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The Taming of the Kitty

Letha Alongi and Boo Boo
“Psycho Kitty” was not doing well. She had ended up with Vermont Volunteer Services for Animals Humane Society (VVSA) because its executive director, Sue Skaskiw, is experienced in the ways of feral and fearful felines. But her bad-girl ways were getting the best of her; she’d been shuffled in and out of a foster home in a matter of days and was still rejecting any food presented to her.

Skaskiw had brought Psycho Kitty back home from St. Bernard Parish, where she had applied her knowledge to the ’fraidycats in the emergency shelter there. Some of her charges were truly feral, others just traumatized.

Somewhere out there, there was someone who loved Psycho Kitty. But in Vermont, a local sheriff had tried to love her, too, bringing her home for his adult daughter to foster. While shaving in the bathroom one morning, he reached down to pat Psycho Kitty. The cat drew blood. The sheriff, a gentle man, was worried he’d somehow hurt the cat and thought maybe she preferred women. But when he brought Psycho Kitty to his daughter’s house, the cat quickly showed she was an equal opportunity flesh-chomper.

Reluctantly, the sheriff admitted it might be best if VVSA took Psycho Kitty back in. To try to make her as comfortable as possible, Skaskiw set up two large carriers side by side in her home, about five feet by six feet by two feet. “And every time I would go in to feed her, she was just in attack mode,” says Skaskiw. “Also, I didn’t know what to feed her. I’m telling you, I had a smorgasbord laid out in front of this cat at any one time, and she would just look at it and turn her nose up.”

Finally, Skaskiw discovered Temptations by Whiskas—expensive at $1.79 a pack, but worth every penny: Psycho Kitty loved her gourmet cuisine and began eating.

Around the time the cat stopped boycotting her daily sustenance, Letha Alongi, an elderly woman whose grandson had seen Psycho Kitty’s photo posted on Petfinder, called to claim her. “She described her to a T,” says Skaskiw.

But it was Alongi’s answer to Skaskiw’s clincher question that closed the deal. “Does she have any particular characteristics that would definitely identify her?”

“Well,” Alongi responded, “she bites people.”

Psycho Kitty, it turned out, had been a mama’s girl, sleeping like a baby next to Alongi every night but biting all of her friends. And she had a more inviting name as well: Boo Boo.

A reunion date was arranged, and Skaskiw’s friend got on a plane and flew the cat to New Orleans. At the airport, Alongi, waiting with her daughter and son-in-law, began waving her arms excitedly when she saw her old furry friend coming toward her in a carrier.

“So they go and find a table and they open the carrier,” says Skaskiw, “and she looks down and [sucks her breath in] and says, ‘That’s not Boo Boo! She doesn’t look like Boo Boo.’ And everybody’s heart just stopped. But then she picked her up, and the cat immediately put her head underneath her arm, and [Alongi] said, ‘She always used to do that to me—that’s Boo Boo!’ ”

It was the fur on Boo Boo’s back that confused Alongi, she says, because the color had been darker before the storm. But the way Boo Boo’s head turned at the sound of her mama’s voice—and the way she settled into her arms—left no doubt that Alongi had her baby back. “That’s what she used to do when she wanted to go to sleep was tuck her head down like that, and I’d rock her to sleep,” says Alongi. “She’s just spoiled rotten.”

The pair have been together for more than a decade, after family members gave Alongi the cat as a Christmas present 12 years ago. “She was just a little tiny thing,” says Alongi. “I used to put her in my t-shirt pocket because I was afraid I’d step on her.”

Since Boo Boo is not a safe playmate for grandchildren, Alongi couldn’t bring the cat with her when she evacuated to her children’s homes. But like so many other evacuees, she assumed she’d be back home in Chalmette two days later. A widow of 19 years, Alongi cried herself to sleep every night for two and a half months.

“If I’d have known I was going to lose her,” she says, “I would have stayed with her and lost myself with her.”

Now living together in a FEMA trailer on Alongi’s daughter’s property in Carriere, Mississippi, the pair have settled back into their old routines. Boo Boo made herself right at home as soon as she walked into the trailer, going straight for her litter box, then for her water, and then for the bed, where she lies under the blankets with just her head sticking out. Whenever Alongi tries to do dishes, Boo Boo keeps her company by hopping up and stretching out across her shoulders; she also likes to run back and forth and get in the way as Alongi makes the bed.

Best of all, Boo Boo is back to terrorizing all who dare to enter—and has even developed a reputation with the FEMA man. “He knows not to walk in until I pick her up,” says Alongi.

Though Alongi lost all her possessions and received only $3,800 in insurance money, she recently sent VVSA a Hallmark card from Boo Boo and a check for $25, reports Skaskiw. In return, Skaskiw sent Boo Boo a basket full of her favorite things—Temptations by Whiskas.

 

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