In a different venue I once wrote about my rat Nelly:

All rats are special. But some are more special than others.

The same goes for Dixie, mutatis mutandis. She grew from a tiny kitten (b. 20 April 2000) to a great big cat, topping out at 13 pounds in her prime. But near the end she melted away; by the time she died (November 2014) she was barely eight pounds.

In her pictures you can see that sometimes she claimed the whole page—and more—for herself. Other times she had to share the stage with one or another of the rats.

(She’s Not Fat, She’s)

Dixie in full Rubenesque glory

It took me a long time to arrive at just the right adjective to describe Dixie in all her thirteen-pound glory. But make no mistake: most of those pounds were solid muscle. Well, except for the part you saw waggling when she walked quickly up or down stairs. She couldn’t levitate to the top of a fence like an ordinary slim cat, but she hauled herself up like a Marine in boot camp.

American Primitive

Dixie is a fine fat cat

It started with the phrase “A fine fat cat,” as met in all your better folktales. Or at least something like it: a fine fat pig, a fine fat hen . . . But it took a long time, and a number of false starts, before I found the painting to go with the title.

Dixie at the Door

Dixie at the cat door

Poor Dixie. She spent her first ten years in an apartment where she was free to come and go through the bedroom window at any time of day or night, whether or not her human was home. Then she was uncere­moniously moved to a place with no such amenities. She was now on the second floor—and all the windows had inconvenient screens. Her only recourse was a cat door. But alas, the concept was too much for her to master. You have to push with your head, and Dixie was strictly a paw-user. She could let herself in, but she couldn’t go out.

Fortunately Dixie lived in a climate where the cat door can be propped open almost every day of the year. This also allowed her to sit at the door looking out, just as she did from the bedroom window on the opposite side of the building. There’s always a view somewhere. Sometimes there are even birds.

Total Eclipse of the Cat

backlit cat

Dixie stepped between me and the light source, and this is what I saw. In general it took quite a lot to eclipse this particular cat.

I Didn’t Do It

Dixie flees from the toppling chest of drawers

Unfortunately, Dixie did do it. For the complete story, see Why I Like Rats.

P.S. The eel, being indestructible, survived handily. It also survived escaping from its water-filled bag when I first brought it home—by the time I found it, it looked like a scrap of black yarn—and, later, survived falling into the kitchen sink when I didn’t know it was hiding under the aquarium filter on cleaning day. It went straight down to the trap, filled with chlorinated tap water and unknown ickinesses. Score one for plastic pipe fittings that can be unscrewed without tools.

Where’d It Go?

Dixie without her tail

This, unfortunately, is a picture from life. When Dixie was small, her tail was so vast that she looked like a little lemur. Eventually she grew into it.

But in May of 2004, when she was four years old, she met with a nameless misfortune and came home with her tail drooping behind her. She wasn’t upset or in pain or sick in any way; her tail just wouldn’t go up. The vet’s x-rays showed that the tail had been cleanly dislocated. From above, everything looked perfectly normal. From the side, one vertebra was directly above the other.

This kind of thing can’t be repaired—at least not without serious orthopedics at a major hospital—so the only alternative was to amputate her tail before it started losing circulation. Early photo­graphs of the stump show it looking just like a turkey neck. But it healed nicely and the fur grew back. And there was just enough tail remaining that you could see it bobbing up and down to match Dixie’s mood.

Heated Bedroom

Dixie dozing atop the cage

One of the local vets has a print of this picture on the wall of the examining room where my rats are seen. I don’t think they realize it is my cat and my rats. In fact, Dixie was spayed in the same office, back in the year 2000 when she was slightly smaller than depicted here. While I was taking care of business at the payment desk, Dixie reached down and very neatly and tidily removed her stitches. And then never touched the incision again.

Dixie Warms the Cage

Dixie reposing on top of the cage

Every now and then I caught Dixie licking her chops as she looked at the rats. But it was all for show; she knew better than to mess with them. One of her favorite resting spots was on top of the rats’ cage. Part of the reason is that it’s physically comfy: the top of the cage is covered with mesh, and over that is a fabric runner.

But I’m sure she also enjoyed the view. And the rats probably enjoyed the “neener-neener” effect: so near and yet so far.

In this picture Dixie has a prominent fluffy tail. That tells me it was painted before May 2004 when she had her nameless accident.

Dixie Meets the Little Noses

the Little Noses: before

They were known as the Little Noses because at first that was all I saw peering out of the igloo. Leela was two and a half ounces, little sister Nyssa just two and a quarter. But they grew. And grew, and grew, and grew, topping off at one pound four ounces and one pound three ounces, respectively. In other words: almost as big as Dixie when I first met her as a six-week-old-kitten.

Formerly Known as the Little Noses

the Little Noses: after

What is Wrong with this Picture?

rat looking at cat in a cage

I didn’t make this up. Well, except for the part with the rat looking from the outside. That was Artistic License.

It never happened before, and it has never happened since. But on this day, the Big Cage happened to be temporarily void of rats because they were all in the East Wing, just out of picture range. The main cage remained ratless until Dixie left, several hours later. And I’ve got the pictures to prove it.


photograph of Dixie in the Big Cage

photograph of Dixie in the Big Cage