Athena: an origin story (by request)

September 2004

I had recently moved out of my parents house, leaving behind what had become The Family Cat.  I was a little lonely, and knew that I would do better keeping a critter alive than a house plant.  I know you’re supposed to work things the other way, but that’s not my style.

Step one: you put a cat in a box...

Step one: you put a cat in a box…

I was weighing my options at the cat rescue adoption fair, when I stumbled upon this skinny thing with too many toes on her front paws, looking at me with judgement and disdain.  I approached the kennel door, and she promptly looked away and uttered a sigh brimming with ennui.  I wasn’t her type.

Match made in heaven.  I had to have her.

She had been born on April 30, 2004.  She was pitch black with mite-infected ears, and her eyes and snout were running.  She walked gingerly around the kennel as though her crowded feet hurt.  She was, frankly, a mess.  I signed her paperwork, filled up a cart with basic cat supplies, and drove her straight to the vet.

The vet at Petvax took one look at her, and said it would be a while.  I got comfortable with CatLady Weekly in the lobby.  They gave her a much-needed bath and treated her ears.  They ran some tests on her eye and snout goo, and wrote out prescriptions.  They trimmed her nails and treated what had started to fester in her thumbs.  Hours later, I was the proud owner of a gorgeous, Polydactyl Tortie (of the Hemingway Polydactyls) with double-clawed thumbs.  She was underweight, infected and diagnosed with Feline Herpes.  She’d need love, attention and patience, as well as medication every four hours for at least ten days.  No problem.

Walking out of the vet’s office, I was in shock at her coloring.  She had been so dirty in the kennel, I never expected her to have orange and brown smatterings on her back with rings on her tail.  Her kohl-lined eyes smudged down her cheeks a la Tammy Faye Baker.  She was the strangest-looking thing I’d ever seen, and I couldn’t have been more smitten.

We settled in at home, finding a good place for her bowls, her toys and litter box.  She stuck close to me, and if she lost sight of me she’d quack until I called to her.  “Where’s my big girl?”  “Here, critter.”  “Hello face.”  If I sat on the couch, I’d place her on the pillow beside me.  Time for bed and she’d cry from the floor until I lifted her onto the comforter where she’d knead muffins and purr herself to sleep.  This nameless creature came to work with me for three weeks and made a home in the space between my keyboard and monitor, where it was warm.

It was a full week before I was inspired to name her, not that she seemed to care.  After a few days of getting the lay of the land, she had resumed her airs of superiority.  She wanted to sit beside me or on me or curl up around my neck, but she didn’t want to be touched.  She hockeyed her food pellets around the kitchen floor at 2am and refuse to eat what she’d played with.  She drank her water bowl dry four times a day.  She liked the pink mouse and the metallic green catnip puff, but the jingle balls were too pedestrian. She would stretch very close to your face, sniff your nose, sneeze and hop away.  Every raised surface she could get to was promptly feng shui-ed to her satisfaction.

She was still very tiny– a full three pounds– and her ears and eyes were still healing.  The antibiotics had begun to calm her respiratory distress into remission.  She deserved a strong name to reflect the fight and flint in her gaze.  Tawanda felt a little too Flaggish and Lilith more kabbalic than I wanted to venture.  Still, I thought classically.  This little girl was smart and mischevious.  She could slay a spider cricket without rattling her catbell.  Her looks did more than border on exotic.  We’d give Athena a try.  If everything went according to plan, she’d grow into it.

And did she ever.      206449_1015607503383_865_n



(This post was written in response to a reader’s request.  There will be more Athena “specials” later.  If there’s something specific you’d like to learn about us, drop me a comment!)

11 thoughts on “Athena: an origin story (by request)

  1. Hi, Kari! Enjoyed your tale (tail?) about Athena. It reminded me of a cat I once rescued who had been abandoned by her owners. When I found her she was in a vet’s office in College Park. She was snarling in her cage with her shaved tummy, totally turned off by all the barking dogs nearby in their cages. She had been “altered” to keep from having kittens. Her former family had named her “E.T.,” thinking she looked like an extra terrestrial. My daughter Holly decided that she should be named Ashley, since her face looked as if she’d been playing in the ashes in a fireplace. We thought she was the most beautiful cat we’d ever seen. Very exotic. It took a while for her to trust us, but she eventually did. She wasn’t a lap sitter, but she loved to sit on the back of my chair, cuddle up to my neck and flick my face with her bushy tail. Nirvana for both of us. 🙂

      • Kari, I think in my haste to share my Ashley story, I neglected to say how much I enjoy your writing. I knew that you are a talented actress, but this is a whole other aspect to your gifts. Keep it up! Marilyn

  2. Lovely post–Athena is a lucky girl to have such a good human! The rough cases are the best when they turn out so well… I’m glad she’s happy and healthy now! I ended up here at your blog via Pet Blogs United, and I’m so glad I did 🙂

  3. Hello, I am a writer for and I would love to feature the picture of your cat in the box for an article about Baffling pet behaviors. Please let me know if I have your permission and I will link your photo back to your blog!


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