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Copyright 1999-2017 by crazyforKITTIES (SM) Privacy



 

The Imaginary Cat

by Nicole Pauling

Since August of 2003, my husband and I had heard meowing outside of our home. We would go and look only to come away wondering if we could be suffering from hallucinations. It was possible, we supposed, that we were both feeding into each others neurosis (this seemed to make sense at the time since we both are psychology majors). So we managed to ignore the imaginary cat we had conjured to compensate for something lacking in our childhoods. Even as we diligently worked on ignoring the sometimes pathetic crying of the figment of our imaginations, the cat continued to haunt us. Even though we had agreed that counseling might be the only way to resolve the issue I still continued to look for the cat just in case our diagnosis was wrong.

One evening in November I came home on a night when all sane people would already have been tucked in bed. At the time I worked in a psychiatric unit so sanity didn't really apply to me anyway. At midnight I shuffled towards my house. It was then I spotted it on my porch. Our auditory hallucination had finally manifested itself in the form of a pathetic orange cat. It sat on the porch crying, sounding slightly like a human baby to my ears.

"Great," I thought, "Now I think my imaginary orange cat sounds like a baby." I huddled down and stuck my hand out towards my illusionary cat. I imagined that a hallucinationís bite probably wouldn't give me anything lethal. The cat came forward with a limp and ignored my outstretched hand and instead tried to crawl into my arms. This imaginary cat was a cuddler. It took me only moments to realize this was a cat on the verge of starvation and freezing, with some serious problem. I suspected he might be dead before the morning came. I sighed and set him down. I had a huge black lab inside that could destroy small cities with a swipe of his tail, a husband who was allergic to some cats, and a daughter who was a year and a half and had never even seen a cat.

I went inside, grabbed a box, a blanket, and a bowl filled with bologna and another filled with water. I took them back outside and set up a makeshift home. I doubted he would survive the night, but at least I had made the effort. I gave the cat a last pat and went inside. I dove into the bed and put my freezing hands on my husbandís back. He whimpers and pulls away and I know he enjoys this game as much as I do.

"Thereís a cat on our porch." My husband is basically asleep despite the cold hands. He goes to bed by 10:00 each night so this is long past his bedtime. I put my hands on him again.

"What?" He groans.

"There is a cat on our porch. I think itís dying."

"Donít bring it in the house." And back to sleep he went.

The next morning my husband went to work at 6:30. By 7:00 I was checking to see if the cat was still alive. He was so I put him in the bathroom. He was the most pathetic thing I had ever seen. His hip was so bad that he couldn't sit like a normal cat, instead his back legs lay sideways on the ground while he sat up with his front ones. I cleaned out a space on the bottom shelf under our sink and put in some towels. It was a good place for him to hide and feel secure. After my daughter got up we went to the dollar store to find cat supplies. I was glad to find that we hadn't really been going crazy after all and bought the cat everything I thought he might need. I got a litter pan, fake mice, and little plastic balls with things inside them. My daughter Katrina claimed those as hers and the cat never even got to see them. Back at home the cat was surprised me. He was still alive.

I set up the litter box and the food and water. Then I gave the cat a bath. I figured that he probably didn't want a bath but his hair was smelly and I thought he might have fleas. Oddly, he didn't seem to mind at all. The hours melted away as Katrina and I catered to the catís every whim, which was mainly to be cuddled and coddled, fed continuously. and left alone to sleep.

My husband took the news much better than I expected.

"I told you not to bring him in the house!" He didn't yell. Just added a little lift in his words -- psychology majors donít yell.

"Heís going to die anyway. I didn't want him to be out in the cold and all alone!" Again, no yelling, just strong emphasis. My husband came into the bathroom to look at the cat. The cat stumble-walked over to him and was rewarded by being held on my husbandís lap. My husbandís allergies didn't act up so the cat got to stay. Soon they were fast friends.

For the next two weeks when either of us came home we would ask, "Did the cat die?" We hadn't bothered to name it because it was obvious from its poor nutrition, ribs showing, and hind legs there was little hope. But strangely he didn't die. I decided with the help of Katrina that we should call the cat "Kitty." My husband had different ideas. He decided that the gentlest, timidest cat in the world should have a name that bolstered his kitty self-esteem. His name for him is "Ferocious Tiger Beast." I only wish I was kidding about this. So when we have company we introduce him by two names. I refuse to call him "Ferocious Tiger Beast" and my husband refuses to call him "Kitty."

