Death of a Cat
I originally wrote this in late July of 2010 as one of my columns for theNews and Messenger I had titled it “Death of a Cat..” The headline changed to head line to “Writers and thet Cats.” More than one person told me how surprised they were to find out what the writing was really about.
There’s a special relationship between writers and cats, although having a cat doesn’t make one a writer any more than owning a baseball bat makes one a major leaguer. To this day, Ernest Hemingway’s home in Key West has about 60 cats, some of them with extra toes. We have always had at least one cat since we set up housekeeping nearly 37 years ago. They have been a succession of domestic short hairs with the exception of the first one, Poco, a fiery-tempered Siamese who was a little too much for us. They had, by and large, a succession of names ending in “O,” and most of those names pertained to music. There was Mickey, Gizmo, Alamo, Largo, Arco and the current two, Nacho and Trio.
I should say the current one since Trio, a grand dame of a calico, passed on this week. She was about a month over twenty-one years, which made her roughly 106 in human terms. She had a good life and a long one. There was no question who the alpha cat was when she was in the house. She was low-maintenance in a cat sort of way, visiting us and climbing on Becky’s lap as she grew older. Her coat and eyes were bright right up until the very end.
Even late in life when she was deaf and apparently arthritic although she was capable of jumping to the top of a six-foot-fence from a sitting position. The two cats intertwined themselves in our lives, begging for scraps from the table, sleeping on our bed (or anywhere else they wanted), sitting by patiently as we read or wrote or played the piano or watched television.
She was sent on her way as most older pets are, by a rather sudden kidney failure. We had been out of town for several days, with a relative and friend to look in on our cats in our absence. Our friend called to say she could not find Trio on Thursday and that she seemed to be ill. Our nephew Josh came over that evening and found her. She appeared to be all right. When we got home the next day, she was weak and barely able to stand. We took her to Prince William Animal Hospital, where Dr. Teresa Brown and her colleagues and staff have taken wonderful care of our cats as long as we’ve had them. Dr. Brown made the diagnosis of kidney failure and started us on a course of treatment. Trio revived somewhat but not enough. She lasted one more day.
Up until the end she loved to lie in the sun in the back yard, even on the hottest days.
People who have faithful pets know the pain of loss when one dies. We tell ourselves it’s just an animal, but that thought cannot assuage the real grief we feel on their passing. Knowing that we have given them a good and comfortable life, particularly if they are a rescue animal, lessens our sorrow somewhat. I’ve noticed the phenomenon I’ve experienced with deaths of people, of expecting to see them in familiar places. In this case, I expect to see a calico cat in the warmest (or coolest) place in the house or calling for food or begging from the table.
I believe we all have our roles to play in life. Trio’s role was to be a constant presence, a bundle of idiosyncrasies that cats are. She was a serious cat, and a good one.
Emily Dickinson had it right: “Because I could not stop for Death, He kindly stopped for me.” Into our lives that are filled with all kinds of activities and busy-ness come reminders of the basics: births, graduations, birthdays, holidays and deaths. We can learn much from cats, from how they patiently wait and watch, how they are faithful and undemanding.
As I was digging the hole for her grave, a song came into my mind, an unexpected song since it ce
lebrates the wonder of life. Maybe it was a reminder that life goes on in spite of loss.
All things bright and beautiful
All creatures great and small
All things wide and wonderful
The Lord God made them all.
Good-bye, Trio. Rest in peace.