Today I am challenging myself to write about Panda, the world’s least interesting cat. It’s difficult to put into words what it is that makes Panda so supremely uninteresting. He is neither smart nor stupid, neither affectionate nor standoffish, neither happy nor cranky, neither serious nor funny.
His mother and his siblings sparkle with personality and charm, and then there is Panda, staring around rather blankly. They are such personable cats: when you look into their eyes, you feel connected to them, in relationship, like you know them and they know you. Even though I’ve lived with Panda for nearly three years, he is a stranger to me.
Perhaps it’s a failing on my part, but I am not sure there is much there to get to know. He is a handsome cat, but it’s hard to think of one cute or amusing thing he has ever done. Okay, there is one cute thing he does, though it’s also kind of annoying. A few times a week, he carries a stuffed toy around in his mouth and meows loudly, repeatedly, frantically through the toy. The other cats, by contrast, do dozens of cute and amusing things every day that are not the least bit annoying. Panda never quite seems to be enjoying himself, even though he also never quite seems to be not enjoying himself.
One. He still flinches nearly every time he’s touched. He is affectionate enough. He sleeps in the crook of my husband’s arm every night, likes to be picked up and held and pet by my husband a couple of times a day. Oddly, Panda was the first in his family that I touched: he allowed me to pet him when he was still fully feral living outdoors. And he was the only one of the little family I could simply pick up and carry inside when it came time to rescue them. It seemed to bode well for his future as a loving housecat. But even when he sees the hand coming towards him to pet him–and we try to always let him know that we’re about to pet him so that he won’t flinch–he never seems quite ready for it.
Two. He had one bright and shining moment as a kitten, a moment of true heroism. Poor Chipotle took three days to catch, so while his siblings and mama were safely inside, he was pitifully alone outdoors. When I finally caught him and brought him into the room with his family, they all scattered and hid. Chipotle dashed under a shelf on the other side of the room and cried loudly. I thought his mama would come to find this kitten who had been missing for days. But nope, she stayed hidden behind a chair. Instead, it was Panda who scrambled out, dashed across the room under the bookshelf, and herded his screaming little bro back across the room to mama cat.
Three. He is every cat’s BFF. I call him the passepartout, the master key that fits everywhere. He wrestles with everyone, snuggles with everyone, chases with everyone. Zorro does not like other cats at all, but he loves Panda. Even when Zorro is angry at Oliver or at life and takes his feelings out by swatting Panda, Panda never gets cross. And Panda was truly gentle and supportive with Abby as she gradually became more ill. He spent hours by her side, allowing her to use him as a pillow. Some nights, she literally crawled fully on top of him and fell asleep.
Four. He has never taken a bad photograph. I have hundreds of bad cat photos on my phone–bad light, out of focus, eyes closed, ears back, one eye closed, mid-yawn, back of head, etc. I don’t have one single bad photo of Panda. Not one. Even out of focus, he’s a handsome thing. And unlike his siblings, who are nearly unrecognizable in their kitten photos, Panda still looks exactly the same as he did as a kitten.
Five. He has one bad habit: he likes to roll in cat litter. At least once a day he pops up from the basement absolutely coated in grit and dust. But he has this magical fur that somehow self-cleans within minutes, and suddenly he’s this gorgeous glossy clean thing again.
Six. It probably tells you everything you need to know about Panda that I can only think of five things you should know about him.