My 17-year-old cat, Jerry, passed away in the night.
When we adopted Jerry, he was an eight-month-old kitten considered nearly unadoptable because of his utter shyness. He’d been rescued from the woods with his litter, ill with pneumonia, and his first experiences with humans were the veterinarians who cared for him. It left him shy of human contact, though ultimately well-behaved at the vet and with the people he decided were his.
I was his.
We adopted him because he needed a home, and we needed a companion cat to our then nine-month-old cat, Bear, who was too social to be left on his own during the day when we were at work and school. Jerry’s foster parent brought him to us, because the stress of a public adoption day would be too much for the poor, shy kitten to handle. When it came time to decide if Jerry was staying or leaving, he scratched the poor woman and darted under our couch.
We decided that was a good enough declaration of interest in living with us and with Bear, and we kept him.
It took two weeks before he’d let someone pet him, a couple of months before I was able to cautiously pick him up. Both times were at his instigation. The first time, he jumped into my lap unexpectedly, and jumped right back out. The second time he jumped into my lap, where I was sitting in a recliner, I ran a hand down his back and he purred, and purred, and drooled with happiness.
My lap in my chair became his safe zone. One day, while I was walking down the hall in my small apartment, he planted himself at my feet and howled. I reached down slowly to pick him up, and he snuggled in and purred.
Jerry loved few, but he loved them well.
Over the years, he remained a healthy and loving cat at home, who was shy of outsiders. When we adopted teens, he rarely allowed them to see him, preferring to spend the bulk of his time in my room. When we later welcomed our little ones, he almost disappeared into my room completely.
Within the last few weeks, though, Jerry started to come out of hiding more and more, demanding attention. He demanded cuddles, and got them. He moved slowly, but allowed the little girls to play with him, pet him, and incorporate him into their games. He went outside for the first time in years, playing a slow game of tag with them, and then rolling in the grass.
I was torn between amazement at his sociability, and dread because I was afraid of what it might mean. I intended to take him to the vet this week for a look.
This morning, I didn’t see him in his usual place. And when I went to look for him, I found him curled up, and gone. I did take him to the vet today, but he didn’t come home with me.
He gave us lots of love, and we gave it right back. We’ll miss him.
One more note: Jerry and his brother, Bear, were both jet-black cats, gorgeous animals who had a hard time getting adopted in part because of their coloring. Please, if you’re considering adopting a cat, consider the black ones. They’ve also got a lot of love to give.
Both of our older cats, now gone, were adopted through Cause for Paws, Inc., in the Twin Cities. Our younger cat was adopted through the Human Society in Wichita, Kansas. Both organizations do the valiant work of keeping the feral cat population down and helping those cats in need to find good homes.
Hug your loved ones today.