She was a kitten when we first met her, a pretty little tabby with intelligent eyes and a lot of spunk.
She appeared at the back porch of a neighbor, who fed her briefly until moving to the Mainland, leaving the kitten behind with a bag of food to be doled out by another neighbor until the new owners arrived.
That didn't happen. They went to Europe for a month, the food ran out, and her luck with it. That is, until she met Topden, our magnificent black-and-white cat, hand-raised at the Maui Dharma Center and a wise, compassionate being.
The kitten fell in love. She attached herself to our cat, aka Toobie, and what a sight it was to see them flying along the street in the evening, playing as one. Eventually she found her way to our back porch, where she and Toobie often curled up together, the kitten in the embrace of the larger cat. A true love affair.
I am allergic to cats. They give me asthma. We have a $900 air filter to keep the dander down and monthly baths are a non-negotiable condition of residence chez nous. We did not need another cat. Our carpet was already hopelessly marred by Toobie's childhood expressions. Besides, Tanya, Toobie's former paramour, was slinking about unhappily at the new love interest.
There the kitten sat at our screen door, paws firmly planted, waiting for us to feed her. "Well, the universe sent her," I thought. "Maybe she'll make a good cat." We called her "Trixie."
Initially we let her inside where she raced about like a mad thing and, of course fouled the carpet. It became a constant chore to keep her outside at night while letting the others in. A litter box had to be reintroduced.
Several weeks went by. When the thunder and lightning of Tropical Storm Flossie hit, I couldn't stand the sight of wet little Trixie fixed at the screen. I let her in. We did everything we could for the dear little thing, but do you know what? She was wild. She never warmed to us. She never let us stroke her; she backed away as if stung at our touch. Toobie was her guy. We were food service.
If we couldn't pick her up, we couldn't have her inoculated, and baths and flea treatment were out of the question. What were we to do?
Maybe a sanctuary like the East Maui Animal Refuge would help. Good luck getting a call back from those folks. They're overwhelmed. Maybe the Maui Humane Society would take her? Trying to stuff Trixie into a carrier elicited such fury I had to grab her by the tail. On a boiling day while she gnawed at the bars, I drove her to the animal shelter. They rejected her.
You see, the pretty vet tech explained, any animal put up for adoption has to be tame. Trixie probably was introduced to humans too late for her to trust them. Maybe with patience . . . ? The alternative? The needle. Reluctantly, I brought her home.
"Euthanize her!" said my friends.
Could she be welcomed to one of Maui's dozens of managed cat colonies? Ha. We asked someone about this, who patiently explained that the colonies already deal with so many interlopers there is no room to willingly import another.
How about dropping her off secretly at a colony at night? Nope. It's not only illegal, but would subject her to abuse from the regulars. There was no way, it seemed, to keep a smart, pretty, chronically frightened kitten alive on Maui without letting her disrupt our lives.
Then a brilliant idea arose. We know a dedicated woman who manages eight cat colonies on the west side. Would she, could she, maybe accept Trixie in exchange for a handsome donation? She had expenses. . . . There was a long pause.
"Well, that's very generous." Slowly she began to think out loud. Well, one colony was about to lose a cat. We'd trap the kitten, have her fixed and tattooed with the colony number, she'd be kept in a cage for a few days while she adjusted, and . . .
Trixie would have her life. She'd be with other cats and we'd be able to visit. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I had no idea the thought and care that Maui's cat colony managers employ, nor the devotion it takes to do what they do. Ours knows each one by name!
We let Trixie go yesterday. I am sad. Tanya is delighted. Toobie is nowhere to be seen, even though it's time for breakfast. I think he's looking for her.
* Laurel Murphy is a former staff writer for The Maui News whose "Keiki o ka 'Aina" column appears each Tuesday. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.