The Grechka Chronicles or A Cat By Any Other Name Will Still Ignore You When You Talk To It

I have adopted a kitten.

And by kitten, I mean monster.

The monster’s name is Grechka.

I would like to chronicle a few of the odd encounters I’ve had in the week since I adopted Grechka, who was found abandoned in a box on the side of the road with four other kittens. They all have homes now, and sometimes I like to lie awake at night and wonder how many scratches the other adoptive parents have accumulated.

But back to Grechka because, as I have quickly discovered, the kitten is the only thing that matters anymore.

Let’s begin with the name.

I have rotated through several options in the past few days. The first was Ratatouille. Partially for the simple joy of naming an animal after food, and partially because it is an excellent film with an admirable protagonist that any animal should be proud to be named after, but mainly for the fact that it would be ‘Rat’ for short, a suiting nick name given the size and shape of the animal in question.

The second was Kronk, because I wanted to be able to shout from the kitchen “Pull the lever, Kronk!”. But it didn’t stick. Apparently no one in Armenia has seen The Emperor’s New Groove.

I rejected a slew of other fictionally inspired names including Bagheera (mine is not a graceful or intimidating beast) and Crookshanks (which is really a long haired cat’s name). Sherbert Lemon was also bandied about, but no one short of the great wizard himself can really pull that off.

I have settled on Grechka, a name suggested by my animal and food loving friend who, incidentally, owns two dogs named after fruits and nuts. For those who don’t know, grechka refers to buckwheat groats (the shelled buckwheat seeds), and more generally to a dish served here in Armenia and around the Caucasus. It is something I have had many an old, Armenian grandmother feed me and which I have found to be somewhat of a comfort food.

It is no wonder, therefore, that when I came across a pot of the stuff on my friend’s stove top (the same friend who would later name the cat after this unfortunate incident) I felt extremely comfortable helping myself to a bowlful for breakfast.

It was early one Sunday morning and there was nothing else to eat in the house. She was graciously letting me stay in her place while I found myself an apartment, and I felt it would be poor form to wake her on the weekend to pester her with questions about food. So I ate the grechka.

I vaguely noted that it did not taste especially delicious but attributed this to the fact that my friend was not, in fact, an old, Armenian grandmother and as such I could not expect her to transform this tough grain into something more than palatable. I read my book and finished most of the bowl.

She awoke a while later and came to sit next to me on the couch, giving the dogs their morning cuddles. I continued reading my book and shoveling grechka into my mouth, thinking I would suggest that we order food later, as there was nothing in the refrigerator.

She lovingly inquired of the pups whether they were ready for their breakfast- an unnecessary question as they were tripping over each other to beat her to the kitchen.

She continued to converse with them as she moved to the next room, located their respective dishes and began to fill them with food. “Yes, you do want breakfast, don’t you? I know you do, I do too, but I don’t have anything to eat…” at this she paused, turned to me and said “Maral-what are you eating?”

Through my peripheral vision I could see her standing in the kitchen, bowl in hand, spoon suspended in mid-air, the over eager animals whimpering at her feet. In that instant, what should have occurred to me long before, clicked into place in my brain and, without looking at her, I mumbled into my spoon,

“It’s dog food, isn’t it?”

I sat for several minutes while she shook with silent laughter and the dogs yowled with impatience and perhaps annoyance that someone else had eaten their food. I laughed myself, as there was really nothing else to do, and tried to reason with everyone in the room.

“I- well- it looks like human food, I mean, it is human food--damn it the dogs eat better than we do.”

My friend looked as though she might wet herself and gasped,

“What did it taste like?”

“It tastes…okay” I said, trying to convince myself as much as her.

“There’s fish in it.”

It’s not that I have anything against fish, I quite like it actually. But there’s a difference between a nice fish dinner and tinned sardines that have been cooked until they dissolve into the grechka.

This misunderstanding occurred a week before I adopted the kitten that would later become Grechka the Great. (That title just occurred to me now, actually, as the little tyrant sleeps in the pocket of my hoodie.)

I settled on the name Grechka for a few reasons:

  1. I believe it will keep me, if not the cat, humble.

I cannot call the animal to me without being reminded of the incident. It makes me laugh but also reminds me that I am no better, or worse, than any other dog food eating human.

2. It fits into the “naming animals after food” category, which was an important factor from the beginning.

In Armenia, when faced with an unbearably cute child or animal, people have the tendency to call them hamov (tasty). As in “you are so cute I want to eat you”. This always makes me think of In Where the Wild Things Are one character says to the other (I can’t remember which) “I’ll eat you up, I love you so.”

I may never describe a baby as “tasty” but I can’t help but swell with pride when I have strangers on the street saying it to my cat.

3. Grechka is a gender-neutral name* (unless it is feminine in Russian, I don’t know the language beyond the odd word mixed in to Eastern Armenian).

I was hoping for a male kitten but realized when this lump was the first to wobble over to me, that I had to take it home, regardless of the sex. I had picked it up and couldn’t put it back down again.

It’s also difficult to tell the sex when they are so young, though a very awkward Google search later confirmed for me that Grechka was, and is, in fact, a girl. However, even after discovering this, I still alternate between ‘he’, ‘she’ and ‘it’ when referring to…well you know.

Though the beast is named, I find it makes little difference what I say to it. I don’t know if there’s ever been a cat that responded to its name, but this one certainly doesn’t.

The things Grechka does respond to are as follows:

  1. Food
  2. Cuddles
  3. Phone Chargers

I am merely a vehicle for providing all of the above to the monster.

*I have since been informed that grechka is, in fact, feminine in Russian. I should have been tipped off by the ‘a’ at the end, but, again, I will attribute this to my lack of knowledge of the Russian language.

One clap, two clap, three clap, forty?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.