You were the very first cat that was my own. Your name was picked out even before we got you. I remember sitting on the bed with Brian one day and he said, “We should get a kitten, and name him Simon”. I remember writing a letter to the landlord, asking her if it would be “OK if we got one small kitten”, knowing full well that I was going to do it weather she agreed to it or not.
I remember the day you were born. June 17th, 2002. I was working a stint at Starbucks, and one of the other girls working there was talking about how her cat had kittens on her bed the night before. I don’t remember all of the details, but one thing led to another and I knew that this was my chance. She said that there were 6 kittens, boys and girls, short haired and longhaired and that they would be ready to take home in 8 weeks. I gave her my phone number and told her that I wanted a shorthaired boy kitten.
6 weeks later, I got a phone call from her saying that she had to get everyone homes fast, and that there were only 2 kittens left. One longhaired girl, and a shorthaired boy. I remember being kind of annoyed that she gave kittens away two weeks early without even calling me first. So I made my move and drove up to the Doylestown Starbucks that evening. She was waiting outside with a pet carrier.
There you were, your tiny striped face staring back at me. You were so small, just a little handful of grey striped fuzz with a tiny little freckle on your nose. I was immediately head over heels in love with you and rushed home as fast as I could.
I called Brian ecstatic, telling him to hurry home when he got done work. I remember him walking through the front door of our carriage house apartment; he stared at you with as much wonder as you stared at him, he wasn’t as seasoned with pets as I was. You looked a little scared at first, and then he knelt down and presented you with a pink sparkly puffball. You walked up to it and sniffed it but didn’t know what to do with it. He flicked it toward you and you batted it and quickly became friends.
I remember the first night that we had you. I had never had my own kitten and I put you downstairs in your bed to sleep because I was afraid that we would roll over on you at night or that you would hurt yourself somehow if you slept upstairs with us. You cried and cried in your little bed downstairs and it was heartbreaking. In the morning, you had climbed all the way to the top of the stairs and were waiting at the door for us. I have no idea how you did it because you were so tiny. I always felt really bad about that and I still do.
We have no kitten pictures of you. I don’t know why I didn’t take any pictures of you when you were a baby and I’ve been kicking myself for years for not doing it. I do have one picture of myself holding you, and you are half grown – probably about 9 or 10 months old. You are wide-eyed and big eared the way half grown cats tend to be. We are both staring at the camera – I am smiling and you look surprised. You never liked being picked up.
I remember you growing bigger and losing your baby teeth. I remember your big “teefuses” coming in on top of your baby teeth. I remember the vet saying that you had “a good set of whiskers” and that he thought that maybe you were part Maine Coone. I remember how when we took you to get your vaccinations you had an allergic reaction and your one front paw swelled really big, like a cartoon Mickey Mouse glove. It worried us but you couldn’t care less.
That summer I went down to the shore and played a dart game on the boardwalk, winning a stuffed animal black and white cat. I brought it home to give it to Brian. We ended up giving it to you to play with. We named it “Matt”. You and Matt the Cat became fast friends. Matt the Cat was your buddy. You would chase him and bite him and sleep with him in your bed. We’d throw him up the stairs and you would chase him up and bat him back down to us. Your own version of “fetch”. We’d toss him and you’d leap up and catch him then bite him lick him and kill him good. Over and over again. You never got tired of it.
Matt the Cat went through a lot. We’d find him upstairs on the bed. Downstairs in the basement. Face down in the litter box. Being thrown around, dragged around, pushed down stairs, disemboweled, losing beans and sewn back up. Put through the washing machine and dryer. Chewed threadbare and bald on his face, with curling plastic whiskers and shabby fur. He was your favorite toy. We’d buy you other things, friends would buy you toys for Christmas but you never paid them much attention. Matt the Cat was your one and only.
Sometimes we were really busy or tired and didn’t play with you when you wanted to play. So you would play by yourself, talking to yourself in your squeaky, yowly meow the whole time. You’d carry around Matt the Cat and toss him down the stairs, giving chase. We could hear your footsteps running up and down the stairs as you played with him. We played with you a lot but now I wish that we had played with you more. Being busy isn’t a good enough excuse anymore.
I don’t know how it started, but somehow you started spending a lot of time on my drawing table. I have this huge 6-foot long industrial table with enough room for my work and my supplies and a cat bed. You would sleep in your bed on the left corner of the table, right up against the window so that you could look out. You were always really good about not walking on my work. You were smart and would walk around it, because you knew that what I was doing was important. How many artists are lucky enough to have a cat that won’t walk across their work? Not many I bet. But you would always try to drink my paint water. You were really sneaky about that.
You were a permanent fixture in my studio. I picture you, curled up, sometimes upside down with your feet hanging out of the bed on my drawing table. Once in a while if it was really quiet I could hear you snoring. Sometimes I’d be on the computer working or surfing and you would come up and sit on my lap. That was always a treat because you were really not a “lap cat”. I wish that I had not pushed you away the other day when you tried to sit on my my lap when I was “too busy” at the computer. I had just gotten back from vacation and was trying to “catch up”; I didn’t realize it would be the last time that you did this. Regrets.
