I received some really sad news this morning. My mom told me that her cat, Dexter, died this morning. I am going to miss him. He was such a sweetheart. Such a cuddler. Whenever I picked him up and gave him a little squeeze he would literally hug me back. He let me hold him for a couple of minutes but then that was it. He would wiggle out of my arms and go back to whatever he was up to.
When I lived in Spokane I visited my mom often and since I don’t have pets of my own I really became close to her pets. I love animals and try to make friends with all of them whenever possible. Dexter and I were good friends for most of the time I knew him but there were a couple of years when our relationship was on the rocks. One day I was playing with him and, for some reason, I thought it would be fun to play catch with him so I threw a dog toy in his direction. The toy accidentally hit him. He was absolutely stunned. He immediately left my vicinity, shunning me entirely. For two years Dexter would leave the room when I arrived. TWO YEARS. He would have nothing to do with me. I am not sure what I did to gain his trust back, but he finally decided that we could be friends again and he let me pick him up and snuggle him. But man. That cat held a grudge!
I am going to miss Dexter hugs very much.
When I was a nanny in Menlo Park, California (many years ago) the family that I worked for had a little white cat named Rajah. A month after I started they brought her home when she was a just a wee little kitten. All white with a black spot on her head and green eyes. The family went on vacation to Hawaii not long after this adoption and I stayed home to house-sit and take care of the new member of the family. When they were gone she got really sick and almost died. I kept her confined to the laundry room because, otherwise, she would puke all over the house and I needed to contain the puke. I felt bad about that but when I could I would hold her and pet her. I rocked her in the rocking chair while she purred on my chest. Eventually she was so sick that she wouldn’t come out of the little cubby space (inside a climbing cat perch that I left in the room). She lost tons of weight very quickly and became a little, delicate bag of bones. She wouldn’t move. I was worried. Finally I took her to the vet. The vet prescribed a pill that I had to force-feed her and in a couple of days she felt better. I will never forget how relieved and happy I was when I came home one day and she greeted me at the laundry room door playfully meowing.
We were inseparable after that. She followed me around the house while I did my chores. She was my little shadow and she kept me company. She snuggled up next to me on my bed at night. I felt bad about this because, technically, she was not my cat. She was the family’s cat. But what can I say? She decided I was her mommy.
I loved to give her hugs and feel her knead into the hair on my head and listen to her purr. When I want to conjure up the feeling of love this is what I think about.
We had a couple of really fun games we would play together. One of them was “murder the bird.” I found a fantastic cat toy that was essentially a cluster of feathers tied to the end of fishing line which was then tied to a pole. When you swung it around it would flit around like a bird. Rajah went completely nuts when I brought this out. She would jump and twist around with super-cat-hero abandon to attack this “bird.”
The other fun game was “stalk Monica.” It was the cat version of Red-Light/Green-Light. This game was entirely made up by the cat. I have no idea how she came up with this (and how I figured out that this was a game) but it was absolutely brilliant. I would turn away from her and she would sneak closer to me. When I quickly turned around to face her she would be frozen in place, her paw up and poised mid-stalk. I would turn around and she would sneak closer, and every time I turned around she would be frozen but just a bit closer to me. This went on until finally she got close enough to pounce on me and quickly run away before I could grab and hug her.
I worked for this family for 4 years and eventually needed to move on. I was getting married and starting college at UCSC, so I had new and exciting adventures to begin. But that cat. I was so heartbroken to have to leave my little Rajah.
She didn’t take it very well. She didn’t like the new nanny and would hiss at her. She hid under a bed most of the day. When I went to visit she wouldn’t come out to say hi. I would crouch at the bottom of the bed and see her laying there. She would peer out at me with her little green eyes. I would reach my hand under the bed to try to pet her but she would always be out of reach.
Eventually I lost touch with the family. It has been more than 15 years. I am pretty sure Rajah is not around anymore. She would be a very old cat if she was. Old and crotchety. She will always be my little sweet kitten.