Zacinto arrived in Torre Argentina on April 13, 2007. He and 55 other cats were taken away by the health authorities from the home of two sisters where these cats had a precarious existence. None of the cats were spayed or neutered, they had been reproducing for some time, propagating the crippling herpes virus which is why all of them were partially or totally blind.
We took in three of these cats, one of them was Zacinto. He was totally blind and his eyes were badly infected and had to be removed.
Then came Marie…..and this is her story.
When I lost my beloved Zacinto from Torre Argentina, I decided to write down our story but found that there were so many things I wanted to tell about this hero of mine so it became longer than I thought. This is the story of a brave little cat that travelled the world and lived in no less than four capitals of Europe (Rome, Paris, Stockholm and Oslo) but left us very much too early.
Four years ago, in 2007, I visited Torre Argentina. It was my second time there, but my first visit had been very short and I did not remember much. This visit came to be so different, because this was the time I fell in love.
There were so many amazing cats. Some handicapped, some running wild in the area, some young, some old, but all of them so amazing.
And then there was Zacinto.
He was white with a black tail and he had no eyes. He had became blind due to mistreatment before the people at TA had saved him. I had never seen a blind cat, because in my country, people believe that blind animals are better put to death because they can not live a good life. Zacinto would prove that wrong a million times over.
He reminded me of one of our cats at home (which I would later find very strange, because they are not like each other at all). He came up to me, curious and brave and began to cuddle and lick the white cashmere cardigan I was carrying.
When I asked a volunteer about him and how he could manage without his eyes, the volunteer called his name and threw a rattling ball towards where he was sitting. I did not think he would catch it because he remained still where he sat, but just as the ball was close to him, he expertly extended his paw and caught it without a moments hesitation. It was like he could not really be bothered to run when it was such an easy thing to catch. I was totally amazed!
A moment later the kittens came running and Zacinto ran with them. He climbed the fence with them all the way up the the roof, but he would not let go like they did, but rather climb down again. Clever cat.
When I left I had fallen head over heels in love with him. He was the most amazing creature I had ever seen.
Unfortunately, we already had two cats in Sweden that would not like another. I also felt that it was crazy to take a cat from Italy to Sweden, not to mention the fact that I at that moment was living in Paris and did not know when I would be going back. In my mind only crazy people brought animals home from their vacation, and so I left Zacinto and Torre Argentina.
We rented a car and had a very nice vacation in Italy, but there was a feeling I could not shake. It was the same feeling as when one is falling in love and can think of nothing else. I could not forget Zacinto and as soon as I got home, I sent a mail to Torre Argentina and adopted him at a distance.
Two months later, I still felt the same and eventually I told my boyfriend that I wanted to take "the blind cat from Italy" home. I did not expect him to say yes without a discussion, but he did (probably because he loves cats as much as I do).
Torre Argentina was happy that I was interested in Zacinto, but they did not approve of my plan that he would stay there until I went back to Sweden half a year later. They wanted me to pick him up and take him to Paris as soon as possible or else they would also look for other adopters - simply because of the higher risk of infection and diseases at the shelter.
This made it difficult for me, because it was already November and I planned to go home to Sweden during Christmas hollidays. Spending Christmas with my family is very important to me, but I realized I already loved the cat so much that I'd stay in Paris if I had to, and so I went to Rome in the end of November to pick him up. (In the end, a friend in Paris took care of him during the hollidays but I missed him so badly that I went straight to her place to pick him up when I came back.)
I remember coming back to pick him up in Rome. I asked him if he would come home with me and he climbed right onto my lap! I was nervous about the flight but he was amazing. He did not enjoy when the flight took off, but he then became very quiet, almost too quiet. When we landed, I was almost prepared that maybe he had been scared to death and I tried to brace myself for the discovery that my cat had died.
He hadn't died, of course. He was just sleeping and an hour or so later we were home and he began to explore his new surroundings. He was very curious and he quickly found his way around in my little studio. He slept in my bed from that first night and I really did not want to leave him in the morning. I renamed him Zinto and he seemed to like the name.
We lived together in Paris for another three months, and I could not have loved him more. He was amazing and if it wasn't for the lack of his eyes, one would never have known that he was blind. He always found his way and he never ever went into anything. I once saw him catch a fly that was walking - walking! - on the floor, obviously hearing it.
There was only one bad thing that happened after two months - when he tried to use the litterbox, he suddenly could not do it. He tried several times, and after two days I rushed him to the vet. I did not understand how serious a constipation could be, and I was suprised when the vet wanted to keep him overnight. They saved him, but I am afraid I never quite understood how very serious it was. Partly because of language limitations, partly because he was such a lively cat. But naturally, I did follow the doctors orders and gave him only the recommended food.
In spring 2008 we moved back to Sweden. First to Stockholm and then into a big house at the country side in a smaller city. As predicted, our old cats were not very happy for their new friend - they were old, and in his mind he was still a kitten and loved to jump on them the way kittens do, only that he was a lot heavier and had sharper claws than a kitten. It took almost two years before they got along better.
All the cats seemed happy that they could now be outside. Our Russian Blue, who seemed terrified the first time she was outside, soon turned into a real rural cat, brining home countless of mice as gifts for us.
