20 June 2022

Xena, The Heroine/Villain

 by Steve Liskow

When Ernie, our 13-year-old Maine Coon, died a year ago after a long battle with kidney disease, Barb and I agreed he would be our last cat. We've been together for almost 38 years and shared space with at least one cat for 36 of them, so we may have been kidding ourselves.

Two months ago, one of our neighbors had far too many cats because her tom has fathered half the cats in our condo complex. She offered us a small tuxedo girl. We agreed to meet her, but that was all. Then we said we'd pet her, but nothing else. Then I held her for a minute. You see where this is going, don't you? She snuggled under my chin and purred.

Well, we decided she could visit our place on Monday for an hour or two and see if she was comfortable. She was. We arranged another visit on Thursday for a longer period of time to check things out more thoroughly. So thoroughly that she hasn't left yet. That was six weeks ago.

I've said before that animals, especially cats, inspire great human characters, and Xena exemplifies that even more than Ernie and Jewel did.

Like most cats, she's probably somewhere on the spectrum. She isn't really a lap cat, but she likes to cuddle. That and her sense of humor make her a great sidekick. But she still refuses to differentiate between our recliner and her scratching post, and she plays rough. She's made friends with the plant mister and fears nothing except the hair dryer. This makes her a great villain, too. She's smarter and faster than we are and can move from room to room--or floor to counter--so quickly we don't have time to say, "Xena, NO! Oh, never mind."

She's very social. She met Barb and me with no hesitation and explored our place with the enthusiasm of a six-year-old in Toys R Us. Unfortunately, her social skills extend to other cats, too. At 18 months, she's already birthed two litters. When she's in heat (which seems to be more frequently than your average porn star), she announces her needs loudly enough so most of the complex can hear her. Two of her former boyfriends have taken to hanging out on our front steps. Every well-developed character needs a weakness, and that's hers. 

Living with several other cats, she had to fight her way to the food. For the first two weeks in our place, she emptied her dish so quckly she spent the next hour crying with a stomach ache. Now, she's figured out that there's no competition and she can slow down. Sometimes. She still sticks her head in the can while I'm trying to spoon food into her dish. 

Today, she will meet her veterinarian for the first time. She's had none of her shots yet and we want to make sure she's as healthy as she seems. She's the smallest cat we've ever had, especially apparent because our last two cats were a Himalayan and a Maine Coon, and we don't expect her to get much bigger at 18 months. 

But she already likes to curl up on my left foot while I type, so she'll probably become another writing partner and character inspiration. The female leads in both my Connecticut and Detroit series have cats already, and maybe there's room for another tuxedo.


  1. LOL! Cats can be a great source of inspiration, indeed! :)

  2. Nice story. Our tuxedo cat is about 2/3 the size of our regular cats and he's six years old. Smallest cat we have but he's the alfa male, in charge of the house.

  3. That sounds about right, O'Neil. Xena is very alpha, too. Ernie was an alpha, but so mellow that I think he and this kid would have become fast friends. It's interesting to watch cats figure out the ranking in the household, and you can watch them do it.

  4. Cats have very strict rules about hierarchy. For one thing, they're always on the top of the pyramid. But their purring makes up for all of it...

  5. When my lynx-like cat went into heat in the wilds of Minnesota, her companions were two ferrets, one neutered, one not. She knew which one was, which led to interesting dramas.

    My aunt… sometime professor and fulltime cat wrangler, didn't mess around with misters. She 'borrowed' squirt guns from her nephews.

  6. Enjoy your Zena. Our Tuxedo is the largest cat we've ever had. From head to tail he's almost three feet. He arrived at our back door as a tiny kitten with a very love tail and huge ears. He is ten now and he will be our last cat as we are getting too old and infirmed to handle another one.

    1. Are you sure yours isn't a crossbreed? Maybe bear mated with lion?


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