The adolescent, orange-flecked, grey kitten just appeared at the stable one day. There were no litters her age on the premises, implying that she had been dropped off and abandoned by some uncaring previous owner. She was a conspicuous presence every day I arrived at the barn to spend time with Albert. She demonstrated a fearlessness around the equines which earned her an occasional horseback ride as I would sweep her off the top of the arena gate when I rode by. Within days, she had won my heart and convinced me to bring her home.
Amazingly, Sweet Pea (as she was named for about the first five minutes of our alliance) was the only feline whose company my older cat, Tempest, would ever grow to enjoy. Tempest had barely tolerated other cats in her household in the past, but things were different with this kitten. Perhaps the older feline saw in this youngster the potential for molding an ally to establish a formidable feline force against the canine commandos creating near-constant chaos in our house. Or perhaps she recognized at once the kitten's propensity for nasty language and preferred not to be on the receiving end of such unpleasant repartee. For whatever reason, Tempest decided to take the youth under her tutelage.
Tempest and Pea
Pea flourished for many years, though never without constant complaining. I have always contended that a cat never existed who knew as many swear words as does Pea. But she always minded her language around Tempest and treated her with utmost respect. When Tempest passed on, however, Pea no longer saw need to control her tongue. No one else has ever been granted such immunity from her near-constant verbal lashings.
Pea was extraordinarily strong, healthy, and active until one fateful day in her late teens when I offered her a can of particularly tasty cat food which she gulped down in its entirety in a single sitting. The large meal was too much for her aging kidneys, which all but shut down completely in retaliation. We almost lost her. But being the incredibly tough old girl she is, she fought her way back and is now holding her own at age 21 - nasty as ever.
She looks and moves like an extremely old and feeble feline. She can't jump up on anything of height anymore, preferring to pull herself up by her front feet instead of relying on the atrophied muscles of her hindquarters. I have to be extremely vigilant about the size and content of her meals, purchasing extremely expensive special kidney diet cat food (which she might even acquiesce to nibble on from time to time) and adding digestive enzymes to every meal to help her kidneys along. Water intake is also a constant concern.
And then I watch Pea run this household and wonder why I bother to be so concerned about her. A couple of years ago, we were put in the position of having to adopt a total of seven more cats into this previously one-cat home. To say that Pea was unhappy with this turn of events would be a ridiculous understatement, but she has adapted. In fact, she has prevailed, developing what I refer to as "the rattlesnake technique". Anytime one of the babies gets a bit too close to the senior cat, she stares directly into the face of the offender and lets out a violent verbal castigation. The hapless offender then gives every impression of having been spit in the eyes with acid - a backwards leap accompanied by tight squinting of the lids. I have stifled many a laugh watching cats three times her size and one tenth her age stumble over themselves getting out of her way. This five-pound, feeble old feline truly is Queen of the Domain, and nobody's arguing!
Sweet Pea passed away on Mother's Day, May 9, 1999, at the age of 22. She had been diagnosed with acute renal failure four years earlier which resolved into chronic renal failure. Even in old age and poor health, Pea never relinquished her position as Queen of the Domain. Her presence will forever reign supreme on our farm and in our hearts.
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