Embry and I have always been cat lovers and adoring cat owners. Minette was our first cat, who we bought from a pet shop in Manhattan in 1966 when we were newlyweds and students in New York City. I was at Union Seminary and Embry a senior at Barnard. Minette was part Russian Blue and part Siamese and very smart and very athletic. She lived to be over 18 and will always be our favorite cat. In her heyday she could easily jump from the floor to the top of a door; and when we were traveling in Europe in the summer of 1967 and left our apartment with a friend whose main duty was to take care of her, Minette escaped and ended up spending several weeks on her own on the mean streets of the city. One day just before we returned she found her way back and was found by the super scratching at the main door of the apartment house building trying to get in. Embry said that Minette taught her how to age with dignity—keep doing what you always have been doing, just slow down.
We moved to Chapel Hill in 1968 and then to Washington in 1972. When Minette died in the early 1980s, we adopted Maggie, short for “Magnificat,” a streetwise Tabby, who spent more time outdoors chasing insects but still a great cat, who also lived a long time.
She was followed by the era of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, littermates whom we adopted as kittens in the early 2000s from a lady who befriended pregnant street cats and helped place their offspring with loving families. They were both fabulous animals, an important part of our family for another 15 years. These four animals all had “long lives well lived.” When Freddie and Fannie died we took a break starting in 2016, but it turned out to be a short one because a petite, black cat—“Beleza”–that Jessica’s family had adopted was freaked out when they adopted a stray Pit Bull prompting a move to our apartment. She was very quiet and withdrawn and died of a heart attack during the Kavanaugh hearings regarding his nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2018. She was captivated by the hearings on television and was fine when the lady, Cristine Blasey Ford, spoke; but when Kavanaugh came on, she collapsed and died on the spot. He was too much for her, and now we know why.
Just as covid was arriving in the U.S., early in 2020, we adopted from the shelter in neighboring Calvert County, a beautiful Burmese, whom we named Queen. Queen was about eleven and had been placed in a shelter on two previous occasions because she had a bad habit of biting children. Given her advanced age and reputation, no one wanted to adopt her. Not us, however, and in many was she turned out to be a great cat once she got over her urge to bite when displeased. She was the perfect companion for us during the covid outbreak. Unfortunately, she died last summer at age 13; and since then, we have been cat less—until this week.
We had not been planning to adopt another cat due mainly to our traveling a lot, but my serious traveling days are reaching their end; and Embry and I had been thinking it might be nice to adopt for the last time one more feline creature. This week a notice came out that an elderly lady living in our apartment house had died who had owned a cat that now had no home. The cat, “Oreo,” was five years old and described as a cuddly animal who loved people. We could not resist the temptation. His age seemed about right. We might even outlive him. We visited the apartment, met the owner’s daughter, who introduced us to a beautiful purring, black cat with white markings on his feet and neck. We took him to our apartment that afternoon. That was on Thursday. From Thursday to Sunday we did not see the cat. For three days we spent hours trying to find the little guy in our 1,700sf apartment. How could an animal find so many places to hide in such a small space? One spot was behind a bookcase and under our tv. Another was behind books in a small bookcase in my office. A third was in one of our closets. Once we discovered one of his hiding places he would move to another and then disappear again. But on Sunday, when Embry found him in a closet, he finally hopped down and was ready to be petted. The trauma of losing his owner and his familiar surroundings had been too much to take. It turns out that cats (and many other mammals) have emotions just like us humans.
So here we go again with Oreo, certainly our last creature.