When I was on a podcast recently talking about animism, the subject of ghosts came up, and what I see as the difference between ghosts/hauntings and animistic souls that are the spaces themselves. Because I have more experience with ghost cats than any other kind of ghost, I told an abbreviated version of an encounter I had with an entire litter of ghost cats. The day after the podcast I made some new realizations about that encounter, and I would like to share the details with you.
It was 9/9/1999
It was late in the evening and the weather was nice, so we had the windows of our apartment open. Outside we heard the sounds of an angry tomcat and a crying kitten, so my brother hurried outside the save the kitten. She was tiny grey tabby, about the size of a 6-week old, and starving. We fed her, and to our delight the only cat living in with us at the time, a giant orange tabby named Dog, was immediately protective of her. We looked, but found no trace of the mother or other kittens.
In honor of the date and her incredibly sweet and loving personality, we named her 999 The Beast, or Beast for short.
We took her to the vet, and despite her size he estimated her age to be about 11 weeks old due to her teeth. He warned us that being malnourished enough to be so small might lead to chronic health problems, but for the moment she got a clean bill of health, her shots, and she became a member of the family.
In the coming weeks all three of us living in the apartment would notice kittens out of the corners of our eyes. There were four or five of them initially. A couple were grey tabbies like Beast, but at least one of the others was an orange tabby like Dog, but significantly smaller. As she grew, so did they, keeping pace with her size and playing around the apartment. We decided that those ghost kittens must have been her litter mates, and they followed the sole survivor, keeping her company and watching over her.
Beast was truly the most loving and trusting little cat I have ever met. When friends and college schoolmates came over she would immediately find a lap, even if she had never met them before. Everyone was her friend, and she never wanted to be alone.
After about six months most of the ghost kittens became less and less present, until they finally moved on to the afterlife. I think they were satisfied that she had found a good place, and would be cared for. By one year, the orange tabby and one of the gray tabbies were the only ones that still made appearances. I believe they were the closest to her, and simply wanted to keep her company. They certainly were not trapped on this plane, and I knew they would be able to move on when they decided they wanted to.
At about one year of age, Beast developed skin problems. She had an autoimmune disorder from being malnourished so young, and developed a skin rash that covered her entire body and bothered her constantly. Since it was systemic but not a contagious infection, the vet offered cortisone shots. She would get one every six months to a year, to clear up the rash and other symptoms, but it would likely both become less effective over time, and shorten her lifespan. It was no contest. We would give her as high a quality of life as we could for the time she was with us. It would have been cruel to leave her so miserable.
The cortisone worked beautifully. The skin rash cleared up completely, and Beast was back to being her cuddly, loving self. Whenever the rash and other increasing signs of unwellness returned, she would get another cortisone shot. As predicted, the time between shots became shorter and shorter until they finally stopped working altogether. She was five years old when we had to say goodbye.
Tragically, at the time Beast died, my partner and I had gone through complete upheaval in our lives. We were not in a position to be able to afford an apartment that allowed cats, so Beast had been living with my partner’s parents for several months. Because of work, we were not able to be there when she passed, and I was left wanting for closure that I did not think was possible.
My life for several years was in constant flux, moving from place to place and job to job searching for a way of life that would meet my monetary needs without causing abject misery. When my partner and I were finally living in a place where we could have cats again, we happily brought furry little love-bugs back into our lives. Their names were Isa, Ringo, and Oishii.
After a few years our lives shifted again and we moved out of state, taking our current fur-babies with us. A few years later we found ourselves back in the same area we had been living when Beast came into our lives, and returned to the vet we had taken her to almost twenty years earlier. He was shocked to see us after so long, but we had always remembered him well, and no other vets we had gone to since had measured up.
Even our cats were happy to see him. We brought in Ringo on a harness and leash, as we were accustomed to doing with our very bold fur-baby. He obviously remembered the office fondly. When the vet opened the door and called Ringo’s name, Ringo hopped off the bench and trotted straight into the exam room with a happy trill.
My partner and I both felt a happy presence when we were at that vet’s for first time in so very many years, but there were too many other people and pets around to be certain of what exactly it meant. Both of us mentioned it on the ride home, and within a few days we both independently confirmed seeing Beast hanging in the corners of our vision like her siblings had for so many years.
There is no way to be certain, but we suspect that Beast wanted to say goodbye. Following the example of her littermates, she was willing to hang around as long as necessary to do so. My partner’s parents’ home was not fully familiar and comfortable, so she made her way to where she had been cared for, in hopes that we would eventually return. When we did, she followed us home to be in our presence and say goodbye, also giving us a chance to say goodbye to her. After about three months she moved on completely, which was bittersweet. I am glad that she had closure and was ready to move on, but I do miss her and hope to meet her again in a future life.
The Orange Tabby
Even more surprising, the orange tabby ghost was still with Beast. As often as we saw her, we saw him as well. He had decided to keep her company throughout her life, and even after her death. He was still smart and fast and clever, playing in the shadows with the vigor of youth that he never abandoned.
I remember seeing him now and again for a couple months after Beast left, but he did not want to be alone, so in time he, too, moved on to his next life.
