Its been a little over a week since I had to say goodbye to my childhood kitty, Wildthing. I finally sat down and calculated her age, estimating it to be 18+ awhile ago, and never trying to pin it down. She lived 20 years; I’d had her since the first week of 3rd grade!
For those of you who never met her, she was truly the best kitty that I have ever known. She would come running to me when I was crying (usually from falling down the stairs) and lick the tears off of my face. She was always friendly and talkative, brrrrow! She never really hissed or anything.
She’d been struggling with her health the past few months, but since she was older we always tried to verbally prepare ourselves for her end. When husband first met her while we were dating in college and I told him how old she was he said, “oh wow, she’s gonna die soon” just because she was already ten or so at the time (she showed him!). When friends watched our apartment while we were on our honeymoon, husband warned them that kitty was old and to not feel bad if she passed. (He never wanted anyone to feel surprised or guilty). Wildthing would often sleep very soundly, face down, and honestly we never knew if she was gonna wake up when we’d pet her. She did, and she’d mmmmrow at us in a very unhappy tone.
We joked about her being old and geriatric, and then suddenly the past few months her health became much worse. We had a scare last year, but then she pulled through. Wildthing struggle with being constipated, but we’d give her baths, and then she’d be back to normal. We tried her on soft food for awhile, when it didn’t seem like she was wanting to eat her hard food. We tried several things to help her hang out, hoping her health would turn around.
We knew the end was near, so we tried to take advantage of the time, getting in cuddles and pictures with her. One night, her meows seemed more pitiful than normal, then worse the next morning. Husband took her in, and he promised to keep me updated as I went to work. Around lunch time he called me, and it was official, there were some options we could do to help her, but nothing that had a good chance of lasting more than a few weeks. We decided to “make her comfortable” till we could say good bye later that afternoon. I began to tear up as I excused myself from work, I’d known it was coming, but it still hurt to know that we now only had hours together.
Husband and I were both emotionally upset over the upcoming loss, wondering what would could have done differently, feeling guilty. What I appreciated is that we could work through it together, and reassure each other.
Then, it was time to go to the vet clinic. I’d brought some stamp pads and Project Life cards to take paw prints. We brought my nicer camera, making sure to take snap shots of the moment, knowing we’d want those pictures later. I felt weird, making sure we were doing those things, but I am super grateful to have those pictures now.
When I entered the building, I heard her distinctive meow, and saw her when they allowed us into the room. Another staffer was petting her, but she still cried. Once we were in the room she didn’t cry out again until the end. My husband pointed this out to me, smiling, saying that she knew that we were there. I’ve never been there when a pet was this far gone, her organs were failing, and I wasn’t ready for how she was. She was lying on a comfy blanket, with a head pad, and her head on a blanket/pillow. She was so still from the drugs they had given her, it broke my heart. It was hard to connect with her, because I felt like she was already gone. I petted her head, and her outstretched paw.
I’d worn my “soar” bracelet on purpose to embrace the moment. Soaring is always about the good and happy things. For me, this year, my mantra has turned into “keep calm and soar on” just keep going, no matter what is going on.
The staff were incredibly kind, allowing us to take care of paperwork upfront, and giving us time to be with her. Our vet seemed apprehensive to be there while the procedure was done, probably because other pet owners freak out, but no matter if she meowed or what, I felt that I needed to stay by her side. I couldn’t let her die alone. He explained that she might cry out, but that she wouldn’t be in pain. We said that we understood, and we talked with her, and petted her while the pink liquid went into her arm. He checked her breathing, telling us that she was gone, and gave us a few more minutes. It felt awful that she was gone. I wanted to keep petting her, like if I stopped petting her, it would be real, that she wouldn’t be coming back home with us. Husband asked if I wanted anymore pictures, and I knew solidly that I didn’t. I wanted all of my pictures to be of her alive.
We walked out of the room, and I shut the door, leaving her there. We debated about asking for her ashes, but since we don’t own property there wasn’t any place that we’d be able to mark for her. Plus, I wasn’t sure when we’d be able to spread them at a local park and it would become a to do hanging over our heads.
Thankfully, it was Friday so we had several days before we had to be back at work. We worked through our grief the following ways: distraction through Christmas party, buying our puppy a treat, snacks, and visiting kitties at the humane society. It was difficult to move past the guilt of not loving on her better, earlier in the year, before I became so busy with my job. I was sad that I couldn’t remember the last time that she’d displayed her amazing personality and her loud purring.
The hardest night was the first night. Husband was out, and it hit me all of a sudden that she was gone and wasn’t coming back. I cried so hard I was almost hyperventilating. I became fixated with this stuffed cat that my dad gave me when I was in highschool or college. It was a Harley Davidson stuffed cat, and he’d gotten it for me because it reminded him of WildThing. I remembered being grumpy about it at the time, thinking that it didn’t really resemble the cat, just that it was also white and black patterned. As soon as possible I needed to find this stuffed toy, and I was so afraid that I’d gotten rid of it. Thankfully, I found it. It sounds silly, but having something fluffy to cuddle made it easier. I decided that whenever our future children lose pets, I think they should have a stuffed animal to hold to say goodbye.
Husband and I talked off and on, before Wildthing left us, about what kind of kitty we’d want next. When she was gone, I needed kitties to love on me, so I visited the local humane society several times. I hadn’t picked out my own cat before. I’d picked out one cat, and he was gone by the next day when my mom went to pick him up, so she’d actually picked out the most amazing and wonderful Wildthing. I didn’t know what to look for, but I ached for a kitty connection. I needed them to love on me. We discussed getting an adult cat, since they are less likely to get adopted, and they’d be less hyper, but none of them seemed eager to approach me. I left feeling defeated, not even knowing what I was looking for (some unrealistic magical connection).
Today, we returned to the humane society, knowing that there was an adoption sale. Husband met a beautiful and kind kitty, named Pansy. You could tell that she restrained herself when she was play biting. Her coat was a lovely brown and grey tabby. I hesitated, wondering if I was really ready for this. I was afraid of rushing into a decision, afraid of the kitty not loving me, afraid of not loving the kitty. We went home, knowing that the sale was only good for today. I thought about it, prayed about it. I realized that it wasn’t worth being afraid (and likely something that I was overthinking) to pass up on such a sweet affectionate kitty.
So we added a new member of our family! Something that held me back was wondering if it was “too soon” and what people would thing (seriously, I focus WAY too much on that). But it seemed like many people could get another kitty soon after one passed. And I missed kitty noises, and having my own pet running around the house. (Daisy is obsessed with her daddy, and I’m definitely the second).
Meet Saria (to continue our Nintendo naming style).
Gratefully, pet introductions went well, despite that Daisy is in her face and overwhelming. Saria kind of avoids her, till she gets overwhelmed, then runs and hides in some small (dusty) crevice of the apartment. But I actually think they’ll become good cuddle friends. Saria definitely has that kitten spunk (at 5 months), wanting to explore her new home, not wanting to be held. But, when she explores, she’ll come rub her face on me to check in, then go exploring some more. I couldn’t stop smiling, despite all of my fears, when I nodded that I wanted to keep her at the humane society. I felt joy at having a cuddly friend again. I have missed kitty love.
My favorite moment so far is when we put her on our bed, and she immediately made herself comfortable and began to purr loudly. Its safe to say that this kitty is happy to have a home.
No kitty will ever replace the childhood friendship that I was lucky enough to have with Wildthing for 20 years of my life, but I’m excited to give a new friends a home this holiday :0)