He really was rotten. You couldn’t hold him for more than a few seconds before he was clawing to get away. He would eat everything we put in front of him (expensive hypoallergenic food that probably tasted like cardboard), he would wolf it down like he was starving and then start complaining that he was still hungry. Never just a nice “meow,” either. He was a yowler. If cats made operas, he would have been lead baritone (e.g. the lead bad guy). He would yodel at our bedroom door for an hour after we had gone to bed after spending half the evening completely ignoring us. And two hours before he was due to be fed, he would start pawing at our knees from the coffee table, sometimes remembering not to dig in his claws. He would stalk Freckles like she was a squirrel, though his fat butt could never catch her. And, when he started having his “digestive issue” last July, he started leaving all kinds of delightful poopy paw prints on our furniture and white carpets. It was so fracking frustrating.
The worst thing he ever did was die. What a mean-spirited rat! After everything we did! Vet’s visits every few months, this medicine, that medicine, Metamucil, different food, on and on just trying to find out what was wrong. Because something WAS wrong. I think we tried to just get used to it. Okay, so we have to wipe his butt the rest of his life, just like we had to give him pills for his indolent ulcers that occasionally pop up on his face. We should add a spot-bot to the registry for his paw prints. But I know we were both just getting more and more worried. No one, especially not a cat, has diarrhea for eight and a half months. Of course, that may have nothing to do with what happened. The vet said she saw signs of a possible respiratory incident, but without an autopsy, there was no way to tell what actually happened. No need to cut him open, Dr. It won’t change anything.
I must have said I hated him a million times. Threatened to take him back and exchange him for a newer model cat. Smacked him on the head, chased him with the Swiffer (only when he REALLY deserved it…just had to shake it at him and he’d poof up, it was hilarious), pinned him down to wash his feet, cursing at him the whole time. We had to keep Freckles’ food up high so he wouldn’t immediately go for it when he finished his. I yelled at him because he would nag me to feed him when I was running late and it was still an hour too early for his breakfast. He drove me crazy.
But two hours ago, my husband found him dead in our house. It was a scenario we had both imagined since his stupid poopy problem had failed to resolve itself. I was at work, so he called me. I rushed to meet him at the vet. I told myself I would be strong for both of them. That he was fine. That everything would be okay. As soon as I walked in the vet’s exam room, I broke down. My little boy. The vet came in and said he was gone. They brought him in wrapped in a leopard print fleece blanket. We failed him. I failed him.
We adopted him. We were supposed to take care of him. Supposed to keep him safe. Protect him from all the things out there that would hurt him and he died safe in our home. It’s not fair. It’s not fair that I should care so much for a creature who made me so angry all the time. It’s not fair that I should hurt so much over a stupid cat. A pet that can’t even tell me what’s wrong with him so I can fix it. Can’t even tell me that he feels sick or hurt, that maybe he ate something he shouldn’t have or got bit by a spider or was having trouble breathing. What kind of jerk keeps that from me? As if I don’t have enough to worry about without wondering if he’s limping or am I just imagining things? Why couldn’t he just tell us what was wrong?
So what do we do now? There’s no one to wake us up with his ridiculous meow at six in the morning because he’s hungry. We can’t use him as an excuse for not getting anything done because he can no longer hold us to the couch with his super-gravity powers. We can’t even make him do tricks to entertain guests. I loved doing that. As dumb as he was, he was so good at his tricks. The vet techs in Alabama used to crowd into the exam room so he could give them high fives. We can’t use him to teach little kids that cats are not dolls to be messed with. They are living creatures that deserve respect because they have claws to prove it. As much as I hated you, Mahler, as much as you drove me crazy with your shenanigans, I forgave you when we napped together. I forgave you when you sat on my lap and purred, when you played with the squiggle or the boa, chased the balls, fell asleep on your back like a beached whale. I forgave you when you looked at me with those gorgeous green eyes and your cool Sith mask, when you tried to leap on the table and slid off because we just Pledged it. You were stupid and clumsy and annoying and I will never forget you. I love you, Mahler, and I’m sorry I couldn’t protect you.