21: A Cat Named No

21: A Cat Named No

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Very Good, Very Bad Cat

A Cat Named No

Fun fact: Kittens learn to purr when they are about one week old.

The scraping sound of the laundry basket against the cement floor catches my attention. I turn from the dryer just in time to see my black cat use his head to push the basket to my feet. Satisfied, he sits tall with his broad chest out and watches me with striking yellow eyes and two gleaming white fangs in his trademark “smile.” Bat fangs, we call them.

“Thanks, Wookie,” I say, patting his head. At my touch, he rises to all fours and drapes his tail over my hand.

Wookie is a helper cat. He thinks he must help with every task. He also thinks his name is “No.”

In this next instant, he is inside the dryer standing on the warm clothes I’m trying to remove.

“No!” I say, as I reach in and pull him out.

When I run the vacuum cleaner, he is the only cat that doesn’t run away in terror. Instead, I have to vacuum around him as he refuses to move. Then he follows me to the next room to sit in the way again.

“No!” I say, as I try to keep him away, but he hops over my leg and sits in the middle of the floor, forcing me to vacuum around him once more.

As soon as the broom comes out, so does Wookie. He insists on checking the dirt pile to make sure no stray treats or “toys” such as Q-tips or twisty ties have been taken prisoner.

“Wookie, no!”

I try to block him with the broom, but he heaves his twenty pounds against it, defeating my attempts, and steps in the dirt, spreading it around. Satisfied, he walks away, trailing dirt behind him.

As I prepare the sink to wash dishes, I’m relieved he’s gone, although the worst he ever does at the sink is sit in the open window above it and meow at the birds outside.

From the basement, I hear a loud, “Wookie, no!” from my husband.

He is trying to scoop the litter boxes, which has to be Wookie’s number one favorite chore to help with. From the time he was about two months old, he either sits in the litter box while it is being scooped or grabs onto the discard bag as if my husband is stealing the contents the cat so carefully buried.

Despite all this, he is a keeper.

We rescued his mother and her litter when the kittens were a day old, moving them out of the cold April air into a warm basement and clean blankets. Every other day, we would change the blankets, and during one of those times, when the kittens were barely two weeks old, I was lifting Wookie when he purred. I paused and looked at my husband in disbelief. This was the third litter we had cared for and the first time we had ever heard a kitten purr so young.

In my heart he was mine, even though we had decided not to keep any of them. He purred every time I touched him. When his eyes opened and his wobbly legs allowed him to explore, he would seek me out to snuggle against me while his littermates played.

At night, he sleeps sprawled out lengthwise between my husband and me. At any time of night, all one of us has to do is gently brush him with our hand and the deep purrs lull us back to sleep.

For the first year of his life, I learned to prepare dinner with him under one arm. I learned that he really shouldn’t help with pumpkin carving after I found gooey seeds stuck to his fur. I learned how to decorate a Christmas tree from a cat’s point of view. I needn’t worry, though. If I get it wrong, he just rearranges the ornaments, the tree skirt or the presents.

Wookie likes to help. Period. Whether it’s ironing, dusting, filling a mop bucket or cleaning out the refrigerator, he’s the cat for the job. Every task is exciting.

My thoughts at the kitchen sink are interrupted by a crash against the closed window and a plop as soapy water soaks the front of my shirt.

“Wookie!”

The poor cat must have assumed the window was open and leapt for it.

He is drenched and covered in soap bubbles. I grab a dishtowel and begin rubbing his fur to dry him. As I do, he looks at me with big yellow eyes, bat fangs showing as he smiles and purrs.

~Valerie D. Benko

More stories from our partners