- They are the perfect foot warmers.
- They purr.
- They don’t require constant attention.
- They bury their poop.
- They are amused by little things, like red dots of light and boxes.
- They make funny faces.
- They are dignified, except when they’re not, and then they’re hilarious.
- They are self-cleaning.
- They are perpetually curious.
- All of them are different.
My cat is dying.
She’s a beautiful cobby-shaped black and white longhair of undetermined breed with gem-like green eyes. We found her wandering outside our church, skinny and bedraggled. We brought her food, but she wanted to be petted more than she wanted to eat. When a raccoon ate all the food we brought her, we decided to take her home. She’s been home for sixteen years.
Her name is Spot. I named her Spot because I was six. Also, she has a black spot on her tiny pink nose.
She is the best cuddle buddy. She always knows when I’m sick or sad, and whenever I’m either of those she’s right next to me, in my lap, or curled up on my chest, her deep, rumbling purr vibrating through my bones and shaking all the broken pieces back into place.
In cat years, she’s 80 years old, but she still plays with bits of string or catnip mice like a kitten. She has a habit of finding a toy, putting it in her mouth, standing in the most resonant place in the house, and howling to get our attention. It’s annoying, but iconic.
Spot is the queen of the roost. The other cats are bigger than her and much younger than her, but Spot only has to look at them archly to have them back down and behave. Occasionally, our middle cat Dot will get in a violent mood and need to be extracted from underneath a piece of furniture. Once she had wedged herself under my nightstand and wasn’t at all eager to be pulled out. Dot’s a big cat and very strong—Spot is small and frail. But when Dot angrily latched onto my hand, Spot attacked Dot in my defense and made her let go. Spot is not the kind of cat to attack anyone or anything, but she would not stand for anyone hurting me.
She misses me. I know people joke about how cats don’t care when their humans are gone, but Spot always very distressed when she sees me packing a suitcase. But when she sees me unpacking a suitcase or bringing in boxes of dorm accoutrements, she’s all purrs and affectionate rubs around the ankles.
Spot loves to watch the outdoors. While she never wanted to return—she bristles at the sound of loud trucks and dogs barking, indicating she’s had nasty encounters with both—she loves wide windows. She loves car rides and watching the world whiz by. She loves basking in pools of sunlight. She loves watching birds and squirrels and falling snowflakes.
But more than anything else, she loves to curl up with me and be scratched between the ears.
We found out she has thyroid cancer about a year ago. Last week we noticed a sore in her mouth, and when the vet examined her and did some tests, he found out the cancer had spread to her mouth. She has 38 days left to live.
The things is—she knows it. She knows she’s sick. She knows she’s dying. Dot knows it too—despite their occasional tussles, Dot idolizes her—and stays with her all the time.
Spot spends even more time looking out of windows—even late at night when there’s nothing to see. She wants to spend all her time with me. Right now she’s curled into a ball next to me on the couch. She’ll leave her usual resting places and seek me out, patting me on the arm to be petted, purring wildly. And she gets agitated whenever she sees me cry.
“Don’t do that. Don’t be silly, human. Just pet me. It will be okay.”
I hate to see her hurt. And she does hurt. She’s learned how to ask for pain medicine. It hurts her to eat, so she doesn’t eat much, and she didn’t eat much before this started. I don’t want her to hurt, but there’s nothing I can do about it but do what she wants—pet her, brush her, hug her, and let her wake me up in the morning.
She’ll probably go while I’m in Croatia. I’d like to think that she wants it that way.
There are three cats in our house; one per person. The youngest furry bundle of joy belongs to my father, who found her injured in the middle of the road two Augusts ago. The middle cat, a shaggy but adorable behemoth who thinks she’s a dog, adheres to my mother. And the oldest, a fluffy, arthritic faded beauty who purrs like a motorboat, is mine.
Cats aren’t dogs. I shouldn’t have to say this, but so many people expect cats to behave like dogs that I feel I should make this clarification. You see, it is possible to own a dog. They submit to that kind of treatment fairly well; in fact, they seem to enjoy being under a human’s control. Cats are made of sterner stuff, and will rarely consent to answer to anyone but themselves. Hence their whole mode of expression and communication is entirely different from that of a dog. Did I say superior? No. Just different.
Cats are, for the most part, quiet creatures. This is perhaps why they are the favorite companion of introverts, people who are often judged by the same ruthless criticism that cats are subjected to. Most people mistake quietness for shyness, shyness for aloofness, and aloofness for snobbery.
Cats prefer to keep to themselves and run on their own schedules. They do not enjoy performing, and are difficult to bribe into doing something they really don’t want to do. Cats are more prone to hold grudges than dogs, which seem to have memories as short as their attention spans and forget abuses far too readily. This is largely because a cat’s sense of self-preservation is much higher than that of a dog’s. Cats remember how individuals treat them, and, much like humans, treat each person according to the individual’s kindness or perceived lack thereof. Dogs, by some genetic quirk that prohibits them from seeing the treachery of human nature, will submit themselves to all kinds of abuses before either being killed or snapping and ripping a person’s throat out. Dogs trust when they have no reason to trust. Cats are, by nature, skeptical and untrusting. This is perhaps why people prefer dogs to cats. No one wants a pet that reminds them of themselves.
