The Little Tabby

By Troy Headrick

About a week and a half ago, at the end of a two-hour bike ride around our neighborhood, my wife came running into the house and said, “Come out!  I found a little kitten!”  I was just about to step into the shower, so I put my exercise gear back on and headed outside.

Sure enough, under a bush near a neighbor’s house, I saw a little ball of greyish fur scurrying around.  There were a couple of adult cats skulking about, but it wasn’t clear that any of those was the mother.  I immediately surmised that the little thing was likely about six weeks old and probably on her own, at least to a very large extent. 

I stepped up to the shrub and started trying to coax the kitten out.  She thought I was playing with her, so she would pounce in my direction and then run away.  Finally, I was able to get my hands on her.  I’d anticipated that she might fight me a bit, but as soon as I started stroking her back and speaking to her, she began to purr and went mostly limp. 

I spent most of the next hour asking around if she was anyone’s kitten.  One neighbor, a large, bearded man, told me she’d suddenly shown up in the area, and that he’d been feeding her a little each day.  Still, she was emaciated and, as we were soon to learn, infested with fleas.

To make a long story short, we are now the proud owners—given the fact that she has us wrapped around her little paws, it’s not clear who owns whom—of a little female tabby.  We’ve vanquished the fleas, given her toys, and bought her cans of food, yet we are still undecided on a name.  None of those we’ve tried out so far have felt right, so we’re still brainstorming.

It’s been years since I’ve owned a pet.  I grew up around animals, so I’ve had plenty of experience with cats, domesticated and feral.  My wife, on the other hand, did not grow up around fur babies, because she was brought up as the prototypical inner-city kid, so she’s on a steep learning curve.

Being the caregiver of such a lovely creature is causing me to do a lot of introspection.  Given that life is so hard and requires humans to become hard themselves to survive it, I wasn’t for sure that I still had anything like a soft interior left over from my boyhood.  I wondered if I was anything other than an impenetrable exterior.  I’m happy to report that I’ve found that our little tabby has turned me into a doting softy. 

Oddly enough, recent events have caused me to think about a lesson that my parents were keen on teaching me when I was growing up.  During my formative years, they’d often remind me that I had to be careful about the sort of people I hung around.  If I chose the wrong sort, if I befriended troublemakers of one kind or another, I would likely go astray myself.  Of course, I’d discreetly roll my eyes each time such a warning was made.

The point they were trying to make is this:  We are shaped by the sort of company we keep.  We become like those we spend time with.

Our little tabby climbs up on my lap and starts purring, and I find myself purring back at her.  She turns her striped face upward, towards me, her grey-green eyes staring intently at me, which prompts me to stare at her, my heart melting all the while.  My wife has even jokingly remarked that my interactions with the kitten is making her jealous.

I guess I’ve finally understood what my folks were trying to get across all those years ago.  Love and softness begat love and softness.

Thanks for reading.  As you plan your response, have a look at the photo I’ve included and suggest a name, or tell me about your own pet and how that relationship has changed your life.

Troy Headrick’s personal blog can be found here.

65 thoughts on “The Little Tabby

  1. Cute kitten Troy! Wise lesson there too. We are a sum average of the people we spend the most time with. I suspect spending more time with animals more would make us better people. As for a name, Tabby strikes me as a good one!

    1. Hey, AP2. I’ve never had children, so my experience is as close to being a parent as I’ll likely ever have. Taking take of vulnerable things that need care is very humanizing and humbling. I know you probably have opinions about this sort of experience. Thanks, man.

      1. I believe that properly paying attention to and taking care of anything can be humanising and humbling. As a teacher you are a parent in my eyes. Cheers Troy 🙏

      2. You’re right. I’ve thought that teaching was a very parenting kind of role, especially today when so many children and young adults face so many challenges that they bring with them into the learning space. Actually, many of us “parent” in all sorts of ways. And there’s lots of truth to the old saying: “It takes a village to raise a child.” Thanks, AP2. Peace to you.

      3. Absolutely. I believe a tribe was meant to raise a child – not two adults. Peace to you too Troy

  2. Ooh, Kitteh names, let’s go!
    I think maybe names just present themselves, much like cats do, out of the blue.
    Our cat was a total black and white whackjob, so I named him Zippy Wingnut. As he grew, he got more names added on, which you’ll find to be a benefit, if you read ‘Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, which I recommend.
    Your cat was found around the full moon, yes? Maybe the Egyptian word for moon? Is it Iamara? Ianana? Can’t remember, but it seemed a pretty name at the time, and might please your wife too. That’s important!
    Or perhaps ‘Spike’ for those two little eyebrows-of-action she has going on (and maybe her claws).
    Or how about ‘ohmygodnotanotherhairball!!’ for when she gets a bit older, and, you know.
    Just please, whatever you do, get that kitteh spayed asap, oh please?
    Good luck with your new family member.

