The final, poignant chapter in a trilogy of bestselling true stories about a floppy-eared Scottish Fold named Norton
Peter Gethers was a confirmed cat hater until the day he received a six-week-old kitten as a gift. Walking the streets of New York with Norton tucked into his pocket, Gethers began forming an intense attachment to his new pet. Before long Norton was flying with his owner on the Concorde to Europe, sipping milk in Parisian cafés, and eating custom-made pounce pizzas at Spago. Soon Gethers began to detail Norton’s adventures in print, and with The Cat Who Went to Paris and A Cat Abroad the duo made history as well as many, many friends around the world.
The Cat Who’ll Live Forever chronicles the latest in Norton’s astonishing adventures, celebrity encounters, and worldwide excursions, culminating in his heartwarming¯and heartbreaking¯final cross-country trip. The first half of this book will have you smiling and laughing as Norton changes the lives of the Italian owners of a thirteenth-century abbey in Sicily, attends movie premiers with Sir Anthony Hopkins in the chic Hamptons, and relaxes at the dog run in Greenwich Village’s Washington Square Park. But as Norton gets older his schedule slows down and he struggles with the aches and pains and physical inconveniences that go along with age, teaching his human the essentials of loving and caring and coping with illness. Ultimately Norton passes along to his owner the most valuable lessons of all¯how to deal with death and grief, how to live life on your own terms, and how to appreciate and savor the joyful times that come along while we’re here on earth.
The Cat Who’ll Live Forever is, on one level, a touching meditation on love and relationships and dealing with the pain of inevitable loss. Above all, it is a deeply moving and life-affirming tribute to a humble little animal who never let stardom go to his head and always understood the meaning of true friendship.
About the Author
Peter Gethers has spent much of the last ten years chronicling the life of his extraordinary cat. When he has some free time, he's also a novelist, publisher, and screenwriter. Under the pseudonym Russell Andrews, he has written the bestselling thrillers Gideon and Icarus. He lives in New York City, Sag Harbor, and, luckily, Sicily.
Read an Excerpt
A Cat Rethought
Ever since I made the decision to write this, the third book about my gray, floppy-eared Scottish Fold pal, Norton, I have been trying to decide exactly how to begin.
That very human, very non-cat-like flaw called over-thinking settled in all too quickly, and, as a result, more and more time passed while I sat, stared into space, and didn't type. This book would, I thought, for many reasons, be somewhat different from the others and there were distinct choices that had to be made. Each choice would clearly alter style, tone and philosophy, if I can be pretentious enough to suggest that the books about my cat actually have a philosophy (and, please, don't worry; believe me, I know enough to understand that I'm writing something much closer to Tuesdays With Norton than I am to Meowing and Nothingness).
My first instinct was to begin like this:
One of the reasons I became a writer is because using words the way I do is as close as I can get to putting some kind of order in this rather crazy world of ours.
I was then going to go on and describe that one of the things in life that drives me most crazy is the way the English language is constantly mangled. As always, this is an area in which we should learn from the feline way of doing things. Cats have a way of speaking that is direct and unmistakably clear. Their words might all be the same but the meanings behind them are just a tad less ambiguous than human-speak. There is no mistaking a meow that means "feed me" for one that means "scratch my stomach." Has anyone who has been owned by a cat for any length of time ever confused an "it's nice sitting by the fire" meow for one that says "let me out" or "sorry, there's no way I'm going to the vet?" The answer's no. Of course, not only is cat body language less inhibited than ours, cats tend to speak in commands, which does make life easier, at least for them. The only question I can come up with that a cat might ask is, "Are you okay?" And, if you're not, the follow-up meow is usually another directive: "Here, shove over so I can snuggle up to you and make you feel better." Cats have definitely gotten the act of communication down to an exact science.
But when humans open their mouths, the screw-ups are endless. The constant mis-use of "I" for "me," for example (hint: If you don't wish for me to publicly humiliate you, never say, "Just between you and I" or "Come with Freddy and I" in my presence). And the addition of the word "very" when describing something "unique." That's the same as saying "very one-of-a-kind" which is linguistically impossible. Then there's the fact that no one seems to know what the word "irony" means. It does not mean funny or snide or coincidental or satirical or anything along those lines. If you don't believe me, here's the definition straight from The Random House Dictionary of the English Language: "The use of words to convey a meaning that is the opposite of its literal meaning." If it's raining outside and you say, "Beautiful day, isn't it," that's irony. And the reason this matters to me is that the title of this book is, to a large extent, meant to be ironic, and it's important to understand that going in. Nothing and no one lives forever. Not plants, not people, and most unfortunate of all, not cats. In some ways, "life" itself is the ultimate ironic word because to live means that, eventually, you'll die. And that realization, that experience and understanding, is partly what this book is about.
