Jerrika, Wallflower


In my biography post, I mentioned my cat who stays inside. I knew at the time that this subtle acknowledgement was not a fair representation of her, and it has been eating at me. Therefore, we shall now celebrate my cat exclusively in this blog post.

This magnificent creature is Samhain.

Samhain, 4 May 2015
Unparalleled majesty, January 2015

Samhain (pronounced SOW-in) is a remarkably attractive black and orange tortoiseshell short-haired cat, named for the Gaelic holiday often associated with Halloween. Samhain loves unrestrained access to laps, being scratched along the bridge of her nose, and demanding more water proportionally to her size than any animal I’ve ever known. Sometimes she gently snores (like right now), and any treats she’s given are swallowed whole. Many friends and strangers have complimented her sleek, soft coat and large yellow-green eyes, but these are just two of her fine features. Samhain is charmingly bow-legged, and has an uncommonly handsome frame with a neat, round little head–not to mention her distinctive coloring which sets her apart even from other Torties.  She is in one of three states at all times: stationary, jumping, or running; she does not walk anywhere.

The earliest picture I have of her, taken in 2008, before camera phones had flash

Samhain became a part of my life in the spring of 2008. I first laid eyes on her tiny flawless form when my best friend introduced me to the litter of kittens her outside cat had recently birthed, to which Samhain belonged. My family had a tradition growing up of giving animals names that begin with s or the s sound, and as soon as I saw her colors, I knew I couldn’t stand anyone else giving her any other name than the one she now has. I begged my mother to let me add just one more kitten to our existing tally of six cats. Fortunately for everyone, my pleas paid off.

Her first experience inside was, predictably, adorable. She was so baffled by carpet that she preferred sitting inside on her litter box ramp rather than venturing anywhere on the unfamiliar and unfirm material surrounding it. I had to put a piece of cardboard in front of the litter box opening so she had somewhere to sit besides the bathroom. She figured it out, though, and soon became quite comfortable with the cozy offerings of an inside-cat lifestyle

On my boobs
As an older kitten, Samhain could stand on my boobs, which may say more about my boobs than her, but there are very few early pictures of Samhain (despite always being incredibly photogenic)

I discovered that she loves to cuddle up on paper after frequently transplanting her from my senior project documents in the fall of 2008. She has always loved snuggling with people, and it was obvious early on that any attention paid to her head was good. She mastered glaring very early, but for all her side-eyes and leers, she is actually exceptionally patient with being poked, pulled on, and otherwise generally annoyed. I’ve never met a cat that will put up with so much to stay in your lap. Any attempts to remove her before she is ready to remove will be met with admirable resistance. Samhain is cling wrap with claws.

Got my camera back... Spring break and more 020
Samhain as a nubile ten-or-so-month-old, January 2009

For the first several years of her life, Samhain wouldn’t finish any of her meows, and would instead trail off halfway through, much like a person gesturing to something and saying “Hey, I just saw a…” or “Would you mind getting…?” She seemed to grow out of this once we moved into our first apartment with just the two of us in 2013, when she began exploring the full range of her vocal abilities. I didn’t want a litter box in my bedroom and don’t like to sleep with the door open, so I did not let Samhain sleep in my room with me; as a result, she developed an interest in creatively compromising on this arrangement. She and I quickly found that her preferred means to express her good night wishes and gentle morning reminders of breakfast through a closed door was by meowing with all the legato and forte she could muster for several minutes. She would make similar proclamations whenever I returned home from trips, classes, or social outings.

Compensation for many Saturdays I was up before I wanted to be, March 2013

Samhain is especially concerned with being well groomed. She devotes huge chunks of her day to ensuring that her fur is clean and orderly so that she is comfortable and presentable. She is afflicted with highly sensitive skin, which eventually led to the portions of her life when she wore an Elizabethan collar in order to let her heal and prevent her from scratching and picking out scabs on anything and everything we owned. It was during these times that I was again astounded by the ingenuity and talent of my cat. Although she initially was so shocked by this change that she stood perfectly still in a halfway sitting position for a full minute, she speedily learned how best to adapt to this dramatic shift in how she experienced the world. While wearing her Cone of Shame, she compensated for her limited peripheral vision by endearingly slithering her head back and forth as she slid the cone along the ground in front of her. She also understood that just because she couldn’t actually lick herself doesn’t mean that she should let those skills fall by the wayside. Even while wearing the cone, she goes through the grooming motions that are so important to her. She is a model of diligence and discipline in the face of adversity.

Peering into a pot of pumpkin guts, October 2013

Despite her seemingly sedentary lifestyle, Samhain is actually quite skilled in the acrobatics characteristic of her species. She commits to all of her movement choices, and makes going from the floor to clutching the door frame five feet in the air look like teleportation. She is also keenly interested in my activities, particularly when they involve decorating for holidays and/or bringing nature inside, such as carving pumpkins, stripping holly branches, and trimming the Christmas tree.

I could provide a wholly separate, comprehensive blog on the virtues of my cat, so I will bring this post to a close with a list of Samhain trivia:

  • Samhain is what cat behaviorist Jackson Galaxy would call a “tree-dweller”; she likes to be up high, surveying over all she reigns

    Samhain once thoughtfully saved me the trouble of clearing off the top of the microwave so that it could better serve her tree-dwelling purposes
  • Her favorite people foods are Twizzlers and cured meat of any kind
  • Although she prefers the inside life, Samhain is naturally equipped for camouflage in the wild–particularly during the autumn months

    Simply stunning
  • Her favorite toys are the Bergan Turbo Scratcher and rubber bands that have been stapled to pieces of paper
  • Samhain is a master of disguise, and can occasionally be seen sporting different looks as they suit her needs

    You’re probably wondering why I included a random picture of a pirate on this list; this is actually Samhain in a convincing swashbuckling get-up
  • Samhain is, regrettably for all other past, present, and future cat owners, the pinnacle of her kind, and cannot be replicated; this is one of those sad facts of the world, and I am truly sorry to all of you who are not me


UPDATE: Samhain has an Instagram now, @everydayissamhain, follow her, if you please.

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