Namir had a habit that really upset me at first, until I grew to love him and understand his deep compassion and understand…his occasionally bizarre sense of humor. He would suddenly reach out and swat me, sometimes really hard, and he never said anything afterward, just looked at me with his big oval eyes. I would cringe and begin to retreat into myself as he stared at me, then turned around and walked away. Afterward he was fine. I had known cats who simply hit other cats just to hurt them, and I was often the one who was hit so I learned to hide.
But this was Namir, he loved me, I knew that. He would never just hurt me, and something about the way he looked at me made me think about his motivation. I surprised myself after one incident.
Don’t hit me like that!
His stare changed to his slanty-eyed blink and he came over and gave me a quick, vigorous bath around my head, then hit me again, but just a tap. I hit him back, just a tap of my own.
You’re learning, Kelly.
I did learn. I learned to trust, even though my first response was often fear, I learned to put that aside and remember this was my soul brother Namir and he would never hurt me. Odd that he had to use physical means to teach me this, but I would not have learned it any other way; I know because he tried all the other means of love and affection but I had to come to the realization myself. He would still hit me now and then when he was feeling full of himself, but I understood it was just Namir being Namir, and often we would have a fun wrestling match. This was what I had seen my babies do, and here I was, a mature kitty, playing like a kitten.
I was grateful for this lesson when I entered the next chapter of my life, my final home, my final person, and my family of feline siblings.
The human who had carried me out of the cage place with all the other animals had been planning something, even I knew that. People came and went, and paid special attention to Namir and me. I was very shy and did not come out to meet them, but I did not fight if they came to see me under the bed. But they always went away.
Then one horrible day she put me and Namir into the noisy moving box and off we went. She carried us from the moving box into another place similar to where we had lived, but I could smell and hear so many cats there, and it was completely different from the one we had just left. We were placed in a room with another person’s stuff and the door was closed, and our human and another human stood talking. I started to look and sniff around, but Namir was really, really mad and hit me several times, even growling at me—this was not Namir trying to teach me a lesson, this was a Namir I didn’t even know existed. I ran to hide underneath something safe and did not come back out, even when our person laid down on the floor and begged me. She left and I decided I’d just stay there until she came back. Namir, looking out the window, growled again.
She left in the moving box.
I didn’t know what to think. Neither did Namir. The other human came back in to talk to us, gesturing toward the food and water, which we could easily see, and the litterbox. Did she think we were fools? We knew what to do with those.
Then she came to pet us. Namir growled at her, even yowling, and took a big swat, claws out. He missed her hand and she withdrew it, still talking softly, but Namir would have none of it. That frightened me even more, and confused me. This human seemed just as nice as our human. I wasn’t ready to be friendly, but I’d give her a chance. But my first allegiance was to Namir, and I would follow his direction. When she laid down on the floor and looked in at me, talking and slowly moving her hand toward me I froze, simply not knowing what to do.
Namir decided we’d wait for our human to come back, we’d eat and drink and use the box, but we wanted no parts of this new human and all the other cats who were communicating through the door. We established a pattern of action, being friends with each other when the door was closed and we were in there, but I hid and Namir growled whenever she entered. We ignored the cats outside the door.
I don’t know how much time went by, but our human did not return. We saw the seasons change outside the window, from the yellow leaves to the snow to the longer days of spring and still she did not return. Our new human continued to be nice to us, spent time quietly doing her thing in the room sometimes but mostly left us alone.
Then one day she opened the door and left it open. Several other cats came and looked at us and we couldn’t avoid them now. I stayed in my dark spot in the corner but Namir sat in the middle of the room, glaring. Only a pure white long-haired cat came in, boldly walked around, smelled Namir, looked at me, then left; we both got the idea she was not to be messed with. Our human closed the door again.
But each day she opened it, and it was open longer and longer and soon all the other cats were coming in as if they owned the place! Then we learned, little by little, that two of them had begun their time in this place in this very room, and all the others had begun their time with this person in a similar way, though not here. Other cats, who no longer lived here, had also spent time in this room. We began to wonder what would happen to us…
Why do you stay in here?