But only partly.
I'm mainly trying to convey the feeling and the strength that comes from being in contact with a truly amazing life force.
All of which is a long-winded way of explaining why my first choice for an opening didn't make the final cut. That and the fact that irony is not a concept that cats even understand. And although this book is written for humans, since cats can't read (unfortunately for me; if they could there's a reasonable chance I'd be the richest person on earth!), I didn't think it was appropriate to begin with something that went so against their nature.
A second possibility was to go for pure drama. For a long time, this was my intended first sentence:
On the day I moved into my dream apartment, I found out that my cat had cancer.
I'm sure you can see the value of that. I mean, it's definitely a grabber. And, like everything else I've ever written about Norton, it's true. But ultimately, I rejected that, too. Too sad. Too self pitying. Way too cloyingly sentimental. And definitely not what this book is about. Most certainly not what Norton is about. What you're about to read is, I hope, anything but sad. It is not about illness, it is about health. Rather than the trauma of being sick, it is about the satisfaction and the bonds that arise as we age and learn how to care for each otherand learn how to accept that caring from others.
Anyone who has read earlier tales of life with Norton can tell you that I will almost always go for the gagon paper and in lifeand also that I am not a big fan of fake sentiment (several ex-girlfriends would say I'm also not a fan of real sentiment). But I am a fan of genuine emotion and, luckily for me, rarely is that exclusive of laughter. So in no way is this book depressing. It is, I hope, hilarious and joyful and as life affirming as it's possible to be without turning into a Steven Spielberg movie.
In a way, this rambling and over-thinking has actually done what my two initial openings couldn't possibly do. I did manage to bring some order, not just to this book but to my thought process. And, probably more importantly, I realized that, despite what I wrote earlier, the title is not really ironic.
The more I thought about it, the more I realized that in many ways my little gray pal will indeed, live forever. And live exactly the way he'd like to: bringing pleasure and, on occasion, even meaning into other people's lives. I guess that's why, when push came to shove, I realized that what this book really is about is quite simple.
It's about my cat Norton.
Exactly the same as the other two books. And that's why the real opening is as follows:
The wonderful thing about having a relationship with a catone of the many wonderful things about having a relationship with a catis that you never have a clue where that relationship will lead you . . .
A Cat Revisited
The wonderful thing about having a relationship with a catone of the many wonderful things about having a relationship with a catis that you never have a clue where that relationship will lead you. It can, and often does, lead towards love. But it can also lead towards frustration. And sometimes heartache. Or comfort. It can lead towards other relationships, feline as well as human. Sometimes it can lead to all of the abovein various combinations and even at the same time.
That relationship can also bring you to something truly extraordinary and life changing, as has been the case with my extraordinary and life changing Scottish Fold, Norton.
If you've read the many words I've already written about my amazing pal over the years, you won't need to be convinced of his ability to astound. You have already witnessed how he isin no small wayresponsible for my love life, my house, my travels, my professional success, and whatever emotional maturity I've managed to achieve. If you haven't read my rapturous descriptions, here's a little something to chew on (or scratch on, as the case may be) . . .
When we first met book publisher/writer Peter, he was your basic, insensitive oaf. Also a cat hater.
Enter Norton, age 6 weeks, a gift from one of Peter's girlfriends, Cindy.
Cindy goes. Norton stays. Peter becomes so attached to his kitten it borders on insanity (but is also totally deserved). Many other girlfriends come. Many other girlfriends go. Norton clearly has to take things into his own paws if he's ever going to have a stable home life.
