Sunday, June 15, 2008

My last cat

Long ago and far away, I lived with two cats. One cat was MY cat. He was a cat I chose from the home of true cat lovers. These people were so protective of their cats, they brought them out slowly, one by one, over the course of a half-hour or so I spent at their house, chatting about cats and trying to pick one from their latest litter. Each cat they brought out was more beautiful than the last, each more special. I was amazed. They were very protective, but less so as they came to realize that I was a cat lover. I can't blame them for being careful.

As we sat and talked about the cats, the kittens played about me. One, however, did not play. He stayed far away, finally hiding in the bookcase on top of the books, below the bottom of the second to last shelf. I pried him out, and cuddled the little bundle of fur. He looked at me, not scared, not shivering, just cautious. I chose this cat. He wasn't particularly pretty, just a plain grey tabby, but I knew he hid because he was more intelligent. I hoped it meant he was self-reliant and would make a good '0nly' cat.

I was wrong.

This cat was everything I wanted my cat to be. He was tiny and cute at first, and grew into a big beautiful tabby that knew my mind and mood. He also knew what he wanted and was quick to exert his demands. He heard every word I said, and seemed to understand most of them. He was there when I came home from work, he was there when I awoke. He ate what I gave him and did what he was told. He was all I wanted him to be, except he was not happy. My 'only' cat was too needy, too demanding of my attention. He spoke volumes to me, in his own special language of meows and mews and growls and grumbles that told me he was lonely. His demands began to wear upon me, torn as I was between family and job and cat. Time told, and I realized I needed another cat.

About that time, I found the tenants on my farm harboring a litter of stray kittens that had outgrown the cute stage. There were four black cats, basically unloved and uncaring. However, the fifth kitten had something in its favor. It was a perfect Russian Blue look-a-like. Russian Blues are my favorites, so I took this kitten home to my cat. Although he was not as verbose or as intelligent or as refined as my cat, the kitten adapted. He found a house with only one other cat, and he was happy. He provided the company my cat needed.

Their companionship went on for years. My cat was happy with me and the kitten. The kitten was happy eating and enjoying living with my cat. I never became close with the kitten; he was just my cat's cat. The kitten was happy roaming the neighborhood and eating as much as possible. He grew big. He ate at home, he ate at the neighbors. He grew fat. Several neighbors fed him regularly and thought of him as their cat. He wasn't, though, because he always came home to his real master, my cat.

Eventually, the time came for me to move back to my farm. To my surprise, just before I left, one neighbor asked if he could have the (now big) kitten.

I could see that he truly wanted Big Kitten, and understood how hard it was for him to ask for it, especially when he said that his wife hated cats and opposed the adoption. Nonetheless, I reluctantly explained that I was afraid my cat would be heartbroken without Big Kitten. I couldn't see any other way, and I took both cats with me when I moved.

It is a nice farm. The tenants had left, and the two cats and I set up our territories there. The move was an adjustment for the cats, and they were never were quite as home there as I was. Eventually, the change in locale, the outdoor environment, and age took its toll on my cat. I was sad at the parting, and still miss him today. Nothing can quite fill the void left by this cat, who so understood me. Overall though, since I am realistic and have lived with countless cats before, I could not deny it was time. Once he was gone, however, Big Kitten, now grown into a large, always hungry, not too bright, but beautiful, animal, disappeared. Weeks went by while I looked for him without success. Then one day he appeared. I thought that once again he had found a friendly neighbor to 'adopt' him, so I decided to change his collar, as this would be a visible sign that he belonged to someone. It worked. The next day one of my neighbors came by and asked if I had a cat. I said I had a gray one, but he had been missing for a while. She then informed me that the Big Kitten had eaten her rabbit and several of her chickens.

I took the reprobate back to the city, to the home of a friend who lived two blocks away from my old house. He seemed to adjust well. One evening, after he had been back in the city for a week, I was sitting with the Big Kitten at my feet in the yard of my friend's home. Big Kitten suddenly jumped up, as though he had remembered something he forgot to do, and walked away into the woods at the back of the property. He never came back.

Two weeks later, I got a call from another friend. He told me that he knew where Big Kitten was. My old neighbor, who had asked for the kitten two years before, had him. This man was excited at their reunion. Especially, as he explained to our mutual friend, since the cat had walked over 50 miles from a farm in the country, through the huge city, to find him. My friend heard the story, and realized it might be my big kitten that had performed this amazing feat. He had called me to see if it could possibly be true.

I hated to tell him that Big Kitten had only walked two blocks. Even though this cat didn't walk for miles to make it home to the one person who truly loved him, it amazes me still that he found his way back from my friend's house to my old neighbor's house. All the time he was with me, I thought he was dumb. I was so wrong. He had the sense to know where he was wanted.

I told my old neighbor he could keep the cat. A few days later, I went by his house to see Big Kitten. He acted as though didn't know me, and hissed and ran away.

Or maybe he did know me, all too well.

I wonder just how much cats do know, and think much more of them than I used to. I'll never adopt a cat lightly again. So far, that was my last cat.

A true story for your Sunday reading.


Bron said...

I love your story. :) Thanks for sharing.

Vickie said...

It's a wonderful story. We adopted a pair of farm sisters. They were so sweet. One ran away during a move and the other lived until she was 17. She was sweet and loving and the perfect companion. We adopted another farm kitty 14 years ago and she has been the cat from well you know. She is anti-social, cranky and unloving. Lately she must be thinking about her old age because, she let me pet her. Now she is driving me nuts wanting to be pet every night when I crawl into bed and at 3 am. The change is odd much like your cat hissing. They are odd creatures!

Wool Enough said...

Great story. I think cats are really aliens from another planet. They're studying us.

jane said...

Thank you for the fun story...I read it aloud to my husband this morning! Have a good week, Jane

Laura said...

Cats aren't dumb, they just pretend to be when it suits them. I always thought our cat Pete was dumb. He scowled all the time, didn't do much but sleep. But then the alpha male cat in our household, Pete's brother Linc, died. Pete took over his position as head of household as if he had been born to it. He began to beg at the table, as Linc did. His eyes are big and bright and round instead of half-shut and scowly. He knows what is going on at all times. And he's certainly not dumb. Had us fooled.

Vickie said...

I just thought about this when I came back to read the other comments. There is a saying, "Dogs come when they are called, but cats take a message." I think that about sums what cats are all about.

Marjorie said...

Great story. I still think fondly of my cat April, a big, intelligent tabby. I adopted her from a shelter because she licked my hand when I put it on the cage. She was not pretty; she was brought to the shelter after bearing a stillborn kitten and had lost her front teeth. Years later I found that her tailbone had been broken, probably from abuse. The weekend I got her was cold, and I found her at night and put her into bed with me to warm up. After that, she was my constant companion--and a great one.

I ended up with another cat--a pretty, not very bright calico that my mother couldn't take care of. April tolerated her, but never flagged in her affection for me.

Anonymous said...

I love cats too. Amazing how they all have their own personalities, and some bond with us better than others...