Last week I wrote about my early experiences with animals. Most of those experiences were with dogs.
As a child, I had one cat that was “mine”: Honey. My cousin, who lived next door to me, gave me one of the kittens from a litter her cat had.
I named her Honey because she was light brown and because one of the characters in the Trixie Belden mystery books I loved was named Honey.
Honey had to live outdoors—no animals allowed in the house. I don’t even remember if my mother bought cat food for her or if she was expected to eat the dog food.
In truth, though Honey was “mine,” she was only nominally mine. She wasn’t part of the family. I have no pictures of her.
The only time I spent with Honey was the time after I got home from school, before it got dark. I didn’t really know her. As I had with the dogs, when I went indoors, I felt like I was deserting her.
She walked back to my cousin’s house several times, on her own. That’s where her mom and siblings were. And that was no easy feat. When I say my cousin lived next door to me, I mean in the rural way—the next house over. There were large hay fields and corn fields between us. So Honey traveled to get back to what she considered her home.
One day I took Honey back to my cousin’s house and said I was giving her back because she kept going back anyway.
But really, I was trying to get rid of the guilt I felt over leaving Honey alone outside. And I was an anxious child. I was beginning to have symptoms of OCD, and part of the way that anxiety disorder manifested itself in me was huge sense of responsibility for the well-being of everyone around me. If I didn’t have a cat to be responsible for—if I could give that responsibility to someone else—then at least temporarily, that reduced my anxiety.
I still feel guilty about Honey, about giving her back. But I hope that once she was back at my cousin’s life, she at least had the comfort of other cats.
I was about 11 years old then. It would be over 25 years before I opened my heart to another cat.
Now let’s talk happy memories. What is your first happy memory about a cat?