Claus the cat with Gail Babnew

Claus and Gail Babnew enjoy the air conditioning at Springfields on a hot summer day. 

There are things a mother will do for her child that she wouldn’t do for anyone else. Thus it was that Gail Babnew agreed to fly across the country from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C., to accompany her daughter Nicole Silverman to a cat show in Baltimore. The purpose of the expedition, back when Nicole was in graduate school in D.C., was to pick out a Persian kitten. Mission accomplished with the selection of a handsome orange and white fellow, now 10 years old, whom Nicole named Claus. His namesake is General Carl von Clausewitz, whom Babnew identifies as “the Prussian general and military theorist who wrote ‘On War.’” Claus lived for many years with Nicole, but more recently, while she has moved around, the feline general has enjoyed the country life with Babnew and her husband, Joel Silverman, at Springfields, their home near Gordonsville. “Like grandparents, we’re spoiling him,” Babnew confessed as the gold-eyed Claus padded restlessly around the house, well aware he was the topic of conversation. Babnew said Claus places a paw on her arm or her husband’s while they’re dining and requests a sample of their meal. Granted his wish, he may or may not eat it, but he wants the chance to decide. During the summer, Claus sports a “lion cut”—a thorough barbering that allows him to stay cool and free of tangled mats while preserving the Persian fluff of his face, tail and feet. Nicole is well aware of Claus’ changing fur-styles, thanks to her mom, who sends her a photo of Claus every day. Every single day? “Yes,” Babnew confirmed with a mom’s indulgent smile. 

Hilary Holladay covers education and politics for the Orange County Review. The author of five books, she is currently writing a biography of the poet Adrienne Rich.

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