He wasn’t a remarkable animal. A fat, black and grumpy cat with a bladder infection. His belly was bald because it was so big it rubbed the floor when he sat. But dear God, I miss him. I miss him so much.
This is going to be long winded and detailed, because my cat diserves having his story told with nothing less.
Cat was huge: whenever I looked at him it made me wonder if it was the same kitten I had secretly brought home when I was thirteen, tucked in the bottom of a small purse.
And yes, his name was Cat. In his Portuguese name we called him Nheco, which is what a family word for "cat". It’s one of those strange family traditions that arise from circumstances forgotten, but stay firm.
Cat lived six years before he drowned. He endured four house moves, and my treating him like a teddy bear. He was very weary of me because of this, unless he was cold. Then he considered my snuggling welcome and he’d sneak into my embrace at night, purring and drooling and kneading.
I aquired him when I was thirteen in 03, one cloudy day at the Scouts. A member of my patrol arrived and informed us that there was a dead cat at the entrance. We went look, and sure enough, there was a ravaged animal there, flies circling it. My patrol guide said it was surely a dog that had got it. It was a grey tabby.
As the day went by, we spotted about five kittens wandering about. All of them looked very hungry, and the girls being girls, they tried to capture them, unsuccessfully. Luckily it was a barbeque day, and we could feed them some.
One kitten though was particularly weak. It was so underfed it couldn’t even move. Later the vet said he was two months old, but looked a month. During debriefing it was sitting next to the formation, and my guide ordered me to place it near where his brothers were. That I did. It was the first time I held him, and it felt oh-so-right.
Later, during the barbeque, there it was again. Staring at us eat. One of the girls picked him up, but it scratched her. They started to get violent towards it, being dumb kids, and I rushed in and snatched it away. My patrol fed him roast meat, which he (my guide sexed him) ate all up despite not having any teeth. When it started to get cold, we dug a hole where the barbeque fire had been and burried him up to the neck to keep him warm. Then we looked for volunteers to take him home. When no one spoke up, I volunteered myself. My guide gave me feeding and general care instructions.
I took him home in the bottom of my purse, to keep him warm. "I’ll keep you safe, little one", I promised. At home I greeted my stepfather, and stealthily emptied a cardboard box and cooked some salmon. I sponge-bathed the kitty, fed him fish and watered-down milk, then we went to bed.
He mewed all night and the next day, but even so it took about a week for my mom and my stepfather to find out. By then I had made him fat on salmon and butter.
My brother’s wife convinced my mother to keep him for a little while. The plan was to give him to adoption when he fullfilled the requirements: Housebroken, two months old, weaned, vaccinated, and neutered. Of course we ended up never giving him away.
His growth caught up, and how much! He was a monstrous cat by the time he was two years old. He was my only friend for a long time of my teenagehood, too. He helped me revise for tests (I’d explain the subjects to him) and he listened to my romantic misadventures.
I used to make little costumes for him, which he hated! It was only long enough for photos.
He had a bed on the oven door, so that we could turn the oven on and he’d have his own personal heated bed. These years were filled with little discoveries of his quirks and personality.
When he was three years old I brought home anohter orphaned kitten, that I had found in a dirty ditch. I lost my job because of Jayjay! But it was worth it, Jayjay, now three years old, is a dear.
At first, Cat hated Jayjay. They became friends after a few months.
Then we moved to the village. My mother, filled with good intentions, started letting the cats out into the garden. I strongly opposed this, because they could easily escape and get hurt.
My mother claims she didn’t let Cat out that night in July 09, that he sneaked out the door when she wasn’t looking. Fact is, he didn’t come back that night.
Nor the next morning.
Nor the day after.
After four days, I started to worry. I printed out reward posters and taped them all over the village: Streetlamps, bus stops, cafes, bins, walls, and a grocery store a mile away. The villagers were great, my grandfather told me they were organizing searches!
My boyfriend came to visit a few days later, and no one had yet claimed the fifty-euro reward.
The next-door neighbour, the next weekend, rang the doorbell. He’s a senile old man, with a record of not being particularly kind to animals. I give him some slack since he actively did try to help me find my kitty.
He was smiling apologetically, like he didn’t know what expression to show.
"We found your cat."
"Oh my God, where is he?!"
I looked down and nodded. I couldn’t fool myself anymore.
"Fell into a well. I’m really sorry."
I thanked him, then turned to my boyfriend and held him. He didn’t understand what the conversation had been about, but by the way he was stroking my hair, I think that deep down he knew too. He adored Cat maybe even more than me, so it was a big blow to him too.
I was tortured for days thinking about how horrible his death might have been: the cat I had gone great lengths to keep safe, warm and well-fed – down in cold water, meowing wildly for me to take him out – until he couldn’t swim any longer and drowned, the freezing water stinging his lungs, but he was too weak to keep swimming. I had broken my promise. I didn’t keep him safe.
Jayjay started acting peculiar, immitating Cat’s very vocal meows, ignoring food, and hiding.
I adopted two kittens from the cattery that same week, both to keep Jayjay company, and to redeem myself from having broken my promise to my pet. I didn’t choose the new arrivals, I asked the cattery lady "give me whatever you think is whatever is problematic to adopt." She sent someone with two 3-week-old siblings.
The lady who brought the kittens – Lady and Baby, who is also black – was very sad to part from them, but I’m glad that I prevented them from being euthanized. I pray my three cats will live till they die of very, very old age.
Despite his sad end, his passing allowed Baby and Lady to live. His life was filled with catty pleasures, love, toys, good food, and everything a cat might want. He gave me so much affection when no one would, that even now I feel warm when I think about him.
Cat knew when I was sad, and despite him being weary of me, he’d come sit on my lap whenever I was crying. His confort and love helped me survive a broken home and too many emotional issues. He was my beautiful, grumpy pet, and I loved him.
Thank you for reading.