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Of Cats and the Number 7

“A missing cat is a terrible thing,” writes Sam Kalda in his book Of Cats and Men.

I can relate. Cats have a calming effect on me. They rub their cheeks on you to show their trust and affection. They are clean and don’t require much grooming: they lick themselves clean. Their presence alone lowers my stress level, so they are good for the heart. These and many other boons.

And I’m not in bad company either. Many famous persons -- Sir Isaac Newton, Nikola Tesla, T. S. Eliot, Sir Winston Churchill, Ernest Hemingway, Marlon Brando, to name a few -- have been cat lovers.

The Prophet Muhammad, for one, loved cats. Once when the call to prayer was sounded, Muezza, his favorite cat was fast asleep on top of the sleeve of his robe. Rather than disturb Muezza, he cut off the sleeve of his robe to leave the cat in peace.

My pet cat Sylvester passed away three years ago, and I still miss him.

I think God created little kittens to bring a smile on our face.

Although the number nine is the number mostly associated with cats, in some Spanish culture it is the biblical number seven that they are related with. What follows is an instance of the latter.

Three years ago, my friend Irving lost his cat. His cat was also named Sylvester, a tuxedo cat like mine, because both of them were named after the comic book character in “Tweety and Sylvester.”

It all started while I was browsing through my FB, when I chanced upon a post by Irving, showing a picture of his pet tuxedo cat alongside the notice:

“$100 reward for anyone who can help me locate cat shown in the picture. Answers to the name Sylvester. Last seen on the corner of 188 St and 73rd Ave in Fresh Meadows, Queens.”

I called him over the phone:

“What happened, Irving?”

“We came home late two days ago,” he said. “It was about 2am when we arrived at our apartment and our cat just dashed out when we opened the door. It was too dark in our backyard, so we did not see where he went. We’d usually let him in and out of our apartment during the day, but this time he did not come back. I looked around the neighborhood several times already to no avail.”

“Don’t worry,” I assured him, “I’ll drop by later and help you search your area.”

Irving is a middle-aged former co-worker who originally migrated from the Bahamas. He is also a close friend who lives not far from my home.

My son Jacob could not help overhearing our phone conversation:

“I’ll go with you, Pa. Let’s help out Irving.”

We dropped by Irving’s place that day and started searching about the neighborhood. We examined nooks and corners of backyards and nearby apartment complexes. Negative.

I called him daily to inquire if he had any luck. None.

On the fifth day we went back to help Irving search some more. But before searching, my son suggested that the three of us pray hard that we find Sylvester. The next thing we did was to walk around Irving’s block seven times keeping in mind the significance of the number seven in the bible, and in basically all religions. Nothing to lose if we circumambulated like the forebears of our faith. It brought to mind the rogativa processions we’d perform back in the old town of my youth. Still the search ended up with nothing.

Seven days passed and still it was nothing. But we did not give up. I would call him sometimes and tell him not to worry too much, just pray. Every time his wife Jenny would answer their landline, she would tell me how guilty she was because she had no time to take care of Sylvester since she was also busy taking care of her seven month old baby boy.

One day when I was passing by his neighborhood on my way to a Chinese grocery near his place, I saw Irving smoking in front of his apartment. I asked him to hop into my car and we’d drive seven blocks away and back and forth hoping to find his cat. We had a good talk about the bible while doing this and again I told him that this thing may take seven weeks or seven months, but don’t worry we’ll find his cat.

Still, no cat.

When I got home that evening after dropping Irving and finishing my grocery, I got this call from him.

“Thank God I found Sylvester. As soon as you dropped me off, I walked towards the nearby store to buy some cigarettes, when suddenly I saw a cat resembling Sylvester entering the store. It ran away from me at first but when I called out ‘Sylvester!’ it stopped and slowly walked straight towards me. I picked it up. It was Sylvester all right, and he had lost a lot of weight.”

I called up my son and told him the news.

“Pa, didn’t you know that this is the first day of the seventh week?”

I redialed Irving to tell him about this, but he interrupted me:

“Mr. Manny, did you know that this is the seventh week? Thank you for not giving up. Let us give thanks to the Lord!”

It’s a simple cat story but like all daily little miracles it tells me a lot about how God cares for all His creatures, especially our cats, and how easily these little creatures help build and cement friendships.

“When a man loves cats,” writes Mark Twain, “I am his friend and comrade, without further introduction.”

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