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Just a Cat

She was just a cat. Just an everyday cat, a cat like a million others. Nothing special. Nothing out of the ordinary. Just a regular American domestic shorthair, black, with green/gold eyes.

She didn’t like people. She had an indelible antisocial streak. Old friends who visited didn’t believe we actually had a cat, thought the beds and toys were there just for show. Whether they stayed for the evening, or visited for a few nights, they didn’t see her. Our cat sitter never saw her. Not once.

She was a denner, a hider in small places. Above all, she wanted peace and solitude. She’d retreat to a closet to sleep on sweaters, or crawl under the bedcovers and cocoon in a lump. When I came home for the day, my first stop would be the bedroom. I’d go up to the tent I’d made that morning out of pillows and the counterpane, and whisper my greetings to her through the quilt. My reward was a purr and, sometimes, as I stroked her though the fabric, a paw would reach out and press against my fingertip.

She didn’t trust anyone, not completely, not even me. It was feet she feared most. It took me years to figure this out, to understand why she always shied away from me as I approached. It was my feet. As a black cat, so black that she was devilish hard to photograph without it coming out looking like a picture of a black hole, she was easy to miss. She was a shadow, a spirit barely seen, a haunt, and she got caught by the occasional misstep as one of us came around a corner and didn’t spot her. It wasn’t until I understood this that our relationship changed. As I walked toward her she’d stare at my feet, but if I stopped and wiggled my toes, she knew that my feet “saw” her, and it was safe, and she would look up at me. She would allow herself to be carried or held for short periods, but would always be looking down, waiting for us to betray her and drop her, even though we never did.

She would stomp down the hallway. She wasn’t that big, either by size or weight, but when she came down the hallway, with every step, she planted her front paws with a resounding thump. Maybe it was her way of announcing her arrival, to warn away the feet that were waiting around each corner. Maybe it was to scare up spiders or other prey. Maybe she just liked to do it, queen of her demesne.

She was afraid of the outdoors. While many cats are intensely curious about the world beyond the front door, she was not. No enticement could encourage her to join us on the front stoop, and even the sight of the open doorway would make her slink away on legs shortened by fear.

Yesterday, after seventeen years of living with her, we said goodbye. As cats often do, she gave no warning, living her life on her own terms until she could do it no longer.

She was just a cat. Like any other.

Variable. Complicated. Unique.

Just a cat.


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