Cat Named Lazarusby Dorothy Hamm
once knew a cat named Lazarus. She was a tailless Manx whose black, yellow and
brown markings blended to create a tortoise-shell effect. |
to live with my family when she was three weeks old. Her first hosts, (I hesitate
to use the term owners,) could detect no signs of life in the tiny kitten when
she was born and they placed her in the trash can. The next morning they heard
mewing and rustling and upon investigation found her moving about in the garbage.
They cleaned her up, and because she had seemingly come back from the dead, named
Only 3 weeks later they decided they did not want any pets,
not even one named for a biblical character. Someone said they would take the
mother cat, but they did not want the kitten. At the time I thought that was terribly
cold-hearted. Later, the thought would cross my mind that maybe they had physic
I was far too busy to take on the care of a kitten I said.
But my son wanted the kitten so much and when I saw the tiny kitten who only measured
three inches in length, I was unable to refuse sanctuary. I gave her baby formula
with an eyedropper until I could buy a doll's bottle. I’ve since been told that
cats should not be given cow's milk but Lazarus survived quite well on it. I could
hold up the bottle for her to see and she would run to me to be fed. I would hold
her much the same as I hold any baby, in the crook of my arm, looking into her
eyes as she lapped formula from the tiny bottle. This kind of bonding may have
contributed to some later misunderstandings and problems, for Lazarus apparently
believed she was human. She loved us in her own way, of this I have no doubt.
But she always knew she was of royal lineage and had been adopted by peasants.
In adulthood she only weighed three and a half pounds. Having no tail
made her seem even smaller, but in her own mind she was big as a pit bull. When
a full-grown Chow jumped our back fence and started toward me one day, Lazarus
positioned herself in front of me. With her back bowed up and her teeth bared
she faced down the wooly giant 100 times her size. Fortunately for the dog, his
owner called him back to his home yard before Lazarus injured him. After that
incident there was no stopping her.
She was a nosy busy body and tried
to oversee everything I did. I was unaware, the first time she snuck up the pull-down
ladder to the attic when I was getting the Christmas decorations. It was two days
before I heard her meowing in every room in the house before I realized where
she was. Two days with no food or water was evidently not a biggie for someone
who had, after all, been born dead. She learned nothing from the incident, but
we did. She had managed to train us to always make sure she had finished her attic
investigations before closing the trap door.
For the rest of her life
she explored our attic at every opportunity. When opportunity allowed she also
explored the garages and attics of our neighbor's houses on each side and across
the street. I suspect they were not always pleased, but how does one tell a queen
she cannot look over her kingdom?
One day a neighbor told me she had seen
a rat in her garage. She opened the door a few inches and Lazarus, with no encouragement
whatsoever went in to inspect the premises. She emerged after a time with a rat
longer than she was. Well, at least as long. The news of her courage spread and
only served to further convince her of her superiority.
When the weather
was warm, as it tends to be a lot of the time in north central Texas, Lazarus
would sit on a piece of landscaping timber and watch it get dark. No queen in
velvet or satin ever looked more regal or more serene. Twilight is a time of day
that I find pleasing also and I would sit with her sometimes. Although, I am not
sure I ever could enjoy it as much as she did.
Lazarus was jealous-natured
and never completely forgave us for eventually adding more stray cats to our household.
We tried not to get caught holding one when she could see. If she did see us fussing
over another cat she would utter a single meow that sounded more like "weow" and
stalk out of the room in a fit of pique. Later, just to make sure I was aware
of her displeasure she would come and sit down in front of me…with her back to
me. She would continue to ignore me in this fashion for a time and then, when
she was ready to forgive, would come and sit beside me on the arm of my chair.
She loved to be petted but would sometimes bite the hand that petted
her when she was ready to be left alone. I was ever mindful of this and always
tried to gauge her mood and take my hand away before she changed from grateful
to hateful. Sometimes I misjudged and had scratches to prove it. I would pretend
to cry and she would pretend to be contrite.
Lazarus lived 17 years with
us. Not bad for a cat who was born “dead.” It has been several years since she
passed on and was buried her in the back yard where once she faced down a towering
chow dog. A pile of rocks mark the spot where she rests. I still miss her something
awful. I think of her most often at sunset, remembering how she loved to sit and
watch the dimming of the day.