Sunrise. I awaken, climb the stairs to the second floor, and sit. It is time. My barbaric yawp echoes down the hall, wakening everyone from a sound sleep at 5 am . . and then again at 5:24. . . 5:35. . . 6:01 . . . where are they?
Feeder stumbles out of bed and open the door and greets me. "Where have you been? I'm famished," I say, blinking my light green eyes. If she gets back in bed, I jump up and politely bellow until she gets the drift. I follow her down the stairs, my padded white paws (she calls them my bunny feet and I allow this, for she is nice) lightly thudding as gravity helps bring me down.
I stare at her disapprovingly as she makes coffee before tending to my breakfast, but I allow her this privilege. The other three cats, Boo-Boo Napoleon, Lou-Lou and Cecilia, begin to circle and stare at her too. I am their spokescat. "Feed us all -- but feed me first," I say, benevolently. Hey, if they want to speak up, they can. But they always leave it to me.
We all descend to the basement and she tries not to trip over us. Sometimes she will carry me down so she has less to trip over. I like being carried around, always have. Don't judge.
There are three large litter pans lined up on the far wall. They are stinky but it's not my fault. I use cat pans on the main level of the house now, because I am 20 years old. Sometimes I just gotta go, and I don't have time to get to the basement. This is a perk of being the Senior Cat in Residence. The other humans fail to see this as a perk.
She pours dry food into the bowls and cracks open cans of wet food for me. I love chicken gravy dinners! I greedily lick the gravy from the wet food and then start in on the meat, while Boo Boo crunches his kibble, Lou Lou watches cautiously from a corner, and Cecilia waits for me to get done so it can be her turn. In the cat world there is no such thing as ladies first.
Wait! Where did Feeder go? She went upstairs to get her coffee. With cat-like tread (obviously) I climb the basement stairs (I am rather agile for my age, thanks to occasional steroids for my kidney disease). I know she has that other, special cat food up there.
She pours her coffee and turns around, and I am there, paws primly pressed together as I sit at attention. "More!" I bellow. I can't hear my own meows that well these days, so I am extra loud to make sure she knows what I'm talking about. Feeder scoops out some dehydrated, all-natural powdered food from Healthy Kitchen and mixes it with water. I love this grassy stuff. It is like munching on the lawn in early spring. I gobble my second course while she trudges upstairs with coffee for the other human. I like this food so much I was a model for the company.
Feeder found me at a shelter in Virginia in 1993, when I was 8 months old. I started meowing excitedly as she walked by my cage, looking for a furry companion. I could tell she had loved cats before, and knew what she was doing. We were instant friends.
In the early days, I was rambunctious and played with cat toys, and climbed trees and caught birds. I only got stuck in a tree once, but it was memorable.
Now I'm the Methuselah of felines, and my pleasures are simple, yet wonderfully frequent. I love to sit with her while she is reading, and pretend to read along. I just like being warm and cuddled next to her. I can't be aloof around her, she is too loving for that. She opens her left arm and I circle around a few times, then collapse into that soft spot with a happy thrum of purring.
She is getting out of the shower. I am sitting at attention, paws primly joined, on the bathroom rug. This rug is a great extra litter box when I am on the third floor and desperate . . and even when I'm not. Hey, at least I didn't use the heating vent, like I did that one time. Kidney disease! My bad!
I like drinking water from the bathtub. Always have. I pretend I am Lion King, licking out of a jungle lagoon. Feeder opens the shower curtain and exits, and I jump in and sit for a moment, peering at her as she towels off. She knows what she has to do. She closes the drain, turns on the faucet for ten seconds, and then shuts it off. Instant lagoon! I drink greedily.
Noon. Fed and watered and relieved (in a proper receptacle), I head downstairs and saunter over to the matching club chairs in the living room. She has draped them with elegant shawls, which I have covered with orange and white fur from hours of happy sunbathing. I take one chair, and Boo-Boo takes the other. Boo-Boo is an obsequeious ninny who purrs at everything, even the Dumb Dog. I do not like the Dumb Dog. I do not like any dogs. But I don't mind Boo-Boo giving me a little extra warmth, I guess. This is where I will spend most of my day. Time to nap.
Every time Feeder walks near the kitchen, I track her like she's a bird in flight. I jump down from my perch and see what she's going to make me for snack time. I love chicken, ham, milk, cream, cheese, and a little yogurt. I can't be bothered with tuna and salmon. I eat and head back to my cat spot for my next nap.
Afternoon. Sometimes, when the weather is nice and the breeze blows through the window, I like to sleep on her desk. But today it's cold and she is wearing black corduroy pants. What a perfect opportunity to sit on her lap! She never turns me down. I purr contentedly while she types.
I like to help them all with their projects. I sat on her first husband while he wrote a book; he called me Scholar Cat. I sat on her as she typed her first libretto. I sit on her son as he does algebra. I watch the girl do her homework. When Feeder teaches voice lessons, I sit on the piano bench and help the students learn how to listen to the cat. It's the least I can do.
Evening. Feeder and I are watching Netflix. I am not a cineophile, but my favorite movie is Milo and Otis, about a cat and dog buddy team. When I was younger and more impressionable, I used to stare at the screen and think I was seeing myself. I watched with rapt attention.
Here is the part I don't like. For seventeen years, I slept on the bed at her feet, or curled up against her left arm, but now her husband carries me out of the bedroom. The Dumb Dog gets to stay, but I don't. When I first met the Dumb Dog and realized that I would have to share the house with him, I had a bit of an episode. I hissed at him, then took off for the basement, where I stayed for nearly three months. I would not come out from under the oil tank. Feeder brought me treats and gradually helped me recover my equilibrium. He is an irritant to me. I don't have to like him and I don't.
I descend the stairs to reclaim my spot on the living room chair.
Sometimes I sleep with the hairless cat who used to be smaller than me. I am a big part of his life too. In fact, his first word was 'cat', though it came out 'ta.' I wasn't sure about him sometimes, but now I think he's okay. The girl is okay, too and her bed is very soft.
I'm going to get a snack later, but I'm sleepy now. It's been a good day. I have kept Feeder company, the way I always do. I have partaken of Fancy Feast Chicken Appetizers. I have demoralized the Dumb Dog. I have inspected the house and laid a fresh layer of fur over every chair and carpet. I have eaten grass in the courtyard. In short, I have spent the day doing exactly what I'm supposed to do, and loving every second of it. The fireplace is roaring, the house is dark. Every pet is in their spot, including me, I guess. Good night until whenever I say it's morning. . . .I'm thinking, 5:31 am. Signing off.
. . . and then, on a cold Friday in February, we said goodbye. I am glad you were not sick for long. Oh, how I miss you, dear Rebel. Thank you for twenty wonderful years of friendship.
Grief is the price we pay for love. You have left a cat-sized hole in my heart. XO Feeder