Several years ago, when my mother mailed Christmas presents for me, Gary, and the kids, she added a few gifts for the cats. Among the cat treats and Fancy Feast was a large stuffed brown rat. As soon as I tossed the rat to the cats, Rosie, our black cat and the official Smirking Cat mascot, pounced on it and declared it his. That stuffed rat became his sidekick, his companion, his favorite toy to toss around, jump on, then carry around the house in his teeth, meowing to announce his hard-won catch.
When it was new, this rat had ears, legs, whiskers, and a tail. Now? Well…let’s just say that Rosie plays a little rough. None of his toys have all of their original parts. I don’t remember what went missing first, but the rat began to shed body parts, a nose here, a leg there.
Now the rat can’t even really be called a rat anymore. It’s a nondescript lump of shredded brown fabric with stuffing-guts hanging out. I’ve threatened to throw it away several times, but both Gary and Rosie protest, with sad eyes from one of them and outcries of “It’s his favorite toy!” from the other.
A few weeks ago, crisis struck: the rat went missing. This has happened before, and the rat was found safe and sound in one of the kids’ toy boxes, so at first I assumed it would turn up hanging out with Barbies or kicking back with G.I. Joes. Not this time. I looked under the bed, under the couch. I turned the cat toy basket upside down. I checked to see if he batted it into one of our closets. Nothing.
Rosie has other rat toys that I have bought him, hoping to wean him from the torn-up, battle-scarred, limbless rat, but no dice. He will occasionally play with these other toys, but he always comes back to his favorite, tried-and-true, ragged brown rat.
This past weekend, while chasing down a wayward checker in the kitchen, Dove discovered the lost brown rat, tucked deep beneath the microwave stand. Rosie was asleep when the rat was reclaimed, so Dove gently dropped the rat into his basket with him. When Rosie woke up, he was so delighted to be reunited with his frayed, tattered buddy that he hopped out of his basket, carrying his rat proudly in his teeth, and meowed for all to hear to make sure everyone knew his little friend was home.
I helped him celebrate by sprinkling some catnip on his toy rat, though I was concerned the rat won’t stand up to much more playing and tossing around. There are so many holes in the rat, you can poke your finger straight through the remaining stuffing and wiggle it around on the other side of his dilapidated body.
Last night, Rosie was still happily enjoying having his favorite toy back. I woke up in the middle of the night to a loud, raucous chorus of Rosie meowing around a mouthful of stuffed rat as he strutted around the house. I don’t know why that particular party couldn’t have waited until morning, but I didn’t have the heart to tell him to hush and go back to bed.
Still, I fear the stuffed rat’s days are numbered, no matter how much Rosie loves him. I’ll let you decide for yourself. Behold the beloved rat:
I ask you: is there any hope at all for what is left of this cherished toy rat?