Friday, February 25, 2011

For Love of a Good Cat by JT Ellison

JT Ellison is the bestselling author of the critically acclaimed Taylor Jackson series, including All The Pretty Girls, 14, Judas Kiss, The Cold Room, The Immortals and So Close the Hand of Death. Her novels have been published in 21 countries, and she was named "Best Mystery/Thriller Writer of 2008" by the Nashville Scene.

Her short stories have been widely published, including her award winning story "Prodigal Me" in the anthology Killer Year: Stories to Die For, edited by Lee Child, "Chimera" in the anthology Surreal South 09, edited by Pinckney Benedict and Laura Benedict, and "Killing Carol Ann" in First Thrills, edited by Lee Child.

She lives in Nashville with her husband and a poorly trained cat.

For Love of a Good Cat
by JT Ellison

I’ve been having trouble working lately. It’s not what you’re thinking - I’m not blocked. I’ve got plenty of ideas. I’ve got lots of time, full days free of encumbrances, all waiting patiently for words to fill the moments.
No, the reason I’m having so much trouble is my cat.

Jade is a tiger striped rescue who has never let me forget how much she appreciates the fact that I picked her.  When I first saw her at the pound, she was five weeks old, suffering from a bad cold. So bad that they were going to put her down. They can’t afford to have sick kittens in the cages; disease spreads too quickly among unloved animals.
They’d named her Tori. She had the most inquisitive, if rheumy, green eyes. I knew immediately I had to take her. I couldn’t let this poor thing get put down because she’d been weaned too early and struck out on her own, a little stripedy runaway. She had gumption, I could see that. Desires, dreams. She wanted a bigger world than the one she’d been dealt. She was a renegade. Perfect.

She was also a five-week-old kitten who was terribly sick. The vet around the corner took her in, nursed her back to health, and she came home with us. A yowling little ball of fur who was the most fiercely independent cat I’ve ever had.

She took up residence on the pillow at the corner of the l-shaped couch and pretty much stayed there for the next several months. She was a sweet, lovely little thing who didn’t like people food, wanted her chin scritchies on her terms, and determinedly made a friend out on my husband, who wasn’t what we like to call a cat person.
I adore her, as you can tell.
We go to special lengths for this cat. When we travel, she has her own personal babysitter who comes over and stays with her, watching television and reading books to her. She absolutely can’t be boarded, she turns into a neurotic, shaking mess around other animals. She’s afraid, afraid! of other animals – so scared that she’s an only child. When my parents come to visit, she takes up residence under my bed, hissing and growling at everyone who dares come near.

It’s hysterical, especially since she’s a regular hussy with anyone else who shows up on our doorstep. It’s only my parents, who arrive bearing their own cat and a little dog, that send her into paroxysms of kitty terror.

What must she have seen in those five weeks before we made her our own? What terrors haunted her days and nights? I’ll never know.
So Miss Jade, my fiercely independent, won’t allow herself to be picked up, I am my own cat, thank you very much, cat has suddenly turned into a lap cat.

This is a problem on numerous levels.
First, I use a laptop. Operative word – lap. I’ve been spreading a bit as I age, but I’m not to the point where I can accommodate a cat and a computer. And she doesn’t take no for an answer – she’s going to get in my lap whether I want her to or not.
We battle for several hours in the morning. She curls up while I’m going through my RSS Feeds, then jumps off. Rinse and repeat times about ten. The teakettle will be whistling, and I can’t get her off. Okay, okay. I should say I don’t have the heart to kick her off. It’s been a wintry winter in Nashville, with lots of snow and little sun, and she’s getting older, and her joints get cold. I debated getting her a heated blanket. But it’s nice to have a furball in your lap. She’s warm. She purrs. She gazes at me adoringly when I scratch her ears.

