Yesterday was a very sad day; we had to put our middle cat down. Jadey was almost 17 years old, and very healthy for most of her life. We weren’t planning anything of the sort, but her lower jaw had been giving her some trouble the past month and we brought her in for a follow up vet visit. Some aggressive tumors had grown in the two weeks’ time since the doctor had seen her last. Jadey was in pain and was having difficulty eating. The tumors were inoperable and growing fast. It was time for her to go.
Jadey was one of those pets you could call “the best cat ever”. She was a rescue cat, meaning she was up for adoption at a pet store. We don’t know much about her history. She was let out of a moving car somewhere in the Springfield MA area. She was pregnant. Some nice people brought her to a shelter where her kittens were delivered. Jadey was nearly a kitten herself, being a one-year old mom.
My wife and I were volunteers are the pet store’s cat shelter. When Jadey was brought in, we placed her kittens in homes and took her for ourselves. This was in the year 2000.
Jadey gave us a magnificent 16 years. She was an expert mouser, her last victory coming on the day she died. More on that adventure in a bit. First I want to tell you about the kind of friend she was. Because that’s what she was, a friend.
Jadey was “my cat”, meaning she bonded most closely with me. Cats sometimes pick one person for this unique relationship and I was hers. She gave me special handling privileges, prolonged eye contact and a basic vocabulary.
I could pick Jadey up on my slightest whim. Does that sound trivial? Have you ever tried to hold an uncooperative cat? Jadey did not like people holding her. She and I had an agreement; I could carry her anytime I wished, and she would delight in it, for as long as I wanted.
We had our way of holding; always on her right side, with her front paws hanging over my right wrist and my left arm cradling her horizontally. I have never held another cat like this and wouldn’t want to try. It doesn’t seem natural but with us it was very much so.
Another part of handling privileges were the mock fights we’d have. We would have wonderful battles, my hand vs. the laying calico. Inevitably, she would be on her back and I would place my hand directly over her face, grabbing it with all four fingers and thumb, gently shaking her head. She would firmly hold my forearm with both paws until I let go. Purring, all the while.
Jadey caught a mouse at 1:30 AM, the morning of her last day. She brought the live creature to us in our bedroom, and called out repeatedly for us to turn on the lights to see. She was so very proud to have brought her conquest to us! After some frantic and hilarious moments we took the unharmed mouse to a field where it would live another day. Jadey went back to bed, a very satisfied girl. The old lady still had it, till the end.
Let me tell you how she talked. Her vocabulary was such that she had phrasing for “no”, “hello”, “oh hi”, and “that feels very nice”. She knew when and what to say to us, and knew what we meant when we spoke to her, as well.
Our family has lost one of its own and we are terribly sad. There is so much to feel badly about, it’s nearly overwhelming. We were all in this together, all five of us, three cats and two people. We were a unit.
We have plans to move to South Carolina one day. It hurts to think Jadey won’t be a part of that. I’m sad that an animal trusted me, unquestioning on every decision, right through the very, very, very end.
It’s sad to look at her favorite spots in the house, knowing they have reverted to inorganic function. The big Scrabble box in the closet, where she used to isolate herself for sleep fests under the hanging suits. The overhead cabinet in the kitchen, where she would jump if there was the slightest bit of free space next to the cereal boxes. It’s all cold storage now.
Jadey was a friend. The last words she heard were “It’s okay,” repeated over and over until she was still. Because her two owners were with her, and dire times are obliterated when loved ones are together. We held her face and body as she passed.
I wonder, where is this being now? Where’s the buddy who was with us through household moves, all the snowfalls and heatwaves? Where is that thing, that gentle soul?
I believe she’s in a greater place, and she knows everything now. She knows her parents. She knows the disease that took her. She sees us. She understands.
Her family will be hurting for a long time. It’s part of what makes a family work. I can tell you, the loss is a big blow to a unit that functioned, lived and loved for so long. We will keep going, because that was what she knew. Jadey was taken away, but not removed.
Jadey, Spring 2004.