After the cat decided he was going to live and started packing on a few pounds we decided to take him to the vet. There had seemed little point in a trip before since we knew he was beyond hope; however, we were surprised when the vet said he was in fairly good shape. Kitty had evidently been hit by a car but there was nothing that could be done except giving him rest, food, love, and time. "Heíll always have some pain but it should heal up fine." He got his shots and we took him home. It was odd knowing that the cat wasnít going to die and that he was actually now a part of the family. As morbid as it seems we had truly thought that his being with us was a temporary situation.

We found that imaginary cats arenít known for changing their ways. It soon became clear to us why we had never seen him until he so desperately needed help. He is afraid of people. Oh, he loves all of us and sleeps with my husband and I each night (with the big black dog too) but other than that we are only graced with his presence in the morning when he whines pitifully for his breakfast. He is so plump now weíve had to put him on a diet for fear heíll damage his now healed hind legs and hips. He eats and goes in and out of the bathroom 4 or 5 times in the morning. He also makes an appearance sometimes in the evening when he again decides he is starving and will perish at any moment unless he receives sustenance.

So now we have a cat but no one else believes that we have a cat. Over Christmas some friends were over and we were discussing our various pets, and one of my friends said, "You have a cat? Iíve never seen a cat." Our friend looked at us with a look of suspicion and then looked at his wife. She shrugged. In all the times that they have visited in the past year they had never seen the cat. That night we set out in search of the cat to prove we hadn't gone crazy. We knew there was a cat. He couldn't have been a mere figment of our imaginations after a year.

My husband went to the bedroom and I went to the spare room. The cat had 3 basic hideouts. One is under the sink in the bathroom. Since he doesnít sleep there anymore he only uses it occasionally to escape company, the dog, or baby. Another is in the spare room with my cockatiel Morgan. For some strange reason Kitty is obsessed with the bird. He never swats at Morgan. He never hisses or tries to eat him. He sits in a chair or on the same table the cage is on and watches him. Heíll watch him for hours. Perhaps he thinks that we rescued Morgan from the cold outside too and so theyíve bonded. He wasnít watching the bird or anywhere in the spare room that I could see. I came out of the room and went towards the bedroom. I was in time to see my husband on his hands and knees, halfway into the closet. This was Kittyís favorite hiding place. He had little spots all through the closet; on the floor, on shelves, behind clothes, on top of clothes. My husband searched and searched, tossing clothing over his head and onto the floor behind him. I went and checked in the bathroom but he wasnít there either.

Our friends sat in the kitchen patiently waiting.

"Itís ok. We believe you have a cat." I could tell by their voices they were humoring us. The thing about psychology majors is they tend to hang out with other psychology majors, and they knew that when people were hallucinating or delusional you should simply play along. My frustration grew and my husband began a search under the bed.

"Here Kitty. Here Kitty" I called in my most soothing tone. Minutes passed and still no cat. He had managed to turn himself invisible. I gave up and returned to the kitchen. My husband came out as well, his hair disheveled.

"Iím not sure where Ferocious is."

"Is his name Kitty or Ferocious?" my friend Sarah asked.

"Kitty."

"Ferocious."

Our friends exchanged looks. I knew there was no way to defend ourselves. I could show them the kitty litter box and the cat dish but people who see things often go to extreme measures, this would only reinforce their belief we had gone crazy.

"Why don't we finish decorating the tree." I suggested. My husband went and began to untangle the lights, happy to be away from the disbelieving looks. I wondered briefly where in the world the cat was. He couldn't have just vanished could he? We all went into the living room to decorate the tree. Sarah is allergic to pine trees so she sat on the couch and played with the baby. I threw myself into the task of coordinating the distribution of Christmas bulbs when Sarah screamed. I turned to look at her.

There was Kitty sitting on her lap.

"He just came out of nowhere!"

I smiled. My imaginary cat could really take some getting used to.

In a previous life Nicole Pauling thinks she may have been a cat. "Who says that all 9 lives of a cat are as a cat?" She bases this odd belief on the fact that she enjoys basking in the sun, having urges to laze around throughout the day, and doing most of her writing in the middle of the night. "There are worse things than to be a cat!"