Transitioning From Many Cats to Just One.
Copyright © Nedda Wittels, 2022
As written by Starlight and Nedda.
I started writing this post, and then had the thought, “Starlight should be the one to write this.” And then realized that Starlight was, in fact, asking to write it. After all, it is her story, her experience. So my job here is to translate into the written word what Starlight wants to share.
When Melissa died [“Melissa: A Challenging Life”], I was very sad and lonely. Of course, I had Nedda for company, but Melissa and I had a very special, loving, feline relationship, and for the first time, there were no other cats in my life.
There was no one to groom me or for me to groom, although I sometimes groomed Nedda’s head while she lay in bed, and she daily groomed me with a very luscious brush.
Nedda and I grieved together, which means we supported each other, cuddled each other, and reassured each other. I spent more time in Nedda’s lap each day than I ever had before. Was that for her? For me? For both of us! It felt great to just jump up and not have someone else objecting or trying to get into her lap at the same time.
Purring helped us both, too. Purring is a healing sound, and Nedda even began trying to purr. I know she really can’t, but I appreciated her efforts, and the sound she was able to make was very comforting to both of us.
At first, what I found most strange about being the only cat was that I could go anywhere in the house, sit anywhere, lie down anywhere, and no one would challenge me to move or to give up my spot. I felt my body start to unwind some of the tension that it held from being growled at or hit on the head because Someone Else wanted me to acknowledge her dominance.
Another big change was that I could jump in Nedda’s lap many times a day and I didn’t have to wait my turn or share it with anyone else. It felt just right – perfect for me to be there.
At night, for the first time ever, I could crawl under the covers with Nedda whenever I chose. This was very new. The dominant cats had always taken that position on the bed. I wasn’t certain how to lie down under the covers.
Should my feet be against Nedda’s body, or my back?
Would Nedda role over on me while she slept?
Did I need to have my claws ready to remind her I was there?
I had never been able to work this out before because first Violet, and later Melissa, always insisted on being in the spot I might have wanted. Now it was just me, and I had to figure it all out.
Soon I found the best position for me, and totally relaxed into it. Nedda relaxed more, too, and these were some of the best cuddles of my life.
Similarly, eating was different. No one tried to eat out of my bowl, and Nedda and I would dine together, just the two of us.
Nedda was concerned that I might be lonely, and asked several times about getting another cat, but she and I both understood that I was exploring and needed time to do that.
Who am I really? What do I like as a cat?
Can I allow my energy to fill the entire house and feel comfortable with that?
Suddenly, I realized that I could be myself. I could use my voice more and no one would tell me to “shut up.” In fact, Nedda kept saying, “I love to hear your voice. Keep on singing.” and I began singing more. I discovered I could make a wider range of sounds than I had since my first weeks as a kitten. Nedda listened and encouraged me to sing more and more and more. It was fun!
Melissa and I used to go outside together and with Nedda. Melissa ran and ran. I sometimes ran, but I really like to sit and watch – birds, squirrels, chipmunks, moles, butterflies, bees – and even Melissa.
Now, there was only Nedda and me. We took some walks around the yard, but it wasn’t the same.
Climbing Trees? Who, me?
Melissa used to do the strangest things. She’d climb trees – really big trees – way high up. [About 10-12 feet.] I couldn’t believe my eyes the first time she did that. I kept wondering, “How will she get down?” But Melissa somehow knew how to wrap herself around the trunk of the tree and to use her hind feet with her front feet to return safely to the ground.
Melissa also wasn’t afraid to jump down from a very high place. Jumping down had always stumped me. Nedda says it’s a horse thing, and she’s probably right that I still have horsey characteristics.
So I began trying to get up my courage to climb a little ways up tree trunks. I’d make a big run towards a tree to get lots of energy, and go as high as I dared, which wasn’t any higher than I felt safe to jump down. [About 4 feet most of the time; 6 feet once. ] Nedda always kindly cheered me on for my efforts. But I knew that I’d never climb as high as Melissa, and that Nedda loves me just as I am.
So after Melissa died, I did try climbing a bit, but the inspiration was gone and while Nedda and I had fun picking up branches and playing outside, I preferred to sit quietly and watch other animals. The squirrels were particularly insulting about me having given up, but squirrels can be very rude and I just ignored them.
I began to feel and more myself – my very own self – not having to compromise who I am for anyone else. It was a very good feeling. I felt myself growing and growing inside, expanding and letting go of restrictions I had accepted to make sure other cats would love and accept me.
I’m not a hunter, and never will be.
Then there was the issue of “mousing,” as Nedda calls it.
When I chose to be a cat in this life, I knew that it might be expected of me to hunt and kill rodents, birds, and insects. After all, that’s part of being a cat, right? But killing has always felt wrong to me in many lifetimes. I knew a cat has to eat meat, but I also knew I couldn’t, wouldn’t kill.
