In advanced old age, lady has progressed from irritable to truculent. She is four pounds of loud. She yells when I lift her, brush her, bump her, or try to cuddle her. After shouting out a few curses, she huffs…snort, snort, snort…lest anyone think she wasn’t serious.

That’s my girl.

She is 22 years old. She went blind a few months ago, probably due to high blood pressure and longterm hyperthyroidism. Now she is even crabbier. She can’t see coming what she doesn’t want.

Lady has been with me since she was about eight, worn out from producing many litters of kittens over those years. She had been abandoned, pregnant, at a house near me. A neighbor took her in along with another cat who was also pregnant. When the kittens were born, Lady took over both litters, stacking up little furballs on the chow line, hissing and batting at anyone who came near.

The neighbor and I arranged for all the kittens to be taken by a nearby shelter.   I already had three cats at the time and I felt I couldn’t take in another animal.  If I did, it certainly wouldn’t be a bad-tempered redhead like Lady, so she too went to the shelter.  The neighbor kept the second mom. But a week or so later, when I checked on all of those who had been sent to rescue, Lady was still in the back. She had never been put out for potential adopters to see, and one of the techs showed me why. When anyone approached her cage, Lady plastered herself against the back wall and spat out her fear and disdain.

Rather than see her put down, I brought her home with one of her kittens who had not been adopted, a tiny black torty I named Pipsqueak. Pip, for every day.

In short order, Lady displaced the previous queen of the house, Pearlie, a miniature maine coon. Pearl had a game she loved to play with the other cats. She would lie quietly under the coffee table until another cat walked by. Then, she would leap out with a shriek, bat them and run away. The two older cats, a big orange tiger named George and a smallish, round tabby I called Dottie, reacted with weary patience after the first few times and let Pearl have her moment.

Then Pearl tried her game on Lady. She waited. She waggled her butt. She pounced. And Lady counterattacked, chasing Pearl up one side of the house and down the other. Pearl never played her game again, and in fact, didn’t come downstairs again for two years. It just didn’t do to mess with Lady.

We did become friends, Lady and I. When she wasn’t telling someone off, she was happy to sit on my lap and have her ears and cheeks stroked. But you couldn’t say she ever became mild. I think that’s why she’s lived to be 22. And I think that’s why when her body finally gives up, her spirit will keep on going, giving the world the benefit of her many opinions.