Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Cat We Never Owned

This morning she brought me a bird. This night she is a cat from my past, curled up at the end of somebody's bed, in somebody's house, but not my bed and not my house.

It turns out Moxie's real name is Cuddles.


Moxie came to us in August when I thought our world was falling apart because I couldn't for the life of me figure out if schooling our children at home was truly the best thing for our family. Which indecision led to severe anxiety, which led to working over my six year old son to the point that he developed a head and facial tic, which caused me instant and terrible panic/guilt.

And here comes this gray cat covered in dirt from my back garden where she has been rolling around for two weeks under cover of six foot tomato plants, until we finally noticed that she never went home. It took me two weeks to consider that she might be thirsty, two weeks to hold the door open for her on purpose. It took me no time at all to see that she was THIRSTY, and no time at all to see that an open door led to an open heart.

The day I gave her water I called Matt to ask him to bring home cat food as well. I made this request to a man that has never, in his whole life, owned a cat or admitted anything resembling the slightest affection for the species.

He came home with cat food.

We gave it to her in a red cereal bowl from the cupboard. In the morning she put a dead mouse in the same bowl.
If it hadn't been for the dead mouse, I might not have ever loved Moxie. We might not have given her a name. We might not have bought the second bag of food when the first ran out. We might not have let her sleep at the end of the bed. We might not have taken her to the vet to make sure she was fixed.

She was fixed.

Moxie was also microchipped. This is new to my domestic-pet-lexicon. When I was a kid and we had a cat, and a cat, and a cat, we were responsible owners because our cats always had a collar with a tag. Evidently a collar is now retro. Animals have microchips hidden under some mysterious layer of skin with all this information on it about how I am not the real owner, but they are out there...somewhere...or, no...out there at this address and this phone number waiting to come take the cat back. Microchippers who expect the rest of the world to know this is the 21st century means of animal identification. Microchippers who are happy to come to my house at 4:00 and pry the cat from the bosom of my family.

Does this sound dramatic?

Yesterday I would not have thought I could shed so many tears over a cat.
This morning as Moxie curled up on my bed under my chin, licking my hand and purring lustily, I had a strange premonition that she would not be there tomorrow morning. I dismissed it, and entered a day of ridiculous devastation. My face is swollen and my eyes burn from all my crying.

They say animals can assume their owners' maladies. So, maybe I get a cold and by some strange, string-theory phenomenon, my cat steals it from me, expelling great, altruistic sneezes that leave me fit as a fiddle. Remember Jonah's tic.....well....Moxie did not develop a tic. She entered our life in customary feline fashion, locating a throne and perching regally within our household. Regal though she was, her reign was fraught with tender ardor. Moxie came as leg rubber, foot snuggler, lap layer, bed sleeper, hand nudger, purr box extraordinaire. All this she laid at the foot of Jonah's troubled moment. She didn't develop a tic, but as she loved my little boy, he undeveloped his.

Who is to say this cat did not know that when she got to our front door after wandering a mile from the door that fed her, she knew we were aching inside, and that she had something to offer? There were plenty of doors before ours.

She was a stray, and as such I eventually had to make sure that her growing belly was a return to health and not a brood of little, stray kittens. This is what landed her in the vet's office, under a gun that reveals the bar code of true ownership.

This is when Moxie became Cuddles. On principle the people at the Vet's office immediately dismissed the name we had given the cat we took in off the street. Cuddles has a family, or at least she has a woman. A woman of some years who was eager to reclaim her property.

My telephone conversation with Cat Woman was brief and tearful, and I made sure to mention that my three young children would like time to say goodbye to their cat. She made sure to bring her grandchildren to my door for the reclamation. "See," Cat Woman is saying, "I have children too, staking equal emotional claim on this animal." She scoots the disinterested children into my home, wielding them like pawns in this unorthodox exchange. Jonah had no qualms declaring his opinion that the cat "likes us better." Cat Woman didn't miss a beat in denouncing this opinion. I stood in the corner absurdly blinking away tears as though I should become uncharacteristically stoic to spare the feelings of Cat Woman and her mute phalanx.

But truth was on her side. Moxie had a microchip because Cat Woman loved her enough to put it there. I knew what was right...and inescapable. My pain does not inherently vilify her.


A few days on now, and we are doing well.

I am glad we discovered we can be "cat people", and perhaps we will be again someday.
But this cat....she was a bit on the perfect side.

I agree with my sister's boyfriend who says:

I like Moxie's moxie.

But, in the end, I have to admit that just as much, or maybe even more,

I like Cuddles' cuddles.


shelley said...

Years ago I had the perfect dog.
After a divorce and before finding a new life, I was living in limbo and could not bring Sophie along, whevever I might be headed. So we left her at the farm. A real farm with a real family, with real kids to love her and lots of room to run.

I consoled myself by thinking I could visit her anytime I liked. But as we drove away, I knew I would never see her again. I decided that one goodbye was painful enough, and I didn't want to watch her become someone else's beloved pet.

I owned her when I could take care of her, and let her go when I could not. I loved her when I had her, and still do. I love the pictures I have of her and the memory of sleeping on the floor next to her the first night in our house. I had to let her go, but I still miss her.

You can love and still let go. You can miss her, and you and your children can tell Moxie stories to each other. It hurts. It's sad. But Rasmussens can do hard things, and you did the right thing.

And who knows? Maybe now and then a dead mouse will still show up on your doorstep. Better leave a cereal bowl out, just in case.

JaeReg said...

It's true, Rasmussens CAN do hard things. They can even smile afterward.
Thank you Shelley.
I remember Sophie. And I have a good deal more sympathy now for what it must have been to part with her.
Good thing you're a Rasmussen. Although, if Rasmussens can do hard things, I would have to say Gardners can do extraordinary things. You've got both on your side.

Emily said...

I feel like crying. I only had two days of Moxieness, but I love her and miss her through you. She was a lasting gift, however temporary her presence.

Menner said...

I'm so sorry you lost your cat. Reading this entry gives me hope that I am not a cat hater and indeed do feel love for Loki.

Perhaps if Loki were as sweet as Moxie, rather than (as Brent puts it) "pure distilled evil", I would have more affection for him.

Pets are wonderful things to have. Maybe soon you'll find another.

susanras47 said...

When we got Mater and found we had the perfect Brittany, I said to David, "It's wonderful they keep making them!" And it's wonderful they keep making kittens, too. They don't replace the original love, but they bring their own love (just like babies) right along with them.

Aubrey said...

all in all, a chip is just a piece of metal. I wish we could have felt it and cut it out.
I know I know, I just hate to have you loose something that made things easier, she was a gift.
I love you and am sending you an overnight package with air holes in it..... (hehehe)
you will in time find your very own pet to put a piece of metal in, thus marking your claim.

Till then get a fish bowl, if it dies buy a new one and flush the old, the kids will be distracted.
clearly I am not an advice guru.