On losing my cat Monster

Monster
Monster

As the first light of day stretches across the ground, a sharp and sobering pain shoots through my heart, radiating to the ends of my being. There is no warm, fuzzy, loving cat next to my pillow. Nothing to pet when I wake up. Nothing to brighten the first moments of the day. She is not down drinking water because I’ve taken too long to rise. She is not staring at me, just waiting for my eyes to open. She is not here at all. And she will never be here again.

IMG_1883 The paralyzing pain begins immediately. Before my eyes are open all the way, it knocks me clear on my ass. This morning I will not go to the kitchen to warm her food then coax her into eating it from my finger because she has been getting sick, and become afraid of the bowl. She will not warm herself in the sun at my feet, stretch that good cat stretch, then force her old bones into limberness to play like a kitten for a moment, if only a moment. No. I will go by myself to face the day. I will sit alone in the silence of my living room and beg for mercy from my heart.

IMG_2339 2
Her Favorite Toy

For almost 16 years I have woken in the same way. I may have woken to heartbreak from lost loves, or friends and family who have passed on, crushing blows, flattened hopes or dreams, but I have woken nose to nose with a tiny creature determined to resuscitate my heart and make it beat again. Like CPR for the soul. Eleven pounds of boundless love…for me.

Travelin' Cat!
Travelin’ Cat!

I know, this is the part where you say, “You foolish woman, be grateful! Few people have had it so good!” And I know. You’re right. And every day, particularly in the last few years, I’ve made a point to let that little beast know that she was loved, and beyond which. She was no beast of burden, that is sure; less it be the burdens of the heart. She was loved and she was spoiled, and because she traveled with me, we had adventures few cats have with their owners. I never had any children, just her. Together we went 20-plus times across the U.S.. She’s flown on a plane, and even been on a ferry. She’s a well-traveled cat. Was. More worldly than many folks. She used to sit on my lap or on my shoulders, and just watch the world go by, sniffing the wind or laying in the sun. But none of that makes it any easier.

IMG_1853

IMG_1654And she was a bad-ass, bad to the bone. She moved like a panther, kind of strutted in this sleek, stealth way, ruler of everything that was. She was a fearless and mighty panther, and had no idea she was just house-cat size. She had a habit of corralling large dogs, and chasing them into submission. She would stand on chairs so she was tall enough to look down at them, then swat their noses until they bowed down to her. In her mind she was the alpha and omega, and every other being was going to bend to her will. Occasionally you read about a cat who has taken on a bear and either won, or sent it cowering. She is without question, one of those cats, she just never had a chance at a bear. And me? I’m rather stubborn myself, and we had to lock horns several times over who was in charge. But the winner, is really still in question.

Snow Panther
Snow Panther
Chillin'
Chillin’

I’ve cried for her several times in the last year when I knew she was sick, and old, and nearing the end, but that doesn’t make it any easier. She has had some outrageous struggles, but an iron will to live. Never before have I seen an animal so resilient and so determined to live. Several times I thought we were facing the end, then I’d just add a little love and she would fight her way back. She’d start playing, asking for catnip, and climbing her scratching post, then she’d want to go out in the sun, sprawl out and watch the birds.

Kitty Pillow
Kitty Pillow

And she would always, always sleep by my head, curled in the crook of my arm. If it got too late at night and I was still up, she’d tell me it was time. She would move toward the bedroom in increments and wait patiently until I followed. My husband would come and kiss me goodnight, then she would take her spot by my pillow, but if he came back in the room a second time, he was not allowed near me. She would stand for no interruption of our time together. Once we had had an hour or so of cuddling time, he was allowed to join us, but not before. After all, she had been with me over twice as long as he has. We were blessed with an inordinate amount of quality time together, but that does not prepare a person for something like this.

Such expressions!
Such expressions!

photo-2 I got her when she was three-days-old. Her mother was killed by a car. I kept her on a heating pad until her eyes opened. With a cat that young, you must keep them warm and feed them every four hours with an eyedropper or a needleless syringe. It does not matter that you need 8 hours of sleep, they need milk. You must teach them everything just like their mother would have. To teach them to clean, you take a damp cloth and wipe their fur until instinct kicks in and they get the idea. And they have to stay warm. Monster often stayed warm in the mouth of a large Rottweiler who belonged to a friend. She would pick up the tiny kitten, put her on her tongue, and close her mouth, leaving just a crack for air. The first time, we thought the dog had swallowed her, but she was just exercising her motherly instincts. Perhaps that is why Monster was not afraid of anything. That was almost 16 years, and many adventures ago, but it doesn’t make it any easier.

