by Ann Robson
After recently reading for the 100th time Shel Silverstein’s “Light in the Attic,” I casually looked into the eyes of my lap cat and wondered out loud if indeed there was a light in her attic and was she looking out at me?
Our animals appear to know us better than we sometimes know ourselves. As I stared at Sugar, our three-years-old tabby, the fourth in a series of tabbies we’ve owned, I wanted to know what she was thinking. I constructed a scenario in which she, and our other cats, told us what they were thinking.
Charlie, our first cat and the only male, had some interesting qualities. He arrived on our doorstep in Oswego, NY, and hung around until we gave him water, then food. He considered himself a great protector.
“Why did you bring me a dead fish, Charlie, and put it on the front step? You shocked me!”
“Well, when that man of yours went away on business again I had to make sure you had food. And, why did you ask your young daughter to throw it into the river? That was a special present from me to you.”
“I’m sorry, Charlie, I appreciate what you did but no more, OK?”
“Why not?” he me-owed as he sulked away.
A few years later, “Oh, Charlie! Why did you try to cross the road?” “Why not?” he said as he slipped away from us.
Some years later, Boots, a female tabby, came to us in the middle of a cold and stormy night. She could have been Charlie’s twin. “Where have you come from?” I asked. “Where do you think? I followed my nose and decided to try my luck someplace where I could get warm and dry. OK?”
She quickly became part of our life. She was an indoor/outdoor girl. She brought us fleas which loved our shag carpet. “Why do you do this to us?” “You? Imagine how I feel. You forgot my flea medicine again!”
“Wait a minute, what’s going on here? Why are strange men packing up all our stuff and putting it in a large van? What does ‘moving’ mean? I’m not going. You won’t leave me here alone, will you?” “Of course not, Boots, you’re coming with us to a new home in Cleveland.” “Isn’t that the place where the river burned?” I’m definitely not staying ….oh, this place isn’t so bad. I love the loft where I can sleep but I miss the woods. Guess I’ll stay. My food bowl and water dish are here. So’s my litter box. OK, you win this time.”
“What? Another moving van? We’ve only been here two years. You people need to stop doing this. I’m definitely not going this time.”
“Wellll, maybe I’ll stay. Kentucky is warmer. You did bring my stuff. I can play in the screened porch. I’m getting older so maybe I’ll take it easy.”
“That’s a good girl.”
Not long after this move, Boots became ill and for weeks she ate very little. She had cancer and treatment sounded dreadful for a loving animal so Kentucky became her permanent resting place. “Goodbye, Boots. There’ll be no more like you. Thanks for the memories.”
On my 50th birthday a young, scrawny battered version of Boots showed up at my surprise party. Nope! Not having her! One lonely night a few weeks later, after I’d been putting water and food out for her, she appeared at my kitchen window. “OK, you can come in.” “Thank you, thank you,” she purred. I named her “5-0” and she was with us for almost 20 years moving to Kingston, Ontario, then Detroit and finally to North Carolina.
When she became ill with seizures, I held her in a soft towel and talked to her about where we’d been and what we’d done. “I had a ball,” she seemed to say. “And thanks for the memories.”
After several catless years, we fell for another stray we named Sugar. She’s the one I talk to most. I usually ask her “How’s your day going?” “Just fine; you gave me my morning treats, Dad took care of my litter box and gave me food and water. I sleep anywhere I want. I chase birds from window to window. Why can’t I catch them?
“You do realize that dogs have masters but we cats have servants, don’t you? I like my treats on time in a special place. I don’t like some flavors of cat food so don’t bother. I do like soft laps, comfy beds, and some people who come to visit. Got that?”
“Yup, anything you say, ma’am.”
Ann Robson is the author of “Over My Shoulder: Tales of Life and Death and Everything In Between.” She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .