I’ve been thinking about cats a lot lately. Okay, it is not like I don’t think about my cats a lot in general, but lately I have been a little more global in my consideration of cats. I have long worried that I may turn into a “Cat Lady,” and the attendant stigma that goes with that. I am really the perfect candidate: single, approaching middle-age, cat-loving, History/Literature teacher. I mean, they don’t write Cat Ladies better than that. And my cats run me. For instance, right now, I really want to get up and get another cup of coffee but Matilda is on my lap and she is content, and gives me stink-eye when I move, so coffee is more of a contemplation at this point. Eventually, I will get the coffee, but not before considering what a great reason this situation is for having a live-in helper, roommate, even a boyfriend.
When I returned from Bali and I called my parents, I could hear in my mom’s voice right away that something was wrong and there were only a few things that might make her sound this way; as I was okay, it was either going to be gramma or kitteh. It is kitteh. Their 12(?) year old cat is not well, and as is the case with cats, the reasons are ambiguous, but the reality is clear. Taking her to the vet is traumatizing and causes kitteh to really make you feel bad, and so Ella was keeping to the safety of the subregions of the bedroom and not taking food. This cat is Ella Mae, who they adopted, along with another kitty named Callie, from the shelter in their North Idaho town. The adoption of these two cats has a lot of significance to me because I was there and helped my mom pick out the cats. She had been reluctant to get another cat after the death of her most recent furry friend, Celeste. But after enough time had passed she realized that she really missed having cats and had decided to adopt two, so they would have company, and also to select adult cats as everyone always adopts the kittens but the older cats often go overlooked. I happened to be staying with my parents after a very dramatic break up [look at me be understated] with Ex #3. I was not totally myself, but cats always cheer me up. I went to the shelter and we picked out the two (very different) calico kittehs. They were bewildered and everything esle that comes with a total rearrangement of every known detail in ones existence when we brought them back. Callie was the wilder, more adventurous of the two. Smaller and more traditionally calico, she ran around and checked things out. Ella, likely a little older, is a peachy calico – white and grey and peach colored. And she doesn’t like other cats. One night we couldn’t find Callie and every issue that I was dealing with regarding the recent turn of events in my own life totally manifested in a total freak out about her (temporary) disappearance. I totally lost it for a minute.
Then she came back.
So, now Ella is getting ready to say her farewells. Callie left them long ago, likely the result of her wandering, she got really sick and gently passed. Ella really came out of her shell at that point and became the Queen of the Manor. And now as she is preparing to go, it is just totally sad all over again.
I have two cats. If you read this or know me, you inevitably know this. Norman and Matilda came to me from one of the two animal rescue groups that spend every minute of everyday just trying to help, house, and save the animals on my small island. [Give them money if you can – or give to an animal charity in your area, or just click here to help. Please.] I wanted to get a cat because I had always had a cat, and I was operating under the illusion of some sort of domestic bliss, so I thought it might work. I didn’t plan on two, but then, plans… what good are those? N&M’s mom had been adopted, which, if you know how the pet thing works, is very unusual, so they needed a home and soon. They were probably weened a bit too early, but they were sure cute. Norm is kind of gorgeous and a little odd. He is super shy and cannot deal with loud noises, change, children or dogs, though he is getting better with the former issues as he matures. He couldn’t purr until he was like 8 months old but his sister taught him how. Matil is a sprite. She is smaller than her brother and more gregarious and as bossy as bossy cats come. She has a funny tail, actually they both do, some sort of genetic weirdness of our local cat population, but Matil’s is like a hilarious little mood beacon. They used to really get along, but they sort of get on each other’s nerves now, still underneath it all they are family. They get to go in and out all day long, and live in a cat paradise. No cars, open spaces, hiding places, lots of things to kill and at least half a dozen well-trained humans at their service when they require it. Matilda is named for Matilda the Empress who would be Queen: “an indomitable woman!” I was prepping a student for his Eton entrance exam at the time and was totally intrigued by Henry I’s daughter. I call her Matil because of Zoolander when Hansel meets the reporter Matilda and says, “Matilda, cool. Is it alright if I call you Matil?” Norm is named for Norman Cook: Fat Boy… Slim(ish). Norm is the first Dude cat I have had, and while he started off being kind of a girly-boy, he has reached total dude-dom now. The vet said of his Rubenesque figure: “A little too much Tsing Tao?” These two have been great company for the last few years. They meet me on my walk home and provide tons of entertainment (if not a little too much carnage) in my little corner of the world.
