Day 297: Our Cat, the Fifth Element

I wrote a whimsical post about both our cats awhile ago. Both of them are characters indeed, but I have long been intending to write a post specifically about Leeloo, our male. So here goes.

First of all, Leeloo is a cat unto himself.

Scruffy looking, with black flakes that collect below his eyes that we scrape off, Leeloo is white with orange on his head and tail. Because of his orange hair, my wife was reminded of the character of Leeloo from the Bruce Willis movie “The Fifth Element.” In that movie, Leeloo is a goddess of sorts, a magical creature and Bruce Willis’ love interest. She is pivotal to the plot, displaying a sacred importance that is essential to the fate of the planet.

And so our cat got his name. While he is clearly a he and not a she, I think it is fitting that he be named after a magical creature from a movie. While very much a cat, Leeloo displays certain qualities of his own which are singular in my experience with cats.

First of all, I am definitely a “cat person.” I distinctly remember feeling great love and friendship for my first cat, Merlin. Ever since, I have connected with the cats around. However, my general way of describing them is not exactly flattering: bossy and demanding, especially when they are hungry, often displaying somewhat unpleasant behaviors such as excessive meowing or prowling around when they want something. Often skittish, hiding under desks or chairs, or, if not, then still relatively private, even perhaps shy when company arrives. Relatively uninterested in us, again except when they want something.

Leeloo seems to defy all these traits, or at least possess them in uncommon ways.

First of all, a little background. My wife got Leeloo the first year we were dating. I considered him “her” cat at the time, yet he is in a sense our first “love-cat-child.” My wife has often recited the story of the day she found him while on a photo shoot, a semi-feral cat without a home: “He was covered in fleas. His eyes were sealed shut. They gave him three baths. They didn’t know if he would last the night!”

I have never known a cat so attentive, so patient, and so aggressive and yet sociable at the same time. He moves between multiple roles with dancer-like grace: sentry, watching over the room with his patient eyes; playful rough-houser, eager to streak across the house or try to eat your show; predator, stalking our other cat in calculated moments of aggression and then brushing them off just as indifferently (it is all, after all, just for play); companion, always attentive to anything going on, sitting on our laps, or hanging out with us.

He enjoys food, yet never meows for it, though he insists on getting kitty treats from my wife. He is the only cat I’ve ever known who I have to lift up to get his food, otherwise it may sit forgotten for hours. Once he is at his dish, he regards his wet food with curiosity, and licks it gently, yet never hastily (like just about every other cat I’ve known).

He is both aggressive and very sensitive: seemingly fearless of people, of the other cat, and yet he can jump at loud noises. When we moved to our flat, he hid in the closet for a week out of fear. He will get into a fight with my shoe if I encourage it, yet he knows when to concede defeat, and goes onto something else.

He rarely meows out of need. Instead, he walks around the house with his “prey” (usual a sock with catnip in it) calling out loudly. He will “trill,” as my wife calls it, when we play with him. He has hissed at me occasionally, yet when he first did this I was shocked: I had never heard him hiss before, even though by that point I had known him for years!

While the other cat scours the ground looking for food, frequently looking panic-stricken when she is hungry, and meowing incessantly when we move near the kitchen, Leeloo looks on with detached curiosity, not joining in on the other cat’s hysteria.

Curious, responsive, and in the moment is he. Whenever we are moving about the house, opening up the closet, or bringing something or someone new into the house, he wants to be there to check it out. In that sense, he is an excellent companion. He always wants to be around!

Leeloo is the only cat I have ever known who actually likes it when I throw a towel or blanket on him suddenly. He does not freak out. Instead, he sits there calmly, as if to say, “Well, this is interesting. I might have liked being in the open air, but I also kind of like this to.” Then he will go ballistic fighting with my hand if I touch the top of the blanket. That is the only time it is safe to draw out the wrath of Leeloo… when you know you can’t be gouged by his claws.

Leeloo waits patiently by the back door, watching always for his chance to escape. Yet when he does manage to get outside (often without our permission, although we occasionally let him out for a few minutes), he sniffs the flowers that are five feet from the door, eats a little grass, and generally does nothing much until we bring him back inside. Despite his aggressive and ever-curious way, he seems to be content as our in-door cat.

He doesn’t so much sit on your lap as possess it. Anywhere he is his turf… including your lap. If he is there, happily purring, you better watch keep your eyes on him, or at least keep your arm away from him, because he will bite it!

I’ve never seen a cat look so indignant when someone tries to pet him, as if they are violating his personal space. But you’re a cat, that’s what we do! “Naw-aw,” his reaction says. “I didn’t sign up for that!” Then he continues to socialize and be curious about anything and everything going on. But you better treat him on his terms, or he will attack!

Years ago, I wrote a piano piece that I named after him, “The Bravest Kitten in the World.”

As an alternative title, I have thought of naming this post “Life Lessons I learned from My Cat.”

Leeloo wants to be with you, but he wants it all on his terms. He don’t take shit from no one.

Over all, I have always appreciated him for his aliveness. He can and will sleep anywhere, including under foot, in a box, on the printer, on a coat. I get the sense that he is ever-present, and ever-alive to what is going on right now.

A pet psychic once told us that he takes on the role of guardian, moving about the house to check on everything.

We love our cat!

(Side note: I actually started writing this post on Thursday, May 23rd, even though this post is going to be published on Monday, May 27th. That is because I am currently on my back-packing trip with my brother. Ergo, a little pre-writing had to happen!)

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