Thursday, November 10, 2005

Cat Thoughts

Another beautifully clear, bitterly cold day. There is no mercy in the pale blue sky. The northeasterly winds are frigid, dry...

I am glad that we have brought the "stray" cats inside, that there are no paw prints in the snow outside, that I don't have to lie in bed at night and wonder whether the yard cats have found warm enough shelter. For now, at this moment, there is peace of mind in that regard.

First impressions can be a dicey thing with cats. The white cat ("White Cat #4" in the vet's records) has shown an unexpected aggressive side toward the other cats in the shop. Lola's Dad ("Black Cat #4") seems--surprisingly--social and docile for a supposed "feral" cat. He comes out from his day-time hiding spot when I feed the cats at night, murking in the shadows until I fill the plate nearest him, then eating with a quiet gratitude. He is wary but not terrified of me.

At this turning of the year, there are other cats populating my mind, ghost cats, those gone but still close in my heart. As I move around the shop, doing my cat chores, the absent ones press into my thoughts: Johnny and Boo Boo, the still-painful memories of Lucy Sue and Little Black Newt.

And underneath all, the missing of Kisa, who lives now and forever in my heart. She died before the house was finished, before there were even walls and ceilings--just the bare wooden frames and plywood floors. Somewhere, however, lodged in some cranny of the floor boards or tucked in a corner of the wall frames--some tuft of fur, the ghost-print of a paw--something of her remains, lives in this house.

***

I watch the noon sun gild the individual hairs of Slippers' tabby coat as she sleeps on the lowest shelf of the cat tree. She is happier here than she has ever been in her life. So much so that I doubt the memories of her first four or five years--in that other home--intrude on her daily thoughts. She bears the scars of those times, of being unloved or ignored. She is quick to seek a hiding place when voices are raised and even now is tentative when she approaches us for affection. Her honest delight in being treated with kindness can be sad to see. I doubt she was abused in the conventional sense of the word, but I sense she was ignored or discounted, occasionally allowed to fall from an insecure grasp or kicked out of the way and she came to us convinced that if she didn't beg for food, we would never remember to feed her.

Here, there is always food and warmth and room for one more in our hearts. Our house isn't much but I imagine to this little tabby cat--and others--it must seem a haven of peace and contentment.