My Little Cat
I never thought of myself as a “cat person,” but there are times when I am alone or in the darkness when I whisper to myself that I miss my cat, and that I’m so very sorry to have had her put down.
She was a little thing, much reduced in size over the 15 years we had her in the house. In the beginning, she was an average-sized black cat companioned with her look-alike half-sister; two black cats in a house in the woods. The half-sister, named Pasht after the Egyptian cat goddess, tormented her half-sibling who retreated into a perpetual defensive crouch. Kali was clearly the subordinate beta-female in the relationship despite her being named after the Hindu goddess of destruction. Cat names have little to do with their personalities. I knew a cat named Fluffy who was the Scourge of Creation, a real Kali, so there …
Pasht, for all the attention we lavished on her had some hereditary issues; anemia, deficient weight, and chronic problems with her teeth and appetite. These probably contributed to her generally sketchy temperament and torment of Kali. There came a day when we had to take her to the vet and do the inevitable, leaving us with Kali and me having to bury Pasht in the back yard beneath some maple trees.
Immediately afterward, Kali attached herself to me.
I considered myself a “dog man” up until then, having owned or been around a succession of dogs over the decades. The last was Rip, a border collie whose temperament mirrored mine. My heart sinks a little when I think of him, foul tempered and suspicious, given to incoherent spates of canine lunacy; the very image of his owner.
Kali started following me around the house. She padded along behind me when I went to the door to fetch firewood, waited until I returned with an armload, and padded behind me as I fed the woodstove. I complained to Darlene “what’s with the cat?” as though Kali might have gotten the idea of being next in line for the vet and she’d better buddy-up. Was I being groomed for an assignment? The former was definitely not in the picture, and the latter was merely conjecture. That was 12 years ago.
Kali attached herself to me. Apparently the feeling was mutual. I fed her, made arrangements for her care when we were absent from the house, and so on and so forth. She, on the other hand greeted me whenever I entered the house, sleeping in the upstairs bed and trotting down, or furtively peeping between the banisters, and nestling in whatever article of clothing I left on the couch … as in “mmm, smells like Davy.”
I began thinking of Kali as something of a Muse; the She who could not be present for the moment, but sent an emissary. The writer Robert Heinlein wrote something to the effect that a man’s place in heaven is determined by how he treats his cat. Being a skeptic by nature, I wasn’t looking for a reward coming hereafter. I accorded Kali her due and she mine.
One reward came as mice. Since we live in the woods, white-footed mice often intrude onto the premises. Kali’s methodology at catching mice was to pounce on and apparently smother her prey. She carefully deposited each of her victims in conspicuous locations where I readily found them, wet, matted and intact, often beside my pillow or on the center of the bed. I tossed their wee carcasses by the tail out the back door for the ravens. Mice were not on Kali’s menu.
Oh, but the end of this sort of thing is always terrible! Kali was over 15 years old now, and getting frailer and skinnier by the week. Her habit toward me hadn’t changed, but the loss of most of her teeth compelled me to leave a fresh spoonful of cat food in her dish at a time. She seemed to exist only on what she could lick.
She still ensconced herself beside my head every night and purred as I pet her. When I stopped she would hold out a paw, claws splayed and gently rake my hand for more. I miss this most of all; the outstretched paw, that imploring look, the noisy purring as I went to sleep.
The rest is what had to follow.
I’ve come to the conclusion that purgatory is an earthy state of being; merely the sum of all the losses, regrets, what might have been and such we carry with us to wherever it is we’re going. No consolation is required for my part. Nor do I want any.
I hope there will always be that heartfelt twinge when I remember my little cat.
Dave Wylie’s life and work experience runs the gamut from newspaper editor to carpenter to grant writer to boat builder with lots of other work wedged in-between. Born in 1953 in Canada, he admits not having found what he wants to be when he grows up. Wylie currently is president of a management company that oversees an elderly housing complex and president of the local historical society. He resides in Madawaska.