I bought Zorro from the PetSmart store in March of 1997 with the money given to me for a favor done for a neighbor. Zorro definitely lived up to the name of that store: he was one smart pet.
Zorro was 10 months old when we bought him and he was a beautiful, sleek, all-black half-grown kitten. He was originally intended to be for my daughter, Tara, who was 13 1/2 at the time. She had been begging and begging for a kitty of her own ever since she had learned how to say “Kee-kee, want own kee-kee” when she was only two.
Tara had grown up watching and yearning for that special bond and love between a cat and its owner. I had received my own beloved Kitty, a black and white tuxedo cat, as a kitten a few months after my marriage in 1977 and so she had been with me when Tara was born in 1983. We could never have another cat because Kitty was so intolerant of any other cat in her territory.
I was still mourning the death of my special Kitty, who had passed away at the ripe old age of 19 over a year previously. Because I still was not ready for another cat to take her place in my heart, I gladly told Tara that yes, we could buy Zorro for her.
But like cats will often do, they decide for themselves who will be their heart-owner and who won’t and Zorro had apparently decided it would be me, even before we had left the store.
He frantically kept trying to get my attention while he was in the glass-enclosed cat area in PetSmart. He would stretch up the glass as far as he could reach every time I glanced at him. And when I finally walked over to take a closer look at him, he began to curl up and down the glass, giving me loving kitty looks, as he purred so hard, I could hear him through the glass.
Tara was very sad that Zorro had so apparently chosen me as his mommy after we brought him home. Tara eventually finally found a special kitty of her own when we later adopted another black cat that she named Spooky.
Zorro was the smartest and most intelligent cat I have ever owned. He figured out how to do many unusual things that I had never known a cat to do before.
He always wanted to curl up and sleep with me in my bed. I had had to downgrade from my queen-sized bed to a twin bed when I moved back into my childhood home with my mom after my dad died. So I didn’t like how Zorro hogged the bed as well as my covers.
So I would sneak off to bed while he usually lay snoozing in his own cat bed in the living room. However turning off all the lights quickly let him know that I had gone to bed without him.
He soon learned to loosen up the side door jamb of my bedroom door. When Zorro stuck a paw up underneath the edge of it, he could then suddenly let the door jamb go and it would make this very loud bonking noise, like a wooden door bell. He would continue and continue to do that, even with me yelling at him from my bed to knock it off! Eventually I realized that if I wanted to get any sleep that night, I would have to get up and let him in.
And no matter how many nails or screws I would use to securely fasten down “Zorro’s Door Bell”, he would always manage to loosen it up again and then make that continuous loud noise until I let him in. He could out-patient me every night.
Another thing he somehow figured out was how to ingeniously wake me up in the middle of the night for playtime. I had a touch-lamp right next to my bed, the kind of lamp that could be easily turned on and then turned up to 2 higher light levels by just touching it with your finger.
Somehow Zorro discovered that the lamp worked just as easily with a kitty-nose as well. I would be sound asleep, he would wake up, bored, and he would carefully step over me to get closer to that lamp. Then he would lean over, and with his nose he would tap, tap, tap, 3 times in rapid succession and then I would be rudely awakened with that lamp in my eyes on its high beams!
Then Zorro would drop a favorite toy right in my face and loudly meow. I would give him an angry glare and then throw the cat toy in the corner where he would happily chase after it and the fun times would start all over again.
He knew when I had had enough when I would scoop him up, put him outside my bedroom and then slam the door after him. He realized that Mommy was now really mad and then he would not bother me for the rest of the night.
Zorro also had another, but weirder, habit. There were old wooden bed slats under my mattress set. Because we had slick wooden floors, he learned how to rapidly propel himself from one end of my bed to the other, using his claws on those slats.
He would get under my bed, flip over onto his back, and then have fun scooting himself as fast as he could from one end to the other, using his claws on the slats to gain faster and faster momentum. Sometimes he would get going so fast, we could hear him distinctly bonk his head on my wall on each rotation.
If we were lucky enough to catch him in the middle of his scootings, we could climb up on my bed and peer down at him over the headboard. Then he would look up at us whenever he would reach the wall and he would have this eerily, crazy-eyed expression on his face as he looked back up at us, like his scootings made him high or something. Then when he’d had enough, he would bolt out from under my bed, covered with the dust bunnies that I could never get rid of.
We always called him “Zorro, The Demented Dust Bunny” whenever he would indulge in his very weird habit. He did make it much easier for me to keep it clean under my bed though because all I had to do was chase him down and then pet the dust bunnies off his fur!
Another thing he taught himself to do was to pee in our half-bathroom toilet. The cat litter box was in there as well and sometimes he would interrupt us when we were in there, doing our own business, when he had to come in and use his litter box. Somehow he figured out that us peeing in our toilet was the same thing as when he peed in his litter box.
