The Dalai Lama of Cats


When I first met my husband he lived alone with a semi-feral black bruiser of a cat named Cosmic. He’d rescued Cosmic as a kitten from under his shed. Cosmic owned everything he could see, which constituted the seven or eight back gardens of the houses along the road as well as a large open field with a stream and a wooded area. He came and went as he pleased but was kept in overnight because the house was on a road and we knew he sometimes made a dash to the other side if he thought he could get away with it. Cosmic brought us gifts such as a dead rabbit bigger than himself and even a live bunny. Once we came home to a magpie sitting on the bathroom windowsill, none the worse for being dragged through a cat-flap.

He accepted me with the disdain only a fellow cat lover can understand and I felt privileged. When I’d moved in, I brought with me a tortoiseshell girl named Mischa, who unfortunately had been knocked over by a car and who had turned from a loving cat into a harridan. Not her fault of course but she made Cosmic’s life hell and even though he was twice her size and had never lost his feral streak it was clear they would never be best buddies. Unfortunately Mischa developed a tumour and after an operation and weeks of isolation I knew it was time to let her go. She had no life because she was unable to leave the isolation room in the house and it was clear there would be no happy outcome. Cosmic took some to adjust to being on his own again and I often found him wandering around as if he was looking for Mischa, despite her making his life hell. I thought it sad that they hadn’t bonded as cats often do when sharing a home.

By the time he was 16 years old with failing kidneys, deteriorating eyesight and no longer able to roam alone in the great outdoors the decision was made to let Cosmic go too. Always guilty that we allowed Mischa to suffer too long we knew Cosmic’s time had come. The grief was horrendous, after 16 years it’s hard to lose one as loved as Cosmic. We buried him alongside Mischa in our garden and as we stood there my husband said, ‘we need to find the Dali Lama of cats’. An odd thing to say but I thought it appropriate, surely our prince would return reincarnated and find us, somehow?

However, it was agreed that there should be a cat-free hiatus, time to grieve, time to readjust to an empty house and after all who could fill a Cosmic shaped hole? Patience isn’t my husband’s strong point and we were soon scouring the pages of homeless cats on the rescue sites. The spectre of our reincarnated prince seemingly just out of reach. Conversations about not having another black cat continued daily. He was afraid another black cat would suffer too many comparisons to our feral prince, regardless of our conversations about him coming back to find us. Inevitably the day dawned when instead of looking at photos online we visited the local cat rescue.

So, there we were surrounded by cats of every conceivable breed and colouring as well as plain old moggies.
‘Too timid,’ I said as we stood in front of a pretty white and grey girl who tried so hard to appear invisible.
‘Too high maintenance,’ he said when we saw a Persian cat with a voluminous coat, ‘pretty but not for us.’
Most of the cats were already taken, little cards saying things like ‘George has found his forever home’ or ‘Pumpkin has a new mummy’ so the choices were already limited and I thought perhaps we’d have to come back another day.

On the way in I’d spied a young male asleep in his nice big pen but my husband had walked straight past because he was black and he didn’t want another black cat. As we’d viewed all the other available cats I said, ‘why don’t you at least look at this one?’ I already knew the response I would get. He didn’t disappoint.

As he was reminding me that we didn’t want another black cat, the young black male, who had been sound asleep, suddenly woke up. He looked at us with complete recognition and it was a moment that we will never forget, it was if he knew who we were and he’d been waiting for us to come and take him back to his rightful home. He instantly stood up, ran down a ramp to the floor and literally climbed the wire mesh of the pen till he was at eye level with us. I felt a shiver as he stared into my eyes, I’m not going to lie. His face implored us to enter the pen and I asked the volunteer helper if we could enter. She looked shocked.

‘You want to go in with Moses!’ Her horror was palpable, ‘be careful because he’s a bit feisty.’
How we laughed, what the hell did she know about feisty, she’d never met Cosmic.

We entered the pen and in a second, Hendrix as he would come to be known, leapt at my husband who caught him in his arms. A second later we were seduced. We held each other tightly as we played, we fussed, we stroked and we found this ‘feisty cat’ was, for us at least, a complete pussy cat. And the three of us were one again. Tears ran down our faces as we enjoyed our reunion. We’d gone to look for a cat, but he’d found us.

After half an hour we realised we were being observed. Maybe they were looking to see how we behaved with him, but there were definite glances between the volunteers, raised eyebrows, winks, nods of heads in our direction. We eventually dragged ourselves away from our cat and returned to the desk where we asked to reserve him. From the conversation with the receptionist and the volunteers it was obvious they were afraid of him, they thought him wild but we reassured them that we knew what we were doing.

Rehoming from a rescue is subject to many checks and for the next few days my husband worried about them not approving us. What if they said no? He even dreamed of a plan whereby he would rescue Hendrix from the rescuers but after the usual assessments we were approved. Hendrix was coming home.

It didn’t take long for us to realise that Hendrix was the total opposite of Cosmic, the only thing they had in common was they were both black. He was a beautiful loving cat who also liked to roam around Cosmic’s old haunts and who managed to fill the hole in our lives. Cosmic was irreplaceable but we were so lucky that Hendrix found us.

Lucky black cat anyone?

©Nita Lewsey 2022

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By Nita Lewsey

I'm a writer of short stories, flash fiction and am currently working on a novel. I've had stories published in anthologies and self-published a collection on stories on Amazon. I have long dreamt of writing full time & this dream is now a reality.

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