Have I ever told you about my mother’s familiar and his secret?
For reasons I don’t understand, my mother has always had cat magic. I’ve since met other people with cat magic; it’s hard to miss, and noticeably different than people who have learned to be good with cats.
If my mother goes for a walk, cats follow. She isn’t carrying treats; she doesn’t need to call them. They don’t even need to be her cats. Cats will appear and say hello to her, and sometimes even brave passing her large border collie, who grew up with cats and is desperate to cuddle every cat he sees. Cats that are aggressive or sharp with others are gentle with her; I have rarely known her to be scratched even by the most wild of kittens. There is something about her energy that cats naturally seek out and trust.
I did not inherit this cat magic, so I very much recognise the difference between it and the hard-learned cat skills I have developed. I studied and learned cat behaviour and which tones and movements provoke which reactions. I am very good with cats because of it, but it took time, even growing up with cats. My mother is not particularly a cat behaviourist; they simply love her, and she simply loves them back.
It will not surprise you then that she was often the favourite of our family cats, regardless of their personalities. Though the family cats may choose another family member to love in addition, there is for them always a special place for my mother.
But there was a cat who particularly and completely bonded to her. He was a sweet and mild-tempered cat, prone to lounging, tolerant of the antics of small children, and always glued to my mother’s side unless actively carried away. His name was Pagan, and he was a little storm-cloud of blue fur that my mother found at the very bottom of a pile of squirming kittens, blissfully asleep. He had slightly overgrown canines that peeped over his bottom lip, giving him the appearance of a furry vampire.
In spite of my mother’s cat magic, I don’t think she’d ever bonded with another cat as strongly as she did with Pagan. They went everywhere together. He was always happy, purring and holding whichever arm she had spare.
But oddly, she would always talk about how chatty he was. ‘He’s just the most talkative cat!’ she would say. ‘He’s always meowing!’ or ‘Pagan was just chatting away at me today.’
And it was weird because I had never heard Pagan make so much as a peep. I didn’t live with them; I assumed that perhaps he was just more talkative in company. But as the years went on it seemed more and more odd to me that my mother so strongly exaggerated his talktative-ness.
Until, that is, one day I visited and it was just me and my mother in the house. I don’t think Pagan had seen me yet. And in the other room, I heard an absolute barrage of meowing. I crept into the hallway and peered into the other room, where my mother was talking back to her extremely loud cat, who seemed in no hurry to stop.
Suddenly, his head turned to me, green eyes wide, and he fell completely silent. Like I wasn’t supposed to know. Like I’d caught him in the act.
And I had considered myself very friendly with Pagan! He’d come to me for cuddles and treats and play. We got on well. But not well enough, it seemed, to be privy to his conversation!
Suddenly it all made sense. I supposed that because I didn’t live with him, he just kept quiet around me. But when I brought this up with my siblings who lived with him, they admitted, in slightly puzzled tones, that he’d also never been chatty around them, and they didn’t remember him ever meowing around them.
So that’s the story of the cat that could talk but only to the person he loved most.
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