I first became aware of him in the bitter winter of 2014 when the wind and rain was whipping the wet earth. A lone juvenile, a beautiful black and white tuxedo cat with pale green eyes hiding from me in the shadows of my Italian basil bush. My garden is a sanctuary for many a wandering cat seeking refuge from the tyranny of the neighbourhood children.
I heard his mournful cries in the mornings and began to ask around as to who owned this beautiful nuisance who was courting my blue eyed cream and gold tabby. Mystique is my seven-year-old spayed female cat with only three legs, but she seems to be catnip to tuxedo boys. She has many friends of this persuasion. Just another lovestruck sod I suspected, but sadly I learnt that one of our neighbours had moved away and abandoned him.
What monsters! I was outraged. It’s the same as abandoning your child in my opinion, pets are not discardable at a whim, they are a part of your family. My tender heart couldn’t bear to think of him alone and hungry, and very, very cold. The nights were deathly cold, even beneath four blankets and a feather down duvet I felt the chill in the air. I made a bed for him under the porch and began to leave food out for my mysterious little visitor but each time he saw me he ran in terror, so afraid that he actually left the premises altogether.
We are on good terms with our neighbours and their kids simply adore my fiancée, who they refer to as “cool Uncle Max.” Whether they be 4 or 16, they all come running when they see him, he’s just that kind of guy. Whether it’s painted snail races a la Turbo style or baking or make wooden cars or a competition for who can make a canon that shoots the furthest (I kid you not) – they all won a prize for effort, he loves kids and they love helping him tinker on whatever project he is busy with in our busy little garage. Naturally I informed him to tell them that if he catches them chasing that poor cat they will have to answer to me. He plays me off as the bad cop whenever they visit, with quips like “The aunty is working, don’t make a noise or you’ll be in trouble.” I’m the biggest softie but according to them I am the law. It’s hilarous. They’re all very sweet kids and very soon everyone knew that my little fella was off limits and was not to be chased.
It took months of gentle coaxing to get him to relax around me. First he stopped running away when I came out to feed him, and instead he’d walk away briskly, which relaxed into more of a stroll… The strolls got shorter and shorter until he stopped walking away and would simply watch me at a distance as I hung washing or filled the food bowl. The way to a cat’s heart is through his stomach. Finally he started coming towards me. It took such a long time to build his trust but at last I was able to reach out and touch him. I’d lay out cat nip and watch as in a very kittenish fashion he’d roll around and play and he was putting on weight and starting to relax, that haunted look finally leaving his face.
Honestly I’ve no idea how long he was homeless, half a year? One of the neighbours told me that he would steal into her kitchen at night to eat the scraps out of her cat’s bowls. Finally, we became friends and I felt very honoured to call him that. He proved to be a gentle, sweet cat. In that time I adopted a kitten from one of my very good friends, a sweet little guy I named Morpheus. My little black and white tuxedo boy who I’d called my little fella became Othello. They were the best of friends.
I noticed one afternoon that Othello seemed to be off his food. He was never a big eater anyway, but I thought I’d best keep an eye on him. Another day or two and he didn’t seem to be eating. That evening I picked him up and he seemed listless and I said to Max that if he was not better by morning I would take him to see the vet. Thinking better of it I asked Max to fetch him in from the garden where I’d last seen him having a snooze but when he went out Othello was nowhere to be seen. We searched for him but figured he’d gone out for a stroll as cats do. He was not there the following morning. I thought typical cat, he must have heard us talking about taking him to the vet. Next day still no Othello and then I heard his voice and there he was in the garden, but without his collar. I wonder how he’d lost it.
He seemed to have perked up again and was eating but was behaving strangely. He wouldn’t come near me, wouldn’t come indoors, acted as though he was afraid of us and ran like hell whenever he saw Max. He had always been very cautious of Max but it was like we were back at square one. What was wrong with him? He even attacked Morpheus. He started marking all over the garden and behaving like an unneutered male and getting into fights, but we had had him neutered. It was like he was a complete stranger.
I said to Max that we had to wash down the porch as there was an odd smell and he said it was just the cats marking the place up. Then I went out to water my pot plants and I saw a shock of black fur amidst the foliage. On moving the pot plant away I saw Othello laying there, lifeless, his jewelled collar still around his neck. Suddenly I realised the collarless black cat was not Othello and that it was in fact his doppelganger. Poor Othello had been sicker than we’d realised and here I’d had no idea he had died because his twin was sitting in my garden, eating his food, sleeping in the spots he loved to sleep in, even sounded identical to him. This all took a moment to digest and I still find it shocking. The doppelganger was here not ten minutes ago, peeping in through my office window… I’d never seen him before Othello died.
So this is something of an ode to my departed cat, who I knew for only a short year. I believe animals have an angelic energy about them, they bring healing and joy with them and it was no different with Othello. His energy was so gentle. When I did my angel card readings I kept receiving the “Your pets on Earth and in Heaven are watched over by angels” card. My angels knew even though I didn’t. Isn’t life strange sometimes?
If you’ve borne with me this far, thank you dear reader, I appreciate your time.
Stay inspired and don’t forget to pet your pet. Like I always tell them when I let them out, “I love you,” and I often ask the angels to keep an eye on them. Maybe I sound a little liki tiki tau to you. That’s okay, this is my little world and they know me here.
‘Til next I visit your inbox,