Mara and I have a policy of letting our cats choose us. In mid-2000, when our roommate with her older Maine Coon moved out, we wanted to get Cleo a buddy, so we went back to Pacificmaine to meet a litter of 4-week-old silver tabbies. They all came out to play with us, and when they got tired, their mother gave a little trilling call to them from behind the armchair, and they all went over to check in and take their nap with her... except one, who loved being with humans so much that he checked in with his mama, then came back out to be with the humans and fell asleep with his belly showing. That one, we knew, was the cat for us.
We brought him home at 12 weeks and named him Yeti the Adorable Snowcat. Cleo, at about 9 months old, instantly found her maternal instincts and started raising him as her own kitten; it would be a couple of years before she would play with toys when Yeti was in the room. He quickly grew into an enthusiastically friendly 20 pound fluff monster who would happily ride my shoulder around the house, and would run after people to get ahead of them and roll on his back to demand belly rubs. He was a consistently high-morale creature, so happy that his tail often curved forward until it nearly touched his neck. While Cleo was a cautious soul who preferred the serenity of the top of the cat tree, Yeti was our greeter, always coming out to befriend new people. We experimentally determined that a six-month-old Maine Coon kitten and a four-year-old human cub with a feather wand exhausted each other at about the same time. Even the cat-allergic couldn’t resist his charms.
Yeti’s coat was a marvel, with long guard hairs striped along their own length and a frizzy undercoat that appeared capable of quantum tunneling into surprising places; friends visiting our house found his hairs inside closed garment bags that had never been opened in the house, and one house guest woke up one morning with an eye that wouldn’t open, terrified that she had had a heart attack, until she discovered that a single Yeti hair had woven itself amongst her eyelashes. I once found one of his hairs in a contact lens I was wearing as a minor irritant.
He was an inventive cat, coming up with multiple new games. His first was to watch for ice cubes being ejected from the refrigerator’s ice dispenser with enough force that they glanced off a glass onto the hardwood floor, at which point he would bat them around in what we called ice hockey. He also developed rug surfing, where he would start at the back door and run down the length of the house to jump on a rug that would then slide up to the front door, requiring that I do some extra shoving to get the door open when I got home. And he recognized that every night when we collected the cats to come to the bedroom to sleep with the humans, he could turn it into a game of hide-and-seek, where he would run off with tail held high and wait for me to come to get him, then run off again and repeat until he felt like being carried into bed. (Cleo, ever the little fluffy mercenary, took up the same game, but she always ended it with her scratching on the tree, an activity known to be rewarded with treats.) And he insisted that a particular traditional yoga pose was actually “Warrior III pets the fluffy belly”.
The cats loved both of us, but they settled into an evening routine where Yeti would snuggle on Mara’s legs and feet and Cleo would settle on mine. He was so constant a presence on Mara’s ankles in bed at night that, when we traveled, she needed a pillow there to simulate the weight of a cat so she could sleep.
Yeti was an amazing survivor. As a kitten, he managed to eat a detergent-filled bath oil bead the size of a golf ball, and damaged his liver, but thanks to modern medicine he recovered. He developed megacolon as an adult, which we were able to manage for years until the dietary changes necessary for Cleo’s diabetes caught up with him and he had to have his colon removed, but he recovered from that and kept going. At age 17, a regular senior checkup found very early pancreatic cancer and lymphoma, so early that there was no protocol for treating it— cats are good enough at hiding their troubles that these things are normally found at a much later stage. With surgery and chemo, we were able to keep him purring along for another year, but eventually the combination of a pancreatic tumor, lymphoma, bladder cancer, kidney disease, and an upper respiratory infection finally proved too much for our resilient little fluffy boy, shortly after his 18th birthday. Even to the last, he was a loving creature, putting a paw on Mara’s hand to soothe her when she was crying over losing him.
Rest in purrs, Yeti. We will always remember you among the best of cats.