When Mrs. Charm was still with us, in the last few days of her life, a big orange cat started hanging out on the patio outside our bedroom where she was going through what the hospice nurses called “active dying” from her spreading cancer.
The dying had a smell. It reminded me of burnt embers, like a camp fire that was going out. A nurse said she’d never thought of that similarity. I had seen animals attracted to human death before so I wasn’t particularly surprised at the cat’s presence.
But it stayed, spending the next several weeks sleeping away the mornings in a chair on the patio, presumably after a hard night of hunting squirrels. Haven’t seen a squirrel in the Back Forty in a long time, so ginger is a good ‘un.
I started feeding the cat at the suggestion of Mr. Goon, my cat-loving friend in Israel. Dry cat food. Leaving a bowl of water beside it. Then, last week, animal lover that I am not, I finally broke down and invited Mr. Cat into the house.
He (or she, we haven’t determined yet) explored every room. Including Mr. B’s where he was still asleep after a late night of Xboxing. The only thing the cat seemed interested in was Mrs. C’s dressing table. It jumped up on the bench, glanced in the big mirror, turned around and hopped down. I let it out and it wandered off and I forgot about it.
Saturday morning the cat was back, as usual. After a little consideration, I asked Mr. B. what he thought about the idea of encouraging it to stay. He was willing to give it a try. I invited the cat in again. Another exploration ensued but, this time, the cat curled up on the rug in the family room and went to sleep. Mr. B. calls it Garfield ’cause it looks like the cartoon cat
Saturday night I bought a litter box, which seemed to please the cat. Its inspection of the box and its litter prompted a lengthy session of ankle rubbing. Then I took pictures of the cat with the phone and sent them to various people, including Mr. Goon. Obviously not an alley cat, he replied, probably an abandoned house cat. Others were pleased at the idea of us having a new pet after our big loss.
Then Mrs. C’s best friend, who had known her since high school, replied with “Wow, the first thing I said when I saw this pic is ‘Pumpkin!’ [Mrs. C.] had a cat like this one long ago.”
I asked Mr. Cat if his name was Pumpkin. Of course I did. He glanced at me. When I asked again, he meowed. I’ll take that for something close to affirmation. I thanked him for coming. And, hopefully, staying.
He’s a hunter, so I expect him (or her) to stay out nights. But, these days, I’m usually up at dawn, anyway, so I’ll be able to let him back in where he can sleep it off in comfort and security. And keep us happier than we’ve been in a while, with our new gift of grace.