It has been two weeks since we lost our cat, Zika, and, for myself really, I wanted to acknowledge our companion before too much more time passed. Zika came into our lives 18 years ago, a couple of weeks after we were married: Julie was in a neighborhood pet store that did weekend adoptions, a woman brought this wild kitten in that she had found on the street presuming the store would take her, they would not. The kitten was frantic, hissing and scratching at everybody until Julie took her; she calmed down immediately and clung to her, "she recognized a kindred spirit," Julie said. We had a cat.
Zika had quite a personality, but she wasn't the friendliest of felines, her small size belied a ferocious response whether you were befriending her or, worse, aggravating her. She was kind of mean from the outset, and I admittedly did little to transform her tendencies. I actually referred to this in an earlier entry a few years ago.
Get off my foot!
That earlier entry was wrong in one respect: if there was one thing we did enjoy, it was the love of that cat. As antagonistic as she was to others, she was that affectionate and devoted to the two of us. She had to be wherever we were, in a room, in a car, and unless we had to get on a plane, she was with us.
I have been surprised at the sympathies that people have expressed, in part I suppose because they themselves have lost a pet, perhaps in part because they knew how much a part of our life that cat was. It certainly is not like losing a person, but it is profound in its own way. A person has his or her own life, as they get older they are pulled in different directions. A pet is there everyday, a comfort in its unvarying behavior, its waiting at the door, its assurance of loyalty. And it keeps you warm.
Our home, not surprisingly, feels very empty at the moment. We are very slowly getting accustomed to Zika not being where she always is, amazing how such a little creature can leave such a large void. Occasionally we had to look for her, we always found her, this time we won't.
Have you seen the damn cat?
It is hard not to think of the Tennyson line about "better to have loved and lost..." It has crossed my mind what our lives might have been had she never joined us 18 years ago. The first night Julie unexpectedly brought her home, we were having dinner guests. The kitten was alone, scared, wary of our approaches. We wondered if this might be a big mistake. Then our friend Mark, being Mark, took a long string, got up on a chair and tied it to the ceiling fan. Then, as we sat down to eat, we turned on the fan and the four of us enjoyed unabated laughter as this little thing chased and jumped at that string relentlessly, intent and oblivious. When we turned the fan off a few minutes later, we knew she was a keeper.
It is bitter cold outside and it is snowing, but it feels not as warm inside as it should. It was a wonderful 18 years, I know she was just a cat, just a cat... but she mattered...