Three down and none to go. No…I’m not checking things off my to-do list. Nor my bucket list. Nor any other list for that matter. Instead, I’m coming to terms with the death of our third cat, Leo.
Pets have a way of worming into our hearts and becoming ingrained in the rhythm of our lives. And that rhythm changes when they leave us. It takes some getting used to. Leo came to us only five years ago, when he was thirteen years old, adopted from a friend who was moving out of state. In the five years since, we’ve lost our other two cats, while each of our four children has moved in and out (and in and out). Leo lived through it all. His passing leaves a hole. We’re on the brink of being empty-nesters and, for the first time in twenty-two years, we are pet-less. I have mixed emotions. Kittens are so darn cute and it’s tempting to fill the void. But we’ll forego another cat adoption for now. We need some pet-free living for a while.
When I brought Leo to the vet for the last time, I didn’t expect to feel sad. He’d been in a lot of pain and it had become a real chore to take care of (and clean up after) him everyday. After I buried him, I didn’t expect to miss him. I only expected giddy relief at not having to clean up puddles of cat urine any more. But I am sad. There’s an emptiness here. At eighteen years old, Leo suffered from dementia on top of arthritis and thyroid disease. Today, when I don’t see him sleeping in his favorite spot, my first thought is, where did he wander off to now! I still expect to hear him meowing at the bottom of the cellar stairs, asking to be carried back up. I woke up this morning with an odd feeling because I didn’t need to hurry downstairs to see how he fared overnight and to administer his morning meds. And something feels very wrong with leaving the cellar door closed all day. It’s been left open for twenty two years to allow the cats access to their food dishes and litter boxes. Change isn’t easy.
He barely survived another month after Leo joined the family.
Gir was only a few years old then. She came to us via our son who rescued her off the streets of the city he was living in. He then ended up moving back home with us for a while. My son moved out, but the cat stayed.
She was a quirky little thing and we never really knew how old she was. Last August, she seemed “off”, but without running a bunch of expensive tests, the vet couldn’t find anything obviously wrong with her. We took a wait-and-see kind of approach. She went downhill in a matter of days and was gone in early September.
So now we are cat-less. Now, I can vacuum up the cat fur, rip up the cellar rug that smells of cat urine and odor-cleaner, dump the litter box for good, and close the cellar door. Now, I can go on vacation without worrying about who will take care of my cats. Now, I can slowly adjust the daily rhythm of my life and maybe miss them a little less each day.