A cat-shaped hole in your life.
May 15, 2016 8:00 PM   Subscribe

The appropriate weight of grief. Author Michael Zadoorian on the loss of a beloved cat.
posted by bitmage (54 comments total) 67 users marked this as a favorite
This is lovely.

Bongo looks like my former stripey cat, who died in 2011 and about whom I still worry that I failed in his old age. We kept him alive longer than we should have, out of selfishness and denial, and I feel so guilty about it. He also died one week before I left the only job I had ever had since college for a much fancier one. Losing a furry friend + a huge career transition definitely amplified the grief. It was a long time before I could consider another cat. I have another cat now. He is a psycho kitty and I love him but I still miss his dignified ice cream-loving gentle predecessor.

Sometimes when he would chirp at me, I would just meow back to him, copying the way he said it, then he would meow back, then I would copy that. We could go on for quite awhile. Most cats don’t seem to like when humans imitate them, but he seemed amused by it.

Aww. I used to do this with my late cat too.
posted by thereemix at 8:17 PM on May 15, 2016 [11 favorites]

How much is a grown man allowed to grieve for a small, incredibly affectionate, inquisitive, playful, talkative Mackerel tabby?

posted by Coaticass at 8:19 PM on May 15, 2016 [57 favorites]

Oh... damn it, now I'm misty all over again for my Fritzie. He was the best, most loyal cat ever, my bedmate and companion for 14 years. When I was sick for 3 months after the spider bite incident, ʜᴇ.ᴅɪᴅ.ɴᴏᴛ.ʟᴇᴀᴠᴇ.ᴍʏ.Sɪᴅᴇ. He even, somehow. made the other humans bring his food to him next to my bed. Even to the end, if I went to the bathroom, he'd jump up on the sink next to the john and gently headbutt me, as if to say "pay attention to me" The day I took him to the vet, I lifted him up to his favorite perch one last time.

My favorite memory of him is how he would curl his tail around himself, like a perfect little gentleman.

So excuse my while I go sob a while.
posted by pjern at 8:23 PM on May 15, 2016 [33 favorites]

I can't read this, my 15 year old cat is knocking on kitty heaven's door. :(
posted by cj_ at 8:48 PM on May 15, 2016 [3 favorites]

This hurt.

We lost our little Kaos a few months ago. It's too painful even now to write about, except that it still feels like a struggle just to go through the day without her. She was the boss of our house, constantly keeping us on task, providing commentary on every action. Her particular skill was the possessive cuddle - without regard for what anyone else was doing, she would mount an assault on your chest, clambering up to settle herself comfortably with her head shoved under your chin, purring so hard it could be heard in the next room. You'd go to sleep with her planted securely on top of you, be bullied out of bed when she wanted a thing (it would never exactly be clear what the thing was), and wake up with her pinning your chest or hip to the bed.

It's so hard to be here without her, and I don't really care if that's not 'appropriate'. I loved her and I always will.
posted by prismatic7 at 8:49 PM on May 15, 2016 [19 favorites]

This was really hard for me to read.

Nine days ago I lost Philo, a grumpy, frequently antisocial dude who was part of my life for the entirety of the 21st century (plus a few months).

Although I lived with him longer than I have lived with anyone or anything other than my parents, many visitors to my home during those 17 years may (quite justifiably) have had some doubts as to his existence, what with his whole “fuck off and leave me alone” attitude toward most people who weren’t, well, me.

That attitude of his generally manifested in near-instantaneous disappearance as soon as anyone else came into my home (though he did eventually warm up to my wife, but only after several years), leading more than one cat sitter to refer to him as "the lump under the covers."

He shows up a lot in things I write, but usually only tangentially, the way any part of everydayness tends to show up (food, rooms, books, trees, wheelbarrows)—never the focus, but always an essential component of context.

I miss that motherfucker.
posted by dersins at 8:53 PM on May 15, 2016 [17 favorites]

I still miss my Smoke. She was my best buddy -- she slept curled against my stomach every night, supervised everything I did, and refused to leave my side during a horrid couple of weeks when I was desperately trying to move out of the apartment I shared with my ex. (That ex tried to convince me that he should keep her, but during that couple of weeks, every time he tried to pet her she'd hiss and run to me. He gave up after she clawed his hand hard enough to draw blood, then curled up on my lap and glared at him. She was a Good Kitty.)
posted by sarcasticah at 8:55 PM on May 15, 2016 [34 favorites]

Damnit. Emotions.

