My late dad was without a doubt a dog person. He grew up with a couple of incredible German Shepard’s, and they have certainly done all they can to instill in him a love of animals big and small, but dogs in particular.
I remember us going for our regular Sunday morning walks and how he’d stop to chat to most of the dogs we met en route. Chat to the dogs, mind you, not their owners.
My mom on the other hand was more of a cat person, although she had nothing against dogs. In fact, I think there was a sausage dog in her childhood somewhere, but I vividly remember a picture of her as a child holding an orange tabby cat that was probably bigger than her.
When the time came to get me something that didn’t live in a glass box, I’m sure they had a conversation about cat vs. dog. To this day I have no idea how they decided to adopt Felix. What I can tell you however is that the day I met him was the first in a long line of life-changing days I was to have in my lifetime.
Felix was a gray tabby cat. He had the most luxurious coat, was a hunter and a half, and would patiently wait to be invited onto the couch before joining the family in front of the TV.
I remember he used to knock on the window with his left paw when he wanted to come in. I’m sure he was the king of our neighborhood in his free time. He’d come home in the middle of the night, and knock to be let in. Then he’d devour an extraordinary amount of food, and promptly curl up on my dad’s head.
(I’ve noticed every single one of our cats used to do this, i.e. sleep on his head. They never did this to either myself or mum, but dad would unavoidably wake up with a cat paw, tail or whisker in his beard.)
When I was sick, which was fairly often when I was in elementary school, he’d stay in and sleep on my chest or between my legs. I remember my mom used to say he’s the best thermometer, because he’d always move to my legs when my fever started to go up.
We had a couple of balls we used to play with indoors, but our best adventures were had outside, in the garden behind our house that half of the block used to share. It was a kid’s dream come true: plenty of trees and shrubs, which Felix and I would roam around, hunting all types of critters and digging a really irrational number of holes.
Felix helped me meet a lot of the neighborhood kids, which I probably never would have done without him. He was never shy, always curious, and a great judge of character. For instance, he would never allow one of my mother’s colleagues to pet him, and she turned out to be quite a devious person.
I could go on and on about what this cat has meant to me. He was the first of many cats that were to enter my life, and to this day he is one of the fondest memories I have of life in general.
When he was hit by a car, my parents spent every last dime we had at the time to save his life. I remember he had to spend months in a small enclosure, letting his back legs heal. I spent every possible moment with him, telling him stories about all the mice he was going to catch when he got better (and inevitably bring them home to us).
We never did know what happened to him in the end. After his recovery, he spent another couple of years roaming the area with me, being the best cat imaginable. I always used to imagine he was simply adopted by another family who loved him just as much as we did. In fact, although he would now be over 30, I still like to think of him like that: sleeping on someone else’s head.
If you are considering getting your child a pet, I highly recommend the experience. It will turn them into someone like me a couple of decades down the line: a grown man with a family of his own, getting overly emotional about his childhood cat.