October 25, 2010


She was about five weeks old. It was too young, but "Take her now, or we'll take care of her." They didn't mean letting her stay with her mother for a few more weeks. At least she was weaned.

She was the not-very-runty runt of the litter. Black, with the tiniest of white spots on her belly. Her mother was half Siamese, and her father was presumed to be the same Siamese that was her uncle. Being black earned her the name "Humor."

She wasn't happy about being taken away from her mother. She spent the first evening yowling at the top of her lungs. The first night, too. Putting her on my chest, where she could feel my heartbeat, helped for about five minutes. Eventually, she went back into the cat carrier, as far from the bedroom as she could be, with towels over it to muffle the noise and just a little bit of air space left. She was still loud.

Over time, she settled into a bedtime routine that involved lying across the back of my neck and getting her face scritched for a little while before prowling the house, yowling, of course. She'd settle down after a while, but she never did lose the tendency to wander into a corner and yowl like a lost soul. She'd come running out if you called her name, terribly happy to find people, but she spent more time lost in closets than any cat I've known.

Once she got bigger, the routine changed again: demand I go to bed, stand on me and knead in an ecstatic trance until she came to again, then lie down for petting with her face in mine until she got bored. I was Mom.

In fact, I was all her people, and anyone else was viewed with suspicion at best. Strange voices in the house meant she was nowhere to be found, although if people stuck around for long, they might be graced with a glimpse of her. Those who came by often enough might be allowed to pet her briefly. Eventually, she allowed my husband to pick her up and hold her.

She was never the bravest of cats. She ran away when I sneezed, which was sadly and funnily ironic in such a danderous cat. Trips to the vet involved the drawing of blood--my blood--for getting her into the cat carrier the first time. Once we were in the car, she had to be let out and snuggled up on my chest if we wanted any hope of hearing other traffic.

She was determined, though. Enough heat was worth lying across the vanes of the radiator. No matter how many times she was yelled at for playing monster under the bed, ankles were always fair game. When I sat in front of the computer, the back of my chair was her preferred spot, with just a bit of her draped over my shoulder. When I read in the big, comfy chair, she'd settle onto one arm for a little while after enough petting, then wander between me and the book when she decided I'd ignored her long enough. And people food...well, she'd generally stay at a polite distance as long as I was actually eating. After that, all bets were off.

It was the eating that tipped me off. Humor had always been good about telling me when she needed more food or water: meow, wander in the appropriate direction, look accusing until I followed and fixed her problems for her. It took a few days to notice that, while she was getting fussy about her water being dirty, she wasn't making much dent in her food. Last I saw her alive, she was busily tucking into some moist food that I'd given her to tempt her palate.

This morning, the moist food was mostly gone, and she was lying underneath the computer desk, where the warm air from the fan blows. She was racked out on her side , the way she usually slept. Usually, however, she would wake when I walked into the room. Not today, and not ever again.

I made my husband make sure she wasn't just ill. I'm making him move the body, as well. She was the softest cat I've ever met, a medium-hair made up of just the fluffy underfur. I want to remember that, and I want to remember her as warm and pliant, tucked under my chin or curled neatly into my lap. I have seventeen years of those memories, of her being very much my cat, and those are the memories I want to keep fresh.

Oh, sweetest little black cat, how I will miss you. How I miss you now.


a2z said...

Beautifully written, Steph. I still remember coming home to find Molly. She was still a bit warm and just starting to stiffen. I felt bad that I hadn't been with her. Good for Ben for taking care of her for you. Give each other a hug for me.

MrSafetyToo said...

Thanks for the memorial words. I saw her once, I think. You are fortunate to have kept her so long. None of my cats ever made it more than 10 years. When Bugs (the last one) died I found I felt sadder about losing her than having my "wife" of 28 years divorce me. Both happened about 12 years ago. I really miss that cat.
I grieve your loss.

Heather M. Rosa said...

You brought tears to my eyes for a cat that I almost never saw, and thus nicknamed "Rumor". You've made her real.

ERV said...


Im so sorry.

Anonymous said...

Their lives are so short.

Ive had to put down many over the years.

They were all missed.

Glendon Mellow said...

A beautiful member of your family.

Sorry for your loss.

D. C. said...

Words? Nope.

Stephanie Zvan said...

Thanks, everybody.

D. C., I don't know that the words exist. I usually end up somewhere around Abbie's response.