The most remarkable thing about Tino was his voice. This cat, this funny old orange tabby with the huge vocabulary; he loved opera, and vocalized accordingly, from basso profundo growls to soprano coloratura arias. He squeaked, chirped, barked, sang, and yowled. The one noise he didn’t make was “meow,” save for two times. The first time came immediately after I said, “Yeah, he can say a lot, but he never says plain old ‘meow.’” Tino looked directly at me and said, “Meow.” The second time was years later. My wife and I were reminiscing, and she said, “He only said ‘meow’ that one time, just to prove he could do it. He hasn’t said it since.”
“Meow,” said Tino.
He talked on the phone too, a fact no one believed until they heard it for themselves. One time, we ordered some cat food online. When I called later to order a refill, the lady taking my order asked if my cat had enjoyed the first batch. “Hold on,” I said. “I’ll put him on.” I could imagine the thoughts on the other end of the line until Tino actually did get on the phone to voice an opinion.
Tino was a character. At a routine trip to the vet’s, he discovered a jar of dog biscuits, and ate half-a-dozen of them during the course of his examination. He loved to travel. He went for walks, like a dog. He liked Brussels sprouts and biscotti.
Tino was nuts, but he was also very sweet, with the loudest purr I’ve ever heard. And he loved people. Always the center of attention, he had to be part of any crowd. But sometimes, even surrounded by adoring fans, you could look in his eyes and see that he was somewhere else, entirely alone; remembering the shelter, the cage; and before that, an abandoned kitten – a Chicago alley cat, not knowing if he would survive another day.