We had a pair of Siamese cats when I was little, chosen by my Dad solely for their appearance (Siamese seems to be the only kind of cat he's ever considered having). They bonded with the family dog and each other rather than my sister and me, and they wandered off before we moved to Portland.
Portland was where we got our first "real" cat. His mother was a pregnant tortoiseshell who'd been dumped near our house (we lived miles outside the city), and who got hit by a car about 4 months after she had her kittens, which was devastating (such a sweet, sweet cat). We lost one kitten to distemper, and two others were eventually given away. The one we kept was a beige-colored "orange" tabby cat, who eventually became known solely by his nickname of "Fatty." He was an awesome cat, who enjoyed hanging out and sitting on your lap, and was fairly undemanding. For years, my parents (mainly my Dad) pretended he was not an actual pet but just an animal that happened to live at our house. By the time we moved to Eugene, Fatty spent as much time inside as out, and slowly grew on my parents. They put a cat door in the garage for him—which he did not entirely trust (he always tried to go through sideways instead of headfirst). At some point, while I was living in Illinois, he probably snuck off somewhere to die. My parents searched for him and put ads in the paper, convinced that someone had kidnapped him because he was so friendly. They still think that, which shows he conquered them after all. ;)
Many years later, my husband and I were gifted with two kittens from my SIL's cat's unexpected litter. The kittens were both black-and-white "Holstein"-colored cats, one with a bat mask and the other with more of a pirate-face (black patch over one eye and ear, white on the other side). The female cat was the runt in a family of small cats—fully grown, she was only about six pounds. She was more skittish than her brother, and when they were both two she went from being inseparable from him to deciding that he should not be allowed to live in our house. After two more years of hissing and growling, we finally put her outside for good. I still don't know what brought that on, or why she was so stubborn about it. She was a very demanding little kitty, and tended to moan a lot (I think that was just her voice). Her brother was an easygoing guy, horribly misnamed "Thor." We think his vocal chords just never grew with the rest of him—as an adult, his meow was a high-pitched "Weet!" that sounded like a bird, and he had a very tiny purr.
Thor loved chocolate and salmon, probably in that order. He was how we found out that chocolate doesn't kill cats. His first known encounter was with chocolate-frosted banana cake. My husband was eating that, and Thor kept leaning in again and again. We could not figure out what he wanted! "Get back!" The phone suddenly rang, and my husband set his cake on the coffee table while he went to answer it. Thor dived on the cake and chomped a mouthful of frosting out of it, and ran off down the hall. In later years, he passed up salmon thawing on the counter in favor of chocolate donut scraps in the garbage can I'd left out (as a reminder to take it outside). He had a sweet tooth (people claim cats don't like sweets, but that clearly does not apply to every cat). Sometimes, he'd beg for food in the kitchen, and I once gave him a piece of honeydew melon as a joke. He licked that thing all over the kitchen until it was gone, so the joke was on me!
My brother once characterized Thor as a very polite cat, and it was true. When Thor wanted something, he would wait next to whatever it was—a door leading outside or into the garage, the water dish, the food dish. He never agitated or howled. He also never bit or scratched a human in his life—if he was afraid, he would slink away and if he didn't want to be petted (say, because he wanted to go outside and you were getting the wrong idea), he would shrink away under your hand. We used to call him a "bear of very little brain," though I think he was reasonably smart. But he could not tell the difference between our doorbell and the ones of the same type on TV (during some TV shows, he repeatedly watched the door, worried that some stranger was about to come in). He once got lost for about a week and a half in the ditch at the bottom of the street (he wandered off about two blocks away, and completely forgot where home was. We rescued him on a random walk). He also developed a habit, around age ten, of lying on his back in the morning and slowly looking at the world upside-down. It seemed to fascinate him!
Thor was the first cat I met who would butt people with his head instead of rub against them. I later learned that this was a sign of affection, but it seemed weird at first. He'd stand in front of you and look at your feet for a while, then finally lean forward and Bam you with the top of his head. He loved to sit on laps and be petted, though, and you could carry him on his back like a baby and pet him—which was great, because then he'd knead the air instead of you.
One day, I brought home a cat who'd been dumped at the end of the road near my office, and had been living in a tree. We didn't know then about the whole method of slowly introducing cats to each other, but it turned out not to be necessary. Thor took to Tigger right away, and taught her the rules of the house. Until very late in her life, when she became deaf, she never howled for anything, either. She just waited, like her mentor.
Those two became good buddies, and would curl up together in the wintertime. They never fought, though our outdoor-only cat didn't like Tigger any more than she liked Thor. That cat made friends with the giant Tuxedo creature who came over the fence (she'd let him eat her food, and they'd sit side-by-side under a tree in the corner of the yard), but the cats who lived in her own house were eee-vil.
