Eulogy to Grey Kitty

Things change.  Back from a ten day trip, I spent the morning picking up the water bowl, the food bowl, cleaning out the litter pan, putting the towels and sheet used for bedding in the laundry, uncovering the furniture in her “sick” room.  Then I sat alone at my writing table thinking about all the times that sitting there would have guaranteed a cat in my lap within a couple minutes.  I will miss her and she was a good cat.

She came to us as a kitten, found alone by one of my daughters in a city parking lot.  She was very young, very scared and spent the first week hiding under my daughter’s bed.  We weren’t sure if she would make it.  What a way to start.  I think her memory of that contributed to her quietness, her timidity, her reclusive nature.  She grew to tolerate other cats but was never one to initiate friendship or cuddle up to any of them.  She grew to trust some people and be affectionate but that trust had to be earned. The sound of strangers in the house always made her disappear. She would come out from her hiding place when things got quiet again.

her magnificent green eyes and a pretty white bib

her magnificent green eyes and a pretty white bib

When my daughter moved away to school she left Grey Kitty with me, which was fine since I had grown fond of her.  I had inherited another cat from my second daughter and it would have been nice if they had gotten along but they didn’t.  They fought like, well, like cats.  They had both grown up being “only cats” and didn’t want to share their humans.  We had to keep them separated or there were consequences of loud cat growls and tufts of fur everywhere.  Once when we were away they were accidentally shut in the same room.  We found them sitting quietly in opposite corners pretending nothing had happened, but the room told a different story, way different.  I thought they might have gotten it out of their system and become friends, but no.

Grey Kitty was hesitant about all kinds of things.  There was the usual cat maneuver of standing in front of an open door, debating whether or not to go through.  She had the nervous tail tic.  It drove me crazy and I would sometimes pick her up and make the decision for her.  But most of the time, in deference to our friendship, I just waited until she either bolted out or sauntered in the other direction.  I think my willingness to let her be who she was made her like me as much as she did.

She had patience with me as well,  Many times she would come up on my lap and get settled for a good sleep and minutes later I would have to get up to answer the phone.  She had patience in the kitchen. She knew the sound of pans rattling and cans opening and would appear at mealtime.  After circling my feet for several minutes in an attempt to get my attention (trip me) she would sit quietly and look at me with her best stare.  The stare would continue right up through the meal until the husband would relent and give her a small bite of people food.

One day, years ago, I thought I had accidentally killed her.  She was in the garage when I closed the door automatically and turned my back to go into the house.  For some reason she waited until the last second to try leaving and got caught under the door.  When I looked again I could only see the back half of her and the door was down.  She evidently had been crouching low and hadn’t triggered the safety beam.  I slapped the control and ran to get her but she ran out faster than I could get there.  I was pretty worried about her but decided if she could move that fast she probably didn’t have a broken neck.  She was always a little leery of the garage door after that.

As she grew older, she began to be a very picky eater.  Dry cat food was not good enough.  Canned cat food was better, but only certain kinds.  She started losing weight, and her breath smelled awful.   Tests at the vet’s office showed kidney disease, so we tried various brands of special food.  She didn’t like any of them.  Finally, to keep her from starving I let her eat anything she would eat.  She was pitiful, and her soft meow changed into a more raucous sound that was disturbing and insistent.  I think she had nausea.

This story ends as you might suspect by now.  I took GK to my daughter the veterinarian and she and I, compassionately and with tears, euthanized her and laid her to rest.  She served a purpose in my life, as I believe animals were meant to do.  These awesome creatures that God made to share the earth with us make us think, make us love, make us give of ourselves and make us aware that we are not alone.

Now it’s a bit simpler at home – I don’t have to shut the doors to prevent cat fights, I don’t have to search for obscure brands of special food, I don’t have to clean up sick messes.  Simpler, but not necessarily better. I’m just sayin’, she was a good cat and I miss her.

P.S. This is not to be interpreted as a request for another cat.

The Weight of Decision

I love animals.  I am in awe of their endless variety, the ways that they can interact with us humans, the comfort they can give, the lessons they can teach, their surprising intelligence (once we learn how to detect it), and the love and devotion they show. They are enough like us that it is scary at times and I am never more aware of this than when I look into my cat’s eyes.  She meets my gaze and we have a moment of reading each other’s thoughts – or so it seems.

I say “my cat” (and she would probably agree) but in reality she was rescued by my daughter Julia.  As the story goes, she was found wandering in some parking lot in Orlando, Florida as a kitten.  Kittens do not survive well in parking lots, so my daughter, who is a rescuer by nature, brought her home and she became our cat.  She had a few names, however the one that stuck, because it was easy to remember, was Gray Kitty.  Not very imaginative, but it worked.

Years later when Julia moved away to attend veterinary school, she took two of her cats with her but left Gray Kitty with me.  I didn’t mind.  I haven’t seen very many cats that are as beautiful and pleasant to look at as Gray Kitty.  Gray is a nice color to begin with, plus the added attraction of white feet and bib, topped off with white whiskers and brilliant green eyes – there is a pretty cat.  Most of the time her voice was tiny, quiet and responsive.  I would say her name and she would answer.  I would enter the room and she would acknowledge me.  I would pick her up and she would start purring immediately and not stop until I put her down. For a cat, she was sensible and seldom caused trouble or worried me.

Her eyes are really green, not red.
Her eyes are really green, not red.
"I know you guys are eating.  I know you can't ignore me... "
I know you guys are eating. I know you can’t ignore me…

There was a season in my work life when I would come home exhausted every day, barely able to make it to the recliner.  No matter where she was in the house, the sound of the recliner being stretched out would have her in my lap within seconds.  She would get comfy in her feline manner, and settle down for “our nap”.

She learned that kitchen noises were associated with food, for her and for us.  She learned the art of silent begging.  When we would finally sit at the table, she had her spot close by where she could fix her eyes on us and dare us to ignore her.  She loved drinking out of the bathroom sink. She loved being outside.

And now she has gotten old, and don’t I know how that feels!  We have more in common than ever.  But she has also fallen ill with kidney disease.  Her appetite has waned and in the last few weeks she has hardly eaten anything in spite of special food, constantly available.  She is as light as a feather.  Her calls, or cries, have become different and more plaintive.  She often sits or stands in odd places with a dazed look on her face, and sometimes loses her balance.  She is failing.  These kinds of things do not improve.  The pain of seeing her suffer is at war with the pain of deciding to stop her suffering and I feel the weight of decision.  It is heavy.