This is the story of how I chose my little girl back in early 2011. A quick update before I begin: my calendar actually had sales on Amazon! It’s pretty neat. I’m going to give a copy away. Just leave a comment on this post, and I’ll pick someone at random. Since I’m pretty sure I have just two readers, this should be pretty easy to win. 🙂
So, in earlier posts, I talked about selecting a Mau and thinking about a purebred vs a shelter cat. I googled for breeders in my area and found Evelyn at Arietta Cattery in December 2010. She had a litter with two silvers still unspoken for, a boy and a girl. After a phone conversation, she suggested Lou and I meet her at a cat show about 20 minutes away that weekend to see if we liked the Maus there.
There was a light dusting of snow that day. This is important – note it for later. We arrived and found Evelyn, but she and her fellow Mau breeders were having a birthday party for a friend so we left to wander around and look at cats. We saw a Mau in a cat carrier. I looked around sneakily, then tapped on the fabric, and it tapped back at me. Such long, thin, delicate paws. It was a beautiful animal.
We passed a hairless sphynx. In pictures, these animals look terrible, but in person, this particular cat looked regal and friendly. He seemed like an old soul. He took an instant shine to Lou through his cage. We happened to be in time to see a Bengal show. They were wild little things – meowing and acting up in a cute way as they came out to be shown. There were other animals, too – alters and kittens and giant furballs. Eventually, the Egyptian Mau showing began. There were only 5 cats, I believe.
They came out one by one and stretched up on the post so the judge could see their musculature, face, and spots. The judge will hold a toy or flower up at the top of the post so the animal stretches for it. One of the Maus didn’t just stretch – he wanted to play! I saw instantly how playful and fast these creatures were. They were adorable. One of the main reasons I attended, though, was to determine if I wanted a silver or a smoke. Evelyn said that silvers were beautiful, but smokes stole your soul. They are lovely, but I decided I preferred my snow-leopard look. A silver it was.
We spoke to Evelyn and set up an initial meeting with the female silver Mau kitten she had remaining. She sent us some pictures to help us decide. I’ve posted them before but here is the main one again. She looked like she’d be a handful, but Evelyn noted she was ‘a love with a great personality.’
It was a dark winter night. She lives way down in South Jersey, while we live in North Jersey, so we met in the middle in a Barnes and Noble parking lot. We sat in the back of a van. It was very clandestine. 😉
Evelyn brought the little girl out, and she was instantly mewing. What a talker! She wanted to know everything about where she was. She wanted to see out the windows, explore the van, watch the cars, who I was, etc. I held her briefly, but she squirmed out of my hands and hurtled head-first to the floor! I was mortified. I dropped my kitten on her head!
She was fine, of course, and I scooped her up before she got away and into too much trouble. I handed her to Lou, and she was begging to look outside in that weird kitty language of hers, so he held her up to the window while saying, “Oh yeah, kitty? Tell me all about it.” She watched the cars in the parking lot, following them with her head, and then Lou passed her back to me. I pet her and held her for awhile, and she fell asleep on my lap, an oh-so-tiny mound with a big butt and a tiny head. She reminded me of a bumble bee. I felt like that was a sign – she fell asleep in my lap! She must like me.
I gave her back to Lou a bit later, and she squirmed all over him, burrowing into his leather coat before falling asleep on him, too. Double sign! I was in love. We eventually gave her back to Evelyn, who inexplicably wrapped her up in her coat.
Now, the cat had woken up again, but once wrapped up in this coat.. she instantly went all sleepy like and SMILED. Oh my goodness. I mean, really. She loves snuggling? I was SO SOLD. (And she STILL does this. If I wrap her in my robe, even as an adult cat, she goes to her happy place like she is hypnotized.)
Then Evelyn put her back in the carrier. She started carrying on, like cats do. The meows were so sad! Evelyn put the flaps down so it would be dark in there, and the girl would go to sleep, but all it did was mute the meows. Finally, Evelyn said, “I’m going to get some coffee in Barnes and Noble.” She turned to the carrier. “Maybe I’ll give you some milk? No, some whipped cream?”
The meows stopped then changed in pitch as if this kitten knew exactly what whipped cream was. (And again, to this day, I have very strong suspicions that Wintermuse understands English. Words, tones. Clipping, treats, bad, vacation, dinner, toy.)
We asked how much she was. It was higher than I expected by about 50%. We left, and I was completely in love, but I wanted to think about it more. I told myself that I wanted to go to the shelter and see if any cats there spoke to me like she had. Of course, I couldn’t get her out of my mind. Evelyn emailed me the next day to say she was a sweetheart the whole way home and seemed to like us very much. My heart continued to melt.
We were off to Florida for a few dayswith my parents, so that gave us some time to think it through. When we got back, we intended to go to the shelter. The first time, it snowed badly so we opted not to go. The second time, I locked my keys in my car. (This has never happened to me in my life.) The shelter was closed by the time the locksmith came and sorted me out. The third time, we finally got there, but there were only 2 kittens, and they were asleep. We looked at them but were not feeling anything. We looked at adult cats, too. I liked them better and felt so sad for their situation. We went home to think a little.
The interesting thing to note there is that every time we planned to go look at other kittens, disaster struck! We started to joke that she was making it snow so that we’d have no choice but to choose her. It’s part of why we chose Wintermuse as her name. She ‘inspires’ the Winter. 😉
I turned to Lou one night and said, “If it wasn’t for the price, I’d take her in a second. If she was half or a quarter of the price, there’d be no doubt in my mind.’ When I stated it that way, I realized she was the one I wanted. He loved her, too. We could certainly afford her, but we’re both frugal. I work in NYC at big companies, but I buy my shoes from Payless, I have never bought an expensive handbag, my car is used, and I plan all my vacations through Hotwire/Priceline/whatever to get the best deals.
But that said, when I do believe something is worth investing in, I’ll plunk down the money. I believe in value. I appreciate beauty. I have splurged on fine dining, houses on the beach, trips to Yosemite. I have stayed in the Sonnenalp in Vail (off-season! It was a steal). I paid extra for close-up tickets to see the Dalai Lama. And I felt that the cat was a 20 year investment. That the joy she would give me would last decades.
And I was right. The happiness she has given us in the past year has far exceeded that of any vacation I have taken. I would give up my most expensive camera lens (an L-series telephoto, if you were wondering) for this cat.
In that light, the price was worth it. We went ahead and said yes. We waited a few weeks so Evelyn could take care of her shots. We missed kitten-time with her, but I didn’t want to trust this essential care (distemper, rabies, neutering) to a local vet we didn’t know when she was such a rare animal.
We planned a drop-off day 5 weeks later, in Feb 2011, but then two mysterious things happened. One, the doctor was able to fit her in much earlier to give Wintermuse her rabies shot. Then Evelyn had a ‘strange feeling’ and asked if we wanted to take Wintermuse a little earlier. One Friday, after a grueling day-long class at NYU, I packed into the car with Lou, our picnic-basket-shaped cat carrier, some toys, and some treats. We drove back to that Barnes and Noble and brought our girl home. (Some stranger saw her with Evelyn in the car and wanted to buy her on the spot!)
And days later, on the day we planned to get her, it, of course, snowed 6.5 inches.