My cat died yesterday. Well, technically he wasn’t my cat; he was my daughter’s cat, he was my wife’s cat… Napster was anything but my cat. We had a very tumultuous relationship full of ups and downs and hairballs. I would consider him to be the worst roommate a man could ever have. Napster was prone to midnight fits of rage, screaming as if he were caught in a garbage disposal for a minimum of an hour. He had been de-clawed and now his paws were fists of fury, which he would use to beat on our door throughout the night, which was closed primarily to keep him out. If allowed to enter our room at night, Napster found it enjoyable to spend 15 minutes slowly and disgustingly regurgitating a hairball directly under my bed or beside it.
Napster had some good qualities too; he was a very strange cat and fun to observe. He wanted nothing more out of life but to be loved. When you scooped him up he would cling to you and bury his face in your neck. He was so misshapen that it was just adorable, his head and paws were tiny, and his body was huge. He and our dog Einstein would often slap fight which was hilarious to watch. He loved picking fights with Einstein. This cat was not in control of his tail. That was the strangest part about him. Often, while he lay sleeping, Napsters’ tail would dance like a snake and smack him in the face, starting a war. He always seemed to be contemplating something as he would sit upright under the kitchen chair with his front paws up on the chair rails. Napster was a weird cat.
I can’t say that Napster was my cat, but I can say that before he died we were friends. That is a big statement. At one point Napster was my mortal enemy. In another life I was a sadistic, heartless, speciesist jerk. Napster had two favorite pastimes, shedding and elaborately disgusting vomiting sessions. I was an arrogant, overbearing dick who didn’t like how he inconvenienced me with noises or a mess, so I often tormented that poor cat. I never abused him, but I made his life Hell nonetheless. I played mind games with him, scared him constantly, hunted him with Nerf guns, and I was not a good caretaker. A good caretaker does more than just keep those under their care alive. He does more than just feed and provide shelter and necessities. A good caretaker cares, provides support, care, nurturing, and most importantly education. A good caretaker teaches those in their care to manage themselves in a better way. Ironically, Napster was a better caretaker of me than I was of him. You see, I am a vastly better person now than I was five years ago, because he taught me how to manage myself in a better way. I began realizing at some point that I was not the type of person I wanted to be, I was ashamed of the man I was. I had been on a path of destruction from the time I was born. I began taking active steps to become someone new, someone I could admire. I’m not there yet; stopping being a prick is a lot like quitting smoking, every day is a part of the journey and I haven’t fully figured out where it is going.
Most of my growth as a man can be attributed to two children: My daughters, two women: my wife and my ex, and two animals: Napster and Einstein. These two furry bastards have changed me in ways no human ever could. Napster has taught me about consequence, forgiveness, and redemption more so than any other creature could. Einstein has taught me patience, love, and understanding on levels I never knew existed. Several years ago, during my transformation, I began realizing how my actions had devastated poor Napster. I saw how he had become skittish, easily frightened and plagued with anxiety. He never knew a moments relaxation or security. He ate his food as fast as he could because he knew it was a vulnerable moment for him, then he would get sick from eating so fast and anxiety that he would throw up. It was like looking in a mirror for the first time and I felt like a horrible beast for my actions and the outcome for poor Napster. Before that moment, I had fooled myself into thinking Napster was just a fucked up cat. I never took the time to realize why he was fucked up. I couldn’t live with what I had done to this living creature, this sentient being. So, I set out to make it right as best I could. I decided that I would “repent” to Napster. Since then, Napster and I have truly bonded. By working with him to ease his anxieties and show him he could stay calm and that he was in a safe place rather than tormenting him I actually made friends with him. I think that by the time of his death Napster felt safe, knew he was loved, and died a happy cat.
It’s easy to forget our past wrongs with each new day. Just like Kelly Bundy studying for a trivia show, every time we do something nice for someone, we forget a little of our guilt and shame from past harms. I could’ve never fully made amends to Napster for the past had he lived an eternity. There is no repentance for treating another being the way I treated him. Napster was my teacher in that he was my daily reminder of who I once was and no longer wanted to be. Every time I saw that cat run in fear because someone opened a door or turned on a TV, my dedication to the changes I was making in my personality would be reinforced. Eventually, Napster stopped running, he stopped screaming at night and vomiting his food whole. Eventually he was purring at my feet, and I saw my progress, not within Napster, but in me. I also saw two extremes of what my actions can do. Napster wasn’t just a crazy cat, I had made him crazy, and Napster didn’t just get better, I made him better. I had been his cancer, and everything I had hated about him had been my own doing. How far can that lesson stretch? I’ll tell you on my deathbed…
Napster was the catalyst that made me see the good in any animal. Napster died young, but he made his mark on the world. He changed me, he changed my mind, how I think and act; every action I have taken or will take from that point on will be shaped by that cat. Every animal I meet, and every man, will be meeting a Bob that was forever changed for the better by that cat. Never say that animals are a lesser species than humans, we wouldn’t be where we are today without them. He was one of the puzzle pieces that has helped sculpt this work in progress that I call me and he will be missed.