He was the goofiest kitten I’d ever seen. His ears were way too large for his head. His body was scrawny. He had this enormous fluffy tail and his back legs worked faster than the front. So, he ran funny. When I first saw Rhett at the Tree House Humane Society nearly 20 years ago, it was hard to image that he “belonged” to the beautiful, puffy little kitten next to him in the cage. She was so purr-fectly proportioned – he was far from it.
The two kittens came home with me that day and today’s post is about the little kitten that got into loads of trouble. You see Rhett didn’t so much move into my Wrigleyville apartment as he invaded it. He climbed, attacked, bit and partied when everyone wanted to sleep. He got into so much trouble that first year, he answered to Booger – as in – “You little Booger!”
It may look as if Rhett's relaxing - it's just a ploy to plot his next move.
Each time he got into trouble, he looked at me with his silly little look and purred so loudly that I though a Harley was speeding through my apartment. I talked to my vet and behavioral people at Tree House. Still, the little booger kept reeking havoc in my life. They say in the cat books that male kittens settle down after they are neutered – not Rhett. Kittens with a buddy get into less trouble – not Rhett. My kitten was too busy getting into trouble to read any book. I eventually had a roommate move in with a little male cat – Tin-Tin – and once the two of them started re-enacting the WWF – Rhett settled down a tad.
There was another strange thing about this cat. His first birthday came and went and he kept growing. The vet said he could have some Maine Coon in him and that would explain the continued growth spurt. When he finally stopped growing, he had developed into one of the most handsome cats I’d ever seen.
Rhett as a handsome adult cat.
His head and ears finally matched and the tail complimented his body – he also ran like a normal cat. He still didn’t act like one.
When the cats and I moved into our Edgewater condo, something strange happened each day. I’d leave the house in the morning and the throw rug would be in front of the door. At night, it would be under the front window or in the kitchen. The mystery was finally solved one weekend. Rhett and Scarlett would take turns running down the hall and jumping on the rug – it would slide a few feet – they’d repeat until they hit a wall. So, this cat rode a magic carpet, jumped furniture in a single bound, and worked hard to keep us safe from invisible invaders. Just call him Rhett the Wonder Cat.
Rhett felt that company came to see only him and would jump on anyone’s lap, especially those who he sensed didn’t like cats. When my husband-to-be and I first started dating, Rhett jumped up on Tom’s lap, put his paws on his shoulders and sniffed him out nose to nose. Tom, who wasn’t a cat person at that time, asked if this was normal behavior for a cat. Of course it wasn’t, but this wasn’t a normal cat.
From then on, the boys were inseparable. They wrestled and played games and when Tom’s Jeep pulled up in front of my condo, Rhett was waiting for his buddy to arrive. When we got married and the cats moved with us to a house on the North Shore, he started to shadow Tom’s every move. Yes, Darth Cat had gone over to the Dark Side. Tom taught Rhett how to sit and shake hands and Rhett taught Tom how to turn on the water in the sink in the master bath at 3 am by knocking items off the counter and into the sink.
Rhett was all wet after drinking out of the sink.
Rhett loved life and loved most company. But, he didn’t like little boys – even when they grew up into teenagers. He’d growl and hiss and dive under the bed with the nephews came to visit. At an early age, they all joked about the “mean, scary” cat and wisely left him alone. Since Tom isn’t overly fond of children, it gave them both another reason to bond.
At one point, my sister-in-law came to feed Rhett and Scarlett when we were out-of-town and called me in a panic. Rhett had met her in the hallway and let out a cougar scream before going into hiding. She didn’t know what set him off because she’d left the boys at home.
Well, kind of.
She was eight months pregnant at the time with my future godson Anthony – Rhett must have sensed that there was a little boy in the house and wanted everyone to know that wasn’t fine with him.
Eventually, the senior years took over and Rhett slowed down, jumped less and ceased to get into much trouble. During the summer five years ago, he lost his appetite and eventually ended up in the emergency room. In the middle of the night his true closest friend Scarlett, let out the saddest howl. When the phone rang, we learned his time was almost over. He died five years ago today at the age of 15 and the house was too quiet for the longest time. After being called so many nicknames through the years, he has just one title now he’s gone off to the Rainbow Bridge – the Late, Great Rhett the Wonder Cat!
Rhett and Scarlett relaxing in the bathroom
Tom and I had both loved and lost pets growing up. Nothing was as difficult as losing our first true rescue as adults. It took us a long time to recover and when we did, we ended up with another bonded pair and a cat just as goofy as our Rhett (much more on those cats in future posts). In recent years, I’ve also been active in the animal rescue community helping with public relations, community outreach and education. While volunteering, I learned the craziest thing – people actually return cats for all the reasons I listed above. Seriously!
You know what, the thought never once crossed my mind. To this day, I just can’t imagine what my life would have been like without the late, great Rhett the Wonder Cat! As the little nephews say – R-I-P little buddy!