That’s what I keep saying about my cat, Zooey, who died unexpectedly on Monday night. I know that must sound like it goes without saying, of course I liked him, he was part of my family. He was soft as a bunny. He had a floppy ear. What wasn’t there to like? But, that’s just what I keep saying over and over as a justification for why I am so, so sad. I just really liked him.
He was also regal and dainty and wonderful and amazing.
Last February, right after our Dosey Doe, we had to put our cat Spike down. This was an incredibly hard thing to do. Spike was a bit of a bitey little guy and we knew that his viciousness, even if infrequent, would be a sore spot if we ever had kids. We knew that he would have to go one day, though we hated thinking about it, but knew it would maybe have to happen that he found another home. Then, we noticed that he was acting a little listless and took him to the vet. It turned out he had horrible tumours in his stomach and there was nothing the vet could do. We took him home, one last time, spent the night crying and petting him, and the next morning we watched as his light left him in the vets office. It was an incredibly hard thing to do and be a part of.
Zooey was a very different case. On Sunday night I noticed right away that he was acting a little skittish and at around midnight he started to throw-up. He proceeded to throw-up every hour on the hour until the morning. Getting ready to leave for work I pet him on the head, told him I hoped he felt better, and left, knowing my amazing wife would take him to the vet that morning and while things would probably be expensive, at least poor Zooey would feel better.
The vet visit went as expected, blood work, exams and Zooey was put on an iv and the veterinarian said Zooey would have to be kept over night. I complained all day about how he had thrown up under our bed and how much everything was surely to cost and how anxious I felt, etc., etc. At 7pm that night the vet’s office called me, asked if it would be ok if they did a urinalysis and that, while still not eating, Zooey hadn’t been sick in a several hours. I asked how he was doing and the vet said:
“Oh, you know, he doesn’t like being in the cage, so he’s tucked in the back. Otherwise he seems fine.” My heart ached at the thought of my little sucky Zooey being uncomfortable and in the back of his cage. I wished that I had gone to visit him but knew we would know more in the morning and we would probably be able to pick him up then.
The next day I had a work event that I was hosting at a school 2 hours away from home. Essentially it’s like a scholastic book fair but for professors. And there’s free food. And lots of coffee. I knew that the vet was going to call at some point with an update but otherwise I was too busy to think too much on it. A little past 11 my wife texted me asking me to call her. My heart dropped as I knew this was bad news. Good news can be texted, bad news has to be spoken.
I left the room and went to a bench nearby and called. I think I was expecting to find out that Zooey was going to, again, cost us thousands of dollars. Or that his condition was more serious than we thought and we would be faced with a hard choice. Or something. I was not expecting to hear my crying wife tell me that Zooey had passed away in the night. I think I saw black. I think I said “what?” We spoke for a bit longer and than I went into a bathroom and cried. I took a photo of myself crying.
Crying for your favourite little guy, all alone, in a campus bathroom.
Why did I take the photo? How self-indulgent can one person be, right? But that wasn’t really why. I knew, in that moment that I had to compartmentalize my sadness and act like I was okay in front of the professors. I couldn’t think about Zooey because I had to make it through the next 4 hours as professionally as I could. And it felt wrong, somehow, to not at least document with this one picture the sadness that I was experiencing. So, there you go.
Zooey was the softest cat in the whole world and you knew how hard he worked to keep that coat so soft if you ever had the luck to try to sleep as he cleaned himself, methodically, and so very loudly right next to your head as you tried to sleep.
Zooey also had a wonky ear because of a hematoma rupture in his ear that caused it to go “cauliflower ear”. It didn’t hurt him and he could still hear fine and honestly, we absolutely loved it about him. He was already so much like a puppy, with his sweetness and dopey personality. The flopped down ear also looked a little like a beret, and so we would often greet him with “bonjour, Zooey!”.
A rare pre-ear accident picture.
Zooey was the gentlest giant you ever met. For all of Spike’s random aggression, Zooey was 100% docile. He hated having his nails clipped but he never, not once, bit or scratched my wife. Even when he was playing with you, the second his paw met skin he would retract his claws and gently pat-pat-pat you. Even when he would climb on top of me in the morning and knead my belly or back or leg, if his paws touched skin he would immediately stop.
Also, he was probably the worst ninja ever.
He was so sweet and gentle and dumb and slow that we would always laugh and say how one day our future kids would only be able to catch poor Zooey. And they would wrap themselves around him and he would stare at us helplessly. Sometimes I would imagine my kids not being able to say his name properly and how that would morph into a new name for him.
I can’t believe that is never going to happen now.
I just keep expecting to see him. I keep imaging that he’s about to run up the stairs any second, or jump down on me from his bookshelf bed, or try to lick my hair in the morning to wake me up.
And I keep thinking about how scared and sad he must have been at the vet’s office. All alone in a cage, feeling awful, missing us and I can’t even try to stop the tears. I know we can’t control how the people and pets we love will die, I know that. But, Zooey didn’t deserve to be all alone in the end. Zooey would never leave anyone alone if they were hurting or sad.
My wife and I, in our cuter moments, play this call and say game where I ask her a question, like “Who do I love?” or “Who is the best?” or “Who is my favourite?” And for any one of those questions she would call back with “Zooey!” and I would say “Yes, exaclty! Oh, and also you!” And she would say “Yay!” and it hurts my heart so much to know that we can’t ever play that game again. Because my little guy is gone .
I’ve written 1249 words already about my grief and loss and I can’t imagine anyone is still reading. If you are, you either really love cats or you really love me (or both!) or really hate your job or there’s no Rob Ford news available or you are doing a study on lesbian attachments to cats or something. For whatever reason, thank you. Thank you for letting me share this pain and for being understanding. I know so many people, people who have never had pets or who did but didn’t really “get it” will have no understanding for why or how I could be so distraught over the death of a 7 year old tuxedo cat with a floppy ear. And there’s nothing I can say that will help or make you understand. All I can do is try to write about my grief and my pain as a way to cope. That’s all anyone can really do.
I just, I just really liked him.
Goodnight, Zooey. I already miss you so much.