Here are a few stories and thoughts about some special cat friends who are no longer with us. If you would like to submit a story of a cat who has touched your life, email email@example.com. Please include a title and your name or let us know if you would prefer to be anonymous.
In Memoriam – Eros – Feline companion to volunteer Marinella who works with Donatella Capuzzi at the shelter in Brescia. She took out this ad in the local newspaper. The caption reads:”Like a rose, the most beautiful things live only a day”.
In Memoriam – Our Buddha, Smiley
I’ve never told anyone this secret, Smiley. But shortly after our 1-year-old kitten, Mezzo, died of cancer, I longed to adopt another shelter feline. When doing rescue work, a person should never seek another cat on purpose. But there was a hole in my heart and I longed to help an older, black cat: preferably one who had been on the street awhile and needed a comfy retirement. Mezzo had been a gray tabby, so there’s no connection at all. But somehow, I imagine, we were calling out for each other.
Several months later, my friend asked if I could do a medical recovery — of approximately 6 weeks — for a feral cat who needed a series of shots and baths for a skin condition. She had been feeding him for 10 years but had never been able to pet him. Sounded like an easy job.
So you came into our lives as a feline who was supposed to be distant. But you were not. You were friendly with me, thrived in my company, and enjoyed petting. While discussing you with my friend, I also discovered your return would be tricky — because the empty lot where she’d been feeding was to be developed with an apartment building. Everyone would need to be relocated. That was the only push it took. You were adopted by us.
Chris called you Smiley because you had some goofy front teeth that made it look like you were always grinning. The teeth were eventually removed, but the name stuck.
At Christmas time, with our house full of guests, you always came out to stand in the middle of the crowd. Folks would comment on your torn ears. “Awww… poor kitty… must have been in a few fights!” From our friend, to our amazement, we discovered you were the instigator of these brawls: the scrapper of your colony. But that made no sense at all — because we’d never lived with a more calm, relaxed, “Buddha” of a kitty.
The next year, Milou found us. You two were inseparable and it made my heart sing to see you together: “like salt and pepper,” we used to say. I can still hear Milou’s purr when he was snuggled with you.
“The snugglingest kitty ever,” we called you. You would curl on my lap, during movie nights, until I had to pass you to Chris and stretch my legs. I loved the way you spooned with me in bed. Sometimes you’d burrow under the covers at our feet. “Are you sure you want to be down there?” we’d ask.
That a feline can spend at least 10 years on the streets and then come inside with an abundance of love… You taught us so much, buddy.
Eras mucho gato, Smiley. You were plenty of cat.
In Memoriam – Stevie The Wonderful
by Kathy T. Hisamatsu, volunteer, Associazione IL GATTILE onlus (Trieste)
Trieste, Friuli Venezia Giulia – She was a black and white, 3 month old feral kitten brought in by a gattara to the cat shelter where I volunteer. Scrawny, hissy and both eyes infected to the point of no return, she was placed in a ‘kitten cage’ with four other young scraggly end-of-the-summer street orphans. Of the survivors, 2 remained in the shelter and the others were adopted out.
Stevie was young, blind and miserable living in the free-roaming shelter community. She was often found out in the courtyard, alone getting sun and fresh air…she loved the rain. She never got over her cat cold after getting drenched under a pounding thunderstorm. I got soaked while searching and calling for her in the cortile. On hearing my voice, she ran out crying at the top of her lungs. Scooped up, hugging my shoulder with all her might, we ran back inside. She was happy to be scolded and dried down.
I began to put an elastic collar with a little bell on my ankle when I discovered that that was all she needed to ‘know’ I was on the premises. Bolder, less scared of the others, she loved to follow me around prancing about confidently! She loved to whap at a little bell attached to a cord that I’d drag about.
One cool sunny day, I walk into “Il Gattile” chatting with a gattaro who watched my Stevie run clear across the courtyard, climb up my extended leg and hug me with all fours, slobbering me with kisses – she’s also had most of teeth pulled.
