Early this morning I lost the love of my life, my cat, Yellow. He had been in heart failure for the last two days, and luckily went very quickly while he was still himself and without euthanasia. I was next to him, petting him and telling him I loved him. I couldn’t have asked for a better ending – I just didn’t want it to end.
I’m lost now. I think I see him all around the house, on the couch, my bed, his basket, the windowsill. When I come inside, I expect to see him right at the door, waiting to dart out for a new adventure. I keep listening for the thumping up the stairs, a meow outside my bedroom door, and the little scratch that accompanies it.
And then I remember, and something in my chest snaps all over again.
The house feels so empty now without him. I find I turn from my desk to my bed to tell him things far more than I realized. All those times I think I see him, I’m about to say, “Hi, little love!” before I stop myself. Things like leaving the doors open and clean wash baskets on the floor no longer make a difference, but I still take care of them anyway, without thinking. Before I go to work, I’ve always said, “I’ll be back soon, darling! Love you!” How long will that take to stop?
The memories are everywhere – in small physical mementos, like his food bowls, his collar, the old pants he’d lay on in the windowsill. And places too, since there’s nowhere around our house or farm I can go without remembering funny incidents that happened there.
Yellow, who I’ve also called Moonbeam, Schnitzel, Minner, Puffball, Fisher, Darling, Love, and any other saccharine nickname you can imagine over the years, was born here on the farm in June 2007. He had six siblings who have all disappeared over time (as barn cats are apt to). We bought cheap wet cat food at the A&P to feed to them, and they grew up pretty pampered and healthy for barn cats.
Eventually, Yellow figured out that I lived in the house. He would come over and meow at the door until I came out. Then he wanted to come in, which he did on several occasions.
He and his brother would often follow me around while I did different projects outside. As a kid, I had a little vegetable stand in the summertime, and they would sit with me and play in the trees nearby while I waited for cars that didn’t show up.
The summer he turned a year old, he went missing. Naturally, we expected the worst – but he came back in October and sat on the milk house steps, meowing with the rest to be fed. It was a joyous reunion, and we ended up letting him in the house for good when he came calling at our door again. The rest is history.
A Girl and Her Cat
He became my faithful companion, my comfort, and my joy for all life’s milestones. He would sit on my lap with his roaring purr while I did schoolwork or crocheted and listened to music. I’d dance with him, sing to him, and just talk to him for hours.
I often watch music videos in the morning while having breakfast, and he would jump on the couch and curl up with me while we watched. I never wanted to leave – I’d keep watching one more video just to have a little longer to cuddle with him, before the day would begin and I’d have to work on projects.
Of course, whatever my project was, he was usually around. Sometimes he’d rest in the basement, but often he was nearby. If I worked on my computer, he’d nap on the bed. If I was cleaning, he’d nap in some wash (until I got the vacuum out anyway – then he’d scuttle off to the basement). While I did dishes and baked, I’d talk and sing to him, and he’d sit there watching me. If I was out in the garden, he’d hunt nearby.
He would often sleep with me at night, and curl up either at the foot of the bed or right next to my stomach. I loved when he was by my stomach best, since I could pet him and let his deep purr lull me to sleep.
He was my closest companion – when he was nearby, I was never alone, and never lonely. I could tell him any thought or secret, and he would just rub against me and purr.
When I learned my grandmother was going to pass away, when my horse went to his new home, when the world was just too much, Yellow was who I ran to. His soft orange coat probably held more of my tears over the years than tissues have. My greatest comfort was burying my face into his fur while I held him close.
In his younger years especially, he loved to play. I would pick a blade of Timothy grass and run it along the ground, and his eyes would light up in excitement, he’d go “RRRrrrrr!” and pounce and roll around trying to get it. Inside, we had toy fish and birds on a stick that would accomplish the same thing. My dad often rubbed his fur the wrong way and scratched his tummy, and he’d whip around with a fierce look in his eye and try to claw and bite the offending hand before skittering off to twitch his tail.
Like all cats, he loved to nap, and would find the strangest places to do so. Piles of laundry, boxes, beds, and blankets were frequent favorites, but he also enjoyed sleeping in the insulation in the basement. When our dog Buddy was alive, Yellow would rub against him and climb on him until he moved, and would immediately lay on the warm spot Buddy left.
