Jasmine: 1993 – 2011

Jasmine, a tortoise shell cat, sits on the floor

Jasmine “Mink” Kulwicki
June 4, 1993 – October 11, 2011

When I was ten years old, my parents decided that my brother and I could each have a cat.

That week, I did something bad. No one remembers what, now. But it was bad enough that my right to bring home a cat was revoked as a punishment. We were only getting one cat, now. And the decision was left up to my 7-year-old arch nemesis.

My mom took us to Al’s Pet Shop on West Ridge in Rochester. The very pretty yet cranky and antisocial store cat, at least one of whose apples did not fall far from the tree, had given birth to kittens several months prior. There were two, or at least two left at that point, both small but really not still kittens. They were both tortoise shell. A boy and a girl.

I wanted the boy.

I made my case to my younger brother. Clearly the boy was better. Here, hold him, you’ll see. My brother skeptically picked up this male cat and held him for half a second before he became angry for no discernible reason and lashed out and scratched my brother’s arm.

So the girl cat it was.

At the time, I was convinced that my brother did this to spite me. This was his revenge for that time I threw sand in his eyes, or all the times I hit him in the head with Fisher Price little people, or the time I convinced him (truly believing it would drown them) to stick a hose in a fire ant hill. Who knows; maybe it was.

But while I know he didn’t mean it, that he wasn’t doing it for me but for himself, and that as it turned out he didn’t even like her, it was the greatest thing that anyone has ever done for me in my entire life. Last night, I called him to say thank you.

Me, a ten year old girl in purple leggings and white tee-shirt, on the bed with Mink, a brownish-tortoise shell cat, and an easter basket.

We named her Jasmine, like everyone around that time, after the Disney princess. No one remembers how long it took her to become Mink, the name we called her for the rest of her life … unless we were at the vet, or she was in trouble.

I do remember that it didn’t take long for her to become mine. As it turns out, my brother doesn’t much like cats, anyway. (“They don’t do anything.”) And Mink most certainly did not like him. In fact, she hardly liked anybody.

Shortly after bringing her home, my parents had her spayed. She was 9 months old. When she came home from the operation and was let out of the carrier, she ran away. And the place she found herself to was my bedroom, right in the middle of my bed. There she remained for the next week, as she recovered. There she remained, mostly, for years. As you can see in the above photo, taken Easter 1994 when she was just 10 months old, right away, she was my girl. She stayed — she’ll stay — that way forever.

A very close shot of Mink looking at the camera.

Mink had a perfect line down her face. Half was a light orange, the other a darker mixture of black and brown. Even the front of her nose was split perfectly, the dark half black, the light half pink — until a fight with our next cat, Boomer, tore the skin off, for it to heal mostly pink. She had the biggest, prettiest eyes I’ve ever seen, and the softest, most rhythmic and beautiful purr I’ve ever heard. Her paws were tiny, and got so, so cold in the winter. When she was healthy, she never once weighed more than 7 pounds, and was at her most normal around 5. Her tongue was so rough, but gentle, and her black lips were soft and wet against your cheek. Her fur was always soft and downy, never rough, and everywhere. She had stripes on her legs and a back that grew more and more orange each year she got older. Her tail was long and sharply pointed. Her chin was so, so white. Photos don’t do her justice; no cat has ever been prettier.

Every word I write about her feels inadequate. There is nothing I can say that will do her the justice she deserves or convey to you just how much she meant and means to me, no matter how much reading this makes you think she meant to me now. I want to tell you absolutely everything about her. She was my whole world. I did everything a person could possibly have done for her, and I’d do it all again.

Mink lays on the floor and glares at the camera scornfully

Mink was not impressed by you. She was not impressed by me. Mink was not impressed by anybody, save perhaps Ronald Reagan and Jesus Christ. (Mink was a staunch lifelong Republican.) Mink hated just about everyone, and it was a true compliment if she gave you the gift of her tolerance. She was an old soul, born to want you to get the fuck off her lawn.

Rarely did she “play.” She liked hair ties, and catnip. For a while, she loved to chase the laser pointer, until she figured out where that red dot was coming from. Then she resented us terribly for thinking that she would be so foolish as to fall for such a simple ruse. She did invent one game, though, when she was very young. She found a bouncy ball (and no matter how many times it was taken from her, she always found another). At night, and only at night — for this game was absolutely no fun during daylight hours — she would take said bouncy ball in her mouth, bring it to the top of the stairs, and drop it. Then she would simply watch as it went down the stairs. Bounce bounce bounce bounce bounce bounce. It reverberated throughout the entire house of previously sleeping people. Then she’d go back down, bring the ball back up again, and repeat. Bounce bounce bounce bounce bounce bounce bounce.

