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 But it was bad enough that my right to bring home a cat was revoked as a punishment.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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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 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.
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.