Renata was born on a special holiday, Valentine’s Day. In Mexico, Valentine’s day is not celebrated only by sweethearts; it is known as "el día de amor y amistad" (the day to celebrate both love and friendship). Renata’s birthday was auspicious--I believe it shaped her character for life.
Renata began life simply as "Renata"; "Valentina" was added shortly after the friends who had given her to me and I attended a cat show in Mexico City, several months after Renata had joined the household. I was amazed to see how many Siamese had such long and elegant names and believed Renata had somehow been shortchanged. Yes, she was named for René, a stray cat I’d once tried to rescue, a friendly and smart tabby boy who would come bounding across the rooftops whenever I called, but good intentions aside, Renata was still missing the dignity of a longer and more elegant "Siamese" name. So, to Renata, I then added "Valentina," because she was born on St. Valentine’s day, and because it is a long-standing custom in Mexico to give a child at least one name to commemorate the child’s saint’s day.
Renata exuded the friendliest of spirits and an equally high level of curiosity. From early kittenhood, every visitor was a potential friend. Renata had to "check" everyone out. She was curious and demanding and had nonstop energy. She played hide-and-seek with whomever tried to catch her but would then surprise you by suddenly landing on your lap or at your side, demanding your attention.
When Renata was a year and a half old, she had her first litter of four: Muffin, Willie Boy, Mao, and Vanushka (Fred’s mother), born August 14, 1981. I took Renata and her four kittens to my new apartment (my ex-husband and I separated then), where Renata promptly fell ill (one of the few times in her life that she was seriously ill); the vet believed she had eaten some fish that could have been slightly contaminated. Renata recovered from this bout, only to escape through an open window two days later. She returned because she knew that her kittens, although already weaned, were waiting for her. Eight long hours after she left home, I heard her scratching at the window. She never took another "long trip away from home" again.
Nearly a year later, in May 1982, Renata gave birth to six: Bobby, Reyna, Timmie, Malvina, Gabriela, and Rodrigo. Rodrigo was the runt of the litter, as Renata could feed only five. When everyone else had gone to new homes, Renata took extra care of Rodrigo until, at 14 weeks, he was a strong and playful full-sized kitten who basked in her attention. Then, he too went to a loving home.
In March 1983, Renata had her last litter; there were four kittens, one of whom (Rudy, the third-born) almost didn’t survive. The other three—Natasha, Penny a.k.a. Gaterina, and Cronos were born healthy. Rudy’s placenta was ejected before Rudy was born. Renata sat on him, but a friend’s young son, who was witnessing the birth, noticed that Rudy might be "squashed" (as he said), so he lifted Renata and removed Rudy. Renata never "remembered" that Rudy was not well, and after giving birth to the fourth and last kitten, snuggled Rudy next to her just as she did with the others, and gave him too the gift of life. A lack of oxygen at birth was what the vet believed had caused Rudy to have very little balance—he could not walk. The vet "experimented" with a combination of vitamin B-12 and calcium supplements. In two weeks (at exactly four weeks of age), Rudy bounded up (literally) jumped on all fours and ran! From that point on, he was the swiftest, most active, and most challenging of Renata’s kittens. He was forever in trouble and setting a bad example for all the others, and Renata was constantly calling after him. Rudy went to the partner of the vet who saved his life.
Renata always allowed young visitors to touch and play with her kittens. She kept a watchful eye on all and seemed to understand that the children, like her kittens, were babies too.
Renata was very lonely without her kittens. It helped her to have "visitors"; she babysat several of her kittens after they left her--she recognized all her offspring until they were older than six months of age, and then, they became adult competitors, truly unsolicited guests… Renata’s main concern was to guard her home from unwelcome strangers.
When a change in jobs necessitated frequent (although not too long) absences from home, I noticed that Renata was becoming increasingly despondent. The vet suggested a male kitten as a companion, and daughter Vanushka came to the rescue! Fred joined our household in February 1984, when he was just eight weeks old. At first, Renata hissed at him; after all, she was "top cat," but it was merely a matter of days when she accepted him with open arms and an open heart. From that point forward, she cared for Fred as if he were her very own kitten, not a grandson a generation removed. She taught Fred how to use the litter box (Fred never let on that he was already skilled in that area); she led him to the food and water bowl and always made sure he ate first after he followed her to the food bowl; she taught him the ins and outs of apartment life in Mexico City and all the tricks of the feline trade. Renata and Fred were inseparable until he passed on April 11, 2001. When Fred was diagnosed with CRF in August 1999, I had to leave for a few days on a trip. Both Renata and Fred were boarded in one large (very spacious) cage at the vet’s, and true to form, Renata never left Fred’s side, comforted him at all times, and like the incredible mother/grandmother she always was, made sure he ate his K/D!
