The Cat’s Meow

I want to thank you, Gentle Reader, for your patience during my brief blogging break over the past couple of weeks. I’ll explain why I took it shortly, but first I want to draw your attention to a couple of items of interest. As it happens, all three give me the direct or indirect opportunity to write about the most spirit animal of all internet spirit animals, the cat.

Giving Tuesday

This being Giving Tuesday, I want to once again draw your attention to the giving campaign by the Friends of Little Portion Hermitage. Due to the way that the GoFundMe page is set up, we can’t reflect the total of all the donations we’ve received since we started this final push to raise the funds necessary to establish a hermitage. This is because some donors prefer to send a check or use PayPal, rather than use GoFundMe.

What I’m very pleased to tell you here however, since we can’t reflect this on the GoFundMe site, is that we’re roughly halfway to our goal of $37,000 thanks to your outstanding generosity. I want to thank you on behalf of the Friends, as well as our Franciscan hermit friend Brother Rex – and not forgetting his feline friend Clare, named after St. Francis of Assisi’s dear (human) friend St. Clare – as we near the point of finally being able to find the hermit a home. Even if you’re not in a position to help financially, please consider sharing this link with others who may be able to help us get to the end of this campaign: just scroll down to the bottom of the page to see all of the ways that you can give. Whether through GoFundMe or one of the other donation methods, every cent counts, and donations are tax-deductible.

Thank you again for your support!

The Federalist

For those of you who missed it last week, my most recent piece for The Federalist is now available for your perusal. The Metropolitan Museum of Art recently opened a retrospective on the work of Félix Vallotton (1865-1925), an artist who isn’t exactly a household name in the U.S., but who was a highly creative, interesting figure at a time of immense change in the history of Western Art. Thanks to the Met show, as well as a concurrent show at The Phillips Collection here on DC on “Les Nabis”, the circle of young Parisian artists of which Vallotton was a member, his work is now in a position to become much better known to a wider American audience.

Among the many works in the Met show are a number of Vallotton’s woodcut prints, a medium which he almost single-handedly helped revive in Europe long after it had fallen into disuse. The images are usually those of social commentary or satire, and while some are quite serious in tone, many have an appealing touch of humor or whimsy. Among the latter are a series of six he printed between 1896-1897 on musicians and their instruments, and in “The Flute” we can see that the flautist is trying to practice while the cat is trying to get some attention. The same very well-observed cat appears in other Vallotton woodcuts as well, and it was amusing to see it popping up here and there in the exhibition. If you get the chance to see either show, you won’t be disappointed in the variety of works available for your consideration.


I took a break from blogging because, as those of you who follow me on social media know, two weeks ago today I made the very difficult decision to put down Lili (pronounced “Lee Lee”), the cat whom I was privileged to share my home with for the past nine years. She arrived as a tiny kitten that could sit quite comfortably on top of your head and snuggle herself in, a bit like in the classic Looney Tunes cartoon, “Feed the Kitty” (1952) by the great animator Chuck Jones (1912-2002). Even when she became an adult and could no longer fit on even my enormous head with its perpetually tangled mop, she would still perch on the back of the sofa and proceed to lick all the product out of my hair.

Lili was a small cat, with an oversized personality as big as her incredibly thick, luxurious black-and-white fur coat, and a parade tail the size of a feather duster, which she used to wave proudly as she sauntered about. She very vocally expressed her opinion about everything, did not suffer fools, and loved hunting. She also, which in a lifetime of pet cats I’d never seen before, had certain dog-like tendencies, including growling (not hissing) at the mailman, or wanting to play fetch with fallen leaves in the back garden during the autumn.

She could be quite the drama kitty, as well. I’m told by those who looked after her when I would leave for a weekend or for a long vacation, that she’d barely eat anything while I was gone. Yet almost inevitably, when I’d return she’d greet me by pooping on the floor to express her immense displeasure at my having left her in the first place.

Sometimes I’d come home from work, to find her plushness sprawled provocatively across something she knew very well that she wasn’t supposed to be sitting on, but she would just give me a look as if to say, “Don’t bother me when I’m looking magnificent.” I’d steer clear until, inevitably, she wanted to be held over my shoulder like a baby, and endlessly petted and talked to. She often slept with me on the opposite pillow, but even if she didn’t, she’d show up very early in the morning and bat my nose with her paw, just to wake me at the hour when she thought I ought to get up.

