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Waldo was rescued from an abandoned house in South Central Los Angeles, where his mother and siblings had been rounded up and taken to a kill shelter. That experience seemed to account for some of his unusual behavior at first: He suckled the fringe on blankets and hid and shook for hours whenever he heard a vacuum cleaner. He also wasn’t adept at using a litterbox, which had me in a panicked state for a few months.
As he got older, other unique attributes became apparent: That black spot on his nose emerged full force, making him look like a koala. Plus, he had enormous paws, which should have forecasted the future for us. Waldo quickly grew to be twice Mina’s size in height and also weight — he was almost 14 pounds, but without the fat belly that's characteristic of big cats.
People who came over and met him for the first time would always remark on his size.
“He’s huge!” they’d marvel.
“He’s not huge,” Andrew would quip defensively. “He’s big-boned.”
While Mina had liked to chase string and other cat toys as a kitten, she’s mostly outgrown that interest. Waldo not only loves to play with everything from feather toys to rubber balls, but he fetches and plays soccer.
To this day, if you throw a felt pet toy his way, he'll likely chase it down, gather it in his mouth, bring it back to you — and then back up and wait for you to throw it again. Sometimes, if you roll a ball in his direction, he will literally kick it back to you and then expect you to kick it back to him.
Waldo was scrappy from the get-go in a non-feline way. Even as an adult, he behaves like a puppy, gnawing on your hand without biting down, and rolling around on his back before jumping up and bounding away.
He doesn’t growl, but when he's obviously frustrated, he snorts at you, as if miffed. And he's never been a fantastic jumper, like most members of his species. He can get up on counters and shelves, after readying himself for several seconds, but he sometimes misses and slips.
He eats everything in sight, including a sticker off Andrew’s shirt once, lettuce left on a plate and an olive that dropped to the floor.
By comparison to Mina, he's always been sloppy. When she tried to groom him once because he wasn’t doing enough for her taste, he simply swatted her away. He would never deign to hiss because that’s just not something that he does.
At night, when Andrew and I go to sleep, he jumps on the bed like his sister. But instead of finding the perfect spot to curl up in, he plops down wherever and sprawls out, often sleeping in absurd positions — and displacing poor Mina!
One day, a few years after Waldo came into our lives, I was watching him twitch in his sleep, with his legs haphazardly splayed and his belly facing up.
“He is the strangest cat ever,” I remarked to Andrew, who glanced over at him and grinned.
“He’s a dog-cat,” my husband replied.
And I realized that he was right. Andrew had gotten the puppy that he wanted, and I had experienced a small taste of life with a part-pup (at least in spirit). It turns out that it isn’t half bad.
Nora Zelevansky's work has appeared in Elle, Self, The Daily Beast and The Los Angeles Times, to name a few. Her first novel, Semi-Charmed Life, comes out in July. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and kitties.
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