Zacinto was never let outside without supervision, of course, but he was often out with us. He would run across the lawn, like a cow that is let out after the winter, jumping and running and always, somehow, avoiding the apple trees. I still dont know how he did that, but he never crashed into them. He would go exploring, sometimes getting scared of something (like the smell from a fox that passed in the nights) but always curious enough to go back to the scary place to find out what it really was. He would lie sleeping on our terasse, chase flies or birds (without much success with the later I am afraid), play with us and always, always be so full of life.
That summer, his stomach problems came back, and this time the vets not think he would make it. They told us that it would be better to put him down, but I could not. I asked them to try again, and until last week, we have never cried so much as then. When he was finally allowed to go home, they told us that he probabably would not make it to the end of the week.
But he did. And since then I have cherished every single moment with him even more. There is not one time that I have looked at him and not felt a surge of joy at having him there. He was like a ray of sunshine, no matter how grey the world felt.
He lived on and in the two years that followed the two of us did a lot together. He shared my life in a way that no one else could. He was my relief when I was sad and comforted me through many hard times.
Last year I began working in Oslo during the weeks and I took Zacinto with me, because he stressed the other cats too much. I was worried that it would not be good for a cat to travel so much, but he would simply sleep through the journey in my lap, seeming quite content. He charmed the train conductur and fellow travels alike. I think he was at peace at any place as long as we were together.
He would always come to greet me when I arrived home and every night he would sleep curled up to me in the bed. He was a very social and clever cat.
I remember one time especially well. It was a night time, and I was already in bed, wanting to sleep. Zacinto found one of his toys in bed and began playing with it. Since it was bed time I did not want him to get all excited so I took the toy away from him and put it on my night stand. He could - of course - not see that I put it there, and he seemed to forget it and went to get something to eat while I fell asleep.
Half an hour later I woke up, finding him at my nightstand, carefully picking out his toy from the bunch of stuff I had there and triumphantly going back to the bed to play with it. Not only had he understood where I had put it, he had also remembered it and he was able to get it for himself. Cats are truly more clever than people think!
His stomach had seemed to be better for a while, although never really good (he was always on a special diet and there were many times that we worried) and in the middle of January 2011 the worst thing happen. He had been constipated again and we do not know how it happened, because we always watched him. Maybe it had been building up over time, maybe we had missed something (I was in the hospital for a few days and that might be why we did not notice until too late). We took him to the vet and they tried to save him, but then they told us that they could not and that this time it was much worse than before. I cried out aloud when I heard that and I did not stop crying for many hours after that.
It was the worst hours of my life, seeing my beloved cat so full of life and still so brave, but knowing that he was also in pain. He was maybe too strong for his own good, because if he had shown signs of beeing sick earlier we might have seen it and been able to give him better treatment. Now he was just as lively all the time until the end, but in the end he was really exhausted and he was not well. I would have done anything, anything, to save him, but we could not and even though I would have rather taken him home to die in peace, it would have caused him more pain. I was crying when he was finally put to sleep, and I still am because there is a hole in my heart that can never be filled.
It seems incredibly unfair that he should die so young. He was such a brave cat, and his loss of sight never seemed to trouble him. We would see him raise his ears and tail whenever he heard a loved voice, we would often find that he had climbed up somewhere (like the top drawer in the wardrobe) and if he ever went somewhere where he could not get down, he had a special sound that told me that he was stuck. He could jump without problems, and often jumped onto the bed or sofa, carrying a toy that he was attacking. He missed sometimes, but then he would just try again. He loved toys that rattled and he would often give them a bath, putting them into his water bowl and then fish them out. In fact, he seemed to like water and in the summers he would chase the water from the hose on the lawn. I never forget the first time he heard the sprinkler and attacked it, only to be soaking wet when it turned his way. He retreated, but a moment later he went at it again. His energy and good mood was always a source of inspiration.
His life became very much too short, but think he had a good life. He did not have to spend his life in a small apartment but was able to feel grass under his paws, taste the plants in the garden and dig in the soil. He could enjoy the first sun of spring and the smell and the rustling leaves of the fall or feel the cold and wet of the snow. He was able to be outside, in the garden, in the forest and even close to the lake. He would feel snow, rain and sunshine but most of all he would always have a warm place waiting for him and many people that loved him. I don't think he ever met anybody that did not find him amazing. He would jump or climp up onto my knee, often preventing me from what I was doing, and he would always be caressed and petted.
He was so positive and he taught me that life could be a wonder even when the odds are against you. His blindness was never a problem for him and I am sure that he did not suffer much from it. He often made me smile of pure happiness at having him close. He was a little cat, but he did more good in his life than many great men.
We buried him in our garden, close to a spot that he always went to, wrapped in the white cardigan that he once loved. I think it is a good place, I hope he will rest in peace with a view the lake and knowing that we are close by and still love him.
Some people do not understand how it is possible to love a cat or a pet so much. They seem to divide the world into things that can be loved and things that can not. For me, it is not about what you love, but about the meaning and relation of what you love and loving one thing does not mean I love another thing less. I loved Zacinto with my whole heart and he was my life companion in a way that no other could have been. The place that he has left in my life will always be there. I still hear his voice, I still think that he is in some other room and that I will go and find him. I will miss him for the rest of my life and I can only hope that he is no longer in pain and that we soon will meet again.
Rest in peace, my love.