JT Ellison is the bestselling author of the critically acclaimed Taylor Jackson series, including All The Pretty Girls, 14, Judas Kiss, The Cold Room, The Immortals and So Close the Hand of Death. Her novels have been published in 21 countries, and she was named "Best Mystery/Thriller Writer of 2008" by the Nashville Scene.
Her short stories have been widely published, including her award winning story "Prodigal Me" in the anthology Killer Year: Stories to Die For, edited by Lee Child, "Chimera" in the anthology Surreal South 09, edited by Pinckney Benedict and Laura Benedict, and "Killing Carol Ann" in First Thrills, edited by Lee Child.
She lives in Nashville with her husband and a poorly trained cat.
For Love of a Good Cat
by JT Ellison
I’ve been having trouble working lately. It’s not what you’re thinking - I’m not blocked. I’ve got plenty of ideas. I’ve got lots of time, full days free of encumbrances, all waiting patiently for words to fill the moments.
No, the reason I’m having so much trouble is my cat.
Jade is a tiger striped rescue who has never let me forget how much she appreciates the fact that I picked her. When I first saw her at the pound, she was five weeks old, suffering from a bad cold. So bad that they were going to put her down. They can’t afford to have sick kittens in the cages; disease spreads too quickly among unloved animals.
They’d named her Tori. She had the most inquisitive, if rheumy, green eyes. I knew immediately I had to take her. I couldn’t let this poor thing get put down because she’d been weaned too early and struck out on her own, a little stripedy runaway. She had gumption, I could see that. Desires, dreams. She wanted a bigger world than the one she’d been dealt. She was a renegade. Perfect.
She was also a five-week-old kitten who was terribly sick. The vet around the corner took her in, nursed her back to health, and she came home with us. A yowling little ball of fur who was the most fiercely independent cat I’ve ever had.
She took up residence on the pillow at the corner of the l-shaped couch and pretty much stayed there for the next several months. She was a sweet, lovely little thing who didn’t like people food, wanted her chin scritchies on her terms, and determinedly made a friend out on my husband, who wasn’t what we like to call a cat person.
I adore her, as you can tell.
We go to special lengths for this cat. When we travel, she has her own personal babysitter who comes over and stays with her, watching television and reading books to her. She absolutely can’t be boarded, she turns into a neurotic, shaking mess around other animals. She’s afraid, afraid! of other animals – so scared that she’s an only child. When my parents come to visit, she takes up residence under my bed, hissing and growling at everyone who dares come near.
It’s hysterical, especially since she’s a regular hussy with anyone else who shows up on our doorstep. It’s only my parents, who arrive bearing their own cat and a little dog, that send her into paroxysms of kitty terror.
What must she have seen in those five weeks before we made her our own? What terrors haunted her days and nights? I’ll never know.
So Miss Jade, my fiercely independent, won’t allow herself to be picked up, I am my own cat, thank you very much, cat has suddenly turned into a lap cat.
This is a problem on numerous levels.
First, I use a laptop. Operative word – lap. I’ve been spreading a bit as I age, but I’m not to the point where I can accommodate a cat and a computer. And she doesn’t take no for an answer – she’s going to get in my lap whether I want her to or not.
We battle for several hours in the morning. She curls up while I’m going through my RSS Feeds, then jumps off. Rinse and repeat times about ten. The teakettle will be whistling, and I can’t get her off. Okay, okay. I should say I don’t have the heart to kick her off. It’s been a wintry winter in Nashville, with lots of snow and little sun, and she’s getting older, and her joints get cold. I debated getting her a heated blanket. But it’s nice to have a furball in your lap. She’s warm. She purrs. She gazes at me adoringly when I scratch her ears.
Yes, yes, I know. She’s playing into my ego. I’m enamored of the idea that this cat, who I chose, has also chosen me.
But wow, it’s hurting my word counts.
Jade is also the reason I got published. I worked for the vet who patched her up for three days (I thought I’d be working the desk, but he wanted me as a tech in the back. Bad. Bad. Bad. After my first neutering, I was done.) I was quitting on Friday, and on Wednesday I picked up a large golden and herniated a disc in my back. That led to surgery, and recovery time, and library books, where I discovered John Sandford. The rest, as they say, is history.