Dearest cat. Dearest kitty cat. Oh my little pitty mitty witty cat. I love you.
I miss rubbing my face and chin in your fur. I miss that little grunt you made when startled, or before making a jump. I miss gazing into your green eyes. Sometimes they were round, by turns guileless or all-knowing. Sometimes they were half-closed, with pleasure or suspicion or sleepiness. They were almost always on me. You were almost always looking at me.
You came when I called. I always marveled at that. I didn’t generally have anything to offer you except for a minute’s attention and my company. But you came as though you trusted that I had a good reason for calling. My reason was just that I wanted to be near you and was too lazy to get up. You indulged me.
Remember the first night you spent with me, as my cat? It was late January or early February in Arizona, three and a half years ago. You wandered my new apartment, checking, checking, from the front to the back, from the back to the front, visibly anxious and wary. You spoke incessantly in your strange, hoarse, strident voice – I had yet to learn your tones. I wondered whether I had made the right choices – in my cat, my apartment, my city, my job, my career. That night you came to me and kneaded me for what felt like hours. The quarter-hour you dug your little claws into my left armpit was torturous, but so deeply endearing; I learned what it felt like to enjoy being tickled by needles. I resolved to keep you for a month, to see how things would go.
We got used to each other, didn’t we? I didn’t find you pretty for a long time, possibly nearly a year, but by our last year I thought you were as beautiful as any cat there is, more beautiful than most. You fought the first times I put on your nail caps and gave you baths, but by the end of the first summer, you had basically acquiesced – I could feel the token nature of your protests in your squirmy little body. You yielded to me. I loved you for it.
I always wondered a little whether you entirely liked the way I treated you, scooping you up willy nilly, cuddling you a minute longer than you wanted at times, teaching you to perform tricks for treats. I called you the most tolerant kitty, and so you were. I joked that you suffered from Stockholm Syndrome, and I did worry, sort of. But then I think of your gaze – almost always on me, within a split second of noticing me, steadily and openly, as though I were the most important thing to look at in the world. And I think of the way you met me at doors, and the way you curled against me to sleep, and how you greeted me in the mornings, quivering with excitement, and I think, does it matter? There was no subtext with you, neither past nor future tense, just moments of present need or contentment. And I knew you were generally content with me, and always came to me first when you had needs.
I needed you, too, and loved it. I will forever be grateful that I never took you for granted. Everyday I had you, every time I thought of you, I rejoiced and felt blessed because of you. Even now, I cannot think of you and not smile.
You have left me many things: your collar, your fur, seven whiskers, hundreds of photographs, videos (but not as many as I’d like), a few recordings of your distinctive meows, a picture book of your story, memories. Against my intentions, it is likely that I will lose some of them as the decades pass. While I have them now, I finger them frequently and fondly. You also left me with many cat supplies – a sturdy litter box, with a 25-lb bag of unopened litter. A soft carrier. Food – dry and wet. Catnip. A small collection of toys – you never showed them much interest, except for a succession of wands. The cat cave that you had not yet deigned to make your own. There is a whole cabinet, in the most convenient place in the kitchen, devoted to your things.
Someday I will have other cats who will use some of those things. Actually I want that day to come as soon as possible, as soon as it would be responsible. I think that might mean late December. I always knew that I would outlive you, and that there is an unending supply of lovable cats in the world. It does not make me miss you less. I still wish we had had more years, many more years. I meant for you to meet the husband and children I have yet to meet and make. You were singular.
I love you. I miss you, my little pitty pat. Sleep well.
Er-weow (for that is what you called me)