She was a jerk, through and through.

And a stubborn one. During her very first visit to the vet, she became enraged by the process of taking her temperature, and proceeded to completely lose her shit. In a now infamous story, they put her inside a bag, with only her head sticking out, in order to contain her. But there was absolutely no containing Mink. She decided, then, to simply thrash as had as she could, and throw herself with all of her force against all of the walls every time they tried to touch her. Lord knows what the people in the waiting room thought was going on in there. Lord knows that whenever she went to the vet, her reputation preceded her. She never got any better about it, no less angry, no matter how many times a vet ever had to touch her. Even at the very end, the very last time, she remained a fighter, as stubborn as stubborn could be. But she wouldn’t really have ever been Mink, otherwise.

Ian sits on a couch holding a video game controller while Minks its on his lap.

Living in Australia for three years, it was almost unbearable being away from her. Every week, I would speak to my mom, and every week, right before she called me, Mink would make a sudden appearance from her usual hiding act, and jump up on my mom’s bed and sit with her. Just purring the whole time. She was a smart girl. She always knew what was going on, somehow. Much more than we ever gave her credit for.

When Ian moved to the U.S. and we got married, he’d never had a cat before. But it was not up for debate that she was living with us. Ian put her on a “trial period” of three months. We argued until I let him believe what he wanted to believe. But he knows now that there never was any trial period. She was always going to be ours.  Thankfully, she took to him, and he most certainly took to her.

She changed us, forever. From a couple into a family.

And she was so much happier, too. From a house filled with people and who knows how many other cats, all of whom she hated, to an apartment where she was the only one, and she could be the center of attention, always. She hid a lot less. She became a lot more social. She ran around, and hung out wherever she wanted, with no fear that another feline might appear at any moment. Her voice grew louder, from an always tiny squeak or whisper, to a loud, assertive, and impossible to ignore mew. She wanted what she wanted when she wanted it. And brat that she was, she almost always got it.

I sit disheveled on a couch with Mink wrapped in my arms.

She was always cold in the winter. She burrowed her way under blankets. She sat right in front of the vent, waiting for the heat to kick on, sucking it all up in her little cat body instead of letting it filter out into the rest of the home. And most importantly, she permanently installed herself on my lap. She was a heat mooch. She sucked up all your heat, and purred and purred and purred that beautiful, wonderful purr in order to make sure you’d let her. She didn’t care how uncomfortable she made you. She’d stick a claw in your stomach, a foot in your boob, whatever. It was useless to resist. We were cat furniture.

Secretly, she kept me warm, too. I don’t know who will keep me warm, this year.

Mink wrapped up in covers, only her face sticking out.

Mink liked to prance. Unlike most cats, she would not sit still when she wanted you to pet her. Never. She had to prance. Across your lap, across the bed or couch, around in circles, on your lap and of again. Prance prance prance. She always had to be the center of attention, and that meant parading for all the world to see and making sure your focus on her was undivided. She liked to be scratched right on front of her tail. She’d rub her face on the surface beneath her and stick her butt way up in the air while you scratched. She liked, too, to have you roughly rub her tail between your fingers, and even gently lift up her back side by an inch or two with it. She could never get enough.

She scratched her face on everything. The corners of furniture, boxes, the laptop, the couch. It was hard work, living in a world that did not smell nearly enough like her, and knowing that she was the only one who could rectify this situation. She worked tirelessly at it.

She had a flirty tail. Most cats tend to wag theirs when they’re angry; Mink moved hers about when she was happiest. She’d lay next to you, giving every impression of acting as though you were not there, yet make sure she had your attention and knew you had her affections with her tail. She’d gently slide it around your hand, your leg. Swaying back and forth, the tip turned up. Rotating in big circles, up and down, flopping and flipping and turning. Even when she was not paying attention to you, she had to make sure you were paying attention to her.

When Mink was in a really good mood, I’d put my face on the couch or bed right in front of hers. She’d lick my cheek, slowly, methodically, and lovingly, almost endlessly.