Peter has to travel for business. So Norton travels with him. This changes in the years to come. Norton eventually has to travel for business so Peter travels with him. They go to Fire Island (Norton is stunned by how low his owner will sink to get a date for New Year's Eve), California (Norton meets the folks), Vermont (Norton goes cross country skiing), Florida (Norton goes to a spring training baseball game and becomes a huge fan of Andres "El Gato" Gallaraga. He also falls through the roof of a hotel restaurant, scaring two old ladies to death.), There's much time spent in Paris (Norton greets Harrison Ford with a . . . um . . . petit morceau du merd dans le bain. He also scares away a luscious Danish model and goes clubbing with Roman Polanski), and a sojourn to Amsterdam (Norton goes to the taping of a topless Dutch TV quiz showsee, now aren't you sorry you didn't read the first book?!). Peter takes up with Janis, with Norton starring in the crucial matchmaking role of Dolly Levy. Peter buys Norton a house in Sag Harbor. Peter deals with the death of his father. Peter, thanks to you-know-who, finally understands what love is.
And then Peter writes a book called The Cat Who Went to Paris, which is about all of the above, and Norton becomes the Tom Cruise of cats. Also the William Styron of cats, since most true fans of the book are convinced he dictated the whole thing to Peter, who merely used his opposable thumbs to get himself a book contract.
Thanks to Tom . . . uh, Norton . . . Peter gets to spend a year in Provence, observing and chronicling the further adventures of his gray, folded-eared friend. In Europe, a three-star French chef creates a marzipan mouse for Norton's pleasure. The sweetest cat in the world almost starts World War III in Italy over an uneaten sardine. In addition, Norton also: rides a camel (don't ask), goes to Spain, suns himself in Sicily, tours the cathedrals of the Loire valley, skis in the French Alps, visits Anne Frank's house in Amsterdam and, back in southern France, charms the most charming village in the Luberon Valley.
Then it's back home. Which means New York City and Sag Harbor, Long Island.
Peter writes A Cat Abroad. It wins the Nobel Prize, the Pulitzer Prize, and is on the New York Times bestseller list for over 4 years (I just wanted to see if you were paying attention. The first sentence in this paragraph is true. The rest is a slight exaggeration).
In the first book, Peter learned about love from Norton. In the second book, Peter learned about life. Peter decides there will be no third book because he thinks he has nothing left to learn from his cat . . .
We're up to Norton's 10th birthday, which is a little over 8 years ago.
Which is where I left off.
And which is where I'll begin now. And the reason there is a Book #3 is because several years ago, I learned there was indeed one more very important thing I had to learn from my beloved little cat.
Maybe the most important thing of all . . .
An American Cat
Both cat and human had to make a fairly big adjustment to life upon returning to America from a year in the south of France. Norton had to readjust to chowing down on regular cat food (no combo cans of lapin et foie, his very favorite). His dad had to get used to working like a real person again. I also had to realize that I could no longer mutter any snide thing I wanted to in public, since now people could actually understand English.
In other words: we both had to prepare ourselves for being normal again, which was not my favorite situation to be in. Luckily for me, Norton made it very difficult to be absolutely normal.
When I first realized that life was truly going to be different on a permanent basis was when we went on our publicity tour for A Cat Abroad. I had been pretty amazed at the love and affection that had been showered upon my cat when Norton and I traveled together to promote The Cat Who Went to Parisbut that was nothing like this.
One of the first stops was Knoxville, Tennessee. At a Davis-Kidd bookstore, I gave my usual semi-witty speech and reading while Norton calmly sat by my side, in his favorite Sphinx-like pose, looking for all the world like he was my translator. When I was done talking, people lined up, ostensibly to have me sign their books but I'm sorry to say they didn't really care about my signature (or anything else about me). Oh, they were mostly polite, but they were all there to pet and talk to Norton. One man was so jazzed by the experience, he offered me a ticket to the city's biggest yearly event, the University of Tennessee/University of Florida football game, which was taking place the next day. When I thanked him but saidkiddinglythat I couldn't possibly go without my pal because he was a huge Tennessee fan, the man looked at Norton and said, "Hell, I'll get him a ticket, too." I have to say, it was tempting but I finally decided it was better that I stick to the tour schedule than take Norton to drink beer and eat hot dogs and root for UT.
