Knucksie Tales

Knucksie the cat was originally my stepdaughter Anjelica's kitten, which she got up in Orlando in late 1991. She named the cat Baby, but that didn't really seem an appropriate name for such a rambunctious kitten. I christened her Knucklehead, Knucksie for short, since it was more polite than Shithead.

Knucksie was always darting out the front door whenever it opened. She was the only cat who was allowed to go outside, primarily because it was impossible to keep her inside. She would go to the door and cry to be let out, then would go out and play for a while and return to the windowsill, where she would paw at the glass until let back into the house. She was a very polite cat; she would meow a "thank you" when I'd let her back in.

I would have preferred to have her stay inside, because I know that bad things can happen to a cat who goes outside: Cars, vicious dogs, mean kids. But for many years, she lived a charmed life. There was one day when she was out on the windowsill and a vicious dog came running up to her. You never heard such a commotion! I quickly ran out and chased the dog off and Knucksie, who had run around the side of the house, came back and sprinted into the house.

It wasn't uncommon for her to vanish for a day or two, then come home. One day she had disappeared and I went outside and found out that somehow she had ended up on the roof. When I came back from my New York trip last year, I looked around the inside of the house and couldn't find her. Then I looked in the spare bedroom which I use for storage, and where I had kept my luggage. There was Knucksie, hungry and a bit dehydrated after three days in the room. She meowed angrily at me for accidentally closing her in there, although it was partially her own fault for sneaking in there.

Knucksie was a great hunter in her younger days, keeping the yard clear of vermin and wildlife. Her victims included a rabbit, a squirrel, a mole, a snake, a few birds and several anole lizards. The mockingbirds in the tree outside knew her for the predator that she was, shrieking "Cat! Cat!" whenever they saw her outside. Sometimes they would divebomb her as well, but she was not impressed. She knew that if they got within paw range, they were meat.

She also was the one who found the baby opossum. I came home from work one morning and she was stalking in front of the trash cans next to the garage and growling. I looked behind one and spotting a tiny opossum which had gotten separated from its mother. We ended up calling the local wildlife rehabilitation facility and taking the opossum in to them to take care of.

Despite her ferocity with other animals, she was very gentle with people. She quickly learned the "no claws" rule and pretty much obeyed it. She acquired a habit for a while of jumping up on my computer chair and worming her way into the seat next to me so she could watch what I was doing.

A few months ago, her luck ran out. She had gone running out the door when I left for work, which wasn't uncommon. Usually, she would be waiting in the grass in the morning, ready to go inside. That morning, she wasn't around. She came home a couple of hours later, and I noticed that she was dragging her right hind leg. It turned out that she had a broken femur. I took her in to the veterinarian and they put a splint on her leg. She was too old and skinny for them to operate on her, so they had to just splint it and hope the bone would heal on its own. Fortunately, it did, although she was in the splint for eight weeks. She dragged it around behind her, and the weight was enough that it threw off her balance. Her outside cat days were over.

Finally, though, the splint came off for good, and she spent her last couple of months mostly hanging out in my bedroom as she readjusted to walking on the healed leg. She did make it outside one last time, though. I had the window open a few days ago, and she came running out and jumped up on the windowsill, then jumped outside.

"Oh, no you don't!" I yelled, running to the door, grabbing the wayward Knucksie and bringing her back inside. "You're an inside cat from now on," I told her.

And that was that.

I feel a little better now that I've had a chance to tell you a bit about her. She was a very good cat. I don't think I've ever had a better one.