The story of my second cat starts, of all places, at an all-night scrapbooking party in the fall of 2002. Me, my cousin, Hayley, and two friends, Piper and Mary, signed up for the girls night at a local hotel. The event offered dinner, all night access to a banquet room, and some free scrapbooking supplies. Our group also smuggled in some liquor. Except for Hayley, who was not only underage for drinking, but also hopped up on cold meds already.
We were having a good time, even though we weren’t the most popular table, but that’s another story. A few hours in, Hayley decided she needed to go to the 24 hr grocery store nearby for more cold medicine. Having drank enough to spell the word ‘lion’ wrong on one of my pages, I decided she shouldn’t go shopping alone in the middle of the night, so I went with her.
In the parking lot there was a cat that I had been seeing around for the past few weeks. I’d tried to approach him before but he was skiddish and took off each time. Tonight was cold and I was worried about the poor little thing being outside on his own. ‘If he’ll let me close to him, I’m going to take him home,’ I told Hayley.
It might have been the cold, or maybe he recognized me from my previous attempts, but this time he didn’t just let me close, he let me pick him up. So, drunk me, and my cousin with the head cold, wandered through the grocery store in the middle of the night carrying this cat. She got more meds, I picked up some cat supplies, and we made our way to my empty apartment that was convienently halfway between the store and the scrapbook hotel. I flipped on the lights and put my new furrbaby down. That’s when Hayley panicked.
“Oh my hell. I think you just brought home a bobcat.”
Drunk me scoffed at Hayley’s overreaction, but I would later decide there was probably some merrit to her concern. The cat – named Sensei by my son – was massive. Not fat or fluffy like Sebastian had been. Sensei was, honestly, baby bobcat huge. I measured his length for fun, and nose to tail was almost 2.5 feet. The top of his head came to my knee when standing. He was big and he was mean.
Sensei immediately made his ownership of the apartment known. He did what he wanted, where he wanted, when he wanted, and hitting me with surprise attacks quickly became his favorite past time. My son was afraid of him but protective. Any male adult that entered the apartment was a target of attacks that often resulted in blood loss. The attacked included my Grandpa Bob, and the life insurance salesman that came by with my uncle and left with a little less flesh on his arm.
Despite his size, Sensei was a true ninja. He easily vanished in our small apartment, making his presence known when he decided the time was right to attack. He would hide out on the top of my fridge and smack you in the head as you walked by. Other days he would push in the kickboards in my kitchen and get into the walls, my neighbors walls, and wait hours before grabbing my ankles while I tried to cook.
His favorite sneak attack technique was the sleep attack. I would go to bed and wake up, in the dark, with 20 pounds of furr and claws and teeth. After going to work with my second blackeye, I started sleeping with a spray bottle, and friends started referring to my cat as my abusive roommate.
He kept me on my toes, but not once went after my son. On some nights he’d get up on the couch and cuddle like he was a real house cat and not a wild beast. Other nights he’d spend the whole evening at the sliding glass door, growling at the dark, and attacking things I could never see through the glass.
The most terrifying night with Sensei was his most memorible show of dominance in our strange relationship before he left us. He’d been particularly hostile and had kept me corralled for most of the night on the couch. I turned off the TV and started the slow, guarded walk to my bedroom at the end of the hall, anticipating the chase.
His size did not hinder the normal cat-stealth abilities, so he had the complete element of surprise as he darted for me, ran UP THE WALL past me, and came to a stop in the doorway of the master bedroom. His tail was fluffed out and whipping side to side, and his tufted ears were back. His intention was clear as a bell. I walked backwards, slowly, and spent the night on the couch, leaving the master bedroom to my terrible roommate.
Not long after that moment Sensei vanished. We waited some time to see if he was going to come back, and then adopted the shelter kitten we still have. Below are the only pictures I have of Sensei, because our time together happened before the days of camera phones. I wish I could find one of his yellow eyes, and the tufted bobcat ears. Having had such a larger than life relationship with him made it clear he was perfect for a work of fiction. Sensei was renamed Freddy and now lives with the detective in my first novel.
Sensei guarding his territory.
Sensei with his fighting tail.
Sensei always ignored the fact that he had a perfectly fine water dish by his food dish.