The Endless Cycle of Life and Death
As time marches on, everything that is born grows, declines, and dies. So too did it go with the cats who had come into our lives in the years since Beast had passed. In just one year we lost Mochi to liver disease and pneumonia, and Isa to lung cancer. Ringo was in steep decline from a combination of old age and irritable bowel syndrome. We did not know it at the time, but Oishii would also be gone in less than a year, from a mysterious illness that came on suddenly and whisked him away with no clear reason why.
We visited a local no-kill shelter and adopted a roughly two-year-old black and white maine coon we named Daken. Being a bossy young cat, he very much insisted on playing with our other cats even though they were not interested. Ringo was too weak and sick to be able to, and Oishii was too distraught over losing his friend Isa to want a newcomer in the house, let alone one that was so bossy and twice his size.
So, we decided we should adopt a kitten or young cat, to give Daken a friend and help distract him from pestering our older kitties quite so much.
It was very early in the year for kittens, so there were only a couple on hand at the no-kill shelter, and none that I was looking at were quite right for our family. I also looked at the adult cats, but none of them connected with me. I was about ready to go home and try again in a couple weeks, when one of the volunteers informed me that they had an orange tabby kitten that had come in only a couple days earlier. He was in one of the small cages in the office for an adjustment period before being put in with the other kittens in a large enclosure (the shelter is in a converted horse stable).
They warned me that he was shy, for I had been hoping to find a bold kitten, but I was welcome to take a look at him. He had been brought in with his brother. They had been feral finds, and the two of them had been bonded. The brother, however, was more outgoing, and a family had adopted him the day before.
My heart broke for the small, sad little orange tabby kitten, who was depressed and alone, grieving the loss of his brother and uncertain of what was to become of him. The volunteer put him in my hands and to their surprise he cuddled into my chest for a few minutes. When he moved, I respected his desire to go back into his cage and put him up to the door. He curled up in the far corner, sad and lonely, while I did up the paperwork to take him home.
A New Home
The little orange tabby kitten was obviously scared and uncertain, so we were prepared to give him space and time until he warmed up to us. He was particularly nervous when we were on our feet, but to our surprise he suddenly decided to stop hiding, got up on the couch, and enthusiastically wanted to have his belly rubbed.
This video is of the first time Loki hopped up on the couch and demanded the belly rubs, a true pastime that he engages in at every possible opportunity.
He provided the perfect playmate for Daken, but Daken disliked the snuggles that the new kitten so desperately wanted. The kitten also bonded with Ringo immediately, and adored our old man with every fiber of his being. Oishii grudgingly snugged now and again, but was mostly standoffish in his own grief.
My partner and I named the little orange tabby Loki. We wanted to encourage him to be boldly and unapologetically himself, and to show him that we understood his need for true family that would stand with him no matter what antics he pulled.
Both of us thought Loki seemed familiar, like he might be a reincarnation of a previous cat we had known, but when we listed off all the cats either of us had ever known, none of them felt right. Such ponderings were of little consequence, so we tried not to pay it much mind, but the nagging question remained as he grew up and became an adult cat.
After Ringo passed, there was a giant black cat shaped hole in our lives, so we went to adopt a black kitten. Instead of one cat, we came home with two brothers that we named Eros and Thanatos. For the first week Loki was furious, and also likely jealous because of his own lost brother, but when he warmed up to them it was overwhelmingly unconditional love. The three of them do everything together, and regularly cuddle pile when they nap.
Cat of Mischief
I think most cats are made of some degree of mischief, but Loki is particularly unapologetically silly, and especially fond of games where he wins no matter what. Dodging the humans is a favorite, because if he dodges he wins, and if he gets caught, he gets pet, so he also wins. He regularly rolls around on the cat trees with selfless abandon, and belly rubs are a frequent requirement of the humans. If he is napping on or near a human and repositions himself, belly rubs are the expected tax.
Our cats are indoor-only, but they do currently have a screened-in catio. Woe be to any small creatures that happen to wander into it, be they frogs, snakes, lizards, worms, bugs, or even field mice. They get carted into the house for a proper play time, and I am inevitably required to save the poor critter and put it back out where it belongs.
Loki likes to chew on things he really shouldn’t, like shoelaces, the handles of cheap tote bags, fiberglass (he nearly killed himself before we realized he had found access to some), and sheer curtains. He scratches the carpet as often as he does the multitudes of scratching posts available to him, and he regularly climbs to high places we would rather he didn’t go.
Loki will play with anything that catches his interest, with selfless silly dignified abandon, be it a cat toy, piece of wadded up paper, toes under a blanket, or one of his adopted brothers. He plays hard, loves hard, and snuggles hard, living life to its absolute fullest.
I See You, Loki
The day after relating an abbreviated version of the story of Beast and her litter mates, I had a sudden epiphany that seemed blatantly obvious as soon as it struck me. In fact, I expect that you already know what that epiphany was.
Loki was not the reincarnation of a cat we had owned before, although we had met him and knew him for many years around our various homes. He was the reincarnation of the orange tabby whose loyalty and loving devotion had led him to stay with Beast throughout her life, and continue to keep her company even after her death. He was that vivacious ghost cat who was always stalking the shadows with mischievous glee, eternally young and vibrant even in death.
Loki, I see your unreserved loyalty and your endless love. I can only hope that the loyalty and love I give to you in return is as pure, and that this home is as beautiful and wonderful as you believed it would be.