Tuesday, November 17, 2015

I didn't know you had a cat

"I didn't know you had a cat."

People said that to us all the time.  But we did.

He wasn't much for parties.  He was more of a hang out on the pillow watching Netflix kind of guy.

If we needed the carpet systematically shredded at every doorway to expose fiendishly sharp nails to bare feet in the night, he had us covered. Likewise if our laptops were somehow devoid of cat hair and the keyboard required some random paw strokes to complete that Powerpoint presentation? Fiki to the rescue.

God forbid you should actually want to read a book.

It was futile to think he would use a scratching post when there was upholstery available in all kinds of expensive fabrics and formats.

When we first brought him home, almost seventeen years ago, he made a beeline for my overstuffed office and disappeared for three days. We found him hidden behind my CFA notebooks, skinny and scared.  Later, it would still sometimes take us hours to locate him, purring in a nest of cables and wires behind the television, or daintily tucked into a basket of bills that was seemingly far to small to hold him.

He was wild for the scent of strawberries.

"Ra-FI-ki!" I would yell into the darkened yard, after he madly made a break through the side door we'd foolishly left cracked open.  All I could hear was the tinkle of the bell around his collar as he headed out for all the adventure freedom could bring. Most of the time, he wound up howling at the door to our bedroom, grumpy and damp, a few hours later.  Once, though, I found a raw notch in his ear from a knock-down, drag-out ear-splitting* battle he had on the lawn at 2 am.

He rocked that notch.

He was wary of strangers, but not unfriendly. Regulars earned a stroll-by and pause for a rub down the back. My niece earned a special gift** placed under her bed in exchange for all the Pounce and bedtime stories when she visited.

He was not fond of closed doors.

But he could be extremely "helpful" with Christmas wrapping.

After years of avoiding my daughter because of her childhood tendency to either grab him and carry him everywhere or run up to him and yell, they finally reached a truce as one of them matured.

He was completely devoted to my son, as they both made the same lifestyle choices of remaining prone in comfortable places with entertaining things to watch.

He tolerated and then taunted Blackjack, sauntering through the kitchen and claiming the couch as soon as the dog retired to the porch, one eye open to watch the cat preening contentedly in his just-vacated spot on the rug. It was almost as though they took shifts being the family pet, and Rafiki had nights.

Night was really our time, his and mine.  He'd walk over my husband's legs to sit on me and watch TV, and then wait patiently as I sat at the kitchen counter and answered email or drafted blog posts after everyone else had gone to bed.

Mostly he was nearby, in companionable silence.  More recently, with the puppy refusing to politely excuse herself from the kitchen like her predecessor, I'd head down the hall and hear the bell following me as he emerged from a chair or under the bed. Teeth brushed, I'd carefully climb under the covers only to find a solid form taking up all the foot room. Inevitably, he would migrate and nestle down right on top of my head, kneading blissfully away with his claws, snarling my hair and purring so loudly I was sure he'd wake the rest of the family.

Then, we would sleep.

Yes, we had a cat.

I wish with all my heart we still did.

Rest in peace, Rafiki

* Literally, he split his ear.
** Dead mouse. He was also an ace lizard tail remover.


  1. What a beautiful tribute. I'm so sorry he's gone, but glad he had you all as his family for such a long time. Love to you.

    1. We were so, so lucky to have him, damaged carpets and all.

  2. Wonderful stories and photos. I'm sure he was as happy to be your cat as you were to be his human.

    1. It was, indeed, fantastic to be his human. And I think, aside from us getting the damn puppy, he was pretty pleased with us, too.

  3. Replies
    1. Thank you. I'd trade them all for one more nighttime snuggle.

  4. Replies
    1. They are all perfect in their own way. And in their own minds.

  5. He sounded perfectly adorable. I am devastated every time I lose a cat. They are so uniquely special. Sorry for your loss.