Wednesday, November 02, 2005


Bertha T. Catt

Bertha was a black cat I rescued from a prison riot back in 1989. At that time, everyone knew I'd take kittens when no one else would.

An inmate had smuggled her into the jail (nice search, eh?) And kept her as a pet in his cell. She was wearing a little gold chain for a collar when the state troopers brought her to me. She was kind of skinny for her age, but as she grew, she fattened up nicely and was a very fine looking sleek black cat.

Bertha was unique. Totally black, nose to tail, except for six white hairs on her chest. She also sported a big kink in the end of her tail, and would freak if anyone touched it. We assumed it was broken at some point in time in her shady past. She took no shit from anyone, four legged or two, and had a serious love of potato chips. Any kind really, but she preferred barbeque. I guess thats what the inmates fed her in jail.

In her prime, she was a great fetch cat. My then boyfriend and I would throw wadded up cigarette packs down the stairs, and she'd dive for them, and return them to us. This could (and did) go on for hours.

Bertha should have been an only cat. She hated other cats getting her attention, and would growl and hiss at them. Early on, she gained the nickname "Bitch" because if she sat next to you, you had better pet her, or you'd get bitten.

As Bertha aged, she became crankier and crankier. The other two cats pretty much would ignore her, but periodically there would be a major throwdown, always involving her. She'd fight anyone or any other cat, and that caused some problems for her.

She became a hermit, mostly living in my bedroom, sleeping in the sun on the bed during the day, and under the covers or next to my head at night. (She snored like a lumberjack too) The other cats took to chasing her away from the food bowl, so I started feeding her in my bedroom too. Then came her own personal litterbox because she'd get ambushed on the way to the two litterboxes in the apartment. She grew crankier and crankier, and rarely came out of my bedroom. When she did come out, she'd duck her head down and scurried to wherever it was she was going.

After I moved to the farm, I thought things would ease up for her. More space would mean the other cats would leave her alone. Not so. About a month after moving in, she took up residence under the futon couch in the living room in the summer, and upstairs in my bedroom in the winter. When none of the other cats were around, she'd get up on the futon with me and snuggle. She was still picked on, and still scurried with her head down, but she'd make it to the kitchen every morning for breakfast. Her distinctive "Brrrack" was her calling card. No meow like other cats, just a really raspy "Brrack" or screaming at the other cats.

Chef Lisa and I decided that if Bertha were a person, she'd be a little old lady who chain smoked unfiltered Pall Malls, drank cheap whiskey from a water glass, and periodically dressed up in her leopard skin printed tights to go play bingo, and take the bus to Atlantic City.

Bertha died late last night. She hadn't been quite right for awhile, and I chalked it up to age. This week she went down hill really fast. Still showing up for breakfast every day, but spending more and more time under the futon. She'd been sleeping a lot more, and was a whole lot slower in getting around. Last night, I sat on the floor with her, watching her sleep, and I told her how she was a good cat and that she's been here a long time. I told her about kitty heaven and how nobody there would pick on her, and she could lay in the sun as much as she wanted. It was time to go now, she was tired and she hurt. I said my goodbyes, and then this morning, I found her. Not breathing but still warm, 'sleeping' on her big thick towel under the futon. I didn't cry then, but I am now.

Goodbye Bertha, I'll miss your cranky ass.

This just in from Chef Lisa upon learning of Bertha's passing:

"She was the embodiment of our true 'leave me alone, scotch drinking,cigarette smoking selves'.
She was the grumpy lady in the bathrobe on the Hallmark cards.
She will be missed by us but is having a wonderful time in kitty heaven with all the other bathrobe wearing cigarette smoking scotch drinking grumpy cynical cats.
And they my friend are looking down and laughing self righteously at us even as I write and you read."

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