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How To Know When It's Time To Get A Cat
A true story.
“I love cats because I enjoy my home; and little by little, they become its visible soul.” — Jean Cocteau
THIS SHOULD BE TITLED: How I Knew When It Was Time To Get A New Cat. But the subtitle’s still fitting: This is a true story.
Like many folks, I was raised with cats throughout my childhood. One of my first memories as a toddler was how our cat Kaiser would ride on top of the dashboard behind the stirring wheel in our car. A side note: My German dad always named our pets after German generals or gods 🙄 — for instance, our Dobermans were Thor and Loki.
Despite the safety issues of such an absurd cat perch, my mom allowed it because all of our pets were spoiled. (During cold weather in the winter, she would move our four chickens out of their coop and into the warmer enclosed patio of our house.)
Cars were big, with oddly shaped, roomy interiors in the early 60s. So, if not sprawled out on the dashboard, Kaiser would climb onto the top of the driver’s seat and disappear into my mom’s long hair while nestling against her neck. I would then, swaddled in blankets in the back seat (car seats for kids didn’t exist then), babble at Kaiser.
In the late 70s, while living in Hawai’i, my boyfriend Bill and I had a black cat named Bento because, well, Bill was Japanese, but also because the cat had an extremely crooked tail due to an unfortunate event with a closing door.
In the 80s, my boyfriend Alex and I had a black cat called JoJo (I can’t recall where that name came from; I think I named her after a friend in my spiritual school).
JoJo was a fabulous feline until around her seventh year when she started pissing around the house in random locations (on top of coffee table books, kitchen tea towels, and my eight-thousand-dollar couch). But her favorite elimination destination was the suitcases of visiting friends. I spent a small fortune purchasing new suitcases for my understanding but irritated friends.
The tipping point with JoJo came when my friend Tom was visiting from DC. Suddenly, one afternoon, Tom — a former Marine — yelled up at me from the downstairs guest room in a commanding voice: “Kitty is tinkling!” Of course, she was — he’d left his suitcase open on the floor. Being gay and a Libra, Tom had the most expensive, high-end suitcases. Back to Nordstroms, we went.
And out of the house, JoJo went — returned to the same shelter where she’d been adopted. (Her story had a happy ending. She was eventually re-homed by a mother and daughter on the island who allowed her to roam outside — something I’ve never permitted my cats to do).
You’ve probably, within your pantheon of pets, had a favorite cat. And that was the case for me with my Bengal cat Lili (named after the queen of Hawai’i). I’d purchased Lili right before 9/11 from a breeder in Spokane. From the first moment Lili crept towards me, released from her carrier (she was about the size of a Dixie cup), I fell into a swoon that never waned.
I had fifteen wonderful years with Lili. But when that day arrived that I was driving her to the vet to be euthanized, I said to myself, through tears, that “that was it.” I never again wanted to experience holding the creature I’d adored for years in my arms while a vet administered a killing shot. To this day, I still can’t shake the image of Lili’s expression as she looked up at me while fading away into the void. I buried her in my backyard beside an apple tree.
That was many years ago. In the interim, friends told me, “You’ll know when it’s time to get another cat.” And I’d always placate them by saying, “Sure, you’re right.” But I understood completely that I never would — get another cat.
But then something happened yesterday. The Supreme Cat Spirit of Vashon Island visited me. And here’s that story.
For the past couple of weeks, a wandering black cat had begun hanging around my property. This is unusual on Vashon, where eagles, coyotes, and crazy-ass raccoons are part of the ecosystem. People generally don’t let their cats ramble.
Sometimes, I saw the black cat sitting and sunning on a huge flat boulder in my backyard. Sometimes, I’d see it in my driveway’s turnaround. Whenever I’d call out to the cat, it skittered away.
Yesterday morning, while trawling around Instagram and watching yet another reel of some unhinged cats — out of the blue — I decided to check out Vashon’s pet protector’s website to see if they had any kittens. I discovered two adorable black brothers that were about three months old. The shelter had named them Rook and Raven.
I made some coffee and allowed myself, for fun, to imagine getting the two cats. I pictured them ripping around my house. And then I imagined what I’d rename them. I came up with the names One and Two. That made me laugh. I recalled how Jane Mansfield had named her two Chihuahuas Popsicle and Momsicle. One and Two was a joke, but then I considered the names earnestly. This alerted me that I’d tumbled into the Cat Procurement Tunnel. Hmmmmm.
Then, later in the afternoon, I went outside to sit on the step that led up to the entryway to my front door. The wandering black cat was back, crouched in my driveway, watching me. This time, when I called out, the cat beelined over to me and began zig-zagging between my legs, rubbing its head on my ankles, allowing me to pet it. Eventually, it just sat there alongside me — meditating and staring off into space as I’d been doing a minute earlier.
I noticed the cat had a collar on with an ID tag. When I checked it out, it had the cat’s owner’s name and phone number engraved on one side. But when I flipped the tag over to discover the cat’s name, I instantly released the medal, reared back a bit, and let out a laugh.
The mystery cat’s name is Zero.
For real. Too fucking wild.
Having accepted my instructions from Zero, I have an appointment to meet One and Two tomorrow. 🐈⬛ 🐈⬛ 😃
Love (and happy Thanksgiving to y’all),
PS: On Wednesday, my annual PAINT IT BLACK sale begins. Big discounts on my books, astrology consultations, and paid subscriptions to WOODRUFF.
Opening illustration, Reclining cat, obliquely from the front, by Jean Bernard, c. 1808. Public domain.
• Bad Astrology is Everywhere (my most popular post this year).