This weekend, we had the sad job of putting our cat to sleep. Tida was nineteen years old and his health had been failing for a long time. He reached a point where he no longer groomed himself, could not find the litter box, and seemed to be in constant discomfort, if not pain, when he was awake. He was suffering from renal failure and there was nothing anybody could do to make him better.
Tida is a girl's name because we thought he was a girl when we got him. It was only when we went to have him neutered that the vet discovered he was a boy. We didn't change his name because he never answered to his name anyway. Early on he figured out that if he went out at night, he could get back in at anytime, usually around 4:00 AM by jumping up to our bedroom windowsill and poking at the screen. In his later years, he stopped jumping up to the windowsill, and, finally, stopped going out.
He was a black, long haired cat with a smoky undercoat that grayed as he aged. We'll miss him around the house. As Samuel Johnson said of his own cat, Hodge, "He was a very fine cat, indeed."
So what does this have to do with mysteries?
The popularity of cats in mysteries astounds me. I sometimes think I missed the boat by not writing cat stories like Lillian Jackson Braun's "Cat Who" series, or Rita Mae Brown's series co-authored with and starring Sneaky Pie Brown, or Carole Nelson Douglas's Midnight Louie series. Of all those, I like Midnight Louie the best.
The truth is, however, that I don't like stories with cute or clever animals. I tend to skip over the parts of the Spencer novels when Pearl shows up. I'm fine with the cat coming onto Elvis Cole's deck because all he does is lick his balls and keep his distance. Kind of a hardboiled cat, but that's about all I can take of a cat in a story. I heave the book when the action of a little fur ball has an impact on the story. Anthropomorphism? Fuggedaboutit.
Tida hasn't appeared in any of my stories and never will. I precluded his appearance by making my main character allergic to cats. He wouldn't fit into a story, anyway. He wasn't much of an adventurer, wasn't adept at hunting, certainly wasn't a detective. He was quick to let you know when he was dissatisfied, but a hero? Fuggedaboutit.
When he was well, he liked to lick himself, to stick his head over the sink when we brushed our teeth, and to stretch out on the back of the easy chair behind our heads as we read. If we left him alone for any length of time, he let us know his displeasure when we returned, but soon he'd be back to stretching out on the chair. He was a very fine cat, indeed.
Crime Fiction by Mark Troy