We were renting an old Bauhaus apartment on Dizengoff Street when our little monster found us. She was a scrawny little thing, the youngest of ten kittens our neighbor had rescued. They were living near the trash bin behind the building. She was barely three months old, with bald patches of hair and grey stripes. She would wait in the hallway and whimper at our door and M.’s heart would break every time. M. bought a bag of cat food, some tins of tuna and lobbied hard for an adoption. When winter came even I felt bad for that poor thing. There was no way she would survive without our help. So we took her in and aptly named her “fletz” which sort of translates as “Monster” because her bald patches made her look like some wild and untamed mythical creature.
Our little monster repaid us by giving M. and I a severe case of tinea capitis, which is the Latin term for ringworm of the skin. We were covered head to toe in hideous circular sores. We were like refuges from a leper colony. At least we knew why Monster had bald patches. We went to Ichilov and M. was given antibiotics. I didn’t have healthcare so M. begged the doctor to prescribe double the amount. He agreed. Only in Israel.
The veterinarian, an octogenarian with a kindly, avuncular demeanor chased Monster around his antiquated practice laughing hysterically. He asked for our help and the three of us finally were able to corner her under some equipment that was last used during the Mandate period. He sedated our little monster and gave her all the necessary vaccinations. He also advised that we wash everything in our apartment with bleach and hang it out in the sun to kill all the bacteria. I just threw everything away. Sheets, towels. You name it.
All of Monster’s hair grew back and six agonizing months later the last circular reminder of the tinea capitis disappeared from my abdomen with nary a scar. Monster, raised on the streets and in the dumpsters of North Tel Aviv, made the transition to house cat rather seamlessly.
The years passed and we got married and moved out of that apartment on Dizengoff Street. Our little monster was no longer little. She had grown fat and lazy with soft fur and plenty of it. She would sit at the window for hours and watch all the stray cats beneath our building. There was something melancholy about her, something that yearned to be free. One day I came home and accidentally left the door open. Monster made her escape.
M. cried for days. Our little monster was gone. I led several failed search expeditions and was thrilled when I thought I had finally found her. It wasn’t our monster. It was an eerily similar striped cat which I proceeded to pick up and embrace and was rewarded with several deep slashes to my face followed by yet another trip to the emergency room. I got a tetanus shot and some laughs from our friends. Needless to say it was an innocent case of mistaken identity.
Our little Monster eventually wandered back but something had most certainly changed. She was no longer content to be the lazy house cat she used to be. She wanted to explore and experience. More than anything she wanted to be free. For weeks she would seize every opportunity to escape and her excursions gradually became longer and longer.
As much as we disapproved of this dual lifestyle we were never too strict with our Monster. We enjoyed her company, even though she spent less and less time with us and more with her new found friends. The only problem was that she had never honed her innate hunting instincts in all her years as a house cat and so when she got hungry, regardless of how late at night, she would whimper outside of our door to the chagrin of our neighbors, in particular a mouse-faced spinster from the top floor who was deathly afraid of cats. She sternly issued us an ultimatum: Either we keep our monster inside the apartment or she would call the SPCA.
We knew that our Monster would never agree to be locked up, now that she had heard the call of the wild and tasted freedom. We also knew that the SPCA would most certainly put her to sleep. We were in an impossible situation. So we did what we thought best. We lured her into the carrying case with a promise of tuna and once securely locked in we took her to the closest park, about a half a mile away and let her loose.
M. cried for days. There were constant reminders everywhere she looked. Our monster’s favorite toys. Her bed. Her litter. And then the nightmares began. Visions of coyotes hunting our little monster or cars running her over. I made up my mind to bring our monster home. To hell with the mouse-faced neighbor. I would fight for my little monster. So I went to the park every day and called her name. People looked at me like I was crazy. Maybe I was. “Monster!” Nothing. Not a sign of her.
Two weeks later we heard a faint whimper outside our door. Sitting there cold and emaciated was our little monster. We took her in and gave her a bath. She was too tired to fight us. She slept for days. M. and I were beside ourselves with joy. Our little Monster was back. “I’ll bet she learned her lesson, now.” I said as M. and I curled up with her in the bed.
A few weeks later she got that desperate look in her eyes again as she stood by the door. She wanted to leave but we knew we couldn’t let her. M. asked around and a nice couple with a 5 year old daughter from a moshav was looking to adopt a mature cat. They came over and our little monster curled right up to their girl. “I think I’ll name her Jenny.” The young girl informed us matter-of-factly. We said our goodbyes as our little monster, Jenny, went off to her new family and out of our lives for good.
We haven’t heard from the nice couple or our little monster in a few years but that doesn’t stop us from running to the door in eager anticipation every time we hear a phantom whimper in our hallway.