Almost two thousand words later, I feel like I still haven’t told you the first thing about her.

Mink in her cat bed

I think this is the last photo I took of Mink when she was still healthy. It was right after her birthday, just a few months ago, and she’s laying in her present from me and Ian. She didn’t use this bed long, but she loved it while she had it. Until she was too unsteady to get in and out without falling, it was her spot, and I could always count on seeing her there.

She hated having her photo taken so much, and few of them ever turned out well. In the vast majority of pictures we have of her, she’s asleep. I must have taken close to 20 photos of her that day. I deleted almost all of them, because I thought they were terrible. If only I had known then what I know now.

A part of me well and truly thought that I’d be able to keep her forever. I still wish that I had been able to.

There will never be another cat quite like Mink. I do not know what to do with myself without her. I do not know how or if I ever will. She’s my girl. She always will be. And I will always miss her.

I love you, princess baby angel girl. I love you for always.

0 thoughts on “Jasmine: 1993 – 2011

  1. Cate

    I’m so sorry, Cara. I lost my beloved older cat two years ago, and it’s gotten easier, but things still don’t feel the same. Thinking of you.

  2. s.e. smith

    Oh, Cara. So much love for you.

    I really think Mr. Bell and Mink were evil twins, right down to their die-hard Reagan-love.

    And you will be able to keep her forever, in your memory, which is, I admit, not quite the same thing as curling up with a snugglebus cat on a rainy day.

    Mink, I’d salute you, but I doubt you’d be impressed.

  3. kate217

    You will never be without her, Cara. She’s like my beloved Tigerlily, who is the only reason I survived the sexual abuse, bullying, and loneliness of childhood and adolescence. (Who was also a gorgeous tortie.) Twenty-five years after her passing, I still dream of her. She still purrs for me.

    You have my sincerest condolences.

  4. Becky

    (Here from Shakesville)

    I’m so sorry for your loss, Cara. Jasmine was beautiful, and it’s clear that you gave her a wonderful life. I lost my baby girl cat Holly in August, and sometimes I’m shocked at how raw it still feels. But every day it gets a little easier to talk about her, and every time I remember her I love her more.

    Wishing you lots of peace and comfort in the coming weeks.

  5. Napalmnacey

    So sorry to hear about the loss of your kitty. They really are giant souls in little furry suits, aren’t they? It’s clear you gave everything you had to that kitty, she was a very lucky little one. My heart is with you, as one cat lover to another.

  6. nan

    Oh, I am so sorry for the loss of your beloved fur kid! Patti Smith: “Paths that cross will cross again”. You will always have her, and she you.

  7. elle

    I am so sorry for your loss, Cara. I know you count yourself the lucky one, but, from the love that shines so clearly through this post, she was lucky to have you, too.

  8. Mike

    I’m so sorry you had to lose her. Hearing about hers and your struggle over the past weeks on tumblr has been heart-wrenching, but after this: “I don’t know who will keep me warm, this year.”…I just lost it.

    Here’s to finding a way to keep her in your heart and still keep on going.

  9. azzy23

    I’m so sorry for your loss. And I understand. I lost my boy Dewey almost 3 years ago. While I don’t feel the pain constantly (a big improvement), I do feel it acutely whenever I think of him, but I miss him terribly and love to remember him.

    I thought it was beautiful, what you said, and so true. You can type a million words, but never express the feeling. The flavor of their personality… But that’s because you love her. 🙂 You can’t describe love to someone and make them feel it. You can only do what you’ve done here. Salute her, share a glimpse of her specialness, and if this way you do honor to the many wonderful years she was your friend.

  10. Steph G

    RIP Mink.

    And much love to you, Cara. You were a good friend to her and I’m sure under her layer of not-being-impressed she appreciated it very much. And still does.

  11. whatsername

    Oh Cara… I’m sorry. There isn’t a time to hate how things just can’t stay the same more than times like the one you’re going through now. Mink was loved, and she knew it. All the hugs in the world, from me to you.

  12. Christine

    This is lovely. The last of my childhood cats, who had the same dates as Mink, just passed away the Friday before your post. Reading this helped.

  13. Teri

    Awww! Your cat was a gamer?! Lucky girl! I’m sorry for your loss – no matter how long we get them it’s never enough, is it? I wish you nothing but happy thoughts and good memories!