But thank you for posting this.
posted by maupuia at 8:55 PM on May 15, 2016 [4 favorites]

This is a fitting send off for Bongo.

As miswired as it might seem, when I need to cry - because sometimes you need to, but the thing causing the need doesn't pierce quite enough - I fast-forward to that awful day when I will have to take my little princess prow-prow to the veterinarian for the last time.

Perhaps by living it again and again in advance of it happening, the happening itself will be less debilitating. But I don't think so. Grief is love without a home, and each love has its own special colours and textures. New colours and textures manifest for new companions, but there will always be that old set of curves, that particular consistency and hue, that will be floating bodiless next to you forever. And I feel sick thinking about it.
posted by turbid dahlia at 9:09 PM on May 15, 2016 [21 favorites]

I have a pair of older cats that have been with me for most of my adult life. They're in good health now, but I'm about to spend a year abroad. They're going to stay with family.

I'm actually kind of dreading leaving them behind. I've had to part with them for a few months at a time before, but each time, they're a little older - and I don't want to be gone if something happens.

I've lost beloved pets before, but this is different. I think because these are the first cats that were truly mine, and who have been with me through some very big changes. I feel a lot of responsibility toward them.

Also, I'm pretty sure I'm going to have a hard time finding a new cat this cute.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 9:17 PM on May 15, 2016 [4 favorites]

I lost my sweet Little Feet this past December. I cried over cleaning out the litter box too. And today I cried again because the towel I wrapped her in to take to the vet for the last time was still in my car (and yes, I still couldn't bear to take it inside where it might get mixed in the laundry or used for something else so in the car it stayed).

And now I'm laying in bed crying again. Nothing wrong with that at all.
posted by MultiFaceted at 9:18 PM on May 15, 2016 [7 favorites]

I feel bad for this guy - losing a companion sucks, whether animal or human. Fortunately for me, I'm the owner of an immortal cat that will never ever ever die don't you dare suggest otherwise.
posted by um at 9:25 PM on May 15, 2016 [12 favorites]

Oh, oh. It's the middle of the night here, and I woke up suddenly to my empty apartment and this article. About two months back, I lost my overly-attached little guy very suddenly and very young (he'd be almost three now). He was a very serious and thoughtful little guy (you can see a few kitten photos on my profile page), and his loss is a constant hole in my life that, while I'm getting better at navigating around, I still step into with horrible frequency. And, along with the loss, there is also guilt (although the vet assured me that it was a freak medical condition that couldn't be predicted) and the sort of shame that Zadoorian describes -- that my grief over a little animal who was deeply suspicious of everyone but me, annoyingly willful about jumping on work projects, overly fond of biting, and endearingly determined about everything he did is somehow too deep and going on too long in a world with bigger concerns -- that just makes it worse. It's a complicated stupid wretched knot, this business of loving such a fragile thing, but I won't say it wasn't worth it, and maybe the stab of loss is a record of the happiness before; which is what I'm telling myself, crying again at 2am.
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:07 PM on May 15, 2016 [19 favorites]

One more thing -- I put a note on my profile page a little after he died, and some Mefites noticed and sent me very nice messages of support, and excepting the long text sessions with a dear friend who is practically a professional at cat-mourning, those may have been the most helpful thing for me. Thanks for doing that; it was literally the best.
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:19 PM on May 15, 2016 [6 favorites]

Oh, bless this thread, and bless you lovely brave Mefites for sharing your hurt and your love. In some small way I feel less heartbroken to know that there were little beasts who were loved and are remembered.
posted by prismatic7 at 11:48 PM on May 15, 2016 [4 favorites]

-How when I held him, he would wrap his arms around me and hold his head tight against my neck. I’ve never known a cat that would actually hug you.

My first cat Monty, who died eight years ago, did exactly that. He was a stray that had been hanging around my parents' garden and the first time I saw him when we were deciding whether or not to take him in, I picked him up and he put his arms around my neck.

And from that moment on he was my cat, always near or on top of me when I was home. It hurt a lot when he died.
posted by MartinWisse at 12:24 AM on May 16, 2016 [6 favorites]

Years ago, when I finally forced myself to do the right and compassionate thing for Bo, my cat friend of 13 years, I wondered briefly if perhaps I should go with him. It seemed wrong to let him go into whatever lay beyond this life without my being there with and for him. I didn't, because I had another cat to care for in this life. And my belief in another life was already waning, anyway.

