Though she’d never admit it, my cat Nikita enjoys a pretty sweet existence. Oh, she loves to tell anyone who will listen how she started life as a street urchin, but once rescued by the SPCA, it took mere moments for Nikita to size us up, relocate to our home, and establish herself as the dominant domestic panther. Our smaller emergency back-up cat, LC, knows her place, as does our dog, a sheltie named Emma. A herder by instinct, Emma will happily chase anything that runs—say, for example, LC. Nikita, however, will have none of it. She plants herself, fixes the dog with a green-eyed stare, and if necessary, unleashes a wicked right cross to Emma’s tender muzzle.
Being the senior pet has other perks, as well. It’s Nikita who decides who can—and cannot—share the bed with my husband and me, while she herself never cedes the prime real
estate. More than once we’ve found ourselves separated by her furry little body, belly-up, beneath the covers, and right between us with her head next to mine on the pillow. And although a chronic ear infection has left her deaf as a post, Nikita is still as fat and sassy as your old Aunt Flo. A solid sixteen hours’ sleep each day, ripped to the tits on catnip much of the time, and smart enough to realize if she gets one paw in your bowl of ice cream the rest is hers. . . yes, Nikita has lived a queen’s life for many years. But as Queen Elizabeth I said in 1603, “I’ve had a helluva run, blokes, let’s hope that Scottish lad James doesn’t muck things up too badly.”
Nikita’s reign as queen is being threatened, and the usurper is a fearsome beastie:
Here’s another picture of Nikita’s tormentor:
Susie Q. started life as a stray as well, but thanks to the kindness of strangers she was hooked up with my daughter and consequently became an adjunct member of our family. Needless to say, Nikita has been less than thrilled. Her first response was simply to ignore the intruder, but when refusal to admit Susie’s existence didn’t cause the tiny, striped kitten to explode or disappear, Nikita moved on to low, threatening growls and some fairly impressive hissing. Push nearly came to shove when Susie had the nerve to cozy up to my husband, whom Nikita considers to be her own, personal human. Beyond her limit, Nikita had to break out the bitch-slapper and send the kitten packing.
But Susie Q. perseveres. She approaches Nikita with a posture of submissiveness coupled with an abundance of God-given adorableness. Inch by inch she closes in on Nikita, flirting and cooing, knowing full well that as new kid it’s up to her to win the trust of the bossy old broad. And in time, Susie Q. will be an important part of our family’s working machinery.
And what about Nikita? Well, she’s about to learn a lesson no one escapes: Adapt or die. This state we share is called life because it lives. It puts down roots, yes, but it throws out shoots as well. It climbs, trellises, intertwines with others, branches out, and changes with the seasons. Occasional pruning encourages lush fullness. Some of us are transplanted, some only bear fruit when grafted to another. And no matter how many seasons we’re given, our lives at the end will look different from the start.
It won’t be easy for Nikita to adapt to a new kitten in the house— after all, she’s been queen for a long time. In the end, though, she’ll benefit from this change, and once she stops fighting her new circumstance, she might well enjoy another warm body to cuddle and find renewed youth in the form of a persistent playmate.
If Nikita could still hear, I’d share with her the words of Marcus Aurelius: Adapt yourself to the things among which your lot has been cast, and love sincerely the fellow creatures with whom destiny has ordained that you shall live.