Cat, Good Spirit, A Familiar,
I found her at the ASPCA Adoption Center annual event at the Jacob Javits Center in Manhattan. Tons of cats to choose from and I am ambivalent about making such a commitment. Looking through all the cages, I am not attracted to any of the cats. Then I come upon this little black and white cat, not impressed by its color, 7 months old. Her cage is pathetic, a handful of sand to do her duty next to a dish of food. I stick my finger in the cage and she begins to play with it. Well, that’s sweet, I move on to other cages. But I come back, yes, I tell the attendant, I’ll take her.
On the cross-town bus, feeling vulnerable after my commitment, I take a seat in the front as everyone oohs and ahhs at the kitty in the box, except this one old bitch who wants my seat (you have to give these front seats to oldsters if they ask.) There’s another empty seat nearby, but she wants mine. I see this as an omen, trouble ahead. The man sitting across from me stands and gives her his seat.
The cat’s just been spayed and I have to give her medicine every day. So I get the cat food, the box and kitty litter and we’re in business. The medicine, a liquid, I add to a dish of Half & Half, and from that day forward, Chloë gets Half & Half at bedtime. She got addicted to it. Once I get her in the apartment and get everything set up for her, she goes into hiding. I don’t see her for a week. The food is eaten and she uses her box but she’s incognito, except . . . maybe a half hour after I turn in she crawls in under the covers with me. I am living on the Upper East Side at this time.
A year later, we move to Harlem. She likes and plays with my clients and also the janitor who teases her through the front window. Then innocents that we both are, things start to happen that relieve us of our naiveté. Chloë is attacked by neighbors, she comes home with serious wounds and almost loses her tail in one encounter, landlord breaks into my apartment on a regular basis with her yappy dog when I’m out. I find Chloë after such incidents hiding under the covers of the bed, and then she disappears. I do all the things pet owners do under such circumstances, she has a chip embedded in her in case of such an event, but nothing. A whole week goes by and I figure it’s over, the end of Chloë. It is summertime and the door to the backyard is open and she just walks in. At first, I’m not sure if it’s truly her. She cries heart rending sobs. I try to soothe her at best I can; she leads me to her feeding dish where I quickly fill it. Obviously hasn’t eaten in days. Afterward, I pop a video in the computer, get a blanket and settle on the sofa with her to calm and comfort her. She had been kidnapped by one of the neighbors.
Chloë no longer likes or trusts human beings. If the doorbell rings she goes to hide. She will not leave her hiding place until whoever is in the apartment leaves, and she will wait a good half hour afterward before she comes out. Since leaving Harlem, we have moved 5 times and are in the process of moving again. For a cat with separation anxiety this hasn’t been easy,
A friend who is also moving repeated the axiom of cats reflecting the personality of their guardian. Am I like Chloë? Yes, absolutely. I won’t go hide under the blankets if someone comes to the door, but I am distrustful. I am well aware of human beings’ propensity for cruelty and violence, for mob action and irrational behavior, but I am strong of character, have courage and I am committed to whatever I set my heart to.
Life is challenge. At this time, when the apartment is in a state of chaos as packing continues apace something good is happening to Chloë. Her separation anxiety has abated. She somehow has figured that as long as I’m around, she’s going to be ok. It’s not the home that counts, it’s the good heart. That omen on the cross-town bus? There are nasty people for sure and then there are those with good spirit like the man who offered his seat rather than have me with my big box inconvenienced. I look to those people.