Time for another cat bio.
Bonkers was bonkers, that much is true. Now she had come into my life in that haphazard yet predestined way of many animals. Kit and Caboodle, litter-mates, had been with me for thirteen years and were inseparable: eating, playing, and sleeping together. When Caboodle succumbed to hyperthyroidism, Kit was desolate. She would search the house for him, standing by closed doors, meowing, in hopes he was just shut in somewhere and would reappear.
As soon as I had a vacation, time to oversee the introduction of a new pet, I headed for the shelter. There were no kittens, but many mature cats. It was quite strange to see a room of a dozen or more cats, all tabbies. I thought how much fun it would be to have all of them, but realistically set about picking one. Missy was curled up, asleep in a basket and looked particularly beautiful. Even after learning her history, I went ahead with the adoption.
Twice returned to the shelter because she couldn’t get along in an adopted family, this magnificently-marked tabby had also been the victim of abuse . She was named Missy, but the name did not suit her in the least. Finding herself in a house with a Husky- Shepherd and a geriatric calico, Missy no doubt thought, “Here we go again.” She would race wildly around the house, hide in the bathtub, and jump out from behind the shower curtain when a human entered. When I related this behavior to my third grade class, eight-year-old Jack said, “She sounds bonkers to me.” “Perfect,” I said. “Bonkers she’ll be.”
Not surprisingly, Bonkers was wary of her new home and its inhabitants. For at least a year she would only walk along the perimeter of a room, never cross it. My vision of a companion for Kit never panned out. Kit tried once or twice to cuddle with her, to groom her, but the cat, Bonkers by then, wasn’t up for such intimacy. Nor was she interested in a close relationship with me. She did not want to be patted, certainly did not want to sit on my lap, and, I discovered, never purred.
With her, though, I did what I’ve often had trouble doing with humans: I let her be exactly who she was. I let her set the pace – and it was slow. It was perhaps a year before she ventured to cross a room, another before she would lie on a piece of furniture where I was sitting. Still I talked to her, patted her head now and then. It was a full five years before she one day jumped in my lap, tentatively at first, ever ready for flight.
For whatever reason, every person to visit my home would head first for Bonkers , perhaps because she looked so beautiful and peaceful, curled on the back of a chair. I would caution, “She’s very wary of people. It’s best to leave her alone.” And Bonkers would hiss, but mostly stay right where she was curled.
In the eighth year she lived with me, I actually heard her purr, and she would settle in my lap and at last relax at my stroking. She almost always slept on my bed, carefully avoiding Barnum who was always there. But each month Bonkers edged closer to me, finally settling in the crook of my legs.
When she was nine, she was getting thinner, but I had long ago decided that she could not withstand trips to the vet, daily medication, etc. She was never in pain, at least not obvious pain, but one morning she did not come for breakfast. That afternoon, as I sat in my big easy chair, Bonkers nestled on the cushions above as always, I realized she had wet herself.
The time had come. I tried to make sure she was warm all night and in the morning made the dreaded call to the vet. The vet and I stroked Bonkers, spoke gently to her. It was very peaceful. I reflected that she had had a good life with me, that she had taught me several lessons, provided valuable companionship
Once back in the car, I realized that though in some people’s eyes this was merely a cat, her death raised big issues. For example, what to tell my 2 ½ year old grandson who would inventory the cats immediately upon visiting. I checked with his mother, told her that as a child I had been told my cats went to cat heaven, that this is what I had told my own children, that if it did not offend her, this is what I would tell my grandson. And so, holding back tears, I told him that Bonkers had gone to cat heaven And I believe she did.
© Dorothy C. Judd
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