November 6th, 2009
My first cat was a gray and white tabby named Mischief—Missy for short—who I got through chicanery and begging. One day, in second grade, a cat sort of followed me home. I say sort of because after it followed me a few houses, I dragged it the rest of the way, presented it to my mom and said “Can we keep it?” Of course, the cat eventually made its way back toward its rightful home (I hope) and I cried. “Keep crying,” my devious older sister told me. “And you’ll get your own cat.” We already had a dog at that point, a lovely schnoodle named Tramp, who I don’t have a picture of but who looked a fair bit like his namesake from Lady and the Tramp:
But Tramp was the family dog. I wanted a cat of my own. And my sister’s ploy worked. A day of crying and we were off to Gemco, the giant pre-Target, pre-Costco megastore, out front of which people were invariably giving away kittens. And so we got Missy.
Missy was a Tomcat, and Tomcats ran away, which Missy did after six months. I think I was sad but I was also young. And by this point my parents were resigned to having cats, so my dad and I were off to an abandoned house full of kittens where we got the shyest, prettiest six-fingered Calico of the lot.
For the first few days, all she did was hide behind the piano. So we named her Heidi. My mom told me if I couldn’t get her out of her shell within a few weeks—if she didn’t purr by a month—she had to go back. Picture the montage sequence in the movie, girl coaxing cat to love her. That’s what I did to Heidi. She loved me. And only me. For 11 years. And then one day, Heidi disappeared. It was pretty horrible circumstances. The day after a party at my house, a party that had culminated with a pretty sordid one-night-stand for yours truly, followed by breakfast the next day bumping into an ex best friend who’d broken my heart. And then my missing cat. I went to the pound every day for two weeks in hopes of finding her. I put up signs. I cried so hard that my jaw went all out of whack and wouldn’t close without clicking. She never turned up. Probably, she got freaked by the noise of the party, went a little far afield, and the coyotes got her. That’s what happens in Southern California.
Meanwhile, Tramp had died a few years earlier, when he was a senile 17, after being with our family for a good 14 years. He drowned in the hot tub (how SoCal) and my mom was hysterical (she made us blow dry him before we buried him because she thought he looked cold). I was calm. I dug a hole. Tramp had lived a full life and we knew how and that he’d died, so I was not half as devastated by his death as I was by Heidi’s. For years, when I visited my parents, I expected Heidi to come out of the bushes.
I didn’t plan on getting any more cats for a while. But then when I was living in Oregon at this crazy, horrible hippie coop where I was so, so miserable because the peace-loving hippies were SO MEAN to me because I drove a car and wore lipstick and liked to do my homework instead of getting stoned all the time, this little gray kitten wandered into the place. If I didn’t take him, the hippies were going to have him and name him Ganja and feed him vegan kibble take him on Grateful Dead tours. So I took care of him. And named him Trotsky (because he didn’t walk; he trotted. He also sucked on earlobes) and then got both of us out of that hippie house as soon as our lease was up. (See him and note my calculator. That was back in my pre-Med days so lots of chemistry for me!)
Me and my new roommates had a housewarming party at our new place. I closed Trotsky in my bedroom with food, water and litter. Someone let him out. He wasn’t used to the neighborhood. He got into the street. A car hit him. He died instantly. Which would’ve been bad enough. But some nasty girl, named Kat (from the mean coop!!!), no less told everyone that I had backed over Trotsky with my car because I was drunk, which was very nice of her and ridiculous because I have never, not once in my life, driven drunk. Anyhow, this rumor only added to my depression. So did my crazy boy state. I was dating two different ones at once and was about to dive headlong into a destructive romance with another bad-news punk boy. We had a funeral for Trotsky in our backyard and it was attended by the two guys I was dating, the one who wanted to date me (and who’d sweetly decorated my car in flowers after Trotsky’s demise) and the one I would soon start dating/obsessing. I should’ve felt belle of the funeral. Instead, I felt empty.
I swore off pets for a while after Trotsky. I also swore off dating. Especially crazy punk-rock boys who don’t know how to deal with girls. And then about a year later, a year of no dating, I met a not-so-crazy punk rock boy who did know how to deal with girls. And I fell in love. Hard. A year after that, we moved in together. A week after we moved in, we got a cat from the shelter. A gray six-month-old that when the shelter lady saw our pick said “Oh, you didn’t pick the prettiest one, did you?” Could you blame us? Silvery sleek and so soft. “The second softest kitty in North America,” Nick used to say, proclaiming to have pet the softest one in a thrift store in Montana once on a cross-country trip. She was a beauty. Everyone thought so:
A few months after Miranda, we adopted Scotty, thinking Miranda might need company when we moved to New York from Eugene. She hated Scotty from the get-go. Really, I think she hated the loss of exclusivity, her status as Queen, an insult that was only worsened when we had human kids. But, she and Scotty sort of got used to each other, like an old crotchety married couple. And she had to learn to be civil to him; he weighed 13 pounds to her eight.
We’ve had those two cats sixteen years.
Now we have one cat.
Miranda died today.
Or, to be perfectly honest, we put her to sleep. She was sixteen years old and had pretty much lost control of her bladder and bowels. Though I joke about cleaning up cat poop and pee, it was becoming not such a joke anymore,. Finding poop in my bed, in my shoes, pee all over my clothes, all over the kids’ clothes–on a daily basis. And she was pretty miserable, something that was made clear when the final drug was administered and her heart stopped beating and she stopped looking like such an unhappy old maid and sort of resembled the happier cat she’d been back in the day before she’d taken to whipping around the apartment in some mad attempt to get the excrement off herself. She sort of looked like she was smiling. Or maybe that’s what Nick and I tell ourselves to make us feel better.
But after putting this off for almost two years now, Miranda’s death feels a lot like Tramp’s. She was old. She lived a full life. I know what happened to her. It was time. The vet asked if we wanted her ashes or her paw print, but Nick and I said no. We have 16 years of memories. Like the time we were staying at a friend’s house in Park Slope while our apartment was sprayed for bed bugs and we thought Miranda had slipped outside while no one was looking and we galvanized a search party, complete with posters, only to find Miranda was sleeping in the linen cupboard. She was sneaky like that. Maybe I’ll pretend that Miranda is still sleeping in the linen cupboard.
Bye, bye Miranda Panda. Thank you.