Some years after that, the family lost a beautiful Blue Heeler, Archie. I'd found him hurt in a ditch outside the homestead, and once again I had to make that terrible choice to release him from further suffering. I was inconsolable for a year.

Some of the biggest holes I've ever fallen into have been dog- or cat-shaped holes. And I have never given the tiniest single fuck about how others perceive me for that.

“The reality is that you will grieve forever. You will not ‘get over’ the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it. You will heal and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again but you will never be the same. Nor should you be the same nor would you want to.”
― Elisabeth Kübler-Ross
posted by bryon at 12:26 AM on May 16, 2016 [7 favorites]

Very difficult to read -- we lost our little Cosette girl in January, right after the holidays. Our little guy, Herbie, still frequently looks for her in the closet. It's the middle of May now, and my partner and I still can't talk about the loss without one of us crying still.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 2:48 AM on May 16, 2016 [3 favorites]

What's worse is not knowing. I still have dreams about Panther (here he is asleep on my belly). My girlfriend saw him drinking water from a puddle one day - she opened the door and he ran in. He was unbelievably affectionate, and often had the air of someone having a bad trip at a music festival who just needed a hug.

The problem was his former owner, a man who lived in a block of flats across the road from our house. We'd had a few odd encounters with him even before we took the cat in. Every now and again the cat would go back to him late at night - he'd generally come back of his own accord half an hour later, but a few times the guy left the cat outside our house. Once though I saw him try to throw the cat over a 10ft wall - Panther just about caught the top of the wall.

One night Panther went out for his usual 30 minute stroll and never came back. A few days later we were walking home at 2am and saw the guy (he didn't see us) - my girlfriend wanted to confront him but he looked pretty agitated so I persuaded her this was a bad idea. He started a fire on the street and started throwing whatever he could find on it. After a few minutes the police turned up.

That was in November and we haven't seen him since. After posting a missing notice on Facebook I was contacted by the guy's ex-girlfriend - she warned me to stay away from and said he was violent and unpredictable. Apparently when she broke with him he threw all the furniture out the window. He'd spoken about getting rid of the cat several times. Unfortunately the obvious conclusion is that he killed the cat.
posted by kersplunk at 3:04 AM on May 16, 2016 [2 favorites]

Here's something I wrote once about how profoundly affected and somewhat ashamed I was grieving the sudden loss of my cat.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 3:07 AM on May 16, 2016 [5 favorites]

Taxi passed away in March. She was a jerk, but she was the best office cat ever, and she had the world's fluffiest belly. Every morning when I came into work she would trot up to me and flop over, refusing to allow me to pass until I had paid the toll with belly scritches. Her ashes are now on top of a high cabinet, in the spot where she loved to nap every afternoon.
posted by Faint of Butt at 4:16 AM on May 16, 2016 [6 favorites]

After nearly six years, I'm over the grief of losing Zach, but I haven't gotten another cat - partly because my life for a while was a little too chaotic and today is too busy even for that, but also because - nah, I don't wanna replace him.

I've told a couple of other big stories in here - how Zach beat up the vet during one of his last visits, and how his persistent nagging for food is one of the lifelines that pulled me out of my post-9/11 depression - but there are a couple of smaller stories I can tell:

* I have a photo of him in a specific spot on a kitchen wall, right by the corner turning off the hallway in my apartment. That's because that's right over where his food bowl was, but that's also because that's right near where he used to sit in the mornings - right bang in the middle of the hallway, right in everyone's way when we were bustling back and forth getting ready for work. He'd sit there, just staring into the middle distance, absolutely not caring that he was tripping us up and in our way, and I think the little putz enjoyed that.

* At one of our old apartments, he would meet me at the door every day when I came home. For a while, one of my neighbors directly opposite the hall had a Pomeranian, and one day when she and I came home at the same time she let the dog off its leash and it zoomed upstairs ahead of her, knowing where to go; it kept pace with me, and so it was there when I opened my apartment and it saw Zach there. They both checked each other out, nose-to-nose a moment, and then - Zach slunk around behind my legs and peered out at it again, like a two-year-old peering out from behind its mother.

