"She's very pretty," he said. "She's all white and has one brown eye and one blue eye. I have to tell you something, though; she's deaf."
I once wanted a cat, when I was a child. My sister had Persians, several of them, and my brother had a dog and a duck. I asked for a pet cat and was told no, there were too many animals around the place as it was. I was disappointed, but had long since learned I would probably not get what I asked for in situations like this. A few days later Mama relented and said I could regard one of my sister's cats as mine--feed him and look after him and see how that went.
It didn't go particularly well, because, although I tried--I did feed him--he was already a full-grown cat. He never knew he was mine and he went on his with his life as usual. Pretty soon I did too.
Years later, like 40 years later, I had moved back to my hometown and wished for a cat again. My husband didn't want to be bothered, and Mama sided with him for some reason. She told me over and over I shouldn't want a cat, and one day she gave me a stuffed animal and said, "Here's your cat." I was nearly 50 years old. I really don't know why she was so opposed to my having a pet. But clearly she was.
Now here was a cat being dropped on my doorstep. She had literally been left on my friend's doorstep and he said he thought I needed her. She was very beautiful--and the first night she walked through my house, every corner, and nodded her approval. That night she settled on the lower right corner of my bed, near my feet. She slept there every night that we lived in that house. I named her Snow. I loved her immediately.
She was a delicate creature, but I built a cat door so she could go outside at night if she wanted, and she learned how to use it. She came back with fleas, of course, and I was bothered by them all the time. She was young, probably about six months. I loved seeing her romp and chase her tail. At last I understood the joy cat owners felt. I loved coming home to her, and got used to the early-morning wakeups and nighttime prowls. At one point a feral cat found her in the night and bit her pretty badly. I took her to the vet for her regular innoculations and flea treatments, and found a kennel to keep her when I had to travel. It was a wrench to leave her in one of those cages for a week, but I was always glad to see her when I returned.
She was a troublesome cat, really. Being deaf she didn't respond to my voice, and she seemed to live in a world of her own. I moved from the house where she had fit so well, and my new house was infested with rats. That was most disturbing. I put out glue traps but was much more afraid that Snow would get caught in one than I was reassured that the rats would. She couldn't hear them scratching so she didn't chase them, which might have scared them out of the house. That certainly would have been preferable to glue traps.
She didn't seem to have the usual stomach meter that I thought cats had; she overate and in time got very heavy and logy looking. Everything about her made me feel guilty.
I knew when I decided to move to a different part of the country that I couldn't take her. I'd be in a city; I'd be in small quarters; and I was likely to move again several times. (It turned out that I moved three times in five years.) I found a family who wanted her, but I felt very insecure about how they'd take to her. They were a single mom and two little girls. When I left her with them she was very agitated and scared, and, never having had a cat before, the children closed in on her and made matters worse. The hope I clung to was that the mother told me they had a close friend who was a cat lover; I could only pray that he would help them all with the transition.
I missed her enormously but dared not call them about her. I didn't want to hear. I had to let her go. I did notice that the itchy eyes and runny nose I'd been thinking was a pollen allergy disappeared shortly after I gave her away. I had been allergic to cats all along and never knew it.
There is something unearthly about a cat. The ancient Egyptians knew this, and every cat owner knows it too. Cats are self-contained, elegant, mystical even. Snow was all these things, more unreachable because of the deafness, and more magical because of the two-colored eyes. She was quirky, temperamental, challenging. There is still a nagging doubt that creeps in my mind in the night, when I think of that cat. She had my number, and still does; when I remember her, I can't help wondering if I was worthy. She still has a piece of my heart.