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The Cat’s Song

May 7, 2013

100_1029When we first saw our cat Chester at the shelter, we’d come in from walking dogs in the cold and were sitting in the cat enclosure in our coats, petting cats and trying to warm up. He climbed up in a lap and purred and purred. We all loved him. We loved him so much we came home from the shelter and talked Ron into coming back to the shelter to meet him, and he climbed up in Ron’s lap and purred and purred until he charmed him into sharing our feeling that we must take this cat home.

We didn’t need another cat. We had two, Samson and Delilah, who we’d gotten at the shelter as 8-week-old kittens after deciding that our young children were bothering our old cat, Rossi, too much. We did need a black and white cat, though, because that color combination had been 4-year-old Eleanor’s wish before she fell in love with the gray-striped cat she named Delilah.

Chester’s shelter name was “Wiley” and even though it suited him, Walker, who was almost 2, said he needed a “yellow name,” the name of the yellow cat from the Bunnicula books. Chester especially loved Walker, mostly because he liked to be petted when he settled on a lap. Chester demanded attention. He would seize a pencil from your hand and bite it, and he liked to curl up with Ron, who would scratch his neck, up the sides of his face, and behind his ears. He would bump Eleanor’s hand when she was drawing and paw her pen. Every night he would follow me into the bedroom and wait on the bed until I would lie down with my book, and then he would put his front paws on my chest and demand petting while I read for the 10-15 minutes I usually read before going to sleep. When I closed the book and turned off the light, he would usually hop off the bed and go find something else to do.

Because he spent his first six months at the shelter, Chester had a respiratory infection that became chronic. After his first year, even our veterinarian could no longer get a pill in his mouth. Once when he got an infected bite, he had to go to the vet every day for a week to get an antibiotic shot. After that, though, he learned to let me squirt liquid antibiotic down his throat. He was smart.

He liked to sit out on our deck with the sun on his fourteen pounds of muscle and black fur, and then he would leap to life to catch bugs. He was good at it, too, with lightning-fast claws that would scoop them out of the air. He liked to play so much that when he was already ten years old and we brought home a new kitten, the two of them would chase each other around and take turns baiting both real and stuffed mice.

He was like the cat in this poem, “The Cat’s Song” by Marge Piercy.

Mine, says the cat, putting out his paw of darkness.
My lover, my friend, my slave, my toy, says
the cat making on your chest his gesture of drawing
milk from his mother’s forgotten breasts.

Let us walk in the woods, says the cat.
I’ll teach you to read the tabloid of scents,
to fade into shadow, wait like a trap, to hunt.
Now I lay this plump warm mouse on your mat.

You feed me, I try to feed you, we are friends,
says the cat, although I am more equal than you.
Can you leap twenty times the height of your body?
Can you run up and down trees? Jump between roofs?

Let us rub our bodies together and talk of touch.
My emotions are pure as salt crystals and as hard.
My lusts glow like my eyes. I sing to you in the mornings
walking round and round your bed and into your face.

Come I will teach you to dance as naturally
as falling asleep and waking and stretching long, long.
I speak greed with my paws and fear with my whiskers.
Envy lashes my tail. Love speaks me entire, a word

of fur. I will teach you to be still as an egg
and to slip like the ghost of wind through the grass.

Up until his very last day, Chester sang to us in the mornings, speaking greed with his paws and fear with his white whiskers. Love spoke him entire. We miss him.

13 Comments leave one →
  1. May 7, 2013 9:22 am

    Aw. RIP Chester.

  2. May 7, 2013 9:24 am

    Oh such a gorgeous tribute. That was one well-loved cat; what a fabulous life he must have had with you. I still miss our Hilly, who we lost several years ago now. It’s dreadful; they become real members of the family.

  3. May 7, 2013 11:28 am

    So sorry about Chester. What a loving and loved cat. Hugs.

  4. May 7, 2013 1:44 pm

    I feel like you never quite get over missing the pets you’ve lost. I’m so sorry.

  5. May 7, 2013 2:35 pm

    He sounds like a wonderful cat. I’m so very sorry, Jeanne *hugs*

  6. May 8, 2013 7:30 pm

    Now I feel as though I know him and so now I miss him too.

  7. May 8, 2013 8:30 pm

    Hugs to y’all. He sounds like a dear, clever cat.

  8. May 8, 2013 10:28 pm

    I’m sorry about Chester. This makes me especially sad because he looks SO MUCH like my cat, Hannah.

  9. May 9, 2013 10:00 am

    Thanks, y’all.
    He did look like Hannah.
    This morning when we woke up, Sammy was on the bed by our feet, Sabrina was in the laundry basket with a blanket right beside it, and Tristan was on my bedside table staring at my face like Dobby; I wasn’t quite awake so I said “Chester is staring at me.” Ron wasn’t quite awake so he said “Chester?” and then we both had a moment, I think, of imagining him staring at us from wherever he’s gone.

  10. May 9, 2013 12:15 pm

    Sorry to hear this Jeanne, it is a hard thing to go through. He had a wonderful life with you all by the sounds of it.

    • May 9, 2013 6:27 pm

      He did have a good life. We’re still feeling guilty that we didn’t coax him up on our laps more to sneeze all over us during his last week because it was (of course) one of the busiest of the entire year.

  11. May 9, 2013 5:40 pm

    Well, I didn’t comment when I initially read this post because I got all teary. This is not the first blog cat farewell to do that to me and not the last, but it is the one with the best poem. Our cat came from a shelter and had the bad respiratory thing too, now we hover every time he wheezes. We also think, every day he’s lived with us is day he wouldn’t have had otherwise. Don’t know what that means, exactly. Saying Chester’s life was a gift because you saved it makes no difference, because he sounds like the kind of cat who would have lived his life and shared it with you as pure gift anyway.

    • May 9, 2013 6:25 pm

      Chester lived longer than the vet expected him to, and a year longer than we feared he might. Every time Eleanor came home for breaks, she was surprised to see him still “straggling around.”
      I’m glad you like the poem. I think my favorite line is “my emotions are pure as salt crystals and as hard.”

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