The family cat
For 15 years, our family had a pet cat we called “Tiger.” We got Tiger from a litter of kittens on a farm that belonged to a family friend. I told my friends at school that we named it Tiger, and I quickly learned that was hardly an original moniker. In fact, the name has to be up there with “Whiskers” as one of the most popular cat names of all time.
In my family’s defense, our Tiger actually resembled a tiger. She had a white underbelly and the rest of her fur was black and burnt orange. With that color scheme, she would have felt right at home in Washington. When I went to my friends’ houses, I saw that their “Tigers” were gray or solid black or lots of other non-Tiger-looking colors.
We acquired Tiger sometime in the early 1990s. She was not our first cat, however. My memory becomes a little fuzzy when I think back that far, but I’m pretty sure our first cat was “Fluffy,” and she was mostly gray. She wasn’t a cat that we let in the house but we did put food out for her and she didn’t mind being petted, so we counted her as our cat. Fluffy was injured when one of my parents backed the station wagon over her leg. Fluffy walked with a limp from then on, and she didn’t visit the house much, either, probably bitter over that station wagon incident.
Tiger was mostly an outdoor cat, except in the winter when we broke down and let her inside. One of our neighbors was not fond of Tiger because of what the cat did to her flowerbed. Our neighbor told us that we couldn’t let our cat roam the town because that was a violation of the city code. I thought that was really silly at the time. What is a cat going to do to anyone? In retrospect, our neighbor was right and we probably should have been more mindful of where our cat went during the day.
Tiger was one of the friendliest cats I have ever known, and I’m not just saying that because she was my cat. Tiger was never afraid to approach a stranger if there was even the slightest possibility of a belly rub. We found that Tiger was especially friendly during dinner. She liked to butter us up in the hopes we’d drop her a chicken wing. Whenever someone would get up from their chair, Tiger would quickly take their place at the table to get a closer look at the meatloaf she coveted so.
We had to be careful about leaving food out with Tiger around. Her high jumping ability faded with her age but when she was in her prime she had no trouble scaling the countertop that was 3 ½ feet tall. Before long, we wised up and put Tiger in the basement during meals. Then we had to listen to endless meowing and scratching at the basement door, so oftentimes we let Tiger get some fresh air while we ate our supper.
We don’t know exactly how old she was, because we didn’t know her age when we acquired her from the farm. We made up a birthday for her of Dec. 1, which we celebrated by purchasing her an expensive can of catfood. Tiger died in January 2009, at the age of 16, we believe. My parents told me they are not interested in getting another cat, although they continue to put food out for the strays in the neighborhood. I think they miss having a cat more than they’re willing to admit.