Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Not Just A Cat

It's been almost nearly forever since my last post. But I'm writing one tonight. Tonight I needed to put words to screen. To think.

Today we said goodbye to our oldest cat, Anna. I know, I know. It's "just a cat". I know.

Only, see..she wasn't. Not completely. Not really. Not to me. She was the first cat that my husband and I got together. She was really our first "child" in those early years when we didn't have any actual babies to fulfill that role.

She did a splendid job, I might add. She was just the right amount "Lap Cat" and "Playful Cat"; she always knew when you needed to cuddle something soft and and purring, or when you were up to a round or two of "Throw The Mouse" or "Play With The Tinsel Ball". She knew. She was good like that. 

She had some annoying habits that my husband and I are realizing we're going to miss. She licked plastic constantly. We could never leave a bag on the floor, or line our bedroom trashcans with bags; she'd lick them. All night long.  She was also disinclined to appreciate what she considered being ignored. If, say at 2:30am, she was ready for some attention and we were (annoyingly) sound asleep, she knew that pawing up our bedroom door, which then knocked loudly against the wall, would absolutely get the job done. Tonight, out of sheer habit, Dan put the 2 throw pillows on the floor, one behind the door, one in front. To stop the pawing. She also loved to climb into the bottom shelves of our armoire, dig through MY side, tossing out many of my folded pairs of pants so that she could make a nest and fall fast asleep. (She never bothered Dan's side. Just mine.) And we always had to double check our bottom cupboards in the kitchen. She was fond of spying an open one and sneaking right in. She would have a blast running back and forth behind the closed cabinet doors, and then fall asleep.

She was also an absolute slob, I don't mind telling you; and she knew it. She insisted on chewing up her kibble to break it up into small pieces, which she then spit all over the floor around her bowl, and then proceed to eat some of those.  We had to keep a stick vac near her bowl. She also had an army of "Babies" that she carried around nightly, making a mothering call. All through the night that call would echo. Upstairs and downstairs. And you knew, Anna was out and about somewhere with one of her babies. Some nights it was one of the absurdly large Rat-Babies (gray or white, she would pick one); other times it was Yanni (the small pound puppy she'd had since she was a kitten and stole it from me); or perhaps it would be one or both of the beanie-baby cats that she had (again) stolen from me. In any case, every morning we'd find her collection of babies in various locations around the house; here and there, wherever she'd put them during the night before wondering off to find another one. Anywhere and everywhere. These items too were evidence of her messiness. We used to have a toy basket for her, with everything gathered up and put away every evening. But by morning the basket would be tipped over and ransacked, whether she played with the toys or not. So we eventually gave up on the basket and just let her make her toy piles throughout the house. When our daughters grew old enough to think that pound puppies and bean-bag cats might be fun for them to play with too....Anna took to hiding them in more out-of-direct-sight sorts of places.

I knew she couldn't be here forever. I knew it. And when she started to decline last fall, I began gearing myself up for the inevitable outcome to the long, slow crawl. I cherished every day with her, even through moving the litter box and her food and water bowls into my Neat Freak kitchen, so she wouldn't need to deal with steps. And when she could no longer double check that she was all the way inside the box before letting it all loose, I put training pads under the box. I gave up part of my laundry room to make a large, pillowed bed with soft blankets when it became clear that her arthritis made moving painful and, for whatever reason, she felt safest in that room.

I spent the better part of today with her. She had sequestered herself in the basement, despite not being able to get down there for weeks. She wanted to be alone. But I had things to tell her.  I wanted her to know what she was to me. I wanted to thank her for everything. She was our alpha cat every time a new kitten came into the family. She showed the newbie the ropes, keeping the newcomer in line and being mothering at the same time. She watched two of her closest feline siblings get very sick and leave us way too soon. But she was our constant. Our dear Anna.

Perhaps this all amounts to "Just A Cat" to some. And I get that. But for me...she was oh-so-much more. And this night...this first night...when I'm surrounded by all those "Babies" she loved and cared for....I'm finding her absence to be almost its own physical presence.

And so I have done what I always do in moments like these: I write. A written piece about an important (and furry) member of our family who has left us to join her cat family. Reading these words over is a sigh of relief for me; a statement that says "She was here. She was important. She still is important."

Don't worry, my sweet Anna, your "Babies" have all been placed for tonight. We'll watch over for them for you, my sweet furry heart.

Rest well. Rest easy. My dear.

Rest well. Loved and never forgotten.