My mother’s cat Sly passed away this week. He started to decline during her final months. When he began biting my stepfather without provocation, it was clear the time had come for him to be euthanized.
My heart is heavy. This cat appeared in our home the day of my high school prom. My mother was desperately trying to finish the hem on my best friends prom dress when the doorbell rang. I went to the front door and my mother’s friend handed me a tiny orange kitten, which she had admired in a pet shop window. “Give this to your mother!” She flashed a mischievous grin.
I went upstairs with the squirming kitten. “Mom, Marilyn brought us a cat!”
My mother was hurriedly pressing out the prom dress, with the help of my friend who was wearing only her hose and heels, hair perfectly coiffed in a late-90’s updo. My mother, always cool under pressure, stared at me with a mix of disgust and amazement and responded with a tense “oh-kay.”
In this chaotic scene, I placed the kitten down at my feet. He strolled across the smooth hardwood floors, ate from our elderly cat’s food dish and promptly used the litter box. He had arrived. Even though as my friend and I were departing for prom (fully dressed), my mom muttered “we will deal with the kitten later!”, there was no doubt he was home.
He arrived during the last gasp of my childhood, a few days before my 18th birthday. I remember my exasperation as he’d run across my keyboard as I typed out my college papers. I would dance with him in my arms, spinning across those smooth hardwood floors to the music of the Gypsy Kings. Despite all of the comings and goings of young adulthood, when I would arrive at my Mom’s house after an absence he would always let me scoop him up and he’d delicately touch his nose to my lips.
He was definitely Mom’s cat. He slept curled up on her pillow every night.
He gradually became less active through the years, but seemed well at the time Mom left him in the care if a friend while she sought treatment at MD Anderson. When she returned, having lost the functioning of a kidney and her dream of a cure, Sly started behaving strangely. He would howl at random times throughout the day and night, a bone-chilling, painful moan. The vet found nothing wrong except for arthritis, but pain medicine was not effective.
In sharing our lives with these creatures, we form deep bonds which stretch throughout the years, a universal, archetypal connection. Mom and Sly had such a bond that he followed her to the other side.
He lived a good life, but died of a broken heart.