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I could not have said it better
Cat Caught My Heart - A Collection of Essays
I COULD NOT HAVE SAID IT BETTER…
By Kathy Novelli
I have always wanted to share my feelings about the love of cats in my life. It has always been a deep desire to put into words the world can read, how I feel about these wonderful animals. I truly believe that each individual life is so valuable and precious; that each unique personality; ‘catanality,’ is as important as any other life on this earth.
Through the years, as feline companions have come and gone and, during their time shared with me, I have written stories I hoped would impart just how much I enjoyed and treasured my time with them and, also, with a deep belief that my words could convince others to love cats as I do. The narratives I have written have acted as a catharsis when a beloved cat companion has passed away. Usually, this event is what prompts me to write their story, to share their importance and to relieve a bit of the pain I suffer at their loss.
I cannot tell you why I feel so strongly, just that I have for such a long time.
When I was quite young, we had a cat named Snickelfritz. He came to us unexpectedly, unplanned for and, subsequently, ill prepared for. I was nine at the time. Snickelfritz was a big, burly tabby tom who simply adopted our home as his. Though there was not a lot of caring for animals in my home while I grew up; I came to love Snickelfritz unconditionally. He was ever present. As time passed, he would lie by my side while I read the summers away; cushioned comfortably and securely in the big fan back chair in the living room. There, I read Gone With the Wind, Catcher in the Rye among other classics. Snickelfritz stayed by my side and spent my teenaged alone times with me in my back bedroom. He was a friend when, at times, I felt I had no others.
One day, Snickelfritz did not show up for his evening food and was absent the following morning. For four days, he did not show his face. On a spring afternoon, I heard a plaintiff meow coming from what seemed like the attic. I told my mother who took a while to explore the sound. By then, Snicks had become quite ill with a major infection and respiratory illness. Without going into the sad details, we lost him to these maladies.
I, alone, buried Snickelfritz in the backyard under the apple tree we had planted years before. It was raining that day, cold even for spring, and dreary. No one came to share this loss with me and I said goodbye to my furry friend as I covered his body with the cold soil. I will never forget that day.
There were many cats who came to our house during the early years of my life but none treated as a member of the family. Benign neglect to total rejection were the usual responses from the adults to any feline who happened to wander into our yard. There was, finally, one cat my mother called David; my mother’s favorite; probably the only one she regarded as a pet rather than a stray. David’s is another story I may find time to tell in the future, sometime.
Suffice it to say; I saw suffering and neglect in my younger years. Some fared better than others; some were able to cope while others simply disappeared. Events; attitudes towards animals were beyond my control and also beyond my understanding. I just know that I felt quite a bit of sadness during this time of life and helpless in the face of the lack of sympathy for the strays who tried to find solace and shelter at my childhood home.
Perhaps, I’ve answered the above consideration; why cats are so important to me in adult life. And, it has become my mission to ease any suffering, abuse, neglect or abandonment I come across. This has taken over a large portion of my life, and I would have it no other way. I firmly am convinced that, if I did not have such deep feelings, my life would be a lesser experience, and my life’s meaning would be somewhat shallow. I’m glad I can feel so deeply and empathize so completely when it comes to the welfare of my fellow dwellers on this earth; my four legged friends.
Recently a dear, yet rarely encountered, friend sent the sweetest gift to Al and me. I say rarely encountered because it has only been once or twice that I have actually met face to face with this kind man. Yet, through writing and reading, I feel as if he really does understand the cat craziness that Al and I have allowed in our lives here in Kansas. He sent a small book entitled Cat Caught My Heart. Within the pages of this missive are many loving stories from people across all walks of life, spanning years, even decades and across this continent and “across the pond.” People, young and old, told their stories of the cherished felines who entered their lives at very opportune, life changing times and who left behind fabulous and warm memories, amazing tales of courage, loving tributes to loving cat companions, and so much more.
The evening of the day this wonderful gift arrived, I stayed up late, reading into the wee hours of the am. I was so enthralled by each story that I could not put the book down. By the time I could no longer keep my eyes open and was actually dropping the book onto my face, I marked my page and placed the book by my night table. The next morning, poor Al was well into the early hour duties which I share with him, when I stumbled down the stairs an hour later than I usually rise. I told him I just couldn’t stop reading. He had said, when first he saw the book and had read several pieces, “Kathy, once you start reading this, I guarantee you will not want to put it down.” He was right. I finished the book on the front porch swing while enjoying a gorgeous summer morning with my freshly ground and dripped dark French roast coffee; sometimes, tears rolling down my cheeks as I devoured the heartfelt words of so many tender memories about the relationships of people and their beloved cat companions.
