Nati Panache (full name "Nathalie Frédérique Panache) was born on July 4, 2001 in central Texas, not too far from Austin. Her original family had purchased her, possibly from a breeder (details are a bit hazy). That family, however, had to move to Hawaii and, because of the quarantine requirements in Hawaii, decided to give Nati to a neighbor family who already had an adult female cat.
The adult cat took an instant dislike to Nati (a truly dominant personality), and the neighbor family was constantly scolding "Naughty Nati" for her antics. When, one day in late October 2001, my friend, who was the neighbor's children's pediatrician, found out about Nati, Nati was scheduled to be given to a shelter.
I had recently lost Renata (at 21 years and 7.5 months of age), and little Valentín was very lonely. I learned about Nati the very day the neighbor outlined her fate to my friend, and responded affirmatively, sight unseen, to my friend's notice that an 8-week-old female chocolate point Siamese was in imminent danger of being shipped to a shelter. My friend received Nati that afternoon, and she was slated to join our household shortly before Thanksgiving, when my friend would be visiting the San Francisco Bay Area, where I live.
I soon came to learn all about "Naughty Nati" who, at that time, was called "Tostada." She had joined a household of three other cats—one 18-year-old calico "Freeway," a calico kitten "Señorita Tamale," and a younger male chocolate point Siamese kitten "Señor Taquito" who was named for Fred (one of Fred's nicknames was "Señor Taquito," while Renata was "Señora Enchilada"). The new kitten immediately upset the apple cart and re-ordained the pecking order, creating mortal (feline) enemies and wreaking havoc—there was not a cabinet that she could not open nor a space that she did not invade.
"Tostada" was only one of the names given to the kitten. Because she had such an unforgettable presence and was endowed with "pizzazz," she was also called "Panache." When I renamed her "Nathalie Frédérique Panache" (nickname Nati or Nati Panache or Pani), it was evident to me that although I wanted to honor both Renata's memory and that of one of her kittens Natasha (Nati is the diminutive in Spanish for those names) as well as remember Fred, "Panache" was an integral part of who she was.
As soon as she entered my home, on November 20, 2002, my fear that Valentín would overpower her—after all, he was more than twice her size!—vanished into thin air. Nati immediately conveyed that she was top cat, and gave poor Vale such a "merry chase" complete with swats across the face when begged her to play that that he was gasping for breath, his little pink tongue hanging out, and I called the vet in alarm.
Three days later, after judicious separations and re-introductions, both kittens seemed completely at ease with each other, Vale's eyes adoringly following Nati's movements as she opened all the cabinets and closet doors, soared to great heights atop the refrigerator and the tallest of cabinets, and audaciously stealing food from my salad bowl. Nati's favorite is Romaine lettuce, and she eats this by sitting up and holding a piece of lettuce between her two front paws—she uses her dew claw like an opposing thumb, quite clever. Nati is a true gourmand, and Vale's repertoire of repasts has increased accordingly, thanks to Nati.
Nati and I occasionally have scolding sessions, as she often insists on drinking her water by splashing in the bowl and then licking her front paws and swinging about by hanging on to my hanging plants. Nati is a sprite in spirit, though not in size—actually on the large end for a female, a medium to dark chocolate point Siamese. She is intent on leaving no leaf unturned. She especially enjoys playing hide-and-seek with Vale (when she's awake and he's not playing the same with me), bringing me her "mousies," jumping up on the kitchen counter when I prepare lunch or dinner—especially when a salad is in the making, drinking from the water faucets, joining me at the edge of the kitchen sink when I wash the dishes and the bathroom sink when I brush my teeth. She especially likes splashing in the bathtub after I take a shower. There is not a door she has not figured out how to open—she tackles cabinet handles by using a front paw just like a person would use a hand and she pushes heavy sliding closet doors open by wedging herself between the door and the wall. Each night while Vale (or so I think) and I sleep, she opens every cabinet in the kitchen and explores all the contents.
Nati is still the prima donna who has Vale wrapped around all four paws. As she engages him in chase, prances atop a counter, or calls down to him from one of her perches, she can always count on his adoring gaze. She is a bit frightened of strangers and hides under the bedcovers where she also likes to rest undisturbed while Vale sits outside, resting a paw on her back or head, protecting her.
In May 2002, I captured Nati in a fixed and plotting gaze. Siamese Rescue liked the photo well enough to award Nati a place of honor in its 2003 calendar as the May pinup cat.
There's never a dull moment when Nati Panache is around, and she has
added a special sense of sparkle, of joie de vivre, to our lives.