Chasing Red in My Dreams is Like Following His Smell
By Marc (in Switzerland)
I have a few different kinds of dreams involving cats. The most obvious ones are the anxiety ones where I am trying to protect my cats. I remember dreaming about our 2 cats in Canada being in a building that was for some reason not a safe place to be and I had to get them out of the building.
It was incredibly stressful and there was the element of not being able to catch a cat when you need to. Those are my worst anxiety dreams, the ones that involve my cats. Then there are the dreams of cats who I miss or who are gone from my life. 3 of them. Gigi in Canada, still alive, Red, and Pepi in Slovenia who one day never came home. I remember dreaming that Pepi was in the forest with me and somehow he was always just out of my reach above my head and I couldn’t get to him.
He was also crying out for me in this dream which is unusual. My subconscious must have a lot to do with it. Obviously, I am assuming he was taken against his will. Gigi in Canada has come up for me in many dreams. Either it’s just me and her and I am doing things in my dream but I am always concerned about her. I think I just miss her so much that when I see her in a dream I want to spend all the time with her but I have other things to do so I rush back to see her whenever possible in the dream.
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Once I dreamed of both Gigi in Canada and her sister Molly – they were with lots of other cats and they seemed to be having a wonderful time and although I desperately wanted to be close to them I realised that I should just leave them be with all their cat friends and not bring them with me. They were in some sort of cat paradise 🙂 .
The dreams about Red (a special cat I loved and lost) come up in many rather sad ways – like I said – where I see him and it’s so wonderful to see him and he looks young; like when he was about 3 months old, and it always happens in all my cat dreams that there are other things I must tend to.
These things are always the catalyst for it going wrong. Nothing specific, just everyday things I must do but then I find myself desperately searching for Red. I search for him for the rest of the dream in all kinds of places often meeting other cats along the way and even being fooled for a second by another orange cat who turns out not to be him etc. and I always have this awful feeling that I have lost him.
Funnily enough, it’s totally about me and I seem to know it because I have the feeling he is around near me, like he was where I am a short time before, but I have always just missed him.
His presence is there but I can’t actually find him again. It’s sad with these 3 cats who are not physically in my life anymore because both in real life and in the dream I miss them terribly. Like Elisa I don’t want the dream to end because it’s so wonderful to be with them and see them again and it’s very real.
The most recent cat dream I had was very strange. It involved many cats who I don’t associate with anyone in particular but the situation was that I was trying to protect them from the outside world. The place was my house where I lived in London and I am full of this great fear that one of them will end up out of the house and garden and somewhere in the streets which are dangerous. Somehow it feels like there are all these dangerous forces around and I am trying to protect them.
The thing that strikes me the most about cat dreams is how real it is to see the cat. I really feel like I saw Red and I can still feel that moment and see it clearly from each dream of him. When I dream of people its completely different. A lot more abstract – totally abstract sometimes but when I dream about cats the whole thing is very clear and real and simple, in a place that’s normal.
It quite overwhelming just because I’m always so excited to see Gigi or Red, just as I would be in real life I suppose. I get so excited. With Gigi I don’t end up on an endless search but with Red I do.
It’s as though everything just carried on as normal when I see him but I get distracted from him for a second and then he is gone. It’s like his schedule is totally natural but I’m the one who lost the plot. Nothing bad has happened to him – he is fine, it’s me who is not fine and who then desperately needs to find him. Those dreams are very intense because it’s like I’m filled with the feeling of suddenly being with him again, and then I am filled with the feeling that he is gone for ever and all that’s left is his echo or energy and I chase it and chase him but he is always ‘just gone’ – I have just missed him. It’s so close, just missed him, but so far, I’ve missed him and it’s forever.
The thing that made me incredibly sad when Red died was thinking how he had left his scent everywhere, and in the days or even weeks after he died, his smell was still in those places, and perhaps to another cat he was very much alive by the presence of his smell in his territory, but that smell would soon fade away until there was no more trace of him. It’s a strange sort of thing that his existence fade away like that. I wonder if another cat could still smell him from something around that still holds his smell. Chasing him in the dream is like following his smell. It’s so real that he feels so close but that is clouded by the feeling that he will never come back.
For me dreams about cats are very much more real than other nonsense dreams. Most of the dreams are fairly obvious and derive from my subconscious and are based in reality. Clearly Red is still very close to me, or it has not been very long. Whereas, when I dream of Canada Gigi I am able to let her go more easily although I feel the same excitement when I actually see her.
It took me a long time to get over leaving Gigi behind in Canada. It would have been over the top selfish to bring her here at the time. I think my dreams about Red will take a long long time to calm down a bit so that when he comes and goes in a dream I am not left with a huge feeling of emptiness. I haven’t dreamed specifically about my other cats. I mean I have dreamed of ‘my current cats’ but they are different colors and kinds of cats who are ‘my cats’ in the dream. I wonder if things could work the other way around and I meet a cat on the street who I spent time with in a dream. Now that would be freaky.
