best cat


Last year, my neighbor stole my cat.

Fang, my fat, sweet, not-so bright little buddy, had started exploring that summer. We’d leave the back door open, and he’d sort of slide himself out sideways, ooze down the stairs, and tip toe into the yard. Then a breeze would kick up and he’d spring twelve feet in the air, do a perfect somersault, and come barreling back inside to not be seen for a full ten minutes.

Eventually, he worked up courage in his little cat heart, and he stayed out there for a moments at a time, breezes be damned. The next step was to go creeping around the yard creepily, staring at birds until they were uncomfortable and had to check their teeth in the mirror. And soon, he was hanging out in bushes, dozing in the grass, and sneaking along the bottom of the fence looking for ways to break out of this joint.

We didn’t know that last part until he came sauntering through the front door one afternoon.

He didn’t appreciate being on lock-down, and escaped the house at every opportunity. To the point where it was starting to hurt my feelings. “You’re breaking your mother’s heart!” I’d yell after him when he once again dodged between my feet and went flying like a fat little rocket down the sidewalk to parts unknown.

Then one day, we realized he hadn’t come home last night. Surely we’d see him in the morning, we assured one another. But no. And then another day and another and I grew frantic and made up signs. It reminded me of how I found him eleven years ago, when I was living in Jersey City. He had turned up at my apartment door, so sweet and cuddly I was convinced he couldn’t be a stray. I printed signs that night to put up in the neighborhood the next morning, and then whoops, September 11th. I spent that week curled up on the couch with him purring (poorly—he never really managed to figure out how to purr correctly) and me crying and watching CNN and if that doesn’t bond you, nothing will.

This time I managed to post my signs throughout the neighborhood, in all my neighbor’s mailboxes on streets in a five-block radius. I called the shelter every day to check after a fat cat with fangs, ridiculously friendly. Kind of dumb? He wasn’t turning up.

“He’s found a good place to hang out,” Ben said. He didn’t believe that because he is essentially a pessimist. I didn’t believe it because I was really scared.

Fang was gone and the weather got cold and we missed him a lot. And then one day my favorite neighbor said, “Is that your cat?” And it was Fang, dodging through the undergrowth and away.

“Oh,” said the neighbor two doors down. “Sorry!” Accidentally she had started feeding him wet food every day and keeping him inside every night and forgot to see if he belonged to someone.

“So why didn’t you get a new one?” said the guy I was seeing when I told him the story.

“A new—cat? Just replace him?”

“Sure,” he said. And while he was so very, very pretty, it was clear that this would just never work.

So. Fang came home. After Ben and I broke up, Fang slept with me and Crombomb every night, all three of us in a row, sometimes some of us on top of others of us, snoring. Them snoring. I never snore. I squished Fang’s belly because that is the weird thing he liked. We watched his programs. We hung out, and his asthmatic purr was one of the best things in the world.

When my two roommates moved in, they brought with them a dog each, and one cat. The dogs had all been friends of cats. The cats were all familiar with and comfortable with dogs. When the sniping started—the barking and the hissing and the batting and the leaping off to safe spots, we didn’t worry too much. They were figuring out their places. They’d figure it out. They snuggled on the couch sometimes. They got worked up sometimes. It happened.

We left for an hour one day, and when we came home, we heard snarling and frantic barking and things falling over and what we found was two dogs tearing my Fang apart. Crom barking at them wildly, jumping at them, trying to pull them off.

The dogs had gotten excited. As dogs do. And Fang hadn’t been able to get away to his safe spot. He was breathing, panicked and shallow, and his fur was shredded and his eyes were huge and my hands were shaking when I wrapped him up in a towel and tried not to hurt him any more than I already had.

At the emergency vet they looked at him and told me he was in critical condition, and they rushed him to the back. “Critical?” I said, when the nurse came back out, and she said, “He could die.”

It is more awkward than you think it would be, considering the business, to start sobbing in the middle of the lobby of the emergency vet. They also have fewer boxes of tissues than they ought.

He lived. He lived for three more days. Torn apart and in so much pain but sometimes, when I stroked down the back of his ear, the silky fur of his nose, he would purr. His silly purr. The vet said, “He’s made it this far. He has a chance.”

We tucked him into my closet, which was his safe spot. The one he couldn’t get to. For two days Sare fed him water from a dropper, and disgusting liquid food from a dropper, and he got himself into the litter box. I slept wrapped around him. Saturday night I tucked him in and left him to check on Crom. I fell asleep on the couch, just for a little while—I didn’t mean to. And when I woke up and raced upstairs, he was gone.

We buried him in the middle of the night, by the side of the house, because I didn’t want him to leave again. And then I had to fly on Sunday morning.

