Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Rest In Peace, Cleo

She came to us on a brisk October night in 1990. I was coming home from a late class and she was there, a little orange long haired cat meowing at me on my front steps. My first reaction was to stomp my foot near her and I said, "Shoo, kitty!". I was allergic to cats and knew I couldn't get near her. I went inside and mentioned the cat to my husband. He said he'd seen her and didn't know if we should help her. I reminded him I was allergic, but if he wanted to leave out a bowl of tuna and a makeshift bed outside, I was ok with that. Although I thought we couldn't take her in, the thought of turning away a hungry kitty tore at me. My husband and I made a deal. If the cat was still there in the morning, we would call the landlord and ask to keep her. I would just have to stay away from her and let my husband care for her.

As it turned out, the kitty was there in the morning and we ended up letting her in. She seemed so grateful. For the first few days all she did was sleep, eat and crawl up on my chest to purr and purr. At first I was nervous, thinking I'd be allergic. It turned out that if I was careful and didn't touch my eyes after I touched the cat, I was ok. So we slowly got to know each other during her recovery period. We took her to the vet and he cured her ear mites and told us she was probably about 6 months old, making up the birthdate of May 1st. We named her Cleopatra, after the queen. Since neither of us ever owned a cat, we took a while to learn about her and she, never owning a human before, learned about us. We later learned from our neighbors that shortly before she came to us, she had been going house to house meowing at the doors. Some people fed her, but no one let her in. To this day that story brings tears to my eyes.

Over the years, Cleo would come to see us at night while we watched TV and she would sit on my chest and purr, just like in those first nights. She did funny things like trying to jump onto a window sill that was covered in plastic for the winter. That earned her the nickname, KittySplat. But she was most of all a very stoic, intelligent kitty who seemed very determined to be above it all and except for her love for us, dignified in all situations.

We thought she might be lonely so we adopted a sister for her from the shelter. We named her Nephertiti. But Cleo never seemed to take to her too well, always wrestling with her and attacking her when she did something stupid, which was often. They did curl up together and groomed each other, but Cleo never seemed to need anyone else for companionship. She didn't seemed bothered when we had to put Nephie down at age 9.

Cleo also seemed to defy odds with her health. The only time she was sick in her life, before now, was when she had a bladder infection. She started meowing at me one day and led me down to her litter box in the basement. She got in, tried to go to the bathroom, and looked at me when she couldn't, as if to say, "See, I can't go. Something is wrong." I took her to the vet and sure enough, she had an infection.

As Cleo got older, we began to wonder if she was a super cat. She outlived three dogs and Nephie. She was only sick once. She survived three moves. Year after year, she kept going. She just seemed like she'd always be here. But recently, we noticed Cleo started to look bad. She stopped being able to groom herself, leaving us to shave off knots in her long hair, a miserable process for both of us. She also couldn't walk steps anymore. She started having accidents in the house, something she never did before. She was always a clean and meticulous. She seemed to be losing weight. I took her to the vet a few months ago, after trying everything to help her. They took blood and said she had thyroid disease and kidney disease. Basically, her kidneys were failing from old age and there was nothing they could do. They recommended a low protein diet and sent us home. Poor kitty. I asked the vet if Cleo was in any pain, they thought she wasn't. So we watched her. We gave her a low protein diet, with some of her favorite wet food here and there. She drank a lot of water, even out of the dog bowl at times. We moved her litter pan so she had everything in one area. We gave her a fluffy towel to lay on and kept an eye on her.

Cleo always loved outdoors. She was an indoor kitty, but would meow at us to be let out. Most of the time, I would let her go. Though I was scared she wouldn't come back, she always did. I think she just looked around, ate some grass and came back. Smart kitty. But in the last few months, I was too scared to let her go out without keeping an eye on her. She only asked a few times to go out anyway. I think she was too sick.

This past Sunday, my husband stayed home from church to deal with the weekend flooding in our basement from all the rain. He left the glass sliding doors open for the dogs to go out so he could work on the basement, never thinking that Cleo would go out. She spent most of her time sleeping in the other room. She had been acting strange all week and truth be told, we actually considered putting her down. We wanted to wait to see if she seemed to be in any distress. She had acted so strange when the rain came, putting herself underneath a leaking window, letting the rain hit her in the back. It was odd for a cat who always hated water.

By afternoon, we were home from church and lunch was cleaned up. I asked my husband if he'd seen Cleo. He said he hadn't. We looked around the house and couldn't find her. He told me then that he had left the door open and we figured she might have slipped out. I went outside and called her. Nothing. We waited. We thought for sure she'd show up. By nightfall, still nothing. In the morning, we started to wonder if she was in trouble. I had heard that cats wonder off to die, but I couldn't imagine that would happen to us, to Cleo. But as the days went on and we had one night in the 40's, I started to realize she wasn't coming back. We looked every where, all through our yard, in the woods, on the next street. We told neighbors about her in case they saw her. Nothing.

She's gone. I can feel it in my bones. She would never do this normally. And she was too sick to go far. She is a smart kitty and knows how to come home. We've called her and the dogs have been barking, so she would hear us and know to come home. I can't stand the thought of her laying out there, by herself, dead. I could use the closure of a least having a body to mourn over. But knowing my smart kitty, she hid herself well in a small cozy place to rest her bones.

I think it's time to let go. Cleo, my wonderful baby kitty, rest well. We will always love you. I'll be seeing you in Heaven someday, where I know you've already taken over as queen of the animals. My smart kitty.

"Of all God's creatures, there is only one that cannot be made slave of the lash. That one is the cat. If man could be crossed with the cat, it would improve the man, but it would deteriorate the cat."
-Mark Twain


thesouthernlady64 said...

What a wonderful tribute to Cleo, a friend and member of your family. I know she will be greatly missed. She was just beautiful and I know you loved her very much.Thanks for all your visits and kind words.

sweetflutterbys3 said...

Thank you so much. It takes away some of the pain to be able to share her story with everyone.

Your blog is a wonderful place to visit! I've enjoyed every recipe I've tried so far.

Sweet Virginia Breeze said...

I'm sitting here with tears in my eyes. I'm so sorry you have lost Cleo. She sounds like she was a very special kitty who loved you very much. It's hard to let go of our faithful companions, but I believe their spirit stays with us.

sweetflutterbys3 said...

Oh Sweet, thanks for saying that. Your understanding means a lot to me. I do miss her terribly and I know I will for a while, but it helps to have others who care.

CountryDew said...

I am so sorry to learn of your loss. Cleo is in a better place, though, without pain where she can chase after butterflies while she waits for you. It was kind of you to take her in those many years ago.

sweetflutterbys3 said...

What a nice thought, Dew! I will think of her now everytime I see a butterfly.
We did a small thing taking Cleo in but she gave us back so much in return. Animals enrich our lives so much, it's hard to imagine living without them.

Beth said...

I am so very sorry to read of your loss, Mary Ann. Cleo sounds like a very special cat...and a lucky cat to be so well-loved. We've lost several of our beloved four-legged family members, and I know how difficult it is. She certainly had a happy life and obviously gave you and your family much happiness, as well.

sweetflutterbys3 said...

Beth, thank you for such sweet words. It helps so much to know others understand. I'm still catching myself saying good night to Cleo as I'm getting ready for bed. Accepting her death has been a slow process but we are getting there.

queen of everything said...

i read this and was so struck that i couldn't comment at the time. i am so sorry for your loss.

sweetflutterbys3 said...

Thank you Queen.