Susan Speaks: Another Feline Tribute


It’s been four, five days and it’s still hard to walk into my bedroom. There’s an old blue comforter, a reject from my bed, sitting on the floor in the far corner.

We used to call it The Cave. That’s because the cats would curl up inside it, turning it into a cave. They’d pick the end closest to the heating vents; Devon Rexes are notorious for getting cold quickly.

Now, we call it a comforter. Something we have to decide what to do with. Leave it there? Keep it? Give it away? Just trash it, since in their attempts to burrow, beat each other up, and who knows what else, it’s now full of holes?

I’m not ready to deal with it. I’m not ready to deal with the hole it’ll leave. Hell, I’m not ready to deal with the hole the litter pan left, or the food bowls, or the lack of an angry blue-cream tabby cat, standing at the top of the basement steps, yelling at me for going away without him. I still walk into my bathroom and turn to call them, one hand on the faucet so I can turn it on when they come running. I still get into bed at night, five months later, and have to remind myself that no, Chanterelle doesn’t need her medicine.

You may remember that I lost my Chanterelle back in November. I’d thought her littermate, Cooper, would hang out for a year or two more. But I don’t think he ever recovered from the way in which Chan broke his heart.

In fact, it WAS his heart that was his final downfall. Last Monday, I took him to the vet. He hadn’t greeted me when I’d gotten home the night before from a camping trip with my son. In sixteen and a half years together, he’d never once failed to greet me when I’d been gone that long.

They took an x-ray, but couldn’t get a good look at his chest cavity. They warned me there might be a mass in there. My oldest sister is a vet. This wasn’t news that was hitting me from left field.

I actually waffled about doing an ultrasound the next day to find out what the problem was. That’s because Cooper wasn’t eating. I’d been down this road with Chanterelle. If Cooper didn’t eat, it didn’t matter what was wrong with him. He’d die of starvation in a few days.

But at the last minute, I called the vet and went ahead. What they found surprised me. Cooper had severe dilated cardiomyopathy. In other words, heart failure. His heart would expand and fill with blood, but it wasn’t contracting and pumping that blood on through to the lungs. Fluid was collecting outside the sac holding the heart; it had collapsed part of his lung.

We *could* treat him, and I went home with medicine. But… a cat who won’t eat anything is a cat getting ready to join his littermate.

Two days later, it was time. I knew it before Cooper would admit it. After I called the vet, I went to look for the old man. He had gotten out of his green Polartec bed and made it to his pan (thankfully. At 5:30 that morning, with him asleep on my stomach on the family room couch, we hadn’t been so lucky.). But he couldn’t manage the steps back upstairs.

Right there, like that, as he huddled on the bottom stair and waited for me to come rescue him, the fight went out of my cat. Not all of it, but enough. It was time.

It was also time to leave for the vet.

Unbelievably, for a cat who was dying of heart break and heart failure, his spirit left before his heart stopped beating.


I can’t tell you how much I miss him. That I’ve never spent a night in this house without a cat in it. That I sit on the couch and hold one of The Girl Band’s stuffed animals even though it can’t come close to being my cat. He was a kneader, my Cooper. Before I had The Boy Band, he’d drool on me as he kneaded: cat behavorialists will tell you that’s a sign that the cat thinks you’re his mom. He was trying to stimulate milk flow from the crook of my right arm. After I was a mom to human children, he’d keep kneading. But he never drooled again. He knew Mom had had a new litter.

It’s not that Cooper was my cat so much as I was Cooper’s. That’s why this void is so damn hard, and why I’m struggling so much. Yeah, part of it is that it’s harder to go from one cat to none than it is to go from two to one. When you lose one of a pair, you’ve still got a companion. And it helps that Chanterelle loved everyone the same. Her void, while large, wasn’t quite as unbearable as Cooper’s is.

But… I’ve got the shelter where I volunteer. Someone there will adopt me. I’ve got more room now for a foster kitty; I’m thinking of putting them here in my office with me instead of in the Boy Band’s room. And it’s kitten season, or it soon will be.

