Anyone who knows me knows my immense adoration for cats. I know that Dr. McCoy can attest for this as she watched me pet dozens of stray cats in Dakar, Senegal. I have grown up with a black cat that I’ve had since I was eight years old. This started my love for cats, as I feel like they are extremely intelligent animals with senses humans may not have. Therefore, I was originally pretty excited when the placement of the stray cats came into Big Machine. When I started reading the scene in Murder’s basement, I originally predicted that the cats would act as an angelic figure that came to Ricky in his time of need to help him. Ricky describes his interaction with the cat stating, “Then I bent my left arm, and the tips of my fingers brushed the bottom of the bobtail, but the cat didn’t flutter, so I left my fingers there. Touching. It felt wonderful” (319). I thought that the cat would be a savior or at least sit with Ricky until he gathered strength to move. When Ricky began to see another cat that was an exact duplicate of the first one, I thought this was going to be a good omen that would help give him strength. Boy was I wrong!
After my total surprise and disgust when the cats began to eat Ricky’s leg, I did some research on the legends of cats around the world, because in my eyes there was no way that an angelic, sweet, little cat would want to eat someone’s soul! I found a site that described the Buddhist legend that cats are “basically urns for human souls.” The article states, “A certain sect of Buddhism once practiced in the former kingdoms of Siam and Burma believed that when you die, if you’re holy enough, your soul is transferred to a cat for safekeeping.” This sounds like a more peaceful and optimistic way of a cat embodying a human soul. I feel as though the cats that try to eat Ricky’s soul in the basement represent something greater. In legends, cats have always been mystical beings that represent something bigger. Whether its bad luck, the concept that they have nine lives, or the fact that, as the article says, feast upon newborn babies, cats have always been mysterious, as they definitely keep that trait through Big Machine.
It is through these cats creating a near-death experience that forced Ricky to come to terms with the mistakes that he has made in the past and make a promise to himself for the future. This experience allowed Ricky to think back to when his father almost left him and his experience with Gayle’s abortion. After coming to terms with his life, Ricky finally has the courage to utter the words “I’m sorry,” to the universe in an attempt to reconcile with people in his past. Ricky then finds catharsis and the strength to finally move and get outside into the rain, where he drinks from a puddle.
Perhaps the cats represent something deeper in Ricky’s subconscious. When reading, I viewed the cats as a representation of the guilt Ricky feels that eats away at his soul. However, it was not until the cats came and truly begin to eat away at him that he felt his soul deteriorating and gained the strength to move. To be quite honest, I have a hard time believing that the cats were evil in this situation and not just because I have a soft spot for cats. Of course, the imagery in this scene was gruesome and difficult to read without cringing, but I think this situation is exactly what Ricky needed to change his life. So were the cats really just feral cats, or a higher power sent to help Ricky reach the epiphany he needed to change his life?