I don’t believe in ghosts. But I believe in ghost cats.

There are certain places that my departed cats seem to like hanging around. They’re basically the same places they liked to be when they actually walked on four legs–any place where they might get fed, or could play with water.

Often I’ll be standing at the kitchen sink, or at one of the bathroom sinks, and I’ll feel that familiar delicate brushing of the back of my leg with their whiskers or the side of their face, inquiring if dinner is going to be soon. Or the slight flick of their tail as they circle me, winding between my legs and making it impossible for me to take a step for fear of squashing them. Sometimes I’ll feel the cool, “bop bop bop” of a tiny nose tapping against my leg, sniffing for who knows what.

I’ll turn around, and sometimes it’s my actual, living cats. But sometimes there is nothing there.

I’ll look around to see if maybe one of them brushed past me and quickly left the room, but usually I’ll see them both snoozing on their cat beds on the dining room table. Beds that, inexplicably, they refused to get inside, but will make biscuits on the top until they flatten out and become mattresses instead of hidey caves.

They don’t just make themselves known by touch. I’ll also hear them going down the stairs. Always down, never up. I’m not sure why. I’ll be sitting on the couch, right next to the stairs, and hear the unmistakable padding of paws down the stairs, each one followed by the slight click of their toenails. I would like to say that sometimes it’s my actual cats, but there’s never a cat there. Our floors are creaky, but they don’t mimic the sound of a cat walking down the stairs.

But most unsettling is seeing them. I mean, I don’t see them. But my two cats do. Always in our bedroom or closet, and always on the ceiling. They will both pause, look up at the same spot on the ceiling, and then their eyes will dart back and forth, back and forth, always looking at exactly the same spot. I have followed their gaze many times, looking for a bug, or a spider, or a swaying spider web, or a shadow, or a flash of light from outside. There is never anything there. I think, maybe it’s a sound coming from the HVAC system, or a bird or squirrel on the roof, but I never hear anything.

This mostly happens in our walk-in closet, where we have one of our cats’ ashes.

If I thought there were a ghost of a person in my house, I would move the hell out. Even if it was someone I knew and loved. That’s just too creepy. But the cats? I don’t know, it’s kind of reassuring. Like they’re just visiting to make sure everything is ok, maybe giving our cats some pointers about getting at the hidden snacks, sniffing the different foods they’re eating, sniffing their butts.

Our cats don’t seem too concerned about it, so I guess it’s ok with me.

Cat of a Thousand Names

It all started with a case of gender confusion. One of our “twin” cats, Baxter (sister and brother, actually, but they were practically identical), had just passed away after a fairly long and ugly battle with stomach cancer. I wasn’t ready for another cat, but my family had other ideas.

I left for a trip just before the 4th of July, and my parting instructions were: “Don’t get another cat while I’m gone. But if you do, make sure it’s a girl. We don’t want another boy cat beating up poor Betty.” We loved Baxter more than anything, but he really could be an asshole when he wanted to be. Which was any time (1) Betty was anywhere near, (2) he spied something on a surface that should be knocked off–preferably glass and breakable–and (3), breakfast time, which could start as early as 4am with insistent yowling. So, basically most of the time.

There’s Betty. A softy at heart, but always ready with a few claws if necessary.

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I wasn’t surprised when I started getting texts with photos of an adorable orange and white kitten.

Enter Waldo.

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He was the cutest little thing, athletic and possessing an impressive alley cat swagger at only 3 months. We decided to keep the name Waldo, thinking how fun it would be ask “Where’s Waldo?” every time we were looking for him. There’s no way that would get old, right?

The time came to have Waldo neutered. I took him to the home of the woman his foster mom recommended for his last distemper shot, and she offered to make the appointment through the vet she works with. She flipped him around to have a look at his rear end, and said “Uh . . . I think you mean spayed. This one is a girl!”

Enter Wilma.

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We didn’t want to change his–er, her name too drastically, and Wilma was a good fit with Betty, if you’re a fan of the Flintstones. Their coloring even matched their names: Betty has black hair, and Wilma is mostly orange. Cute, right?

Except that somehow the gender switch activated a naming switch, and we started calling her everything under the sun. Wilmer, Wilderama, Wilmy, Wilma Lou, Wilma Lou Hoo, Willy Wonka, Little Willy Willy Won’t . . . Go Home, Silly Willy, Little Willy, Willy Loman, Willy Willy Oxenfree. And probably more that I can’t think of now.

Every morning when it’s time for breakfast, I’ll start calling all of her names (and a few for Betty, just to make sure she doesn’t feel left out), and by the time I finish running through them all, they have both finished eating and are settling down for their morning nap.

Next, I suppose we’ll have to round out the family with a Fred, Barney, Pebbles, Bam-Bam and Dino. I can only imagine how long breakfast will take.