Claudio was amazed: “Ma, non è cieca?” (Wait, isn’t she blind?)
The blind, spunky, Felv+, feral came home with me and lived well for 2years.
In Memoriam – Louisey May Alleycatt
From Ellen Perry
My precious Louisey — I miss my sweet girl. She was with me for 8 years, a rescued backyard kitty who came to me with chronic upper respiratory syndrome. She loved living indoors at last, and I loved sharing my home and life with her. She was about 13 years old when she died. Dr. Alan Stewart took such wonderful care of her and helped me make Louisey’slast months comfortable; she died April 19th of 2009. Louisey, dear girl, bless you for blessing my life.
In Memorium – Ralph Syracuse
Beloved of the Campbell Household
Ralph Syracuse Campbell, b.6/14/92. d.6/15/06. Saint Theresa, the Little Flower, once wrote: “Perfection consists simply in doing God’s will and being just what He wants us to be.” I think those words sum up the life of Ralph Syracuse. He was a good cat, and that is what he was meant to be.
The Life & Times of Ralph Syracuse
In Memorium – Rachel
Beloved of Louise Wilker
Rachel, I remember you as a brave, strong woman cat, a wiley survivor who spent much time protecting yourself from harm and not enough time being happy and carefree. Your experiences led you not to trust. In the end, you were right to be wary, for those who should have been your benefactors ultimately let you down. May you now, Rachael, be in a better, more benevolent world where you are free to be the whole, loving being that you couldn’t be in this life.
Fagiolino, the Cat Who Talked His Heart Out
by Susan Wheeler
I met Fagiolino at the Torre Argentina Cat Sanctuary in Rome where I lived with my husband and daughter during the year of 1998-1999. I had been volunteering at the sanctuary for about three weeks, when a thin gray tabby with a wide nose introduced himself by jumping on top of the cage I was cleaning. He caught my attention immediately with his intense stare and his steady stream of conversational “miaos”. As I moved on to another cage, he followed right along, hopping delicately from one cage to another. I reached up to stroke him. He responded assertively, rubbing the side of his face against my fingers. He continued to demand contact by staring at me with his intense yellow eyes.
I asked his name and was told “Fagiolino”. My Italian was not very good, but I knew my vegetables. I knew that Fagiolino meant string bean. As I listened to his story, and heard how he and two siblings had been found dumped amid the ruins at Torre Argentina, Fagiolino continued to talk to me and to caress my arm with the side of his face. Then I heard that he was leukemia + and probably had been since birth. His siblings were dead. This was a blow as I already felt a special affinity for this cat who was so interested in making contact. Fagiolino was unconcerned. He continued his monologue, punctuating it with head rubs against my arms and shoulders.
Almost every time I came down the fifteen iron steps that led to the Sanctuary below Rome’s busy streets, Fagiolino was either there to greet me, or else he quickly appeared. He greeted me with his serious “miao”. His voice made a quiet space for us both in the midst of the noise and confusion around us. He wanted to be heard. Perhaps he knew he was sick and wanted to tell his story as much as possible for the little time he had. He would climb into my lap and then up my chest, fixing his front paws on my shoulders, all the time talking and looking into my eyes. I began to come to the Sanctuary more and more frequently, at least in part to see Fagiolino.
He was not a healthy cat. He sneezed frequently and often had dried mucus almost covering his nostrils, making his breathing labored and forced. I would clean them the best I could. He was one of the cats who received daily medication. I asked if I could give him his pills. He accepted my sticking pills in his mouth with a grave countenance, like a prince accepting a favor from a friend.
I knew I couldn’t bring Fagiolino back to the United States, since I already had two cats that did not have leukemia. But I wanted to be with Fagiolino. I had a crazy hope that if he lived in a house, he would get over his sneezing and might be adopted by someone who wanted only one cat or by someone with another leukemia + cat. One cold day in November I borrowed a carrier from the Sanctuary and, at the end of the day, took Fagiolino up the steps and into the mad rush of Roman traffic. We boarded a crowded bus, which took us on a meandering route through the city. We drove along the banks of the Tiber, crossed it twice, and finally came to a big bus piazza where we began the process over again. Finally we got near the little street where our apartment was located. I carried Fagiolino in his case up the two flights of stairs to our apartment. Our apartment oddly had marble floors. Otherwise, it was dirty and had had nothing done to it for many, many years.
