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Her Majesty:
Leroy Jethro Gibbs

by Richard Hartwell


The mother is a quasi-feral cat fed by my sister-in-law. The kitten’s father is . . . well, anybody’s guess. Her mother must be smart, for when it came time to deliver her kittens she opted for inside the house and under the bed. All this was fine by Marsha, my sister-in-law, except that she didn’t realize the cat was having her first litter. In fact, the first Marsha knew about the event was when a fluffy, orange ball pushed timidly out from under the bedspread that hung to the floor and announced herself to the world. This adventurous soul came to be known as Gibbs.

Marsha continually tries to capture the feral cats in her community. With the help of a veterinary friend, she seeks to have them spayed or neutered and then returned to her back yard, there to either stay or go as the cats deem appropriate or fancy dictates. I present all this by way of providing Gibbs’ heritage. She was, apparently, the only survivor of her mother’s first, and only, litter.

Marsha has two dogs and two or three cats and just could not bring herself to add one more to her household. So, what to do? Why of course, get Rick and Sally to take the kitten. What’s one more when you have ten already! Anyway, Sally went up the mountain to Marsha’s and brought back the kitten in a carrier. Ostensibly, this was just a trial. You know, to see how things work out. You would think I should wise up that things always seem to work out the way Sally plans. We left the kitten in the carrier in our bedroom for a few days in order for the other ten cats, as well as the kitten, to acclimatize to one another.

No matter from what angle you view a young kitten, especially a very furry one, it’s quite difficult to determine gender. This fact, coupled with my wife’s addiction to the episodic television show NCIS, led to the kitten being given the name of the lead character, Leroy Jethro Gibbs; Gibbs or Gibbsy for a shortened version. By the time we determined that Gibbs was in fact a female, it was just too late to change the name, not that I didn’t try.  At various times I have called her Goldilocks, the Golden Child, even Marmalade. None have taken and she is definitely Gibbs!

Now comes the part that is rather hard to explain. Gibbs has become the Alpha Male!  That’s right, at five months of age she now rules the roost. She has acquired every bad habit of the other ten. She chases every one of the older, heavier males: Job, Murphy, Oreo, and Bruno. She picks fights with the oldest, Gabriel (more about that later), and the overweight matriarch, Maggie. She leads the younger set – Emma, Nora, Lily, and Matilda – on foraging expeditions to chew through any and all packaged items left out, as well as telephone cords, computer AC adapters, and the timer box for the sprinkler system. Gibbs has no fear of anyone or of any situation. She has turned our household upside-down.

I put up a small tree for Christmas. Gibbs promptly brought it down. I tried again with a heavier base. Gibbs climbed to the top until it swayed and was knocked off the table. We had no tree this year!

She hisses at anyone who tries to pet her and will scratch everyone when picked up, that is everyone but me and the twenty-month-old granddaughter. Gibbs is able to leap from tall cat-trees onto any sleeping body, human or feline. And, as fast as she is, you would swear that she teleports herself from one end of the house to the other rather than runs.  She will pick a fight with anyone, and win. She knocks over the water bowl in order to lap from the floor. She plays with her food and gets easily stoned on catnip. In other words, she has totally endeared herself to our household.

There has been one tremendous upside to all of Gibbs’ shenanigans. Over the past year our oldest cat, Gabriel as noted above, had started to slip away from life. He was lethargic, had little appetite, and rarely had the energy to move from room to room.  Gibbs, of course, would have none of this. With her kitten antics, Gibbs would often annoy Gabriel into action. She would force him to move from place to place. She would engage him in tag and boxing matches and other games of first and second childhood.  And Gabriel thrived. He became a kitten again. All of this is due to Gibbs.

There remains in Gibbs an element of the feral cat that no amount of nurturing has overcome. She is unique. She is female. Hear her roar. Or in Gibbs’ case, growl!


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