Not surprisingly, I eventually realized that I was living with the feline version of Joan Collins (minus the poop of course), and would refer to her as such when she was being particularly grand. She appeared to appreciate and respond to that, diva that she was. Thus, we eventually came to an understanding that I belonged to her, rather than the other way round.

Being someone who uses tools such as reason and precedent to make my way in the world, her loss affected me more than I had anticipated. She suddenly became very ill with what turned out to be total renal failure due to kidney cancer, and there was nothing that could be done to save her. The very kind veterinarian assured me that I had done nothing wrong, and the decision I had to make was merely the quicker and ultimately less painless of the two options. I know some people in this situation prefer to let their pets die naturally, but in this case there was no reason to prolong the inevitable.

The aftermath was more difficult to process, in part because I’m single and have no children. No doubt those of you who come home to a spouse and/or a child care for your pets very much as well, of course, but your pets aren’t the only thing you come home to. When you’re on your own and feeling sick, or things are going pear-shaped in some area of your life, or you’re just climbing into bed and turning out the light, a pet somehow provides a sense of well-being, in that you have someone else to care for who needs you. It takes you out of yourself to have to constantly bear in mind that you’re their whole world.

Now, I’m not a “pet parent”, nor do I believe in a “rainbow bridge” for dead pets. If I want to become a parent, I’ll go reproduce. And the only rainbow bridge I’m interested in is the one that rains Skittles.

That being said, I’m also not a harsh theological or philosophical realist. On the contrary: I’m smart enough not to presume to put restrictions on what the Man Upstairs can and can’t do for us in the next life, as regards our beloved pets. Nor do I wish to waste any time speculating or debating on the subject, when I have things to do and people who need my help. The takeaway here is that I’ll continue to feel Lili’s loss for a long time, but I’ll always be grateful to have had her in my life.

Thank you for the opportunity to share some thoughts with you, Gentle Reader, and we’ll return to our regular programming this Thursday.



20 Comments on “The Cat’s Meow

  1. 🙂 You know my feelings on the topic. But I remember when my baby Nemo died less that two years ago, the months afterward, I felt his loss keenly in things I used to do to avoid stepping on him. He always used to curl up amidst the feet of my office chair, so whenever I got up, I had to do so gingerly so as to avoid stepping on him or upsetting him. I did that even when he was gone, and it brought me to tears every time. God is good to give us love in the many ways that He does, and I am grateful for the love I received in my little Nemo, and now in Shadow and Luna. I hate to suggest it, but you really must watch the video on Youtube “God and Dog” by Wendy Francisco. I hate to suggest it because it makes me weep profusely whenever I watch it. But the suggestion from this simple little song is that God’s love for us is reflected in the love our pets give us, and I don’t disagree. He loves to be at our side. He waits for us to return to Him, and He is not a fan when we stray. He is ever faithful, and ever loving, no matter how rude we are to Him. His love is everlasting. He is good.
    And now I’m crying. Keeping you in prayer as you mourn this loss.


  2. When I first moved to Colorado, I moved there with our (my) cat, Linus. I had no idea when I’d see my family again, when we’d finally find a home they could move into, or what would happen from one day to the next. But in that hotel, I had Linus waiting for me every day when I came *home* from work.

    Three weeks later, I finally got to go home to see my wife and children again for a weekend. When I got back, I discovered Linus had barely eaten anything.

    That night, I noticed his breathing was quite labored.

    The next day, I took him to the vet, who told me his lungs were surrounded by fluid.

    There was nothing I did to make it happen, and nothing I could do to fix it.

    Living in that hotel, away from my family, completely out of my element, I had to have Linus put down.

    People at work actually laughed at me for being upset.

    All this to say – I’m sorry for your loss, Billy. People make fun of cat people. But cat people understand your loss.


  3. Dear William – I am so sorry about the loss of your cat LiLi. The cats they I’ve had were a lot like her – little divas. They do help fill up our lives with love. Our cat Hattie (named after my grandmother, who loved cats) is my constant companion these days, and it will devastate me when we inevitably lose her. To paraphrase Mark Twain, if cats don’t go to heaven, I want to go where they go. Greg


  4. Our pets are a very important part of life. The pet I had longest was Mina (I was reading Dracula when a stray cat showed up at the back door..) She was with us 10 years, surprisingly – she became my husbands favorite. Then the time came to say goodbye. I didn’t realize what a hole she left in our hearts and home. Mourn Lili, it is going to take a long time for you to get over her death. That is ok, that is life.


