Yes, it's true, I am a cat person. It probably seems like a cop-out to blog about my cats because I could literally talk about them forever. And maybe it is a cop-out, especially because I don't yet know what my point is in talking about them, or really what I want to say. I guess I'll start at the beginning, when I was a baby, and cats first fell in love with me.
I have a picture of myself when I was less than a year old, holding myself in a standing position to look out of the window, and our old cat Sammy doing the exact same thing next to me. Apparently Sammy loved me from the moment I came home from the hospital; he like to sleep in my crib with me, follow me around the house, groom me, etc. Perhaps this is the root of why cat's comfort me, make me feel happy, whole and safe. I don't think that I could ever live in a home without cats, they are just the greatest joy.
Growing up, we had such a huge variety of cats and experiences with cats. We served as kind of a stray cat sanctuary; every stray cat for miles always seemed to end up on our porch. I couldn't even begin to count the amount of cats that we took in, looked after and eventually found good homes for. Some of the cats that found us were wild, feral cats, and it would take sometimes over a year to win a cats trust and be able to do something so simple as pet it. Shadow was like that. He started coming around when I was 8 or 9, and I remember that I was 10 years old the first time that Shadow let me pet him. He lived outside of our house, under the neighbors porch, for a year as we fed him, kept him healthy, talked to him, and tried to let him know that he could trust us, before he finally came into our home to stay. Eventually Shadow came to be himself around us, and he was an incredibly intelligent, loyal and loving cat. He died about 5 years ago of old age.
Besides all of the normal stray cats that wondered into our yard, we also took in the countless cats that our crazy neighbors (the people that lived directly behind us) abandoned. They have a terrible habit of getting a female kitten every year, never spading her, and by mid-summer there is a slew of kittens running around. These people are the type who seem to breed as quickly as cats do, and are not nice to either their children or their cats. All summer long all we hear is a long list of obscenities being screamed at each other, the children (or grandchildren) and the cats. It is no wonder that almost every single cat they've ever had has taken up residence at our house, and they have hardly even noticed the disappearances. Animals are like cute, fuzzy objects to them, not living breathing creatures that deserve love, food and a home. People like that make me sick and ashamed to be a human. What makes it worse is that I know how absolutely wonderful the cats that they abuse are, I've known many of them deeply. I should almost be thankful for the way that they treat animals because it's given me some of the best experiences of my life.
Izzy and Precious (names given by the awful neighbors) are two of the most important figures of my life. Precious was Izzy's daughter, and both of them ended up as part of our family. Precious was my darling, she slept with me, listened to me, played with me and we adored each other. Precious was always a little off, though. She seemed to slowly slip into a paranoid insanity, and eventually became so scared of everything that she would not leave the basement. It turns out that pain was partly to blame, she had a slipped disk somehow, but even strong pain medication couldn't bring her out of her paranoid stupor. It's times like these when a person, or a family, has to think about what's more important: being alive or being at peace. Peace generally seems like the best answer, and we all agreed that it was time to get Precious put to sleep. I can't say that it wasn't difficult, but it was the right thing to do. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that Precious, as well as the other cat's of whom that difficult decision had to be made for, was grateful to us for letting her go.
After Precious, Izzy and I became close. It wasn't in the same way that Precious and I were, but we had a bond, and still do, although she died about 5 years ago. Now, this is the part that I'm nervous to write about, because I don't want to make myself look crazy, but I am a firm believer of reincarnation and that when we pass we are not gone, and we don't necessarily need to leave those that we love behind right away. I suppose my belief in this wouldn't be so strong if I'd never had cat's, especially Izzy. Eventually Izzy got old, developed cancer and we had to let her go. Not long after she died I had a dream about her and I know that she was there, I know that she was with me. I can't explain how I know, it's just a feeling, like knowing somebody has stepped into a room with you, though none of your normal senses picked up on it. The same thing happened to me not long after my grandma died. I dreamed that I was in her apartment, I walked into her room and she was there. In my dream it freaked me out and I woke up instantly, unable to shake the feeling that she had truly been there. I know that if it had been a normal dream than it would not have scared me, why would I be shaken up by a dream about my grandma? At any rate, I can't help but feel that Izzy, although not a ghost, has been watching over me for the past few years. Twice since that first dream with her, I've had moments of being incredibly upset, stressed out and in need of comfort. This is when Izzy has visited me in my dreams. The last time that it happened was three years ago, I was going through a rough time, and it wasn't only Izzy that came to me, Otto, another deceased cat of mine, was with her.
Mine haven't been the only experiences that my family has had with deceased cats. Another cat that entered our lives through the front porch and who left our lives far to quickly, was Sabrina. She was another cat abused and abandoned by our neighbors. After she died and we told them about it, they didn't even remember who she was. But Sabrina was wonderful, she was a beautiful, petite, long haired, black cat. She was also fierce, and enjoyed hunting down and killing squirrels for fun, and though my mom is generally irked by that sort of thing, she fell in love with Sabrina. I suppose we all did. She was so cute, yet intelligent and strong. No one could mess with Sabrina, and none of the other cats ever tried. For that brief year that she was with us, she was reigning queen of the house. But one day she got sick, and our hearts were broken when we found out that she had leukemia. For nine days she continued to get sicker and sicker, no matter what medicine we gave her, until in a moment of utter disbelief that it had happened so fast, my mom had to rush Sabrina to the vet to get her put to sleep. That night after she died, my parents had a bizarre experience. Shadow, who was still alive at this point and usually slept on their bed, would not enter my parents room. Sometime late in the night my dad awoke to find Sabrina sitting on his chest. In this half awake, half asleep moment, he pet Sabrina and then went back to sleep. A short time later my mom awoke in a panic, convinced that there was a strange cat in their bed. After both of my parents woke up completely, they realized that Sabrina had come back to say goodbye. After that night we never saw Sabrina again.
It's experiences like these, and countless others, that confirm in me a belief that animals feel as much as people do, and how we treat animals is important. I also intimately understand that death is a part of life, and it's selfish to hold on to someone who is suffering and not let them pass into the next stage of their existence. I know that if I had not grown up seeing the ways in which animals live and die, death would be a much scarier concept to me. But death is part of life, and letting go can be hard, but its something that everyone has to do.