In memoriam:

Jan. 1985 - 30 Nov. 2000


Sex: Female Born: circa Jan. 1985
Died: 30 Nov. 2000
Type: Tortoiseshell-tabby shorthair. Origin: Stray (abandoned).
Features: Mackerel tabby markings, mottled by tortoiseshell coloration and dusting of white behind left shoulder.
Name: After Persian princess Barsine Stateira, daughter of Darius III and second wife of Alexander the Great.


In November of '85, when I'd had two cats for a couple of years, I was toying with the idea of adopting a third. The cat-gods apparently overheard, because one cold, stormy night, I heard a cat crying outside my apartment. I went out to investigate and found a little tabby girl meowing pitifully at the door of a nearby apartment. At first I thought they'd gone out for the evening and left her outside, but as I walked by I looked in through the patio door and realized the apartment was empty -- someone had just moved out.

I remembered having seen a tabby cat looking out the window of that apartment on various occasions, and wondered whether she had been left behind when they moved. Anyhow, it was apparent she wasn't going to be let into what she insisted was her home, so I took her into mine. She spent most of her first night under the bed, growling at Boojum, who was highly curious about her.

After that, it was the usual story. I put up "found cat" flyers, in case she was just lost, but got no results. And since I'd been thinking about getting a third one anyway... Well, she stayed. I wanted to name her after a queen or princess, and after rejecting a few other candidates, I settled on "Barsine", after the daughter of Darius III of Persia. I revised the spelling to "Barsina" to make it easier for the folks at the vet's office.

She got along well with Taliesin and Boojum after a few days of getting used to each other, and settled in happily. It became obvious that she'd been used to somewhat different rules from the ones in my household; the first time she saw the other cats on my bed, she looked absolutely horrified and stared at me apprehensively as though she expected me to fuss at them. It was a while before she realized that getting on the bed was OK here, and even when she started doing it herself, she would jump down and run at first if I came into the room. She was also afraid of the broom; I suspect she'd been swatted with one at some point.

According to the vet's estimate, Barsina was around ten months old when I adopted her, which would put her birth sometime early in 1985. She matured into a dignified cat, somewhat aloof with visitors, but very affectionate when in the mood. She had a marvelous purr, which I could often hear all the way from the next room.

Barsina got along with the rest of the clan, but didn't have any especially close friends and was sometimes irritated by the more rambunctious of the younger cats. A fairly dominant sort, she always let them know who was boss if they got in her way, but normally she just sat on her perches (usually on top of bookcases) and watched everyone. She always liked being up high, and her favorite spot in her later years was a fleece cup bed on top of a seven-foot bookcase in my home office.

Barsina was my first torbie (tortoiseshell-tabby) girl, and demonstrated a trait which I have come to associate with that coloration: a penchant for shredding paper and cardboard. In her early years she got into my sewing patterns and wrought havoc, and I still have various paperback books that she gnawed the corners off of. She chewed on and tried to lick photographs, so I had to avoid leaving those lying around, and one time she demolished an entire sheet of postage stamps, licking the glue off and munching several of the stamps. She was fond of cardboard boxes, both for napping in and for chewing the flaps into little bits.

When she was young, Barsina's favorite game was "chase the bootlace". I had a long, heavy leather thong, originally intended as a bootlace, and I would stand in the middle of the room with it and spin around, so the outer end traveled in a rapid circle. She would charge after this at high speeds until I got dizzy and had to stop. In her older years, Barsina was less interested in playing, preferring to maintain her dignity and watch from a lofty perch, but occasionally she could be tempted into pouncing on a feather lure. She remained interested in anything I was doing, and loved attention -- she was never much of a lap-cat, but would often sit on the desk beside my computer monitor and chirp at me, cocking her head to one side in a distinctive way and purring loudly, when she wanted her head rubbed. During her last couple of years she also got into the habit of putting me to bed at night: within a few minutes after I turned in, she would come sit beside me on the bed and purr while I petted her for ten minutes or so. Then, her job done for the night, she went back to her own favorite sleeping-places.

Barsina stayed in good health into old age, getting a bit scrawny but remaining quite vigorous. On Thanksgiving Day, 2000, she suffered a sudden loss of her sense of balance, resulting in vertigo so severe she couldn't even sit up. The initial diagnosis was "idiopathic vestibular syndrome", a condition which occurs occasionally in older cats and which usually begins to resolve within a few days, with recovery in two or three weeks. She received supportive care, but showed no improvement after several days. Tests showed no sign of an infection or abnormal growth in her ear, and it finally appeared that the most likely cause was the worst one: a tumor on the brain stem. I was planning to take her to a neurologist to see whether anything else could be done (though it wasn't likely), but Barsina died suddenly before we got there. She was a brave girl, and handled her impairment during that last week with patience and good spirits.


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