We inherited her from my mother – the last in a series of pedigreed ‘apple-head’ Siamese cats owned by my parents – when Mom fell catastrophically one morning in the kitchen of her house in Valley Center, California, and fractured sufficient bones in her upper spine to render her essentially a paraplegic. The house which Mom and Dad had built (the second on that site in Northern San Diego County), in which Mom had lived alone after Dad passed in 2010, had to be sold. There was practically nothing left of the original family relics, after the first house burned in the Paradise Mountain Fire in 2003, so all the furnishings went without a pang of regret from us. Ancestral bits and scraps which meant anything to us all had already been parceled out before the fire anyway.

But that left Mom’s pets; the dogs, which went to my sister Pip – and two cats, Davy and Isabelle, whom my daughter obediently hauled back to Texas from California. Davy was a stray, a bridle and white specimen, fairly elderly at the time when we took him in. He had been dumped in Mom and Dad’s remote neighborhood, escaped being eaten by coyotes, and scraped sufficient acquaintance with Mom and Dad and their next nearest neighbors to be considered for addition to either household. There may have been a coin-toss involved. Anyway, Davy was added to Mom and Dad’s pet collection – I don’t know whether they won or lost the coin-toss. Davy, having remembered starvation and escape/evasion was determined never to be hungry again, and was a hefty chunk-o-cat by the time he passed away of natural old age a year or so ago.

But this is about the other cat-inheritance, Isabelle.

We don’t actually know how old she is. Mom claims not to remember at all. It seems, from the evidence which emerged when my daughter, sister, and brother-in-law went through Mom’s paper bills – that she was the latest in a long series of pedigreed female apple-head Siamese cats named Isabelle. The turnover, as revealed in the veterinarian’s bills, was … rapid. Either that, or female Siamese cats regularly regrow uteri, to be dutifully snipped, rather like pruning a fruit tree. In any case, Isabelle the something-numbered was dutifully carted to Texas to live among our existing menagerie.

She turned out to be … eccentric. Or woefully unbalanced, timid, severely antisocial, and mentally not tightly wrapped. She did not adjust to living in a household with other cats. But – OK. Mom’s cat. I took her to live in the master-suite, sequestered away from the other felines in residence. She mostly hid under the bed, emerging at intervals to nibble from the food dispenser … and to regularly pee in the bedding. That was not appreciated, mostly since I often discovered the fragrant damp spot at the very end of a long and tiring day. Stripping and remaking the bed at that point in my day was not a welcome exercise. When the Amazing Catio was finished, Isabelle was one of those consigned to live in it.

All clear? Good. She settled to live with Davy and one of the others, all in a heavily screened patio, full of shelves and other cat-approved delights. Until the day that … a small dog came among them on a temporary basis. This was a small Chihuahua-pug, christened “Fang” and subsequently re-homed with elderly dog-loving neighbors who had recently lost their previous small dog and who were ripe for considering an addition. Fang was temporarily consigned to the Catio, in lieu of any better and escape-proof place to stash him. The other cats didn’t care – they had their shelves and chairs in that space, far, far above the reach of a small and inquisitive dog. All went well for the first day – until mid-morning, when the most awful canine-feline racket emerged from the Catio; that of a cat snarling through her teeth – teeth which were firmly latched onto the dog’s behind, to which imposition he was objecting, loudly. It honestly sounded like he was being skinned alive. I was on the spot at once, certain that from the sound that one or both animals were mauling each other to shreds – but not so. Isabelle had been sleeping on one of the patio chairs, and somehow her left rear leg had gotten caught between two of the wooden slats, Fang had gotten impertinent, to which she had taken violent objection.

I managed to separate them, and with my bare hands. No – there was no blood drawn in this process, fortunately. The frantic Fang did try and bite me, but not hard enough to break flesh. I pried Isabelle off his behind, freed her leg from the chair, whereupon she levitated straight across the Catio, clung to the farther side with all four claws, then dropped to the ground, and scuttled, limping obviously, to a refuge underneath the other chair in the Catio.

We took her to a local veterinarian, afraid that she had broken a leg bone or something. To the veterinarian’s professional astonishment, she had instead managed to blow out all the tendons around the equivalent of a knee joint – a curious and unusual development, and one which he had never, ever seen before in his practice. The veterinarian consulted professionally with some interested colleagues and suggested that the best remedy was the surgical insertion of a pin through the joint to hold it all immobile, since a cast or a splint and bandages was just not doable for a cat. So it was explained to me, and so I (gulping slightly upon reception of this call the next morning) authorized the surgery, and payment.

The following day, we went to collect Isabelle, her necessary medication, a page of instructions … and the vet assistant at the desk positively gushed over how good and accommodating and affectionate she had been. The Daughter Unit and I looked at each other.

What the hell … what have you done with Mom’s cat? And where did you find a slightly cross-eyed apple-head identical Siamese?

We took Isabelle home, followed the instructions, kept her in a wire crate with a pillow paved with piddle-pads, pilled her, and dressed the small surgical wound every morning … and indeed, it was true. She was affectionate, purring at the most cursory caress. I moved her back into the home master suite … and there she has been ever since. Snuggling up to me, every night, considerately peeing on the piddle pads, eating and drinking from the pet food and water dispenser in the bathroom, vying for mastery of the wicker cat/dog nest under my bed with Nemo the something-terrier … and it’s all good. She purrs like a small motor, when I pet her … it’s all very curious, to my way of thinking. Did she have a temperament transplant, along with the surgical pin in her knee?

Who knows? Comment as you wish.

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