My first encounter with my Siamese cat and animal soulmate, Loki, was in a dream. Sixteen years ago, when I’d had to put my previous Siamese, Isabel, to sleep by calling the vet to our home, it was too late at night to take her for cremation; so I’d places Isabel on a little Navajo blanket near my bed, where she always liked to sleep. When this Siamese passed, she was 21, a skeletal elder; but in my dream that night, she was full-bodied, playfully as a kitten.
“Isabel, you’re… plump!” I’d said in my dream, surprised that death could restore this beautiful feline to such health and energy.
In the morning I got a call from a student who said, “I know you’re burned out from cat hospice, but I’ve found your new cat…”
“Oh no,” I protested. “I need to recover and can’t take on another animal now.”
“But this is your cat. I feel it,” my student insisted. “Please call!”
I was taking a ferry back from the islands to my Seattle home and had some time on the water. So, I called the shelter. “Yes, we do have a beautiful lilac-point Siamese,” she told me. “But this one might not be what you expect — this Siamese is well . . . quite plump.”
All the hair on the back of my neck prickled. Was this the same cat I’d just seen in my dream? “I’ll be right there,” I promised.
In the shelter, there was a litter of seven-month-old cats, their fur speckled with ringworm. Loki, named after the Norse god of mischief, was the most beautiful Siamese I’d ever seen — clear, turquoise eyes, elegant silver fur, and a calm tenderness to his expression. When I reached out my hand, Loki simply laid his head in my palm and gazed up at me. It was as if we’d known each other before. I felt a jolt of recognition and love, like a memory.
At that moment, a runt of the litter, Thor, black with golden eyes, scratched his way past Loki and began fervently licking my hand, as if to say, “Me, too!”
I’d had Siamese brothers before and knew that animals needed other animals, as well as humans. It increased their longevity. This kitten was so persistent, he made me laugh. He was also quite loud, a piercing yowl that hurt my ears. His operatic “talk show” was why the shelter named him after the Norse god of thunder.
“Well, I’d be happy to adopt both Thor and Loki, as brothers,” I offered.
That made the shelter manager at last smile and nod. “You know,” she said, “there are fifteen people signed up to take Loki home — he’s such an extraordinarily beautiful cat. But no one wanted little Thor.”
Sixteen years later, Loki and Thor (I re-named him Tao) were my constant daily companions. True to his low-key, quiet, and rather contemplative nature, Loki was my most intimate feline. He slept on my head, as if guarding a temple. He practically lived on my lap as I worked at my desk. All my writing students sought Loki’s favor, but he was shy and a one-woman feline. Tao, on the other hand, was an amiable ambassador. Once an animal communicator told me that Loki was “an ascended master;” but Tao, though he enjoyed being my cat, “really would rather be a monkey.”
Since much of my writing is about animals, of course I would tell stories of Loki and Tao—“The Boys.” Loki was also the inspiration for my new kids’ book, Catastrophe by the Sea commissioned by the Seattle Aquarium. I needed a guide to tide pool creatures and realized a lost cat on the beach was perfect. I introduced my Caldecott-award-winning illustrator, Ed Young, to Loki. Ed is Chinese and his collages of Loki are extraordinary works of art.
During the work on this new kid’s book, Loki was extraordinarily tender and intimate with me. He adopted a new habit of crawling up on my chest, resting his head on my heart, and gazing into my eyes for long, soulful moments. I had a feeling he might be trying to be closer in a way that might stay with me— when he couldn’t.
“Oh, no, Loki,” I told him as he lay on my chest. ‘Don’t get any ideas . You’re not going anywhere.”
But when we were gazing into each other’s souls, I did wonder if he was trying to let me know how much he loved me and if he was somehow preparing to say goodbye. I took Loki in for a wellness exam, and excerpt for his usual hyperthyroidism, he got a clean bill of health. Yet just four days later, I found him in the morning retching, his third eyelids closing, and his breathing labored. The ICU vet said he had fluid around his lungs, three cancerous masses in his chest from metastasized liver cancer, and a heart murmur. How could he have been so seized with illness and yet showed no symptoms?
“Animals are stoic,” the vet told me. “They mask the pain and simply adapt.”
Within one day, Loki went from seemingly fine to near death. “It would be a kindness to let him go now while he is somewhat sedated,” the vet suggested softly. “He might not last the night. Death from respiratory distress would be much more traumatic.”
My friends joined me as the vet gently lay Loki on my lap. He was peaceful and purring, out of pain, since they had drained the fluid from around his lungs so he could breathe. I’m usually terribly calm in a crisis, the “emergency personality” of my medical family. But not now. I sobbed, hiccuping, and then pulled myself together for his passing.
It only took seconds before Loki went limp on my lap, his last breath just a whisper. It was wrenching, that last moment. My friend. Tracey, drove me to her house to rest because my class was meeting at my home without me. As I lay on the couch, talking with Tracey about her new blouse, there were suddenly two loud meows. Clear as could be, her Amazon Echo spoke in its eerie, disembodied voice:
“My feline heart is bursting with joy!”
“What the???” Tracey said, shocked. “Did you hear that?”
“Yes!” I bolted up from the couch. “Thank God you also heard that. Otherwise, you’d have to take me to the psych ward.”
“How is that possible that Loki found you here at our house?” Tracey asked.
“I didn’t realize Loki was so techie,” I marveled.
We researched and found that it is possible to ask Alexa for a meow if directly instructed. But we hadn’t. Also, where did that astonishing and reassuring phrase come from?
“Supernatural,” even my most agnostic friends pronounced. “Loki wanted to let you know he is fine. It’s like the stories of spirits using electronics or phones to communicate after death with their loved ones.”
If any soul could reach out to me after his passing, it would be Loki. He visits again in my dreams; but I sense it costs him some effort. Perhaps he is traveling to restore himself until he is healed enough to make the transition from spirit to dreams. One night, Loki showed up in a circus dream; he leapt into my arms like a tiger. Then shifted into a newborn kitten. Is Loki back, reborn somewhere in this world? Will he find me and his little brother again?
Loki’s ashes in their little cat sculpture now sit on my desk overlooking the window Loki loved to gaze out, tracking seagulls. Tao, his little brother, is still very much with me, more devoted and talkative than ever. The new kid’s book that my cat inspired gives Loki a larger life and purpose — to teach, to shine his loving light.
Watch here the animated book trailer for Catastrophe by the Sea
Brenda Peterson is a National Geographic author of over 20 books, including the New York Times “Notable Book of the Year” novel, Duck and Cover, just out in audiobook. Her recent books include Wolf Nation, LOBOS, and the new picture book with artist, Ed Young, Catastrophe by the Sea set on the Salish Sea. www.BrendaPetersonBooks.com
Homeschoolers and teachers WATCH the author read Catastrohe by the Sea on You Tube. And enjoy my popular free pandemic picture book, WHEN WE STAYED HOME with video clips and links to all the animals venturing out when we stayed inside! Great for homeschoolers, teachers, and kids.