Friday, 12 March 2010
Death of a Little Cat
Why do we do this? Why are we motivated to take these little animals into our homes, teaching them how to be clean, letting them learn the warmest places, the most comfortable places, feeding them, entertaining them while they entertain us?
Why do we let them into our hearts?
There is no sense in it, but we do it over and over again.
Each time one of my dogs has died I have said, 'Never again!' and given away the beds and bowls, collars, leads and waterproof coats. And sooner or later (generally later) I have gone out and bought more. A new dog has moved in.
My last two dogs both came to me for an allegedly short time, at the end of their lives, to have a comfortable death. The current one snores loudly in the kitchen as I write this, two and a half years after she came here.
In their childhoods my sons experienced so many pet deaths that my younger son kept a Book of Woe, recording the loss of dogs, gold-fish, rabbits, guinea-pigs and stick insects. Each loss was painful, each as bad as the one before, but I thought I was doing the right thing in letting them have pets at the cost of losing them. I thought it was right for children to experience death, that the death of a pet might somehow make it easier to cope with human deaths, when they arrived, as they surely would.
We did not have cats because of family allergies, and I was aware of feeling relieved. Goldfish generally stay in their tanks (although we did have one who persistently leapt for freedom and subsequently swam backwards after spending some time, unnoticed, on the carpet). Dogs have to be under control. The rabbits and guinea-pigs were in a walled garden and couldn't get out (although predators could get in, sadly and messily). Stick insects stayed put, and it was not always easy to tell if they were dead or not.
Cats are different, independent, free spirits. They bestow their favours upon us when they choose, and withdraw them when they choose. They are fearless, able to squeeze into tight corners, through narrow gaps, climb dangerous ledges, clamber on to slippery roofs. They are terribly vulnerable. The emotional cost of cat ownership is great.
So this is not my cat, but a little cat very like it lived with people I love until a couple of days ago. She brought them so much pleasure for a few short months.
I met her only once, recently. I felt extraordinarily privileged that she bestowed her favours on me, giving me toys to play with, carrying a leaf from the garden all the way upstairs and giving it to me in the bedroom. I thought she liked me, and I was perplexed by how important that thought was to me. She was charming, fearless, entertaining, inquisitive and determined.
A few days later and the little cat is dead, the saddest of accidents, the terrible cost of freedom.
Her life was short, but full of meaning and she will not be forgotten.
But the experience of death does not get easier.
This is for S., E. and K.