My Beautiful Girl!
My Beautiful Girl!

Now I must brave the days, armed with pictures and memories: warm and loving moments with an animal too human to truly comprehend. But the minutes drag on in unbearable silence. An emptiness so expansive it fills the room and pushes the air out of my lungs. Now, only from the computer screen or my phone, do those intense green eyes look straight into my soul and comprehend with unwavering love and compassion, the state of my being.IMG_1868

Some will say a tiny creature just like Monster opened their eyes to unconditional love. Others will tell you it had always been there, but some similar little companion had opened their hearts to it, and let them accept it. I guess that’s another way of saying the bond between human and animal can be extraordinary if you allow it to be. Despite the current debilitating pain, when I am healed enough, I will jump in again with reckless abandon and let another little beastie right in to smooth my faults, warm my days, catch me when I stumble, and love me when I fall…and all other minutes of our existence. There will never be another Monster kitty, but there will be some other little creature with it’s own foibles and triumphs, and when it’s time I will welcome it. Because I know Monster would want me to be happy. Until then, I’ll have to contend with the fact that my husband does not want to be “petted”, and I will probably get a few sideways glances for trying anyway. 🙂

My baby is gone forever, but she will live un-flickering in my heart and in my thoughts. I am proud to have had such a companion, and I am better for it.IMG_2206

24 thoughts on “On losing my cat Monster”

  1. Oh I’m so sorry to hear about your cat, he was beautiful and clearly so well loved. What adventures you two had together, I’ve never heard of a more well traveled cat. But I know what loss feels like and it’s such a raw painful hole in one’s heart. This post is a wonderful tribute.

  2. Oh my! You are a writer ! Can u please just write something Publish it so I can purchase it and say I know the author and she’s great! So sorry about Monster! I know your cat and mine, bootsie are both chasing mice and having a grand time! Sent from my iPhone

    >

  3. Some of us find that non human animals show more human traits than we do. Their instincts feed them, nurture them, make them survive. They don’t need us, but we need them. They look deeply into our soles and see what we don’t. Rather it be dog, cat, fish or frog I believe they see us as we would like to see ourselves but never do. Monster got to your heart, your sole. You two had become one, and when that life source ends, part of you dies too. A new friend in time will help to make the your world spin again. Until then… chin up, memories will be warm…. the pillow soft… Monster is not forgotten….

  4. I have such empathy for you, right now. You visited my blog and saw I lost my cat-boy, so I am returning the ‘Like.’

    The bond of human and cat is so deep and primal. When you bond with one it is precious.

    So many years and adventures you both had together; so many wake ups you shared. My heart goes out to you, because the loss is great. She will remain in your heart forever and that will have to suffice…..

  5. Thank you for looking at my blog. Angels, about my new cat Oscar and the loss of Chloe. I totally understand how you feel. That ache is always there, but when you let another little purr bucket into your heart, that ache eases. That is what I have found for the last couple of days since Oscar came home with us. It took me almost 8 months to be ready enough to chance having another cat. I’m very pleased I took the plunge, if only Maggie would relax. hugs. Suzanne

  6. When one has loved their pets and in particular cats as much as you and I, we feel your loss and remember our own… We’ve had a total of eight pets 3 cats and 3 dogs plus(one dog 11 1/2 and 1 cat only 1 1/2 currently) and each losing each one has been so hard..because we love so hard. When your heart heals there is someone waiting for that kind of love that perhaps they have never known…. Take Care… Diane

  7. Aw, Elizabeth, I just starting following your blog in the last few weeks—you rock, girl—and I just read this piece on Monster. It’s beautiful and resonates on such a deep level with me. I, too, just lost a cat (Monkey Cat, the Unfavorable Favorable, Why We Adopt the Ones Nobody Wants) who was my steady companion for 19 years, had lived more than a dozen places with me, traveled clear across the country. It is so hard to see our pets decline, heartbreaking. They love us and want to stay with us and that makes seeing them struggle and not want to give into death ever more difficult. Thank you for writing this piece about Monster. She knows how very much you loved her.

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