One extremely nice, middle-aged woman came shyly forward when the crowd began to thin. She glanced at me, stared lovingly at you-know-who and said, "I drove over 400 miles to see him." Her tone was even more reverential than her words. It was a lot like she was viewing the front of one of those refrigerators in someone's RV where the grease has coagulated into a vision of the Virgin Mary. It was so touching to see the attachment she had for my cat, I let her spend a few minutes alone with the star of the evening, who was extremely nice, purring contentedly during their chat I don't know what they chatted aboutand I don't think I want to knowbut I can say with certainty that she was not at all disappointed. Afterwards she thanked him, was thoughtful enough to thank me, too, then presumably drove another 400 miles back home.
Exclusive Author Essay
Ten years ago, before I published The Cat Who Went to Paris, if there was one thing I never expected to happen, it’s that my life would become so intertwined with and nearly inseparable from the life of my cat, the wondrous Norton. Now, of course, I can’t imagine my life any other way. Most of the fan mail I’ve received over the years has come to “Norton’s dad” or directly to “Norton Gethers,” and whenever someone seems genuinely excited to meet me, it doesn’t take long before I realize the excitement comes from my connection to you-know-who. I long ago came to the realization that I was living alongside an extraordinary feline and, with that realization, came the additional understanding that he was the star and I was definitely the second banana. Most people who are owned by cats eventually come to that exact same understanding. Cats do tend to dominate their households. It’s just that most people’s second bananadom isn’t quite as public as mine.
Norton’s effect on my life is almost indescribable. In the three books I’ve now written about him, I’ve managed to show the things he did, the amazing directions in which he pointed me, and all sorts of ways he managed to change my life. Somehow, I feel I’ve still missed the point. Or, at least, that more needs to be said. Because although the specifics were wonderful and our adventures were always funny and exciting and loving, there’s definitely something grander that needs to be communicated. Norton didn’t just teach me about various things in life -- he taught me about life itself.
In The Cat Who’ll Live Forever, I talk about how I didn’t think I’d ever write about Norton again. Two books about the little guy were enough, I thought. Besides, what else did I have to say? In The Cat Who Went to Paris, I showed (in addition to all the witty little anecdotes) how my love for my Scottish Fold taught me how to love a real, honest-to-goodness woman and have an actual human-to-human relationship. In the follow-up, A Cat Abroad, I revealed how, thanks to Norton, I changed my life again -- withdrawing a bit from the corporate rat race (please excuse the non-feline expression) and learning to appreciate the freedom that can come with life. So what was left for him to teach me?
It turns out that there was quite a lot.
While I hope that most of The Cat Who’ll Live Forever is funny and entertaining -- that is, after all, what I think a fitting tribute to Norton should be -- there’s no question that the last chunk of the book is sad and tear-inducing (it certainly induced a lot of tears in me while I was writing it; when I finished the last chapter, I guarantee that I had the soggiest computer keyboard on the East Coast). Norton died of cancer -- in my arms, in my bed, the best possible death for both of us -- and he died with dignity and strength and courage. It was the final lesson I learned from him -- that it is indeed possible to die with dignity and strength and courage. It’s possible to die without fear and that, I think, is the best any of us can hope for. So, in one sense, his death was quite wonderful. And comforting. And even inspirational.
But let’s face it: The death of a loved one is sad. It should be sad. It’s healthy that it’s sad, and one of the things I learned from Norton’s death is that crying and grief and all the unpleasant feelings that come with grief are actually okay. They’re necessary. They’re part of life. In fact, in a strange way, they define life -- because they make us appreciate what we have when we have it. There’s a reason boundaries are important (and death is, of course, the ultimate boundary). They provide clarity and definition. And I think just about anyone would agree, if there are two things this kind of crazy world can use, those things would be clarity and definition.
What was most extraordinary about Norton’s death were the amazing reactions to it around the world. I, of course, was devastated. But that was to be expected. I’d spent 16 years with my pal -- almost 24 hours a day for 16 years, because I rarely went anywhere or did anything without him. What was unexpected was how many people were as touched and affected as I was. It was amazing. And wonderful to see.
The first thing that happened was that Norton became the first animal to have an obit in the New York Times. Then People magazine did a special tribute to him. His death was carried on radio stations and newspapers throughout the country. And soon I started getting letters and emails. Thousands of letters and emails. From all over the world. Some people wanted to make sure I was okay (and these were from strangers, remember). Mostly, people wanted to share their own sadness. They told me how much they had loved reading and hearing about Norton and, in some cases, even meeting him on his travels. They told me that Norton hadn’t just changed my life, he’d also changed their lives, and they needed to share their own grief over the fact that such a wonderful being was no longer around.
