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MARTHA SEZ: ‘Ritz tolerated the newcomers, but his tendency to yowl became more pronounced’
May 10, 2019

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R.I.P. Ritz the cat. You were the loudest meowing kitty in the world. We loved you so much. We will always remember you.

Ritz (AKA Shmitzle)

September 2000-May 2019

(Facebook post from Molly)

When Jim and Ritz met, Jim was in his early 20s and Ritz was a kitten. The two bonded right away and remained close until Ritz died of old age this spring.

When Jim and my daughter, Molly, met, Ritz was already part of the equation. In those days they lived in Boston. Ritz enjoyed the use of the condominium balcony, but he was basically an indoor cat.

Then they moved moved clear across the USA to California, where a community of feral cats roamed their neighborhood. Jim and Molly live-trapped some of them and took them to a free spay/neuter clinic in the San Francisco Bay area. Later, they returned the cats to their former haunts.

It was during that time that Molly and Jim rescued Orangey and Jupiter, the cats I now have. Orangey was still a kitten, but already a high-wire artist, acrobat, hunter and survivalist, carefully trained by his mother to avoid humans. Jupiter was a tiny black-and-white-spotted baby, not even weaned yet.

From the beginning, Orangey adored Ritz. It was Ritz's habit to walk around with his tail straight up in the air, and Orange paraded behind him, tail erect, mimicking his every move.

The people we love are of necessity flawed, but we come to see their little ways, their peculiarities and proclivities, as endearing, normal and even desirable qualities. The same holds true for the animals we love.

I used to consider Ritz something of a curmudgeon, but he wasn't mean, simply aloof. Eventually he warmed up to Molly, and on occasion even let me pet him, but he would always be Jim's cat.

Jim and Molly and, of course, Ritz, moved south, and the family grew as Emma and, not long afterward, Jack made their arrival. Ritz tolerated the newcomers, but his tendency to yowl became more pronounced. He had always yowled when the mood struck, but blood-curdling yowling is more of an issue when there is a baby asleep in the house. Ritz had his own cat flap, but refused to use it for both egress and ingress, much preferring to stand just outside the nursery and loudly demand to be let out the front door, which in his mind bore a large EXIT sign. Once out, he'd circle around to come back in through the cat door, after which he would repeat the routine.

One day Ritz brought home a big dragonfly. Jim was about to dispose of it, but Molly interceded on Ritz's behalf, saying "Oh, let Ritzy keep it! It's the only thing he ever caught."

Jupe is now surveilling the apple tree that both he and a red squirrel use as a ladder to the porch roof. He stares at the tree with the intensity of someone binge-watching "Breaking Bad." The tree is just budding out, on the verge of bursting into bloom, but Jupiter's interest is in murdering the little squirrel.

This squirrel is so cute; if I made a video of its antics, hopping along, stuffing its mouth with birdseed, it would get a lot of likes on Facebook. Cuteness counts, I say, but to Jupiter cuteness means nothing.

Jupiter wants to go out into the darkness.

"Coyote is always out there waiting, and coyote is always hungry," I tell him.

Coyotes, like cats, are by nature nocturnal predators.

Jupiter doesn't listen. Not only does he want to murder hapless little creatures, but he fights with other cats.

Yes, Jupe is a terrorist, but Orangey is not. While Jupiter is lean and springy, Orangy has the approximate activity level of an ottoman. Molly says Orange chose to retire early, at around age three.

Ritz was never a hunter. While he may have been out there waiting, he was neither particularly hungry nor predacious. He liked to lie peacefully on the patio and watch the possums cavort in the avocado tree. Once Jim opened the back door to let Ritz in and saw an opossum leap over the garden wall.

"He was out there communing with the possums," He told Molly.

Molly has asked me not to tell Orange about Ritzy's passing. She is afraid it will make him sad. I'm not afraid he will find out from this column. Orange never reads anything I write.

Have a good week.

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