually, this was what distracted George Clooney and Sandra Bullock and got them into so much trouble up there. True story.)
There’s something mesmerizing about watching Mimi play. She’s not the first or the fiftieth or five hundredth cat I’ve seen play, but she’s the first who is this wholly committed to it. When you see Mimi squiggle across the floor, low-riding like a furry salamander, you can’t help but realize that this is a cat making up for lost time. Playing wasn’t on the agenda at the prison, and playing wasn’t on the agenda when her chest was full of stuff and things.
“Playing” is now, however, the full agenda.
Well, playing…and having everyone — everyone — helplessly, hopelessly, on your team.