As I read each and every entry, I noticed myself thinking, “yes, I know how that feels,” “Oh, how that breaks my heart,” “it is true, how amazing kitties can be,” and so forth. The way in which these small stories resonated with my own experiences was and is such a satisfying thing. To know that there are so many kind people in this world causes my heart to soar while my eyes well up with tears because numerous emotions are all exploding at once and I feel happy/sad, hopeful/fearful, expectant and wishful. And I am not alone in these reactions to chapter after chapter of sweet, heartfelt eulogies as well as funny musings found in the gentle, sweet book sent to me by my friend, Pat Moore.
There is a chapter in the book which is written by Linda Moretti who is familiar to me as she was the editor (and maybe still is) of the excellent periodical The Animals’ Voice. I remember how her words effected me as I read her editorials years ago. Her story, The Mouser-Cat, details years spent with this particular shelter rescued kitty and how they parted when that fateful decision had to be made; to spare her companion from suffering. Ending her story, Linda eloquently relates to her readers; “I must tell you; it is not an intangible thing we are removing from our midst when we kill the millions of dogs and cats every year in animal shelters across the country. It isn’t a single ID number or a solitary statistic that dies when the light in a single cat’s eyes dies. When we kill a million dogs and cats, we’re killing a million lives who could touch us and heal us and bring us a kind of joy and warmth and peace in ways our fellow humans cannot. We’re robbing a million beings of a million rays of sunlight, a million memories, a million heartbeats, a million lights of life. We’re killing a million Mousers.” She closes urging; “That shelter kitten is waiting for you. Go.”
One would have to read the entire story to be touched as profoundly as I am. I believe she is trying to compel others to understand and welcome the intrinsic value of our animal companions; that they are not “throwaways” to be ignored, discarded, demeaned, or treated with any less significance than we treat one another. I have always felt that worthiness. Their lives ARE equal to ours; their place on this planet is just as meaningful; just as pertinent and just as rightful.
I believe, as I am sure Linda does, that every feline life is absolutely, undeniably valuable whether or not there is a human who loves them. Worth is not determined or assigned by human acknowledgement. A cat’s life is just as important with or without human acceptance, love or because we “know” them. The old cat. The pregnant, abandoned mommy or tiny kitten in the shelter whose time is just about up has just as much significance as the one who is lucky enough to have a human family who adores him.
As Linda says, when we discard these beings as so much garbage, we are casting off life. Devaluing life; disregarding that spark which is unique and equal to our own.
I sincerely believe this. It is my mission to teach others of this fact. If we could just step outside ourselves for just a minute; see through others’ eyes; particularly that of another species; an animal in need. A kitten, cat, puppy, dog…the need goes on. As we walk through our lives, we can make decisions which contribute to lessening the suffering and ultimate loss of life of our animal friends. We can choose to adopt from a “shelter” which practices euthanasia as a means of population control. We can choose a single animal or, better yet, take home siblings who will not only flourish in your loving home but feel safe with a familiar family member of their own. Heck, take the entire family home. It isn’t that difficult to care for a few rather than a single animal. Get involved; feel the need to act in behalf of animals who have been mistreated; malnourished; abandoned and abused.
I had had a negative feeling about peoples’ attitudes towards animals here in my new home. But, as time has passed, I’ve met a surprising number of individuals and groups who care very deeply for forgotten animals and are doing their part to stop the suffering. A special lady and her husband saved so many cats, dogs and other cast off animals that they eventually became a bona fide not for profit sanctuary wherein over 100 animals reside in two residences and on an additional 10 acres. Another kind soul, captures, spays or neuters and then provides homes for dozens and dozens and, if she finds no suitable human companions, she keeps each kitty and dog until she can place the animal in a loving home or else she keeps the animals for the duration of their lives. The folks who reach out and go that extra mile do so in a BIG way; sacrificing their own comforts and the elegant, luxurious life style they had hoped to have, in order to save lives. Those who DO go that extra mile are zealous in their efforts to exact change; lessen to the point of ceasing the euphemistic “euthanasia“ practiced by local animal “shelters.“ They are extraordinary and exceptional beings and I love them for their exceptional commitment and sharing.
If you see a skinny kitty in the street, in the parking lot, the empty building, foraging in a dumpster, hiding in your garage, barn or yard, try, at least, to give sustenance; loving words and nourishing food. Form or join a group to watch over feral cat colonies; working together to capture, spay, neuter and release into a safe environment these homeless cats; where they can live out their lives without adding to the number of ‘unwanted’ kittens. Many are doing this very thing in towns, cities and country side throughout this country.
These animals are at our mercy; they are out there, waiting for us to do the right thing.