Thursday, October 3, 2013


Over the past nine years I've seen James' face more than any other persons', and now that he's gone, I can't just let him fade away without some kind of reflection and remembrance of how much he meant to me. James was a one-person cat, and I was a one-cat person, so while he might not have touched a lot of people's lives, he meant everything to me. This post is all about him, so if you're not the type to think of animals as family, or you're not a cat person, or you just don't want to read a rambling mini-saga about my memories of James, you can stop reading now.

This post was really hard for me to write. I actually started writing it a month ago, and while a lot of these memories make me smile, I also still get sad thinking about James, so I put this post on hold and came back to it several times. Also, actually posting it is hard to me, because as delusional as it may sound, I still have a hope that James will just magically appear, and saying goodbye to him in writing makes it all more real and concrete that he's gone.

In case you don't already know what happened, James basically just vanished on July 24th, while I was in Modesto. I spent a month searching the neighborhood daily, talking to all of our neighbors, and putting up posters. Finally, a month after he went missing, a neighbor called to tell me he'd seen his own cat get taken by a coyote a few weeks after James disappeared.  I'll probably never know exactly what happened, but my best guess is that a coyote (or several, because I'm sure he put up quite a fight) did get him.

Some people consider their pets to be their babies, but I've always considered James an adult. James wasn't a substitute for any "people" roles. He filled a role that no person could fill. He saw me at all the times that I wouldn't have wanted another person to be around me. I couldn't count how many times he let me cry into his fur. I also couldn't count all the times he's made me laugh, but I know it was on a daily basis.

I'll never forget the day James ran in front of my car while I was on my way to school. I imagine that at the ripe old age of three weeks, James had decided it was time to branch out on his own in the world and he was just beginning his adventure when I swooped in and changed his course. I was living in Fountain Valley at the time, and even though I was running late, I decided I had to stop and "save" the little kitten. Only he didn't want to be saved. I spent the better part of an hour coaxing him out from under a parked car (and by coaxing, I mean forcibly removing him by the scruff of his neck), with him hissing and clawing at me the entire time.

Once I finally "rescued" him, I brought him to my French class, nestled snuggly in my purse. For some reason, as a kitten, James didn't mind the car and I would take him everywhere with me, just letting him ride shotgun, with no carrier. The first time I did use a carrier, it was one of those breathable duffle bags made for puppies and he managed to unzip it from the inside and escaped while I was driving on the freeway. He went haywire, climbing all over the seats like a maniac, so that I had to pull over at the next exit and contain him.

"Maniac" is probably the best word to describe James in his kitten days. I'm pretty sure nobody else besides me would have put up with him. He spent the first year of his life angry that I had enslaved him, and every day seemed to be a constant battle to tear down his captor (me). I had battle wounds all up and down my arms. He also had a penchant for peeing wherever he pleased. Everyone I talked to asked why I didn't just get rid of him. But I had promised James that I had his back and that I would take care of him, and whether or not he wanted to be taken care of didn't matter to me, I was still going to make good on my promise. Eventually, through a combination of tuna, snipping his balls, and my own relentlessness, James turned a corner and decided to return my love. And once he did, he was the most loyal cat you could imagine. He was my little shadow. As crazy cat lady as it may sound, I didn't feel lonely as long as I had James around.

When James was young I wanted him to be an indoor kitty, but he refused. We lived in an area with a lot of large stray cats, and he was just a little kitten, so I felt like he didn't have a great chance at survival, but he proved me wrong. He would escape the house every chance he got and march right up to the biggest alley cat - a large orange tabby, and start trouble. James never backed down, and pretty soon our yard was his territory. I tried compromising with him by taking him outside on a leash (yes, I was that person), but he would have none of that either. He bucked around like a little bronco until I either gave up, or he managed to get the collar off. Once while I had him on his leash another cat wandered into his territory and I made the mistake of trying to get in the middle of their turf war. Big mistake. I still have a little scar on my wrist from that incident.

James was an alpha male. He was a little hunter and a fighter. Back in his prime he could catch flies mid-flight, right out of the air. If I found a bug in the house I would yell: "JAMES! BUG!" and he would come running to kill it. And of course, I'll never forget the two birds he gifted me with, three if you count the one that was still alive which I made him release. I came home from work to a house full of feathers, a bloody bird carcass, and one very proud looking cat. As much as I screamed at him, and tried to coach him on how to pick the bird back up and carry it outside, he just sat next to it staring up at me with a twinkle in his eye. I was still finding feathers in all corners of the house when I moved a year later.

Back when I lived alone in Tustin, I always left the back door open for him to come and go as he pleased, but every time I walked through the front door, he was right there meowing to welcome me home. He would eat dinner with me at the table, waiting patiently until I only had a few bites of food left on my plate, and then he would move in, reminding me to share. He also liked playing fetch, like a dog. I would bounce a little foam ball off the walls and he would run up and bat at it with his paws and then pick it up in his mouth and run by me and drop it by my side while on his way to assume his position for our next round of fetch.

I remember every time I got sick, whether I was on the bathroom floor with a stomach flu, or in a self-made steam tent suffering from bronchitis, James was right there beside me, staring up at me with a concerned look or cuddled next to me and purring. Even right before I gave birth to Ezzy, when I knew I was going to be induced into labor, I had to have some cuddle time with James to calm me down before we went to the hospital.

James was a survivor. He jumped off our three-story balcony and lived for eight days in coyote territory. He also survived a mystery respiratory illness that required emergency surgery and left several vets puzzled. That cat utilized every single one of his nine lives.

James was a very peculiar cat, as all cats are, I suppose. He had an afternoon and evening routine of making his "rounds" where he would just walk in and out of every room in the house several times, making sure everything was in order before he finally settled into a good spot for a nap. He spent several months in hiding, once because he wasn't a fan of a new cat roommate, and once because he hated being trapped indoors in our third story apartment. Every now and then he'd get it in his head to pounce on nothing, and then jump straight up in the air like the nothingness that he had just attacked was fighting back. He liked sprinting through the house at two in the morning. And he liked sleeping next to me in bed, with his head on "our" pillow, curled up under the covers.

I know if I kept James inside, there's a good chance he'd still be here, but he wouldn't have been a happy cat. I've always said I don't believe in keeping caged pets (to each their own), and to James the house was just a large cage. I like to think he would have preferred to go out in battle, and I'm sure he put up a good fight. Wherever he is now, he'll always have a part of my heart. Memories of my twenties will always be tied to James. He got me through that period where I lived far away from home and family and stayed by my side until I had a new family in place. He always was looking out for me.

I have so many happy memories with James, so it's highly likely you haven't heard the last of him. And if you actually read this far, you may as well keep scrolling to see the many faces of James. I know it's way more than the daily quota of cat pictures anyone should look at in one given day. It may not seem like it, but I did show some restraint in not adding every single picture I have of him.

He was an expert tree climber


Joe may not admit it, but before Ezzy came along, James was his favorite photo inspiration.

"Ok, enough already!"

"What the heck is that??!"

1 queen-sized bed, 1 pregnant lady, 1 Joe, 1 body pillow, and cat?
No problem!

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