A friendly cat, tortoiseshell like me, came in to look at both of us. She talked to Namir. I listened from my safe place.
We are waiting for our person to come back.
Do you have to stay stuck in here while you do that?
We want her to be able to find us. Has anyone else’s person ever come back?
Yes, they have, others, no. Most of us never had people. All of us came from different places. What are you so mad about?
I loved my person. I miss her. I want to go back.
That doesn’t mean you can’t be with us for a while.
But I really loved her, and Kelly is really frightened.
Look, we’re all cats and we can just be together. It took me a while but I love this person, and even if you are waiting for your person to come back, you and Kelly should be with the rest of us.
I cautiously came out and listened to Cookie, and had no idea that she would later be my best friend though I never dreamed we’d even do as much as tap noses.
In time she told us about all the other cats, and as each came in to be with us we learned their stories: Cookie and Sophie, Stanley and Moses, Sally and Fawn and her sister Nikka, who had gone off to live with someone else for a few years and then come back. We learned that there had recently been two other cats who had died just a year before we arrived, and our person still missed them as did the rest of the house.
At first, I did not communicate with the rest of the household directly, but through Namir. There were too many cats for me, and even when I had lived in the dark place with all the other girls I kept to myself. But in time Namir and I, together, began to explore the spaces upstairs. Namir quit growling at the new human, though he did not act friendly.
One day we went down the stairs together, and that day, somehow, the waiting was over. Whatever happened to us, if our person ever came back or never came back, we realized this was our home for as long as we needed it. We did go back upstairs for a few more nights behind the closed door, and I still hid behind the furniture and didn’t leave myself vulnerable in any way, but each day we were more a part of this new family, and this new person became our person.
I have lived in this home and family now for fifteen years. When I arrived I was the youngest, now I am the oldest. I had never thought about what my life would be like or had any expectations, I never found a place where I felt secure in who I was as Namir did, and Cookie and Peaches and Moses and all the other cats I came to know and love, until very late in my life, just a few years ago, in fact. I started out so lost and frightened that for years I kept running to hide, even when I no longer needed to, and Namir delivered a lot of swats in our first years here.
Namir came to love our new person as much as he had loved our old person, and I saw him make friends with every human and cat who ever came into the house. Still, even though it wasn’t just him and me, we remained deep soul-mates, always there for each other, even to Namir’s last night in his body. Sometimes I still feel him swat me, even though he’s gone, and I know we will be together again.
And now I realize I have a lifetime of cats to remember and love and look forward to seeing when our spirits meet again, and humans as well, including this human who has always understood my constant conversation, my need to keep moving around the house and my need to find quiet time by myself, and after many years, time with her especially with Peaches and Cookie. Now it’s very strange to have her all to myself, until the black cats come along, but I’ve learned to love her lap and feel safe there. Funny how it took me all my life to get here, but I’m glad I did, finally, find my way home.
I hope you’ve enjoyed the story of Kelly’s rescue and how she came to live in this household of felines and me. She has many stories to tell about getting to know each of the cats who lived here, and making very close friends with a few on her journey of self-awareness.
Kelly has been the sweet, quiet presence you don’t see as often as her more outgoing housemates. I’ve long tried to condense her story, but decided that didn’t do justice to a kitty who’s been through a lot. Because her story is long and involves details of the story of a stray and feral colony along with Kelly’s own long path toward learning to trust humans, I’ll be telling it in several parts over the next few weeks for my Tuesday rescue feature. She has traveled a great emotional and spiritual distance to be the kitty you see today, and who is right now curled in a happy purring ball on my lap, head turned upside down and hugging all her legs together.
Read the whole series:
Kelly’s story was so popular that I decided to take it from a five-part series to a book telling more of the story and more about the other cats Kelly met, and filled with the photographs you see here as well as drawn and painted illustrations.
And you can find Kelly in photos and sketches and stories all over The Creative Cat.
All images and text used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used in any way without my written permission. Please ask if you are interested in purchasing one as a print, or to use in a print or internet publication.