One Cool Cat
Gifts from the cosmos come in small furry packages
I called him Covid at first. That’s how much I wanted one more male cat scoping out our place.
I value a peaceful kingdom at our isolated prairie homestead. We already had one feline jerk disrupting the status quo and making life difficult for our existing barn kitties. I especially didn’t want our cherished top cat Tommy, 18, involved in any territorial disputes with younger interlopers. So, the newest one was Covid, and I told him to go away whenever I caught sight of him. (He didn’t pay any attention.)
But cats have their ways, don’t they? Plus, things change. A few months later, Tommy had succumbed to his old age. The newest fellow was no longer Covid since I couldn’t bear to make any cat truly unwanted. Instead, my husband started calling him C-Cat, or “C” Cat, for “Cool Cat.” It was just something about his attitude. You can see it in this picture.
For a while after Tommy passed away, we had a shifting kaleidoscope of outdoor cats. At one point there were six or seven of them. Some passed through every few weeks, staying long enough to eat for a few days, then disappearing. Others, like C-Cat, established a routine with us, and I saw them every day.
Those who stuck around went through the process of getting trapped and chauffeured to the Humane Society, where they were neutered, ear-tipped, and returned. (Thank you, Pikes Peak Humane Society!) Eventually what we ended up with was a close-knit crew of three neutered male cats: C-Cat and Kitler were almost certainly brothers; and a much younger black kitten we named GN (for Gato Negro). C-Cat was the glue that held the little crew together.
The instinct for domestication is fascinating. Each of these cats arrived separately, living wild and cautious as hell. Even little GN, who can’t have been more than three months old when he first found us. A distance of 50 feet was the closest they’d allow.
Luckily, we have plenty of space and safe spots for them to hide. Regular food, respect for their personal space, and neutering allow that instinct for domestication to create curiosity. Curiosity edges out wariness. Bit by bit they become brave, day by day they come closer.
Kitler was the most interested in learning about human-feline relations. For him, anyone offering food counted as a friend. He started allowing me to touch and pet him within a few weeks. Soon he was underfoot every time I went outside.
C-Cat was harder to convince about the joys of being petted than Kitler, but once he decided it was okay, he was a total convert. He liked being petted. He even experimented with allowing himself to be picked up and held. What he liked most was to roll around on the ground near my feet, exposing his furry white tummy for me to appreciate.
Everyone loves a routine
They developed a routine that made us all happy. After I fed them breakfast, which they waited for by the back door, I’d go back inside for my own breakfast.
Meanwhile they would patrol and play all around the house. The stealthy ambush from behind the planter, followed by a wrestling match and chase, were favorite ways to pass the morning. The whole property was their playground.
The afternoon was snoozing time. After dinner, they’d often hang out by the glass slider. C-Cat’s extraordinary character and gentlemanly soul was most evident in the way he became surrogate mom, fun-loving uncle, and wise mentor to GN the kitten. More than once, I looked out to find little GN blissfully kneading C-Cat’s tummy as if he was Mom.
Those months when the three of them romped around the house every morning, popped up from nowhere to greet me whenever I went outside, and curled up together in a furry mass of contentment… I didn’t realize how much joy they created in my life until C-Cat was gone.
We don’t know what happened to him. One morning he didn’t show up. When he still hadn’t appeared by the end of the day, I knew he was dead. We never found a clue to how he died, no matter where we searched for him.
I know the life of an outdoor cat is risky. Even so, I didn’t expect to lose C-Cat to those risks. He was smart. He knew how to protect himself. On the other hand, he had a brash confidence that maybe betrayed him in the end.
It’s so hard to imagine how a life so willing to thrive in this world can suddenly leave it. It turns out that even the most confident and powerful among us, the most loved, the most needed, are still subject to the whims of fate.
It could have been cruel nature in the form of a larger predator. Or a careless human driving by when he was standing in the road because he believed it belonged to him. I can picture him putting himself in harm’s way in order to protect GN. I don’t know what happened, and I can’t bear to think about it.
C-Cat was the cosmic representative of a better world where joy and care for one another form the foundation of life. That’s a lot of power to attribute to a cat, I know. But I don’t think it’s misplaced. He made those of us lucky enough to know him happy every day.
Of course, C-Cat is not the only life-changing cat I’ve lost. I know there will be others, too. Shakespeare claims it’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. But if love was really the answer, loving them more would make losing them easier, not harder.
I’m not the person to solve that conundrum. I only know that C-Cat is just one shining example of the way cats enrich a world that doesn’t deserve them. Thank you, C-Cat, for sharing yourself with us during your too-short life. I miss you.