An honest take on life and parenthood

Of babies, both human and furry

on September 11, 2012

Before I had a child, I had a cat. Her name was Lily.

For those of us who do not have kids, our pets are our babies. Pre-Pooh, I was no different.

Lily originally belonged to my mom’s next door neighbor, Karen. When I first met Lily, she was living in Karen’s garage with a feral cat. The feral cat died, and suddenly, Lily was alone. A sweet tortoise-shell calico, she loved visits from humans and soaked up love like a shipwrecked sailor.

It was beginning of 2008. I had just moved out of my mom’s house and had taken a studio apartment in Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia. I had a new job and a new boyfriend, and I thought it might be nice to get a cat. My sister suggested Lily, since she was very sweet-natured and would probably appreciate the comforts of a girl-pad.

Granted, I felt some trepidation. I had owned pets before, and still felt pangs from not being a responsible pet owner when I had been a Peace Corps Volunteer several years before. Also, although my life was on an upswing, I was emerging from a crippling depression that had left me unable to work and barely able to take care of myself. Taking on the responsibility of a thirteen-year old cat felt daunting. I hemmed and hawed.

My sister, the Cat Lady herself, convinced me. “Take her, Wendy. She needs a home. She is too old to be in a garage!”

So I adopted Lily.  Packed her up in a pink crate with a familiar blankie and some cans of cat food, and off we went from the countryside of New Jersey to the heart of Philadelphia.

Lily settled in almost immediately. With stimulation and attention, she stopped eating out of boredom, and gradually slimmed down.  She was such a lovebug and so social that she seemed more canine than feline at times. Even my pet sitter was taken by her sunny charms, and wanted to feature her on a local news program.

I spoiled and pampered Lily, taking endless photos of her. I posted pictures of her on Facebook, and kept a picture of her in my cubicle at work. I tempted her with treats and special cans of Fancy Feast and soft kitty beds, and worried about her creaky joints.  Unlike higher-maintenance pedigreed cats, Lily was a simple calico, and was always perfectly happy with a warm lap and a can of Friskies. She never even scratched the furniture, although she still had her claws.

I went on to buy a condo, get married, move to the suburbs, and leave the workforce. I became pregnant. There was Lily, as steady as ever, going with the flow, as cheerful as ever.

When I became pregnant, she continued to sleep on my stomach, even as my stomach grew rounder and plumper. As she purred from the mountaintop of my baby bump, I thought that my baby would be comforted by the purr as much as I was, and hoped that she would love cats too.

Then the Pooh arrived.

When we brought the Pooh into the house for the first time and set her carseat on the kitchen floor, Lily came over immediately to investigate. To my distress, she sniffed, hissed, and ran away.

From that day on, Princess Lily was demoted. Not intentionally, but that was just the law of nature. I didn’t love her any less, but I certainly had much less time for my furry friend.

Instead of pictures of Lily, I filled my camera with endless shots of a bleary eyed, puffy newborn, who was the most beautiful creature I had ever seen.

I had to give Lily credit. She was a trooper through it all. I don’t think she was happy about the new arrival, and probably hoped that she would go away, but eventually, everyone adjusted. Lily never bit or scratched the Pooh (even though she deserved it on several occasions) and seemed to instinctively understand that the Pooh was just a baby.

They argued at times, as siblings do, and the Pooh even tried to frame poor Lily for her own mischief on a number of occasions, but Lily never seemed to mind. The Pooh tried to boss Lily around, and even renamed her as Zee. (Not sure why, and I will probably never know).

As I began to spiral into another depression, I made the terrible decision to leave my husband and file for divorce. Suddenly, I was on my own with an eighteen month old baby and an old cat.

Both the Pooh and Lily were my saviors through this devastating time. Both of them comforted me and I also knew that I had to take good care of myself for their sakes. I rebuilt my life, made many deep and painful changes within myself, and went back to work. After coming to the brink of divorce and being separated for a year and a half, I took a deep breath and a leap of faith, and decided to give my marriage another try.

Lily adjusted once again. She didn’t say a thing about my mistakes or my poor judgment, nor did she make any predictions about my future, good, bad, or otherwise. She just took up residence on her cat mat once again in a new house, and settled in.

Then one night a few weeks ago, I found her next to the coffee table, completely paralyzed, looking straight ahead, and groaning. I frantically called the closest emergency vet clinic, placed her as gently as I could into the same pink crate that I brought her home in, and rushed out the door.

As we raced to the clinic, the Pooh said from the back in her carseat, “We need a new Zee.” I replied in a hard voice, “Don’t talk like that.” I cursed the reptilian heart of my toddler, even though I understood it, and tried not to cry as I drove as fast as I dared.

We arrived and the clinic staff swept Lily away from me.  Less than fifteen minutes later, the vet told me that Lily was so close to passing and so riddled with cancer that I should let her go. So I did. I held her paw and told her I loved her, and that she had been a good friend and good kitty. She was exactly eighteen.

In the days that followed, the Pooh looked everywhere for her Zee. She cried for her, and wanted to know where she was, and when she was coming back.

How do you explain death to a two year old?

I resorted to the best explanation I could. I told the Pooh that Zee was very sick, and that she had to go to sleep forever. But now, I explained, Zee was a kitty angel, and with us all the time, watching over us and purring. And she wasn’t sick any more.

I don’t know if the Pooh bought my story, but after a few repetitions, she stopped asking for Zee.

The Pooh has requested both a doggie and a baby kitty since Lily left us, and while I do love animals, I am just not ready for either.

For now, I will continue to remember Lily in her best days, with her sunflower personality, gentle spirit, and unconditionally loving heart. Good bye, little cat. I miss you.

One response to “Of babies, both human and furry

  1. claudia frankenberg says:

    heartfelt, impassioned story. Wendy you are a wonderful writer, I look forward to reading more……


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