He was the goofiest kitten I’d ever seen.
His ears were way too large for his head. His body was scrawny. He had this enormous fluffy tail and his back legs worked faster than the front. So, he ran funny. When I first saw Rhett at the Tree House Humane Society nearly 22 years ago, it was hard to image that he “belonged” to the beautiful, puffy little kitten next to him in the cage. She was so purr-fectly proportioned – he was far from it.
The two kittens came home with me that day and today’s post is about the little kitten that got into loads of trouble. You see Rhett didn’t so much move into my Wrigleyville apartment as he invaded it. He climbed, attacked, conquered and partied when everyone wanted to sleep. There was no bookcase too high to conquer and no obsticle course too difficult for him to maneuver.
He got into so much trouble that first year, he answered to Booger – as in - “You little Booger!”
Each time he got into trouble, he looked at me with his silly little look, rolled on his back for a belly rub and revved up his purr that sounded like a Harley speeding through my apartment and my heart melted. It seemed to be his goal to see how many lives he could burn through in his first few years. My veterinarian and the behavior line at Tree House were on speed dial.
In the cat behavior books, they say that male kittens calm down when they are neutered. They also say that kittens get into less trouble with a buddy - not Rhett. Eventually, I had a roommate move in with a little male cat named Tin-Tin. As the two of them perfected their tryout for the WWF, he finally seemed to burn off enough energy and settled down a tad.
Rhett was like that fish in the Dr. Seuss book that kept growing and growing...past his first birthday and into his second. My vet said he could be a Maine Coon (which would explain the growth spurts). When he finally stopped growing, he developed into one of the most handsome cats I'd ever seen. His head and ears finally matched and the tail complimented his body – he also ran like a normal cat. He still didn’t act like one.
When the cats and I moved into our Edgewater condo, something strange happened each day. I’d leave the house in the morning and the throw rug would be in front of the door. At night, it would be under the front window or in the kitchen. One weekend, I finally found out what was happening. Rhett and Scarlett took turns running down the hall and jumping on the rug - their own personal flying carpet. I often referred to him as super cat or circus cat.
Rhett felt that company came to see only him and would jump on anyone’s lap, especially those who he sensed didn’t like cats. When my husband and I first started dating, Rhett jumped up on Tom’s lap, put his paws on his shoulders and sniffed him out nose to nose. Tom, who wasn’t a cat person at that time, asked if this was normal behavior for a cat. Of course it wasn’t, but this wasn’t a normal cat.
From then on, the boys were inseparable. They wrestled and played games. When Tom’s Jeep pulled up in front of my condo, Rhett was waiting for him at the door. When we got married and the cats moved with us to a house on the North Shore, he started to shadow Tom’s every move.
Yes, Darth Cat had gone over to the Dark Side and was no longer my cat. Tom taught Rhett how to sit and shake hands and Rhett taught Tom how to turn on the water in the sink in the master bath at 3 am by knocking items off the counter and into the sink.
Rhett loved life and loved most company. He was our official greeter when the doorbell would ring. But, he didn’t like little boys – even when they grew up into teenagers. He’d growl and hiss and dive under the bed with the nephews came to visit. At an early age, they all joked about the “mean, scary” cat and wisely left him alone. Since Tom isn’t overly fond of children, it gave them both another reason to bond.
Eventually, the senior years took over and Rhett slowed down, jumped less and ceased to get into much trouble. During the summer seven years ago, he lost his appetite. We made so many trips to the vet before he eventually ended up in the emergency room.
In the middle of the night his true closest friend Scarlett, let out the saddest howl. When the phone rang, we learned his time was almost over. He died seven years ago today at the age of 15. And, the house was too quiet for the longest time. I never thought I'd miss the 3 am bathroom stunt until I realized we'd never hear it again.
After being called so many nicknames through the years, he has just one title now he’s gone off to the Rainbow Bridge – the Late, Great Rhett the Wonder Cat!
Rhett and Scarlett were my first rescues as an adult and my husband's first cats. We swore that day that we'd never get another cat. It was just too hard losing a pet. Much harder than any pet we'd lost as a children.
But, a few months later, the house was too quiet and we all were too depressed. So, we went in search of a cat to replace Rhett. OK - not replace. He ended up being such a hard act to follow that we adopted two cats - Max and Ellie.
And, when I saw all the cats needing homes on our search, it motivated me to step up and volunteer, using my writing and PR talents to help more pets find homes. And, you know what, I found out that many cats are returned to shelters for the very reasons that I loved my Cat so dearly. But, that thought never once crossed my mind. To this day, I just can’t imagine what my life would have been like without the late, great Rhett the Wonder Cat!