His sleeping poses varied wildly. Sometimes he’d be all curled up tight, others stretched out as far as he could. Sometimes they just looked downright uncomfortable, but he must have been happy.
Yelly always had lots to say – his sweet meows could express a full range from mild curiosity to absolute fury. Sometimes he opened his mouth to meow and nothing came out. It was adorable, and I called them his silent meows. Others, especially when he was going to the vet or needed a bath after rolling in manure, he would howl something that sounded like “YELLO-WHOA-WHOA-WHOA!” He also liked to howl at night, just to harass my parents. I would say in general, the meows amounted to: more food, outside, inside, more food, outside, pet me, LOVE ME!
While he loved to play, nap, and tell us his tales of woe, his favorite activity was hunting. He was an unmatched mouser. On many summer days he would bring back multiple mice. He could find their hiding holes anywhere and stake out until one popped up. When it did, the tail would stand at attention, he’d sit up straight, wiggle his backside, and pounce!
Sometimes he found them under bizarre circumstances – earlier this year, we were walking by some maple sap tanks laying on their sides, and he sniffed, then hopped up in one. I couldn’t figure out what he was up to, but then he climbed back out with a mouse.
He found many other Catskills creatures too. He would catch garter snakes and toy with them (we suspect he brought one in the house once – we don’t know how else it could have gotten in). If a rabbit had the misfortune of living nearby, he’d take it down. We once rescued one that was still alive, and watched it bound off. The next time we let Yelly out, he brought it back to us again, half-eaten. Another time we found a chick and put it in a carrier with holes we thought were small enough to keep him out. We went in another room, and never saw the chick again.
Wild game was only one small part of the foods he loved. He enjoyed dry cat food, loved wet food, and went absolutely bananas for any chicken, beef, or fish we were eating. If we had steak, he’d circle the table like a shark, coming to each of us in turn and offering his most adorable, wide-eyed stare. If we opened any can, even something like soup or fruit, he would come running from the other end of the house, tail and ears straight up, going “rrreeeow!” just in case it was tuna or wet cat food.
He never liked drinking out of water dishes – I tried a special fountain toward the end, too, and he still wasn’t interested. His drink of choice? A pail of green water under the deck with some sort of worm creatures swimming around in it. If he couldn’t have that, a mud puddle would suffice.
My Love Eternal
The last couple days, he got winded easily, so I would pick him up and carry him around to all the places he loved. We went out and visited his mouse holes, sat on the porch swing, walked around the farm, laid in sunny spots, and talked. He seemed happiest when he was in my arms – his breathing nearly went back to normal, and he would fall asleep while I rocked him.
He was so much more than a pet, much more than a friend – he was a part of me, woven into my soul. The person I am, my passions, dreams, goals, and interests, were all formed with him by my side. He’s been around for all of it, and it feels wrong, impossible even, to enjoy all the things I once did with him, without him.
The grief hits in waves – I either feel nothing at all and can’t think, like I’m in some sort of nightmare I’ll wake up from any minute now – or I get wracked with such anguish that I nearly scream, can’t breathe, and feel like every muscle in my body is buzzing and tearing apart.
And with the grief comes the guilt – what if it had been preventable? Could I have done more? I could have been so much better for him – how often did he want to go out, and I said not right now? How often did he ask me for something he never received? What if I could have loved him more? I didn’t deserve him – he was too perfect, too sweet, too wonderful, and I find myself lacking. I don’t know what more I could have done, I don’t know how I could have done things differently if I had all those years over again, but still, I worry.
I miss everything about him, and I know I always will. His soft, silky fur, his pricked up ears, his smiling mouth, the expressive tail that would sometimes triple in size when threatened. The way he would dig a hole, do his business, then cover it and tear off at top speed. The way he’d cling and knead my arms and lap, leaving little scratches from his claws and holes in my sleeves and pantlegs. His tiny pawprints on our deck in the rain and snow. The weight of his warm body on my chest while we took naps. How I’d find him stretched out in a ray of sunshine. The way he’d surprise me, sneaking upstairs and hopping onto the bed before I knew he was there. The love in his golden eyes when he looked into mine and purred, blinking slowly while I pet him.
And a billion other little moments that made up the most wonderful 14 years of my life.
Until we meet again, my beloved Moonbeam. You are my love of a lifetime.