Several months ago, my wife and I had been asked to water some friends’ plants while they were away. One day, we forgot until about 10 p.m. We arranged for my wife’s sister to watch the kids, hopped into the car, and drove into the night.
About halfway there, I spot something white along the opposite side of the road. I look at my wife, and she looks at me, and she asks the question that was on my mind.
“Was that a kitten?”
So we turn the car around and drive back. I park in a spot roughly where I thought I saw the apparition, grab a flashlight, and begin walking up the road, calling “kitty kitty!” Before too long, I hear a little “meow” in response. I find the kitten hiding in a patch of tall grass, tiny and terrified. I pick her up and carry her back to the car, and hand her to my wife. The waif clung to my wife while we watered the plants in the dark. When we returned home, of course the kids go crazy over her.
The poor little white-and-orange kitten couldn’t have been more than three or four weeks old. She didn’t even have her regular teeth in, and had to be bottle-fed for the first couple of weeks with us. But she ate heartily, and she grew quickly. We all agreed to name her “Princess Buttercup,” after the classic movie “The Princess Bride.” But she often eats like she was starving, so her nickname quickly changed into “Butterball,” or even “Butterbutt” when she’s in one of her aggressive moods.
But her abandonment at such an early age may have caused some neuroses in her. Yes, crazier than your typical cat. For starters, she is strongly agoraphobic. Take her outside, and she’ll go into panic mode. If she can squirm free, she makes a beeline to the door of the house and cowers there, waiting desperately to be let in. This is an interesting contrast to one of our other cats, who does everything she can to get out of the house, including slipping through windows only opened a crack.
On the plus side, Buttercup has proven to be a capable mouser. The rodents try to get in to find food, or shelter from the cold Idaho winters. Thanks to the vigilance of our murderous felines, they usually don’t get far.
The second odd thing about Buttercup is that she likes to lick my pants.
It’s only one particular set of pants, though. I have a set of pajama pants showing “The Many Expressions of Vader.” It has repeated pictures of Darth Vader’s impassive mask, with a variety of words underneath each picture, demonstrating what Vader looks like when he’s angry, or sad, or scared. (Yes, the mask never changes.)
In the mornings, after I get up and head into the bathroom, Buttercup likes to follow me (she actually likes to follow anyone into the bathroom. It’s warm there, and she gets petting). While I’m sitting there, she curls up between my feet, kneads her paws, and starts licking the leg of my pants. Or sometimes she tries to suck on them, like she’s found some sort of invisible nipple. Often, she’ll fall asleep, purring.
She doesn’t seem to do the same with other pajama pants. Or other fabric, even if it’s about the same color. The best I can figure is that her mother must have had mottled gray and black fur, and somehow Darth Vader brings out some sort of nursing instinct in Princess Buttercup.
In any case, Buttercup is somehow comforted by soft, fabric Vader. I’ve caught her sleeping on my pants once, after they came out of the dryer.
I’ve seen several amusing images and parodies of Darth Vader, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a picture that depicted him being a wet-nurse to a kitten. And now you have that image in your head, too. I’ll take the credit for it. Blame me.
Bottom line? Cats are crazy.