Dasha Ziborova
Jun 21 · 9 min read

Her name was Pussy. Pussycat. My mother didn’t see any controversy in that name. To her, it was as foreign and exotic as a Siamese cat itself. In the late ’70s, this fascinating breed just started to be known in the Soviet Union.

When we first met Pussy, she was tiny and miserable, and she’d clearly been abused by her previous owner. My mother intended only to foster her at first, but nobody volunteered to adopt Pussy, due to the cat’s nasty nature, and she ended up staying with us for good.

As a small kitten, Pussy experienced that the world was cruel, and she decided that life was nothing but survival of the fittest. No loving home could change her opinion on that. For Pussy, it was to kill or be killed, and, unfortunately for us, we were her prey.

She terrorized us. She terrorized our guests.

She chased away my already distant father.

She found the whole concept of a litter box degrading, and in protest she put her “marks” everywhere. Our corridor looked like a minefield, as we tried to cover up her favorite spots with upside down furniture and force her to use the litter box, but it was of no use.

She especially targeted people who didn’t like her — so practically everyone. Pussy was on a warpath and she took no prisoners. In her revenge, she knew no mercy.

There was one exception: my mother. Pussy was all star-eyed and smitten in her presence.

She was possessive and jealous.

Even in her sleep, my mother was under Pussy’s control. I knew why my father had to stay away.

Mother suspected that our pet situation wasn’t normal, but in those times, a cat behaviorist was unheard of. Pets were not considered family members and didn’t bear their family’s last name on their visits to the vet’s office. And those visits were very rare. Even though a “Pussy Ziborova” name tag certainly had some potential.

The other problem was money. Pussy proved to be very expensive to keep. Anyone with a Siamese cat knows how choosy and stubborn these cats are when it comes to food. Pussy’s eating habits were getting out of hand — she only ate the highest quality raw meat. Good fresh cuts were impossible to acquire in regular stores, so, my mother was buying kebabs at a restaurant’s deli. It cost a fortune, and the rest of us were forced to survive on borscht and fried potatoes.

Of course, we also tried the “tough love” approach, but with Pussy it was unachievable.

Even after three days of a hunger strike, Pussy would not give up and eat a lesser meal. At some point, we became afraid she would eat us instead.

Through one of her friends, my mother got in touch with a woman who was a breeder of Rottweiler dogs. We thought that if she could deal with such dangerous and demanding dogs, of course she could help us with a little kitty.

At last, our Lady of Mercy arrived. She looked at our small, skinny Pussy and laughed.

Pussy obeyed. She broke her fast and swallowed a few morsels of the food we were so desperate to give her. We watched in bemusement as the woman gave us a lecture on training tigers.

It was winter time, and our guest had arrived wearing expensive, fashionable high boots and a fur hat. During tea time, I heard some strange noises coming from our coat room.

My mother heard it, too.

It took some time for the woman to comprehend what those noises meant… Pussy had peed in both of the lady’s fur-lined boots.

My mother wanted to fall through the earth, but the woman was so embarrassed by her own failure that she didn’t even asked us for compensation.

We thought that we had experienced it all, but the worst was yet to come. Spring arrived, and with that, our Pussy became amorous. Her longing was expressed vocally. It was a 24-hour, 120-decibel never-ending cat opera marathon.

No one in our 14-floor apartment building could sleep. We were faced with an angry mob.

Siamese were a rare cats in Leningrad, and it took us awhile to locate a potential suitor. Finally, Pussy’s mate was found and delivered to our door. Unfortunately, we didn’t know female cats were territorial.

My war-hero grandmother was at home with us when it happened. We all took shelter in a locked bathroom.

Since we were not prepared to scrape remains of all Pussy’s unfortunate suitors off the walls, it became apparent that the usual methods wouldn’t work. We had to get creative here.

My mother put a collar around Pussy’s neck with her name and address on it, and released her into the wild.

We were secretly hoping that Pussy would find her love and happiness somewhere else.

But it only took two hours for Pussy to be delivered back to us.

We didn’t want Pussy to disfigure more people, so we didn’t send her out again. At first, Pussy was so distressed from her ordeal that she stayed quiet for a little while.

The less pleasant side effect was that now everyone in our neighborhood knew we had a Siamese. There were a lot of stray cats on the streets of Leningrad, but Siamese were extremely rare. It was a real mystery how one of those cats ended up on the street, but here he was, another Siamese cat!

And now our whole neighborhood thought that he belonged to us!

After saying, “Thank you, but no,” about 10 times, my mother had an idea.

We took them both to the basement and closed the door. We figured that the street guy should be tough enough, right?

We opened the door in the morning. The street cat quickly ran past us. Interestingly enough, he was never seen in the neighborhood again!

And Pussy…

She stopped her daily concerts. She became kind of cozy. She slept a lot. She ate even more of the kebabs. And her lean body rounded. It was clear that Pussy was going to be a mother!

We all were so excited for her! And for us. Perhaps motherhood was Pussy’s redemption? Perhaps, contained and happy, she would abandon her old ways and become a nice Pussycat, at least?

It was a real honeymoon time in our house. Pussy even let us all sit on the sofa together.

The due date arrived, and our Pussy gave birth to five perfect kittens who looked like tiny blind mice, all pink and white. Their dark spots would develop weeks later. Pussy was a caring and proud mother, but she was also strict. She was determined that her brood would have perfect manners.

To our astonishment, Pussy was bringing her kittens to the litter box! And she watched over them until their “business” was done — only then, would she allow them to step out of the box.

As for herself, she was above the rules, as always.

All was well for about six weeks, and we started to believe that Pussy was reformed by motherhood.

Until

We couldn’t believe it was starting all over again! Neither could our neighbors.

Pussy became aggressive again. One day, my grandma came home while all of us were out. She wasn’t a big fan of Pussy, but surely, she didn’t deserve that.

I don’t really know why my mother hadn’t considered spaying Pussy before. Were such procedures still not common in Russia? Did someone advise her against it? Did she have a premonition? But, finally, my mother took Pussy to the vet for the first time.

She came back many hours later, without Pussy. Her face was puffy and her eyes red. The vet found something very wrong with our cat, and after many hours debating, the only advice he could give my mother was to put the cat down. According to the doctor, it was only going to get worse. Mother was desperate, but she just couldn’t put up with Pussy’s troubles anymore.

My mother was missing Pussy terribly…

…but I’m sorry to say, she was the only one. For once, instead of our little domestic terrorist, we now had five giddy and well-behaved kittens. People were lining up to adopt them, and even though all of them were fantastic, one male kitten won our hearts.

After four of Pussy’s children found good homes, Malish (Baby) stayed behind with us.

Spiralbound

Comics for life, brought to life by Edith Zimmerman.

Dasha Ziborova

Written by

artist/author. Born and raised in St. Petersburg, Russia, lives in NYC. To subscribe for her graphic stories: https://www.realtimeinink.com/

Spiralbound

Comics for life, brought to life by Edith Zimmerman.