Do certain things make you think of a beloved cat? Associations are powerful experiences. Over time, I’ve become aware that certain items or places or even phrases will trigger a memory of a cat. That cat might still be living with me or might have been gone for years. I’m fascinated with how these things keep memories alive. Here are some of the triggers for me:
My first cat was a lovely white-and-cream-colored long-haired girl with a sly and quiet sense of humor. She was absolutely taken with pizza. When we lived in the city, this cat would light up whenever we ordered pizza. I had a pretty shabby but cool apartment. We’d spread out the pizza on our table for dinner, and my cat would creep closer and closer, as if she was silently trying to stalk prey. Soon, she’d leap nimbly on the table and act as if we couldn’t see her. I’m sure many of you know what I mean — cats have that special way of getting really close to you and acting as if you shouldn’t be able to see them.
To humor this beautiful cat, we made a tradition of cutting off the tiny tip at the end of the pizza, and giving it to her. Being a dainty cat, she delicately ate the little piece and didn’t beg for more. Whenever I see delivery pizza, I often think of my special girl. She’s been gone now for almost 20 years but it awes me that a greasy pizza box can bring back such strong memories.
Our orange tom Milo lived to be 17, and, thankfully, really didn’t start to obviously fail until three weeks or so before he left us. There were medical issues going on but they were not apparent. Milo had been quasi-feral when he was rescued, and we adopted him. He had probably survived on anything he could find. We often joked that he had an iron gut, and we called him the “trash can tom,” because he was a real opportunist about food. With Milo in the house, you had to be careful not to leave out tempting treats on the counter, because he wouldn’t hesitate to brazenly make off with them.
As Milo got ill, he got increasingly fussy about canned food. He’d only eat certain kinds, and I’d have to keep switching it around. One time, we were wrapping fresh venison that a neighbor had given us for the freezer. Gamey meat made Milo crazy. Because he was being so fussy otherwise, we let him eat as much venison as he wanted. I still think of Milo if I come across deer meat.
When Zorro was living in our unheated garage during last year’s terrible winter, I somehow realized that he actually liked to lie in the sun, even in very cold weather, as long as there was no wind. We had a cheap plastic orange sled that we used to haul wood in. Zorro had been sleeping in a rubber tub full of dry straw in the back of the garage. We decided to see if he was un-skittish enough to nap in the cold sunlight in the sled, and we filled it with straw. We figured it was better than seeing him try to nap in the snow, even though he’d curl up against the heat of the garage log walls.
Zorro took to the sled instantly. Of course, if we had to go out in the garage, that meant that he was a little closer to our movement. At first he would run back to his default bed in the dark. But he always came back to the sled. Eventually, if we were careful, we could walk within a few feet of the sled and he would stay in it. He’d go to the back of the garage at night. When it got really cold, I just shut the garage door, because I didn’t want him wandering around outside in minus-40 temps at night. He didn’t seem to mind that I shut the door.
I have a strong association with that orange sled and Zorro, and I’m happy that it gave him such pleasure in the sun, even though he’s now an indoor cat. It may also have helped in getting him used to our close proximity.
What things do you associate with your cat? Tell us your stories in the comments.
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About Catherine Holm: Told that she is funny but doesn’t know it, accused of being an unintentional con artist by her husband, quiet, with frequent unannounced bursts into dancing liveliness, Cat Holm loves writing about, working for, and living with cats. She is the author of The Great Purr (cat fantasy novel out June 1), the cat-themed memoir Driving with Cats: Ours for a Short Time, the creator of Ann Catanzaro cat fantasy story gift books, and the author of two short story collections. She loves to dance, be outside whenever possible, read, play with cats, make music, do and teach yoga, and write. Cat lives in the woods, which she loves as much as really dark chocolate, and gets regular inspiration shots along with her double espresso shots from the city.