  14. Marsha

    Stumbled on your blog. So sorry to hear that Jasmine has crossed the “Rainbow Bridge”. I/we just lost (Oct.6) a wonderful cat who was given to my daughter for her 3rd birthday — July 3 , 1993. So his life and Jasmines were near to overlapping. Mustard was not a lap cat, but he was much loved and cherished. I wrote a little about him here: http://newfutureahead.blogspot.com/2011/10/good-bye-to-my-handsome-guy.html

    Unfortunately, he was the second cat taken from us in 2011. Our beloved-by-many Charcoal had to be PTS in January. A brief version of her story is here:

    For the first time in decades of being “staff” to cats, I couldn’t wait to bring another home. The house was just too empty with just one remaining feline presence. So just a few weeks ago, I adopted not ONE but TWO tortie littermates! They are bringing such life back into my house! Pictures and story: http://newfutureahead.blogspot.com/2011/10/tale-of-two-kitties.html

    When the time is right, another kitty will find his or her way into your life and your heart. In 40+ years of sharing my life and my home with cats, I have had two that were very, very special. So far…

  15. Stephanie

    This made me cry. I lost my beloved dog of 14 1/2 years earlier this year, so I know how it feels like it leaves an emptiness inside you. My condolences to you.

  16. Taylor Serenil

    Chiming in very late with my sympathies. I lost my Siamese mix Alize a few years back, and even though I knew her positive feline leukemia status meant she was on borrowed time, I still miss her. I only wish I could explain what she meant to me as beautifully as you did with Mink.

  17. Lissa

    This made me cry, too… I just lost my kitty of 12 years on December 7th. It is still the hardest loss I have ever had to face, and I still miss her terribly (and always will).

    Like Mink, she was a tortie. Her name was Taeo. I remember it took at least two weeks before I found a name for her, and that was what I picked out. I was probably ten at the time, and I had seen the name “Taeo” in the credits for the movie Homeward Bound, and thought it was an appropriate name to name a cat after.

    Later, I found out that Taeo means “tomorrow” in another language, and it couldn’t have been any more appropriate; after all, it was from the moment I met her and onwards that the rest of all my “tomorrows” where finally happier! She had come in to my life when I had no one and needed someone to be there for me, and she made the next 12 years of my life someone better.

    And then I lost her…. and it is so hard being without her.

    Her and I where so close, that it’s hard even just doing the ordinary day-to-day things without missing her; after all, she was a part of *every one* of those things!

    So I now must literally re-learn how to accomplish major portions of my day without her…. she slept with me at night…. She sat in the bathroom while I showered in the morning (sometimes she would watch me through the curtain lol, and I always thought that was particularly funny lol… I would play with her by running my fingers across the curtain, and it would amuse her until the water had gone cold!)…. she would sit on my sketchpad when I drew…. she would even go to check the mail with me… She was so smart. I would say to her in the afternoons, “want to go check the mail with mommy?” ….she would streeeeetch out, yawn, then meet me at the door. Then she would follow behind me like a little loyal shadow as I walked down to the mailbox with her; on sunny days, I would occasionally sit down in the grass with her and pet her after getting the mail. Often, I would tell her what it was that came (even though most of it was uninteresting, I still felt like she had helped me get them, so she should know!)

    Now I shower without someone to “bother” me…. I sleep without a warm comforting pillow…. I have to check the mail alone…. my artwork has no more muddy paw prints to be left on it by her.

    It’s so hard. I loved (and STILL love!) her to pieces.

    I HATED this year’s Christmas, because it was my first without her.

    I’m still trying to learn to cope without her, so I’m afraid I don’t have much words of wisdom (seeing as how it’s still so darn hard for me, too…)

    It sounds like you gave Mink a wonderful life, and that makes me smile. 🙂

    Thank you for sharing your story; it was something I needed to hear. Especially the part about how tiny Mink’s paws where hit close to home! My Taeo was very tiny, as well.

    These are photos of my kitty, by the way;

    Her in the pink blanket was her last day before I had to put her down… she had very bad hyper-thyroidism that I had been treating with tablets daily, but her weight had dropped so bad in only a matter of weeks that I brought her in to the vet (thinking it was her thyroid) and found out she had cancer, to boot…. I still can’t believe how tiny she got in such a short amount of time. She looks like such a sweet tiny little thing, in a sea of pink.


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