With great poise, Fagiolino came out of the carrier and walked calmly into the living/dining room as though he had been living there his whole life. First he walked around, pretending not to seem too curious, then, to celebrate his new domain, he leapt on the back of the sofa where he began to ‘miao’ enthusiastically. He ate the food I put out for him-the first time in his life, perhaps, that he didn’t have to share with others- and then came back to settle in my lap. Idly I tossed a soft green rubber ball I had picked up at a little shop along with Fagiolino’s food. In an instant, he was up chasing it, using the tops of the furniture as springboards for his flying leaps. In no time, he returned with the ball and dropped it nonchalantly in my lap. Surprised, I tossed it again. Again Fagiolino took to the air in a dramatic retrieval of the ball. He continued to chase and retrieve even as his breathing became more labored. He seemed so happy, mere breathing didn’t seem to matter. Over and over he flew through the air for thirty or more minutes at a time. When I tried to stop he would nudge me until I pulled the ball out again.
Fagiolino stayed with us until we went on a trip to Sicily at the end of December. While we were gone, he stayed with a friend who said she might adopt him since her cat also had leukemia. As I took Fagiolino back through the streets of Rome to her apartment, I realized how incredibly bonded I was to him. I put off taking him all day and it was quite dark by the time we got on the bus. Fagiolino began to ask what was happening in his patient deep-throated voice. His voice held me very close. I felt desolate at parting from him, but consoled myself that he would be getting a good home.
When we came back from our trip, my friend told me she couldn’t keep him, that she was afraid he would pass his constant cold on to her cat. I heard her with mixed feelings. I felt very badly that Fagiolino would not have a home, but at least we could be together a little longer.
So Fagiolino came back to live with my husband, my daughter and me. His joyful antics were a constant delight. He slept with my daughter, and would pack his sleek striped body into whatever indentation of a lap or back that he could find. He loved to ride on my chest, with his arms wrapped tightly around my neck, his head resting between my neck and chin. He would seem to get better for a while, but his cold never really went away.
Eventually we went on another trip for my daughter’s Spring Break. There was nothing I could do but return Fagiolino to Torre Argentina. It was ever so hard, but finally there we were, back in Rome traffic. This time we took a taxi, as I did not think I could stand a crowded bus feeling as I did. When I opened the carrier on a plastic table in the sanctuary, Fagiolino came out more slowly than he had at my apartment. It was sad step backwards for both of us. I had failed Fagiolino.
For the remaining several months of our stay in Rome, I went to the shelter almost every day. Fagiolino would greet me, but I felt he knew I had rejected him. Some days he would not show up. I selected a brown one-eyed little tabby named Kurt (another story) to bring home to the United States with me. Fagiolino was a bit aloof from the other cats, but he and Kurt were playmates. And Kurt tested negative for leukemia.
The day before our departure came, I hurried to Torre Argentina to be with Fagiolino. This day he came up right away and rubbed my chin with his head as he hung around my neck. I walked with him clutching on to me. When I sat down to say good bye to the many friends I had made at the shelter, Fagiolino settled next to me, making a nest for himself on my sweater and book bag. As I left in tears, he began to follow me up the stairs, but then stopped and went back down. It was the last time I saw him alive.
Fagiolino died in the third week of November 1999 about three weeks before a trip I made back to Rome. However, he has stayed with me. Often, I have a palpable sense that he is perched on my right shoulder with his chin resting against the side of my jaw. I have even felt him life sized a couple of times, walking upright just behind me. I think all three of my cats here in San Francisco, Kurt included, must know that they are sharing their house with a fourth striped presence, one who late at night might bound joyfully after a small green rubber ball.