It’s been another long while since I’ve blogged on here. My last post was July 13th, which was a mere week before my cat, Neko, had to be put down. That’s when the drive to tap into my limbic system just fizzled out. The words weren’t there. The feelings were overrun by ways of keeping myself distracted–throwing myself into my job and throwing myself into my schoolwork.
If you’ve never felt the affection of a pet, it’s hard to understand the despair you undergo. I’ve lost loved ones, but considering I didn’t even see them yearly, their passing was nowhere near as devastating as losing my cat. And I can’t know what it’s like to lose a child. I’m not interested in ever having children, but I can tell you the loss of my cat has left a deep crevasse in my heart so unscalable that crampons and miles of rope won’t help.
Some people like to think the love of an animal is shallow. They only enjoy your presence because you feed them. That’s not the case at all.
When I moved out, I didn’t take Neko with me because I didn’t want to force her into an environment she would be unfamiliar with, so I left her with my parents. Yet, even though my mom had always fed her, her affections were tied to me whenever I visited. Her audible purring was enough to let me know that my presence made her happy.
She was never a lap cat, but she always loved to be near me. And I’ve been using the excuse for so long that I don’t have enough time to write the third book in The Stars Trilogy, when, in reality, it’s been hard to write it because she is no longer here. I wrote the first two books with her always at my side. She was a constant fixture in my writing life, and writing, frankly, is not the same without her.
I have started the third book, of course, 500 words a day at a time, but my writing life feels so empty because she is no longer here to purr by my side, to lay on my notes, to beg for pets when I’m just trying to type something. Even when I moved out and left her with my parents I cried for a week because I missed having her near me so badly. I missed waking up and she wasn’t there to greet me. Eventually I accepted her absence, as I knew she was much better off with my parents. But it’s been five months since we had to put her down because she may have had stomach cancer, and accepting that she’s gone is not any easier.
I still cry a few days a week at night when I’m in bed by myself because my husband comes to bed a little later. And I always tell myself that if something ever came along and said it’d grant any wish in exchange for my soul, I would wish to have her back and have her live forever so that even when I pass, she can go on to bring someone else joy, and she can go on to keep experiencing the world in a different way with each person she lives with. Even as I type this it’s hard to keep back the tears.
I’m so bitter that she died too soon. She was twelve, and while some may argue that’s plenty, there are many cats who live a few years longer than that and some into their twenties. In fact, not only did we put my cat down last year, we also had to put down our little dog who got to live to be sixteen. And while I grew up with that little dog and spent more time living with her than without, her death just could not affect me the way my cat’s did.
You can bond with an animal the same way you can bond with a person, and it is so, so incredibly painful when that bond is severed by an untimely death that is so cruel and unfair. I wish I could believe suffering was meaningful, but it’s absolutely meaningless. I don’t know to what extent that she suffered–only that she did.
I can tell you that the day my mom and I put her down was the worst day of my life. And I’ve been run through the gamut of things.
Her death was so painful because she fought the vet every step of the way. She hissed and growled and spat, and I couldn’t even hold her as she fell asleep and they delivered the final injection that put her down for good. I screamed and cried and apologized to her all the while and couldn’t believe the nightmare I was experiencing. I cried the whole day. I cried for weeks after. What kept me together was just being distracted.
This world can be such a cruel joke, giving us the ability to feel so deeply that we’re paralyzed when our minds experience something inconceivable. And her death was and will always be inconceivable because why did I have to lose her so soon? How come I didn’t get to see her death miles away like I did with our little dog who was able to die of old age? We had another dog, too, who got to die of old age. And if my mom reads this, hopefully she won’t mind me admitting that she told me she would have preferred our little dog to go before Neko–and it’s only because she was old and showing signs of old age and Neko arguably was not old and was certainly not showing signs of old age. If she did have stomach cancer, it’s a type of cancer even young cats can fall prey to.
