She was a rescue. She took her second chance very seriously. She grabbed ahold of life and shook everything she could from it. She was determined to make the most of her escape from premature death. Phoebe had been found in the desert by hikers. Only a few days old, she was bare without fur in the hot sun, covered in ringworm, and abandoned. Someone had decided she was a lost cause and not worthy of care. The hikers covered her gently and took her to a no-kill shelter where loving hands restored her. Within a few weeks, a thick luxurious coat of black and white revealed her tuxedo style. She became the rabble-rouser of the cat shelter with energy that rivaled a free proton released in a small nucleus. She could not remain in the “kitten room” having terrorized the kittens with her high-octane behavior, so she resided with the adult cat population; free to roam through the big old house that was dedicated to the comfort and safety of all felines, large and small, old or young. They had special rooms and accommodations for sick cats.
When my husband and I went to the shelter to find a cat companion, I was intent on an older adult feline who needed a forever home, preferably male; someone calm, content and grateful to be loved. A tiny black and white energy ball flew from room to room, bouncing off walls and scattering sedentary cats that tried to avoid her relentless path of destruction. Knocking into and overturning toys and small cat furniture, she was a blur of activity.
“What is that? I asked.
“Oh, that is Phoebe. She’s not what you’re looking for at all. She is a kitten and very unmanageable,” the shelter volunteer sighed. “We don’t think we’ll ever find a home for her. She is a lot to handle.”
“But she is so small,” I said.
“Yes, only about five pounds but she thinks she’s a tiger. She never stops and we are always on alert because she can be under your feet in seconds even when you just saw her in another room.”
The volunteer filled us in on her history saying it was a miracle she survived and was cured so quickly from ringworm. They guessed her age at four or five months.
“I’d like to see her closer,” said I, always up for a challenge. The volunteer corralled Phoebe and handed her to me. Phoebe squirmed then looked me directly in the eye as if to say, you can’t hold me for long.
I released her and off she zoomed. We continued looking through the rooms at adult cats, petting, holding, and trying to find a connection with one. Then it was dinner time and the attendants set out large dishes of food. Cats scurried in from all over to find a dish they preferred. In the kitchen, an extra-large pizza pan filled with kibble was set in the center of the floor. Cats of all sizes and colors arranged themselves around the perimeter of the pan and began eating in orderly fashion. In came the little black and white demon. She muscled between two larger cats and started eating. The cat to her left was the biggest cat in the house. His name was Liberty, he was pure white, close to twenty pounds, and definitely a dominant male. He looked down at the brash intruder and took a swipe at her with his large paw. She looked up, giving him an insulant stare then continued to eat. Again, he knocked her sending her back from the dish. She retreated, walked to the opposite side of the dish, and pushed between two other cats. But she did not stop. She walked into the center of the pizza pan, directly in front of Liberty, and started eating. Liberty’s head jerked up. In complete disgust, he turned and walked away from the pan and stood by the doorway. His annoyance was evident and every cat that passed by him as they left the kitchen was given a swipe of his paw.
My husband looked at me and in a sorrowful tone said, “You’ve found your cat, haven’t you?”
“Are you sure? queried the volunteer in charge of adoptions. “She is really wild. We’ve had an awful time with her in the few weeks she’s been out of quarantine. “
“Yes,” I said, “she is my soul sister. I understand her and we will be just fine.”
“If you change your mind, we’ll understand, and please bring her back. We don’t want any other abandoned cats, even Phoebe.”
We had Phoebe for thirteen years, an indoor/outdoor cat; something that is discouraged in the predator-filled southern Arizona environment. Her character was too big to be contained in the house. She was very desert-wise. She was unpredictable. She had confrontations with rattlers, bigger cats, and assorted potential destroyers that she bested and lived to brag about. She provided a plethora of mice, geckos, and birds as gifts to us. She would bring them through the cat window and release them into the house fully alive for our enjoyment.
I have so many Phoebe tales, they could fill volumes. She once called 911 on our landline. I answered a ring at the door to find two handsome policemen asking if I was all right. It took some time before I pieced together what she did – a phone receiver off the hook upstairs told the story.
She hosted a mouse for weeks, catching and releasing it in our house until we finally caught and freed it to its desert home. She would race through the upstairs and people downstairs would say, “Do you have an elephant up there?” “No,” we replied, “just Phoebe.” Although she never grew to be more than seven pounds, her thudding footfalls as she raced around sounded like something much much larger was roaming the hallways. She bullied and intimidated human guests, fiercely defending her territory. My friends named her the cat from hell, but she was always the sweetest, most cuddly little girl to us. Her antics made us laugh.
After a mighty struggle with an incurable blood illness, Phoebe finally gave up. She is buried in our backyard and visited daily. After more than a decade I still miss her giant presence. Several treasured cats later (we now have three), none have filled that space.