Jean Cocteau wrote, “I love cats because I love my home and after a while they become its visible soul.”
I truly wish I’d written that.
This weekend I lost one of my most trusted and constant companions of the past fifteen years. Cookie passed away after a brief but cruel illness. She is sorely missed. In truth, I’ve got tears in my eyes whilst I’m typing these words and I doubt they’ll be the last I shed in honour of her memory.
Some people tell me that pets can become like members of the family. I disagree. Pets are not like members of the family: they are members of the family. Cookie was a more important member of the family than many of those human relatives with whom I begrudgingly exchange Christmas cards and token pleasantries.
Visitors to the home rarely saw Cookie. She was a tiny tabby – never growing much beyond her kitten size – and secretive around new people. That’s a trait I always understood. She was blessed with the most elegant markings: butterfly stains in olive and black, set off with dainty white socks and a white shirt front. An indoor cat, who owned the indoors, Cookie had that feline ability to demand affection on her own terms and deserve it wholeheartedly.
Tay Hohoff wrote, “There are few things more welcoming in life than to be welcomed by a cat.”
I also wish I’d written that. It’s incredibly true.
Cookie wrote novels with me. This is not the usual mawkish writer nonsense here, where I pretend the cat was my muse. I sincerely mean that Cookie wrote novels with me: inputting words. She had a habit of walking across the keyboard whenever I was busying striking keys instead of stroking behind her ears. Some of the keys she stood on produced better words than the gibberish I churned out. I’m not going to suggest she’s the only cat that’s ever been published but I sincerely believe she was one of few felines to regularly co-author first drafts.
Leonardo da Vinci said, “The smallest feline is a masterpiece.”
I wish I’d written that.
I’m not writing this to make Cookie sound like a saint. She was far from being perfect. When she needed medication, most times it was a battle to get tablets inside her: and a battle she would invariably win. Blood was invariably spilt, and it was never hers.
Cookie was blessed with an innate ability to lie in the exact spot where I needed to put my foot on midnight, lightless treks to the lavatory. Perhaps it wasn’t the most useful gift a cat could ever own but it made her distinctive and special.
She considered the bathroom her haven and would sit on a sink near the lavatory. Usually she fixed me with a derisive sneer whenever I used the loo. It’s bizarre, but I don’t think a man truly knows the humiliation of being sneered at until he’s been frowned on by a cat watching him take a pee.
When she got an opportunity to dig her claws into faux-leather furnishings, silk curtains, or new clothes, she could go on a destructive spree that would have put the Vandals and the Visigoths to shame. The house, even though it’s now safe from the threat of her claws, is a quiet and subdued place.
Edgar Allan Poe said, “I wish I could write as mysterious as a cat.” Charles Dickens asked, “What greater gift than the love of a cat?” Hemmingway claimed, “A cat has absolute honesty.” Hippolyte Taine admitted, “I have studied many philosophers and many cats. The wisdom of cats is far superior.”
And I truly wish I’d written one of these pithy, thoughtful phrases to show how deeply I always treasured Cookie’s friendship, companionship and love.
Rest in peace little lady. I take comfort from the knowledge that you’re no longer suffering. And, wherever you are now, I hope you know that you will always be missed.