Zaphod is a very small cat.
Zaphod takes up a very large space.
Zaphod is irresistibly, irreversibly, irrevocably nice.
Zaphod is also, arguably, the cat who has caused the highest number of volunteers to do that dramatic-gasp, slow motion jaw-drop, dun-dun-dun swirl of fear.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
When you zig into Tabby’s Place and meet this zebra-colored zephyr of a cat, you’ll never imagine the road that zagged him here. Somewhere in time, Zaphod was loved, at least enough to be neutered (Love Is…Desexing Your Dearest). But then something went wrong, and times got gruesome, and the next thing we knew, Zaphod had been unzipped from his loved life, dumped out onto the street, and bitten badly.
Traveling time and space with fellow sweetheart Trillian, Zaphod zinged his way into the crosshairs of Animal Control. (Aside: this makes Animal Control sound like Bad People. This is not my intention. Animal Control officers are some of the bravest, biggest-hearted, downright best humans in the species. N.B.) From there, it was a happy series of circumstances that brought the two cats Tabby’s Placeward.
And then things went terribly wrong.
The wealth of wrongness begins with the name, for which I suspect an individual I shall respectfully keep anonymous, whose name rhymes with Ronathan. When I first heard “Zaphod,” I thought it might be an Old Testament reference. (As in, “I shall wear my zaphod of righteousness beneath my mantle of justice for the glory of the Lord!” Or some such.) The poor cat should have been so lucky.
Zaphod’s actual namesake, it turns out, can be described as such:
“Zaphod invented the Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster. He was voted ‘Worst Dressed Sentient Being in the Known Universe’ seven consecutive times. He’s been described as ‘the best Bang since the Big One’ by Eccentrica Gallumbits, and as ‘one hoopy frood’ by others. … As a character, Zaphod is hedonistic and irresponsible, narcissistic almost to the point of solipsism, and often extremely insensitive to the feelings of those around him.”
Other than the fact that he is, indisputably, one hoopy frood, our Zaphod couldn’t be more different.
Zaphod is, in fact, an exceptionally gifted empath. Zaphod’s spirit zings and pings for nothing so much as to make you happy. Leaping into your lap, nestling in your arms, or sprinting through the Lobby like a two-tone gazelle, our zippy boy is a zealot for joy, a one-cat zoo of leaping love.
So why, at the relatively young age of seven, is such a stellar spirit in the Lobby, that league of the elderly, ailing and otherwise needing-to-be-spoiled?
Let’s get back to the wealth of wrongness.
Have you ever noticed that there’s a subsection of humanity that simply can’t stand sweet, trusting, kind souls? It’s like this surly sector suffers a rare allergy to innocence, a hypersensitivity to wholeheartedness. And so…they bite. Blessed are the pure in heart, but bitten, too, by bitter beasts not quite as far along the path.
So it was for Zaphod.
Sometime shortly before we met him, someone (presumably feline) bit Zaphod badly. This immediately triggers an extended holding period. Over and above our usual three-week new-cat quarantine, cats with bite wounds need a special cycle, in which we can confirm that they don’t have any clinical signs of rabies.
Normally, this is a no-brainer. No neurological signs = no rabies. The holding period passes, the cat enters our general population, everyone does the Dance of Joy.
But Zaphod zagged a different direction.
As in, possible rabies symptoms.
Pending a consult with a neurologist, we initiated a strict rule: only staff members, and only those with current rabies vaccinations, could handle Zaphod for ten days after the onset of his neuro signs.
Enter gasping, frightened volunteers.
There’s nothing quite like “raaaaaaaaaabies!” to get everyone itching and agitating, especially if they’ve read Their Eyes Were Watching God or, even more, seen the TV adaptation. (And let’s not even talk about Old Yeller. I will not, under any circumstances, talk about Old Yeller.)
But even ten tense days pass at last, and so they did.
Zaphod did not have rabies.
Zaphod, per Dr. Fantastic, had toxoplasmosis. We treated him; he recovered; and everyone, led by Zaphod, did the Dance of Joy.
And so the zippiest cat at Tabby’s Place, pure of heart and sure of his sweetness, launched into the Lobby for some serious, long-overdue loving. Zaphod is out of the woods, although you might say he’s technically still in the park. It’s possible his brush with “toxo” could cause a recurrence of neurological issues in the future.
Possible. But with a cat like this champion, so is everything, intergalactic and beyond.
Zig and zag with us, kittens. After everything goes terribly wrong, there’s a wealth of rightness in the company of Zaphod.