Everything was on your terms when it came to cuddling and petting. You would bite or grab on with you claws (hard) if you weren’t petted the right way. Sometimes you’d just grab our hands with your claws just for the Hell of it. You were ornery. Sometimes you were a real pisser. You knew you how to tell us what you did and didn’t like. God forbid someone pet your butt or try to pet your belly if they still wanted the skin on their arms. I swear, a few times I heard you meow “eff you” in cat speak.
“Curious as a cat”. Even though you didn’t want to be petted or picked up, you had to be wherever I was. No matter what room I was in, you would follow me to see what I was doing. If I was folding laundry, you had to walk in it. You never failed to lay down in it, and then grab and not let go of something that I was trying to fold. The only way I could get you to let go would be to distract you with another piece of laundry.
You were also a Jekyll and Hyde. You had a foot fetish. Something about Brian’s bare feet drove you nuts. You never went after my feet but you would become a monster cat unless he wore socks. But only at bedtime. It was truly bizarre. If he didn’t wear socks, many nights he would be running up stairs trying to get into the bed before you could sink your teeth into his ankles. It was downright scary how agitated you would become when you saw his toes. You didn’t see him or hear him because you were transfixed on his bare feet. You also had super sonic “they-are-changing-the-bed-sheets”, hearing. You would jump under the sheets and around on the bed with crazed, dilated pupils. It was fun, and we would play “kitty in the bed”, but sometimes it got annoying when I was tired and just trying to get it done. I wish that you were here to annoy me when I change the sheets later today.
As crazy as you were, you were mostly polite to visitors. You would tolerate being talked to and wouldn’t be as hasty to bite or bring out the claws on an affectionate visitor. You were smart and knew that they just wanted to say hello. You knew just how to say hello by keeping “just out of reach” and sniffing their hand then turning to walk away.
Other times you were a love. I remember many times lying in bed or on the sofa and you would come up, purring and marching your happy feet dance that all cats do. It was always a treat when you would join us on the sofa to watch TV or a movie. Brian on the left side, myself on the right and you dancing yourself into the middle. Give it an hour and you would be stretched over ¾ of the sofa from head to tip of tail and we would be squashed in our perspective corners. Rarely, you would sit on our laps, but when you did it was like striking gold. Most of the time you would “pick” one of us to snuggle up next to (but not on). It was always a game of “who wins the kitty”. You were the king of the house. And it was always amazing no matter how comfortable you were in your bed in the studio; you would always come to bed when Brian would say, “bedtime Simon”.
You were a demanding alarm clock. As soon as you heard us stir in the morning, you would begin your routine: Jump up on the bed, walk across us and up onto the window sill, jump down on the bed (all 13 pounds of you) and walk across us back to the window and repeat. Bonus points for sticking your tail up butt hole in Brian’s face. This would go on until we got up. If we were smart enough not to move and tip you off, we would have to squint so you didn’t’ see our eyes open. If you spotted an open eye, the jig was up and the routine would begin.
This letter to you is getting very long and it could go on and on forever. I have so many memories of you that I could fill books. I know that memories and pictures fade with time, as will the pain of losing you. I want to remember as much about you as I can in the years that come. Yes, there are things that I wish that I had done differently. I wish that I had played with you more and that I wasn’t so “busy” all of the time. I wish that I didn’t sometimes take for granted your constant companionship. Its the old cliché’ “you don’t know what you have until it’s gone”.
I wish that we had gotten more time with you. You always hear about cats living for 18, 19, 20 years. No one knew that you would get sick at just under 10. I feel like you were robbed. I feel like we were all robbed. I wish that we never had to make that terrible decision for you. It was the hardest decision that either of us has ever had to make. It was the right thing to do but it feels so wrong. I hope that you understand. I hope that you were not scared, and that you didn’t feel any pain. We did not want you to suffer. We are sorry. I am sorry.
I don’t care if people think I’m foolish or that I’m crazy for writing this letter because you were “just a cat”. You wereOUR cat. You were a member of our family and the heartbeat of our home. People who don’t own or care about animals will never understand that. That’s their loss.
The house feels so empty and quiet now. It is going to take time to get used to not having you around. I find myself staring at your favorite hangout spots. I find myself stepping over where your food bowls were and leaving the basement door open so that you can get down to your litter box. We look for you waiting in the front window for us when we pull into the driveway. We listen for your footsteps on the stairs and at night we wait for you to jump up onto the bed. “Bedtime, Simon.”
Sometime we will get another pet. I see why people get them in pairs. I promise that our next animal friends will be spoiled like you. I promise that we love them and that we will care for them the best that we can. I will try to be “less busy” for them. I promise to keep Matt the Cat out of harm’s way. You, a simple cat brought so much to our lives. I want to thank you for always being there for us. We thank you and we love you and we will miss you. There will always be a spot for you in our hearts. Godspeed, Simon Cat.
R.I.P. Simon R. Cat, 6.17.2002-3.26.2011