My dad once gave me a picture that said, “Cats do not tell all they know.” That’s very true.
Had cats while growing up, but as an adult I’ve had three special cats. The first, Scud East, a little English shorthair, I picked up from the VPI swine barn. He was my pal through college and those years following, always at my side and never straying (even when we went for walks). Having grown up amidst dorm room D&D games where he charmed the players, he always considered himself a small human, seeing no difference in what we did and what he did. Of all my cats, he’s the one that made the most sense.
After he passed, we picked up Prince from the local shelter (days before he was to be put down). He was a huge brusque Persian, his black and white as stately as eveningwear with a dash of tabby along his flanks. He’d been owned by prior someones (who’d removed his front claws, the bastards) and then was a stray for a time (did his owners kicked him into the wild?). Unlike Scud, he didn’t think he was a human – he thought humans were other cats. When he played, he played hard cat games, full of chasing and biting and yowling. And he was not a lap cat but, if all was still and quiet and at rest he’d maybe, maybe lay against your leg (his weight turning you into peg-leg Pete for a time). But I’d look at him, twitching in his private dreams, and wonder what it was he’d done and seen. Like Scud, his passing really racked me.
And now we have Mookie, my first female cat. She’s a bouncy little shorthair, just a ball of friendly energy. I’ve never seen a cat so friendly around humans – in this she tops Scud. She’s so friendly that she got three votes to be the Train Club secretary in 2010. Like Prince, she was a shelter cat, one we instantly fell in love with – she came home with us that day. All we know is that she was adopted by someone who had other cats, with whom she could not coexist. And she has a history that she does not tell. She has the oddest trick of cuddling into my left armpit (never the right) and clawing and purring, making a nest she’s never satisfied with. As a tiny thing, did someone tuck her into the crook of their arm, in some heavy sweater, a surrogate mother? I look at her and wonder about her short life before us but she just returns my gaze with sleepy eyes and doesn’t say a word.
It’s amazing to think about my cats and realize that for all I knew about them over the long years of companionship, there were things I would never know.
Postscript – Mookie just reminded me – she’ll sit on the windowsill and watch lighting arc across the sky, yawning at the thunder. But if a lawn mower or weed whacker hums a block away, she’ll growl and slink. Yes, she does not tell all she knows…