He was a terrified little ball of fur when we first brought him home. He was orange and white, so we named him Nemo. It turned out to be an appropriate name – he was a feral kitten, and ran for cover every time he felt threatened. In our house, full of kids and visitors and a dog, that was often. His favourite hiding spot was in the basement, and I spent hours that Fall playing the at-home version of Finding Nemo. I wore through the knees on two pairs of jeans, crawling around on the concrete, moving boxes of hand-me-downs and Christmas decorations to find our kitten.
Luckily for Nemo, and for us, he’d landed in an adoptive family. We knew all about attachment therapy. Several times a day I would haul that scared little kitten out of his hiding spot and plunk him in a baby sling, rewarding him liberally with treats and pats. In the warmth and comfort of the sling, he grew accustomed to our voices and attention. Gradually he started coming out of his basement hiding place to spend part of each day with the family. He turned out to be quite an affectionate cat, although he always remained shy of people who were not part of our immediate family.
Somehow Nemo always knew when it was time to go to the vet. He would simply vanish when it was time for the appointment. Once I planned ahead and locked him in the guest bedroom a few hours before the appointment. When I came into the room to put him in his carrier, he had just disappeared. This in a locked room containing only a closet (doors closed and inoperable by a feline), a dresser, and a bed. I finally found him – INSIDE the box spring of the bed.
In July of this year, Nemo was five years old. He had grown more affectionate and slightly more sociable over the years, but no less canny. On the morning of July 26th I hunted him down in the basement – on my hands and knees on the concrete, just like the old days. When I finally found Nemo, I hauled him out of his hiding spot by the scruff of his neck and shoved him into a cat carrier. Mr. Fixit dropped him off at the vet’s office for a tooth extraction. A few hours later the vet called. Nemo’s heart had stopped under the anaesthetic. He could not be revived.
I miss him every day. I can’t seem to stop myself from looking for him every night at bedtime. He used to go out to prowl the neighbourhood after dinner, and at bedtime we would find him sitting calmly on the front porch waiting to come in for the night. I keep cruising by the cat food aisle in the grocery store, wanting to pick up a can or two of his favourite flavour. It seems strange to not have a cat in the house. Except for my first year of university, there has been no time in my life when I didn’t own a cat.
I tell the kids we’re not getting another cat. I’m more allergic now than ever before, and we travel a lot. It was stupid for our family to ever have a cat. We’re busy and we don’t need to spend money on vet bills and food when we’re always saving for something else. The truth is, Nemo, with his attachment and trust issues, worked his way into my heart. And he’s still taking up space there.