I’ve been a cat person my entire life. Thirteen years ago, I made a decision that my old cat Charlie needed a playmate, and it just so happened one of my work colleagues had access to an abundance of barn kittens. The original plan was for him to bring a kitten to the office, where it would stay for the day, and I would take it home.
Of course, we should have asked Security their opinion–which was that an 8-week-old kitten was a significant national security threat. They would not allow her a visitor’s pass, not for a moment, not for an hour, and certainly not for the day. The kitten had to leave. Immediately.
I asked my now-husband to drive me home. At the time, we had just started to date, and he had already told me he didn’t like pets. He specifically was not a cat person. “They leave fur everywhere,” he said. “I’m allergic,” he said. This didn’t bode well.
As he was driving me and the wild-looking bundle of fur to my condo, I told him, “I think you have until I get to my front door before I’m in love with this cat. She looks like a wildcat Lynx. Hey, what a great name. If you fall in love with me, you need to know we are a package deal.”
And so we were, me, Old Charlie-girl and little Lynx. There were ten years between them and Charlie had ways of voicing her opinion. She hissed, she snarled, she slapped her tail on the floor. One day, tired of Lynx pouncing on her, Charlie finally boxed Lynx on the ears hard enough to send her flying into the wall with a resounding thunk. From that moment on, Lynx gave her respect and always let Charlie have the higher physical position.
I’d been working on training Lynx to not claw the furniture, but I was headed on a week’s vacation so I enlisted the help of my friend and her young daughter to watch over the cats while I was gone (This little girl is the one who changed Lynx’s name to Lynxy, and it was so adorable coming from her four-year-old lips that I never changed it back). I’d heard double-sided tape would do the trick but since I didn’t have any, I carefully tacked up polypropylene strapping tape to my furniture instead. I’d reasoned that the main thing was to have the sticky side out because cats don’t like ickyness on their paws.
It wasn’t entirely successful. Most of the time when they went over, Lynxy tried to escape out the door. One day she didn’t appear but could be heard meowing from the middle of the condo. Somehow, she had managed to not only pull the tape from the furniture, but to wrap herself up in it and then, stick herself solidly to the stair rails, her feet not touching the floor. I’m not sure how long it took them to extricate her from the mess but it was enough for me to know I’ll never use tape in that fashion again.
The man I was dating decided he could handle the package-deal deal, and within the year, we became a family of four–two caretakers of two cats. Charlie was almost always by my side. She was without question “my” cat. Lynxy, just a toddler in cat years, was still curious and adventurous. This was clear when my husband was working on the ductwork in our home. He came tearing down the stairs one day impolitely trying to find the cat. Charlie was purring contentedly by my side but Lynxy had been shadowing him, and he had lost her. She had snuck through the open vent into ductwork, and could be heard somewhere between the main floor and the basement.
Thank goodness for the sound of food. We pulled her out by the entertainment unit in the family room. Other days we pulled her out from between two wall studs, or from a closet, or from a room we had closed the door behind (to keep her out, of course).
She was the solo cat for many years, for my husband wouldn’t even entertain the option of a second cat–until the day Lynxy managed to escape to the outside world and go exploring overnight. By the time she returned 20 hours later, something inside of him had changed, and he thought having a second cat made sense. Before he could change his mind, I dragged him to the shelter so we could look at cats, and we added Sydney to our family.
Like Charlie before her, Lynxy was less than impressed with a little kitten around. This was especially true because she was a burrower. Sydney’s instinct was to protect the bedroom from the dangerous creature breathing under the blanket. I saw it happen, but I couldn’t stop it–nor could I stop Lynxy’s shocked reaction which ultimately resulted in her taking a hard fall off the bed, the ability to land on her feet restricted by the blanket. She never burrowed on the bed again, and never seemed to forgive me for letting it happen in the first place.
Still, the two became buddies. Although they never curled up against each other, they nonetheless relied on each other to coax out additional treats at tuna time. They chased each other around the house, and sometimes shared a step in front of the picture window (any touching was accidental). They would occasionally call to each other and seemed to have worked out a system regarding whose turn it was to wake up the two live in persons that might feed them.
Two months ago, Lynxy’s vet check-up went great. Two weeks ago, she began to lose weight at an alarming rate. Cancer had moved in, and taken up residence quickly. Yesterday, we bade her farewell with many tears and cuddles. Her goodbye to my husband was to headbump his hand, a simple act that pulled his last thread of self control. The man who would not like cats, who had accepted her only because of the package-deal deal, had spent much of the weekend sleeping beside her on the floor, but that moment with her broke his dam. He had fallen for her, and fallen hard.
With me, dam broken days ago, she simply settled her body against mine and purred while we drove the few miles to the clinic. We sat with her in the parking lot until the last possible moment. Such a tender, tough goodbye we shared.
Today I write this at a desk that seems empty. Lynxy often sat on the desk while I worked. She walked across the keyboard if I didn’t scritch her long enough, and she took most of my video chats as an unwelcome interruption into her time. Many of my friends have seen her tail as she marched back and forth in front of the camera, unwilling, it seemed, to share me with them.
It’s all so quiet now. I thought I would invite Sydney to take her place this morning, so I lifted her to the desk and encouraged her to settle down. But Sydney is not Lynxy and it is unfair to ask her to be. She made sure I knew it too, for she promptly stole a tiny airplane that had remained undisturbed for six years and raced away.
Ah well. Maybe someday I’ll have another writing buddy. In the meantime, I certainly have amusement.