Razz, Mamacita, Yoda, Simba, and Elvis.

The last of the cats I have known and loved. The cats referenced when I signed Christmas cards from “Barbara and the Pussycats.” The Seattle cats.

I had a dog growing up, and then I had a parakeet in my Chicago apartment, but finally my second husband and I acquired a black cat we named Gimli. He got Gimli in the divorce. But before the divorce, there was a Barn Cat and two Abyssians who convinced me that the Egyptians worshipped them because they were terrifying. And much later on, in Seattle, there was the apartment complex cat I called Not My Cat, who ran down the alley to greet me when she heard the jingle of my ankle bracelets. When Not My Cat got sick, I took her to the vet who told me she had feline leukemia and was slowly dying. I wept salty tears into her fur as the vet put her quietly to sleep.


Not too long after that, my daughter Caroline brought home a tiny orange kitten that she named Razzmatazz. He’s gone, now, but I resurrected him a couple of years ago when I gave him to a character in my novel, A Dream of Houses, and named him Chewbacca which I realized, too late, had been his real name to begin with. I was reluctant at first to take him on, but Caroline told me he came from a bad home and it wasn’t long before he had made a claim on my heart similar to the one my children had made when they were tiny, and just like them, I continued to love him and care for him long after he turned a bit rascally.

Razz grew into a lion of a cat, with an orange-red coat, a creamy soft belly, and white tail tip and boots. He was haughty and naughty, loving nothing more than tempting human hands to bury themselves in that creamy soft belly fur only to become caught in a vice of claws holding them fast while Razz nipped away at the fingers. I used to threaten to have him made into a muff. He always knew to disappear half an hour before a vet appointment. “How did he know to duck out then?” I asked my vet. “Did he hear you make the appointment?” the vet asked. He scratched the furniture and sprayed the books on the bottom shelves (particularly those with shiny covers) and was fussy about food – there was only one brand of chicken chunks with gravy that he would eat – and could open the kitchen cupboard doors to hide when he wanted to.

We moved from the apartment to a real house with a back yard and an alley - I was a permissive parent - and ten years later to the blue house with a back garden and trees, bushes and storage sheds, and a patio of stone flags that grew warm in the afternoon sun. A cat's paradise.

A day came when he was about 15 or 16? I had an appointment to take Mamacita to the vet for her shots (ever since Not My Cat I was diligent about their shots), but noticed Razz coughing and looking distinctly unwell. So I took him, instead. He moaned a painful-sounding yowrrr all the way there – a sound I had never heard him make before – and when we got to the vets it was de ja veux all over again. Not feline leukemia, but a hard growth in his stomach – perhaps cancer? He was in pain, and I certainly couldn’t afford the fees that might or might not restore him. I called Caroline, and she came from work, and together we wept salty tears into his fur while he drifted off. His ashes are under the magnolia tree in the back yard of the blue house in Seattle.

(to be continued)