Collage loved the sun. If I couldn’t find her around during the day, I only had to check the windowsills. We placed blankets on ledges around the house so she could lounge out on the perch and soak up the sun’s rays.
Collage loved the outdoors. She prowled the sidewalk that curled around the grass in our backyard, keeping watch and taking in the views. My dad would be at the sink in the kitchen, washing dishes, and I’d be on the couch in the other room reading. He’d call me over to watch her from the kitchen window as she made her daily loop, sometimes taking breaks from her walk to stare off at something unseen by the human eye.
Collage loved taking what was not hers. At family dinners, if you got up for second helpings, she’d steal your warm seat before you even filled your plate. We saved seats in the other room just to drag them over when Collage claimed what wasn’t rightfully hers. We couldn’t give Collage her own seat at the start of dinner — oh no, it had to be warm, and it had to be yours. Thanksgiving was probably her favorite holiday.
Collage loved my room. She navigated the ups and downs of my desk and dressers easily. It was actually more like her room and I just shared the space. She took two-thirds of the bed at night and left me with the measly end piece. If I annoyed her by moving my legs too much trying to get comfortable, she’d forget that humans have legs and think there were animals under the blankets encroaching on her territory. She wasn’t afraid to use her claws. I learned to let her have what she wanted.
Collage loved giving us presents. Especially lizards — she seemed rather fond of them. One time she proudly brought in a lizard from the backyard to lay it in front of my mom. To the lizard’s delight and my mom’s horror, it was still alive. Nevertheless, Collage was the best hunter I knew.
Collage loved boxes. The smaller the box the better. She once sat in a Cuties Clementines cardboard box that barely fit her tail. The fact that it was a Cuties box was fitting enough. We could never get her a cat basket — like a small child, she enjoyed the box more than its contents.
Collage loved snuggling. She followed us around just to nap on us as we sat down on the couch. It was a great honor for Collage to choose your lap. When we came home from work or school or a day out of the house, Collage flopped on the rug by the front door, ready for pets and cuddles.
Collage loved to run. We knew every time she used the litterbox, because she’d then bolt through the house and up the stairs in such a rush that rugs slid out from under her and across the hardwood floor. Collage was most likely part Egyptian Mau, the fastest of the domestic cats. Egyptian Maus have skin flaps that aid in their agility, and for a long time we mistook this in Collage as extra fat. But she also exhibited other Egyptian Mau tendencies, such as musically chirping instead of meowing and seeing through the piercing green eyes that all Maus posess.
Collage loved her freedom. She loved it so much that when she was mistreated and abused by her previous owners, she took her life into her own paws and ran. When we adopted her, we knew she was a feral cat around age two. We didn’t know that she wouldn’t let us pet her head-on because she was afraid we would hit her. I was eight-and-a-half when we took her home. My mom made me watch over her in the guest room, shutting me in with a cat that attacked me any time I dangled my legs over the edge of the bed. I was marooned with a cat guarding any chance of escape.
But the months and years passed, and Collage became my companion, my sister, my TV-watching and book-reading buddy, my best friend. A blanket over my lap was the only signal Collage needed to pad in, curl up, and take her place. When she purred, I felt it through my whole body.
When she left us, I felt it through my whole body.
I didn’t get to be with her when she stopped going up the stairs or sitting on people’s laps. I didn’t get to be with her when she stopped eating enough food or drinking enough water. I didn’t get to be with her last weekend, when my mom and her spent hours together relaxing on the porch swing in the backyard.
I got to see her over a video call at the vet when they took her in this past Tuesday and found out just how badly she was doing. Not unhappy, just old. She looked so much smaller in my mom’s arms, wrapped in a fluffy green blanket the color of her eyes, and yet she mewed when she heard mine and my brother’s voices over the phone and video. I got to say goodbye, even though I wasn’t ready and everything happened so, so fast.
I miss my sister. I wish I had more time. She should be curled up next to me, comforting me. She should be here. Because as much as we changed her life when she became part of the family, she changed ours so much more.
Collage was a part of our family for twelve-and-a-half years, though she was anywhere from two to four years old when we adpoted her in May 2002. She passed peacefully on October 21, 2014.