I sit next to the dying cat. She is over twenty years old—more than a hundred in human years. I met her when she was six weeks old—a little cross-eyed talkative tuxedo cat in the Espanola Animal Shelter.
At first, she wasn’t mine, she was my daughter’s kitten. I was the mistress—in all fashions—of the fat fluffy Mr. Orpheo, adopted at the same time. Mr. Orpheo was a boyfriend of a cat, if you like them more handsome than smart. In actual men I’d passed through that stage briefly as a teenager but Mr. Orpheo re-awakened my ability to love a guy for his looks alone. He had enormous green eyes. A feather duster of a tail. He was also very sweet-natured and affectionate.
But the little black and white female was the smart one. Her name was Felina, but she was known as “Felina The Cat” because the pharmacy listed a medication for her under “Felina The Cat Sagan.” She dominated poor Orpheo, and bit his ears into permanently ragged fringes. He died squarely in middle-age, leaving her as an only cat for seven more years. My daughter moved out. The little cat was mine. Companionable and sociable, she commented on everything. My husband Rich and I laughed when she seemed to chime right in on our conversations with a well-timed “meow.”
Felina got old, creaky, She yowled and wandered about at night. I was tending to aged and dying relatives, a friend in hospice. I probably needed a kitten more than a geriatric cat on Prozac, but I didn’t mind at all. This cat was feisty, and easy to love, to accept.
When Mr. Orpheo died, I was oddly alright. Perhaps I took my cue from him. Also, he was a boyfriend—and boyfriends by their nature come and go. Never one to be a bother, he disappeared in a snowstorm after he was diagnosed and then failing from lymphoma. He vanished completely, into some neighborhood hidey hole, and that was it. Not so Felina. I knew she wouldn’t. Ailing, she preferred to be next to me every minute. When I realized that after years of thyroid disease and failing kidneys she was beyond the power of pills or potions, I sobbed.
She didn’t teach me much of anything, and our only shared interests involved the bathtub and balls of yarn. She could be annoying, and at times I could’t believe I—in this vast world of terrible trouble—was putting so much attention into keeping one cat going. Yet somehow, I was hers, and she was mine.
In memory of Felina The Cat, September, 1995-December 3, 2015