A Few Cats I Have Known
I love cats. Before my parents brought home Sam and Jeffrey—twin gray tabby kittens—when I was in first grade, I loved Justin (my aunt Shari’s cat) and Merlin (a family friend’s cat). As Sam grew from kitten to cat, I grew intrigued with him. Together, we sat on the floor and looked deep into each other’s eyes, somehow communicating without words and even without gesture. I did my best to convey, “I love you,” and I believed he listened and received my message, and I have no doubt he told me messages, too. You asked when the creative spirit comes alive.
Intrigue with cats grew to fascination two cats later in Snyder and Ian, an uninteresting tiny gray tabby piebald my parents told me was gay, and Ian, a rotund black and white tuxedo I remorsefully enjoyed startling Having found my mother’s soft tape measure, I spent a Sunday morning annoying Snyder and Ian by measuring and recording the sizes of their paws, lengths of their tails, heights of their ears, circumferences of their bellies, widths of their shoulders, and certainly five more aspects of the construct “CAT”. My mother then helped me plot the data on a table and my stepmother provided photographs for what would be my 2nd grade science fair project.
By middle school, my mother came to view my zeal for cats as an aspect of my emerging witchiness. We lived with only one cat at the time: Janey, and Janey was mean to everyone except me. A small black Himalayan mix, Janey had just a stump of a tail and I explained to my mother, “She is pissed about it.” My mother laughed at the emotions I “attributed” to the cat, indeed, nonbelievers do ruin our fun.
By high school, I annoyed classmates with long tales of blue jays swooping down on Janey and Janey balancing herself atop the chainlink fence, and waking up every morning to find Janey had the entire pillow and I had a small corner. Classmates refused to work with me on group projects, complaining that I never stopped talking about my cat. In adulthood, I attend an adults with asperger’s support group where each week we introduce ourselves and share our “thing” and among the My Little Ponys and Vacuums and Fans, “I’m Diane and I am into cats.”
I became my cat Pookie’s familiar many years and many cats later. Pookie, a small black piebald, was rescued from the back yard of the cattery where I worked part time in graduate school. The listing for the position on craigslist read: ARISTOCATS HOTEL AND SPA FOR CATS IS LOOKING FOR WEEKEND HELP. When the owner hired me, she said, “You weren’t the most qualified, but I can tell you really love cats.” (Has there ever even been a more beautiful word than cats?)
Allow me to be inspired by a pet: Pookie was someone’s lost house pet, I am sure. The mystery of his past opened my mind to infinite permutations of a life I will never know on the other side of time. Pookie’s eyes showed a special sort of joy at OUCH when he swiped you, so it was easy to imagine a carbon copy of little Diane over there, gazing into Pookie’s yellow-green eyes, when “OUCH!!! WHY???” and his satisfied look.
When Pookie busted out of a window and was gone for two days, I decided he must have a horrible sense of direction, just like me, of course!. On the third morning, I woke up to a text letting me know that my well-fed cat had bitten a child trying to pet him. I smiled to myself with private delight at the satisfaction he found on his adventure. Having promised the neighbor I would do so, that evening, I walked a block over and called, “Pookie”. Pookie sauntered out of a row of bushes and directly to me. I stared into his eyes while he walked, and they told me he loved me and he thanked me for letting him wander one last day.
We should never ignore how the benevolent slave ownership of an animal can bring fun to life and open the creative door. Without my cat Huckleberry, I could never tell the story of how he came to me (I walked into the adoption center and said, “Okay, who’s Huckleberry?” and Huck raised his Hucklepaw). There is nothing in the world like pet ownership, and there is no creature in the world like a cat (sea lions are a distant second).