Yes, yes, I know. She’s playing into my ego. I’m enamored of the idea that this cat, who I chose, has also chosen me.
But wow, it’s hurting my word counts.
Jade is also the reason I got published. I worked for the vet who patched her up for three days (I thought I’d be working the desk, but he wanted me as a tech in the back. Bad. Bad. Bad. After my first neutering, I was done.) I was quitting on Friday, and on Wednesday I picked up a large golden and herniated a disc in my back. That led to surgery, and recovery time, and library books, where I discovered John Sandford. The rest, as they say, is history.
Tell me about your critters today! I’ll send one of you a copy of my new book, SO CLOSE THE HAND OF DEATH, which definitely isn’t about sweet, soft kittens, and make a donation to your local animal shelter.


Judy Bobalik said...

I have and had several rescue cats. My lap cat was my Miss Marple. If I was sitting down she was in my lap. Often times to the point of annoyance. We put her to sleep in 09 at the age of 19. I hate sitting without her in my lap.

You and Jade are very lucky to have each other.

caryn said...

All three of our curent animals are rescues, all from the Animal Protection Association here. We too have formerly independent kitties who have now turned into quite the lap kitties making typing on the computer, reading the newspaper, eating etc quite difficult. They would be Loki and Elsa Mae littermates though by looking you'd never know.
But my true soulmate day in and out is Peabody the "generic shaggy black dog." He goes everywhere with me.

Anonymous said...

I no longer have pets but I was a dog person and also had many guinea pigs and rabbits over the years. I guess my favorites were the guinea pigs especially one named Angel. Angel was a lap sitter.

Helen Kiker

Kaye Wilkinson Barley - Meanderings and Muses said...

Welcome, Everyone!!

We don't have cats at present - and miss them something awful. We're discussing it with Harley the Wonder Corgi, but he's not being very cooperative.

The cat I had when I met Donald was a solid black cat named Pyewacket. She was sleek and silky with a tail as big and fluffy as I've ever seen and she was quite proud of it. She won Donald's heart in a second.

The day after Donald and I returned from our honeymoon we went to the shelter to get "a" kitty. Came home with two. Liter mates who couldn't take their eyes off Donald and followed his every move. He named them George and Martha. George was with us about 17 years, Martha almost 19 and we miss them every single day.

Patty said...

Love your story of Miss Jade. Our household right now has six dogs, three of which are rescues -- a standard schnauzer, a miniature schnauzer and a corgi mix. We've also had cats and three of the four were rescues, a gray striped tiger, a pitch black Burmese and a tabby that looked like a gold nugget thus her name was Nugget. Couldn't live without our furry friends!

pennyt said...

Thank you for rescuing a sickly kitten. Jade is a lucky girl. I raise foster kittens for the local humane society and if they get sick, it's still scary for me. That also means I ended up with a number of "unadoptable cats", including a "wobbly kitty", one with one eye, one with three legs and a couple of REALLY shy kitties. They are all special in their own way and I can't imagine life without them.

Mason Canyon said...

JT, I can completely understand about a cat taking over. I have two. Currently Gum Drop is recovering from surgery and doing well. However, Little One (in the photo) has become extremely jealous of the extra attention Gum Drop has gotten. As I'm writing this, Gum Drop is going back and forth from sitting on my lap for a minute to rubbing by where ever Little One is. Little One currently is hiding in a box and growling when Gum Drop comes by. Cats, don't you just love'em. LOL.

Kaye another great interview.

Unknown said...

Since I'm highly allergic I can no longer have a cat. We had barn cats on the farm and my favorite was Scotty, named for his butterscotch color. He used to sit on top of a fence post and when I walked by would leap onto my shoulder to keep me company. I never had the heart to put him off, but always ended up with a rash on my neck. Somehow it was worth it.

Aubrey Hamilton said...

