In November 2000, I was a high school sophomore and, after discussing my desire to get a cat with my parents, decided to adopt one. I went to the ASPCA in Dallas, accompanied by my older step-sister, Krysta.
What was I looking for? In middle school my family and I adopted a markedly high-energy, extraordinarily playful, and irrepressibly naughty half-Siamese all-black longhaired cat named Misdemeanor. (Yes, her name was aptly chosen. If she had been a bigger cat, she would have been Felony. She was a very naughty girl.) Unfortunately, Misdemeanor did not stay with us for very long since she once slipped out the dog door and never returned home. After a lot of searching, we were fairly certain that, since she was a gorgeous cat, someone had taken her in. So we went several years without a cat. While I enjoyed her playfulness, I wanted a less high-octane cat. A more laid-back lap cat appealed to me most. In terms of color, I didn’t have my heart set on any particular color or breed, although I must admit that I have a definite soft spot for black cats. (Who doesn’t like having a house panther?)
The ASPCA had three community cat rooms at the time–one for kittens, one for adult males, and one for adult females. Kittens are adorable, of course, but they tend to be frisky little rascals, not chill lap cats. I hung out in the room with the boys but none of the toms really stuck out in my mind. Ultimately I spent the most time in the girl cat room. There were four black cats but all were seemingly aloof and indifferent, completely uninterested in engaging with me. (NB: This happened to be the case with these individual cats. Not all black cats are snooty and unsocial.)
Only two cats remain vivid in my mind all these years later. One of them was a slender red spotted tabby named Ladybug. I estimated her to be about six months old, certainly less than a year old, so there was a kittenish element to her. Confident, she came right up to me and wanted to play, but once I sat down she made a beeline for my lap. She was charming and vivacious so I found her quite delightful. While I was preoccupied with Ladybug, I didn’t pay attention to the other cats in the room. Distracted, I didn’t see a dark cat-shaped blur until Ladybug had been politely but abruptly ousted from my lap. The blur was a young tuxedo cat, who had daintily climbed into my lap and sat there like she owned me.
“Well hello there,” I said. “Why did you shoo off Ladybug? I can visit with you too.”
Before I knew it, the tuxedo cat draped herself across my chest and left shoulder, wrapping her right paw around my arm, leaving her back legs and tail sprawled across my torso. She rested her head on her left paw. Apparently this cat was part-Gumby, part-liquid, given the way she stretched so languidly. The whole time she vibrated with the loudest purr. This cat was also part-Velcro since she was now attached to me quite firmly.
I stood up with her draped on my shoulder; apparently me moving around didn’t bother her in the slightest. I gently detached her from me and put her down on the floor. She raced up the cat shelves and leapt off of one, flying back onto my shoulder. I put her down again and scurried out of the room to visit the boy cats and kittens again. When I returned, the same little tuxedo cat sat in front of the glass door, waiting with great anticipation of my return and giving me a running commentary all the while. When I opened the door, she leapt from the floor onto my shoulder (I was too surprised to put my hands up and catch her). Again, immediate purring ensued. She was utterly adorable.
Krysta stopped by; it was getting late and we needed to start home. “Did you pick a cat?”
“No,” I said. “One picked me!” I gestured to the tuxedo cat, whose name at the time was Minx or Mittens (I think).
Krysta laughed. “Well, do you want her? She clearly likes you and she’s lovey.”
I don’t think there was any doubt in this cat’s mind that I would be the one who would take her home, feed her, and love her a long time.
With regard to her name, I already had an inkling to call her Boudicca, which is derived from Brythonic boud, meaning “victory”. I named her after the queen of the British Celtic Iceni tribe who led an uprising against the Romans in AD 60-61. While my Boudicca was not nearly so hardcore, I thought it was a name with great character.
When I told my stepdad what I wanted to name her, he exclaimed, “What? You want to name your cat Booty Call?!” After I stopped laughing, I corrected him. My grandmother misheard me and thought I wanted to name her Botitas, or “little boots” in Spanish, considering that she had white paws. Such was my family’s reception to my cat’s unusual name.
Being a writer with a flare for names (I study onomastics as a hobby), I ended up giving her a multi-part name. First I added Queen before Boudicca in honor of her namesake sovereign. My grandmother likened her beautiful eyes to that of the seductive Mata Hari, so that was soon added. When she sat in a classic loaf-cat pose, her ears often tilted and her eyes appeared to turn green so she looked a bit like an owl and partly like Malificent: wise, content, and possibly plotting some nefarious deed…after she finished her nap. So her final name became Sophia (Ancient Greek for “wisdom”). Her full name is thus Queen Boudicca Mata Hari Sophia. The vet techs call her Queen B or Miss B. As you can probably guess, she has many, many nicknames, some of which include Boo, Boophus, Boophus Brain, Googly Girl, Her Majesty, and Pretty Girl.
This is the earliest picture I have saved of Boudicca, dated November 2011. By this time she had filled out to her adult house panther size. When I first took her home in 2002, she had an adolescent cat’s slim physique.