Back in August, I wrote a post about my two geriatric brother cats, Tigger and Dodger. About our twelve year long journey together and my melancholy, but detached, reactions to learning they were both very ill. In September, I revised my outlook from detached to heartbroken, when we put Dodger to sleep. I wrote a couple sad posts about that experience and how despite our history, it was really Allison that would miss him the most.
I was wrong.
Within a couple of days of Dodger leaving us, his brother Tigger's personality changed dramatically. Typically somewhat aloof, he was suddenly overly affectionate, with a clingyness that seemed desperate. He would follow us around our home, meowing agitatedly and jump into any lap that became available. (Laps are a commodity this house.) He stopped eating his food and generally seemed unhappy. We all came to the sudden, certain, awareness that Tigger was grieving the loss of his lifetime companion. His playmate, his groomer, his traveling companion, his roly-poly snuggling friend had suddenly disappeared, and he was bereft.
I know this revelation wouldn't have shocked the cat lovers of the world, but it did a number on me. I immediately developed a whole new level of respect for the feline species. Who knew they had the emotional capacity to feel loss to such a degree as to jeopardize their own well-being? A dog, I could imagine this of, with their unfailing dedication to their people, often going beyond what we would deem reasonable. But a cat? They hardly seemed to be creatures with a deep emotional life. Contentedness and disdain were the entire range we had witnessed from him before.
Our family was so sorry for our grieving, confused cat, we babied Tigger more than we had since he actually was a baby. We bought him new food until we found something he would eat. We kept water available in the bathroom, where he preferred it. And we smothered him with affection, trying to comfort him through his loss. Eventually he pulled out of the worst of it, but after that was never really the same. He continued to lose weight steadily, and eventually started urinating all over our house. It was like he had lost the will to make it all the way to his food or litter box.
Today, the day finally came to put him to sleep as well.
Tigger was old. Nearly thirteen. He was sick. The doctor told us back in August that his kidney's were going and he may not have much longer left to live. But until Dodger died, he was vibrant and playful, albeit a bit ornery. So despite the medical reasons that Tigger had to be put to sleep, I can't help but think of him and Dodger as one of those elderly couples that die within months of each other. Without their companion, they can no longer find a reason to keep fighting with their deteriorating bodies. As strange, and sentimental as it sounds, I think our Tigger died when he did, because he missed his friend so badly, he couldn't figure out how to live without him. Our cat...he died of a broken heart.
Goodbye to our Tigger. A cat who loved more than we ever imagined. We will miss you.
I woke up this morning feeling better about saying good bye to my grumpy old man. I poured myself a bowl of cereal to eat while reading blogs. Once I was finished I placed the bowl on the floor next to my chair and went off to get coffee. A motion so familiar it came without thought. It wasn't until I came back and saw it sitting there on the floor, my bowl of milk, that I realized I am living in a home without cats for maybe the first time in my life. I stared at it for a moment, wondering at how such a small thing could bring on this nauseating ache. And then I picked up the bowl and rinsed it out in the sink.