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When I was little, I would talk to cats. They would reply. Adults laughed at this. Kids picked on this. Nobody really understood this.
My first cat, Moonshadow, became pregnant. She told me one night that she was going to have her babies that night. She was going to have 7 babies, and they were going to look like their father, not be all black like her. She also told me that she was going to have them in the closet in my Grandma’s bedroom, as that was the safest place to bring them into this world.
I told my mom, grandmother, and the people they had over for the party that night. They all laughed and patted my head, and sent me to bed so the adults could enjoy their party.
They woke me a couple of hours later, so I could see the 7 newborn kittens that were cuddled up to their mommy in my Grandmother’s bedroom closet.
***
My grandmother told me I should be a vet because of my ability. Thing is, it only happens with cats. I cannot speak with dogs, birds, and such. Plus, I get attached fairly easily. So I get hurt fairly often, when they pass.
***
The cat that had me the longest was my girl Pumpkin. She and I functioned on a different level. She was my twin in feline form.
When I was playful, she was. When I was hurting, she would provide me comfort. When I was mad at someone, she would punish said person.
We were twins for 18 human years.
She claimed my oldest son as her own, during my pregnancy. That was HER baby. I was just the surrogate. She would wrap herself around my protruding belly, and purr the kick happy boy back to sleep. She would place a paw upon my belly, until the fluttery feeling of the babies hiccups settled down and faded. If anyone, including me, would try to touch my belly, when he kicked and moved, she would swat our invading hands away. You were not allowed access to her little man.
When he was born, she would lay beside his crib at night, the ultimate protector. She would lay her paw upon his chest, as he drank his bottle, or breast-fed. Patting at me when he was ready for a burp, or finished with his meal. As he got older, she would lay on the floor in front of him, and intentionally swish her tail just out of his reach. He tried and tried to catch the orange, white and black tail, stretching out his little hand, but never quite reaching it. And then he started using his feet to push himself forward, enough to feel the furry tip flinch into and out of his palm. Then she would move forward another inch. She was teaching him how to crawl, we learned.
He was walking in no time, and so she taught him how to run. She would playfully tap at his ankles and jump back. He would giggle and step towards her, and she’d evade, always a step outside of his reach. Within a week they were chasing each other through the house.
She loved my little man as if he were hers. And he adored her. It was beautiful.
She told me one night a few years later that she wasn’t doing well. We both knew that she was old for her species. 18 human years had come and gone. Many memories made in that time.
Shared whoppers laying on the couch for New Years, watching the ball drop on TV. Her correcting my form when practicing my violin. Her swatting at my pen while I tried to write love letters to guys that she felt weren’t the right ones for me. Her walking the edges of the bathtub, smacking at the iridescent bubbles that bobbed on top of the water. Beating up dogs that mistakenly took her for easy prey, and learning that she was not the prey in the situation. Saving me from countless snakes. Bringing me many a lizard, bird, and mouse as treats. Cuddling with me under the blankets, as if she were human too. Her learning how to use the touch lamp, and breaking its touch ability by playing with it for too many late nights.Countless conversations about life, love, friendship, family.
So much love within our life together. So much love.
She became very ill at the end. Her liver gave out. Her kidneys went. She slept most of the day, in obvious pain when she had to wake for food or the potty. She became sick after she ate, every single time.
It was time to let her go. To say goodbye. She wanted it, because the pain was so much. But she didn’t because the love was so much as well. It shred us both to make the decision to say our temporary goodbyes.
We went to the vets office, they led us back to a room. The walls were cinder blocks, painted a gun-metal blue. The black leather padded table rested against one wall, a short counter with a sink lined the wall across the way. My dad stood behind me, while I pet her gently in my arms, telling her how much I loved her. How beautiful she was. How much I was going to miss our cuddles and late night chats. To take care of my babies in the afterlife, as she had helped take care of the one that was on this earth.
The nurse came in, asked me to place Pumpkin on the table so she could give her the shot the would end her pain. I refused. She was born into this world in the palms of my hands, she would go the same way.
The nurse had me hold out Pumpkins arm, as she injected the concoction into her. The nurse said that she would be gone within 15 minutes.
Pumpkin curled into my chest, her cheek resting against mine. She purred. The edges of her pain were finally bleeding away. She licked at my tears, telling me that I would be okay, that she was finally free of the torment that she had been dealing with for the last year.
She told me that she didn’t want to go, but she couldn’t stay either. It was too much. The pain she knew, too cruel.
The nurse had to administer a second dose.
Pumpkin faded fast. She became heavy and weightless within my arms. Her breath slowed. I felt her heartbeat fade even more, the throb of life stuttering and coming to a halt against my palm. Her final breath fluttered gently against the tears streaming down my cheek, and then she was gone.
I felt the contact of our blended minds break within my head, and the loss of her shattered my heart.
***
I could never be the vet my grandmother suggested I become.
I couldn’t see abused animals, sick animals, and dying animals on a regular basis. Their pain becomes my pain. I’m far too aware to do that daily.
It’s hard enough losing the ones I love and know well. I couldn’t handle losing so many more, because I can hear them. I understand them. And they, me.
***
My loves cat moved in with us recently. This furball has a stellar personality. He’s the most sarcastic cat I’ve had the privilege to be claimed by so far. He’s not quite sure of the preteen yet, as they haven’t had a bonding moment. He’s wary of the two-year-old, as he’s still a bit hyper and not conscious of his actions and movements. But the 4-year-old is different.
He knows that the middle child is different from the other two. We’ve chatted about it a couple of times. My middle son is autistic. He has texture issues. He’s very wary of animals. But this kitty gets that, as he senses it, and he asks me questions about it.
The middle is very careful when he pets him, and the kitty knows that this is a major step for the little guy, so he’s patient with him. He may pet the wrong spot, and even though kitty would normally let the owner of such offending touches become aware of his feelings about that, he doesn’t do it with him. He knows how important this developing relationship is.
I love him for that.
Out of the three boys, I think the middle will develop my skill for talking to cats. He’s picking up on the cats thoughts and feelings here and there. He’s asked the cat (and told him a few times) to be nice to his little brother. I can feel when the cat is at his limits with the youngest, and the middle is starting to feel it too. And just before kitty is about to put the youngest in his place, the middle asks him to be nice. Kitty backs down, and the urge to smack the youngest dims in his mind. The middle smiles and pets him, and then distracts the youngest to give the frustrated cat a break.
I won’t suggest becoming a vet to him. Because he’d feel their loss just as keenly. But his ability will give him a bond unlike any other. I have a feeling that we will find his Pumpkin soon. And I believe that when we do, this ability will bring him closer to understanding the rest of the human world more than any human could help him.
The skeptics may laugh and shake their heads in disbelief. But I have the memory of a kitty giving birth to 7 babies in a closet, and a room full of adults looking at me with the light of belief dawning in their eyes.
Just because you don’t understand, or have this ability yourself, doesn’t make it any less real.