Our cats are members of our family. They’re not merely pets, we value them for the wonderful little people that they are. They understand everything we ever say to them, but us dumb primates never hear anything more than “meow meow meow.” So we have a special voice for each of them that we use to hold entire conversations with them (but really on their behalf). Kind of like this;
You probably think that I’m a crazy cat lady, but I’ve found that most cat owners feel much the same way about their pets.
We dress them up for Halloween
They are in our family portraits
But one of the hardest parts of loving these little people is knowing their life expectancy isn’t anywhere near the length of ours. So we have to go through the terrible sadness of losing them. And though loss is a normal part of the human experience – of life itself – it doesn’t make it any easier when a much-loved member of your family is gone.
Our sweet kitty Bailey died at 16 years old in 2011. She lived a long life, and her health deteriorated quickly in the end so we were bracing for the inevitable. When we decided to have her put down (because she was suffering), the vet said that she was riddled with cancer as well. So it was with heavy hearts that we said goodbye to Bailey.
In 2013 our handsome boy Zeke died of a sudden and shocking heart attack at the age of 10. Thankfully, he was at home when he died, sparing us the weeks and months of trying to find him and wondering what happened to him. Even though he was much too young and without any outward sign of illness, we were able to say our goodbyes, and move on with grieving his tragic loss.
In 2014, we welcomed a sweet Siamese boy into our lives, Wolverine. Wolvie was a loving bundle of energy, but after only 6 months with us a cougar changed all that. We don’t think that the cougar spotted behind our house killed him, but it sure spooked him. After Wolvie vanished we had weeks of sightings of our kitty boy, and were just a few steps behind him. Once the weather turned bad the sightings came to a grinding halt, so he must be in someone’s home now. We continue to poster the neighbourhood and keep ads online and in the local paper, but it has been 2.5 months since he disappeared. And so we’re dealing with his loss, though still hopeful of a reunion.
Our cats have brought us a lot of joy but eventually a lot of pain. Each of us is trying to deal with these losses in our own way; Jake misses the joys they brought and is deafened by the thunderous silence in their absence; my daughters both have had too many losses in their 6 and 8 years of life, but they continue to be interminable fountains of love; I struggle with embracing that there are lessons to be learned and even joy in loss. I hope that we continue to love our future cats as family members, rather than insulating ourselves from the eventual pain of their loss. If it’s true that it is “better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all” then we need to stay open to all the joys that love will bring: even knowing that loss is a part of it. We all need to make this journey of healing together. Thankfully, our tabby girl Maggie is ever ready to remind us that even through cancer, cougars and cardiomyopathy that nothing is as great as sitting on a wolverine pelt on the floor.