Virgo, taking a rest from terrorizing Cassi

Two and a half months after the tragedy of September 11th, a friend of mine told me her twin sister’s cat had a litter of kittens they needed to find homes for. Having acquired Andromeda ( several weeks earlier, and being in college at the time, I decided a playmate for Andromeda was a good idea.

The day before Thanksgiving 2001, I went to my friend’s home with a plan to get a male kitten. They had three, and I had a name already picked out – Sagittarius. I am a Sagittarius, and it is the most spectacular object in the sky. I admit I am prejudiced, but astronomers sing its praises, too. Sagittarius contains the most Messier objects of any constellation, and the center of the galaxy is 27,000 light years in the direction of the “spout” of the teapot that is Sagittarius. I had a plan.

Well, the best laid plans of mice and men, as they say. It is said that the best pet relationships are those where the pet chooses their person, and Virgo definitely chose me. The only girl of the group, at eight weeks, she was the length of my palm, from the top of the middle finger to my wrist.

Virgo abyssinian cat in her witch Halloween costume.
She doesn’t object to her Halloween costume as much as the others objected to theirs.

As I sat there talking with my friend, this little kitten kept turning around and looking at me, saying, “Mew,” in that sweet kitten voice. I kept saying I wanted a boy kitten, but Virgo wasn’t giving in with her cuteness and “mewing”. After a couple hours, I relented, and Virgo went home with me.

Another astronomical cat

Having settled on an astronomical naming convention with Andromeda, her name had to conform with that. Most of the constellations were boy names, though – Orion, Scorpius, Sagittarius, Leo, Cepheus, etc. Ugh. What to do? Then it hit me. Virgo.

Virgo, as a constellation, is nothing to look at. It is hard to make out, and only has a couple bright stars. But, oh the riches it reveals under at least a 10″ telescope!! The Virgo Cluster is a cluster of at least 2000 GALAXIES. Yes, I said galaxies. The Milky Way we live in is one, with 100 – 400 billion stars in it, and there are at least 2000 galaxies in the Virgo Cluster. I don’t have enough fingers to count the number of stars total. Well, that was good enough for me!! Virgo is a spectacular constellation after all. My new little girl was named.

Virgo abyssinian cat face on
I think she was intently observing a bug on the floor

Over the years, Virgo developed into a very lovable cat. During the 18 months when it was only she and Andromeda, they used to play World Wrestling Federation at the foot of my bed at 5:30 a.m. By now you have probably figured out that I love astronomy. Astronomer = night owl. Playing at the foot of my bed at 5:30 a.m. did not go over well. Virgo and Andromeda were summarily dismissed from my room, with the door shut tightly behind them.

Have you ever shut an inside door, knowing a cat is on the other side? I got the paws under the door. If you have cats, you’ve seen this. The cat will stretch its paw very cutely under the door, desperately trying to reconnect with the magic on the other side. This trick did not work with me, and I went back to bed.

As an astronomer, I am a late riser. In one of her more memorable moments, a few weeks after I got her, my dad visited. He was helping me with some home repairs, but had some drafting plans he had to work on, too. He worked on these before I awoke in the morning. He would lay these drafting plans out all over my dining room table, with instructions that cats were not permitted on the table. Ha!!! That rule was no match for Virgo. Her little 11 week old, 3 pound self easily jumped up on the table, into the middle of my dad’s drafting plans. My dad, being a funny and good-natured soul, scooped Virgo up in his hand, and mockingly scolded her. He explained to her, “Now, Virgo, we’ve had this conversation. Your mom says you’re not allowed on the table.” And he would set her on the floor. And 30 seconds later, she was back on the table. And he would explain the rule to her again. It was quite funny to watch.

Virgo LOVED to hide under the covers, as she is doing here.
Would you like me to share with you the number of days I my life I have wasted looking for Virgo, only to discover she’d buried herself under the covers, or hidden under my bed?

How to Keep a Cat off a Table or Counter

Virgo was determined to make that dining room table her home. I was determined to not let her do that. I judiciously took the advice of others, who suggested lining the table with empty soda cans with pennies inside. When a cat jumps on the surface, the story goes, the cat knocks over one of these cans, making a terrible clamor, which cats hate, so they learn from this, and quit jumping on the surface. This did not work with Virgo.

I had also been told to line the table with double sticky tape. Cats hate sticky stuff on their paws, so they will land on the double sticky tape and not be happy, and quit jumping on the table. Virgo, being part abysinnian, was very svelte, and could easily leap the offending double sticky tape. What to do, what to do?

Home Depot is one of my very favorite places, and I spent a ton of time there while remodeling that home. One of the things I had bought was the 3M spray glue, in the black can. Hmmmmm. This double sticky tape idea had merit, but it needed to be bigger. Aha!!! I subscribed to the newspaper at that time, so I used this. I covered the table with newspaper, overlapping to ensure full coverage. I hosed that newspaper down with the 3M spray glue, and let things be. Sure enough, Virgo jumped up on the table. This time, she got more than she bargained for. She looked at me as if I were the Anti-Christ. I took pictures, but I have misplaced them. This was the funniest look I have ever seen from a cat.

Virgo would pick one paw up, lick it clean, be satisfied with that, then set it down to pick the next one up, lick it clean, lather, rinse, repeat. She was not amused. But guess who quit jumping on the dining room table? It was totally worth the dirty looks just to see her reaction.

Virgo hanging out on a pair of my then-boyfriend's undies.
Of the myriad of places to lay, she has to lay on my boyfriend’s undies.

She eventually became a cuddlier kitty, especially after Pegasus died. She began sleeping under the covers with me, too. On the afternoon of December 10, 2017, she died. It was like she just woke up that morning and decided she was going to die that day. I wasn’t even supposed to have been home when it happened. I’d been at an event all weekend, and made an impromptu stop home between gatherings to nap and change clothes. Virgo came out from where she’d been hiding, swayed, and nearly fell over. I scooped her up and loved her, tried to get her to eat and gave her some thyroid medication. She yacked that up and died on my sofa five minutes later. She was the second cat to die in 13 months. My heart was shattered, especially against the background of everything else that was going on in my life. I didn’t get an autopsy on her. I suspected it had something to do with her thyroid, which her vet and I had been working on for a few months. She was a very sweet kitty and I miss her dearly. Someday I will compose a lengthier tribute to her. For now, you can enjoy some of her pics.

Virgo snuggling my astronaut teddy bear I got from Kennedy Space Center, when I was there to watch the launch of Space Shuttle Discovery.
Virgo snuggling my Kennedy Space Center acquired astronaut bear. She must have known she was named for an extremely important celestial object.