They say you’ll never forget your first love. I can get behind that statement. While my first human boyfriend was pretty forgettable, my first cat love will live in my memory forever. If it weren’t for him, who knows whether I would have grown up to be the crazy cat lady I am today.
I was 11 years old when I met the kitten who stole my little tween heart. My family lived on an acreage with some chickens, turkeys, a pig or two, and a whole lot of cats. Our cat Cinder had a tendency to get pregnant and have kittens all over the place (including in my mom’s closet on her wedding dress). She had a lot of kittens over the years, so we were not surprised to learn that my aunt, who lived on the next acreage over, was hearing lots of little meows coming from her garage.
My little brother and sister and I trotted over to our aunt’s house and collected three little kittens, which Cinder had been hiding in an old stove. The one I held was white, with a little grey splotch on his forehead. He was beautiful and I fell in love with him instantly. Even though I had been around kittens for most of my childhood, this one was special — and I knew he was mine. I took him home and named him Cody, after actor Sasha Mitchell’s character on Step by Step (the 1990s version of The Brady Bunch).
Most of the cats around our house were outdoor cats, but a lucky few were indoor pets, and I was determined to make Cody into a house cat. I remember sitting on the floor in the laundry room, putting him gently into the litter box over and over again until he finally understood and did some gross kitten business.
Cody’s reign as a house cat on the acreage didn’t last long, though. My family was moving thousands of miles away and I was scared and sad, but at least I had my cat. He was very special, and he was the only animal that would be coming with us out west. While my parents were spending the summer getting the move in order, my siblings and I were sent to stay with our grandparents, and little Cody came along. My grandparents had a kitty of their own, so they understood our cat love. My grandmother took all three of us kids along to the vet to get Cody fixed, and even let my sister take in a stray and claim that cat as hers.
When the summer was over, our parents came to fetch the three of us kids and the two kitties. While we were driving north, the stray my sister had come to love died in the car, and my dad had to bury the poor thing on the side of the road. My little Cody did not have whatever disease killed the stray, and he made it all the way to our new town.
We started school, and I hated it as much as the kids hated me, but at least I had my little cat. After awhile we started to settle into our new apartment. Cody would cry and scratch at our bedroom doors when he was shut out, but overall he seemed pretty happy. He liked to hang out in the living room window, taking in the sunshine and broadcasting to anyone who passed by that we were flouting the building’s no-pets policy. We tried to keep him out of the window, but every time we came home from school there he was, a bright white cat keeping an eye on the street.
Then one day, he was just gone. I was sad. I cried. I didn’t understand where he was and I kept picturing him lost outside, freezing in the snow. I don’t know how he got out. It was a small building, just four apartments with doors opening onto a common lobby and one main front door. Cody must have first gotten out of our apartment and into the lobby, and then also run out through the main door. I still suspect that whoever let him out either lived in or had keys to the building. Maybe one of our neighbours or the building manager decided to enforce the no-pets policy.
My parents tried to console me, telling me that because he was such a beautiful cat someone probably picked him up and took him home for themselves. I’ve always hoped that was the case. For several months after he went missing, I would watch windows as I walked through our neighborhood, hoping to see a little white cat, comfy and safe indoors.
I don’t have any photographs of Cody, but I can still see him in my memories. He was smart, adaptive, tough, and loving. I think about him often, and even more this past week after Ghost Cat tried to go out unescorted. It happened when my husband and I were walking into the house after a trip to the store. The screen door didn’t shut behind me, but I thought it had. I went into the kitchen, put my bags down and hung up my keys. A moment later I heard my husband yell out at Ghost Cat. I turned to see him run out the front door.
In the time I had taken to walk into the house without shutting the door properly behind me, Ghost Cat had walked outside unsupervised, plopped down in the flower bed, and started chewing our plants. My husband scooped her up and brought her inside right away, but my heart was pounding. She wasn’t even wearing a collar (I stopped making her wear one indoors because it irritates her).
I don’t know what I would do if I lost Ghosty or Specter the way I lost Cody so many years ago. After Ghost Cat’s daring escape the other day I added her microchip information to additional databases, but that isn’t foolproof. Little Specter doesn’t even have a chip yet. Doorway vigilance is the only way I can truly keep my girls safe, so you better believe I will be pulling that screen door shut behind me.
As for Cody, we will never really know what happened to him, but I like to believe some other little girl found him. Maybe she needed him even more than I did.
Read more from Heather:
Learn more about your cat with Catster:
About the author: Heather Marcoux is Ghost Cat’s mom. She is also a wife, writer and former TV journalist. Some of her friends have hidden her feed because of an excess of cat pictures. If you don’t mind cat pictures, you can follow her on Twitter; she also posts GIFs of her cat on Google +.