Granted, that was a paragraph of sweeping generalizations based more on one girl’s observations rather than proven fact. As far as the longstanding debate as to whether dogs are better than cats or vice versa, the best answer is “to each his own.” It’s a preference, not a religion. Although, because the two animals are so different in nature, it is safe to say that a person’s preference either way says a great deal about what kind of person he is, and it takes a very special sort of person to have room in his heart to accept both creatures for what they are.
Regardless as to whether one’s preference is dog, cat, parakeet, or capuchin monkey, there is an undeniable delight in owning or being owned by a pet.
My cat, like most octogenarians, spends most of her time sleeping. The location of her favorite napping place depends on her mood and how she’s feeling. The location will usually change every month or so. For a while, it was my parent’s closet. During the summer, it’s my mother’s chair in the front room by the picture window. Since November, her favorite place has been my bed, preferably while I’m in it. The minute she’s let in the house in the morning, she makes a dash for my door, where she will stare forlornly at the doorknob and meow until someone lets her in. This morning, my mother let her in my room, and she promptly made her way to wherever my face was, purring loudly. Then, in a tactical move uncharacteristic of my rather standoffish feline, the cat curled up in a ball on top of my chest, settling into a contented nap. Not only was I no longer obligated to get up, but I now had every reason to fall back asleep to the purring lullaby sung by my cat.
Back in the summer, when I had my wisdom teeth taken out (a painful ordeal that didn’t stop being painful until this month), the middle cat made her shaggy self at home on the couch where I had to camp for several days. She always seems to know when someone isn’t feeling well, and is the go-to nap cat for whoever has the sniffles. She is the family clown, who has not only the funniest facial expressions but will also talk back to you (by “talk,” I mean “chirpingly meow”) if you talk to her. She is the sociable cat, and she is the most likely to come downstairs when people are visiting and welcome them, and has been known to sit and watch movies with the people invited over for movie nights.
When I was sick over the weekend, the youngest of our feline trio—who normally avoids me for reasons inexplicable—seemed to know that something was wrong with me, and spent hours curled on top of my feet while I slept. Since my feet were warm, the rest of me was warm as well, and I felt much better with the cat keeping me company.
And that, in short, is why I love my cats.
From the beginning, we at the Rambler household have known that Jennyanydots, our newly-acquired kitten, was a little unusual. I’ve mentioned her bravery (you try being dumped into the middle of the road, have your mouth busted open, and yet manage to stay calm while complete strangers cart you from vet to vet) and her insatiable curiosity (well, maybe that’s normal for a cat) and her sweetness (give her all the toys in the world, and she’ll still prefer cuddling over playtime. Don’t give me any of that ‘all cats are snobby and aloof” trash. It just isn’t true). But the bigger she gets, the more we’re noticing just how very odd she is.
She has black lips, nose, and feet. Not the fur, mind you. The skin. Also, she’s a short hair, but she simply doesn’t shed, and short haired cats are notorious for shedding hair the way two-month old Christmas trees shed needles. And her fur’s texture lacks the somewhat spiky quality of most shorthairs—rather, she feels more like a rabbit. Her fur is so thick that we can’t find her skin when we try to give her flea meds. She has nearly perfectly symmetrical striping, and her ears have little tufts of fur at the tips. Overall, she just didn’t seem to be completely…domestic.
I’d hold her up to my face and ask her in mock-seriousness, “Was your daddy a Bobcat?”
As all Ramblers are endowed with a natural, in-born desire to research, my mother went to the interwebs for answers.
Lo and behold, our cat is a Bengal.
And what is a Bengal? It is a breed of cat that has its roots in the wild—some distant cousin of the Asian leopard-cat, and known for its size, playfulness, and distinctive, spotty coloration. Every picture we find looks like it could be a picture of our Jenny. It seems that we’ve acquired a purebred—for free.
Bengals are leash-trainable. I have this almost overwhelming desire to teach the cat how to walk on a leash, just so I can take her for a spin around the block and watch the Labradors drool and stare in dumb confusion.
My father, paranoid as he is, is now concerned that the Powers-That-Be will swoop in and demand the return of this rather valuable kitten. It seems that there is a Bengal breeder in the Anytown area that may be missing a kitten.
“So what are you going to do?” asked my mom.
“We’ll put out a sign,” Dad replied. “‘Found: One Bengal Kitten. Email for pictures.”’
“Yeah, right,” I said. “Like you’re actually going to put up a sign.”
“Sure I will,” he replied. “Right up on our front deck. Behind the storm door.”
No worries, folks. Jenny, our wild thing, is here to stay.