Stray Cat Strut: Meet Friday — the prettiest kitty of all time…

* Friday is the only one of our cats who did not actually come to me as a stray. But I saved her from the possibility, so I think it counts.

Back in the fall of my junior year of college at HSU, I was living in a house with five other people, one of them my former roommate Oliver Lucky. There was a knock on the door one evening, and we opened it to find a woman standing there with two small children holding a basket of kittens. All of us were enamored with their adorableness (the kittens not the children) but I was the only person who didn’t think taking one was a good idea.

This is surprising, I know, considering my serious cat obsession. But we were college kids with no jobs and no real responsibilities. Cats are certainly less maintenance than other pets, but none of us had even committed to living together for any longer than the year. Sure we were all friends, but senior year was completely up in the air. And none of us planned to spend the summer in Humboldt County, thus a pet would have to travel with someone during school breaks.

And yet, we took one. The little black one to be precise.

We named her Friday because she was a black cat born on Friday the 13th. She was a sweet kitten with a sense of adventure and undeterred curiosity — until she was stung by a bee. After that she preferred to stay inside where she became infamous at our small parties for her devotion to fetching everything from glitter ball cat toys to bottle caps.

One year later, as suspected, I was Friday’s sole owner (something Oliver has heard ad nauseam ever since). But I have to admit I wouldn’t have it any other way. After I graduated, she came with me to Portland, meowing the whole way, and was basically my best friend for the first few months I lived here.

Wait — that sounds pathetic, doesn’t it? Well, it’s true. I soon made friends, both in my neighborhood and at culinary school, but it was Friday who kept me company when I was home. No longer just a college kitty, she began to settle in to our quiet life in Portland. She had never been overly affectionate, but she developed the habit of sitting on my lap while I was on my computer, purring away. At night I would give her a little “tsk-tsk” and she would come running to cuddle under the covers.

This lasted until we adopted Lucifer. Used to being an only cat, she resentfully avoided us for a few months. Now she’ll come and cuddle but it’s always on her terms. If she’s in the mood for pets, she will meow and swat you. If she’s not — stay away.

All of my cats have fairly distinct personalities and though Friday is easy to just pass off as just a slightly cranky and neurotic old-lady cat, she really has a lot more going on. She enjoys water — as a kitten she used to love to have the sink running so she could paw at the stream coming from the faucet. Now she still likes water, but mainly just drinking it out of things that are not meant as water bowls.

This has led these defiant acts of kitty thirst quenching:

She is also far from a pushover. Our other cats are boys who came straight from the streets, basically the unruly teenage punks of the feline world. Friday was declawed when she was only a couple of years old (a decision I still regret) but that doesn’t stop the other two from being terrified of her.

If they get too close, she gives them an earful — hissing and growling as if she was actually going to fight them. I think she sleeps with one eye open just in case they get any ideas. They might be rough-and-tumble former alley cats, but she clearly rules the roost. Lucifer gave up on trying to play with her years ago and Gus Gus gives her a wide berth, though occasionally his curiosity gets the better of him and he tries to initiate contact. This does not go well.

In fact here’s a picture from almost a year ago, when Gus Gus was still new to the household. He didn’t know that Friday values her personal space as much as she does her dinner time and tried to edge her out of the eating area. She showed no fear and, ears pulled back, taught him a lesson on who eats first in our house.

She’s still my sweet little girl though, and the first pet who belonged to just me. Not a family cat that my parents help take care of, but a pet that (after that first year) was actually my sole responsibility. We’ve been through a lot together in the past twelve years and I think we’ll always have a special bond because of that.

Hey Gus Gus, what’s the fuss?

I was born to be a crazy cat lady. I feed all the stray cats in our neighborhood and I even build them little shelters so they can stay dry. I have been known (both tipsy and sober) to go up to strangers’ porches to pet their cats. I am the person at the house party sitting on the floor, giving love and behind-the-ear scratches to the household kitty. I have an embarrassing number of photos of myself when I was younger pretending to be a cat, with my hands perched up like little paws. I may have also meowed a lot.

So, yeah, I was kind of a strange kid, but I hold tight to my belief that cats are clearly the best animals out there. If you’re not sure, all you have to do is lay your head on their soft kitty belly and listen to them purr. Your world will instantly become more peaceful. Unless you chose my mom’s cat Buddy. Then you will probably need stitches.

Luckily I married someone who has come to terms with the fact that I am slightly obsessed. Occasionally, he even encourages it, which is really just asking for trouble. Case in point, meet Gus Gus.

My husband found this fluffy little kitty wandering the streets of downtown Portland almost a year ago. Instead of being scared when approached, the cat started to knead the pavement and purred with such intensity he began to drool. He was dirty and smelled like motor oil. That was when I started getting a bunch of pictures sent to my phone, all of this fat little guy rolling around on the sidewalk, looking pathetic.

I agreed that he should bring him home where at least we could post his pictures online and see if someone had lost him. We already had two cats, both of whom hate all other cats including each other, so it didn’t seem feasible to keep him. We were also sure he had a home and a family who was missing him. The next day we wrangled him into a carrier and took him to the vet clinic to be scanned for a chip. No dice. I took numerous photos of him and checked lost cats posts religiously, yet a week went by and no one had come forward to claim him.

Finally I took him back to the vet to check him for feline HIV and leukemia — this way he wouldn’t have to be segregated to our guest room. Once the results came back negative, we slowly let all of the cats get to know each other. He quickly learned to stay away from Friday, who is a grouchy old lady cat, and to be on the lookout for Lucifer, who is a seasoned fighter.

Things were off to a relatively good start.

By that, I mean there was no bloodshed. There was, however, a good amount of growling, hissing and general animosity. Reluctantly I mentioned that we should think about a no-kill cat shelter but my husband put his foot down.

I think his argument revolved around how Gus Gus (oh yeah, by this time we had totally named him) was too sweet for a shelter. Honestly he could have said anything — the cat has magical powers and has agreed to grant you three wishes? — I would have gone for it.

I mean, look at this face! Who could resist?

So, Gus Gus joined the family and that was the day we humans became outnumbered. Suddenly everywhere we looked there were cats. It seemed like there was a cat on every chair in every room. Sometimes there would be three in one room, staring at you. It was unnerving but, let’s get real, it was also my idea of heaven.

And Gus Gus helped fulfill a dream of mine — to finally have two cats who cuddled and bathed each other. Now the cuddling is a bit limited, but there is definitely a lot of mutual bathing going on. It started slowly, almost covertly, but now it happens out in the open for everyone to see.

Oh Gus Gus, my little fluffalafagus… He is not the smartest of cats, but he certainly wins in terms of fluffiness and utter ridiculousness. He loves to chase shadows and his tail and is still known to drool profusely when he’s happy. He snores when he sleeps and snorts constantly when awake. His slightly bewildered expression has inspired such original songs as “Hey Gus Gus…What’s the fuss?” and “Hey Gus Gus, Gus Gus Come On.” He doesn’t seem to appreciate my singing, but in time I think he’ll come around.