Beni Lancer Ra was a special cat. He was rare, beautiful, and costly.

His father and mother were champions.  There were many grand champions in his family.  Beni’s great-grandfather, Lancer, was the most wonderful cat of all.

Beni was an Abyssinian (ab-a-SIN-e-an) cat, one of the oldest known cat breeds in the world. Abyssinian cats were worshipped as Gods.

Beni’s thick soft fur was orange, each hair of it was tipped with black or brown, so Beni had an unusual salt-and-pepper look.  His eyes were large and golden.  The only white on him was under his chin.

“You’re a splendid cat, Beni,” his owner would tell him.

And Beni purred.  He knew he was splendid.

Sometimes he rode around on his owner’s shoulder.  Legends say that centuries ago, cats like Beni rode into battle on their owner’s shoulder.  Beni liked to pretend that he was riding into battle, too.

But Beni wasn’t fierce. Abyssinians are very affectionate cats.

Beni lived inside his owner’s house.  Because he was so rare and so expensive, he could not run loose in the neighborhood.  He might get hit by a car or be attacked by a fierce dog.

But Beni’s owner built him a wire enclosed outdoor cat run, with his own little pet door from the house to the outside.  Beni could go out whenever he pleased.  He could lie in the sunshine on the ledge, nibble grass and catnip or lie on the ground, where he chirped at the birds splashing in the bird bath.

Beni was lonely.

It wasn’t that he didn’t have a fine place to live. Or a loving mistress. He had lots of good things to eat like baked chicken and flakes of white fish or bits of ground steak from the microwave.

His mistress bought him lots of toys, like tiny soft balls that she tossed up in the air for him to catch and bring back to her. And there was the magnet honey bee high on the refrigerator door that Beni sprang into the air every day to try to carry away with him.  Sometimes, he leaned over the top of the refrigerator to try to get it, but it was out of reach.  Once, he jumped very high and got the bee and carried it away to a hiding place.  But the mistress found it and put it back on the refrigerator door.

Beni had a little door that led to an outdoor cage, where he could eat.  Sometimes, dogs walked by—and Beni watched carefully.  And there were warm, sunny places where he could take a pleasant nap.

Despite all these very nice things, Beni was lonely. The mistress had to work.  All day long there was no one to throw toys up into the air for him.  And when she came home at night, he always was waiting there for her, his eyes plaintive.  When she came home at night, he was always waiting there for her, his eyes plaintive.  When she picked him up, he curled on her shoulder and purred happily.

Only once did he have an unusually exciting day.  A small field mouse got into the house.  Beni had never seen a mouse before.  Bu t he knew instantly that a mouse should not be in the house.

With the lightning quickness of his ancestors, he sprang on the mouse and killed it with a deadly neck bite.  He took the mouse to his mistress and threw it up into the air, again.  His mistress said, “Beni, you are a very good cat.  A splendid cat!”

Beni was proud.  He kept looking for more mice. But none dare come into the house again.

The mistress could tell Beni was lonely.

“Buy him a kitten,” one of her friends told her.  “Beni will love it.”

The mistress wasn’t sure Beni would like to have a kitten or would be kind to it.  But she knew Beni was very lonely and that it would be nice to have a friend to play with all day long.

One day the mistress came home with the cat carrier.  She reached inside and brought out a tiny Sealpoint Siamese kitten, not much bigger than a mouse.

Would Beni think it was a mouse? She wasn’t sure. But she carefully put the baby kitten in front of Beni, who was very excited.  He looked it over.  Then suddenly he grabbed it by the back of the neck, picked it up and ran away with it.

The mistress chased Beni through the kitchen and the living room.  He ran very fast, the kitten in his mouth. She caught him and took the kitten away.

She looked at the kitten, but he didn’t seem to be hurt.

She put the kitten down in the living room.  Beni waited for his chance—and then sprang again, grabbed the kitten by the back of the neck and carried him swiftly away to his hiding place under the bed.  But the mistress once again took the baby kitten away from him.

She called the pet doctor.

“Is Beni trying to kill the kitten?” she asked.

The doctor said, “I don’t know.  I don’t think so. But you’d better watch them when they’re together.  Is Beni trying to throw the kitten up into the air?”  Then he said the kitten was used to being carried by the back of his neck, so it probably wasn’t at all frightened when Beni picked it up.

No, the mistress said.

“Better watch them,” he said. So she began to watch Beni and the kitten.  She was very worried.  It was such a nice little kitten. But she was afraid Beni thought it was a mouse.

Beni waited for his chance.  Then he grabbed the kitten by the back of the neck and looked it over.  The kitten watched him trustfully with big blue eyes.  Then Beni began licking it.  He licked it from its pointed ears to its tiny tail.

He liked the kitten.  He thought it was the very best gift he had ever had.  And it was his very own kitten.

Taking care of the kitten was a full-time job for Beni.

Then the kitten got into a plateful of food, it would cry out, “Ow-wow-wow-wow!” Beni, fearing it had a tummy ache, picked it up by the neck and carried it away from its food.  And then Thai really cried.

When Thai got into the litter box, he would howl—and Beni, thinking the kitten was in trouble, would grab him by the back of the neck and haul him right out of there.

But the mistress said firmly, “No, Beni, Thai isn’t hurt. Leave him there.”

Beni looked at her with those big gold eyes, as if to say, “You should let me take care of this baby.” But he finally left the baby alone, to eat or go to the bathroom, despite the little cries.

Thai quickly found out this big cat adored him. Thai bullied him, springing at Beni full force. Beni would roll Thai over, bite his tiny feet gently, and then take the kitten’s throat into his mouth, as if to deliver his deadly neck bite.  But the kitten knew Beni wouldn’t really hurt him.

Now Beni had someone to play with all day long—and the two romped and had play fights and when they were tired, Beni would fall asleep and little Thai would climb on his back and go to sleep, too.

It was wintertime, but Beni still liked to go out his little door and sit on the wooden ledge of his cat run.  The snow was deep on the ground, far below the ledge.

The mistress didn’t believe tiny Thai could get out the pet door.

But one night the baby’s clever little paws opened the door.  The mistress saw a little brown tail disappearing through the door.  Quickly she ran to the door and peered to the ledge.  The baby wasn’t there.  She knew he must have jumped or fallen into the deep snow.

 The mistress ran to get her boots.  She knew she would have to go outside to save the baby.

But suddenly Beni swiftly went through the pet door.  The mistress went back and opened the pet door again. Beni had jumped into the snow below.  He picked up the kitten by the neck and sprang through the door and brought the unhurt kitten back into the house.

Beni checked Thai over carefully. Then he began to lick him from his ears to his tiny tail, while Thai’s blue eyes watched him trustfully.

“You’re a beautiful cat, Beni,” his mistress said. “You’re a splendid cat. And you’re a hero, too.”

Beni purred.  He knew he was splendid.

a splendid cat---

by Stannie Anderson