When we moved to the new house, Thor and Tigger came with us. The other cat could not be captured even after multiple tries, and stayed with the family that moved into our old house. Thor died about three years later, when he was 16. That was incredibly hard on everyone, including Tigger. I used to look at places in the yard he used to inhabit, and just cry over the emptiness of them.
We got a kitten about a month later (too soon), because we'd promised the kids. The only kittens were from a litter left off by a breeder whose Siamese cat had gotten loose and was impregnated by a random tomcat. Enter The Whale.
The Whale and his brother were the only kittens in the litter who didn't look Siamese. Both were black-and-white (The Whale is a tuxedo-cat), and we settled on him because he was outgoing and simply teetered when my husband sneezed (instead of running off to hide, as his brother did). The Whale was actually a normal-sized kitten at 3 months, so we had no idea what was in store. I took him into the vet at around age one, and he weighed 17.5 pounds and was not fat. He eventually got a little chubby (which is when we began calling him The Whale instead of 'Lightning'), but really, his paws are enormous and his head fills your entire hand. He's a little over two feet from nose to rump—huge. There used to be nights when I'd hear this Thud-thud-thud-thud-thud coming down the stairs and think one of the kids was out of bed, but it was just The Whale—speeding out of forbidden territory. He makes noise when he walks on carpet! We've also had to put blankets/etc. down on the sofa to keep him from getting it horribly dirty. Like Thor before him, The Whale likes to roll around in the dirt and snort (I've seen it). He becomes a black-and-tan cat at that point, and nobody wants the "tan" on the pastel-colored sofa.
The Whale and Tigger did not get along. As a kitten, he always wanted to play (which is just annoying to an 8-year-old cat), and when he was older he decided he was the alpha cat and would try to beat her up. It took five years before the two of them could be on the sofa at the same time without major drama, and about 3 more before they could actually touch (sometimes) without the threat of anyone dying. If Tigger was the kind of cat who waited for you to sit down, so she could get on your lap, The Whale is the kind of cat that enjoys your pets for a few minutes and then it needs to stop—now. His personality is pretty much all Siamese, despite his appearance—talking, yowling, never shutting up, and just being continually demanding when he wants something. o_O Sometimes he'll start meowing away while you're already petting him. Sheesh.
Most of you know that we lost Tigger last Easter, at age 18. Like Thor, she was pretty much a perfect cat, just amazingly sweet. We still miss her terribly, including her rattlebox purr and her slightly poofy fur. Until she got really old and her "hair regulator" mechanism got broken, you used to be able to tell seasonal changes by her fur. One year, we came back from an unexpectedly cold, wet summer vacation and discovered that she had turned into a bottlebrush. Yikes. True to her 'prediction,' it was an early and frigid winter.
It was six months before we were ready to think about getting another cat (and my son and I insisted on it, since we both wanted a snuggly cat given that The Whale, while hilarious, is not that cat). We adopted Jinx, who is four, from the animal shelter. She clearly wanted a home, and desperately likes to sit on laps and be petted. When she really gets going, her purr turns into this kind of circular "trill" that rises and falls in pitch. That's new!
She has been with us a little over two months now. We discovered on the first day that she can get cupboards open (she hides in them, and pulls the doors closed after herself). Most of the cupboards are now "childproofed", though she can also open doors and is a complete pest about that. She knows that if she rams herself into a door for a long time, it may eventually pop open (or if it's a pocket door, it may loosen enough that she can get her paw in the gap and push). Arrrrgh. That is MUCH smarter than I want any pet to be. In finally letting her outside for a bit, under supervision, it is now clear that she's always been an indoor-only cat, and finds the outside world scary. This is going to make vacationing a challenge! And it's also now obvious that she spent her first four years as an Only Cat. So, rather than The Whale being mean to her as we'd feared, she's the one who's all huffy and hissy and growly, and can't get used to him. *sigh*
Still, she is sweet and a lot of fun. She's also the first adult cat I've ever known who chases her tail. How can you be smart enough to open doors, but also still think that your tail is some kind of enemy that needs capturing? It's possible she does know it's her tail, and just enjoys playing with it. The little crabby, runty cat at the old house used to make huge amounts of noise running around the yard "scaring" herself when she had nothing better to do. The tail-chasing is at least hugely entertaining to the humans in the house (The Whale just thinks it's weird).
That's it. I meant to post this up last night, but my daughter got chatty at the wrong time and the camera-cable went missing (fortunately, my husband's GPS uses the same kind of cable). So, only the rough draft got finished and very late at that! But here it is now, and thanks to tsuki_no_bara for the great topic!