Monday, March 9, 2009
My beloved Wampus was a teen kitten when she met her fate Feb. 24 crossing the street. Wampus had appeared in my back yard just six months earlier, a feral kitten, all alone. The photo below was taken two days after she arrived.
Wampus first let me touch her a couple of weeks later. Still frighteningly bony, she must have been near starvation when she found our food bowls. In the next months Wampus proved to be angelically sweet and gentle, almost too ethereal for this world.
Wampus was in fact so restrained and light-of-touch that I worried about her health. I told the vet that she seemed like an older cat rather than a kitten. The few times she chased a toy or bug were like big events. She was a lovey bed cat, cuddling and purring and sweetly relaxed.
Wampus got along beautifully with other cats -- always letting domineering cats have their way -- but her special friend was Gidget, my other gentle-touch tabby. Below is a trio of photos of Gidget and Wampus. Though Gidget was bigger, she never played rough with Wampus.
I named Wampus after my family's first cat. The original Wampus was also a longhair dark tabby with a remarkable rescue story -- she was found by my dad on our farm among a litter of piglets in the dead of winter!
In his youth my dad and his pals had used the term "wampus-kitty" to describe anything extraordinary or exceptionally good, sort of a synonym for a duesy. When my dad was a young farmer and family man going about his wintry morning chores, he picked up this astoundingly found kitten and put her in his pocket. By the time he got back to his truck and reached into his pocket, he expected the kitten to be dead -- but she was warm and toasty! That's when he thought, "now that's a wampus-kitty!" He brought her home and she became our beloved and legendary family cat. That's me below posing Wampus on my cousin's head.
The Wampus cat also figures in folk legends. The term kittywampus, which my mom remembers, has some roots in the Wampus cat legend. The half-cat half-woman legend gives some edge to the term "cat lady"!