For whatever reason, my family has a lot of phantom cats.
Most of them seem to be cats that have been in our lives in a more corporeal way, but once in a while the cat is completely unfamiliar.
My older son saw one such random cat – a white cat that he assumed had just snuck into the house through an open door. He watched it walk across our tiny hallway … and into the wall at the end of it.
My younger son – during an evening when the power was out – had turned on his little light saber toy and was swinging it for his three cats to play with. Admittedly, it was fairly dark in the room, but he was very sure that four cats were playing with him. He was so sure, in fact, that he stopped playing for a moment and counted the cats – four. But when he turned on the flashlight, there were only three again.
Having multiple cats means that one or more of them is always meowing about something, running around, or jumping on the bed onto unsuspecting sleepers. It takes a moment to realize that all the cats are visually accounted for, yet there’s still a sensation of one walking along the bedclothes or a sound of one walking in the other room; there’s still too many heads poking out of a curled up mound of black fur, too many shadows running for the food dish.
Sudden cats have joined my son in the back seat of the car – perched on the shelf under the rear window – only to be gone a second later. Invisible cats walk by, rubbing against the people in the room but never revealing themselves. They sit sometimes in windows and then disappear, leaving the observer wondering if they had ever been there at all. They yowl from empty basements while all the other cats look on in detached interest. They walk across people lying in bed, pressing down the covers without appearing to the eye at all.
Why would phantom cats decide so consistently to hang around?
I suppose for the same reason corporeal cats hang around us – I’m not sure what that reason is. But the strangest part of the phantom-cat experience is how used to it we’ve all become. It isn’t even particularly startling anymore. Basically, it seems as though we have dozens of cats – but only five of them are … tangible.