* I often sleep on my side, with one of my arms flung out straight in front of me. There were a lot of mornings when Zach would come in and jump up on the bed and give my hand some head-butts, and I'd start scratching him between the ears - and then he would flop down on the bed himself, his head nestled in my hand, and his back stretched along my arm, his occasionally twitching tail the only movement he'd make while we both dozed off.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:35 AM on May 16, 2016 [8 favorites]

I lost Drusilla nearly two weeks ago and I keep getting ripped apart internally by these spasms of grief. She was 18, had a great life, but the cancer was making her so tired & weak at the end, I felt horrible it was taking me so long to come to the inevitable. We found a home vet for the procedure and while holding her as she died was the hardest thing I've ever had to do, I'm glad I did.

It hurts profoundly in ways I didn't anticipate. Not seeing her downstairs in the mornings, yowling at me for some undisclosed offence, not seeing her rally despite her illness when I would come in the door from work, just small bright bits of her that I will miss forever. She was part of a set that made the journey all the way with me from the US to Canada, a pair that I adopted when I was but 21 and feckless. Her brother died not too long ago after I got here, but I took comfort in the fact she was still here. Now she isn't. I've lost one of my oldest friends and I wish she were here still. But she was sick and she had to rest. I don't regret the decision I made but I miss her badly.
posted by Kitteh at 4:39 AM on May 16, 2016 [12 favorites]

Oh man. The other cat took me out to GRID SEARCH the yard, sniffing. She made a meow at me that was a sound I had never heard a cat say. I was crucified with grief.
posted by thelonius at 5:47 AM on May 16, 2016 [6 favorites]

As someone who works in a veterinary hospital, I find myself regularly counseling people about grieving for their pets. It makes me sad that I need to reassure people that yes, it is normal for them to feel immense grief for the loss of a pet, and yes, other people might not understand it but that doesn't mean anything.

Some people are real asshole prescriptivists about how much grief is "appropriate" when someone loses a pet (I have heard people tell someone IN THE ROOM AS THEIR PET IS BEING EUTHANIZED that they can "just get another" and "it's only a cat, get a grip"). Grief is grief, and it's perfectly normal and acceptable to grieve as much as you need to for the loss of a pet, just as it is for the loss of any other loved one. It's OK if you don't understand that, but don't be a jerk about it.

(this is good)
posted by biscotti at 6:07 AM on May 16, 2016 [10 favorites]

I had to have Mina put to sleep three weeks ago. I knew she was winding down for a while; sleeping more (even for a cat), less inclined to climb up on things, less cuddly. She curled up on my lap a lot toward the end while I was watching TV or whatever, but she didn't snuggle or purr, usually. She just slept. The last time I saw her really seem happy was just a few days earlier, when I fed her a little fresh grass. She always liked to nibble on plants, and in healthier days the beginning of spring meant she would bolt outside to chew up the lawn. Now she licked blades of grass from my palm, purring loudly as she ground them in her teeth. It's the last time I heard her purr, so I'm glad I got to hear it, and I'm glad she had a few moments of joy.

When we took her to the vet, I didn't expect the very nice young woman who had been playing with Mina just a few minutes earlier to calmly suggest euthanasia. I didn't realize that what was going on was anywhere near that bad. But the layers of denial wore away, and late that night, I authorized them to let her go.

I was as devastated as I ever had been. Mina was a stray. I had been dealing poorly with the death of a loved one for about a year and a half when I got her. Mina appeared in my path one day and adopted me. I had been living alone. I wasn't ever lonely or crazy enough to believe Mina was literally my friend come back to me. But she did in a way fill that void. She provided love and friendship. And putting her to sleep put me back in the arms of a demon I hadn't known for ten years. I thought that demon was gone, or had at least lost track of my whereabouts. It was a bad few days.

My apartment is quieter without her. Small, house-settling noises often sound like her gentle step to me, and I look and expect to see her approach; other times, from the corner of my eye I'll see a boot or a towel I left in a weird place some hurried morning and my mind will resolve the image into Mina, curled up asleep in that spot. There is no question in my mind that she was put to sleep at the right time, and that more life would have meant much more suffering for her than anything else, anything good. The only reason to keep her alive would have been selfishness, and I am not a monster in that way. So no regrets. But I miss her.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 6:47 AM on May 16, 2016 [15 favorites]

In the last 5 years I've lost my mother, both my 15 year old dogs and and tweezer, my 22 year old cat. People avoid me because they think I'm gonna lose it all over them. I won't of course. Every death of a loved one culls the emotions. What's left is a transient serenity. Accepting inevitability.
posted by judson at 7:31 AM on May 16, 2016 [2 favorites]

It's been five years since I lost Harry and Murray, and Maynard the year before that, and it's all still too much to bear sometimes. Harry visits me in my dreams once in a while; it always makes me feel a little better to think he still keeps an eye on me.

