Our oldest cat, Ms. Elizabeth Bennett, otherwise know as Lizzy, died yesterday morning. She was thirteen, apparently an average age, although we’ve had cats live to their twenties. She’s been frail and reclusive lately, and apparently, it was time for her to go. I’ll miss her. She always sat on a blanket near my feet, in front of the portable heater, or on a perch in the kitchen. In summer she’d go outside and sit with me while I wrote in the outdoor office.
This photo is from her younger days, when she wandered outside more.
Her death led me to thinking about all the cats I’ve shared my life with. There have been quite a few. We still have four at the moment.
So, I set out this morning, searching for photos of them all. I don’t have a photo of the first cat in my life – Boots. He was a gray tabby cat, unneutered, I remember. My parents gave him away when we moved. I think I was 5. We also had an English Setter at the time.
We got another cat some time after that. I’m not sure when, another gray tabby. I remember I liked to chase Smokey, which I’m sure he didn’t appreciate, but no one ever told me I was being cruel and I was too young to figure it out myself.
Still, he liked me enough to hang out with me sometimes and nourish my lifelong love affair with cats. One day he disappeared and we never knew what happened to him.
I grew up (okay, stop laughing) and moved out on my own, went to college, fell in love and began living with this guy, the one I’m still married to. We went to the animal shelter and got a couple of cats. Fred and Toby. Toby was the beautiful fluffy black cat. He only lived a year before succumbing to feline leukemia, way back in the days when it was first surfacing in Seattle. I hardly got to know him and he was gone. Fred, the black and white sweetie, lived to be twelve. He had the sweetest soul. He was the cat who would put himself in between two other cats and break up a fight. Handsome guy, I remember he loved to be held and he drooled a lot.
When Toby died, we went back to the animal shelter and got Fred a friend. She was a feisty princess, who we named Anise. She’s the one who lived longer than any of our cats, a ripe old twenty-two years. And just because she was a princess, didn’t mean she was a sissy either. She loved it when we moved up here to ‘the woods’ and she could explore.
Before we left Seattle, back in the days when Michael worked at Surrogate Hostess, a now defunct restaurant on Capital Hill, a mother cat with a 1-year-old kitten and brand new kittens showed up at the restaurant. None of them were skittish, just without a home. All but one of the new babies found homes and one of Michael’s coworkers wanted to take the mom and her 1-year-old home. Which would have left a kitten homeless. So, sucker that I was, I adopted Zuzu. And never regretted it. She was a very special cat and I miss her to this day. My first tortoiseshell, after which there have been four more. She was always around to comfort me. We finally had to put her to sleep when she was nineteen.
Lizzy was our next cat. A friend recommended a plant grower/nursery in Oso, now gone, where she’d got her cat. They always had lots of barn cats. We inquired and found Lizzy there. She was another princess cat and an intrepid explorer. We called her Lizzy, after that famous character, because she talked a lot and had many witty things to say.
Marco Polo just showed up. He hung out in our neighbor’s yard for a few weeks, but they weren’t going to take care of him and so he hung around our house. A very sweet cat, Himalayan was my guess, with beautiful blue eyes. Problem was, he had seizures. We took him to a couple of vets, including a homeopathic one. He got a little better, but the seizures never quit. Eventually, when they got closer together and started coming twice a week, we had him put to sleep. He didn’t deserve to suffer like that.
I was working for three Naturopaths and a Chiropractor and met a patient who knew a cat that needed a home. The cat wasn’t hers and she was full up. I met him and decided to bring him home and see if he’d work out. He was affectionate and bossy – part Bengal I’d been told. He got along well with all our cats except Marco, whom he terrorized. Eventually, I found another home for him with a young couple.
Later on, I worked at a water garden nursery. They got a cat from one of their employees. She had kittens and there I was everyday, seeing those kittens. I took the last two home. Viola, a gray tabby and Olivia, a silver tabby. They were silly girls, but got along with our other three cats well. Olivia died on Christmas day. She’d wandered over to the neighbor’s and drank water that contained antifreeze. We took her to an emergency vet, but there was nothing that could be done. Viola was with us for several more years. She was tortured by another of our cats. She was really quite small and shy. I finally rehomed her, hopefully to a better place.
Brighid & Rosmerta were born in our neighbor’s yard. Their mom was a stray. One by one, I watched the kittens disappear (and not to homes, but to coyotes, dogs, eagles, cars?). There were only two left, when we adopted them, a good friend took their mom home.
They were crazy sisters and extremely affectionate. Here’s a photo of Ros in a bag, she and her sister loved to climb into plastic bags and play. The top wasn’t closed. Really.
Ros was my shadow and I was devastated when she went out across the road one morning and then saw me going to get the paper before taking Zoe to school. She came running back across the road and was hit by a car. The man stopped, he felt terrible. But there was nothing he could have done. I still miss her.
Brighid lived with us for several years. She became a happy lap cat. Then one day she disappeared. There had been a barn owl around and I’m thinking that’s what got her. Miss her as well.
Which brings me up to Lizzy. That’s a lot of cats to have loved and lost. All our cats now are young. Seven years and three years. I hope they live long, long happy lives.
I’m so done with losing my furry friends.