A year and five days ago, we said goodbye to the best cat ever.
Maybe I’ve told this story before, and maybe I haven’t, but either way, here it is today: I picked Jake out from the shelter solely because I felt bad for him. He looked cranky. He was ugly. No one was looking at him. He was a scrawny, 16 week old kitten (a whole month older than the other bundles of fur at the shelter) who was hiding in the back of his cage, glaring at the world with one eye. When I petted him, he just sat there stiffly. The name on the cage card was Winky, or maybe it was Blinky. I sighed and told my mom I wanted him. My brother picked out an adorable fluffy white kitten with a black tail who purred when you looked at him. I tried to trade cats with my brother on the car ride home. He refused.
Over the next 13 years, Jake saw me through high school, through college, and into my first home with Turtle. He ushered many other pets through my homes, including my childhood home, college homes, and houses thereafter. He put his fair share of dogs and cats in their place – not to mention some ferrets and rabbits.
The year that he has been gone has been a hard one. I kept expecting it to get easier, but it hasn’t. I miss his insistence on being in my lap; how he would run up and demand attention; how once he was snuggled up against you, that was all that mattered. As amazing as Piper and the dogs are, none of them has filled the cat-shaped hole that Jake left.
In the past few years, we have fostered many animals. We have had three puppies, one dog, and at least 4 cats – and we have not kept a single one. None of our pets are previous foster pets. We are good at fostering: we take them in, fix them up, and send them back with some cute pictures and a blurb about their personalities. We are not weak! And so it is just a little bit of a surprise that we find ourselves failing.
We stopped by the shelter “just to look.” I put that in quotes, but we really were just looking. We didn’t hit it off with anyone, but we asked if there were any cats in back who were, ahem, “defective.” Or missing body parts. Because, as Jake proved to us all, cats with missing body parts are the best cats. While the shelter had no cats who were actually missing limbs, they did have one guy in a cast, so we offered to foster him.
When we got him home, he hid. I was relieved, because, really? We don’t need another cat. We’ll take him, fix him up, bring him back… and within moments of my saying that, he was on Turtle’s lap. Purring.
We are doomed.
I have to clarify, this little guy (dubbed “Noah” for now) is not Jake. He is also completely confined to one room, so we don’t know how he will do with Piper or the dogs. But for now, that cat-sized hole that Jake left is filling up.
Being doomed is not the worst thing.