I had seen this beautiful shy cat several times before that fateful phone call one day in February, 1988. She was one of two resident cats at my friend's pet store. Tiger, the longhaired tabby was friendly and greeted everyone from on top of one of his favorite perches. He was popular and enjoyed all the attention he got from admirers. This little girl was different. She was 9 months old and this was already her third home. She was afraid of all the people shuffling around her all day so she would often take refuge under a wooden deck in the back of the store where the aquarium rocks and coral were stored. If you were quiet you could sometimes catch a fleeting glimpse of her but it was a rare treat when you did. On the few occasions when I did happen upon her it was when the store was quiet with only a few customers around and she had come out of hiding to check out the bags of cat food sitting on the shelves. Once she caught sight of me, however, she would quickly flee to her favorite hiding place.
Her name was Jasmine, a name given to her by one of the food vendors who frequented the store. The name fit her because her personality was that of a sweet delicate flower……until nighttime fell and the store was closed. This was the time when all was quiet and no human was around. Only the quiet stirring of the small animals and birds for sale could be heard. This was Jasmine's favorite time of day….when she could safely express her true personality….that of a hunter. You see this sweet shy little cat who weighed no more than 6 pounds was very good at deception. Inside this fluffy sweet cat was the heart of a tiger…a big game hunter prowling the night. And prowl she did. Her favorite place you may ask? The wall of bird cages that contained beautiful parakeet and canary morsels for which she craved. Every night she would slink over to those cages and curl up next to them contemplating strategies for removing them from behind their protective bars and into her hungry stomach. She would stare at them for hours licking her lips and imagining how tasty they would be. Once in a while she would insert a delicate paw between the bars hoping one would jump on for a ride but she never was that lucky.
This nightly routine went on for several weeks before anyone caught on to it. Employees of the store had been wondering why the birds had been losing feathers and appeared so stressed….until one morning. Jasmine had accidentally fallen asleep curled up around the cage of her favorite blue parakeet and was spotted by a staff member who had come in early to clean cages before the store opened. Finally the mystery had been solved. Jasmine was the one who had been the reason all the birds were so stressed. The owner of the store was notified and he directed the staff to find some place else for that cat to live. She was cutting into the profits.
And so on that February day in 1988 I was called in hopes that I would give her a home. At the time I owned 5 ferrets and one cat, Casey. I am allergic to cats but had done well with Casey. Anyway I was really into ferrets at the time and had no intention of getting another cat.
One evening mid-week the phone rang.
“Hello?” I said.
“Hi Vivian. This is Tina at Hoffer's.”
I was puzzled by the call since Tina has never called me before.
“Oh hi Tina. What's up?
“Do you remember Jasmine, one of our store cats?” she inquired.
“Yes” I responded suspiciously.
“Well it seems she has taken a strong liking to the birds here at the store and has been spending the night curled up around their cages”
I couldn't help but giggle as I pictured this little cat curled up with a bird cage.
“The birds are getting really stressed out,” she continued. “Mike says that she has to go. The birds are plucking out their feathers and getting sick. We were wondering if you were interested in taking her?”
“But I already have a cat!” I said. It is hard to remember the days when the thought of owning more than one cat was something I'd think was a problem. But in those days it was a strange concept.
With a sigh I finally said, “Well there's a 3 day weekend coming up. I guess I could take her in for the 3 days and see how it works out. I'll pick her up on Friday.”
That was almost 20 years ago…the longest 3 day weekend on record. Jasmine came into my home that day and I knew immediately she was like no other cat I'd ever seen and none I would ever see again. She was timid and cautious but very bright. She was not impulsive but studied her surroundings and every situation before acting. Casey did not know what to think of her so of course she growled and when no response was given she just ignored her…who knows maybe she would go away.
The 3-day weekend extended for two more weeks. During that time Casey and I and the ferrets went about our daily routines. Jasmine spent the two weeks lurking and studying. With watchful eyes from afar she watched and studied every move Casey and I made. She refused contact but instead chose to watch us from perches she found around the house. She ate at meal times, drank from the sink and used the litter pan religiously but made no attempt to interact with Casey, me or the ferrets. It was very strange but we all learned to ignore her presence.