    1. I’m a lot like you. I tend to favor an offbeat name, something fun and less serious. I’ve been thinking about Lucy. And because the kitty’s nose is often wet, Juicy Lucy might be nice. Don’t worry. Spaying is a top priority. Thanks.

  3. The softness and love reflects in your words. This little kitty-cat has surely turned you into a softy. She’s a real cutie by the way. How about naming her Tory – a variation of Troy. Not a very catty name though. 🙂 Growing up, my sisters and I always wanted a puppy. But my father was dead against it. So we went through childhood hoping he would change his mind, but finally grew accustomed to the fact that it will never happen. And now I’m so done with my own kid that the thought of taking care of a pet is a tiring idea. Pets deserve the care and love that any human desires. It’s a great responsibility.
    And yes, the company we keep makes us somewhat who we are. Influences aren’t merely skin deep. Positivity begets positivity and so is in the case of negativity. And blessed are those who can rekindle the love and softness inside them. I wish you much luck with the new family addition. And I hope that this love and caring flourishes in the coming years. Thank you for sharing this. 🙂

    1. Thank you for the encouraging words and for sharing your story. Yes, taking care of little things that can’t take care of themselves is an awesome and exhausting responsibility. Oddly, though, it gives one strength at the same time. I do like Tory. I’ve often wished that I had been named Tory! Thanks.

  4. We have two cats. Both were found as kittens too young to fend for themselves. I believe one was tossed over our fence by a neighbor. The other was the runt of a litter of a feral mommy cat. They both settled in nicely with our dogs who were given the responsibility of raising them.

    Mr. Cat is the eldest at 15. Scamp is the youngest at 4. We love them both dearly, though wife and I grew up as dog people.

    1. My wife and I recently talked to a woman who found a whole litter of live kittens in a dumpster. The world is a cruel place filled with heartless people. Having said that, it is filled with goodness and kindness too. It sounds like you and your wife did a great thing raising two little abandoned kitties. Thanks, Fred. I always enjoy hearing from you.

  5. Awww Tabby is so cute. Lovely post! The trust gained from your new little fellow after all your gentle coaxing… I grew up with dogs (lived near my grandparents farm) & they are so loyal. Can learn lots from animals. Enjoy the new addition to your family!

    1. A person can learn a lot from animals. The joy our kitten has when playing is so pure that we get joy watching her have joy. Thanks so much for reading and commenting.

  6. Miata – Ha! I typed Misty, but spell check may have just named your fur baby! Mia for short. Misty, nickname for mystique, mystery, or mysterious, which is what cats are. OR Sophia Loren to go with her gorgeous eyes. I have a friend who’s handsome cat is named Brad Pitt. Love your post and wish you many, many years of kitty bliss! Happy naming.

    1. What a serendipitous discovery. Miata. Has a nice ring to it. Cats are mysterious, aren’t they? Dogs are pretty transparent, but cats, they are entirely different. Thanks so much for the kitty well wishes!

  7. It’s clear to me from her picture that she’s “Abigail” (or “Abby the tabby” if you will). You have been honored by her friendship and there is no better introduction to fur friendship for your wife than a wise kitten. I’ve been owned by several cats and dogs over the years but find that cats usually have more wisdom than most people. They consider their words carefully, know when it’s time to play and when it’s time to soothe, and rarely miss anything that’s going on. Congratulations on having been selected by one!

    1. I do feel honored by her presence. I like Abby the Tabby. I tend to want to choose poetic and unserious kinds of names. For the past day or so, I’ve been thinking of her as Lucy. And her nose is mostly wet, which makes me think that Juicy Lucy might have the right sort of ring to it. Your description of cats is spot on. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts.

  8. All of our cats have changed us, as we have changed them. However, we learned with Yeats that if you find a name to which the cat naturally responds, the bond is much closer. In our case, my wife had to write a paper on a poet for an English class. She read the list of poets the teacher had provided to me over the phone, and every time she said “William Butler Yeats” the little kitten jumped into her arms. The cat was less than two weeks old when left on her doorstep, so we know he had never been trained to a name. Put simple, TS Eliot was right.

    1. I think I’ll start using the names of geniuses around her and see what happens. I wonder how she might respond to Leonardo da Vinci. I’ve always thought he was a Genius among Geniuses. Right now, our little darling mostly responds to the particular sound the food bowl makes when we place it on the floor after we’ve filled it. For a tiny beast she sure does put it away. That’s likely because she was so undernourished when we found her. I appreciate the wisdom, Vic. I always enjoy reading your responses!

    1. She’s loving when she’s not being naughty. I guess it must be the youth in her. I went through a pretty naughty spell myself many moons ago. Simba. Cool. I’ll give it some thought. Thanks.

  9. She’s a sweetie. I have a fondness of mackerel tabbies: my current feral rescue, Lizzie, is one. It’s funny how babies melt the heart.

