My Cat Ichiban Always Found His Way Back to Me
After a protracted yet amicable custody battle, my ex, Sean, had taken our gray cat, Ichiban, and I’d kept his littermate Jack. The six-month-old pair were the best of friends as they entered their “tween cat” phase. Their mother had been a Russian Blue, their father a black Domestic Shorthair. Ichi was bluish-gray and could pass for purebred. Jack was a soft, inky black. Ichi was graceful and sensitive, Jack clumsy and clownish. They were complements and cohorts, and it was sad to split them up, but equally sad for me or Sean to be catless.
Sean and I remained friends and kept in touch. He moved several miles across town into a shared apartment. I moved in with a group of friends who had a big house. My housemates, all cat people, fell in love with Jack, and he them.
One spring day, I got a call from a distraught Sean. “I just wanted to let you know that Ichiban is missing,” he said. “He got out and I haven’t seen him for several days.”
My heart dropped as I imagined the worst. After I hung up the phone, I told my housemates what had happened. “Call the Humane Society,” suggested Mary, a robust woman in her forties who kept the rest of us decades-younger household members well-fed and advised, and out of most kinds of trouble. “Describe Ichiban to them, and if anyone brings him in, they’ll call you.”
I did so right away, feeling a bit hopeless. What were the chances of it working? Still, I had to try something. Ichiban was one of those super-special cats. You know the kind. To know them is to love them, and even people who don’t really like cats are drawn to them. Maybe it was his regal bearing or the intelligence sparkling from his beryl-green eyes. Maybe it was the way his gray coat looked silver when the light caught it in a particular way. Maybe it was his friendly demeanor. Whatever the case, I would do anything to help find him.
I got the call the very next day. A woman from the Humane Society told me that someone had called to tell them a gray cat had shown up in their yard at twilight for the past few days. She gave me the guy’s phone number and I called him. He said I should come over that evening in case the gray phantom showed up.
Imagine my surprise when I knocked on the door and a former co-worker opened it. (It was a relatively small town, but it was no village.) Synchronicity! He took me to the backyard, and just as I stepped onto the lawn, Ichiban came running up to me, meowing in recognition. I scooped him up and buried my face in his velvety fur.
My former colleague was surprised and happy for me. Even more surprising was the fact that Ichi had somehow ended up about five miles from home, with nary a scratch, bite, flea, or thistle. My roommate Mary swore that Ichiban’s father, Heisenberg, had been capable of teleporting (hence the name). Did Ichiban have magical powers beyond grace and charm? In any case, I reunited him with Sean, who had already threatened his roommate with dire consequences about what would happen “if the freakin’ door gets left open again!”
Mary, of course, insisted that Ichi was a “quantum kitty, just like his father.” He certainly seemed surrounded with a bit of cat magic, and that wasn’t the only instance of it.
Not long after the Humane Society incident, Sean asked me if I could take Ichiban back, and I did. A couple of years later, I was living in Detroit with two housemates. Normally, I would let Ichiban outside for a few minutes and keep a close eye on him. But one day, he somehow ditched me for an adventure. He’d been gone 10 days, and I was heartsick thinking I’d never see him again.
My housemate woke up that morning and calmly told me that she’d had a dream about Ichiban and he was on his way back.
“He’ll probably be back tomorrow,” she said.
She said she “just knew” this somehow, as though my cat had been communicating his intent to her in the dream. I was a bit jealous that I hadn’t had the dream myself, but hopeful that she was right (there are no complete skeptics when one’s cat may be in a pothole, to paraphrase a popular saying).
Sure enough, Ichiban sauntered in nonchalantly the next afternoon, his fur dirty and covered in burrs. I told him his wandering days were over, and did the responsible thing, the thing I should have had done when I first got him as a kitten -- I took him to the vet for the old snippity-snip.
Ichiban was my constant companion for about 10 more years, the most stable thing in my life throughout a series of moves, job changes, and relationships. He stayed as charming as ever throughout our many adventures, and when he saw the Rainbow Bridge in the distance, he went with grace. But that’s another story -- I had better stop now, because I think I have something in my eye.
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