since i wrote not that long ago about the death of my cat, baby kitty, our family has lost two more cats. it has been a hard year for kitties around here. losing one is hard enough, and two felt like adding insult to injury. then our third kitty loss just left me feeling in shock. each of them has left a gaping hole in our hearts, and they are each sorely missed. i don’t mean to diminish their meaning to us by not drafting separate posts for each one. after tinker died this summer, i was unable to write about it right away, because i felt somehow responsible. it seems that kiki’s death, our third kitty loss this year, has freed up my writing muscle, when it comes to kitty eulogies.
(see her peering over the edge of the ottoman?)
kiki’s death helped me realize what an amazing array of predators must be living right on the edge of our backyard. when tinker disappeared, i had let her outside one morning, and she had simply not come back that night… or the next night. since i was the one home and taking care of her, i felt it must have been my fault. it all was made worse by the fact that tinker belonged officially to rich’s daughter, not that i wanted to be responsible for losing rich’s cat (and he was deeply bonded to tinker) but somehow it was just worse. maybe it’s the fact that i am still navigating the tricky territory of developing a relationship with rich’s kids, who are adults, not children. whereas i feel very sure of rich’s love for me, my relationship with his kids is still in its formation. they are wonderful people whom i have already grown to adore, and i think they feel kindly towards me as well, and certainly i did not feel blamed whatsoever. it’s hard to put into words, but maybe i don’t need to.
tinker was a beautiful cat. she was absolutely spoiled rotten by rich, who would go retrieve her from whatever soggy corner of the yard she was haunting, bring her inside, towel her off and brush her long tangled fur out smooth next to the woodstove. he’d play with tinker, setting a sheet of newspaper over her and watching her spring out from underneath. tinker was a big fan of the simple pleasures in life. sunbeams, catnip, belly rubs. and her belly was oh so soft, it was impossible to resist.
kiki belonged to rich’s son. she was an entirely different beauty from tinker, black and long and sleek. i was, again, the one who let kiki out the day she was attacked. she had just recovered enough from a previous predator attack, in fact, which had given her a big gash on her hindquarter, and was ready to be back outside exploring. that night she didn’t come in right away, and it took us a while to find her hiding on a high shelf in the greenhouse, wounded much more severely this time.
kiki did not really make her move into the house or into our hearts until tinker disappeared, but once she moved in, she made herself very comfortable. when she first arrived in april, she spent several months being almost permanently outside, hunting. we spent many an evening trying to coax her down off of the roof, to try to prevent her from obliterating the bat population roosting there. one day i came upon her carrying a chipmunk by the scruff of its neck. i got her to release it, as it was still alive. she was regularly fifty feet up a tree, and was quite the climber. when we would come home after dark and call for her, we’d often find her by shining a flashlight, not around the yard, but up into the canopy, where her green eyes would flash at us in the flashlight’s beam.
when kiki moved inside, she spent days and days just lolling around, trying out new spots, as kitties do. she never was one to let others initiate, but if she climbed into your lap while you were relaxing in the evening, you could bet you would be there under her for a good long time. she had a brief period of attacking our feet underneath the comforter on the bed, but eventually settled on just sleeping in between us. she, too, loved catnip, and rich got into a morning ritual of tossing her mice for her while he laced up his workboots.
but this was a kitty who reveled in her wildness. she could not be kept in, which was why she continued to live with us instead of in the apartment where her owners lived. she was very obviously thriving on having acres to prowl. unfortunately, she was not the only hunter around. the most amazing thing about kiki is that she made it back after being attacked- not once, but twice. most of the cats rich has lost to predators (think bobcats, coyotes, who knows, maybe bears?) have simply gone out one day and disappeared, like tinker. it’s a very unsettling feeling. it’s impossible to have closure. only the passage of time eventually helps, but even now we still wonder whether we just saw her streak by out of the corner of our eye.
this wild kitty had an appreciation for a good microbrew
kiki came back, and spent several days being a champ and attempting to recover from her injuries. she was clearly in pain, but let me give her water through a syringe, and ate some tuna and some of her cat food. she even got up and tried walking around on her front leg which was clearly injured. we did not know the extent of the injury until we took her to the vet to get some antibiotics- we thought her wounds were becoming infected. only when the vet had sedated her and shaved her fur and investigated the depth of her gashes, which were far worse and more numerous than we had been able to tell through her fur, did she discover that kiki’s shoulder was essentially shattered into splinters. there was no way she could repair that injury, and she advised us that the most humane course of action was not to wake her up from the anesthesia.
what started as a trip to the vet for antibiotics became a different kind of trip entirely.
we haven’t talked a whole lot about it, but i did get from rich, who is the biggest cat guy i have ever known, that maybe we should get a big dog next time. and i think, after we heal from all these losses, we might have to do that, even if our motivation would be to protect our future kitties.