Jade is very much like my Hester Louise of blessed memory. Also a brown tabby, I found her in the courtyard of my apartment house one Christmas day in a driving rain. I was in bed with bronchitis and trying desperately to sleep -- I was too sick to care that I was missing out on the biggest holiday of the year. I heard a cat squalling, crying, mewing pathetically outside my window and finally went outside with a towel to try to catch it and bring it inside so it would be quiet and I could sleep.

She ran straight toward me, surprisingly, when I approached her with a towel and she was my cat the rest of her life.

She feared everyone and reacted by biting and scratching. Vets were terrified of her. They thought I was delusional when I told them how gentle and loving she was with me. It was difficult to find medical care for her in her later years, which grieves me to this day.

My current lapcat is Madelon, the long-haired tuxedo who graces my Facebook page periodically.

Jean Lamb said...

My current cat is also a rescue kitty (she was very quiet--at the shelter. She got over that _very_ quickly, and is occasionally known as Zippy rather than Susie). My former cat, Samantha, was abandoned when she was only three weeks old, and was rescued by my friend, who knew we were currently catless. I never knew a cat to eat lettuce before her . Samantha was a longhair whose ambition was to turn the carpet orange.

I now put my laptop on a TV tray; it's just the right height for me to type, and allows for enough room for Susie to sit, too (I'm short, so your mileage may vary). And my lap doesn't fry, either.

Jody W. and Meankitty said...

Jade looks like a cross between Meankitty and Big D -- she's got Meankitty's attitude and Big D's coloring. Meankitty clearly rules MY life, and I update her website more than I do my own.

Jody W.

Janice Gable Bashman said...

My cat Pele used to love to sit on my lap (he died in August at age 16) and somehow I struggled through with both him and the laptop perched atop my knees. Pele would curl up against my body and I would hang the back half of the laptop off the end of my knees as I typed. It was quite precarious and definately decreased my word count, but I didn't have the heart to kick him off.

Tamy Preuett said...

We too are the family of a shelter cat. My son brought her home February 2010. Maybe even from the same shelter as we live in West Nashville. Callie is a black with very pale orange stripes in the strangest places, one is a perfect stripe across her back that looks like she has been tanning. The first week we had her we discovered that she can not meow! Can you imagine a cat without a meow. Bless her heart she does try her best though all that comes out is a hiss that is not that loud. That doesn't stop her from communicating with us. In the year we have had her she has gotten extremely bottom heavy, nothings wrong though, she just has a fat a**. Her official owner, my son, is moving to South Texas this spring early summer to start med school in the fall. He has decided that at first he is not taking her with him. After she has become use to him not being here then he may fly her down. Well at least thats the plan. In the mean time she will have to set with her human grandparents, me and my husband. She loves my husband but me not so much. And I'm the big cat lover in the family! Her favorite thing to do to me is to lay in wait on the stairs to the bedrooms blending into the dark so I trip over her. I triped so badly last week that I still have huge bruses on both my knees and top of my feet. It's almost like you can see her laughing at me. Her favorite place to sleep is on the
middle of the dinning room table. We are still finding Christmas ornaments that she played with and lost. But her favorite toy is most definatly Mr. Mouse. Mr. Mouse is a cat toy that you can put cat nip inside of a stuffed mouse. She flips it in the air and will send it flying across the room and run and catch it bfore it hits the floor. In fact that may just be her only excercise, hense the fat a**. The Preuett Family

Elly Carney said...

