A Cat Named Yerbie

5

December 2006
My wife Elaine took me to the Pima County Animal Shelter, to look for a cat. I had one, who died six months earlier. I wasn’t sure what I was looking for, but I kept being drawn back to this orange and white kitten, who seemed to stand out. He was bouncing around and just had a certain charisma about him.

The staff called him Romulus, and thought he was about three years old. Well, I decided I wanted him, and we took him. He had already been fixed and had a chip embedded in him. We think he was owned by university students, who may have broken the apartment up.

YerbieWe took him to the vet, who was amused by the cat, climbing on my shoulders. She said, “If he keeps doing that, for another fifteen years, you will have stooped shoulders.” At that time I laughed.

The vet said he was six months old. She agreed Romulus didn’t fit him as a name. Suddenly, my imaginative mind kicked in. Yerbie! Elaine and the vet looked at my quizzically, and with good reason.

Dear reader, allow me to explain. At the time, I belonged to a Sister City group, with ties between Tucson, and Almaty, Kazakhstan. One of the young men from Kazakhstan is named Yerbolat. He’d been coming here since high school, and then attended the University of Arizona as an undergraduate and graduate school. Yerbolat seemed different for a cat, but somehow, Yerbie had a ring to it. I only found out later; Yerbolat’s American friends called him Yerbie. Poor Yerbolat started referring to the cat as his furry nephew.

So that is how Yerbie got his name. The spelling I chose, because I liked it. (There was an author, named Frank Yerby).

We took him home, and he proved to be a character from the start. He enjoyed following us around. We discovered he liked pizza. Part of what made us think he lived with students. He also acted more like a dog at times.

The rest of this piece will be broken into different segments of the fun I had with and how he would react to things.

Can Yerbie Imitate a Lion?
I had a young man, who had been a Sudanese Lost Boy over for supper. Yerbie liked Peter and got up on the table, so Peter could play with him. Now, escaping from Southern Sudan, Peter and his friends had to be wary of lions. The two of us looked at Yerbie. Yerbie, lion, Yerbie, lion? No, Yerbie is not even close to being a lion.

Yerbie Stung:
Yerbie was miffed by what might have been a dying yellow jacket. As a cat, he saw his job as nailing the little bugger. The yellow jacket could still sting though, and it stung Yerbie on his right foot.

I was worried at first. His foot swelled. If stung in the head, he probably would have needed an emergency vet. Instead, of suffering and being in danger, Yerbie was angry because, for two hours, he couldn’t jump on things. He healed, and all was well.

Yerbie Objects to His Humans Reading and Working:
I would try to read, and he would come up on my lap. Trying to write? Forget about it. Yerbie got attention when he wanted. He gained weight and would spread out.

Yerbie, you look drunk!

Yerbie as protector:
One day, Elaine was home alone. It was a nice day, like many in Tucson, and she had the front door open, and screen locked closed to let air in. A young man selling something came to the door and wanted to come in. Elaine suspected he was trouble, but so did Yerbie. If Elaine got close to the door, Yerbie got between her and the door. The young man tried to put his fingers out for Yerbie to sniff. Yerbie refused, which was unusual. In other words, trust the cat.

Halloween: Yerbie enjoyed the kids coming to the door. The picture of him with the grooming on the scarf was from Halloween. Yerbie was full of himself then and really thought he was a lion. He was strutting like mad after he was groomed.

Moving to a New Place:
Elaine drove him. He was already tense. All the boxes unnerved him. She said he cried in the car, like she’d never heard. We think he thought we were getting rid of him.

He had a hard time getting used to his new surroundings. He was never really an outdoor cat. I had a leash for him once, and took him on walks. He got out a couple of times, but never went far. His big outdoor hobby was rolling in dirt. He hated getting in trouble for it though.

Yerbie was a very chatty cat. He usually talked up a storm, when he was hungry, when he felt neglected, etc. I would playfully tease him, saying, “Keep it up, you will use up your nine lives.” (Of course, even when he was bad, no one could stay mad at him). I lost count, of how many lives the lad really had.

The Fastest Tail in the West.

Elaine gave him that nickname. He could knock a glass off a table, with one flick. Then, he would look at you, shocked. “Why are you mad?”

Yerbie, You Weight Twenty Pounds!

We fed the lad well, apparently. Because he was partly orange in color, I thought he could join, the American Football team, the Denver Broncos, as a lineman.

Yerbie the Hunter and Straw Killer:
He got tired of hunting bugs and lizards eventually and just pointed them out to us, or left them for our other, younger cat, Pandora. Straw killer?! Yerbie had a thing for straws. We had to buy straws, just so he could chase them down, and play with them, until they were no more. Always a straw that broke a camel’s back.

Play Beatings:
I would fake it, never hit him, would pretend to, and would rub his belly. He would be chatty and want attention, and I would sternly announce, “Yerbie, I think you need a thumping.” I would rough him up and he would purr like crazy. It would tire the lad out and he would go to sleep. Even tired me out, sometimes.

Yerbie’s Decline:
It started with him just slowing down and wanting company. He would sit with me, when I got dressed in the morning for work. He would hold his paw out to me and sit on me to try and stop me going to work. He would wait for me when I came home.

Then we noticed he was losing weight. Never got a chance to take him to a vet. After a while, he stayed mainly in the bedroom. He would watch over me.

Tuesday morning, February 17th, 2015, I woke up at one a.m. to go the bathroom. He watched over me, as I went back to bed.

At six, I woke up to go to work. He was under a low table, we have in the bedroom. Elaine was in the living room and said good morning. I immediately responded with, “It’s not a good morning, Yerbie is dead.”

I have had feline companions die on me before. Three days later, I am still coming to terms with this one. I grew up with cats. What made Yerbie special was we chose each other. He had a definite charisma. I was convinced to start a Facebook page for him, called Yerbie the Wonder Cat. I got the name Wonder Cat from someone else. I was planning to take the page down, but will keep it up as long as there is interest. On Facebook, I received over four hundred condolence, notes, with many people saying how much they enjoyed me telling stories about him.

A memorial for a cat? In this case, I wanted to.

I tell people, pets ask little from us, but food, shelter, and love. They love us without any conditions. Yerbie didn’t care if I had a bad day with other people. He was there for me, as a friend, regardless.

Yerbie amused me. I have decided, if he didn’t exist, I would have to invent him.

Here’s to you, little buddy. Some friends have talked about a Rainbow Bridge and he will be waiting. If there is such a thing, I would love to have the people in my life there as well, and yes, Yerbie, you are being silly again. I miss you. Thank you for choosing me in that shelter.

5 Comments
  1. Anonymous says

    Would of loved to meet Yerbie, I know that he was the lukiest cat in town , snce he had you as a Master, please don t be too sad Michael, he will be with you forever. God Bless You and Yerbie. Just shed a few tears for your lovely Yerbie.

    LOL

  2. Lydia says

    lovely lovely tale of your very special cat Michael. So sad for your loss. I have a few cats similar to your Yerbie in disposition all from 1 litter. prayers for you to heal & continue to remember all the good times you shared.

  3. Georgette Shaffer says

    A beautiful tribute for a very special lad. Our cats bless us with their love, uniqueness and are there for us through rough times. Michael, you and Elaine gave him a wonderful life. I’m sure he’s watching over you still and he’ll always be in your heart. I know the hardest part of being owned by a cat, is saying goodbye. I’m so sorry for your loss. RIP Yerbie….you did good in this life. <3

  4. MistyAllen says

    He was such a young cat, I am astonished! Did you find out what happened? He sounds precious.

  5. tucsonmike says

    Misty, sadly know, we did not find out. I miss him, still

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