“Ruby,what are you doing? I chuckle as I enter the spare room where I keep her litter box. I was doing my weekly cleaning of her pan and it was filled to the brim with detergent and water. Nearby was the open box of litter. In this box, balanced in delicate bathroom posture, was my resourceful kitten. What could I do then but to say “Good girl, Ruby.”

Ruby is now seven months old and over 6#. But, when I adopted her, she was almost seven weeks and a scant 2# of fluff; a lap nester who liked to be rocked as she purred herself to sleep. Ruby is a pretty cat: She’s a black and grey tiger with a leopard- spotted belly. Identical black markings trace above and below her copper eyes like exotic eye liner to meet at angles just below her ears . She resembles Cleopatra. Her fur is of medium length except for a long-haired ruff, a poofy tail, and oversized slippers. When seated on her haunches, Ruby’s plumed tail encircles the base of her body as if she’s posing in the center of a furry cap.

Ruby and I rescued each other. Her Mom and the litter were abandoned, the SPCA worker informed me. Ruby was the runt and scrawny. She also had digestive issues which fouled the apartment-a topic of discussion with any visitors. Luckily, the vet zeroed in on her problem and diagnosed Ruby as carbohydrate intolerant. She was put on probiotics and gradually transitioned from dry food to a high protein canned food. Her strict feeding schedule brought back needed order and routine to my life. You see, I was eight months into widowhood -and depression- when Ruby moved in. I was sleeping a lot and keeping an erratic schedule. Thanks to Ruby, my life took on new meaning: This little bundle needed me.

Ruby is a good mood stabilizer. When I come home, she greets me at the doorway from her perch atop the refrigerator. She mews cute little kitty sounds to tell me I am loved and was missed. However, Ruby’s also an escape artist. When I come through that kitchen doorway, I can’t dally before shutting the door. Ruby knows, through numerous excursions, that the opened door leads to an enclosed sun porch then up inner stairs to the apartments above. Being a house cat, I’m sure it feels like a blast of freedom to scoot between my legs and up two flights of stairs. As I huff and puff to retrieve her, I’m reminded that Ruby brings much needed exercise to my routine.

I’ve had pet cats for most of my life, but Ruby is the first one who’s played fetch. It all started when my son Brian was visiting. One evening, he suddenly asked “Hey, Mom. Does Ruby play fetch?”

“No…why do you ask?”

“Well, look over here.” Brian was pointing at Ruby’s bright pink mouse and told me she had dropped it by his feet. He reached for the mouse and said, “I’m going to throw it and see what she does.”

Brian tossed the mouse across the living room and into the adjoining hallway. Ruby raced to the mouse, skidded up to it, and pounced on it. She batted and tossed it about, somersaulted with it, then brought it back to drop  it at Brian’s feet.

“Ruby, what a smart little kitty you are,” I proclaimed.

So began our nightly games of mouse bowling. I underhand the mouse down the long narrow hall. Ruby doesn’t seem to care a bit that my frequent gutter balls skitter along the baseboard or that some of my errant deliveries bounce it off the wall. During our bowling games, Ruby’s innate predatory skills kick in. Once I release the mouse, she slinks low, twitches her tail, then cautiously crawls up to it.  She’ll grab and chew on the mouse, batting it about, then firmly grabs onto it. As she moves toward me, she clenches the mouse sideways with its tail dangling from her mouth (as all good mousers do.) Then, she’ll hunch down near me, growling and hissing, to let me know this is her catch. Sometimes she hides it from me by laying on top of it. When Ruby’s ready to resume play, she drops the mouse at my feet then moves away from it.

Aside from being an acrobat, Ruby is also a track star. She noisily thumps her hefty feet at running speed from the top of the refrigerator to the far end of the cupboard tops. Before turning back, she ritually spins her body numerous times, like a feline with OCD.

Ruby thrives on attention. If I should lay down for a nap, she coerces me to wake up by licking my face with her sandpaper tongue. She has learned that her tongue doesn’t have the desired effect if she drags it across my arms or legs. She has recognized that licking of the face is the way to go.

Ruby keeps me on my feet. As I settle in for evening TV, she comes to life. She informs me that it’s time for mouse bowling. She tells me this by batting at the TV cable. She knows she can catch my eye with this behavior as she and I have been carrying on a cat-and-mouse interaction of our own regarding that cord. As soon as I rise to pick up the mouse, Ruby scampers toward me in readiness for the chase.

In teaching Ruby the meaning of “No”, I have learned a spray bottle does wonders. For example, Ruby has learned she’s not welcomed on the dining room table (yet she does hop into a chair to rest her chin on the table edge to wistfully stare at me while I eat.) She also knows not to get onto the stove, my computer or printer, or the fireplace mantle which holds my flat screen. (The latter was especially frustrating as she was sneaking in behind the TV and dislodging the power and cable connections.)

Some may describe Ruby as being coddled or even spoiled. But, in defense, she is no doubt the last pet I will have and she brings me great comfort. In spite of our struggles, Ruby has become a dear companion. When she snugs up to me at night, her warm and rumbling little body lulls me into sleep. And, when morning comes, she gets me started for the day with that sandpaper tongue of hers. In all ways, Ruby is my Godsend.