Marc I hope I’m not too late with my comment as I would like you to see it. Ive already read one of your articles about Red and you have definitely captured his beautiful spirit.
6 months is an awfully short space of time after such a loss so I can totally understand why you still feel connected to Red in your dreams and also why you have this acute feeling of longing to see him again; to me its all perfectly natural especially as he went from your life so quickly and too soon.
I really feel that what you are experiencing is part of the grieving process a sort of reluctance to accept that they really have left you so in your dreams you feel that if you can just find him and hang onto him nothing will have changed and you will be together again.
I’m sure you don’t want to hear from anyone especially me that they have felt the same or (no one can understand how you felt and still feel about Red except you) had similar dreams however when I lost my darling Benji who had been with me for 17 years I had dreams that he was back with me and that he was ok (he died of renal failure) I dreamt I had taken him to the vets and they ‘made him better’ I longed with all my heart at the time to be able to run my fingers though his thick coat and kiss the top of his head one more time, I dreamt that I’d found him in the oddest of places where in real life he would be scared and confused yet he was well and confident, happy even.
Even with my cats now I dream that my house has somehow changed into a cat unfriendly one or even that we have moved house into one that isn’t secure for them.
I think when we love our cat companions we experience insecurities about them because we love them so much and are fearful about what could happen to them likewise when they pass I still think we feel this way; our subconscious wants to know they are happy and not searching for us as we are for them.
Marc I really feel that you are looking for a sign that Red and your other cats are ok and at this early stage the loss of Red is still raw for you however with time I’m sure this feeling will ease.
Marc I was fascinated reading this article, you write as you talk and from your heart too and that holds the reader’s attention I think, as it’s so natural.
I enjoy reading this sort of writing better than a set format type of writing.
I feel I know Gigi and Red better now and I feel your ache of longing for your dreams to be real life.
It’s hard waking to up reality!
I love the picture Michael has put too, very ethereal.
I always go on about Red and I know maybe that gets a bit boring. It was only half a year ago that he was here with me so I guess I have a long way to go before he is no longer at the forefront of my mind. But thank you for your understanding. – and for putting up with the lack of sentence structure and spelling!
Yes – you are exactly right Ruth, it’s “hard waking up to reality” in those cases.
Well, Marc, I took the liberty of converting your article-length comment into an article. I think I works very nicely.
I really do hope you don’t mind. There is a deep poignancy about your stories that is so raw and real.
I have tried in a simple way to illustrate the post. I like it. It is meant to convey the feeling of a lost cat companion being there but out of reach; never to be held again but loved deeply.
Background picture for collage by jurvetson.
That’s totally fine Michael – you did warn me 🙂 – shame I can’t write without sounding a bit jumbled when I get going – but I just re-reread it and it seemed alright. I think Elisa’s article is really interesting and I can really relate to the ‘nature of the dream being so real’ part of it – and the effect of my therefore never wanting it to end. When I dream about people I am not even sure exactly who they are usually. They might ‘represent’ somebody I know- same with the places – they represent somewhere I lived. But when dream about cats it’s as clear as day. I can see all the details around me, the light hitting ground, the plants – and like Elisa it’s almost always somewhere natural and beautiful and outside. And of course I know exactly which cat’s I’m dreaming about and I’m even reminded of little things about them I had forgotten. Seeing Red at 3 or 4 months old he was much skinnier looking and had his kitten airs about him.
I guess it is all constructed from the subconscious but there is a simple and obvious conclusion therefore: that the relationship I have with my cats is very much more intense and real and it has fed my subconscious to great extents and this means the dreams are the way they are. My memory of Red’s little ways and quirks is very detailed and extended. I do not have the same contact with people and could never dream like this about a person. I’m sure it has everything to do with me and how I live my life and how I spend time with my cats. One irony is your title for the article.
In the dream I don’t smell him, it’s more like I feel the result of having smelled him without smelling him. I’m sure when a cat smells another cat’s scent on a tree or wherever, some kind of image or picture of the unknown cat must formulate in the mind of the cat who has doing the smelling. That’s the weird thing about the dream. It’s like he is so close I can almost see him – but he’s already gone, he’s passed that point already and I am just sensing or smelling or whatever – the remnants of his energy. That’s why it’s so incredibly hard not to keep on chasing after him in the dream. I feel like he must be near if I just carry on I’ll find him.
Thank you. You write in a fast stream of consciousness. It is straight from thought to paper. This is good in many ways because it flows and is very real and personal. People like that. I chose the title from one of your sentences because it had a poetic quality and it made sense to me. It indicated that Red is close and real in your dreams but just out of reach. That is what makes it a good read.
You have a very connected relationship with your cats. That is interesting too. It is a topic we don’t discuss. Millions of people keep cats. Each person has a different level of connection with their cat(s). We don’t see this. It can show in how the cats are treated etc. but not entirely because you can only do so much physically for a cat. It is the emotional connection that is almost invisible and so important. This is how people end up being able to truly communicate with their cat companions and have a highly rewarding relationship.