Our first cat we had 16 years. This is his photograph when a kitten. I’m sure you are laughing at my attempt at animal photography. We named him Custard, which shows I didn’t know anything about custard pudding. My neighbor said, “He’s an eggy custard, isn’t he?” I was pregnant with our firstborn at the time.
This second photo shows how the baby and Custard got along just fine. But Custard was always in the background, and not demanding or very important to our lives. We had human children keeping us busy and happy, five of them by the time he died.
Then this cat moved in. We found out about a year later that she actually lived just down the street and only wanted to sojourn with us while giving birth.
Aren’t her kitties darling? The father was a Turkish Van. We decided to keep the fellow in the middle of this group, and named him Mackenzie. This was before all Mackenzies were girls. He reminded me of a polar bear and therefore the name of a river in snowy country seemed right for him.
The whole family adored Mac, but he was always skitterish, not often cuddly. The older he got, the less he liked to be petted. He stayed outside most of the time and often sat on the rabbit hutch, facing the corner of the back yard fence, where he seemed to us to be in deep contemplation. If you look carefully at left, you can see his mostly white in the center of the picture.
By the time Mackenzie died of old age, all our children were moved out of this barn of a house, and we thought a new cat or two might add a little warmth. At the feline rescue center we visited both the adult cat room and the kitten room. We sat down and waited to see if any cats would be friendly and affectionate.
There was one in each room that came right up to us to be petted, and they were both very pretty, so we took two cats home!
With Gus and Zoë we had five golden months. We laughed at their romping, and one of them was always happy to snuggle if we wanted.
Then when we were out of town, Zoë was hit by a car and killed. She had been our favorite, serene and attentive, so we were terribly sad to lose her, after having her so short a time. But we still had Gus, who at the loss of his friend became a little less the wayfaring adolescent and liked nothing more than to sit on a lap for hours at a time.
He was unusual in many ways, but one odd thing was that he loved to hang upside-down on/from my lap and be brushed with the wire brush. You could scratch and scrunch his fur and flesh till your arms ached, but he would want still more lovin’.
Last week Gus met the same fate as Zoë, only a block from our house. I’m ashamed to tell this; I can see in hindsight that neither of these adopted pets was ultimately suited to the minimal arrangements we’d made for them when we were traveling. It must be that they didn’t have enough sense of home, when we weren’t here.
So we lost Gus, who everyone agrees was the best cat there ever was; and we lost our confidence about owning another cat. Our grief is sharpened by a conviction of irresponsibility. There are various reasons we’ll postpone the decision about whether to get another pet. In the meantime, our drafty house is a bit colder again.