Monday, November 4, 2013

Eulogy For My Cat

My cat died.  She was sixteen years old.  Her name was AJ.  She had belonged to an ex-boyfriend of mine.  When I met her she was just a little thing.  A little ball of gray fur and big green eyes.  When I was done having sex with my then-lover, he left the room.  She came over to me and I picked her up and held her to my chest.  We stared into each other’s eyes for the longest time, neither looking away.  I had heard if you did this with a cat they became yours forever, but that it was rare.  I don’t know who looked away first, but we were both hooked.  When he left to go to jail or something he asked me to take her and I did.  Then he asked me to bring her to his kids, and I did.  It hurt to let her go, but she was theirs.  Several days later I was asked to pick her up and she’s been mine ever since.  That was sixteen years ago. 

AJ used to fly around the room when she was a kitten.  She’d get a running start and then bounce off the walls.  It was hilarious to watch.  She slept with me every night.  She would climb up my legs and sit on my shoulder when she was just a baby, and a little older. 

AJ moved with me every time I found a new place to live.  I always let her outside a couple days after moving because she loved being outdoors.  She was a hunter and a sun-baby, although she loved to sit under my hostas in the afternoon sun.  She disappeared a couple times, but she always came back.  This last move she spent two weeks at a neighbor’s house with her two girls.  I had no idea until my next door neighbor came to me after a walk and told me where she was.  They had named her Madonna (which was an appropriate name for her) and fed her wet food.  Their mom was very willing to give my girl back to me, but I told myself if she went back there I was going to let her stay.  She never did, but I didn’t want to hold her back from what she wanted. 

She loved it outside and would cry to be out all the time except for the winter.  Then she would get all squirrely sometimes from being in the house so long.  She liked to climb and we would find her peeking out of the neighbor’s pontoon boat, or scaling the roof of their house.  She would sit up there and look out over us, and once they moved away she would look into their windows at what, we didn’t know, but there must have been birds or rodents or something in there.  A couple times I had to coax her out of trees, not because she couldn’t come down on her own, but because I was afraid she would get stuck. 

She used to love riding in the car when she was younger.  She’d lie down in the back window and yowl.  I’d yowl with her.  She definitely had part of my soul and I had hers.  Every once in a while she would give me a little kiss on my cheek or chin.  It was hardly an everyday occurrence and whenever it happened I felt like I had just won something.  It was like she was saying that she loved me and I was ok by her standards. 

AJ taught me how to speak cat.  She had a beautiful big mouth and sometimes we would meow back and forth to each other, getting louder and louder until either she or I would soft meow and quiet it down.  Anyone with a talker cat knows what I’m talking about.  I wish I had gotten video of her voice because even though I can imitate her pretty well, it’s not the same when she doesn’t answer back.  It was also hard to get a good photo of her because she would squint her eyes at me, but I got a few and I’m glad.  I got a video of her in the catnip I grew for her last year.  Glad about that too. 

She never got big.  She always looked like a kitten – small and thin.  For a couple summers she bulked up and got muscular, but I think the hunting was good in those years. 

AJ was an upstairs cat.  She didn’t get along well with one of our dogs, so to keep her safe we installed a gate and gave her the run of the upstairs – no dogs allowed.  The bathroom was her private dining room and every morning she woke us up with her loud meows before she even got off the bed, letting us know that she was hungry and wanted food NOW.  I would meow back at her and then tell her to “c’mon, we’ll get some food for ya.”  She was definitely a creature of habit and had us do everything we could to keep those habits, and we loved her for it. 

She was allergic to the red dye in cat food.  We had to spend more money for better food but she felt better for it so it was worth it. 

She tolerated Cal and Sky, but loved Jack (gone now for several years), Toby, and Bella. 

When I would lie on my back she would crawl up on to my chest and bump my chin with her head.  She slept on the bed on a pillow between us.  She would lick my boyfriend’s hair.  At first it annoyed him, but they grew so close and I think it was her way of letting him know that he was accepted.  I also think she liked the salt.  She would purr so loudly that I called her my little percolator.  Such a big sound from such a small kitty.  Many nights after I had fallen asleep on my side, I would wake up to find her sleeping on top of me, between my arm and hip.  She fit so perfectly there.  I loved to wake up in the middle of the night and see her silhouetted against the night sky.  She was beautiful in profile, and when she was like that, looking out at the night, it made me wonder what she saw, what she thought. 

She listened to me laugh and cry.  She listened to me rant and she allowed me to love her more than any other cat I have ever loved.  She was my best friend. 

When she was miffed with something or someone, or if she was tracking a bird or squirrel, her tail would whip back and forth.  She loved to do this at night, on her pillow and hit our heads if we weren’t paying attention to her.   

AJ had claws that wouldn’t retract.  They weren’t out super far or anything like that; they were just always there when you picked her up.  She didn’t mean to dig (you knew it when she did).  When we lived in the rental house it had a side yard and it was full of moles.  One day I looked out and saw her playing with them.  She literally threw them into the air and hit them like you would a baseball.  It was hilarious until she ate one.  I don’t think she ever ate another one after that.  They did not agree with her tender tummy.  When I moved into that place and let her out she disappeared and I called and cried for her and eventually she came home and I hugged her and held her and didn’t scold her.  I wish this was one of those times.   

My last morning with AJ was Tuesday, August 6, 2013.  I had gotten ready for work and was heading to the bedroom door to go downstairs.  I turned around and decided to pull the blankets up over the pillows.  AJ was on my boyfriend’s side of the bed, lying down.  I pulled up my side and went over to the other side.  I picked her up, pulled the blankets up, then set her down again.  Usually she’ll jump from the bed but she lay back down and I scratched her head and gave her a kiss.  I told her I would see her later. 

I can’t talk about what happened because it is tragic and violent and not something I think she thought through carefully enough.  Looking back on the past week I can see now that she was planning it.  Call me crazy if you want, but she was a smart cat.  She was getting old and her body was hurting.  I saw it in her walk, in her unsteadiness, in her frailty.  She was still my kitten, but my old kitten.  She never sat in the driveway.  If she did, she would get up and wander away when the car pulled in.  The last week she just stared down the car.  She was waiting for the hit.  I think she thought it would be quick.   

I picture her on my dad’s knee, him sitting at our kitchen table at the old house.  Every morning he would have his coffee and she would lie on his leg while he sat and smoked.  I think of that now, and immediately after she died, I know she is with him, that he is holding her now.  That she’s purring and talking to him now instead of me.  And he’s answering her.  Not like I did, but with words cause he’ll know what she’s saying.  I want to talk to her one last time.  I want to hold her one last time and not let go, not let her out of the house, out of my sight. 

Over the last several weeks as I have looked back over our time together I realize that after all the time I thought I was a dog person I am actually a cat person.  She has given us so many memories, good ones, that will probably ruin us for another cat.