Disclaimer: A eulogy for a cat is perhaps a bit self-indulgent. Gremlin has been gone a week. I miss him very much and probably will for a long time. I ask anyone who isn’t into cats or animals is general to skip this. Thank you.
“Would you like his ashes?” the receptionist asked.
“No. Ashes are ashes.” I didn’t say what I wanted to say: Give me back my cat.
I’d just watched the vet carry Gremlin—or what had been Gremlin—away wrapped in a blanket, his head bobbing, his eyes only slits, his tongue poking out between his teeth.
“I feel the same way you do,” the receptionist said. She asked for my credit card. It would be easier than performing the transaction at the front counter.
After she left with the card, I told my husband, “I didn’t even think to ask how much this will cost.”
“It’s not like you have a choice,” he said.
Give me back my cat.
I clutched the jacket I’d wrapped around Gremlin for this last ride to the vet. I wasn’t going to put him in a carrier. He hated the carrier. He’d been in kidney failure for about five years but had remained happy and sassy. True, the block wall fence had grown mysteriously taller with time, but for most of the nineteen years he’d been with me, it had proved no obstacle. Little stood in his way since he was a kitten so small he had to claw his way up to the couch.
He’d lost weight fast the last couple of weeks. That last morning when I went to feed him, he didn’t come out of the doghouse he slept in. I thought he might already be gone, but he sat up and lumbered out. He wandered around his enclosure. He was blind. He hadn’t been the day before. I picked him up and set him down by bushes where he liked to spray. He walked in unsteady circles by my feet.
He didn’t appear to be in pain, but he wasn’t eliminating. There was nothing in the litter box. His organs weren’t working. Add to this the blindness—
I wouldn’t put an animal down simply for being blind, but Gremlin’s blindness came from detached retinas due to hypertension because his kidneys weren’t working. They were never going to work.
“Talk me out of it,” I told my husband after I showed him how Gremlin walked.
“I don’t think I can,” he said.
My husband held him while I took a shower.
“He’s just been purring away,” he told me when I returned.
I held him while my husband took a shower. I called for the appointment. Nothing was open until 2:30, so for those hours, we talked to Gremlin. I told him he was loved.
I fed him and gave him some water. He ate a little and drank some. I took him outside and let him feel the sun.
I remembered this kitten who chewed our fingers when he first arrived and kneaded the back of my head in the middle of the night with very sharp little claws, who purred loudly next to me on the pillow. I remembered the kitten who ran out of his hiding place behind the bookcase to greet me when I came home from work. I remembered the cat who made it impossible to wrap presents because wrapping paper is a cat toy. I remembered the cat who played with the yo-yo my husband dangled before him. I remembered the cat who sat on the block wall washing his paws, ignoring the neighbors’ dog going nuts barking at him. I remember the cat who delighting in tearing up newspaper. I remembered the cat who cried every morning for breakfast as if he hadn’t been fed for a week. I remembered the cat who slept on the couch between me and my husband, one paw touching each of us, as if he didn’t want us to leave. I remembered the cat who pawed my husband’s shoulder because he wasn’t done receiving attention.
That morning, the cat curled up next to me on the couch, sleeping, content.
I kept you safe from coyotes and cars. I kept you—mostly—out of the wind, the rain, and the hot sun. I could not keep your kidneys from dying. But I kept you from suffering needlessly.
And when we came home with an empty jacket, I had no words. My husband hugged me and said, “I miss him, too.”
To the well-meaning receptionist: Fuck your ashes, trying to separate more of my money from me.
I want my cat back.