Sunday, March 28, 2010


He trails me as he always does, following my every move, ready to pounce, to purr, to bite, whatever he has to do to remind me of his presence, whatever will get a reaction. Maybe I'll yell at him, or scoot him away, or pick him up and hug him. Or maybe--his favorite--I'll just sit down and he can leap onto my lap, where he'll curl up, his powerful hind legs kicking at my chest, his teeth nibbling gently on my arm.

Delmar is a very strange cat.

He was born into a litter of adorable, bouncing kittens, most of them fuzzy and gray. They wrestled gently with each other, curled up together at nap time, and followed their mother around, models of obedience. But there was among their number a wiry, unruly little thing, black and white with half his tail missing, always a step or two behind, who seemed lost and out of place and a little bit angry. I could have chosen any of these kittens to take home with me, but of course, there was only one choice.

Oh, but did I choose Delmar, or did he choose me? Sometimes I think he lucked into finding the only person in the world who would not only tolerate his anger, his mood swings, his sometimes irrational behavior, but celebrate it. I've known sweet and loving cats, and cold, indifferent cats, but I've never known any creature, on four legs or two, quite like Del. It's not always easy living with him, but he's taught me to be patient, to accept him on his own terms. And those terms are as basic as the elements: Love me, and I'll love you back.

For he is, curiously, the most loving cat I've ever known. He greets me at the door whenever I come home, his long body stretching to meet me, to hold me, to claim me as his own. Even before I can remove my coat or set down my keys, he demands a hug, and he receives it, his head burrowing into my arm pit, his purr so loud it makes my own body tremble. Then he squirms, and starts to bite. The session is over.

One of my little rituals is to give him a hug anytime I'm heading out the door. In case I don't make it back, I want his last memory of me to be a pleasant one. With most cats, that would be a meaningless act; the feline brain has no short-term memory. But Delmar's no normal cat, and his brain is wired in a different way. He remembers, all right. He knows.