Through the years, my husband and I have had many feline companions. I admire their individuality, independence, and their loving and perceptive ways—all on their own terms, of course.
But there is one cat that stands out among the others: a truly wonderful male Siamese cat named Tigger …
I remember the day Tigger came to us. My daughters—Heather, age 5, and Jennifer, age 4—had been on a little shopping trip to Newberry’s Dime Store. We were headed home with our purchases and were crossing the parking lot when a man approached us. He was holding a little ball of beige fluff with a flat brown face and brown pointy ears. He smiled at all of us, and then he looked at me.
“Hello, ma’am. My name is Bob Miller. I’m sorry for intruding, but you look like a nice family. I’m wondering if, by some miracle, you might be able to help me out.”
I looked at him warily. He seemed ordinary enough, although a little rumpled. Holding on tightly to the girls’ hands, I said, looking down at the kitten he was cradling, “Is this your problem?”
“Yes. Yes, it is. I bought this kitten for my daughter for her birthday yesterday.”
The kitten looked up at me with trusting clear-blue eyes.
“The thing is, she is allergic to cats. We didn’t know.” He paused and took a breath. “We had to take her to the emergency room because she could barely breathe.” He stopped, sighed, then continued. “I’ve been down here all night with this little fellow. I just came from Cranky’s Pet Shop, and they refuse to take him back. I can’t take him home, and I just don’t want to turn him over to a shelter.”
Sensing something interesting was happening, Jennifer demanded, “I want to see! I want to see!”
“Me, too,” Heather added, standing on tip-toe, trying to get a look at this tiny creature.
The man glanced at me, and I nodded. Squatting with the kitten still resting in his hands, the girls were in awe. “Can we pet him?” Heather asked.
“Maybe, with one finger. Be gentle now,” he said. And so they were, petting him lightly with small fingers.
“What’s that noise he’s making?” Jenny wanted to know.
“He’s purring. That means he likes you.”
So what is a parent to do?
Standing up, the man said, “I have a litter box and kitten food in my car and a carrying crate. I don’t want any money. I just want him to have a good home.” He looked at me hopefully …
The girls named him Tigger, and what a blessing and adventure he was. He grew rapidly, and when he was an adolescent, he fell from a tree and fractured a bone in his foot. That was our first experience with veterinarians and an injured pet, but Tigger really didn’t seemed too phased by his injury.
The girls loved him, and Jennifer hauled him around in her doll carriage. She threw a birthday party for Tigger, complete with pointy paper hats and kibble on purple birthday paper plates. Flipper, the neighboring tabby, was invited. Unfortunately, Tigger and Flipper had become enemies even though they were both neutered. The party soon turned into a brawl, with kibble, decorations, and pointy hats flying everywhere. Jennifer’s indignant comment was “I try to do something nice for you, and this is what you do. See if I throw you a party again.” And then she stomped off …
Tigger was an amazing hunter, often leaving his game on the front porch. Stepping on a dead rodent in bare feet is an experience you don’t want to have! He was particularly fond of grasshoppers, which he could not digest. The results was ground-up insect, also deposited on the front porch.
He loved to just hang out, as well. Sometimes, I would lie on my side on the bed and read. Tigger would make himself comfortable, draped across my ribs, waist, and hip. If anyone was sick, Tigger was not the bedside companion—he was in the bed, encircling a person’s head, lying by their side or taking over the pillow.
An interesting thing about Tigger is that he rarely groomed himself, and when he wanted to rest, he didn’t arrange himself but flopped down—and that’s how he stayed. One day, we were outside, and he flung himself down as usual, but I noticed a cloud of dust rise up. It was just like Pigpen in the old Peanuts cartoons. That led to Tigger’s first bath, which he tolerated but clearly thought we had lost our minds.
When Tex, another rescued kitten, later came to live with us, Tigger taught him how to be a family cat and also how to be a fierce hunter. The two became best buddies quickly. I don’t believe Tigger ever scratched anybody. Outside of his nemesis, Flipper, he was benevolent to all who crossed our threshold. I sometimes think of Bob Miller, the man who gave us Tigger, and I wish that he knew how completely cherished our first rescue was …