Then one night at the end of the two week “study period” just after I had gone to bed I felt a cat jump up next to my feet. I assumed it was Casey since Jasmine chose to sleep on a chair in the living room. The cat crept up along my body to my flannel covered arm that was stretched out on the pillow next to me. I then felt the gentle kneading of cat paws against my arm and heard a gentle raspy purr. I slowly opened my eyes and there was Jasmine with mouth against my flannel sleeve and paws gently kneading as she nursed. Study period was over. Jasmine was ready to become a part of the family.
Jasmine did not choose to be the alpha cat in the household. Casey had that position which only an idiot would question. Instead she chose to be the low cat on the totem pole. When a new cat was introduced all the cats would get in their growls and hisses and swats….except for Jasmine. She would find herself a perch from which she would observe the melee and only when the dust settled, which could take days or weeks, she would then pay her respects to the newcomer and go on her merry way.
Jasmine was the quiet, gentle and sweet soul in the house that everyone respected
…..except when the ferrets came out.
When the ferrets were let out of their room to play Jasmine's alter ego would emerge. Suddenly this gentle creature became a ferocious beast that was a danger to vermin everywhere. All she had to do was catch a glimpse of a ferret and she was ready to have it for dinner. She took these hunts very seriously and of all the cats with attitude that I have shared my home with sweet, gentle, quiet Jasmine is the only cat that had to be removed from all ferret play sessions. Jasmine instead got “quiet time” in another room with the door closed while the ferrets played. For Jasmine every day was ferret season and she was ready and willing to gun for them if given the chance.
One day my friend with the pet store, Mike, decided to give me a couple of parakeet babies to use as classroom pets. I brought them home for an overnight stay until I could take them to school. They came in a cage that was kept in a box which was just a few inches bigger than the cage on one side. Knowing Jasmine's history with birds I covered the cage and box with a big towel to protect them from this demure feline. The next morning when I got up I uncovered the box to check on the birds and there was Jasmine wrapped around that cage in the couple inches provided. She was drooling and the birds were shaking. Those were the last birds I ever brought into my house.
For those of you that have suffered my whistling of “ Red River Valley ” in the show hall, you should place the blame on Jasmine. You see since Jasmine was low cat on the totem pole she rarely had the chance to share quality one-on-one time with Mom. One day for some strange reason I started whistling “ Red River Valley ” and as soon as I did Jasmine came up, got on my lap and started nursing. Since she readily responded to this it became our signal that all was clear. When I found myself sitting and watching TV with an empty lap and all the cats were away sleeping I would quietly whistle this song and Jasmine would come and get her special time to nurse and cuddle.
Unfortunately, within a few weeks some of the other cats started paying attention and quickly learned that whenever mom whistles Jasmine would get some cuddling and they wanted to share in this so started responding to the song as well. This unfortunately defeated the whole purpose of the song because as the other cats jumped up Jasmine would jump down. Currently Linus, Teaka and Dakota are the three of the old-timers that continue to respond most readily to my whistle so the tradition lives on.
When Jasmine turned 14 she became a show cat and actually earned her Supreme title and a regional award. She was not an outgoing cat in the show ring but her sweet disposition and beautiful black smoke and white coat caught the eye of many judges.
On September 17, 2007 Jasmine lost her battle with old age although she fought the good fight. She was 20 years old and a very special cat with a very unique soul. Jasmine is the only one of my cats my Mother ever really liked (which is why I gave her my Mother's birth date) and she would always ask, “How's my Jasmine?” when we would talk on the phone. When she found out Jasmine was gone she told my sister that HER Jasmine had died.
Every cat is a special soul but Jasmine had a soul and character that you could see only if you watched and studied her as closely as she watched and studied us. There was more to this girl than anyone could ever see and I am grateful that I had the opportunity to share my life with her for 20 years.
Will miss you always.