Requiem for a Cat


Last night, after 15 years, my cat Fatty died.

15 years is a good, long, life for a cat — especially one appropriately named Fatty. Yet all the same my world feels a little darker today.

William Burroughs once wrote, “The cat does not offer services. The cat offers itself.” This was certainly true of this particular cat.

See, when we first got Fatty from our grandparent’s farm, she was incredibly needy. My brother had spied her in a litter that the farm’s apex predator, Mitsy the Rat and Bird Slayer, had just birthed. Gracie (her birth name) was the runt, too timid and friendly to fight for a spot when her mom offered milk to her litter. She was gray with these oddly colored pinkish white stripes that showed off a little of the angora her grandfather had been. Jake needed that cat instantly, and truthfully I think the cat needed him just as badly. We took her home with us after the next trip to the farm. If the family had gone to sleep, Fatty needed to be in the bed with one of us (usually my brother Jake.) She simply couldn’t stand being away from her people for long. It was as though now that she experienced love, she couldn’t ever get enough.

When I came home from work, you could always count on her rushing towards the door to greet you, if not sleeping right in front of it waiting. When I had a hard day, she’d always jump on the couch, place a paw on my leg, and nuzzle in close. She couldn’t catch mice or play fetch. In fact, when the pigeons laid eggs and hatched a brood of little baby pigeons on my wife and I’s balcony last year, we let Fatty go out and see what she would do with two helpless chicks. She simply smelled them cautiously, looked back at us – clearly disapproving of our nefarious plot to get rid of these pigeons — and came back inside. She had no skills. She the only thing she had to give was herself.

Stubble, the magazine you’re reading now, awarded her Best Pet and a column about dating and relationships. That always struck me as odd. I don’t think that I’ve ever met someone who can truly give themselves to someone else as completely as this cat gave itself to the people around her. I don’t think humans can do that, now that I think about it.

We had another cat growing up, Nina. Nina wasn’t nearly as nice as Fatty, and when she passed I felt sad of course. Everyone does when their childhood pets die. But I felt no sense of loss. Nina was just a pet, after all.

But this is different. This is harder.

I’m sure I’ll get another cat soon. Maybe a little gray runt. We already have the food dish, fancy motorized water bowl, litter box, a packet of catnip, and way too many cat toys. It seems wrong to just throw them all away. But I won’t get a new cat just yet. When you lose a friend, it’s impossible to move on right away. And even if I could move on right now, I don’t think I would. There’s a pleasure you get from the pain of loss. It makes the time you spent with the object of the pain that much sweeter. So, for right now, I’m in mourning. Pathetic, almost, when you consider it’s just a cat. But it was my cat. Our cat.

And I’ll miss her.

Fatty was a relationship columnist for Stubble and the 2012 Pet of the Year. She passed away in Texas this week. Cody Swede, the author of this piece, is her brother.


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