I lost a good friend today. She wasn’t a pet, I’m not sure any cat is a pet. We might be their pets, but the nature of the relationship cannot be defined as “petness”. Megan was a Queen, and she knew it. She tolerated us for about 18 years. She died suddenly in my lap.
Because cats and dogs have so much shorter lives, we experience a lot of “pet grief”. It doesn’t get easier, but it does get familiar. For so long they have been a part of our lives. The unconditional love, the forgiveness of being ignored, the amazingly weird things that they were caught doing. Stories about our pets keep their memories alive.
Meg was a typical cat, she assumed everyone loved her, and they did. She tolerated a belly rub for a few minutes, but would soon depart if it continued. Not a big fan of anyone touching her ears, but loved a rump and tail stroke. And of course, the under the chin scratch. For the last four or five years she moved from my lap, to snuggling under my beard, with her back to my neck. If I left her alone she might stay that way for a few hours. Naturally I had to be reclined in my chair.
She hated her litter box, and would demand to be let outside. We were good with this during the daylight, but the coyote population made letting her out in the evening problematic. If I went for my evening snack in the kitchen, she would be right there, looking out the glass door to the patio, vocalizing. I’ve been told that this type of vocalizing is strictly for humans. I certainly knew what she was saying, and it wasn’t very nice.
When I finished, I would turn off the light, while she was still sitting there, staring off into the night. I would walk back to my recliner, and before I could sit down, I could see her “zoftique” form padding across the wood floor, heading to the fireplace ledge behind my chair. This was necessary because she didn’t like “the floor to chair” leap all at once. I would barely have time for the lap blanket before she would jump on my lap. Most times I would have to pick her up to arrange the blanket under her, and that was difficult because she had her claws out, kneading my thighs.
Two minutes before she was “cat cussing” me, and now it was all forgiven, giving me three or four licks on my arm or hand. Not a big licker, sometimes the nose for two licks if you were face to face. Then she would settle in. If you happened to be reading or looking at your iPad, she knew that was rude, so she would work her way to get between you and the media. It took a great deal of effort to ignore her by moving the book around, she would just counter the move with one of her own.
She had her quirks, and they were specific to people. Sherry would often have a glass of water on the table near the couch. Megan would demand to drink from it. She had her own bowl of fresh cool water on the kitchen floor, but she noticed that no one drank from it, so she didn’t either. Sherry got in the habit of bringing two glasses of water to the table. Sherry even placed a water glass on the kitchen floor. Megan preferred crystal over plastic.
All of my children have Megan stories. Maybe Amy has the most, because of her “cat dancing” videos. Megan was very tolerant, and good with children.
We were fortunate to not have a lengthy sickness, Megan didn’t suffered from cat leukemia. She did have a lump, or growth in her throat that was quite large a few years ago. We even had it checked out, and the surgery was very intensive, and expensive. Megan took care of that on her own, and it started shrinking pretty quickly. It was still there if you searched for it, but it didn’t bother her.
I believe she must have suffered a stroke, or possible a heart attack. She actually fell over in my lap, and appeared to be dizzy. Then several sharp pains caused her to complain loudly, almost as if her tail was caught in a door. Then she stooped breathing for about 30 seconds. I didn’t move her, and I was hoping this was just a temporarily thing. It was so fast.
She even purred while I was calming her down. Her eyes were dilated and unresponsive, but she was still purring until her breathing stopped again. Maybe this repeated four or five times until she was still. She had died in my arms.
The night before, it had started raining about ten, and I had forgotten to put away some tools from earlier that day. While I had left the back door open, she darted out in to the hard rain. I didn’t think she would like it, so I held the door open to call her in. Megan didn’t answer to “kitty kitty”, she never did, we always had to say “meow, meow”. Even that wasn’t a guarantee.
She had gone into the gloom, and I had fears that a wet, cold coyote would have her for a late dinner. I shut the door and went to the refrigerator for a snack, and when I walked back, there she was, pacing to get in. I went over to the door and opened it expecting a wet confused cat to race for her food dish. Instead she turned left, refusing the open door, and went around the side of the house. Perhaps she remembered the cat litter inside, and decided she had business elsewhere.
Now, she was truly gone and it was raining so hard that it was impossible to follow. I went to the back porch, thinking she would get out of the rain under the awning. A few minutes later I went downstairs to the front porch to see if she ducked in there. Each time I did my “meow, meow”, wondering what the neighbors might think. No luck, she probably was out hunting. In the last week she had brought two “presents” for us to dispose.
Around 12:00 midnight I heard a “meow”. I made a fast descent down the stairs to the front door. She wasn’t there, it was still raining. I made a few low “meows” but no luck. Then I thought maybe I didn’t hear correctly so I headed for the kitchen door. I went upstairs, I repeated my cat call, but nothing happened. I even gave the door a second opening, but there was only the rain falling.
Walking back to my chair I heard one more “meow”, I went back down the stairs, opened the door and walked a few steps out into the rain. Nothing! Where was she? Feeling defeated, I walked back up the stairs, to check the kitchen door one more time.
I think as soon as the light came on, she ran from her shelter, to pace back and forth behind the door. I couldn’t get there fast enough. Sure enough, once opened, she made a rush for her food dish, and I left her there, relieved, to head for my chair. The same standard routine then occurred, like thousands of times before, she was already there on the fireplace, ready to jump in my lap. Her food would still be there later. She was a frequent snacker. More important to find a lap.
This is the process of grieving, to tell tales of the one you have lost. To laugh at their unique character, to smile at their forgiveness and loving nature,