I found out about his latest trick when I was up early before anyone else one Sunday morning. I was out in the kitchen making a big breakfast for all of us. The half-bath was located right next to the kitchen and I soon heard the distinct sounds of someone peeing in that toilet.
Knowing that no one else was awake, and so that sound was very suspicious, I grabbed a big butcher knife and stealthily made my way around the adjoining wall. Was there a thief with a bladder problem in there?
I slowly peered around the corner and I was astonished to see Zorro, with his back to me, carefully crouched over the side of the toilet, peeing into it. I started to snicker, because he looked so funny precariously perched like that, and he heard me.
He looked at me over his shoulder, with a very scared expression on his face, like I had caught him doing something horribly bad. But I quickly dropped the butcher knife and walked in, cooing at him, telling him what a good boy he was. Then I petted him over and over until I had him curling up under my hand, purring like a little engine, looking quite pleased with himself, as I kept up the loving praise.
After I had finished making our breakfast and I told my mom and Tara what I had seen Zorro doing, they accused me of making it all up. My mom said that she had heard of training cats to use a toilet but nobody had trained Zorro to do that, so no, they refused to believe me.
I told them that Zorro has always been an exceptionally intelligent cat, and they did agree with me on that, but they were dubious when I told them that Zorro must have somehow made the association between the sounds of us peeing in the toilet and with him peeing in his litter box. But they were still skeptical that he could have learned that all on his own until they too had caught him in the act.
Zorro only used our toilet for his peeing, never his pooping, and that further convinced me that it was the tinkling sound that had made that association for him. And it further convinced me that he was a genius of a cat! Besides, he was much neater and tidier on the toilet than some men I had known!
Zorro was such a lovable rascal. He got along with everybody and everything. I had him for 14 years and during his lifetime, we adopted a couple of other cats who had been meanly dropped off by other people out in the countryside where we lived, and we also took care of a canary, a ferret, and a golden retriever for friends until their personal situations improved. Zorro got along with them all, especially one kitten we adopted, Malibu.
A school friend of Tara’s had obtained a kitten for his girlfriend as a birthday present since he knew that she adored cats. Unfortunately, her mother had severe allergies to cats, which is why Adam’s girlfriend had never been allowed to own one.
So Adam called me up, asking if I could either keep the kitten or find a good home for it. His mother was adamant that that kitten would not stay with them and he didn’t know what else to do with the poor little thing.
I reluctantly agreed to take the kitten, but only until I found another good home for him, because we already had 3 other cats. So Adam brought him over, and of course, I lost my heart to him. So I had found a good home for Malibu…ours! He also joined our menagerie and Zorro fell in love with him as well.
Zorro and Malibu became the best of buddies, and I had never seen 2 cats, male or female, bond like they did. They would spend hours mutually grooming each other, both purring loud with pleasure, then spend hours chasing each other all over the house.
They slept together, played together, ate together, and where one was, the other one was close nearby somewhere. Zorro and Malibu adored each other and I think I was then relegated to being Zorro’s second favorite.
Their friendship, unfortunately, only lasted 6 years. Malibu had to be put to sleep because he developed severe kidney problems and I could not afford to take him over 50 miles away for dialysis several times a week at a university animal clinic.
Knowing of Zorro and Malibu’s close friendship, my vet suggested letting Zorro and the other cats sniff and smell Malibu after I brought him home to bury him. He said that it would help them, especially Zorro, know that their friend was dead and that it would be easier for them to then understand his absence after that.
Malibu had spent over a week the first time at the vet’s and then had made several repeat visits in our attempts to cure his kidney problems. Zorro had been very agitated during each absence so I was hoping that this suggestion of the vet’s would help him deal with his death.
Tara and I brought in Malibu’s body and put him on the living room floor. We sat back as Spooky and Missy slowly wandered in. They sniffed at Malibu several times, sat back and watched him, sniffed him again, and then they walked away.
Zorro then came up to Malibu and sniffed him all over. Then he lay next to Malibu and began to clean him. After Zorro did that for a few minutes, he stopped licking Malibu, stood up, and sniffed him again from head to tail. Then Zorro lay down next to Malibu again and did nothing else.
Tara and I looked at each other, unsure of what to do next. What if Zorro never left Malibu’s side? We had to get him buried but we also didn’t want to interrupt if this was something that Zorro needed to do.
Zorro soon made the decision for us of what to do next. After lying next to Malibu for another few minutes, he got up, gave Malibu one final lick on his head and then walked out of the living room. Zorro had said his good-byes.
We enjoyed Zorro’s always wonderful and quirky personality for another 6 years after that. Tara and I always laugh…and cry…whenever we fondly remember Zorro’s Doorbell, his Demented Dust Bunny routine, how he would constantly make my lamp go to its high beams in the middle of the night and that he had intelligently taught himself how to use the toilet just like his humans.
I still miss you, Zorro, you were one of a kind!