Last week as I was thinking a lot about Ella Mae, Norman ran away. I was really sad. And it forced me to think about how the joy of pets is commensurate with the sadness of their departures from our lives.
I thought about all of my cats.
- Cali was the calico I got when my parents got divorced. She was the coolest. We were inseparable. Until we were, by college and other less significant stuff. I remember the last time I saw her. I was pulling out of the driveway at my parents home in Petaluma to head back to San Diego. I was all hyped up about being me and whatever and saw her sitting in th driveway looking at me and I did not get out and pet her one last time. She moved to North Idaho with my parents that fall, and after a long life of human domination in Petaluma, Seattle, San Diego and Petaluma again, she chose Sandpoint to say good bye. I blamed my mom because I guess that is what 19 year olds do. And I was just soooo sad.
- I did not get another cat of my own for a while… but in 1994 I got Casey Jones. She was the runt of the litter of Princess, who was the shop cat who hung out in my friend Mara’s step-dad’s boat shop in Sausalito. My roommate at the time, Melissa, also got one of the kittens, who she named Sampson (Sam and Casey were both girls…) Casey was the one consistency in my twenties. She was awesome. From Larkspur to Fairfax to Pacific Heights to Incline Village to Reno… Casey was with me through Exes #2-4. That is endurance. I left Casey with Ex #4 when I came to Asia. It was harder to say good bye to her than him. Sign of the times. I saw her for the last time in August of 2006 when I went back to reorganize all my things that #4 had conveniently (euphemism) packed up for me. She was still totally my cat and it was wonderful to see her, but I could tell she was not well and I told #4 as much. He ignored me until he needed to really hit below the belt by sending me a letter telling me how he found her near death in renal failure and proceeded to save her by spending thousands of his own dollars and losing all sorts of money because he had to take months off of work to care for her around the clock. My vet did not corroborate this story. I choose to remember Casey as the cat who took care of me through my twenties and set me free in my thirties. I know she is bossing everyone around wherever the next station of her existence has found her.
- Norm and Matil are a sort of combination of all the other cats I have had, and me. They are my little furry reflections.
Norman, of course, did come back from his little sojourn, at which point my very helpful and pet loving neighbor said to me, “Cats, who’d have ’em?”
At the same time that I was cruising down feline memory lane a (cat loving) friend of mine posted something random on FB about Amanda Palmer being the Hot Slut of the Day. [Of course I had to look. Being so completely unhip, even having heard of the Dresden Dolls I had no idea of their names or music. So I checked it out. Good stuff.] My friend also mentioned in her post that she was surprised to learn that Palmer was dating Neil Gaiman. Another name I did not know. I did not look him up.
Then, I was playing around on Twitter at work and though a retweet I was directed to @neilhimself . The tweet had to do with his cat Zoe. I read the story of Zoe on his blog with additional back up via links to two other people, Kyle Cassidy and Olga Nunes. I do not know any of these people, nor do I know the small cat called Zoe. But I know the story, and through the voices of three, it is even more beautiful and sad and wonderful. It suddenly clicked that this was the Neil Gaiman that my friend had referenced on FB and who was the man behind the movie, Coraline, that my cousin had specifically requested I find (sorry Neil, I bought an illegal copy) in VN. Then looking through the amazing work of @kylecassidy on his blog I saw this post from December and was totally touched and remembered to make my monthly donation to my animal charities…
As I have no doubt mentioned a million times, I love this kind of synchronicity.
I have continued to follow the story of Zoe the cat, and through this had a glimpse into the public lives of Neil Gaiman, Amanda Palmer, Kyle Cassidy and Olga Nunes. And what I have discovered is a group of people who are making their lives by doing exactly what they love to do. It is inspiring. And they all love cats.
So, because of cats, and their people, I have found new inspirations, laughed a little, been sad a little, and been reminded of some of my favorite shared human traits… mostly compassion (of course, humor and a fabulous aesthetic help…)
“Cats, who’d have ’em?”
And thank god for that.
Please take a look at some of these websites (mostly linked above) and marvel at the work.
Then please make/take time to donate $/♥/∞ to something that moves your heart today.