I have taken in a few cats over the years. Not the shelter cats. Strays. I swear there is a feline network which they use to spread the word, "Go to (insert address) where the nice lady lives. She'll take care of you." They have found me in every house and apartment and every town and city in which I have lived these past 30 years. Currently we have four cats. One came as a tiny little kitten - the runt of the litter - with my daughter and grand daughters. The other three were strays. Draco was adopted by my husband before we started dating. He had been abandoned by a neighbor of my husband's co-worker. Pouncer came along underfed and covered in motor oil. I brought him in to bathe him and meant to put him back out after he dried off. That was five years ago. Our newest family member is Shroedinger. A de-clawed house cat some one tossed out and abandoned. He showed up a virtual skeleton who had lost his sight in one eye due to a fight, ingested poison, and was apparently clipped by a car leaving him unable to jump and almost unable to walk. He spent weeks sleeping on a pallet I made for him, eating, drinking, and using his box. Slowly he regained the ability to walk steadily, jump and go up and down stairs. He's been with us two years and is now a plump little fuzzy ball of love. Shroedinger showed up when I was severely ill and completely exhausted. I didn't want anymore animals and was wishing the ones we had were gone. I was beyond tired and wanted no one else, human or feline, to "take care of". We may have helped heal him, but he did so much more for me. He helped me open up my heart again and find joy in all my relationships, be they with two-legged or four-legged creatures. I believe he was meant for us and we were meant for him. He will be cherished and spoiled all his days.

Kari Wainwright said...

I feel a little out of place here with all of you lovely cat people, but my Shih Tzu, Oscar Wilde, spends a lot of time on my lap. Because I use an ergonomic keyboard in my lap, most of the time the keyboard rests on his haunches. He doesn't seem to mind, though.

gkw9000 at

beadlizard said...

When I lived on my farm in the mountains I heard about a guy using cats for target practice, so I got a couple of friends together and we drove up to see if we could rescue some of the cats. It was horrifying -- he was on drugs and his kids playing in the midst of it and totally unaware that their father was nuts. We were able to persuade him to let us try to catch some of the cats, but then he started shooting so we only got two kittens (and some bullet holes in the car). I've done a lot of rescues, but that was the scariest. Usually it was just a case of visiting someone in the back woods about a tractor part or some such, and I'd take an extra feed sack and ask if they had any cats they didn't need. The standard answer was, "If you can catch that striped one, it's yours." The vet gave me a discount on getting them all fixed.

One of the queens decided my newborn daughter was her kitten, and slept on the windowsill of her room, year-round (outside!), and followed DD the moment she left the cabin. Skiing? You'd see a little crooked stripey tail peeking above the snow behind DD...


Patty said...

I think you need to consider a laptop desk that leaves room for the cat. Like this one:

Anonymous said...

I had the most amazing cat named Neiko. He was a Siamese mix and truly my baby. We rescued him from a shelter after our cat, Pidderpat, was killed by the neighbors dog. He would get under the blankets with me and snuggle at the crook of my shoulder. Shortly after we got him, my husband found a kitten at the bus stop. Our friend took him home but could not keep him so Norman became our cat. Neiko and Norman were polar opposites. Neiko friendly and outgoing, always looking for the next adventure. Norman stayed close to home staying safely curled up on our bed. Neiko developed cancer and and died August 23, 2000. I'll always remember that date because it is my brothers birthday. Norman was the one with nine lives. He survived 100 feet up a tree for almost a week then almost died from the tainted Iams cat food. He lived 15 wonderful years with us. He died December 29, 2009. We would love to adopt another cat or two but our youngest daughter was diagnosed with asthma and upon allergy testing had a severe reaction to cats...and dogs! So for now, we remain petless. I didn't know losing Norman left such a hole until I started writing this.

Jennifer C

Julie D said...

Aw, she's gorgeous. And so is your heart.

JT Ellison said...

Y'all, I am overwhelmed at your stories. I've laughed and cried - it's so nice to see so many people who UNDERSTAND! Our babies - dog or cat or hamster - whatever, are our babies.

I look forward to sharing a little love with your shelter. Thank YOU for sharing your hearts with me.

JT Ellison said...

Janice - you're the winner! Send me your info!

Janice Gable Bashman said...

I'm so excited to win. What a great contest. I win a copy of JT Ellison' latest thriller, which I am so looking forward to reading, and my local animal shelter receives a donation, which it so desperately needs. It's a win win situation for all. Thanks so much for the contest JT and for the wonderful blog Kaye.