Tungsten turns eleven the first week of May. At least, that’s her estimated age. She was a foundling, so there’s no way to determine with accuracy the number of years she’s seen. She may be twelve or ten or a limber fifteen, but probably eleven. Even her birth-date is obscure; I’ve arbitrarily chosen 2nd May.
I’ve told before the story of how Tungsten came to live with me. She was one of the cats available for adoption from the Lethbridge PAW Society (which still has many cats of different personalities available, in case a reader is interested). I met several other cats, but as soon as I met her, I decided the she was the best one for me. A week later, I’d decided that she was the only one for me.
She had come to the PAW Society the same way many cats have done, and how many come to animal rescue groups all over the world: she was abandoned. She was found in a carrying-kennel on the doorstep of the PAW Compassion Centre, a shelter for cats the Society operated a few years ago. Tungsten had no name then, and no information was given with her. She was alone in her carrier.
The people who found her considered that she was very sad and despondent. Since nothing was known of her, everything about her past is conjecture, but she must have had a good home. When she came to care about things again, she was very friendly, and takes liberties, such as climbing on my shoulders (her favourite place), which she wouldn’t do unless she had been accutsomed to taking them previously. She was a clean cat when found, with spotless paws, indicating that, at least in her recent past, she had been an indoor-only animal. It’s theorised that Tungsten was the pet of an elderly person who died (that would account for her being loved) and that the owner’s heirs took care of the now orphaned cat but didn’t give her any time or attention (that would account for her good physical condition but discouraged demeanour).
The picture below shows Tungsten as she was when she first entered the PAW Society’s care. To me, she looks sad and old. She looks younger now four years later than she does in the photograph taken just after her arrival at the Compassion Centre. I may be biased.
At least those who dropped her off had the sense to place her where she would be found and found by those who would take care of her. Tungsten’s fate could have been far worse. Many cats and dogs are simply left behind when people move, sometimes the animals are left tied up in yards, or dropped off on a country road. A little cat such as Tungsten, as strong as her spirit is, would not have survived in such a situation. There are no whole species who are ‘natural survivors’. Some animals survive, some don’t, and cats and dogs in the wild (whether a rural wilderness or an urban one) never die of old age or ‘natural causes’. A cat that can’t fend for itself in the wilds of the countryside or a town always dies a cruel death, sometimes brutally, usually terrified.
But Tungsten was fortunate. She was abandoned to the right people.
After a year in a foster-home, the orange one was found by me, and I adopted her. I knew little about cats then - and not much more now, it seems sometimes.
Tungsten is a neat little animal. She and I have developed our little routines. Once I get into bed at night, she always comes up to my face and sniffs it; I find it hard to believe that she isn’t sure it’s me. Once in a while, she jabs her wet nose against my cheek, or licks me; she does it on purpose. When another cat is lying near by, she will push herself as close as possible against my face. I have to adjust her so I can breath. She wakes me up in the middle of the night for a drink of water from the tap; I could ignore her, but I know she will lie by the basin in the bathroom for hours. Lying there. Waiting. Doing nothing but preying on my mind... She doesn’t do this on weekends.
She is jealous of her prerogatives as top-cat in the house. She likes my lap to be free of other cats, in case she wants to lie there at any time. Renn’s newly found desire to sit there while I’m on the computer confounds Tungsten, and she sulks if she comes in to the room and finds him there.
She will sit and wait while I cut up chicken or beef for sandwiches, not necessarily watching me, but creeping closer all the while. She likes her little bit of chicken once in a while.
Eleven years is supposed to be middle-aged in a cat; in human years, she’s older than I am now. I get the feeling that she was ‘born forty years old’, as someone says of James Stewart’s character in “It’s a Wonderful Life”. She has a dignity that she won’t often give up. But when she plays - and when she doesn’t it has to do with her mood, not her sprightliness - it’s with the frenetic energy of a sped-up silent film. She jumps and runs like an adolescent, but in bursts; if you aren’t looking at her, you’ll miss the moment. Then the stolid courtliness returns, and she will lick her paw with disdain for other cats who play the fool.
And when Tungsten wants attention, when it’s time for me to sit down so she can lie on my lap, this tiny cat, six and a half pounds and no more, will give out a meow that can hurt the ears. And she will keep doing it until I comply. Yet there is a moment beyond which she grows tired of waiting. If I am ready to relax with her after that, it’ll be too late. She’ll be done with me, and will go off and curl up by herself. But later, she may decide I deserve a second chance to coddle her. She’s so kind to me.
Tungsten has taught me about cats. I can tell what she is thinking most of the time, what she is feeling, by her expressions, her sounds, her posture. We’ve grown to know each other well since that August day in 2007 when she was brought to my home, and we learn more every day. It’s frequently from our friends that we learn the most.