Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Death of a Cat

After four death of people I knew in the last two weeks, it took the death of an animal for me to shed a tear. This is no small event for me. I haven't cried since I was nine years old. I think I've long substituted anger for tears.

My mother has been feeding a small black cat which at first she called Baby, and then Princess, since the cat was about a month old.

Around November 2003, a mother brought her three kittens to our backyard. My mother had been feeding a big black and white cat whom we named Oreo, and the mother must have smelled the food. It is not often that we see kittens this young, and their mother practically begged my mother to feed them, which she did. One was black, one was black and white, and the third was a Calico. The winter of 2003-2004 was an extremely cold one, and we were afraid the kittens wouldn't make it. One of them, the black-and-white kitten, didn't, and our neighbor discovered it one day in the snow. The mother disappeared when the kittens were around three months old.

But the black one and the Calico did make it through that winter. They were very close to one another, and my mother continued to feed them. Then, sometime in the summer of 2004, the Calico kitten disappeared, leaving only the small black cat. My mother continued to feed her. Over the past few monthEventually, my mother had her spayed, and she became much easier to identify (there is another black cat in the neighborhood who looks like her) because of her shaved underside.

Tonight, she was either hit by a car or suffered a catastrophic internal malady that caused her death. My father discovered her in the middle of the street - almost exactly in the middle of the street. She was lying on her side, not a mark on her. The image of her lying dead in the street is one I will never forget. It was a terrible perfection; her lying centered in the gutter, a small black animal, eyes open, mouth agape. Our Princess was dead. Not lost, but dead. Oh, how I wish she were just lost instead.

The black and white cat died in the snow, and our neighbor picked it up. The mother cat and the Calico she arrived with on our doorstep a year and a half ago disappeared. If they died, we did not see it. Perhaps they simply moved away. Perhaps someone else took them in. We lamented their disappearance, but we had the black cat.

That cat caused so much trouble; our indoor cat, Apricot, who is about 14, resented her and rebelled. Since the kittens were about five monthes, Apricot has been marking all over the house, especially around the front door, because Princess liked to hang out on the porch. I don't have to tell you what it smells like in the morning when a cat makes on the radiator in the middle of the night. But we couldn't abandon Princess, and she wouldn't abandon us.

She became more affectionate and survived the blizzard of January 2005, which dumped nearly 2 feet of snow on us. She was gone for three days that time, and my mother was sure she had froze. I figured that since she had survived a more brutal winter as a kitten, she would return, and she did. The last month, she had become even more affectionate with us. She survived a lot outdoors.

I'm very sad about all of this, and my mother is sadder. This cat became our baby in a way Apricot never was, because Apricot was already 5 months old when he arrived on our doorstep, and he was not affectionate until the past few years. I feel like crying, and I did cry with my mother for about a half an hour, and then on the phone with Irina. I can't stand to think of anything suffering. I can't fathom what happens to people in war-torn societies who see loved ones murdered before their eyes. I feel weak and helpless in the face of unalterable death.


At 9:45 AM, Blogger Irina Tsukerman said...

Mikie, I have no words to make you feel better right now. But I'm here with you. I think I know how you feel... although of course I had nothing like that happen to me personally... but that's how I feel when something happens to animals. I am sorry.

At 10:14 AM, Blogger Bradley Egel said...

My wife and I love our cat like a child. And to some degree...treat her and talk about her that way.

The resulting sorrow and grief from death is understandable under any circumstances, human or feline.

Death is very difficult on so many levels. But most of all, even when it is not sudden, it is the quintessential example of non-closure. When someone or something is gone…even if they have been going for some time…it is like being hit in the chest with a hammer.

Michael…Cry your tears…and tell the stories about princess for many years to come.

As my Rabbi always said while growing up…

When we recall the memories of loved ones who have past, we give added length to their lives and added meaning to our own.


At 10:20 AM, Blogger Bradley Egel said...


Additionally...for every death there is a celebration of life...

If you go to my blog..The Egel Nest...you can see Mitzvah...our cat...in her milk ad campaign...I hope it provides you a brief smile in your moment of sadness.


At 4:42 PM, Blogger laurenbove said...

Mike, I'm so sorry. You stated: "I think I've long substituted anger for tears." You're a man and this is common. It's a good thing to cry once in a while and for such a deserving reason. I'm an animal lover, too.

I have had 5 cats that I was feeding at my peak. (due to rescue) and now I've got 3. The best one ever disappeared right after I moved. Very sad. 8 mos later, we're still looking.

I'm really sorry, Mike.

At 10:43 AM, Blogger Gothamimage said...

I am very sorry to heat about your cat. Sometimes, when you cry over one thing, you are also crying over the other things, but the structure of our minds-especially men, is such that it likes to seperate one thing from another-bulkheads, like on a ship. I hope you feel better.

At 1:01 AM, Blogger parcequilfaut said...

Mike, my condolences.

My adventuresome cat was gone for a week last time and I had given him up. I'm so sorry for you and your family, and my heart is with you.

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