This month quite possibly marks the third birthday of my cat, Berry. Amy and I adopted her in December 2008 and we were told by a(n admittedly incompetent) vet that she was around seven months old.
We don’t know what happened to her in those seven months and we rarely speculate. She was found on the streets of Seoul by an insane American woman not long before we adopted her, and as she was healthy and fairly amicable towards people, we assume she wasn’t on the street for long. The first thing we ever knew about her was that she was playful; incredibly boundlessly energetically playful. We think she probably had a home but was thrown out on the street once she became too old to be considered cute.
She was fixed days before we adopted her and has spent the last two and a half years indoors: eating, sleeping and playing. I wonder sometimes if she ever thinks about or knows about boy cats. I wonder if she had a boyfriend between being thrown out and being rescued. She was probably too young and more than likely not on the streets long enough.
In Korea we lived on the fourth floor of an apartment building, and though there were street cats running rampant around the neighbourhood, Berry never saw nor heard any of them – except for Eddie and Monkey, her rescued sisters. From the window she could only see birds and never the street, and when we took her outdoors on a leash she would become overwhelmed and terrified and would hide anywhere. She didn’t like the outdoors.
In China we live on the second floor and have two balconies. Berry likes to sit and watch the local students play basketball from window behind our balcony, and when she has been behaving herself, I pick her up and let her sit on the back balcony wall, watching the birds and butterflies dance in my garden below.
Berry didn’t always like this, though. She used to growl at the outdoors. You see, about three months ago Berry escaped and spent twelve hungry hours hiding under a rock outside our door. She was traumatized by her stupidity for a long time, and the smell of outside terrified her too much to sit by the window or go out on the balcony.
But then she met her boyfriend: A big handsome tabby with a crooked short tale and the most gorgeous eyes a cat ever had, who stalks the north side of the campus and lives in the drains beneath the basketball court.
One day when I was again acclimatizing her to the scary outdoors, she looked down from the balcony like a little kitty Juliet, and saw her Romeo staring up at her with giant green eyes. They stayed silent, never taking their eyes off one another. It was intense. They stared for maybe five minutes, until a noise in the bushes spooked the boy cat and he darted off.
She howled, of course. She howled and bawled the house down for a long, long time. Her evil sister, Eddie, just sat looking confused. She was only a few days old when she was tossed out on the street and rescued, and she has no enthusiasm or inquisitiveness for the outdoors. She doesn’t know why Berry likes the balcony so much.
But now Berry sits and listens and sniffs at the air, and always begs to get back out on the balcony. Sometimes I catch her boyfriend sitting down there, looking up and waiting for Berry to come back. So I shout, “Berry, your boyfriend’s here!” and she comes running. Berry has somehow learned various important words of English, including “boyfriend.”
Sometimes I let her sit on the balcony and watch but mostly he doesn’t come by. Only once or twice a week do we see him prowling through my herbs, beets and kale, sniffing around. I think he knows that Berry hid out there three months ago, and her smell is still strong. He’s trying to learn about her from the lingering scent.
Whenever they see each other they just sit and stare. I wonder what goes through Berry’s mind and gut. She has been fixed, like I said. What do fixed cats think about when they see a handsome kitty? What would she do if it wasn’t a big handsome boy cat – if instead it was another girl?
One day I saw her boyfriend with another cat – a big white girl cat with a Hitler ‘stache whose territory runs near the boy cat’s. I didn’t tell Berry, of course, but she knew. The next time I took her out on the balcony he was down below, staring up and waiting for her. Berry screamed at him and he wailed back. She cried and howled and he stared and whimpered, and this went on for five or more minutes. Eventually, the boyfriend walked away.
They say cats learn more from their noses than we do from most of our senses combined, and so I wonder what goes on that I can’t know about. Berry probably smells what’s going on in the garden, and the boy cat probably knows all of what’s going on. All I know is what I see when I look out the window.
Today I was in the garden and the boy cat sauntered by. He is a skittish creature mostly, but he seemed to recognize me, and while I was watering my basil he walked close by me, then turned and stared. Perhaps if I had a cat nose I would’ve better understood what he was trying to say, but I think that he was trying to get me to pass along a message. Perhaps that was a simple cat “sorry,” or maybe a cat “it’s over” but I have no idea.
I haven’t told Berry but she has been terribly melancholy today.