Friday, July 5, 2019
I have always been a crazy cat lady. My parents hated asking me what I wanted as a gift for my birthday, Christmas, Easter, or any other holiday, because my answer was always the same: "I want a cat." Each time, my mother reminded me that my dad was allergic to cats and our dachshund may not like them--it just wasn't possible.
One summer, shortly after I had turned eleven, my mother called from work and asked if I'd be willing to watch her friend's cat Simba for a while. Her friend was going on vacation, and Simba was too young to be kenneled. A cat?! No duh, I agreed! The next day, my mother came home with a white kitten so tiny, he fit in the palm of one hand. I couldn't wait to hold him.
When I DID get my hands on him, I realized two things: first, this wasn't a he. Second, she was absolutely COVERED in fleas. We fought to de-flea this poor kitten for over a week, and of course, we ended up giving our dog the same treatment. I learned that this wasn't the start of Simba's troubles: whoever had owned her mother hadn't wanted to deal with kittens, so they'd drowned them in a bucket. This little fighter had managed to survive by getting her head over the edge of the bucket. That's when my mother's friend's daughter found her and hid her in her purse.
I never wanted this cat to feel that type of fear or pain again. I played with her regularly, helped her and the dog adjust to each other, and genuinely enjoyed feeding and cleaning up after her. I was a little sad that I'd have to give her back, but weeks went by and she never went home. After Simba had been with us for about a month, my mother came home with new cat toys. I was confused. "Mom, when is your friend coming back from vacation? She's been gone a long time! Is she on a cruise or something? And why are we buying her toys?"
My mom sighed. "Renee, you ruin everything. I wasn't supposed to tell you until your dad came home."
"Cat-sitting" was just a ruse. The friend had decided not to keep the kitten and had asked my mother to take her. My parents were worried that my father's allergies would act up, so they decided to pretend we were just watching the cat for a while so I wouldn't be upset if they gave her back.
I was so elated, I started to cry. I ran to the cat and started petting her. The whole time, this kitten--already well aware of her queenliness--was staring at me like, "Lady, what's your problem?"
We changed her name to the more feminine Simran, but nobody ever called her that. In our house, on her name tag, and on her paperwork, she was always "Simmie," though I personally spelled it "Simmis" with a silent 's' because I like palindromes.
Simmis didn't like being hugged or squeezed. She enjoyed other forms of affection, like cheek scratches, dozing against my stomach while I watched TV, or squirming on the floor as you spoke or sang to her. She would always greet us when we came home from an outing, partially because she was lonely and partially because she was a total pig who wanted fed again. She loved catnip toys, especially crinkly mice and fish, and she'd carry them around the house whilst yowling like a fierce huntress with her prey. Some cats have exceptionally loud purrs; Simmis's purr was soft and smooth, but always welcome. It would shake every bit of her eight pound body when you stroked her side or woke her up for breakfast.
One of the most amazing things about her was that she adjusted to her position as ruler of the house so quickly. Unlike most pets, she wasn't afraid of the vacuum. My dad (a very big guy) would playfully stomp near her head, and she wouldn't even flinch--she'd roll on her back and stare up at him like, "I can be silly, too!" When we switched her from a self-feeding dry food diet to a meal-based wet food diet, she made sure to interrupt whatever we were doing with loud "FEED ME!" screams. She was the cleanest cat I've ever met, grooming herself constantly and fussing if her litterbox wasn't scooped often enough. Sometimes, it seemed like her favorite past time was getting right under your feet when you were half-awake or carrying something heavy. Simmis started life as a scared kitten squirming in a bucket, but she quickly became a diva.
So when I visited my family this past summer, the changes in her behavior really stuck out. She'd run her paws over the catnip fish, but she wouldn't play with them. Her arthritis made going up and down the stairs difficult, so she didn't come up to my bedroom to sleep with me like she used to. She spent almost all of her time on the living room credenza, not even looking out the window the way she used to. She just slept. And after twenty years of her drinking water once a day and always using her litterbox, she began drinking tons of water and peeing around the house. Cats are masters at hiding pain, but we knew something was wrong. Simmis was no longer thriving; she was merely existing.
Last month, on the last night of our visit home, Simmis made her way upstairs and got in to bed with me. She couldn't sit still, likely because of her arthritis, and she had to get up and adjust her position every five minutes or so. But still, she cuddled up against me like she had for so many years. It felt like she knew her time was coming, and she was saying goodbye.
After we left, her symptoms worsened. Today, I had to make the difficult decision to put her to rest. I'm struggling in large part because I won't be there physically: we moved across the country last year, and while we moved in a to a pet-friendly apartment and absolutely expected to bring her here, her age and health issues made the trip impossible. But as several of my family members pointed out, it's probably for the best. I've already spent several weeks crying and hyperventilating, behaviors that always set my cat on edge. My parents' house is also where she's always lived and felt safest. Thanks to Lap of Love, she will spend her final moments in that home she's always known, cuddled on a fleece blanket she loves.
I know we gave each other twenty wonderful years, but the grieving process remains frightfully difficult. She is my baby, a beloved part of our family, and I'll always miss her.
At this time, I ask that you be patient with me and the ongoing hiatus. And if you have a pet of your own, please give them a scratch or a treat for me.
Goodbye, Simmis. Goodbye, Miss Kitty, Boo Kitty, Miss Fuzzybutt, Queenie, Fluffy Wuffy Princess, Mon Petit Kiki, my girlfriend. By any name, I have loved you times a thousand and will you love you forever.