Some people might think that it is unnecessary or overly emotional to be heartbroken by the death of a pet, but Phoebe had been my companion for over 10 years. She had been with me through divorce, the death of both of my parents, my grandmother dying 10 days after my mother, the loss of various friends, moving house, the year of being employed by Deloitte.
She wasn’t a cuddly cat. It took a year before she purred or walked onto my lap (she had been mistreated before I got here). She rarely played, only occasionally chasing a ball around or kicking three bells out of a catnip infused soft toy. But she did enjoy lying out in the sunshine, either indoors or on the neighbour’s shed roof. She would spend most evenings taking advantage of the undercat heating afforded by a lap with a blanket on it. She was tremendously spoiled with radiator beds, enclosed houses, fake sheepskin beds and blankets to sleep on and in, even getting us to make her a nest at night by placing a blanket over the corner of the sofa.
She wasn’t the brightest cat in the world. If a ball bounced off a door, she would look behind it instead of where it rebounded to. She would wait by the patio door to be let back in, in a place where she couldn’t be seen. She even rolled off the bed once while stretching.
She was always around though, and that may be the hardest thing to get used to. She had access to all parts of the house (joining me in the bathroom when I got up in the morning, walking along the edge of the bath and rubbing up against the shower screen), so that every part of it has memories of her (and a layer of cat hair). That includes all parts of the sofa, under the dining chairs, on top of the dining table, underneath shelves in the office, on the office chair, inside the futon, on the bedroom window seat, on the spare bed, underneath the drinks cabinet, inside boxes and bags, under the bed, on the linen chest of drawers, halfway up the stairs, or just stretched out on the landing by the radiator.
I expect that I will miss her and be looking around for her for a long time to come. I am hoping that the memories of her at the vet’s, and the vet coming in to say that she didn’t think that she would make it will fade soon, to be replaced by the happier images which I have compiled and put on an electronic photo frame (which I am turning on and off depending on whether it brings me comfort or makes me feel sad).
I currently feel guilty.
Guilty that I was not there when she was taken ill.
Guilty that my phone was on silent during a gym class so that I did not get the messages until 45 minutes later.
Guilty that I let her out that morning and exposed her to whatever it was that poisoned her (if that is what it was).
Guilty that I did not take her to the vet when she had what I thought was a stuck hairball a few months ago (that she seemed fully recovered from the following morning, but maybe it was related).
Guilty that her last hour or so of life was spent in distress and was not longer (she was only about 12).
Guilty that my first instinct at the bill for the vet’s attempts to save her life was ‘ouch’.
Guilty that I did not warn my neighbours (who both have cats) until this morning that there might be something toxic in the neighbourhood.
Guilty that I am so upset by the loss of of an animal when there are so many other terrible things happening in the world (and that have happened to people I know).
Guilty that I so quickly moved her things out of sight (too painful to see, but kept for any cats I might have in the future).
Hopefully as I grieve these feelings of guilt will pass as the shock diminishes and I will just be grateful for the time I had with her. I would like to think that I gave her a comfortable life in the main and that she was content. But I will miss her.