To Love a Cat Unconditionally

Mo and his master relax in the former chicken chair after a day's work 

We’ve seen telltale signs the past few years. Mo, our outdoor/indoor mouser extraordinaire, hasn’t scampered to the door when we slide it open to snow and frigid air. He curls his tail tighter around him, dreams of bygone days and nights as Alpha Cat, raiding all the food bowls set out in the neighborhood.
           He doesn’t meow much to be let out. I do and don’t appreciate that. It hurts to see Mo slow down, reminds me of P.J., our previous mouser of eight years. And when Mo’s sister was run over as a yearling, he mourned for months. Eventually, he recovered with TLC, although he preferred my husband to feed him.
My household timekeeper guesses Mo’s age at seventeen, beyond his life expectancy. You cat lovers understand the bond between the two, one strengthened with passing time and routine. Mo knows six o’clock when Mel’s blue CRV parks by the grape arbor. He stands at the basement-kitchen door and calls his name. “Me-o-l!”
That’s what I’ve enjoyed most about Mo since we adopted him and his sibling from a litter of feral kittens. His vocalizations are musical. Alas, I’ve learned you can’t name a hunter Mozart and expect a relationship.
Mo’s never had a thing to do with me, goes on hunger strikes when Mel's out of town. Until this summer, we couldn’t sit down to dinner without Mo’s interruptions—calling my husband’s name at the kitchen door, rubbing his facial pheromones on everything close to his master’s chair. That’s one jealous cat.
           Once the snow melted this year, Mo strolled outside, found the warmest step south of the house, rubbed his face on the stone, rolled onto his back, and at last laid down his four paws and slept. Weeks passed before I noticed the quietude of our table for two. 
           “Where’s Mo?” I asked. “I’m worried about him. He isn’t hunting much these days.”
           “Oh, he still hunts.”
           Afterward, I found his chipmunk-gut gifts at the garage doorstep. If I didn’t know better, I’d think he wanted to put my mind as ease. Then, I saw him strutting home from our neighbor’s woodpile with a vole clenched in his jaws. Good boy!
Although my affection for Mo remains unrequited, I love him nonetheless. To love a cat is to practice unconditional love, a most difficult virtue to achieve. He has no clue it is I who finds the most caring critter sitters for him and the hens while we’re away from home.
           Yesterday, a friend summarized my sentiments about our beloved pet as we hugged good-bye under the farm’s pergola.  “I have an old cat waiting at home. Maya is certainly very special to me. She’s not doing well, but I’m not yet ready to give up on her ninth life just yet.”
           Dear Reader, when Mo’s ninth life expires, we’ll bury him beside P.J., next to the compost bins where our hens love to scratch for bugs and worms. And when Mo's master's heart recovers, I hope to bring home a mouser who prefers me.