She is all of the above, but most of all, VERY Sweet too!
…My Norwegian Forest Cat.
In Memory: Silja, 15 February, 2000 — 2 February, 2016
“Time spent with cats is never wasted” – Sigmund Freud
Silja was born, 15 February 2000 in Solingen, Germany at Hojmarkens Cattery. In the weeks prior, I had already decided I wanted a cat. However, what type? I was single then, stationed overseas, and thought it would be nice to have a pet. Sure, I could have taken in any cat, but this time, I really wanted a purebred. I looked at cat magazines, and searched online, looking at the different breeds; their grooming needs, personalities, whether they were active, or calm. I saw a picture of a Norwegian Forest Cat (NFC) online, and knew right away, that was the one! They are a natural breed of cat that once roamed the forests of Norway and Finland up to 4,000 years ago, and sailed with the Vikings, keeping their ships clear of rats, and mice. Wegie’s, as they are sometimes called, are thought to be the ancestors of the Main Coon cat in the USA.
I was in Germany already, so the possibility of locating a breeder in Europe was very high. Was it luck, or fate? Hojmarken’s Cattery had kittens, just born less than a week earlier. I had originally tried to reserve another cat, but Katja Schmatz, the owner/breeder, told me that cat had already been sold, however, there was one more available, named Silja. I said, “Please save Silja for me.” She was one week old, when I drove from Spangdahlem, up to Solingen to see her for the first time. Silja had just returned from the vet not long before I arrived, and was feeling a little groggy from her vaccinations. Nevertheless, after I sat on the couch beside all the kittens, Silja staggered over to me. Katja said, “Cats and their owners just seem to find each other.”
I had to wait eleven more weeks before I could bring her home. Socialization of cats is much better if they can stay with their mother’s and siblings for at least twelve weeks. Silja, was entered into a cat show at just three months old, and won a trophy and title of Best in Variety. Norsk skaukatt is how to say Norwegian Forest Cat in German. In addition, there is a saying, “Bet you can’t just have one”. For me that was true, in 2001, I acquired another one, named Kayleigh, who has since passed away from diabetes at twelve and a half years old.
Then in 2003, I received orders for a remote, short tour in Honduras. That meant I could only take no more than 500 pounds of personal belongings, and NO pets, or family members, had I been married, for one year. I was desperate to find someone to take care of them. I did not want to have to give them up. They were my baby girls! Some family friends in Colorado were gracious enough to cat sit for me for the year. I sent them cat support payments every month though. The year passed by and then we were off to my follow-on in Alaska. Just the kind of weather Silja and Kayleigh’s double coats were equipped for, consisting of a soft wooly undercoat and water repellant guard hairs on the outside in the winter. The undercoat is molted in summer.
The drive from Colorado to Alaska went well. The girls were in a medium sized kennel, right beside me in the passenger seat. They both settled into the routine of driving all day and stopping for the night. It took a week of driving to make it through Canada, routing through Edmonton in Alberta, then into British Columbia, arriving at Dawson Creek (Mile-0, “Where the adventure begins,” on the Alaska Highway), and camping by the beautifully scenic Muncho Lake. Later, we passed through Whitehorse in the Yukon, shortly after entering Alaska. The farther North we drove, the longer the days were in late May. We saw grizzly bear, caribou, and moose.
We left Alaska in 2007, with orders to Eglin AFB, in Fort Walton Beach, Florida. The cats would travel the Alaska Highway again, this time in reverse. On this trip however, the car was loaded with not only myself and the girls, but also my new wife, and her dog, we had flown from Peru to Alaska. Yay, Road Trip! It was an exciting move from the Arctic Circle to Sunny Florida. Silja even stayed a night at the Edmonton Mall, in Canada, which is the world’s largest mall, with two hotels in it.
In August of 2008, I had retired from the U.S. Air Force and my son was born just seventeen days later. After a year or so, we moved down to Key West, FL for college. With road, trips being old hat by now, the cats rode peacefully with me in the U-Haul truck without any fuss. Within another year, the cats were flying out of Miami, to Miraflores, Lima, Peru where they had an ocean view from the sixth floor.
Silja’s 15th birthday is fast approaching, approximately 76 years old in human years. Time is taking its toll on her little body, as I had found her many times laying on top of my laptop keyboard seeking warmth from the nearly constant 100% humidity in Lima. She shut down the computer by stepping on the power switch one too many times and I had to replace the hard drive. I searched high and low, everywhere to find a 220V electric heating pad for her, but to no avail. Thank goodness for Amazon.com. Now Silja has a comfortable, heated bed that is on top of my desk. I think every writer or thinker needs a cat around, right?
I would like to think she is the smartest cat in the world, since she is nearly always with me, and hears all of the news I peruse in gathering many different opinions on current events, economics, finance, and investing around the world. Alternatively, perhaps she is the most traveled cat, having been in four different countries, and seventeen of the fifty United States. Regardless of that, to me, Silja is the sweetest, most lovable and adorable cat I have ever known, and she has certainly enriched my life.
Note: I submitted this post in December, responding to The Wall Street Journal’s Expat-Pets Abroad: Nominate Yours For The ‘Expet’ Hall of Fame. Silja’s picture was featured in the article. Click here to see the article and read about other ExPet’s too.