  5. Very sweet, indeed. The feels will come and go, as I’m sure she did, being a diva with the run of the house and all. I hope the memories will become sweet, instead of bittersweet, sooner rather than later. Thank you for sharing Lili with us one last time.


  6. Losing a dear cat never, ever gets any easier, no matter how many you’ve loved and lost, and whether they leave on their own or with a little help. I’ve lost 2 dear little girls, sisters, this year. One made it to her fifteenth birthday and a bit longer; the other missed by just over a month. They both had serious and longstanding health challenges, and we worked together to make sure they had the best quality of life we could give them. That’s what its all about for cats: Quality of life, quality of life, quality of life. And if you know a cat well and pay attention well, they will let you know when it’s time to leave. I could tell you many tales of cats going on this journey in a huge variety of ways, but ALWAYS with cattitude and aplomb. I wish we could be more like them.


  7. Indeed so, as the vet told me, cats are very good about hiding anything that is wrong until the last moment. Thanks for reading and sharing, and sorry for your loss as well.


  8. Oh Billy, you have my deepest sympathy. The sudden loss of a pet is very hard, even when you don’t ascribe to the over-humanization of them as “furry children.” I still remember losing my first dog, a cocker spaniel named Bob (surname Barker, of course) when he came limping into our kitchen after being struck by a car. He was chasing away the neighbor’s horrible mutt-of-a-dog, who always terrorized our cats. My mother and I, if you can believe it, were listening to the very end of Musetta’s Waltz. I remember it like it was yesterday. This was in 1989, 30 years ago. Pets teach us who we are, how we love and treat others, and connect us with the real world of the senses. You are right in saying that Lili possessed you, not the other way around. Enchantment might be the best word??? You were and always will be enchanted by such a lovely cat. I rejoice that you had such a good household companion; mourning such a cat is, in GM Hopkins’ words, to “weep and know why.”

    Also, I love “feed the kitty”! The image of the little kitten marching in circles to make the nest in the dog’s fur is perfect–a little bit of frustration with a big payoff in companionship. A great cartoon.


  9. When the time came to take Lili to the vet that day, I was listening to “The Moldau” by Smetena, so I’ll always think of that walk we took through the village to the doctor’s office now when I hear it. Thank you for reading and for sharing your own story. And yes, last night when drafting this I was trying to think of an image to go with this post and that very sweet cartoon immediately came to mind.


  10. Particularly with kidney function. A cat can lose up to 75 percent or so of kidney function without experiencing or displaying any adverse signs. But as soon as the function declines to just over that, functionality goes over a cliff, and the cat is, very suddenly, VERY ill. And even then, cats are conditioned by evolution to hide any signs of distress or injury, because of fear that access to resources will be compromised when other cats realize he is ailing. It’s built in. Even very experienced research vets I have interviewed have been “fooled” by their very ill cats until almost the end. Cats are truly amazing little beasties.


  11. William,

    I am sorry to hear about your Lili. Thank you for sharing your memories of her. I know the pain of having to suffer w a suddenly sick pet and the decision to end her suffering. Please know I will keep you in my prayers as you go through this time of grieving her loss.



  12. Your story reminds me of our precious Francine. She developed diabetes and we managed the shots as long as we could.
    She had quite a personality and was definitely my husband’s cat, he was retired and they spent all their time keeping the other company.

    He fixed her breakfast while packing lunch in the mornings, so on Saturdays when he slept in – she woke me up and let him sleep.

    We knew it was time but he had a very hard time accepting it and had to be out of town that weekend and so I had to take her to the vet … and return to our empty house.
    It has been over 4 years and he still isn’t ready to adopt another. She left quite a big hole in our household – the way all well-loved pets do.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Thanks for sharing that, I know that coming back to the empty house feeling all too well, and it took awhile before I stopped checking to make sure she wasn’t trying to sneak out of the house when I was opening a door to go outside. Thanks for reading.


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