Renata was a keen judge of character. I remember how she once captured and reacted to the arrogance of a "literary critic" who was visiting my apartment in Mexico City to read a number of pieces I had written. I was concerned about the man’s denim jacket, as Renata was then prone to displaying her displeasure in a rather drippy manner… the man insisted that Renata was NOT about to do what I believed she was going to do… as we argued about the (inevitable) fate of this man’s jacket--with him looking Renata in the eye and insisting that HE understood cats because HIS brother was a veterinarian, a sudden gleam crossed Renata’s eyes, and she did immediately express her displeasure most copiously! I was quite copiously embarrassed, and soap and water was an effective remedy to the damage done, but… Renata was 100% correct, as always, about this person’s character!
Renata divided her guard duty among Fred, her territory, and me. Guests to my home were often amazed at how friendly, docile, and eager to please Renata was. Little did they know that they were Renata’s objects of attention in her attempt to guard Fred from strangers. Fred hid, while Renata checked out all visitors; if a visitor did not receive "hugs and kisses" from Renata, that visitor was on-the-spot "safe" for Fred to greet. Any strange adult feline who ventured at the door was told in no uncertain terms to "get lost," and they listened if they knew what was good for them. Even in her last few years, Renata continued ready and attentive near the door to guard against unwelcome feline guests. And, the anecdote of the denim jacket is just one of many that underscore Renata’s gruffly expressed maternal instincts toward me.
Although throughout most of her adult life Renata was never overtly demonstrably affectionate to me in the same way Fred had been, when she turned 15, she suddenly let me know that it was obligatory for her to rest in the crook of my arm until I fell asleep. Then, she would join Fred at my other side, and they would curl up together for the remainder of the night. One or both of them would always touch my body. Whenever I was ill, she never left my side; I was always sandwiched between her and Fred.
When, in April, Fred left us, Renata often cried out looking for him. We learned in our mutual grief to comfort each other. Many a night Renata would place her head on my shoulder, wrap her paws around my neck, and when tears flowed, she lifted her head, and licked the tears off my cheeks. She often slept with her head next to mine on the pillow. She made sure that she awakened me every day with a swipe to the cheek and a love-bite on the nose, followed by a proper cleansing of my nose and at least one of my ears. Even during the last few days of her life, she would very carefully wash various parts of my face, and the night after I was involved in a bad automobile accident two weeks ago, she slept next to me (although I now know that she was already ailing), with her face against my cheek all night long.
In August, Valentín joined us. After a few weeks’ adjustment period, he and Renata would curl up together on my bed. Valentín always sat by Renata and watched her carefully. I believe that they would have become fast friends; perhaps they were already friends. Valentín now spends nearly all his resting moments on the bed, sitting in the same spots Renata used to occupy, rolling on and burrowing into the covers in the same places where she used to rest.
A mild cold at the end of August resulted in a visit to the vet and a diagnosis that passed from borderline chronic renal failure to mild-to-moderate renal failure followed by a short stay at the vet’s for rehydration. We then began the regimen of sub-q’s and Pepcid. Renata was not too eager to be pilled, but she was an excellent patient when it came to the sub-q’s. Retesting showed that Renata was responding well to the treatment. Then, her arthritis seemed suddenly to be much worse, she stopped eating, and she stopped walking.
The last day of Renata’s life was the only day she did not spend in bed with me. That day, when I was at work, she had begun to urinate wherever she sat. She looked depressed; I thought that what appeared to all involved to be arthritis involving progressive weakening of the back legs (she was already on arthritis medication) was low potassium and took her to the vet’s expecting a supplemented dose of Ringers and a bottle of Tumil-K. Instead, Renata’s condition had suddenly progressed to massive organ failure. We had to help Renata to the bridge.
Renata, wherever you are, I hope you have found Fred and the two of you are once again entwined in an embrace of love and caring. We miss and mourn you. We love you. You were the salt of the earth, you loved us, and you were our best friend. I wish I had the power to comfort you as you comforted us.
A list member who never met Renata wrote the following, and I believe it sums up Renata and her great love for all she held dear:
"I remember Renata. I remember "her long and noble life and the love and care she extended to others." Always to Fred, leading him to his dinner, seeing to him. And to you, her last service, comforting and watching over you after your accident.
Mi Nati, mi Natita, my great big brave girl… Vaya con Dios, Renata.