I guess that’s what I mean when I say that there’s something else that needed to be said about Norton. By the time he was 16, I had come to take for granted that he was special and that, while he was alive, he would always be teaching me things and giving me pure and unsullied joy. What I never knew -- how could one know such a thing? -- is that once he died, once I could no longer touch him, he’d still be able to touch me. And hundreds of thousands of people around the world.
As many of my readers (not to mention my friends) have pointed out to me, I am not the most spiritual person in the world. But Norton did teach me one very important thing about spirituality. It’s that death is not necessarily the end. Oh, it’s the end of some things, no question about it. I’m not one who believes that my cat is cavorting and munching on catnip, peering over a rainbow in some better world. This is the only world I believe in, and there’s no question that I miss those things gone from this world tremendously -- the companionship, the physical touch, the almost eerie understanding and communication between the two of us. That’s what grief is -- grief for animals that have died, grief for humans who have died. It’s all the same and it’s all valid. Grief is missing those day-to-day things upon which we’ve come to depend.
But death is not only about grief. Death is also about memory. And memory keeps things alive. It reminds us of the funny stuff. And the kind and caring moments that occurred. And, as I discovered, when Norton died, when I was so overwhelmed by the responses from his fans, memory also links all of us who are living. It binds us all and -- with no disrespect to the feline world -- it’s what makes us human.
That, ultimately, was Norton’s great gift. His memory. And because of that, I’m still able to laugh and love and I intend to keep laughing and loving as long as possible.
I hope that everyone who’s reading this now or who reads the books about my cat, will keep that gift in mind. And I hope they’ll keep laughing and loving, too. Norton would most definitely approve. (Peter Gethers)
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Wonderful ending to a wonderful series about a remarkable cat.
Does anybody want to talk i am only 14
This third (and last) book on the life of Norton the cat is a must read.
I have read the other Norton books and absolutly fell in love with him. I cried through the last few chapters. However, it isn't a depressing book, it still chronicles Norton's adventures. Great read.
'The Cat Who'll Live Forever tells of the last adventures in Norton's life , the joy of having a cat and caring for it and the sad, part of loosing it. It's a very good read, sad and really moving this is great for anyone who loves cats or someone whose lost a pet
Like the other reviewers, I hadn't read the two previous books about Norton either. Once I started reading 'The Cat Who'll Live Forever', I couldn't put the book down. I quickly grew attached to Norton, and was enjoying all of his antics. It seems that not only were people drawn to this remarkable feline in person, (or is that in cat?) but also they were drawn to him in print. This book pays homage the the life and times of a unique (notice I didn't say VERY unique. The author Peter Gethers explains why that is a gramatical no-no) cat. Word of advice, when you get to the last three chapters, be sure to have a HUGE box of Kleenex near by, you'll need them. When I read that part of the book, I was bawling uncontrolably. I'm in tears now just thiking about it. Norton and Peter were far more than just cat and human. They were best friends and soul-mates. This is one book that you won't be able to forget, and there will never be another cat quite like Norton.
I didn't like to read untill I got this book. It is the best book I have ever read. I have never read any other books that he wrote. It tells you the life and adventures of Norton the perrr-fect cat. He will truley live forever.
I had not read the two previous Norton books but picked this up because I love cats (I have two) and saw an ad for it in a national magazine. It did not take me long to grow attached to Norton and sympathize with his owner. This book is extremely touching (there are times when I read this book on my bus commute and have to fight back the strong emotions) and very well written. Although I have always treated my cats like true family before reading this book, I have a new, and to my surprise, an even more special bond with my cats after reading this book. It teaches you never to take things for granted and always try to give the best life you possibly can for your cat (or any other pet). If you like, love, or even mildly amused by cats, you have to read this book!
Anyone who has read about Norton in Peter Gethers' other books will not be disappointed in this latest book about that unique cat. Mr. Gethers writes with humor and deep-feeling about his pal and the special bond we can have with the cats who adopt us.
The third and final book of the Norton stories was a wonderful read. One appreciates the irony of the title, because Norton does die, but in the hearts and minds of all who have read Mr. Gether's books, Norton will definitely live forever! Would that every cat had the life of Norton!