Today Cocoa, our black kitten, turned a year old. It’s hard to believe he hasn’t been here forever, he’s such a fixture. And in a way, maybe he has been here forever, or at least for years before he showed up.
You see, I had a dream. No, a series of dreams. It was shortly after our beloved cat Mithril died, seven years ago this May. Mith was a gray and white longhair with sleek fur, a long body, and a squirrel’s bushy tail. I adored him. After he died, I had several dreams about him; lying in that half-asleep aware but drowsing state I’d feel the imprint of his small body on my pillow or see him saunter down the hall, his tail rising straight up in that happy cat plume. Dan had similar dreams. We both felt deeply comforted, like the dreams were his way of touching base, saying hello and I’m still here, as if he was drifting away from us in stages.
Then there were the other dreams. I had two. The first started with Mithril walking past me. I followed. He disappeared in a tunnel, low to the ground, a kind of cat play structure. And when he came out – well, he didn’t. Instead a black cat came out. Sleek long fur, a squirrel’s bushy tail, an elongated body. Mithril transformed?
The other dream wasn’t as distinct but Mithril either changed or ran alongside a black cat, his doppelganger.
Then a friend told me she’d dreamed about my cat. Oh? I said, not really caring. “Yes, only he was black in the dream. It was strange.”
We began looking around for a cat a few months later. Dante the redheaded Turkish Angora was on his way, with periodic updates from his breeder. We wanted a rescue cat to be Dante’s companion. One purebred, one mutt, that seemed about right to us. We stopped by all the cat rescue centers, scoured the cages set up in Petco on Saturdays -- every Petco in LA, I think. We even went to shelters, though we found them horribly depressing. Some cats tempted us. They were cute or sweet or so fragile you wanted to nurse them to full happiness. Some were even black longhairs. None were right. We never got that click and so we stopped looking. And then, of course, we had Damian and he was a lot of work as a baby so that was the end of that.
This past spring we started talking about a kitten. Dante's turned into a bit of a slug, tolerating Damian’s ministrations but never wanting to play with him. We wanted a lively little creature who would respond to Damian and give him back affection and engagement in full measure. A kitten. It felt like the right time. We were going to start looking over the summer. We talked about it. Planned it. Never quite did it.
One sunny morning at the beginning of June, Dan and Damian came with me to the Sunday morning farmer’s market. The cat rescue people were there at the eastern end of the market, just like always. And just like always we stopped by to say hi to the kitties. None of them had ever tugged at us. They mostly seemed like a morose lot. It can be a wonderful thing to rescue a sad cat but we’ve spent enough time on our own rescue mission the last three years. We wanted a kitty who was emotionally healthy. So there was no chance we’d find one there.
You know how this ends, don’t you? One of the cages had three kittens, siblings: a little gray girl was playing with her gray-and-white sister and pouncing on any human fingers that came her way. Their black hued brother stretched out long and lean, his belly exposed. Snoozing. He looked so relaxed. I asked to see him.
When the rescue lady handed him to me, he curved into my arm and burst into purrs.
We signed the adoption paper then and there.
He still purrs on contact. He’s friendly and funny and goofy and intelligent and completely engaged. He embarked on a win-Dante-over campaign and succeeded in creating an amusing wrestling partner. They sometimes meet in midair like the martial arts magicians in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. He’s a bit of an alpha male, though, crowding Dante out of the food area or getting jealous of my attention and demanding equal (or better) space on my lap. He lies in the nest at the top of the cat tree at night and when we walk past, he hangs his head out of it with a clear “pet me!” message. He speaks in chirps, trills and squeaks. He lets us pet his tender tummy and naps all stretched out, a content little hedonist. He's probably the least neurotic being I've ever encountered.
And yes, he’s got luxurious long black fur and a long squirrel’s tail. And he’s exactly what our family needed right now. Someone happy and warm to make us laugh. Is he Mithril returned? Is he Mith’s legacy to us, the inheritor of that love? I don’t think I’ll ever know. But I do know with certainty that I dreamed him six years before we ever met.