She’s occasionally in my dreams. Mostly I dream that she appears out of nowhere, as if her death was just a game of hide and seek. In these dreams, I hold her close to me and cry tears of joy that she isn’t truly gone. And then I wake up with a feeling of emptiness knowing that will never come true.
I do have moments where I want another cat. My parents have two cats now named Gracie and Tessa. Gracie’s a cuddle bug, and Tessa’s still new and so is distant from everyone, except when her and Gracie play. So I’m much more familiar with Gracie than I am with Tessa, and even though Gracie melts like putty when you hold her, I realize that my affections for Neko will never be replaced. I visit my parent’s house and yearn for her to appear out of nowhere. She’d probably be angry and jealous that I’m holding another cat, but I think she’d eventually warm up to the idea of living with two other cats and would hopefully become close to them.
I just wish I had more years with her. I thought one day I would be able to take her with me once my husband and I moved somewhere that accepted pets, but now that can never happen.
I’d like to be both more emotionally and financially available before considering adopting a kitty–and I’d want two so that they’re not alone when my husband and I are at work.
There’s no magic way of coping with the death of a pet. Being distracted was the best thing for me. I honestly didn’t think I’d be able to survive at work, but it’s the one thing that kept me going. I know if I didn’t have work to go to, I would have initially spent my time alone at home crying all day. I didn’t even think I’d have the emotional faculties to survive anatomy and physiology, but I’m so driven to achieve my purpose in life that I don’t think there is anything in this world that can stop me.
When there are moments when I can’t stand how horrible it is that she’s no longer here, I try to remind myself that I’ve got a lot of love in me to give to many a deserving cat out there. So I just have to keep chipping away at the obstacles in life in order to provide the best life for my future hypothetical cats. If there’s an expensive surgery that can mean the difference between saving its life or having to put it down, I want to have the means to be able to pay for that.
Before the vet claimed Neko may have had cancer, I thought she just hadn’t started eating yet because the antibiotics hadn’t fully cleared an undiagnosed infection from her system. Or she was just so stressed about being force fed that she couldn’t bring herself to voluntarily eat. I was willing, at that very moment, to dip into my savings and pay for her to have a feeding tube (the most expensive option) if it meant giving her the chance she deserved. I was not going to have her put down just because she wouldn’t eat. It wouldn’t have been fair to her. It would have just been too cruel. But whatever she was going through was far crueler.
It saddens me deeply when I think about how I couldn’t have ever possibly understood to what extent she felt the pain and misery of whatever illness she was infected with. It saddens me whenever I think about how scrawny she was on her very last day, how she had no energy, and how she barely meowed, even when I called her name. She was a normally chatty cat who loved to meow and purr and jump and run, and she wasn’t any of those things on her final day. It saddens me even more to think of what she must have been thinking as the vet held her down and stuck needles in her.
She hated the vet. Always did. She was a tyrant whenever we brought her, and the vet would have to wear gloves and need the help of a vet tech. So it was no surprise she reacted horribly when being put down. But it doesn’t make it sting any less. It just makes everything worse because she must have felt deeply betrayed.
If there’s an afterlife, and if there’s one for animals, I hope she knows how deeply remorseful I am that I couldn’t do anything for her. I hope she knows just how much I loved and still love her. I hope she knows that I wanted to do everything possible to save her, but at the end, there was nothing that could.
Mostly, I just want her to know that she was one of the best things that could have ever happened to me. If it hadn’t been for a boy breaking my heart when I was a freshman in high school, my parents likely would not have adopted her. Then I would have missed out on so much by not having her in my life. And who knows what choices I would have made in life had I not had the influence of an affectionate cat? Because I know her love has made me a better person, and I want to keep existing in this world with her love influencing how I live my life.
I am who I am today because she influenced a part of me very deeply, just as there are many positive people in my life who have influenced me and guided all the decisions I’ve ever made.
And I promise to keep living with her positively influencing me.