The hole in my heart.

My skinny, sweet, tortoiseshell cat, Tika, was hit and killed by a car today. She was 8 years old. It was an accident; she ran out in the street at the wrong moment. The driver was nice enough to stop and find out who the owner was, and even wrapped her body up in a towel and put her in a big shoe box for me. My next-door neighbor, who was the one to break the news to me, cleaned up the blood on the street. The driver brought his teenaged son by a little later, and the son buried her for me. I tried to call Hubby, but he doesn’t have his cell phone on. I left a voice mail. He’ll at least see the number and call home.

Tika came into my life in the summer of 2000. We had just adopted a cat for the Girl, a promise we had made for her birthday after we’d moved into our house. Hubby saw how much I loved having a cat, and I had hinted I would have liked one of my own. So, one day he brought home the telephone number from a "kitten, free to good home" ad he’d seen posted all over the place. We discovered that the kittens, of which there was only one left, had been dumped in a tree in someone’s yard, and that the yard owner had taken them to a vet for boarding. So, off we went to the vet to see the kitten.

She was 11 weeks old, the same age as my daughter’s cat, Callie, was when we first adopted her. She was skinny and scared, purring and shedding from the uncertainty of the strange people now handling her. But I fell in love, and we took her home. From then on, Callie had a sister, one who she could run the length of the house with and wrestle with. They got along very well, and Tika settled into our home. She wasn’t the friendliest of cats back then, but she learned not to fear us. When it came to choosing her name, I had a hard time. I chose "Speckles" at first, for her speckled fur, but it sounded so lame. Instead the word "Tika" popped into my head. So that became her name. I even wrote a story about it for FanLib.

Then came the winter when she broke one of her hind legs. She was limping around and we had no idea why. So we took her to the vet and found out about the break. Instead of putting her down, we decided to fix it, and she went to the vet every week for a new cast to be put on. The vet, a woman, put designs on the cast. The one I remember most clearly was the red cast with the green Christmas tree on it. It didn’t take long until Tika had conquered the back of the couch with her cast on. Eventually, her leg finally healed, but she walked with a slight limp from then on out, and for some reason, began losing weight.

She had some strange quirks, like drooling whenever we went to the vet. (I was told it was car sickness.) And she developed allergies to fleas, necessitating visits to the vet for cortisone shots. She was also the one cat who felt she had to mark her territory by spraying… for which she was often scolded. I never could quite figure out just how she could do that, seeing as she was spayed quite early.

Her favorite toys were things she could bat around. Jingle balls, and the little pieces of plastic left from opening milk jugs were the best. Watching her play with the latter was really amusing. And unlike Cotton or Ink Jet, who hunt mice, she opted for birds, being light and limber enough to climb trees. Whenever there was an explosion of feathers on the lawn, we all figured that Tika had been there. She even brought a live one into the house once, which the Girl managed to shoo out to safety after it flew around the dining room for a bit.

She eventually became our skinniest cat, still healthy, but not plump like some of the others. She knew that I belonged to her, and had the habit of coming into the bathroom while I was in there, jumping up on the side of the tub and talking to me. She had a very loud and distinctive "mayow" and often trilled her queries. I liked to imitate her, which would make her talk even more.

And she loved my husband, too. Out of all our cats, she was the one who would approach him and beg for attention, reaching out with a paw or making a demanding cry when he stopped scritching her head and ears. She loved to curl up on our bed during the winter. At the end, she had made peace with Lacey, the dog. I wished I’d gotten pictures of her as she walked under Lacey’s belly and between the dog’s legs, or as she submitted to Lacey’s sniffing. Sometimes, when they stood side by side, they’d look in the same direction, and at the same angle – it was so cute.

Over her short life, she had many nicknames, the most prominent and well-used among them being "Tikatu". This is the name I chose when I began publishing things online. It’s the name I chose for this journal. And it’s the name I’ll keep, in remembrance of my sweet Tika.

Article by Tikatu

Tikatu is the long-time alter-ego of L.D. Bennett. She enjoys cat naps, head bumps, and regaling the world with the further adventures of International Rescue.