47: When It Mattered

47: When It Mattered

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Cat Did What?

When It Mattered

Touch has a memory.

~John Keats

We found Scooter at the ASPCA in New York City when he was about a year old. He looked at us from his cramped cage with such a look of desperation. We knew instantly that this calico tabby would be ours.

Jack and I were newlyweds. Neither of us had taken care of a cat before. We were still learning how to take care of each other. Sure, I had cats during my childhood, but Scooter would be our own responsibility. He would be our first child.

On a tight budget, we went to the store to get all the cat essentials: a bag of dry cat food, kitty litter, a few little balls that jingled when you rolled them, and, of course, the obligatory catnip mouse. We placed everything in a discarded shipping box and proudly carried them home to our tiny apartment. When we got home, we emptied the box. Jack methodically cut the top off and I lovingly arranged a towel inside.

The day we brought Scooter home we were anxious to see how he would react to our apartment. It was less than six hundred square feet but it was a railcar layout so Scooter would be able to run the length back and forth. We assumed he would run crazy, jump for joy, and meow with high praise and gratitude. After all, tiny to us would be a mansion to him, after living most of his life in a cage barely large enough for him to turn around.

His reaction was anything but excited and happy. He did run, but it was for cover, behind the sofa bed. He stationed himself behind it, only coming out for food and bathroom breaks. He was scared and apprehensive.

Months went by and we hoped he would be more receptive. We finally reconciled ourselves to the fact that Scooter was not the cuddling type.

A year later we moved to a one-bedroom apartment in the suburbs of Connecticut. With the newly added commute back into the city and our long working hours, we felt guilty leaving Scooter alone for so long. We decided it was time for a second child. We made a visit to the local shelter and found a tiny bundle of gray and white fur and named her Yaicha.

Before we brought Yaicha home we read numerous articles on the proper way to introduce a new kitten to your adult cat. The general consensus was that to ensure the most success in any sibling-cat relationship, we should bring home the kitten and present her to the established cat. Little human contact should occur with the new kitten. The senior cat would adopt the kitten as its own and only then could we interact with the new kitten.

Sounded like a plan.

Yaicha could not have been more than eight weeks old when she left the shelter with us. We brought her home wrapped in a towel. We found Scooter sequestered behind the living room chair and placed Yaicha, still wrapped in the blanket, in a shallow box for him to discover by himself.

After a while he came out from behind the chair. He passed right by us with a look of contempt and entered the bedroom. I do believe if he could have slammed the door he would have.

This went on for several days until I couldn’t take it anymore and picked up poor Yaicha, who I felt was longing for the attention she had not received from Scooter.

Months passed and Scooter tolerated Yaicha. He was never mean or aggressive, just nonchalant about his feelings towards her as he had been with Jack and me.

One day I received a call. It was my father telling me that my childhood friend had died. Tommy and his fiancée had been murdered in their apartment over the restaurant that Tommy and his family owned. The same restaurant where Jack had sung and I had worked as a waitress. The same place where we had met and fallen in love.

The realization as Pop relayed the horrific details of their deaths turned me numb. I remember my legs giving out as I fell to the floor. I can’t remember how long we spoke or all the details of the call. I do remember hanging up the phone while a hot flash ran through my body, making me nauseous. Then the tears started.

I started to sob louder and louder. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t comprehend. I was in such a state of shock, of disbelief. I had experienced the loss of loved ones and friends before, but this was different. This was so unreal, unnatural, unfair. It was so senseless and yet every part of my body was telling me that their deaths were to be a part of my life forever. For it was because of Tommy and his family that I had my own family.

I was half leaning against the couch, half sprawled out on the floor as I sobbed. Minutes earlier I had been sitting on our new couch admiring our new carpeting and thinking about how far we had come from our tiny New York apartment. How much we had already accomplished in our lives, Jack and I. We were living! We were growing as a couple with great careers and a loving friendship and marriage. We had it all!

When I finally started coming out of my stupor I looked up and saw Scooter standing in the doorway between my bedroom and the living room. He uncharacteristically began walking towards me. He stopped about two feet from me and watched me cry. He observed me as I tried to cope with what I had just heard. Eventually, he walked up to me and put his front paws on my arm. He lifted himself towards my face and gently licked my cheeks, removing some tears before they could fall from my chin. His paws seemed to embrace my arm, feeling like he was trying to hug me. Then he slowly removed his paws and lay down next to my legs.

With that, Yaicha came out of her box and lay next to Scooter. He did not fuss; he just let her, let us… be. I don’t remember how long we sat there together, the three of us. Long enough for me to absorb what my father had said. Long enough for me to catch my breath.

As the months passed, Scooter began to allow Yaicha to lie next to him. It seemed that during the day they went their separate ways, Scooter roaming around the house and Yaicha chasing bugs outside. But when nighttime arrived, they could usually be found lying side by side, quietly purring to each other, confirming that there was comfort in the closeness of family.

~Jeanne Blandford

More stories from our partners