As though January was not horrible enough, on the 30th my cat Penwiper died without warning. We didn’t even get to say goodbye.

She was a marvelous cat: independent, smart, and beautiful. She had a black and white pattern that looked like a harlequin. I had chosen her name from my favorite science fiction book ever, To Say Nothing of the Dog, by Connie Willis. We had had her since she was a kitten.

She stayed indoors, although she desperately wanted to be outdoors. When she was “prowly,” she would hind behind corners and furniture when she sensed someone going out. She waited patiently after I went out, or when someone took the trash out, because she determined that someone would be coming back in. (She understood that I almost always forgot something — usually my keys or, in these days of COVID, my mask — which meant that I would be coming back inside shortly. I was the person she most tried to escape from because I was the slowest in the household.) We took to having someone watch her whenever anyone went in or out to make sure she stayed indoors. Her best trick was when she started hanging around the corner in the hall, because when she meowed it sounded like she was already outside. People would mutter “how did the cat get outside,” and open the door and she would dash out.

She could understand when people were gone. She would stand before a chair or a room, meow, and turn and look at me as if to ask “where are they?” I would reply something along the lines of “She’s gone until Tuesday,” and Penwiper would look down for a second and then walk away. She would ask no more than once every couple of days. She could remember they were gone, just not when Tuesday was.

She liked playing the cat equivalent of tag. She would meow, look at me to follow, and when I did she would lead me all over the living room and into the garage. I was confused about this until the day when I started running after her, and she started running to keep in front of me. I realized that it was a game.

Like cats will do, she would occasionally bring gifts. Once when she got out she left half a snake on the front walk. In December she left a stuffed llama ornament on my floor. She generally left the Christmas tree alone, but this time she wanted to give me something.

Since the Rocket Scientist has been working at home (basically since March 2020), she has liked curling up under his desk lamp or sleeping on the couch behind his desk. She kept either RS or the Not-So-Little Drummer Boy company while they worked. She would also keep either the Resident Shrink or myself company by curling up on our beds.

She needed to be the center of attention: she would lie on computer keyboards or even turn them off, and she would bat books down when I was trying to read. She did like to watch television, though, provided there were people or animals and no explosions or violence. She especially seemed to like Animal Planet and the Westminster Dog Show. I don’t know if she thought they were cats, or that they were potential enemies.

I miss her. I miss the little things, like not having to close my door when I left the house to keep her from going in and peeing on my bed. (It was her territory, after all.) Or, knowing when she was in the garage, simply saying “come in” when people knocked at the door. (We never seem to get people here who do not live in the house.) Our other cat (not really ours, Railfan’s), Pandora, almost never wants to escape.

We have Pandora, who since Penwiper died has been coming out into common spaces and interacting with people other than Railfan. She seems to know that her competition for the place of family cat is gone now. Until Pandora dies, we will get no other pets.

So goodbye Penwiper. You were very much loved.

Cross-posted in Facebook, here is my favorite Penwiper story.

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