Ode to a Cat

In a little white house, in a little town, there lived a man and a woman and a cat. The cat wasn’t little — he was big. He was a big black cat, and he was lonely. He wanted to spend every minute of every day with the man and woman, but he couldn’t. They had to go off to their jobs, so they could buy things like catnip and toy mice. The big black lonely cat cried a lot, and the man thought he needed a friend.

One day the man came home with a newspaper and an idea. He had found a friend for the big black lonely cat. The next day, the man and woman brought two friends home — a silly black and white cat and a little grumpy black cat. But the big black cat was not happy. He did not like his new friends, not one bit. He wanted to be alone with the man and woman, every minute of every day.

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The silly black and white cat worked hard to make the big angry black cat his friend. He tried to share toys. He tried to play. And one day, the man and woman came home to find that the big angry black cat was happy, and the silly black and white cat was happy. The little grumpy black cat was still grumpy, but that was okay.

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The silly black and white cat got into lots of trouble. He fell in the river — but he came home.

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He stayed out all night chasing fireflies and looking at the stars — but he came home. He jumped up on the roof — but he came home.

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He climbed to the very top of a tall tree — but he came home.

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He always, always came home.

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Just after winter turned to spring, the snow fell all around and the big happy black cat stayed inside with the little grumpy black cat. The silly black and white cat loved to chase the snowflakes, though, so he left the other cats at home and went on an adventure. But this time, he didn’t come home.

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The man and the woman looked everywhere for their silly black and white cat. They called his name. They put up signs with his silly black and white face, but nobody called. Until one day, they found out that their black and white cat was not going to come home, because he couldn’t. The silly black and white cat was gone, forever.

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The man and the woman and their baby, and the big sad black cat, and the little grumpy black cat, all missed their black and white cat terribly. He was their friend, and he was gone. His bed was empty. His favourite spot on the old green couch stayed cold. It was hard to imagine life without their goofy companion.

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The first time the man and the woman and the big black cat (and yes, even the little grumpy black cat) met the silly black and white cat their hearts grew bigger because they loved him so much. When he went away, his spot in their hearts was left empty and aching to be filled.

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They had memories of their silly friend, though, that knitted together to fill in the blank space. They remembered his meow that sounded like a yodel. They remembered his purr, and his soft, velvety fur, and how patiently he waited while the baby of the house gave him unruly kisses. It helped them feel less sad.

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One day, the snow melted. The grass turned green, and the flowers sprouted out of the garden where the silly black and white cat used to dig in the dirt. The birds flew by the windows and the squirrels ran through the yard, with no black and white cat to chase them anymore. The world kept turning, the sun kept rising, and though they missed their friend every day, the man and the woman and their baby and the big black cat and the little black cat were all okay. The silly black and white cat lived in their hearts and their minds and if you looked just the right way, sometimes you might think you saw a black and white tail flicking in the trees, moving skyward toward the birds, the lights, and eternity.

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Lost

I didn’t write much of anything last week because I didn’t want to write about this, and I was hoping I wouldn’t have to. I still don’t feel much like writing, honestly, but maybe some catharsis will help. Last Wednesday, after a full day of hustling and bustling for everyone, late at night Matt realized our cat Marbles wasn’t home. I thought maybe he got locked in the basement — he wasn’t there. He wasn’t anywhere nearby, outside, and I actually hadn’t seen him at all that day. Matt was sure all three cats were around for dinner time the night prior, so at some point on Wednesday, he disappeared.

As people with three indoor/outdoor cats, a missing kitty is a risk we take every time we open the door, but until now, Marbles has always come home. He’s wandered, yes, and got himself into and out of some sticky situations, but despite our very best efforts to locate him, he’s still gone. We’ve been searching, followed cat tracks, left out food and things that smell like home, put up posters, emailed vets and shelters, but nothing. I’m heartened by the social media response of people in this town to missing pets, and we have a lot of people keeping their eyes out, but still — nothing.

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Every time I walk by a door, I hope he’ll appear. Every time I pull into the driveway I hope he’ll be sitting on the window ledge waiting to be let in.

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At this point we have had to accept that it’s equally likely that we will never see him again as it is that he’ll show up. There are lots of things that could have happened to him and all I can hope is that he comes back, and if he can’t come back, that at least he’s happy wherever he may be.

