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To love a cat
is to receive unconditional love
It was the color that I saw first. Muted neutrals foreground a bleak grey room. Then it was your eyes, orbs of jade that stared with caution, or maybe it was excitement. My friend alerted me about a Bengal cat that was recently surrendered to the local SPCA. With my then knowledge of a Bengal cat, I was expecting a large and ferocious beast. An animal with the ability to hunt small game in the morning and come back home to cuddle at night. You sat there, poised low on your legs as if the strike was near. You hid your belly. Your tail was low. But your chest was out, and vibrant brown stripes ran horizontally across your beige chest.
This is a Bengal? I thought they were huge, I said, observing your petite frame. Barely nine pounds, if I’m being generous. My pupils enlarged to match yours as I reached out my limp hand, knowing very well not to pose a threat. Your nose approached my outstretched finger. It was love at first sight, for me at least. For you, and coming from your previous owner, it was a trial. Maybe you sensed the cats I owned before you. But either way, you gave me a chance. You then extended your head, allowing me to caress your neck. $100 bucks later, and a few papers later, you were my pet. However, it didn’t come easy though. Your love wasn’t easy to earn. Your name was Daisy and I decided to keep it that way.
I was told you loved to jump. And jumping was the first thing you did. You said to hell with your cardboard and leaped upon the dining room table, surveying your bequeathed kingdom. That’s when I snapped the first of many photos. My friend suggested I pick you up after you get acclimated, so I did. Gently running my arms around your plushy orange belly. Immediately, the claws came out. You're a fighter! I said as you wriggled free and onto the floor. You shot a menacing glare at me, hissed, then retreated onto a chair. Your soon-to-be favorite hiding spot was beneath the table. I giggled before I felt the warm coagulating blood on my arm. You drew my blood and tested my mettle.
A few years passed and you learned to trust me. I kept you combed and fed at all times. I bought a fish tank and you jumped on top of the light once, never to acknowledge it again. I bought you many toys, which you were indifferent towards. It was when you discovered the scratching post that changed it all. You no longer hissed, no longer produced your claws. You tolerated cuddles, ate your food slower, and even made biscuits on the couch. You were finally at ease.
But then, something went awry. It happened so suddenly, I thought you were chasing a fly. First, you went into a panic, spinning around and mewing in terror. I witnessed it happen and help you on the floor. You shook your head a few times and carried on like it was nothing. I alerted the vet at once and they instructed me to keep watch for any odd symptoms. It was a shocking moment that I never seen in a cat. I hoped that it was a one-off event, until a week or so later. Your little cat's brain misfired again.
Vertigo held you tight in its grip. You sought a soft place to lie, nearly stumbling onto the cold laminate, and slept for a long time. And thus, began your chronic affliction of vestibular disorders. Steroids were prescribed. You stopped jumping up into your castle. It was fine, I gave you refuge on the couch from time to time. I grew accustomed to picking you up to experience the heights. Your meows morphed into roars to alert any predators of your fighting spirit. You grew accustomed to purring, too, and did it often in my presence.
The years went on and we moved. There was no more fish tank or dining room table. Now, instead of a cold laminate floor, you had a plushy warm carpet. Once you got out of the carrier, you took two steps onto the carpet, flopped onto it, and stretched. I could see your brown-orange belly and how it wasn’t as low as it used to be. Your muscles, too, were not as prominent from your jumping and explorations. I invested in a better brush and decided to comb you. I could see the bristles rubbing against your spine. The way you arched your back and meowed in joy was enough to abate what was coming next.
Your 2018 annual exam returned a problematic diagnosis. You were not digesting your food well, or absorbing nutrients. You’ve been losing weight, and rather quickly. The bills kept piling up, and specialized diets kept being prescribed. Yet, you kept your spirits high. I decided one day to get you a new toy, and I looked in a couple of stores for it: a brown ball-looking thing with strands protruding out attached to a wand. When I brought it home, you fixated on it, as if it was your child, and you’d play with it gently, even taking it into the kitchen. You ate your dinner with it often and dropped it into your water bowl seldom.
Spring of 2019 was your worst season. Your weight was dangerously low, you lost control of your bowels often. You could eat a can of wet food per meal and not gain any weight. A specialist diagnosed a generative gastrointestinal disease that had progressed quickly. It wasn’t cancer, but it sure felt like it was. Your little body carried you for so long, and now it was failing you. It wasn’t easy leaving that office, but once back home, you got a meal of your favorite pate and some dry food. You ate it slowly and determined. As if you knew this meal would matter.
That ensuing Memorial Day, I went to Starbucks to do some work on my laptop. It was warm and sunny, so I imagined you sprawled out on the carpet soaking in some sun, turning your fur a marbled pumpernickel. However, when I got home, you were surprisingly on the couch, tucked into that loaf, with your head down and your eyes wide open. I shook the food bowl and called your name, yet there was no response. I couldn’t wait any longer. I picked you up and laid you gently in the carrier, putting extra blankets around you. You mewed softly as if to respond, finally, that you were waiting for me.
Inside the emergency room, I filled out basic paperwork with an anxious hand. I couldn’t even write my name consistently. My dad came to join me, asking if you were alright. In a few long minutes, we were called into a private room. With a grimace and forlorn eyes, the vet told me the harrowing news. Not even the most advanced, life-preserving treatment could sustain you overnight. Your body was in total shutdown. I was produced with one last paper. The hardest signature to ever sign, but I had to decide for you.
You were brought out swaddled in a blanket, an IV in your leg. The sweet jade eyes I first noticed all those years ago were cloudy and wet. I couldn’t hold back the dam any longer. How poetic, that the first time I could hold you without resistance would be minutes before you left this world. I pulled you close in a hug that only you could feel. And many head rubs and under-the-chin scratches that you’ve grown to enjoy. My dad held you too in shared sympathy. I wished there was a way to just fix it all and take you home. To your meal, toys, warm carpet, and all the pets any cat could ever imagine.
It only took a couple of minutes before the vet confirmed with the stethoscope. I groaned with a deep, guttural feeling I haven’t expressed in years. You were to be cremated and spread in a memorial garden a few towns away. We obtained two things in the lobby: your empty carrier and a memorial pawprint. Your claws were extended and your prominent paw pads reflected the true fighter that you were. The eponymous rainbow bridge must’ve been grand for you. But back home, it was gloomy, muggy, and eerily quiet.
It's just not fucking fair, I yelled inside my car more times than I could count. I couldn’t sleep in the hours ahead. My brain was furious and grieving. My fingers twitched, desiring to recount all of these memories. And that’s when I started writing this piece, pounding the keyboard with these memories fresh and raw. Old, and cherished. I had a digital photo album off to the side, all your memories and funny moments to look at as I typed. It was well past midnight before I finally rested.
I found the one picture to insert with your memorial: you, sitting by your shredded scratching post, innocent and so polite with your tail curling over your paws. A jade-eyed feline warrior that is perpetually camera-friendly. Yeah, that’s a good one, I said as I sent it to the printer. That’s my Daisy.
This memoir was originally written in May 2019; revised in August 2023. My wish is that you hug your pet—no matter the species—a bit more often after reading this…and take more pictures!
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