I’ve had an assortment of Italian cats over the past 30 years. I loved to tell people that they were Italian Longhairs as if they were some exotic breed. They weren’t…just your average stray cats. It started out with Mafia, so named because we wanted him to be tough enough to defend my dear, sweet, harmless June Bug from the feral cats that lived around the barn. He wasn’t particularly tough but he was a great cat. After that there was Aldo and then the two Guidos.
This story, however, is about Aldo. In 1991 I moved to Austin with Mafia and my Border Collie, Bruiser and had purchased my first home. Aldo came to live with me the day I closed on the house. He was only about 8 weeks old and a typical, playful kitten. I had no furniture and can still remember him zooming up and down the hallway darting in and out of each room.
As he grew he loved to lie up on the toilet tank in the morning and watch me put my makeup on. I’m not quite sure why that was so fascinating but he did it every morning. Fortunately, he never offered any critique of how I looked.
When he was a few years old I rented out my house and moved out to my friend Bill’s place for a year to take care of his house, dog and horses. By then there were three cats; Bruiser had passed on but I had my Doberman, Gretchen. Bill lived in Dallas but kept the house as a weekend house. I could live there for free in exchange for looking out for things; the only stipulation was that the cats couldn’t come in the house. No problem for Mafia, who had been a barn cat, but Aldo had never slept outside and neither had Guido (the 1st).
I kept them in a big crate to get them used to the place for the first week but sure enough, Aldo and Guido disappeared about 24 hours after I let them out. I was heartbroken. The house was on 5 or 10 acres with a lot of woods and we walked everywhere looking for them. They were nowhere to be found. Three days later I heard some meowing in the woods behind the house and there was Aldo. He let me pick him up and was happy to be fed but he was pretty freaked out. He hung around after that but he mostly hid in the woods and got to be about half wild. Sadly, Guido the 1st never came back.
A few months before I was due to move back into my own house I got married. We moved into the garage apartment on the property while we were waiting for the lease to run out on my house. Every now and then my husband and I would sneak Aldo into the apartment but he wanted none of it. He would frantically pace back and forth in front of the door until we’d let him back out of the house. When we packed up to move back I wasn’t sure that Aldo was going to survive the 20 minute car trip. He was in a crate but was so stressed he was practically hyperventilating by the time we got to the house. My husband was skeptical. “How in the world are we ever going to make this cat a house cat?”, he’d ask. I wasn’t so sure myself but I was determined to give it a try. My neighborhood was no place for a roaming cat, especially a frightened one and I certainly didn’t want to leave him behind.
I let him out of the crate when we got into the house and he transformed. He walked out of the crate, jumped up on the sofa, curled up in a ball and went to sleep. He immediately went back to being the sweet, affectionate cat he had been before he had been uprooted. My husband was stunned. “Who is this cat and what did you do with Aldo?” I didn’t have an answer but it certainly solved my dilemma.
He was still an odd cat. He was afraid of strangers and anytime we’d have company or the doorbell would ring he’d make a beeline for the bedroom. He could slip his way up under the comforter on the bed in the blink of an eye and except for the lump in the middle of the bed the comforter was not an inch out of place. It was a sight to behold. We took to calling him the “Bed Lump”.
The Bed Lump
After my marriage ended I took in another kitten which eventually came to be called Guido the 2nd because he was so much like the first Guido in personality. He and Aldo were big buddies and you could generally find them asleep in a pile together. Aldo got to where he wanted to sleep on my pillow, practically on top of my head every night. It got so bad that I had to start shutting the cats out of the bedroom at night. Aldo didn’t seem too put out but it thoroughly pissed Guido off and he would literally yowl and fling himself up against the door all night long. I took to sleeping with a box fan running right by my bed to try to drown out the sound of a 10 pound cat going thud against the hollow-core door. I had visions of him backing up to get a running start, I think he was convinced that eventually he’d be able to break the door down. He never stopped until Aldo was gone and I could start leaving the door open at night again.
Aldo and his buddy Guido the 2nd
Aldo had been diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy when he was about a year old. He did really well on medication and was still going strong at 13 years of age. Then one day I got a call from one of our vets that they had picked up some unusual results on his annual bloodwork. He had lost a little weight (Note: his other nickname had been Fat Aldo and I think he lived on a reducing diet the last 11 years of his life) but other than that and his heart murmur he seemed healthy. Turns out he had a rare form of cancer and within three months he was gone. He had lived a good life and I just couldn’t see putting him through chemotherapy when the odds were it wouldn’t be curative or give him more than a few extra months.
Aldo was a great cat and never ceased to be entertaining. He taught me a lot about cat behavior and about the love that a cat can bring into your life. Good kitty Aldo…I’m grateful.