I tried go go to sleep tonight, but I kept thinking about Oliver, my cat.
Oliver was a jerk. A big jerk. He ruined more furniture than I cared to admit, was generally mean to other animals, pooped in my bed more than once (with me in it) and once peed in my friend’s suitcase (even after she was bragging on how much he liked her).
I became Oliver’s person the summer of 2005. He had been in a few homes before me, his first owner was getting married and her fiancee was allergic. He passed through a few more homes before my college adoptive mom and dad got him. In their house, he was mean to their older cat and was destructive. So I took him in.
Oliver and I got along really well. I worked short days, and when I’d get home I’d lie on the futon and give him scratches. We played a game where I’d run all over the small one bedroom apartment with a string and he’s chase it. He’d bite my head if I was on the phone and not paying attention to him. He would sometimes escape out into the foyer of the apartment and go exploring. But he’d always come back.
He was, in so many ways, a link to my life Before Mom Passed. I took him home with me when I went home for holidays. He knew her. She touched him. He comforted me when I sobbed in a ball after she died. So many days I only got out of bed after she died because I needed to take care of him. He saved me.
Oliver went with me to grad school. It was there he learned to surf on a chair (he’d run full speed into my office, jump into my chair with his front feet on the back, and it would roll back and return to position because of the uneven floors). I wish I had video of that. He was there when I fostered dogs and adopted Chaplin.
Oliver moved with me to Virginia. He liked car rides as long as nobody made him stay in a crate. He liked to look out the window. As time passed, he because increasingly unhappy. Vets couldn’t figure it out — we tried kitty antidepressants, that aromatherapy stuff, everything. He got fat. He grumped around. The only thing he wanted in life was to go outside. I didn’t want to let him because at some point in his youth someone took out all of his claws. But after he ruined two curtians and a sofa, I gave in.
Oliver was an explorer. He was street savvy. He knew to look both ways before crossing the street. He wandered the area around my apartment, but he always came home. He was pretty fantastic at catching mice and other creatures. After we moved to the suburbs, his jaunts became longer. At one point he basically moved in with a neighbor, but not before befriending a stray and bringing him home, as a sort of replacement. He was gone a couple months, but then he came back.
He was never terribly far, but he wouldn’t always come when called. He hated being inside. He hated the other cats. He’d consider coming in when he was cold, to get some sleep, but that’s about it. He was dirty and smelly and he wouldn’t have it any other way. I was sad when he didn’t show up again before we moved, despite calling for him for days. But I figured he’d turn up and we’d pick him up and he’d terrorize a new neighborhood for a while.
The kind folks who bought our house called tonight to deliver the bad news — neighbors had found him. Looks like he picked a fight with an animal that won. The scrappy little jerk went out the best way possible (for him) — fighting.
I regret not being able to find him. I regret not being there when he passed. I hope he knew that I didn’t abandon him, or forget about him. Near the end, Oliver was an unhappy little cat. But he loved being brushed. I hope he knew how much I miss him, and that I’d brush him for a long time if I could.