It was a chilly day in December 2000—back when winters were still cold and you didn’t have to wear a tank top at Christmas. I’d seen an ad for a kitten at a local pet shop and went to meet her during my lunch break. The kitten was born on Halloween, and I loved Halloween, so I thought we’d be a good match. I thought wrong.
The kitten was hyper, rambunctious, and made a lot of noise. I suspect she would have gotten along well with energetic children in a big house, but I was renting an apartment and could tell by the way she used her claws that I wouldn’t be getting my deposit back if I brought her home.
Back in the corner was a quiet, unassuming kitten with sleepy eyes and dark stripes over silver fur. She was from a different litter, but they estimated she’d been born around the same time. I picked her up and she looked dreamily at me, her whole body vibrating as she purred in my arms. I enjoyed her lazy demeanor and the soft sweetness of her face. I knew she was the one for me.
I paid $20 for her and made plans to pick her up after work. I brought her home as darkness settled in and snow began to blanket the town. The poor thing didn’t know how to walk in the apartment because she’d lived the first two months of her life in a cage. She hopped like a little bunny rabbit to get around.
I gave her a bath—which she hated—and I quickly learned that cats don’t do water. Hey, I was 19 at the time. As I was drying her off, I gave her a Dad-talk to introduce myself and told her that I promised to love and care for her for the rest of her life.
I named her Purr Purr because that’s what she did every time I held her. Her name may sound silly now, in an era where pets have such sophisticated names like Genevieve Hollingsworth, but it was simple and perfect at the time for a teenage boy with his first cat.
Purr Purr enjoyed nearly 16 years of good health. She never needed surgery, or suffered from blindness or hearing problems. In fact, right up until the very end, she mostly looked and acted the same.
She always took care of us in her own special way. Whenever we were sick, she would cuddle next to us, as if she were an angel looking out for our well-being. She always slept at the foot of the bed, and when Daniel came into our lives, she loved perching on his feet at night, which sometimes made sleeping uncomfortable or inconvenient for him. But he was always patient with her and if he did need to move, he was careful to not kick her.
Occasionally, for reasons I’ll never know, she would wake me up early in the morning by licking the inside of my nose. I recall the surprise as a wet tongue suddenly invaded my nostrils, dragging me out of a peaceful dream. But that was Purr Purr. She did what she wanted.
At age 15, she had her first plane ride out here to California. I’ll admit we were pretty nervous about that because airlines require you to keep animals in a mesh bag tucked underneath the seat. But she did a great job and didn’t have any problems or even look upset. She seemed to like the bag because it made her feel safe while still allowing her to people watch.
The last year of her life was filled with sunshine. The sun is quite persistent here in California, shining high and bright almost every day. Purr Purr loved the sun and our bedroom was drenched in its light. She rotated from the bed to various window sills, wherever she felt she could get the best view. It became a habit for me to look and see which spot she was in whenever I passed through the room. That will be a hard habit to break, as I still expect to see her there.
Over these last few weeks, her health had taken a sudden turn. She ate less and less each day and wasn’t using her litter box as often. We tried offering her new food and it didn’t seem to help. By yesterday, she had completely quit eating and seemed to have a little trouble finding her balance when she walked. Other than that, she still seemed mostly the same, still enjoying the sunlight and still able to jump up onto furniture.
Last night, we thought she was about to pass away. There was a calm about her, and so we started saying our goodbyes. She went to sleep cuddled up at Daniel’s feet, just as she always did. I had trouble sleeping, suffered from nightmares and seemed to wake up every hour to check and make sure she was still breathing. I guess she became annoyed with me because we found her sleeping on the couch this morning.
There was no improvement with her eating, so we called the vet at 8 AM and made plans to bring her in to be euthanized. I kept trying to talk myself out of it, trying to rationalize that if we could only figure out a way to get her to eat, we could keep her alive. But we knew it was a race against time anyway. She’s just a few weeks shy of 16, and all the signs were there.
Purr Purr enjoyed one final morning basking in the glorious light of the sun as it spilled through the window. I scratched underneath her chin and she purred lightly.
We brought her in to the vet at 10 AM and the doctor assured us we were doing the right thing. We went over a “quality of life” checklist and Purr Purr was failing most of the key points. The only good points were that she hadn’t been vomiting or lost control of her body, she wasn’t showing any obvious signs of suffering, and she was still drinking a little water. But overall, her health was still on the decline. It was better to let her go peacefully rather than try to keep her around longer for our own selfish reasons.
We took turns saying our goodbyes and I gave her one final Dad-speech about how much I loved her, how much she meant to me, and how I was grateful to have been able to care for her for the rest of her life. They sedated her via IV and her chin dropped within 10 seconds. It was so fast, it didn’t even seem real when she lost all animation. She was sleeping peacefully and I picked her up and held her in my arms, stroking her and kissing her forehead. It broke my heart to feel her body so limp, but she was still breathing, just as the doctor said she would be.
After tearfully saying our final words, we left so they could move on to the euthanasia. They gave us the option to stay but we didn’t want to be there for that. She was asleep and her final memories had been with us. That’s all that mattered. We didn’t want to see her pass on.
I’m sharing one of the last photos I took of her, from this morning when she was looking out at the pomegranate tree, enjoying the sunshine. I will miss her so much. Purr Purr was a loyal companion and I’m thankful she was in our lives for so long. I’ll think of her each time I see the sun and know how much she would enjoy it.
Goodbye, Baby Cat. I love you.
UPDATE 09/29: I think it’s really setting in now and I feel completely heartbroken. I understand she’s a cat and I know this sadness won’t last forever. But I sure could use one of her kisses right now. (She always had kisses for me, no matter what.)
I’ve been walking around the house, emptying out her litter box, cleaning out her food bowl, etc. and I keep pausing to check for her. She was a very curious cat and followed me around like my shadow. I always had to be careful to not step on her, or close a door and trap her in a room or closet. And she did this cute little trot down the halls, like a proud pony. I keep expecting to look down and see her nearby, but she’s not here anymore. Even last night in bed, if I moved my feet under the covers, I would check and make sure I hadn’t accidentally kicked her, only to remember she wasn’t there.
I know this is a natural cycle of life, but I really hate it and miss her a lot. It’s compounded by the fact that I’ve spent so much of that time working from home, so I really did get used to having her by my side throughout most of my adult life.