Before I got married, my cat, Mugsie, shared my apartment. After I brought him home from an animal shelter, he decided that I was his private property. When he saw me going through the rituals of preparing to go out for the evening, Mugsie communicated his displeasure. He’d lodge himself under my dressing table and stretch his paw in between the gaps in the curtain tacked around the edge of the table. Then he’d swipe at my hand while I tried to apply my makeup. If that didn’t distract me enough, Mugsie would leap to the light switch and flip it off.

After I became familiar with his routine, I learned to continue while Mugsie launched the next phase of attack. He’d plop his rear end on the top button of the radio to turn it on and push the knob, making it play louder. All of these shenanigans usually didn’t stop me, so he’d start nibbling on the plants.

That worked.

I’d chase him out of the room, much to his obvious delight.

Mugsie was an angel animal who found ways to make sure I got his messages. Once I unwrapped a birthday present on my coffee table, but the shiny pink bow had fallen to the floor. The next day when I arrived home from work, Mugsie had carefully placed the bow on top of his leavings in the kitty litter box.

A present?

I wondered if he could have deliberately placed this bow in such a strategic position. I picked up the bow and put it back on the floor by the coffee table. The next evening, I returned from work to find the present on top of Mugsie’s leavings again.

Were these the remains of the day?

Mugsie was communicating with me in his own inimitable fashion to let me know his opinion about being left home alone for too long. He thought it was a “poop-y” thing to do?

Once I sat in a chair, wondering what Mugsie did to earn his keep. I thought about how I fed him, emptied his kitty litter, and took care of all his needs. What did he do for me? At this moment, as I questioned the balance between us, Mugsie high-stepped into the room. He walked over to the corner and wiped a cobweb off the wall. Then he turned and gave me a look that let me know I should never question his value again.

I didn’t.

Mugsie lived to be twenty-one years old, seeing me through a divorce, a new marriage, to Allen, and a move to the cold land of Minnesota. Finally, it was time for his rascally old body to give out. And the cat who loved only me left this earth while I held him in my arms and cried. But before Mugsie left, he’d started living with our newest addition to the angel animal family, Prana, our gentle golden retriever. Prana tried everything to get Mugsie to accept her love. But the old critter consistently spurned the dog’s affection.

Mugsie died never knowing how much more love he could have had.

The night before Mugsie left us, I promised him that if he ever wanted to return, I’d love to have him live with me again. I told him that he’d have to let me know he was back and how to find him. For I believe that cats have at least nine lives.
One afternoon, three years after Mugsie’s passing, I took a nap and woke up with the sure knowledge that Mugsie had returned. I hurried to tell Allen. I said that I couldn’t explain it, but I just knew we had to get to the humane society immediately, because Mugsie would be there. Allen has all the qualities on my husband wish list. One thing I especially appreciate about him is that when I tell him something as crazy as this, he doesn’t argue with me about it. I guess he’s learned better over the years. So he drove me to the animal shelter and we started the frantic search for Mugsie, with the added anxiety that the building would be closing in thirty minutes.

Allen sat on a bench, probably trying to pretend he didn’t know me, as I went from kitten to kitten asking, “Are you Mugsie?” I found a darling Russian blue kitten with velvety blue-gray fur and took him to one of the visiting rooms. The kitten completely ignored me, turning his head from side to side to keep from looking at me. This was something Mugsie had always done when I’d left him for a while. But I admonished the kitten-who-could-be-Mugsie, “You left me, I didn’t leave you.” I couldn’t get anywhere with him, but something was resonating inside of me. I just had a feeling this kitten was my beloved friend.

A family came to the room where I held the unfriendly cat.

The mother said that they’d seen this kitten first and wanted him. Since he still wouldn’t look at me, I handed him to her, thinking maybe I’d made a mistake. I went out to look at more kitties, with only fifteen minutes now before closing. A few moments later, the woman called to me and asked if I wanted the kitten. She said he didn’t seem to like children and had hissed at her daughter.

I ran to grab him. This has to be Mugsie! I thought. He hadn’t even been fond of my own children, because he didn’t like sharing me with them. This time, the kitten crawled all over me. He licked and kissed me. He hurled his body against my heart and purred. I guess he knew that he’d almost lost his chance to come home. Allen and I hurried to the counter to adopt him — again.

When we brought the kitten home, he immediately began inspecting the house as if he were making certain that nothing had changed in his absence. One of his first acts was to hiss at Prana and appear disappointed that she was still around. To our surprise, this tiny kitten ran to the door that opened to the second story of our house. He climbed up the stairs. When he arrived at the top, with all his strength, he clawed his way up onto the rocking chair that had been Mugsie’s favorite spot and sat on the pillow, looking at us, as if to say, “I’m back!”

We have many windows in our home. The kitten immediately found Mugsie’s favorite window. Again, with great effort, he made it to the ledge and perched there, looking out over the backyard as Mugsie had done every day. He was definitely reclaiming his territory.

Over the next few weeks, we watched as the personality of Mugsie faded and the new kitty, whom we named Feisty, emerged. Prana began to win him over with her gentle ways. Their bowls side by side, Prana always waited until the kitten ate before she’d touch her food. She licked, played, and slept curled up with the kitty. Soon the two became the best of pals. Finally, Feisty was able to accept the love that, as Mugsie, he’d rejected.

Then Prana began to raise Feisty to be a dog. He imitated everything she did, including the uncatlike behavior of running to the door, tail wagging, to greet us when we came home. We kept saying, “Feisty, you’re a cat. You’re supposed to be aloof.” But he seemed to enjoy this new opportunity to love more freely.

Feisty grew into a most loving, affectionate cat. Nothing perturbed him. He didn’t flinch at sudden noises, just turned his head slowly to see if he should get out of the way. Even visitors to our home commented on what a bundle of pure love he was in a cat’s body. He was definitely an old soul who had seen and done it all.

From the Mugsie/Feisty duo, we learned that there’s a very good reason for angel animals to return to this classroom we call life on earth. If they didn’t or couldn’t learn how to give and receive love the first, or the fiftieth, time around, it’s worth trying again. And, besides, there are those humans, like us, who still can’t seem to live very well without them.

Is there an angel animal you remember from your childhood or a previous time? Would you want to make a list of his or her personality traits? Compare these behaviors and characteristics with those of an angel animal who is in your life today.

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