When I came back, I found flowers planted on his grave. And the house is very full, but he’s not here, and sometimes I catch myself thinking, maybe he’s just been stolen away again is all.

21 Replies to “best cat”

  1. You really should write a warning before a post like this so that those of us who are good pet owners aren’t traumatized. If you thought that was normal stuff before the attack you should have never had a cat. Sorry, but this was no one’s fault but your own. I’m sorry your innocent cat paid the price.

  2. Hey “A” You should really remember that this is the internet, and if you don’t like it, you can move on. Making Jen feel like garbage over something she already, obviously, feels awful about makes you nothing but a troll. You’re trash.
    Jen, I love you <3

  3. Jen, I am so sorry about your sweet Fang. And I am also sorry that the “good pet owner” who commented is such a horrible human being.

  4. A, that was really brave of you to post such a hateful comment behind a screen name.

    Real talk, though: if you’re going to take the time and energy out of your day to criticize someone who is grieving a beloved pet and is clearly heartbroken over his loss, at least have the stones to sign your name to your opinion or keep your damn mouth shut. Or how about this: go read something somewhere else. The Internet is a pretty big place. I bet there are plenty of other blogs out there that you would enjoy.

  5. Jen – I am so sorry for the loss of your wonderful cat.

    A. – you are full of shit. Pets are *animals* and while we try to do the best we can, sometimes their nature gets the best of them. I had two dogs who lived together for 5 years with no issues. They slept together, ate together, played together like crazy. One day they got into a horrible fight over a bone. A kind of bone they had each had many times before. One of my dogs needed stitches and still has scars, 8 years later. Fortunately they were well matched, size wise. Things could have ended very differently, otherwise. After that one incident? Never again. They still slept together in yin/yang dog curls. They still ate together, played together and barked together. Things can go wrong in the blink of an eye and no one can say when or why.

  6. Wow, A. Did leaving that little pile of nastiness make you feel special? Boost your wee ego to kick someone when they’re already hurting?

    I’ve had cats and dogs all my life. The barking and hissing and whatnot IS normal. It’s what animals do, when they’re figuring out who’s who, and what the pecking order is. And sometimes, an unforseen bad thing happens, and it’s horrible, but it isn’t anybody’s fault.

    But hey, bravo for you, coming in and passing judgment anonymously.

  7. Jen, I am so sorry about Fang. The poor little guy. My heart breaks for you. <3

    As for you, A, my heart breaks for you, too. What a miserable human being you must be.

  8. A, you should really should write a warning before comments like yours so that those of us who are good Internet commenters aren’t traumatized. If A thought that was a normal comment, s/he should never be allowed on the Internet. Sorry, A, but this was no one’s fault but your own.

  9. A, how dare you? Do you know Jen? Do you know her intense love for animals? She has gone out of her way many times to save them. Believe I know. My small home had all sorts of animals that she rescued, saved and loved – birds, kittens, dogs, etc. She would never ever do anything to harm a living creature. Fang was her joy, her best friend. You should think twice before you make such ugly, hurtful comments about someone you really don’t know.

  10. I’m so sorry you lost your Fang. I had a black cat for about 10 years, and he was very smart and also kind of adorably demented. I have heard that this is pretty typical of black cats. I’m not sure if Fang was like this, but based on your description, he seemed like a lovely kitty. He was so lucky to have you as his family.

  11. I’m not leaving my name on this since I’ve seen the attacky nature of your other readers toward the other person who dared ask for a warning on a violent post, but I would beg you to please post a warning on posts like these – a post that started out as “my neighbor stole my cat once” quickly escalated to something horribly graphic and frankly traumatizing. Had I known, I’d have skipped the post entirely.

    I am so sorry for your loss. So very sorry. But when you noticed little things happening, the sniping and so on, maybe you should have taken care to separate all of the pets into their safe places, or into different rooms, when you were planning on leaving the house empty of people. I know it can’t bring Fang back, but maybe you’ll consider it for the remaining pets, or in case you decide to bring home another cat in the future.

    All the best to you.

  12. I don’t think asking for a warning on where the post was going to go was unreasonable at all.

    However, if you had posted your second paragraph above, which is reasoned and much less inflammatory, instead of this —

    “If you thought that was normal stuff before the attack you should have never had a cat. Sorry, but this was no one’s fault but your own. I’m sorry your innocent cat paid the price.”

    — people probably would not have reacted in the way that they did. Just something to think about going forward.

  13. (Just re-read and realized that No. is apparently not the same person as A. The sentiment still stands.)

  14. Jen,

    I am sorry to hear about your cat, Fang. I saw him in the neighborhood several times. I am sure that you will miss him very much.

    I didn’t know that I had a famous author living in my midst til Ginger told me the other day. Congrats to you Jen.

    Tom, Your neighbor, 2 doors down (across the street and not the cat stealer)

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