Fraidy’s Death – An Unlikely Gift
Dedicated to anyone who’s ever lost a pet.
He was a rascal and a renegade. He was all of seven pounds, my gorgeous seal point Siamese companion.
I named him Fraidy Cat because I gravitate toward ironic names, I called our previous cat Doggie, because he was clearly a dog in a cat suit.
When I walked into the room to pick a kitten, they all scattered, except him; he ran up to me, meowing his face off. “Well, aren’t you brave, you’re a pipsqueak but you sure aren’t a Fraidy cat” I said as I scooped him up in one hand.
He looked at me with his cornflower blue eyes and that settled it, he’d sealed the deal and stolen my heart.
I’d always had indoor cats, it was better for their physical health and MY mental health; you see I’m a worrier; so if my cats were to go outside, Tom-cating around, not being there when I needed him, getting dirty, I’d knew I’d freak.
So he spent his days at the windows, howling to get out, jumping at the glass, shredding the screens.
I spent my days inside my very convenient denial, that is, until the guy I was dating at the time, a huge cat lover, took me by both shoulders, guiding me to the screen door, kicked it open and held me there while Fraidy bolted OUTSIDE and up a tree. He’d howled at the birds in that tree for two years, coveting their freedom, now he was up there, climbing among the leaves; I had to admit – he looked ecstatic.
That was the start of his outdoor life.
Being the rule setter that I am, I did instill some parameters – furry little rascals need boundaries.
When we shook the container of dried food – dinner time.
Once he was in for the night, that was it, he used the cat box and slept inside, on my pillow, or in my armpit.
I fed him and let him out when I got up. It became a routine that made us both happy. On the weekends, when I was around, he’d stick close to home, rolling on my little patio in the sun. Life was good.
The longest he ever stayed away was three days, and I lost. my. mind.
When he finally did show up, he was filthy and starving, with a far away look in his eyes – like he’d seen too much. He’d clearly lost one of his lives.
He didn’t have much to say for himself, and after twenty-four hours of my interrogation and his silent treatment – I made him promise that there would NEVER be a next time – and it was never spoken of again.
When I moved to my current house (which came with a cat door – it was a sign) he had a companion by then, Teddy, who was his polar opposite.
Teddy was a fat (I mean big-boned) Teddy bear of a cat, a grateful, gregarious, well-mannered rescue Siamese, who never went much further than the backyard or the front porch.
Fraidy, on the other hand, could barely contain his excitement every morning when I’d open the door to the pantry so he could get to the cat door and start his day. He loved all the mature trees in the neighborhood and brought me presents on a regular basis, (dead birds, mice and once a baby possum) to express his gratitude for the change of locale.
The fauna around the house submitted a petition and formed a coalition to ban Fraidy from certain sections of their territory – but he wasn’t having it. ALL of Studio City was his domain.
Seriously –– All of it.
I found that out in the most profound way, when in June of 2006, seven years after moving to this house and navigating coyotes, traffic and other cats, Fraidy broke our agreement and went missing – for a long time.
It was an unseasonably hot Memorial Weekend, and after shattering his previous three-day record, I started to really worry, putting up signs and calling his name around the neighborhood.
That’s when I got the calls, from far and wide, coming from miles around. “Your little Siamese, yeah, I see him all the time; but it’s been awhile” one caller five blocks over reported.
“That Siamese with the red collar, he was in my backyard as usual just last week, that’s the last time I saw him. I’ll call you if I see him, I hope he comes back.” That lady lived across Tujunga, a big street with fast-moving traffic, which made my stomach turn, I had NO IDEA he was wondering that far from home.
One evening as I was pulling out of the driveway, I saw a cat walking up the sidewalk toward the house.
A small, skinny Siamese.
I had all but given up, it had been seventeen days.
I stopped the car in the middle of the street, jumped out and called his name, and he came running over like nothing was out of the ordinary – but it was.
I swept him into my arms and ran inside calling Raphael the whole way. I couldn’t believe he was back. “It’s him right?” I kept asking.
It was weird, he hadn’t lost any weight, he still had his red collar with all his tags on, he was clean, un traumatized and purring away.
“Smell that” Raphael was now holding him, pushing his body into my face, “he still smells like your perfume” (I wasn’t wearing any that night) and he did, he reeked of my scent.
“Someone obviously had him” everyone said, happy that he’d reappeared.
“Yeah I guess; someone who wears my perfume which is discontinued and impossible to get.”
He seemed genuinely happy to be back.
Man I wish he could have told me where he’d been over a glass of wine and a can of tuna, I’m sure it was an incredible story.
A few days later we left for a week in Palm Springs with my whole extended family, a friend was staying at the house with the cats.
I felt uneasy, I didn’t want to leave Fraidy – his return to me after such a long time was so remarkable ; it was as if he’d returned from the dead. He was my Lazarus cat.
(To be continued)