We’ll find more cats. My kids will get to experience the fun of a couple of kittens; they are exactly the right age for this, and they’re experienced enough to know how to handle a kitten or two. (Not three. Of course, watch those be the words I later bite.)

It’ll never be like the two small Devon Rex kittens my sister brought me back in 1994. Those kittens won’t adopt me the way Cooper did. They’ll adopt the kids, and that’s the way it ought to be. I had my time. Now they get theirs.


Our final night together, I kept telling Cooper that it was okay, that he should go join Chanterelle. He wouldn’t. I’m not surprised. As I texted my sister, she was probably up there waiting for him, ready with a growl, a hiss and a paw swipe, just like she did whenever one of them had been to the vet.

Now that she’s gotten that out of her system, I know they are curled up together once again, just like always, a little puddle of blue and blue-cream, yin and yang in their bed.

And I miss them. Oh, how I miss them.



  1. Laura Henry

    April 13, 2011 8:17 am

    Totally amazing. RIP Cooper and Chanterelle. I know a new cat will adopt you and yours. And when you least expect it. About a year after we lost Q, a kitten followed the boys and I home. I had been walking around the neighborhood looking at Christmas lights with the Cub Scouts. This black and white wonder waited on our our porch until Sean came home. When Sean came home, the black and white wonder waltzed right into the house and our hearts. The boys named him Fuzzy. Fuzzy likes us, but he ADORES his boys. I wish the same for you.

  2. Susan Wells Bennett

    April 13, 2011 11:25 am

    I’m so sorry about Cooper. Losing a pet is so painful. After my pug died — the only dog that was completely mine — I found myself crying whenever I thought of her. Take care of yourself and finish grieving before you get new kitties.

  3. Rachel

    April 13, 2011 2:41 pm

    I am SO SO SORRY for your loss. I know how painful it can be to lose cats. My “mean little boy” left last year; Tigger was almost fifteen. I adopted a kitten two months later, Blackjack, and five weeks after that, he passed away. And it’s not an exaggeration to say that I’m not the same person I was a year ago.
    But I do have a beautiful brilliant little kitty diva named Chanel, and she’s helped me through it all.
    I know it takes a while to feel better, and nothing can make it happen faster, but my thoughts and prayers are with you. When you’re ready, I hope your house will be full of the patter of tiny paws and purrs once again.

  4. Sparkle

    April 13, 2011 7:40 pm

    It’s hard to lose a kitty, especially the special ones. My human still misses the cat before me, and she always will. Maybe I should be jealous, but I’m not because I understand.

  5. Robin

    April 13, 2011 9:03 pm

    Aw Susan! *hugs* I know how hard it is to lose a special friend. We ended up replacing him with 4. We fortunately got Luna at 6 weeks and when she was old enough, let her have one litter. We kept three and gave the other two to my brother in law. They are a delight. When you are ready, one or two will adopt you. Raising kitties from birth – an amazing experience.

  6. Terrafreaky

    April 13, 2011 11:50 pm

    I have tears in my eyes. My poor cat was on my desk when I read this. He was awoken by my panicked affection and is trying to figure out just what is wrong with me.

    Such a lovely tribute to your cats. Thank you for sharing them with us.

  7. Ann (bunnygirl)

    April 14, 2011 12:50 am

    The love never goes away.

    Another kitty will adopt you and although it won’t be the same, it will be good. The best we can do for our absent furfriends is do good deeds for other furries. A fitting tribute to Cooper.

  8. Alice Audrey

    April 16, 2011 2:47 am

    Hugs, Susan. We lost our last cat a couple of years ago, and have been missing him ever since. I feel for you with the loss so fresh.

  9. Teddy

    April 18, 2011 12:57 am

    I am sorry for your loss Susan. I know first hand how hard it is to loss a pet. Sometimes I catch myself calling DJ, Robbie and Amanda, Tina. I still miss them dearly. My thoughts are with you.

  10. donna sheridan

    May 16, 2011 11:41 am

    We lost our last cat a couple of years ago, and have been missing him ever since. We fortunately got another at 6 weeks and when she was old enough, let her has one litte.I found myself crying whenever I thought of her.

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