The world's oldest cat recently passed away, just a few days after the Guinness Book of World Records acknowledged him as such. He was 30 years old.
posted by briank at 8:03 AM on May 16, 2016 [2 favorites]

Having a friend - with all the emotional intimacy the title carries - of a completely other species wil never be short of a fantastical, miraculous gift. 'Just a cat' may be a thing (that's an argument for another time) but none of these are just a cats. They're friends who we share love and in-jokes with cats. And dogs. And bunnies, rats, birds, etc.

The disappointment is when other people can't get that, when it's something even a cat can understand.
posted by Fantods at 8:20 AM on May 16, 2016 [9 favorites]

Screw anyone policing grief. Christ on a crutch - we invest the little goobers with so much affection and care (and they us). At least those of us with an animal lover's heart. In the last 4 years, I've lost the pair of cats I got when I first came to LA (So long Mark and Rita) and my wife's first dog (Toby the terrier) and yeah, they're "just animals", but I'm sitting here tearing up because they were my animals and we were their people.
posted by drewbage1847 at 8:44 AM on May 16, 2016 [6 favorites]

As miswired as it might seem, when I need to cry - because sometimes you need to, but the thing causing the need doesn't pierce quite enough - I fast-forward to that awful day when I will have to take my little princess prow-prow to the veterinarian for the last time.

Oh my god, I'm so relieved not to be the only person who does this. I too think of it as a kind of practice, because otherwise I know I will either dissociate to a regrettable degree (as I have with traumatic human deaths), or else just fail to function.

I was actually in that mood this morning; everything is wrong, and scary, and I can feel that I am skirting the edge of another long depression, and a beloved and lovely fur friend (not mine, but a relative's) had to be put down, but I just could not cry. Fortunately this article did the trick.

of course when I, weeping, went to hug my own cat, the unsentimental little thing promptly said the cat version of HELL NAW and fucked off to another windowsill. god I love that cat.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 8:49 AM on May 16, 2016 [9 favorites]

I hadn't cried since I was 10-11, but when my 19-year old tabby, whom I'd had since just out of kittenhood, died little over a year ago, I was a wreck for a week. I would devolve into those long, wracking sobs that seem to have no end - I'd be fevered and sweaty, and exhausted. I had, honestly, forgotten what it was like to feel that way. I'd known his diagnosis for over a year, so I knew, intellectually, that his loss would affect me drastically, but I had no idea until I was in the middle of it. I, unfortunately, had some people give me the 'it's just a cat' thing.

I study languages and religions as a hobby, but am not religious myself. Still, religious writing can be as powerful and moving as any work, and when I finally got his remains back, I made sure that there was a slip of paper in the receptacle with a particularly relevant passage from second book of Samuel, third verse, here in the New American Standard translation:

"But the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb Which he bought and nourished; And it grew up together with him and his children. It would eat of his bread and drink of his cup and lie in his bosom, And was like a daughter to him."

If anyone dismisses your grief, please, please, do not sock them in the jaw, even if you really feel like it.
posted by eclectist at 9:10 AM on May 16, 2016 [6 favorites]

So about two, two-and-a-half years ago, I got out of a horrible relationship and left behind two cats that I miss to this day. I took with me the one cat I entered the relationship with, and set up in a new apartment. I still have that cat (little Midnight is around ten years and still going strong), but she got lonely, I presumed, so I got her a friend.

I searched through the animal rescue sites until I found a little grey guy who had been found in the woods with an abscess on his butt and an ingrown eyelid. When he was found, he was so sick and malnourished, they didn't know if he would live, and once he showed he would, he still had troubles, because nobody wanted to adopt a poor, sick kitty, despite the fact that he was the world's friendliest gentleman.

I know from reading the posting that that was my new cat, so I loaded up the carrier and went out with the new (wonderful! amazing!) girlfriend to go pick him up. From moment number one, he was friendly and loving, and it was just great from then on. I even kept his name - Lancelot - because it seemed to suit him so well.

Last year, we decided to finally get his teeth fixed, because they were pretty awful after a lifetime of neglect. We threw down the couple thou for the procedure happily, because it would make him more comfortable, right? But in doing the bloodwork for pre-op, we discovered that he had pretty poor kidney function, to the point where he probably had some form of kidney disease. In point of fact, he had kidney disease that you don't normally see in what we thought was a 5-7 year cat - more like in a 10-12 year cat.