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It feels absolutely awful to not know where he is and know that we may never figure it out. There have been a lot of tears in our household over the last few days. I feel guilty, like I’ve let part of my family down. But I’m trying to remember this — we saved Marbles from the pound just before he was scheduled to be put down. That was in 2011, and he has had almost four years with us, free to eat well, get lots of belly rubs, and enjoy a good life. Matt asked me, if we knew back then that he would one day disappear, would we still say yes? And the answer to that is of course. If someone returned him tomorrow and told me he’d go missing again in another year I’d say yes.

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The first day he was allowed to come upstairs to our bedroom he spent a solid hour purring and attempting to lick my hair. He didn’t just tolerate M’s brutal petting — he actively sought her out.

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I once watched him attempt to jump out of a closed upper-story window. He chased invisible things in the snow. He was friends with everything and everyone. He loved being outside.

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I had to put all of that in the past tense and it hurts. Please keep our buddy in your thoughts.

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“We who choose to surround ourselves with lives even more temporary than our own, live within a fragile circle; easily and often breached. Unable to accept its awful gaps, we would still live no other way. We cherish memory as the only certain immortality, never fully understanding the necessary plan.”― Irving Townsend

Things I Think About at 4 AM…

… while Marbles is scaling the bedroom walls trying to get at the window, successfully getting at the window, meowing at the world outside, and whacking his tail off of the sill while he’s at it.

  • Did a cat just fall on my head? Why is there a cat on my head?
  • I wonder if his claws are going to dig into the finish on the bed frame.
  • I wonder if his claws are digging into my expensive trim paint, too.
  • Does he realize the sill is too narrow for him to be comfortable?
  • What does he see out there that is so interesting?
  • Does he really think I’m going to let him outside via the window at 4 a.m.?
  • If I shut the window, will he not be able to fit in the sill anymore and thus go away?
  • Did I just make it easier for him to sit up there?
  • I wonder if I could wrap his tail in bubble wrap.
  • Hmm. Matt hitting him with a pillow is doing nothing. If Matt hit me with a pillow I’d probably move.
  • I wonder if he’s upset that Matt hit him with a pillow enough times to make him run away.
  • I wonder what the memory/attention span of an average cat is, because he’s back already.
  • If I pet him, will he stay down here?
  • Why is there a cat on my head?!

So. There are dirty little cat footprints all over my windowsill. The finish on the bed frame seems to have weathered the claws (as has my face). No Marbleses were harmed (pillows are soft). Maybe tomorrow, when I’m not so tired from battling a damn kitty at 4 a.m., I’ll share some photos of our new bed…

Marbles the Cat, Autumn 2012

Marbles is known to be a skittish cat. He immediately velcroed himself to us when we picked him up at the shelter, and displayed no signs of nervousness — until one day, we had house guests, and he tried to jump through a second-floor window. We’ve since discovered that he’s a bit of a scaredy-cat, especially around strangers, and especially outside. For the longest time, if either one of us so much as looked at him while he was out of the house, he’d go flying off into the trees and we wouldn’t see him until the next day.

The cats are on a new schedule for going out. We let them out first thing in the morning, they usually come around for lunch, and then they’re out again until we get home. I know that having semi-outdoor cats increases the risk that they’ll get hit by a car, but they’re smart about staying off the road, and really, they love being outside so much that we’ve decided their quality of life is probably bettered for it.

Anyway, since we started them on this new schedule, Marbles has been hanging around the house a lot more. I’m not sure if it’s because he doesn’t get fed in the morning so he’s hungrier, or because he’s not outside when dusk hits, but he’s been a lot more relaxed about letting one of us pet him every once in awhile, or sitting on the deck without freaking out if we open the door.

I was really surprised, though, when he came running up to me last week while I was sitting in the backyard with my camera. I heard a jingle and figured it was Maggie, but when I turned around, there was Marbles, positively gleeful to see me.

He really would not leave me alone. If I stopped petting him for ten seconds to try to take a picture he’d jump up on my legs and flat-out throw himself onto my face, desperate for attention… until he spotted something behind me and ran away.

Fickle kitty!

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