Mish Mish sat by the door, patiently staring back into the kitchen at me.
"Meow," she finally insisted.
"You want to go into the backyard?" I asked. "But it's still raining."
Our fluffy orange tabby sat up, dog-like, on her little haunches, her raised front paws seemed to beg. Where she had learned this endearing gesture I will never know. Though she came to us eight years ago, she has never chosen to reveal her past life to us.
I had been working in the garden the day I first saw her peering at me from within a dense clump of daylilies. When my eyes met hers she mewed, crept out, and mewed again. She was tiny and emaciated. We already had a cat, so, of course, we had cat food. I hurried inside to get her food and water.
"There's a starving mish mish cat out back," I told my husband.
In his native land, Egypt, mish mish means apricot and everyone there names their light orange cats after the fruit.
Our Mish Mish gratefully accepted food and water and came back the next day for more. After checking with our local shelter that no one was looking for her, we welcomed her into our home.
Mish Mish seemed so friendly and genuinely appreciative of our food and attention that I assumed everyone in the house would happily welcome her. But I hadn't counted on her turning into a tiny version of the tigress she resembled. The moment she saw our large tuxedo cat, Peter, she went into her act, arching, hissing and spitting. Peter, though easily three times her size, galloped upstairs and hid under a bed. When he tentatively crept downstairs again, Mish Mish reprised her act. And so did Peter. Nevertheless, I thought they'd get used to each other over time.
But Peter was traumatized. For several days he pussyfooted onto the main floor, quaking and crying. I was surprised and upset by his distress. A friend suggested I keep each cat on a separate floor for a while. That made sense. Mish Mish was banished to the basement while Peter got the top two floors. I gave them access to the kitchen by turns for their meals. I even prayed to St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals that they would get along. And, after about ten days of separation, they were reintroduced. Mish Mish arched but didn't hiss and Peter held his ground.
Now the two cats share our home. Mish Mish actually defers to Peter, allowing him to precede her into a room, or giving up a comfortable cushion if he indicates - with a toss of his head - that he wants it. Once in a while they even play a game of chase.
But they are completely different personalities. One huge difference is that Peter will go out into the yard, rain or shine, wind or calm, hot or cold. He loves to sit under the hedge in the summer, on the wilted daylily stalks in winter. He even tolerates light snow, and demands that I towel him off when he reenters. Whereas Mish Mish-well, on the rainy day I was first describing-when I proffered an open door, she posed motionless for a moment, then, with a disgusted look in my direction, backed away.
"I don't make the weather, Mish. It's not my fault it's been raining for two days," I said.
She waited until I closed the door, then slowly crept away.
Half an hour later, Mish Mish sat at the other door, again staring attentively at me.
"The weather's no better out this door," I said, opening it to prove my point.
She climbed onto the back of her favorite easy chair and lowered her head to rest on outstretched front paws-a picture of dejection.
Finally, at 4:00 PM, the weather broke. A ray of slanted sunlight found its way through the blinds and played over Mish Mish's fur, making her look much like the fuzzy apricot she is named for. She bounced off the chair and scurried to the back door. Her mew demanded immediate attention.
Ever her faithful servant, I opened the door once again and watched our now energetic kitty escape into the yard.
Story submitted by Nancy-Jo Taiani of NJ, USA