I’ve seen my cat, Crash, around the house several times lately. Each time, he brushes against my leg, I look down in time to see his large, black furry body disappear down the stairs. I continue on into another room and am surprised to see my other black cat, Frankie, asleep on my bed or watching the birds through the window. I thought he was the one who brushed against my leg and went downstairs, because Crash passed away more than a year ago. Yet he still comes back occasionally.
I know, it sounds crazy. I can hear it myself. I don’t know what else to say, though. I’m not the only one who’s seen him, and I’ve felt him as well as seeing him. He frequently rubs once against my leg, then I look down to see him round the corner or flit through a doorway. I’ve never been prone to tactile hallucinations, so I don’t know what to think other than that he stopped by to say hello.
Oddly, I haven’t heard his voice, and if you ever knew Crash you’d realize just how odd that is. He was one of the most vocal cats I ever knew. When he was just under a year old, he was hit by a car and spent several weeks in the local animal hospital, in a kennel cage that was in a room populated by both dogs and cats. When he came home, his meow had changed drastically, more resembling a bark, and he never lost that distinctive sound. He was also very talkative. Every morning, he’d bark a greeting to me, I’d respond to him, and we’d keep up a conversation throughout breakfast that both amused and exasperated the rest of the family.
He was severely injured in that accident. Two of his legs were broken, one in the back and one in the front, and the back one was so badly damaged that it had to be removed. His front leg eventually healed, but remained badly scarred, and two toes were missing. It didn’t slow him down, though. As soon as he returned home we began a new game, with me flicking tiny cat treats along the floor of our long hallway. He would run after them and hurl himself down, sliding into the treats like a baseball player into home plate. With such physical therapy, he recovered quickly, and soon ran as quickly as he ever had. His gait, however, was slightly different – he hopped on his remaining back leg, and held his muscular tail to one side for balance. That tail soon became as thick as a broom handle – he was a large cat to begin with – and standing close to him when he lost his balance would get you a smack in the leg that you wouldn’t soon forget, as he swung his tail around to compensate. Soon he was chasing the other cats and wrestling with them as he always had, usually winning. At just over a year old, Crash decided that only loser cats needed all four legs.
He lived a long and, I hope, happy life with us. I joked that he was my familiar, and called Frankie, our black kitten, my “sorcerer’s apprentice.” At the age of thirteen, Crash began to lose weight quickly, and was diagnosed with lymphoma. We kept him home as long as possible, but when he seemed to be in pain, we knew it was time. I held him on my lap that last evening, the night before his final appointment at the vet, and he purred for me though he had no energy left for anything else.
Now, I curl up with Frankie at night instead of with Crash, and he gazes at me with his green eyes as I remember Crash’s dark golden ones. And I notice something odd in those green eyes. Frankie’s left eye now shows two distinct spots of deep gold. Frankie is taller, too, and more massive. Crash was an unusually large and muscular cat, once described by my father-in-law as looking more like a panther than a housecat. I wondered at Frankie’s sudden growth spurt, immediately following Crash’s passing, but thought it was too ridiculous to think there was any connection. Until one day, when I saw Frankie walking across a room, and he hopped a couple of times on that back leg – exactly as Crash had done. One could argue that he had seen Crash do it a million times, but the fact remains that I had never seen Frankie do it before, ever, and neither had anyone else. It’s almost as if they’re sharing that black cat body now, as if Crash comes back now and then, sometimes on his own and sometimes not.
There are plenty of accounts of animal ghosts for anyone who cares to look for them. Since my experiences with this extraordinary cat, I’ve spoken with many others who share their own similar stories. I don’t pretend to understand it, but I’m deeply grateful that he was allowed to come back to visit, and that having that opportunity, he chose to do so several times. I told him that I’m happy to see him, that he’s always welcome here, but that I want him to move on if that’s what’s best for him. Since then, I’ve seen him less frequently, but he’s still around occasionally. He knows he’s still welcome.