Suddenly we were looking at having roughly half the amount of time we'd expected with our little guy and yeah, we cried over that. We still happily paid for the surgery, because he needed it, of course. We put him on meds and new food for the kidney disease, but were determined to make the best of it.

Well, either the new meds or the new food didn't agree with him, we thought, so we brought him into the vet to discuss things. During that inspection, the vet found a lump in his midsection. From there, to the specialist, to the cancer diagnosis was honestly a blur. We were told we'd be lucky to have him last the holidays. We had to go away during Christmas, so we had him boarded at the vet, and I don't know that I've ever felt so guilty. If I had it to do again, I'd probably have cancelled my trips.

He lived for a while still, but getting worse all the time. We had a few scares where we thought we'd hit the end, but an evening of rehydration returned him to his happy normal, and we didn't want to call it quits before trying every reasonable solution. Nobody wanted to prolong anything, but if an overnight rehydration could give him another couple good weeks or a month, well, who were we to deny?

Finally, we reached a point where another overnight vet visit would have just been too much stress, too much for a cat at the end. We brought him in, put him down, and went home and just cried our hearts out.

He's the second cat I've had to put down, and I think I did far better by him than by the first one, who I didn't notice was sick until she probably felt awful. I still grieve for them both, but yeah, I like to think that the reason I grieve is because it reminds me so much of the great times we had.

We still have two cats in the house, and I think that helps you get past the sharp, stabbing period of grief faster. An empty house after a death, I can't even imagine how to face that. Having a furball or two to curl up with and weep... That helped a lot.
posted by Imperfect at 9:41 AM on May 16, 2016 [4 favorites]

I ha my sweet girl Bob for almost 18 years. She was awesome and when she died my wife and I were just shattered.

We lasted about 6 or 7 weeks before we fell in love with a pair of rescues. I love them very much -- and really enjoy the degree they "picked" us; one is very much my wife's cat, and the other shadows me like a puppy -- but there will always be a Bob-shaped hole in my heart.
posted by uberchet at 10:12 AM on May 16, 2016 [2 favorites]

I wrote two songs for my cat Einstein when he was on his way out. Taking him in to get him euthanized was probably the hardest thing I've ever had to do.
posted by valrus at 10:46 AM on May 16, 2016

I could have really used this article when Kitty Michaels passed nearly four years ago. I still get weepy now. The author here touches on many things my therapist taught me. We have no control over the size of our grief. She also encouraged me to write down everything I could remember about him and I did that somewhere. I'll try to find the link and share it once I stop being weepy.
posted by Joey Michaels at 11:18 AM on May 16, 2016

Between this post and the recent one on the green by a MeFite seeking help with names for two shelter buddies they just brought home (a 1-year-old who walks on his elbows, and his 15-year-old tabby protector) ... well, my feelings abound.

The hardest times of day for me, as a person with depression, are waking up and getting home from work. After I had to say goodbye to a cat (something I've done twice now), they became even more of a reminder of isolation, of the fact that there was nobody there with me. Another friend who, like me, is single and lives alone summed it up by saying: "You need something else with a pulse in the house."
posted by virago at 11:27 AM on May 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

I like stories that acknowledge pet loss because it is still not very real to a lot of people. Maybe those people just don't understand just what a special friendship pets and people can have. "It's just a (fill in the blank)" is so hurtful.

We buried our budgie that passed away a few months ago yesterday. We had to wait for the ground to thaw and every time I saw the Ziploc container in the freezer I felt so much loss. Mel came to us as a second hand bird with a giant tumour and we gave her the best home we could. I felt bad that she died in winter - and that if I had uncovered the bird cage at their usual time, I might have seen her alive one last time. I really wish she could have passed away now with everything green and wild roses in bloom.
posted by Calzephyr at 11:33 AM on May 16, 2016 [2 favorites]

I lost my Mr. Giles at the beginning of December. He was 18 years old.

I adopted him against the advice of the shelter staff ("Oh, you don't want that one, he bites.") when I was reeling from my MS diagnosis and, shortly thereafter, the unexpected end of my first marriage.

And he did bite me a couple of times, but I didn't care. Mr. Giles was my very own Watcher during that worst year and a half of my life, and there's no real way to explain how much he meant to me. His company and comfort was essential, and he loved me when I felt I was irreparably damaged.

