We adopted Bonkers and Boo from a shelter on Misawa Air Base in 2003, not at the same time but within a month or two of each other. Boo was just a kitten when we adopted her and we called her Chessie back then; she started playing hide and seek games with us almost right away and that’s how she became known as Boo.
Bonkers was about six years old and the oddest cat we’d ever met, really more of a dog than a cat. He was dog-friendly; everyone he met was instantly his friend. If you weren’t petting him, he would insist that you correct this oversight immediately by bonking his head against whatever part of you he could bonk into soonest. This was not the face-rubbing hello that almost all cats do – he head-butted you. Repeatedly, if you didn’t start petting him right away. And that’s how he became known as Bonkers.
That, and the fact that he was genuinely bonkers, as in crazy nutso weird. He used to bark like a dog, usually while standing at the back door looking at something in the yard. Not quite like a dog, but just enough that one of us would cock our heads and say, “What the hell was that?” when he started barking. He was a stray before the shelter brought him in; they found him wandering the streets, which made me think he might have been pining for the outdoors. If so, it didn’t take long before he got used to being indoors. He stopped barking within a year of his adoption and became a very contented house cat.
He never stopped howling, though, another of his odd quirks. He would almost always howl after his belly was good and full, and he stood at the top of the basement stairs to do it. I assumed that was where he thought the acoustics were best. If he got up in the middle of the night to get a drink of water or use the litter box, usually both, he would announce to the whole house that he was up and about by howling, howling, howling on his way from the bedroom to the kitchen. I tried but never found a way to break him of that.
At the time we adopted him, he had deep black stripes and a bright golden undercoat that faded by the end of the first year he was with us. His belly remained orangish but he never regained the tiger-like appearance he had the first time we met him at the pound.
He and Boo made the trip from Japan in a mesh carry-on bag under the seat on the airplane, instead of stuffed into the cargo hold with the baggage. The last time we tried that, our cat got lost with our bags! The carry-on option sounded like a better idea, and it was, sorta. We didn’t lose the cats, but cat bladders aren’t made to hold it for twelve hours. Poor Bonky needed a sponge bath by the time we got to Los Angeles.
I had no idea what a fierce mouser he would be until we moved to our little red house, which has a ready supply of them. Boo will chase mice and on occasion trap and kill them, but Bonkers pounced like a predator, batted them around until they were deader than a doornail, then ate them whole and finished by parading up and down the floor, howling Who’s the baddest mouser? That’s right! I’m the baddest! Bring it! I had no idea that cats really ate mice. I thought maybe they just gnawed on them a bit, so the first time he trapped a mouse I took it away from him. After that he wouldn’t let me, gobbling them up almost as soon as he saw me coming. So there!
As he aged, he became one of the lappiest cats I’ve ever met. He might be curled up on the sofa, sound asleep when I tiptoed into the living room with a book and sat down in a chair to do a little reading, but as soon as I settled in, his lapdar would alert him to the nearby appearance of a lap, jolting him awake. He would jump down from the sofa, have a good, long stretch, then trot across the room to claim his rightful spot on my lap – after he gave it a good kneading and turned around a couple times to make sure the feng shui was right, and probably bonk my hand once or twice to make sure I knew it was time to pet him.
He was part of our household almost exactly eleven years, and we’ve never had a pet that so easily and completely made himself at home in our hearts. He was, no question, the greatest cat ever.