You were a back-seat stray kitten that some unknown person either tossed or gently placed in the back seat of my friend’s car. She’d left her car windows open which afforded the perfect opportunity for your getting dumped.
In rather a nice way because you certainly didn’t look like a stray. You were the tiniest kitten with the most adorable face. I can still hear my friend’s voice over the phone.
She said: “You’ll never guess what I’ve got! Come and see.”
I’d never had a long-haired cat before and bringing you home was pretty much a done deal from the moment I laid my eyes on you. Which my friend knew.
After all, what are friends for?
There you sat on a table top with your magnificent tail wrapped around your body. I immediately thought: she’s French! How I knew that I’ll never know, but your name became Meusette.
My son called you Fluffy.
You hated to be picked up. But, when the day was over and I was hunkered down in bed with a book, you’d come find me.
Sixteen years ago, my son was nine years old. I was still teaching high school English. Today, my son is a few months shy of being 26 years old. And I haven’t been an English teacher in a good long time.
You were always an inside cat and over the years, you’d find various places throughout the house to hang out. Your favorite place to eat was up on the kitchen counter, right next to the sink.
One of your favorite places to nap was up on top of the kitchen cabinet. You’d have to leap from the floor up to the counter top then up to the top of the refrigerator up to the cabinet top. Which you accomplished with a ballerina’s grace – excuse me – with a cat’s athletic style and grace.
Must be the ballerina
stole borrowed that from you.
When you were five or six years old, you developed wicked allergies and the only way to keep them in check was to give you steroid shots on a regular basis. The challenge was always getting you into the cat carrier – you hated that carrier with a passion.
My son and I would have to mount a stealth campaign to trick you. Which never worked. You were much too smart to be tricked.
Somewhere along the way, we found out that you had a heart murmur. It didn’t seem to slow you down. It was a notation on your chart that the vet and I would periodically talk about.
This past year and a half, you started to show your age. Nothing alarmingly different, just the subtle nuances of elder cat that cat owners intuitively know to watch for.
The times between your steroid shots became closer together. I started keeping a close watch on your weight. You were always a small cat – never really weighing more than 12 pounds. And, with all of that hair, it was hard to tell if you were losing weight.
During the past eight months or so, your weight would fluctuate between 8-9 pounds. Tiny. You were a feisty little wench.
Over the past three-four months, I had the sense that things were off kilter with you. You were occasionally missing the litter box, you’d hide for long periods of time; some days you’d be off your food.
And, more recently, you’d stopped grooming yourself. Your beautiful fur was riddled with knots.
I’d haul you off to the vet for what I began to call your “well check ups.” Just to have someone with a more experienced eye take a look at you.
Two nights ago your breathing changed. It sounded crackle -y and your eye started to run. Last night, the crackle-y sounds were slightly more pronounced and that sound woke me up at 1AM and again at 3:30AM.
I had a feeling that you and I were reaching the end of our journey together.
This morning, I called the vet’s office to tell them that you and I would be coming in. You were underneath the bed – almost hard to reach. Without too much protest from you, my husband was able to reach in and gently pull you out.
I had the suitcase-style cat carrier open and ready for you. That carrier must be more than 40 years old. I brought it with me when I moved up here more than 30 years ago, and it was old then.
It was such a pretty morning. Blue skies and warm enough for me to wear a heavy sweater instead of a winter coat.
The vet figured out pretty quickly that you were in the beginnings of congestive heart failure. That the crackle-y breathing sounds were the fluid in your lungs that had started to bubble out of your very dainty (small) pink nose.
And what was different in just 24 hours was a huge raised area underneath your left eye with some bleeding on the thin lower eye lid of that same eye.
Like most cats, you were pretty damn stoic about the pain thing. It’s always been really hard to figure out the timing when it comes to this. But, you’d been ignoring food for almost 48 hours and hiding out – really hiding out – except for last night.
Your snuffling nose and yucky breathing became my next red flag that your systems were shutting down.
And, this morning, it was our time to say good-bye. You were given a sedative first so that you’d slip into a sleeping state and then we waited, you and I, for you to really fall asleep.
You never knew when you were given that final shot – the one that would stop your heart from beating. And, the last you felt were my hands skimming over your body.
When I knew you were physically gone, I rubbed your body with a small hand towel that I’d brought with me. I had to capture your scent – the smell of you no longer living – to take home so that the other two cats and the three dogs could smell that you were dead.
When I came in the back door, up the steps into the kitchen with the now empty cat carrier, I had dogs and cats all over me, waiting for you to come out. I didn’t say anything, because what could I possibly say to them?
The proof of your death was in that hand towel.
I left it draped over the top of the cat carrier and left the carrier sitting on the dining room floor for most of the day. The thing about animals? They didn’t need all day to process your death. As soon as they put their noses to that towel, they knew.
I’ve spent most of the day bumping into the silence of the spaces that you used to frequent. The energy in the house feels lessened because you’re not here.
You didn’t suffer for too long of a time. At least, that’s my hope. And, soon, you’ll be home. I’ll go back to the vet’s office in a week or so to pick up your ashes.
Maybe, on a warm, sun-shiny June afternoon, when the neighborhood’s quiet enough to hear the wind in the trees, I’ll bring you outside and find a secluded spot in the garden to bury you. I’ve always suspected that you’d be a hell of a bird
killer stalker … might be time to finally let you try. [gplus count=”true” size=”Medium” ]