Once I started dating again, he hated every single person I brought home--he once came into the kitchen, took one look at the guy who was at the table with me, squatted and defecated on the kitchen floor, and walked calmly back out of the kitchen with his head high--but when I met the man who would eventually become my current husband, Giles loved him immediately.

Hercule Purrr-ot came along at the end of January. My husband and I volunteer for a cat rescue, and via them we learned that Hercule needed a home. He's FeLV positive, so he's unlikely to live very long. His lymph nodes are already quite swollen, and there's evidence that the virus is damaging his kidneys. He doesn't seem to notice and goes about his daily business of snuggling, playing, napping, and eating as though nothing were amiss.

We knew we were setting ourselves up for heartbreak, and when he dies it will be horrible. But he'll be loved and protected every day he has left.

I think Mr. Giles would approve.
posted by jesourie at 2:12 PM on May 16, 2016 [5 favorites]

I can't make it through the remainder of this thread, but I will definitely be holding my sweet Ginger just a little tighter tonight when she curls up next to me.
posted by bologna on wry at 3:12 PM on May 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

Oh, man. My gorgeous little Kokopelli --- the only cat I have ever owned! --- is only a year old, so God willing I have the better part of two decades to share with him, but realizing that one day he will sicken and I will probably end up holding him as he dies is enough to make tears well up in my eyes. But he's worth all the sadness which will surely come nonetheless.
posted by jackbishop at 3:21 PM on May 16, 2016

Did anyone notice his list of masculine authors who loved cats is full of men who had sex with men? Is that a clever hidden argument for how masculinity is a sham? Is this winking at the audience or is this piece more "cynically" written than I first believed?
posted by forgettable at 5:19 PM on May 16, 2016

Aspen is my first pet that I remember. He has a habit of standing guard when I'm in the bathroom, showering, or outside my bedroom when I'm not around, something a friend noticed when they picked up sone stuff from my house when I had to stay overnight at a hospital--there was Aspen, standing guard outside my room, when they came into the apartment. (The hospital was annoying. Apparently cats are somehow not sufficiently sterile.)

I have given much though to what may happen a few years from now, given that he is now almost 7. I have come to the following conclusion.

He will sacrifice himself saving me from an assassin travelling back in time from the future. Anything else still seems impossible to me.
posted by qcubed at 5:43 PM on May 16, 2016

Eh. Maybe I shouldn't have read this at work.

I have what many would consider an inappropriate amount of grief for a cat.
No one gets to define your grief but you.

This is particularly hard hitting right now. All of out cats have kidney disease. One has hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and one likely has cancer. We have three cats, Squish, 15, Jacob, 16 and Amelia, 18. All are still crazy and kittenish. I've had Squish since the day he was born. My gf has had hers almost as long. All three have kidney disease, but all have significantly improved due to the attention we pay to their diets and nutritional supplements (the vet was astonished and how improved their kidney function is, especially at their ages).

Jake is the sweetest boy ever. He likes to give hugs and kisses. He wants nothing more than to be physically attached to my girlfriend at all times. And if she's unavailable, I make a fine surrogate. He'll just lay on you, gazing into your eyes, cooing and purring.

The vet thinks Jake has bone cancer in his jaw. He's got a big lump on his chin. He can't close his mouth. We're getting an xray done this week, but we're terrified of the sedation. And even more terrified of the treatment/surgery. Jake is starting to act more and more tired. I can't help but think that we're going to lose him very soon.

15, 16, 18 or however many years is a long time for anyone to be a friend, to share your bed, to be your mid-winter's night body heater, to be your mid-summer's night body heater, to steal your food, to be a sponge for your tears, to be your favorite little jerk, to be loved and loved back.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 5:47 PM on May 16, 2016 [4 favorites]

posted by Cat Pie Hurts
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 5:48 PM on May 16, 2016 [5 favorites]

I came perilously close to putting down one of my cats a couple of months ago (she made a full recovery). This post left me in tears.
posted by oozy rat in a sanitary zoo at 5:50 PM on May 16, 2016

Nope; still can't read this whole thing yet.
posted by yhbc at 5:53 PM on May 16, 2016

Just reading the comments here have me in tears; reading the article would reduce me to a puddle. I hope to have these three snoozers for quite some time.
posted by mogget at 8:16 PM on May 16, 2016

I lost my cat Minnie last month after 21 years together. I'm 32 now, which means she's been by my side during my entire adult life. Losing her is absolutely the hardest thing that I've ever had to go through. There's some small comfort in knowing that I gave her the very best care possible, and that when it was time to go I made the right decision. But it's very, very small.

