Goodbye, The Guest Cat

A more fundamental reason why humans accepted cats in their homes is that cats taught humans to love them.

– Feline Philosophy by John Gray

We grieve in our own ways — I am writing this blog, Amma is chopping vegetables while listening to a religious melody on YouTube, and Appa is lying on the divan with his eyes closed. Today, we are all islands. Grief is the bridge; we can cross it to acknowledge the hurt, tend to each other’s wounds, but for now, the islands we have built around ourselves feel safe to mourn. The Guest Cat, whom I named after Takeshi Hiraide’s book, was found lifeless at our door this morning. There must have been a street-fight, the injuries on his body told us, and he chose our home, like every other time, to rest and recuperate. This time, though, his body couldn’t wait for the healing process to run its course. Appa shook The Guest Cat’s body, moved his tail, in the hope he would take another breath, in the hope he would wake up, shake it all off, and demand a bowl of Whiskas. There was only a mop of white fur and silence.

Appa will leave for work in a couple of hours; when the pain is unbearable, that is what he does — he goes to work. Amma will discuss with our neighbours the graphic details about The Guest Cat’s demise, and I will start work as well as though we hadn’t just lost the first feline friend of our lives, as though this sentient being who dropped by every day for several years would arrive again while sending a stream of mellifluous meows first to announce his regal arrival. We aren’t pausing, creating a moment to declare that The Guest Cat will not visit again; we will not open the door again to find him leaving his paw through the gate to gently touch our clothes; we will not be ambushed by his shocking beauty again. Today, grief is like a ball of cotton, like his white fur. It’s light but in time it will drown in our memories, regrets, and guilt. It’s going to be so heavy.

I named him The Guest Cat because I always knew that he didn’t belong to anyone; he belonged to himself. He sashayed into our building and our lives with an air of cockiness, grace, and dignity. Loving strays also means losing them every time they don’t choose to pay a visit. We wait with a bowlful of food, a heartful of anxiety, and they walk in again without a hint of remorse, soundlessly laughing at our vulnerability and love that is achingly beautiful. I wanted to tell The Guest Cat, ‘Laugh. Laugh at me. But keep returning. I am a fool to keep loving, but what will I do with my intelligence? Laugh, my friend!’ My family’s first response to losing non-human friends is taking an oath to not love them again. Death has a different effect on me — it throws spotlight on things which I failed to do, of course, but it makes me braver, it gives me the strength to start again and continue, and if death doesn’t remind us to practise love more often, what else will?

Today, as The Guest Cat begins his journey of returning to star stuff, I will learn to sit with the paradoxes in my life — I didn’t love him enough and I loved him with all I had; I didn’t protect him enough and I nourished his body in little, possible ways; I wish I showed up more and I am grateful for the times I could; he was my first cat and he wouldn’t be the last. I send him an infinite sky of gratitude for retraining my brain that was lazy in its love for effusive dogs and for making more room in my heart to accept love in its innumerable forms.

(Thanks for the trust, thanks for the friendship. Go well, The Guest Cat!) ❤

Unlike dogs, cats have not become part-human. They interact with us and may in their own way come to love us, but they are other than us in the deepest levels of their being. Having entered the human world, they allow us to look beyond it. No longer trapped within our own thoughts, we can learn from them why our nervous pursuit of happiness is bound to fail.

– Feline Philosophy by John Gray

7 thoughts on “Goodbye, The Guest Cat

  1. What a heartbreaking dramatic find on your doorstep Deepika, guest cat too was saying goodbye and thank you, it’s tough out there for cats, I’m glad he found refuge with you all in occasion and touched your lives even if his departure was to be so dramatic and not just a disappearance. And yes, love more, take the risk, grow the heart, give back 😿 we have much indeed to learn from them.

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  2. What can I say? Except that I understand, and that you understand that I do. I love how you put it “….and for making more room in my heart to accept love in its innumerable forms.”
    These are golden words that we can come back to whenever we lose and all the time we love.

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  3. An elegant and independent soul. I’m sorry your family were the ones to find him but how wonderful that he graced you with his presence and trusted you enough to return again and again.

    When I was growing up there was a feral cat who always used to come to our house when she was pregnant because my mother fed her generously, then she would take in the kittens after the mother disappeared again. She was so wild she couldn’t be caught and one day she didn’t come back. We never knew what happened, if a car or a coyote got her. But we raised generations of her babies.

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    1. I am moved by your description of The Guest Cat, Julé — elegant and independent indeed. Thank you for the beautiful comment as always. It was wonderful of your mother to feed the feral cat and her kittens. Their disappearance is too much to endure. I wish there was a way to tell them in the way they understand that we would love to keep seeing them, but that would be trying to hold waves.

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      1. It’s so much more difficult to ‘tame’ a cat living wild than a dog, cats never seem to quite lose that element of wildness. We can only offer them the best care we can and hope it helps. The Guest Cat was given that, since he kept visiting.❤️

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