Well readers, yesterday was a sad day as our beloved kitty Snickers passed away. I knew this sad day would come eventually. I just didn’t expect it to come so soon. As I mentioned in this post, the vet told us in March that her kidneys were failing, and a special diet would help temporarily, but ultimately nothing could be done to reverse the inevitable progression of kidney failure. But on the special diet, Snickers turned into a kitten again, jumping on the table and counters. She even started sticking her head in Gilbert’s food bowl while he was eating to try and steal some of his food! When Gilbert would growl at her, she would back away for a second, but then come right back! Maybe Snickers wanted to get even for the times Gilbert used to steal her food before we cleaned out a space in the basement for her to eat that Gilbert couldn’t reach. This new behavior also brought back funny memories of when Snickers was a kitten and would torment Indy who was almost twice Gilbert’s size. Nevertheless, I did start holding Snickers while Gilbert ate his food because growling is very uncharacteristic for Gilbert, so Snickers was clearly getting on his nerves, and I feared that one day, Gilbert would decide that enough was enough and bite her.
But on Friday, Snickers stopped eating, and on Saturday morning, Mom found her sitting in the sink. She wasn’t drinking the water though, just letting it flow over her. Mom dried her off, laid a blanket on her favorite easy chair in the living room, and laid her down on it. She slept there for awhile, and then came into the kitchen intending to jump onto the table, but she missed, and fell to the hard floor with a loud thump. She didn’t cry out in pain, but she didn’t feel like getting up and walking away, or trying again either. So I picked her up gently and carried her back to her easy chair, where she slept the rest of the day. Sometime Saturday night, she limped to her water dish and drank a tiny bit of water, and then Sunday morning, we found her sleeping on Gilbert’s bed on the floor. On Saturday, I told Gilbert “No!” when I was petting Snickers and he came up to the easy chair and wanted to sniff her. I didn’t think he would hurt her, but I didn’t want Snickers to feel stressed when a dog was sniffing her and she was too weak to run or swat at him like she used to.
By Sunday night when she hadn’t gotten out of bed the entire day, it became clear she wouldn’t be with us much longer, and with this realization, the sadness started to well up in me. I remembered a book from when I was a child called The Tenth Good Thing About Barney, a story about a child grieving the passing of her beloved cat. When I was a child, this book didn’t stir emotions in me as I read it because I hadn’t gone through the loss of a beloved pet. We didn’t have a cat at the time and Indy was still a rambunctious puppy. But my subconscious mind must have known I would need this book later in life because the title of this book just came to me.
I felt compelled to download this book from Bookshare and read it pre-emptively Sunday night in the hopes that the simple language of a children’s book would bring me comfort, which it has. First it has been comforting in how relatable it has been. Like the child in the story, I didn’t want to eat, write or do anything I usually enjoy. All day at work Monday, I was thinking about her, and on Monday evening when Snickers left the bed Mom created for her on the fireplace in the family room and tried to hide from us, a common behavior cats exhibit when they are about to die, I didn’t want to join my young adult bible study group I host Monday nights. All I wanted to do was stay downstairs and hold her. I tried to be an adult and not let myself cry, but Tuesday evening my resolve broke and I cried. I think no matter how old we are, every now and then we all need to return to the simple, comforting language of a book written for children to be reminded that it is natural and okay to cry over the loss of a beloved pet.
On Monday night and Tuesday night, Mom put a soft pillow inside one of Snickers’ favorite whicker laundry baskets she liked to sleep in when she was younger, which we hoped would make her feel secure in her final hours. Mom slept with her in the guest bedroom and we made sure to keep the door closed so Gilbert would not bother her. On Wednesday morning before leaving for work, I went into the guest room and pet her for what I sensed would be the last time. By the time Mom got home from driving me to work, Snickers had passed away.
I have also found comfort in this children’s book because it suggested a very healthy way to grieve the loss of a pet. In the story, the mom suggests that the child think of ten good things about Barney, which in adult language means that rather than dwelling on the sadness of the pet’s absence, we should focus on all the happy memories we had with the pet. In the story, the cat passes away on Friday and Mom tells the child they will have a funeral for the cat in the morning. The child can only think of nine things before falling asleep, but the next day when his father plants flower seeds over Barney’s grave, the child thinks of a tenth good thing about Barney. He will go back to the earth and help the flowers grow. This is such a poignant story I feel myself tearing up a bit even now as I recount it. Last night when I got home from work, Mom, Dad and I had a funeral for Snickers too. We buried her in our backyard, and Mom bought a lilac bush which we planted over her grave, so she will help flowers grow too. We each said a few words about how much love and joy Snickers brought to our lives, and although Dad wasn’t a cat person eighteen years ago, Snickers won Dad over with her charm and I swear I heard his voice crack as he remembered her. I couldn’t help crying again last night, but today I am starting to heal and focus on all the good times we had together. To that end, I have created my own list of ten happy memories of Snickers.
