He was the cat I anticipated all my life before him. He was the cat by which all future cats will be measured. He was loving, intelligent, funny, aggravating. He was my Tamino.
Growing up, we had a series of cats around. They’d show up, dropped off at the nearby barn by seasonal visitors who thought all barns needed more cats, and that all barn cats led healthy, happy lives. Or friends had kittens, and somehow one found its way to us. Or…I don’t know. Mom had a weakness for orphans and kittens, so there were generally up to a half dozen around at any one time.
But I loved the idea of having a Siamese. Their exotic good looks. Their intelligence. Their loyalty. I’d never met one, but I knew I wanted one someday.
Fast forwarding to adulthood, I spent four years in the Air Force, living in the barracks, where the only pets we could have were fish or turtles. For someone used to having dogs and cats around, that was rough. When I got out, I waited all of about two weeks before starting to look for a Siamese. I was going to take it slow. I was going to find just the right breeder, get myself onto a wait list. I wanted a female, I decided. A beautiful little girl. I dreamed of names. I poked around on the Internet, what there was of it back then. I made some calls.
The first place I went to with Mom was in Marshfield, VT: a woman who mostly bred and trained Schutzhund German Shepherds, but also had a few Siamese litters a year. Supposedly we were just going to visit and check out the grounds and meet some of her adults. She’d had a litter not long ago, but they were all spoken for. So…we went. And when we got there, she placed a ten week old kitten in my arms for me to see. A boy. He wasn’t a very cute kitten, honestly. He looked a bit like a white rat with a giant brown Jimmy Durante nose. His eyes were not the bluest of blue. He meowed and clung to me, and I vaguely heard her say something about another buyer backing out, so if I was interested, or she could reserve another kitten from the next litter.
Well. I was doomed.
We brought him home. I named him Tamino after the prince in Mozart’s Magic Flute and called him Tam for short. He hid under the bed for several days and barely let me touch him. And then…he did. And didn’t want me to ever set him down again.
We both barely survived his first year. I had no idea, really, what Siamese were like in person. For one thing, he was a chatterbox. In general, when other cats meowed at me, I knew they wanted something: food, water, a check on the litterbox. They didn’t just casually interact via vocalization. I kept saying, “What do you WANT, cat?”
He also had SO MUCH ENERGY and curiosity, which he didn’t totally expend without me being a part of it. He wanted to play, but I was supposed to be involved. Always. Even at three in the morning. This was about when he taught himself to play fetch–or taught me, I’m not quite sure. I’d be typing away on the computer, and he’d bring his beloved tattered frog and drop it on the keyboard. When I tossed it aside, he retrieved it and dumped it on the keyboard again, until I stopped and played a good solid game of fetch.
He had to get to the highest point of every room, and woe to any fragile item that got in the way. In fact, watching things fall was pretty fun, especially if you could push them down for dogs to grab.
He learned to pull drawers open to retrieve noisy toys I’d hidden out of sheer exhaustion. I remember one time hiding his ball-and-trough toy in the freezer, because that was the only place he couldn’t get to it. Top of the refrigerator? No problem–he could leap clear from the floor and pull himself up there. Drawers? Oh, a fun challenge!
He was a crazy monkey cat, but he was also so very loving. All laps were for sitting in. He slept on the bed, sometimes snuggled under the blankets with his head on the pillow. When I was down, he’d headbutt me under the chin. He was always there. Even the very last night of his life when he could barely walk, he followed me from the living room to the bedroom and slept on the bed, and then crawled back out to the living room when I got up. He was my constant companion his entire life, and now I keep looking for a shadow cat who isn’t there. I suppose I’ll be doing that for a long time to come.
He made me laugh, made me yell, made my life so much richer than I could ever have imagined.
I said goodbye to him on Thursday, 3/24/16, less than a week before his 17th birthday on the 30th.
There is a hole in my heart so big I hardly know how to keep living.