So I've cried. I cry so much I wonder if I will ever stop crying. I still break down at least once a day, and I'm not sure when or if this feeling will ever go away. She was the very best friend a boy could ask for and I miss her more than I could ever express.

I identify strongly with bryon's comment above about wondering if I should go with her. Her love and companionship literally kept me alive during my worst times over the last ten years. But reading everybody's story tonight makes me glad that I'm still here, and I'm glad that you're still here. Reading your stories hurts, and I'm typing this through a lot of tears--but there's a lot of love in this thread, and that's a beautiful thing. I want to say thanks to each of you for sharing your stories about the gifts you were given by your animal companions. My heart is with you and your sweet boys and girls tonight.

In addition, I'm grateful for this author sharing his feelings and for commenting on the gender norms in play when we express our grief. I'm a man and I'm lucky to have supportive friends who understand the feelings I've had, but many don't. It's important to remember that it's ok for us to be vulnerable, and it's ok to grieve.
posted by soonertbone at 9:18 PM on May 16, 2016 [8 favorites]

This couldn't have been more timely - my best feline companion ever was euthanized the day this article and the incredible set of comments hit Metafilter. I was unprepared for the level of grief I am feeling, and it's a comfort to know I am not alone. Although I do feel more alone than I have in as long as I can remember - my Weasel Kitty and I were best mates for 15 years, and I am going to have to learn a whole new set of life skills to handle navigating this business of living without her supervision and companionship. Thanks to all of you for sharing your stories of love and pain. Love is worth it, but dammit, it hurts.
posted by dorgla at 9:55 PM on May 16, 2016 [4 favorites]

One thing I will say about the "just get another" advice some people give -- they're right, just not for the reasons they think.

Sure, no other cat will replace that particular hole in your life. But that's not why you should get another. You should get another cat because in my experience, the people who are torn up the most when a pet dies are the ones who give the very best lives to their furry friends, and there are all kinds of cats in shelters in need of exactly the love you have to give.

It hurts because you were a great friend and you made your cat's life immeasurably better at the same time they made yours better too, and the moment you feel ready, you should go out and make that same difference in another cat's life. You'll feel better and the cat sure as heck will too.

(Gosh I wanna go adopt another cat. There was just a seizure of kittens from a shitty hoarder house near me and they're just flooding the local shelters. If I weren't still reeling financially from Lancelot's medical costs, I'd probably already have given in.)
posted by Imperfect at 7:37 AM on May 17, 2016 [8 favorites]

My 17-year-old corkscrew-tailed Daisy passed suddenly a little over a week ago, in the early hours of Mother's Day. It was coming, but in the end it was all over so quickly. I have been heartbroken for days, but I am grateful that I got to spend time with her for the first three and last three years of her life. She was my partner's cat, and I had spent the better part of a decade away working, so I was gratified that she seemed to accept me back into the household again after an initial few days of adjustment.

She meant so much to me and I will always miss her. We've buried her next to our other cat, M'Shisha, a 15-year-old who finally found a grumbling truce with Daisy before she went last year. My world is emptier without them in it. We should find another pair of furry little shitheads soon.
posted by northtwilight at 8:26 AM on May 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

She was stingy and sensitive and bad-tempered much of the time, but she reserved her real self, her quiet and her affectionate side, for my partner and me, in that order. She was always vulnerable to her and her world revolved around my girlfriend's life. And I adored that and loved her all the more fiercely for it.

I remember the kitten's wonderment at our ramshackle flyaway beachhouse in White Rock, at the amazing lawn and yard, and how she climbed the huge cedar trunks in the backyard and fought with raccoons, when M'Shisha, our gentle, overweight cat would just as soon chow down with them in harmony.

And later as we all aged we all became this sleeping mass of animals, suddenly fewer last year after the other cat's passing. Daisy and M'Shisha never really got along, but afterwards Daisy cried out for three days, which astonished me. They were gentle souls.
posted by northtwilight at 9:10 AM on May 17, 2016 [2 favorites]

This was my tribute to Kitty Michaels, my best cat ever.
posted by Joey Michaels at 1:43 PM on May 17, 2016 [2 favorites]

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