Kirry is a Manx word for “cat” or “kitty”. Kirry was, of course, a Manx cat.
I must stop here for some explanation. Probably those of you who are interested enough in cats to read this blog already know about Manx cats. But maybe not. And for those who don’t know much about cats, here’s a bit about Manx cats.
Manx cats originated in the Isle of Man, an island in the Irish Sea. Centuries ago, cats were introduced into the Isle of Man, probably as early as man himself. Over time, since cats on the island were isolated and didn’t interbreed with other cats, they developed their most distinguishing feature: the lack of a tail. The gene for taillessness is dominant, and therefore the tailless gene is more likely to be expressed.
There are actually two types of Manx cats, known as “rumpies” (they have no hint of a tail at all) and “stumpies” (they have a “stump” or a very small protrusion at the end of their spine where a tail would begin). Their back legs are longer than their front, to compensate for the lack of a tail, which normally provides balance for the cat.
The Manx breed has become popular with some cat lovers, including two of my aunts, who had several Manx cats. They are known for being very affectionate and seek out their human companions for attention and TLC – petting, lap sitting, sleeping, etc. They seem to vocalize more than other cats and have a variety of sounds, including trills that sound like inquiries: “What are you doing?” or “Is it time to get up already?”
So it was that, after I wore my parents down begging for a cat, we obtained one, a male stumpy kitten, from my aunt in Arizona. He was a gray striped tabby with white markings on his chest, belly and legs. His name was Kirry and we got him when he was about six months old. I was about ten or eleven when he came into my life.
Kirry, our Manx cat
Everyone loved Kirry – he was a very affectionate and well-trained cat. He was intelligent, affectionate and loved to sleep under the covers with me! My parents insisted on putting both the dog and the cat in the garage before they went to bed at night, a custom I found silly, but usually I didn’t notice, because by the time they took the cat from my room or my brother’s room, we were fast asleep.
My brother, two years old than me, and I alternated nights with Kirry. It was the only fair way to keep from fighting over monopolizing the cat, although I secretly believed my brother didn’t love Kirry nearly as much as I did. My brother teased me mercilessly, and he also teased the cat when he could. Kirry loved to get into paper bags or boxes, so my brother would leave one lying around to entice him, and once he was inside, he would pick up the bag or box and swing it around, causing the poor kitty to howl with fear. If I was around, I would vehemently insist he leave the cat alone, but my protestations made it all the more fun for him to do it!
Then he’d put the bag or box down, and Kirry would shoot out of it in a flash of fur, getting as far away as he could. Needless to say, it didn’t take long before Kirry lost his curiosity to get into paper bags, especially when that annoying young male human was around!
Kirry got me through adolescence. Junior high was the worst three years of my life, and I often needed comfort after an aggravating day at school. There were two ways I could deal with the emotions of those traumatic times – listening to my Beatles albums and having Kirry with me.
It was as if he could sense my sadness, and he’d come looking for me. He’d jump up on my bed seeking affection – the feeling was mutual! He would stretch his hind legs higher as I stroked his back, he’d lie down and knead me with his paws, purring and purring. Sometimes I would request having Kirry in my bed at night when it was my brother’s turn, after I’d had a particularly bad day. And, uncharacteristically for him, my brother would generally agree.
For more information about Manx cats, here are some web sites (copy and paste into your browser).
http://www.cfainc.org/Breeds/BreedsKthruR/Manx.aspx (Cat Fanciers Association web site)