Cat people

Before our son Jack was born, Holly and I lived with three cats in a railroad apartment on St Mark’s Place. Bob and Bill, longtime companions, were there when I arrived with Tuesday, gifted to me a few years before by a friend who thought a cat would help my broken heart. (She did.)

Bob was a very intelligent tabby. Bill was his sweet, but not-too-bright black-and-white eunuch lover. They groomed each other and grinded their pelvises, howling.

Tuesday was coal black, and loved me, but never really warmed up to anyone else.

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By the time Jack arrived in 1998, we were down to just Bill. The least intelligent, yet somehow the most charmed, health-wise. Coincidence? Probably not. He would make it to Phoenicia with us, just barely.

The Victorian we bought from the Teasdales in 2002 would come with the greatest cat I would ever know, and the first cat we would acquire as a family. The Teasdales called her Ice Monkey, but we renamed her Sis, as in “Jack’s sister.”

This diminutive tabby was six years old or so. When we checked out the house, she climbed into our car and purred in the driver’s seat. We took this as a good omen until the Teasdales broke it to us she did that with every prospective buyer. They also told us she came with the house, if we wanted her. We did.

Elderly Bill, bless him, hated her. We thought all the stuffing had gone out of him until we put them in the same room and he lost his shit, howling and hissing. He’d actually quite literally lost his shit, pooping everywhere, all the time. He was not well. We were considering euthanizing him, but he snuck out one night, walked into the path of a car, and died in my arms at 19.

An indoor-outdoor cat who actually looked both ways before crossing the blacktop, Sis was quite the huntress. Her combination of sweetness to people and fierceness to all manner of prey has become the stuff of family legend. Many a night we would awake with the gift of some rodent entrails at the foot of the bed.

Twice she approached me with a musk-emitting, snow-white ermine weasel in her jaws. Both these creatures’ death throes were the stuff of nightmares, their necks crimson where Sis had chomped. Over the years, when not cuddling and purring, she would catch, kill, and often partially consume rabbits, chipmunks, squirrels, moles, voles, mice, and who knows what else.

Thankfully, I only saw her catch a bird once. Actually Jack noticed she was walking around with something green in her mouth. I grabbed her jaws and forced her to release a hummingbird into my palm. I thought it was dying, but within moments it righted itself, hovered before my face, and zoomed away.

Sis would live to 21, and remain robust until the last year of her life. In 2016, she went into steep decline and died. We wept and buried her beneath the old apple tree out back. It was her brother Jack’s senior year of high school. Sadly, she would not partake of the coming chapter that would be even more life-changing than we knew, when we would need a huntress more than ever.

Her passing at that 2016 threshold seems symbolic now. The aforementioned vermin immediately knew she’d left the building, and they’ve been a problem ever since.

 

Read more installments of Village Voices by Robert Burke Warren.