Ode to Zoe



Zoe, I always thought your name was a little unusual

but that it was suitable for a cat who was not the usual kind.

I could not determine if you were strange to me because

of your breed or because of your life experience.

Long of leg, large of body, small in head – your were not

the cat we photographed often. Your stare was unsettling.



I knew you when you belonged to your previous owners,

a beast barely tolerated by some, and you busied yourself

staying out of the way of dogs and scratching leather furniture.

When your claws were removed, and you could not defend yourself

they were afraid to let you outdoors. You were famous for

filling the litter box all too quickly, and making loud noises in the night.



You came to us when others became allergic. We took you

in for love of them and not out of love for you. I don’t

think you loved us. I knew you when you were overweight,

and your hair came out in great clumps. I knew you when

you chewed yourself bloody where the fleas congregated.

You didn’t look at us very often, you didn’t look happy.



But for all your mess, things we had to wash up, scrape off

and deodorize, for all the times when you fought the other

cat and left fur all over the room (you both were gray and we

could not tell who had won), we began to love you. You stopped

eating desperately and became slim. Your fur became soft

and easy to pet. And you watched us differently.



You learned to go through the cat door, to love the outside

and to run to the sound of your automatic feeder. Your favorite

place was on the man where he was soft and warm and you purred.

The man gave you special food and doted on you. You made loud

noises looking for him, often in the night when you were lonely.

I loved that you went outside and no longer used the litter box.



You no longer needed to look out for the other cat (she died)

and you relaxed and all the space became yours. You only ran from

the vacuum cleaner and small children. You and the man became

very much alike, with your routines and the places you camped

out as you watched television and napped. You were all the animal

we had and I guardedly say that we enjoyed you most of the time.



Today, you are gone. I am sad, but especially the man is missing you.

Feeling that you may have had a terrible fright at the end and violence.

We would not have chosen that for you but neither would have had you

be ill and lingering and miserable. As I said, you were never impressive

for your looks and not much photographed. But you were loved and

part of our family, even though your stare was still a bit unsettling.


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.