19 July 2009

cat chat

The kitten sits atop the back of my chair, resting on my jacket, a pair of jeans and a pair of shorts. And my back. He was on my lap before, but kept slipping off and grabbing my headphone wires to right himself. It was awkward. Not as much as when he dug his claws into my thighs to climb back up though. That smarted.

My first cat's name was Tucker. We called her mothertucker. She was feral. An abused kitten, my cousin adopted her and when my aunt told her they weren't keeping her, my folks and I took her. She was black and white and angry. As a kitten her only sense of play was to hide under the bed and attack your feet and ankles. She didn't soften with age. She wouldn't be held. She wouldn't be stroked. If she sat near you she would leave as soon as you noticed her. Sometimes she hissed just for the sake of it. My cousin found her in a bag on a street corner in New York. I can't imagine what she went through before she wound up in the bag.

She didn't hate us in particular. She just hated everyone and everything. She loved our summer house down at the beach because she just lived wild. Outside, all the time. Hunting, stalking, playing in the woods around the house. We'd not see her much. She seemed as surprised as us when she came back to visit the house. Until she saw her food bowl. She'd eat and run.

I was a cuddly kid and this upset me. I wanted to give Tucker hugs. She wanted none of it. I learned quick.

One night, in my room in Boston, I woke and she was at the bottom of my bed, curled up but not sleeping. She watched me and as soon as I moved she was off, away. Discovered. After that I woke up late a fair few times, feeling a tug at the bottom of my duvet and her weight and the rise and fall of her restful breathing. I never moved, though I wanted to. And so we used to stay, aware of each other, late into the night.

Tucker was a hunter too. She'd present her captured prey to my mother, laying the wee mouse in front of her in the wee hours and then gently pawing at her face to wake her. When she woke, mom would look down and smile, sleepily mutter 'good cat' and Tucker would disappear with her prey, vindicated and praised.

When we moved to London, Tucker didn't come with us. The 6 month quarantine for all pets was still in place and she would never have survived. So we gave her to my grandmother and that led her back down the fully feral path. The last I saw her she hissed at me before disappearing into the Virginia woods. My mother said she died less than a year later. I still think at some level I betrayed her by giving her to my Grandma. Maybe I should have just released her into the wild. Just taken her out to the woods one day and let her loose.

Of course, she never would've let me...

My kitten's asleep on one of my pillows. There's no hissing so far. The claws and teeth are sharp, but forgivable. The other night my nose was mistaken for a scratching post, but it was only 3 in the morning. Pedey loves his belly rubbed, and being held is growing on him. He plays with recklessness and curiosity and energy. I wake up and he's asleep on the pillow next to mine. He seems a happy cat.

But I still miss that heavy tug at my feet. The deep growling purr only uttered under the illusion of solitude. That visceral anger at all people, the reflexive hiss and vicious rage if anyone dared get too close.

I can't explain it, but I'll always miss it.

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