What do you call a small, brown and black and cream furry creature with four legs and a winding tail, who’s sassy, curious, and brave, who loves to play and cuddle, and is a bit too clever for her own good?
You would call her a Willow.
I adopted Willow in July 2015, shortly after I moved into a flat that allowed tenants to have pets. In fact, that was the primary reason I chose to move, and the flat I moved into was chosen both for its proximity to a park and its pet policy.
That summer I volunteered at the local animal shelter, though I admit it was partly with the ulterior motive of wanting to get to know the cats in the shelter before choosing one to adopt. The little tortoiseshell kitten caught my attention for how she purred even when different volunteers held her. When I played with her in the visitation room, she boldly explored the little room, periodically scampering back to me for attention. I also had my eye on a male fluffy black kitten who was especially cuddly.
Over the weekend I resolved to adopt one of them. I stopped by Target on my way to the shelter, picking up a scratching post, litter bin and litter, and a bag of the type of food used at the shelter; and arrived at the shelter just minutes after it opened on Monday morning. The black kitten had just been adopted. His kennel-mate was keening loudly, missing his friend, so I took him, the tortie, and the tortie’s kennel-mate into one of the kitten playrooms. The three of them got on immediately. I took the opportunity to play with the tortie kitten again and her curiosity, openness, and playfulness won me over.
It took about a week to name her. Her two-toned face and mottled coat combined with her penchant for mischief made me think of wood sprites and pixies. I wrote about fairies in medieval English literature for my PhD, and am also widely read in British folklore about fairies, so I tried out a range of names from selkie, to seelie, to Melior, and more. But I kept coming back to the name will o’ the wisp. The willow tree is also said to have magical properties, according to folklore. So that is her name: Willow, after both a type of fairy that plays tricks on humans and a magical tree.
Willow has since grown into her bat ears, but she is still friendly, playful, curious, clever, and sassy. She definitely has what is called tortitude in the cat world. Some of the things I will blog about are ways I keep her healthy and happy in a small, one-bedroom flat.