Melissa and I would hunt as a team to chase down any rodent who came (or whom Melissa brought) into the house. I had to admit it was fun to work together to catch the rodent, and to play with it with my paws.
Melissa took this very seriously, and taught me how to pay attention to where the rodent had hidden and to what she was doing all at the same time. She’d tell me where to look, where to go to block an exit, and how to synchronize my movements with hers. She was a patient teacher, and never admonished me when I made a mistake.
Melissa and I would play with the animal, taking turns, and then finally, Melissa would either kill the rodent or, on rare occasions, let it go. When she killed it, she’d nearly always eat some or all of the body. She especially liked to eat their heads. Once or twice, she let me eat a baby mole she had killed. It tasted a bit weird, but still good. I’ve always liked to try out new foods.
I once caught a large insect Nedda calls a dragon fly. It was in the autumn, and the insect was dying. I brought it to Nedda, who took it from me and set it somewhere to have a peaceful death. I was happy to have brought her a gift because Melissa had brought her so many gifts of animals she had caught.
Now that Melissa was gone, Nedda asked me to hunt on my own. This seemed like a ridiculous request on her part. Me? Hunt? Alone? Really? What are you thinking?
I was sitting in my favorite spot just outside the garage watching squirrels one day when Nedda called me from the porch. “Starlight. There’s a chipmunk on the porch.” she called.
I ran onto the enclosed porch and Nedda pointed towards a pile of boxes. “I saw a chipmunk run back there.” Nedda told me.
I could smell it, so I began a search for it. But at the same time, I said to Nedda, “I’m not going to kill it.”
“Fine,” Nedda replied. “Just chase it out. Scare it off. You don’t need to kill, but I’d appreciate if you’d keep the rodents away from the house.”
Nedda turned to go back inside.
“Where are you going?” I asked her. suddenly feeling overwhelmed by the prospect of hunting alone. “I’m used to working as a team. You have to help.” I pleaded with her.
“Starlight,” she answered, “I can’t smell it, and I’m too big to fit into the places the chipmunk can go.”
I stopped what I was doing and turned towards her. “You really can’t smell it? What’s wrong with your nose? Is your nose working correctly?”
Nedda sighed. “Human noses are not as sensitive as cat noses. I just can’t smell it enough to find out where it is.”
“How sad,” I told her. And I meant it. What a poor nose to miss all these powerful smells.
By this time, the chipmunk had made it’s escape.
I took Nedda’s request seriously and began spending some time in the evening and at night in the places where mice liked to come into the house. I would tell them: “This is a mouse-free zone. Mice are not welcome here. I will wack you very hard if I get the chance.”
I think they heard me, because I didn’t see very many of them as the weather turned colder and winter approached.
What if Melissa wants to return?
The day after Melissa’s death, she came to visit us in her spirit form. She was so very different, so peaceful and so clear. She and I talked, and she and Nedda talked.
Melissa told me she was very happy and free, and wanted to return as a cat at some point. Was I OK with that? Of course I said, “Yes, I would love you to come back.”
Nedda told me she had a similar conversation with Melissa, and that she had also said, “Yes” to Melissa’s request to return. Nedda wanted to know if I was OK with that, and I certainly was.
We had no idea when this would happen, and Nedda and I weren’t in a rush. We left it up to Melissa.
As I began to get more in touch with who I am and how I want to be in this life, it became clear to me that being alone was a good thing for me. I realized I wasn’t in any hurry for there to be another cat in the house. Melissa was still welcome, but if she took 6 months or a year, that would be OK with me.
Nedda, on the other hand, was grieving so deeply. She kept looking at photos online of rescued cats. I could feel she was hoping to see Melissa there, but mostly she just saw photos of very sad, very unhappy abandoned cats who needed to have love poured into them. One or two even looked a bit like Melissa. I think it just made her sadder when she did this.
As I began to change, Nedda realized how much she and I needed time alone together. We were really enjoying each other and it was a very special and precious time that we hadn’t had before. Everything was put on hold . . . well, sort of everything.
Nedda began looking at websites of Thai Tonkinese breeders, Melissa’s favorite breed. It was like she was wishing Melissa back into a body. I know that can’t happen because I’ve been between incarnations, and it’s not up to those already incarnated to decide on anything about someone else’s return.
Melissa would visit us in her spirit form and she and Nedda would talk about various catteries and what the cats looked like and whether the energy there felt right for Melissa, and other considerations. I mainly stayed out of it.
But I could see/feel Nedda’s longing. It didn’t make me feel less loved, but I knew that Nedda really needed Melissa to return. So when it happened, I wasn’t very surprised. But it did feel too soon for me. That’s the honest truth.
In transcribing this for Starlight, I’ve made extra effort not to modify or change the essence, feeling, meaning, or thoughts that she wants to share, regardless of how it might make me appear. This is truly Starlight’s story, and I hope you can feel/sense her beauty and love as it pours through my fingers into this post.
There’s more to the saga of Melissa.
Look for the next installment coming soon.