- Snickers was brave. She tormented Indy and Mojo ruthlessly despite the fact that they were big dogs who could have taken her out with one snap. In her younger days, she would hide and wait for someone to open a door so she could dart outside and a couple times once outside, she climbed way up high in a pine tree.
- . Snickers was smart. In 2008 when we were hosting a party, we tried to lock her in a storage room with food, water and her litter box so she wouldn’t jump on the table and cause trouble, and so that the cousins could play ping-pong in the basement. Well Snickers found a secret passage out of that room, jumping up into the rafters which went above the door of this room, jumped down when she reached the main basement and ran back upstairs to investigate the table!
- . She was naughty in an endearing way. We tried squirt guns to keep her off tables and counters when she was younger, but she didn’t fear the squirt gun so eventually we gave up and just made sure to wash the table religiously and lock her up with her food, water and litter box when we were expecting company. Sometimes, she would lick things on the table, but sometimes she would just sit in the middle of the table and purr as if she were laughing at us.
- She didn’t purr softly. She purred so loudly I could hear her purring clear across the room. She would purr when we pet her, especially behind the ears, and she would purr when we prepared her food.
- She would run to the door to greet people just like a dog. She wouldn’t run up and smother the visitor with kisses like a dog, but she was always there standing back a little ways sizing them up and if they sat down, she would come to them purring, but wouldn’t be shy about biting them too if the mood struck her, just to make sure they understood who was in charge at our house.
- When we occasionally had visitors who said they didn’t like cats, Snickers could tell who these people were too, and would work extra hard trying to charm them, trying to sit in their laps while ignoring the pleas of those who loved cats and would have loved to hold her. Toward the end of her life, Snickers had this weird affection for Dad. He loved her and enjoyed her antics, but rarely fed her and did not hold her or use baby-talk on her near as much as Mom and I had. But she started ignoring us in the evening and jumping into Dad’s lap with an adorable meow of love as soon as Dad sat down to watch television. I wonder if she could always sense that Dad wasn’t as fond of cats as the women in the house were, and she was bound and determined to win Dad over before she left us, which she did
- She was aware of every new appliance, piece of furniture or package that came to the house and was the first at the scene to investigate it. When I received my braille edition of Reader’s Digest, I would barely finish opening it and she would be there eager to climb in the box. Sometimes if I was lazy, I would pull one volume out of the box to start reading and when I went back for the second volume, she was sleeping on top of it. I would often find something else to read as she looked so cute in that box I didn’t have the heart to move her.
- She was unpredictable in an adorable way that made every moment with her interesting. One moment she would be as sweet as can be, snuggling into your arms or the blanket on your lap and purring. And then on a dime, she would haul off and bite you.
- She hated to be brushed. We tried brushing her a couple times but quickly learned we needed to wear body armor (long sleeves, thick gloves) as she scratched us up good. One day when she was really young, Mom, my sister and I were brushing her in the livingroom and Indy, or big german shepherd was watching on a rug nearby with what Mom and my sister described as a grin on her face. Indy was enjoying the spectacle this naughty cat was creating. Well as soon as we gave up trying to brush her and set her free, Snickers lunged straight for Indy and attacked as if to say, “I saw you laughing at me and I am not pleased!”
- She was active right to the end, chasing bugs, and jumping on tables and counters. In fact, I still smile when I think about Saturday. The last thing she did before she succumbed to her kidney failure was attempt to jump onto the table. Visitors would be in disbelief when I told them how old she was.
In the children’s story, Annie, the narrator’s friend who came over for the cat’s funeral, believed Barney would go to heaven, but the narrator didn’t believe there was a heaven for cats. The narrator’s parents weren’t sure either. I like to think that Snickers is in heaven, perhaps playing with Indy and Mojo. But even if pets don’t go to heaven, she will always live in my heart. Rest in peace Snickers. You were loved and even if we adopt another kitten down the road, you will always hold a special place in our hearts.