    1. You’re the only other person I know who is familiar with the term “mackerel tabby.” I actually did a little reading on tabbies a few days ago. Prior to that, I had no idea there were so many varieties. Thanks, Em, for the nice comment.

  10. She looks like a ‘Peanut’ to me. 💞. We cannot have cats because of severe allergies but we have an adequate little dog that we call ‘Kat’. 💝

    1. Peanut is nice. She’s surely a little “nut” when she gets to playing and being naughty. I like your dog’s name. Does the dog every purr or meow? Thanks.

      1. It’s funny how some animals are more verbal than others. Our kitten “talks” to us a lot and her tone changes depending on what she has to say.

      2. That is pretty interesting. Kat only has one tone – loud and frantic. It means anything – she saw a squirrel, she wants in, she wants food, she saw a snowflake. Whatever! The only other sound she makes is when she wants to go out. She fake sneezes – just like our dog Casey did. Just one of the things she taught Kat.

  11. Good for you! Many years ago we found ourselves, quite by accident, with a 6-month old kitten that looked much like yours. We named her Kit but often called her Kitty or Kit Kat. Enjoy the love.

    1. Like you, I’m not terribly strict with names. I tend to call her cute things that occur to me spontaneously. My wife may actually call her one thing and I might do something different. I doubt she’ll mind very much. Thanks for the comment.

  12. Hey Troy! In my personal experience the company you keep does hold influence and notably in your pre-adult years where we are most vulnerable to those we think of as peers. As an example, when I was young I fell-in with a group of guys who loved playing sports, both as a group playing outside and later in organized leagues. Sports teaches you teamwork and cooperation among other things and channels young aggression in positive ways.

    My younger brother on the other hand, hung around with partiers, drug dealers, heavy drinkers, troublemakers and such. Let’s just say that our adult lives have now come to reflect those early influences. Certainly not a rule without exception but in my experience the company you keep, or have kept, can mold who you become.

    As for a name for your new-found cat? — Assuming the it is female, may I suggest “Jezebel” or “Mistress” as a play on your wife’s pretend jealousy.

    1. Thanks for sharing your story, Corkywk. I guess I went through a few phases growing up. I spent my earliest years living in a rural setting where there were few kids to play with. My influences were old folks so I became pretty serious and adult-like at an earlier age.

      I high school, like you, I played sports and managed to make friends with a fellow who was both academically successful and a partier. As a result, I became both of those things too.

      I ended up leaving the US and living abroad in a whole bunch of interesting countries for a whole lot of years.

      In each period, I can see that I was shaped, to a very great degree, by those people I hung out with and the places I lived. I guess we’re all chameleons at heart. Our ideas and behaviors mimic those we admire.

      I like Jezebel. And boy oh boy, is she a naughty little girl right now. She’s in that causing trouble phase of kittenhood.

  13. My childhood was not that lucky enough to have a pet because we were never ready to handle a pet.

    Since you have found her by a shrub, the pet of Headrick can thus be named “Heather”.

  14. “Shaped by one’s company” is an age-old wisdom, true for many.

    However, my perspective is quite the opposite, which is essentially the same image but viewed through a mirror –
    “Rather than the company shaping one’s character, it is the character that makes one choose the company.”

    1. Whoa! As usual, Oneiridescent, you’ve got me thinking. I guess what comes first: The chicken or the egg? Your argument is this sort of thing. Your comment might just end up inspiring my next blog! Thanks so much for prompting me to think further about all this.

    1. When she’s being kittenish, she’s got a bunch of different styles of moving through space. She has her “tough girl” walk. And she even wobbles a bit, just like a penguin. It just might work… Thanks.

  15. Aw, that is so sweet! Also gives a little happy ending to the loose-end story of the cat you guys were trying to adopt a few months ago. I believe having pets does teach us empathy. Hope you are well! 🙂

  16. I grew up in a house of cats and they are such bundles of joy!! Purring their way into our hearts they are the cuddliest thing on earth. 🙂 I’d love to read more about her adventures that will follow soon 😀

    1. Our little darling even begins to purr when you starting talking to her. And she talks back too! Maybe I’ll do a follow-up at some point in the future. Thanks for the idea.

  17. You’re the 4th person, I’ve heard of, in 7 days who’s found a kitten! A kid in our neighborhood brought us our newest one. She’s probably 6 weeks now. But I’ve heard of 2 separate stories of ppl finding kittens that were on the highway or underpass.

    And I call our kitten Itty Bitty Baby Kitty. Because that’s who and what she is to me.

  18. I grew up loving critters (my nickname for kitties). At 75 years of age, I still love ‘em. My home-spun bit of wisdom (?) is: Every cat needs a home, and every home needs a cat.” Have a pleasant day, Troy.

  19. I have a cat too- Monu. We found him on the road when he was just 3 days old! Now he is seven months and the king of the house.

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