I found her when she was a kitten. We were both kittens, really.. I was 22 years old and going through a difficult breakup. My ex and I still spent time together, grieving the relationship I suppose. We went garage sale-ing one day. I can't remember if I came home with anything else of note, but I did return with a furry little creature. A young girl was with her mother, watching over their yard sale. She stood next to a box of kittens, maybe 10 or 12 weeks old. We fawned over how cute they were, and the girl convinced me to pick one out. I still remember her words when I asked her which one I should take home. 'The girl ones are smarter. Get a girl'. She pointed to a little black-and-white tuxedo baby, and I chose Olive. The child had made birth certificates for each one (I still have Olive's, somewhere in a box of old things). Her name on the birth certificate was 'Mittens Jr.'. Mittens was her mother.
Olive was different, even for a cat. She was the yin to Ringo's yang. Ringo does cat stuff-- he hunts and grooms and demands attention with his loud half-siamese yowl. Olive was always mute. She never learned to meow. If she needed anything, she would use her little white paws to make jazz hands on the door. She had a powerful purr of contentment, like a motorboat. She wasn't a lap cat, she preferred to snooze somewhere near me. She loved sleeping. She loved tranquility. She embodied a sort of zen-like peace throughout 99% of her life.
Olive loved lights. Justin and I often joked that she was on some sort of long, strange drug trip. When I lived in a ground-floor apartment on a busy street, she would follow the arc of passing headlights as they played on the walls. Another joke was that she was either enlightened, like a buddha, or dumb as a box of rocks. My mom, who often took care of my cats when I was away on tour, said that Olive's role in this world was to be peaceful and beautiful. And she was.
She had black velvety fur and was always formally dressed. She didn't care much for grooming, and Ringo often picked up the slack, giving her tongue baths until it ultimately, usually, ended in a slight catfight. She seemed to tolerate it for a bit until he really went to town, lording over her, aggressively licking her head and ears. Then, a low growl would come out and I would break it up. So I guess she wasn't quite mute, she just chose to remain quiet and still most of the time.
She had the most glorious moustache of white whiskers, almost like a walrus. And beautiful yellow eyes that often seemed to be staring off into some blissful otherworldly view. She spent hours and hours occupying her favorite sleeping spaces. She would change these up every month or two. Sometimes it was the guest bed, sometimes the chair in the living room. For a while she decided that snoozing on top of a cardboard box full of records was the best. She thoroughly basked in wonderful cat laziness. While Ringo would go in and out, in and out, in and out all day long, she slept.
Maybe even more than sleeping, Olive loved food. She was somewhat of a glutton with the belly to prove it. She was a petite girl in build, with a round little head like an apple. But her belly swung from side to side when she ran -- and the only time she ran was when it was food time. She preferred the junkiest of cat foods, Friskies. Canned for breakfast and dinner, and dry crunchies for all day and night snacking. I made a feeble attempt to convert her to higher-quality cat food from the fancy pet store. She protested, and I gave in. The cheap food (always 'sliced in gravy', her favorite) made her incredibly happy. Aside from the gravy, she had an obsession with dairy. No matter where she was sleeping in the house, if I opened a tub of yogurt, ice cream, cottage cheese -- anything made of dairy-- she instantly materialized. 'The Dairy Detective'. She would sit in front of me, make her eyes big and wet, and purr, begging for a bit. I usually gave in. After all, she was one of the world's cutest cats. Hard to resist.
For a long period of time, she preferred drinking out of the toilet. It still makes me laugh. We tried to discourage it and eventually she committed to the assigned water dish. I would see her sometimes dipping her tiny white paw in, and then licking the water from her paw. Adorable would be an understatement. She also liked to drink rainwater that had pooled in tarps outside, or dribbles that had collected on the frame of an outdoor folding chair after a downpour. And she purred.
She loved the fireplace. In the last weeks of hospice care, I tried to make fires for her every night. I failed a few times, but mostly upheld my end of the bargain. She would curl up-- or stretch out-- on a pile of blankets and I would sit next to her, us both staring into the fire, her purring when I scratched behind her ears or under her chin. I took time to tell her she was beautiful and that I was lucky to have her. That she was the best cat in the world. That she brought peace, and that I loved her.
When the end came, we buried her body in her favorite sunny spot. Under the fallen maple leaves, between two stands of flowers, overlooking the water. She loved new age guitar music (Alex DeGrassi) and strangely, Aphex Twin. This might be related to her aformentioned long, strange drug trip. I once remarked that if she had thumbs, she'd be happily flipping through a sailboat catalogue, fire roaring, listening to her music, blissed out.
Olive taught me about peace, about tranquility, about beauty and about feasting and resting. To languish in all the things that bring pleasure. To exist as a quiet soul and watch the world. I hope I did right by her. She had the best life a cat could ask for, and I love her deeply for growing up with me.