It was my mom’s idea to name him Faron, after Frieda’s “boneless” cat in Peanuts, although she frequently said he was going to think his name was “No,” given that they had to say it to him all the time. He once stole a corncob from the dinner table, holding it in his mouth like a cigar, and one of his favorite pastimes was crawling up my dad’s pants’ legs all the way up to his shoulders. Faron had a group of neighborhood friends who would stop by and wait on the back porch for his humans to let him out. Faron would let out his characteristic “mow” sound, which he would make only when he wanted something or when given flea baths; my parents would open the door, and Faron would jump up on the washing machine and back down and leave, as if he thought jumping on the washing machine was an essential part of his egress.
Faron and Daisy soon became a team - both black and white cats, they looked a bit alike, although Daisy was petite and short-haired and Faron was big and fluffy, with a black and white mane that made him look like Sylvester. Once, when they left the cats at the kennel while on vacation, Faron and Daisy co-conspired to free themselves from their cage. The next morning, the kennel staff were not a bit surprised to see the two lounging on the front desk!
I was born in 1976, when Daisy was six and Faron was four. I’m told when my mom first brought me home, Daisy sniffed at me and my mom told her “Here’s a new friend for you,” while Faron remained indifferent. As I got bigger, though, the cats did a total 180. Faron became fascinated with this new being about his size and followed me around constantly - there’s a great picture of the two of us in my playpen, my face wearing a stunned expression, Faron lounging like it was no big thing. There are other pictures, long gone, of the two of us cuddling together, me pulling on Faron’s fur and rolling all over him as if he were a body pillow. He even let me dress him up in my old baby clothes, which were repurposed for dolls’ clothes when I received a life-size Gerber baby doll at age five.
It’s a sad truism, but we often take for granted those who love us most and run after those who want nothing to do with us. As I grew up, this was increasingly the case with Faron and me. Daisy wanted very little to do with me, and as such, I craved her friendship; I expected this was compounded by the fact that my increasingly distant mother considered Daisy “her” cat, and therefore special. Ironically, it was Faron who was the really “special” cat, if we’re going to make such designations. He was everyone’s friend and protector, of not just humans and other cats but of the rabbits and guinea pigs that periodically took up residence with us, and despite such goofy traits as sitting in the middle of the sidewalk with his tongue hanging out, he was actually quite brilliant - he knew, for instance, to walk back and forth on the piano when it was mealtime, and unceasingly gentle - two times he discovered nests of baby rabbits living in the yard and brought them to my mom, still alive. But to me, this was just what Faron did, and I simply considered it par for the feline course.
Daisy died in 1984 of a liver condition, but Faron remained hale and healthy up through his 17th year, when, assuming the role of protector yet again, he tangled with a pack of stray dogs that roamed our neighborhood, breaking several ribs. My mother was in the hospital for a major surgery, so after a prolonged stay at the vet, my grandparents took him in and nursed him as best they could. Sadly, Faron refractured several ribs in his sleep and his condition deteriorated to the point that my grandfather, an avowed dog person who considered Faron the only cat he ever truly liked, reluctantly brought the old guy to the vet to be put to sleep. (In his typical euphemistic fashion, Grandpa said only, “I’m taking Faron to the vet today,” and it was only after Faron didn’t come back for a week that I realized his stay at the vet was permanent.)
I’ve shared my various homes with many other cats throughout the years, but none so dynamic and, frankly, human as Faron. He was so in tune with everyone and everything around him, it was almost as if he were an elevated species of feline, perhaps from another planet. Everyone adored him and vice-versa, including me, although it took me years to recognize how singularly unique he was. Faron taught us all many lessons about resourcefulness, gentleness, and loyalty, and I can only hope I’ve returned the favor in kind with all the cats who’ve come after him.