Regarding my cat and ‘Kangaroo Jack’

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In my life, I’ve gone to the movies with many people. Some of them have been more constant movie partners than others, but among the most loyal wasn’t a person at all, but a grey-and-white cat appropriately dubbed Inky. It all started when our next door neighbors were moving, and they couldn’t take Inky with them. It seemed like he wanted to stay with us anyway, judging by how much time he’d spend in our backyard, hanging out with me and my older sister. Inky’s vendetta against my neighbor’s vases and plates might have been a factor, too.  

Inky moved in with us when I was five, and so was he — in this sense, I struggle to remember a time without him. What I do remember though, in vivid, early 2000s detail, is my “Kangaroo Jack” phase, when I’d find myself mesmerized (Inky, less so) by a rapping, dancing, CGI kangaroo. Even though it featured Christopher Walken, Anthony Anderson and Michael Shannon, it wasn’t exactly my finest film moment. Nevertheless, Inky didn’t judge.

Okay, fine, maybe a little bit.

Those days couldn’t have been that much fun for Inky. If my internal store of energy wasn’t sucked dry by an afternoon of “Kangaroo Jack” viewing, then I would have likely chased him around. Of course, his springy, youthful legs kept him perpetually out of my reach, but being terrorized by a five-year-old is only slightly more dignified than being in any way exposed to a rapping, dancing, CGI kangaroo.

A few years passed, and I outgrew my former favorite film as well as chasing Inky. By then, regular family movie nights began and Inky’s favorite spot in the house had become a rug underneath the living room coffee table, right in front of the TV. If my family was watching a movie there, it’d be a guarantee that he’d join on that rug, too. Sometimes he’d hop on the couch with me and my sister — my mom would voice an obligatory objection about fur getting everywhere, but we all knew she was more than OK with the family pet actually being a part of the family.

I can’t begin to imagine the number of movies that we’ve watched together. His constant presence in the living room has more or less charted my growth as a film fan. By this point, Inky has seen the ebb and flow of my “Star Wars” obsession, most likely witnessed me bawl my eyes out at the end of “A.I. Artificial Intelligence” and seen the beginnings of my Batman fandom, as I devoured the straight-to-DVD comic book adaptations as a high schooler. We’ve both come a long way since talking marsupials.

But all that time takes its toll, and last year Inky couldn’t stay on his rug anymore. As a 19-year-old cat with a stage four kidney disease, his body just couldn’t keep up with him, and he had to stay in the garage where he could reach the litter box easily. His sudden decline in health was particularly tough to process — just last year he was still chasing birds and staving off neighboring cats from his backyard turf. As trips to the cat clinic became more frequent, he stopped watching movies with me.

Last night, my parents made the decision to put Inky to sleep. He had an extraordinarily long life, with few major health issues until the very end, and for that I’m grateful. Still, losing him is acutely difficult — we had practically grown up together, and my love for movies, that thing that drives most of what I do, is also a shared experience with Inky. I find myself regretting chasing him as a child, wishing instead to have drawn him in closer. He won’t be there to see me grow further, as a person and as a film fan. He might’ve cringed at “Kangaroo Jack,” but now I can only imagine how he’d react to my newfound sense of pretension as a film major.

Film is supposed to be the thing that has your back on the days that suck. I have generally found this to be true — the music from “The Last of the Mohicans” has always had the uncanny power to unearth wells of strength that I didn’t know existed. Likewise, rewatching the Guardians of the Galaxy conquer the forces of evil is always reassuring, if for nothing else, the escapism it provides. Marty McFly’s guitar solo in “Back to the Future” never fails to bring a smile to my face.  

But with Inky’s passing, I find that such sentiment falls flat. I can’t think of a movie that would make today suck less, and even if one existed, I would only watch it with that most loyal of movie buddies.

“Cutting Room Floor” columns are one-off, arts-oriented pieces written by Daily Cal staff members.

Contact Harrison Tunggal at [email protected].