I’m trying the “write through your grief” thing on for size today. Not sure it’ll work, and I know I’ll be far from eloquent, but here goes. Long post ahead…
Pets. They speak to you in their own ways and love you with their whole heart. And when you have to let them go, the pain of it almost defies description. A few weeks ago, on Halloween evening, our darling little 17-year-old cat, Possum, was diagnosed with an inoperable tumour on her jaw bone. This past week, we had to face the heartbreaking reality—the tumour was growing quickly and aggressively. There were other problems, but I won’t go into them now. Her quality of life was diminishing and nothing could be done for her aside from giving doses of heavy painkillers three times a day. Yesterday, December 8, our local vet came to the house and put Possum to sleep on my lap under the shade of her favourite avocado tree.
There are so many great memories of Possum that I want to keep alive. Like the day we went to a breeder intending to get a British shorthair, but we were pounced on by this scrappy, marsupial-like kitten when we walked in. A failed ocicat, the breeder called her, because she failed to “spot.” The 14-week-old kitten successfully climbed up my husband’s jeans legs, then mine. It was written: we were the chosen ones. Despite wanting so desperately to come home with us, Possum cried for the entire first night.
But she soon became attached to us and her new big bro, Pinklepurr. I’d never known a cat to love so hard and so much. And she was a talker. I swear you’d say something and she’d reply quite thoughtfully. I think most owners of talkative Oriental cats will know what I mean! We also soon found out that she fetched things like a dog. Toy mice and pistachio nuts were her favourite play things. She understood the words “no” and “excuse me.” The latter was used if she was on my lap and I needed to get up. She had a congenital weepy eye. We’d sing the Kleenex tissue song to her and wipe her eye clean. Afterwards, she’d blink up at us gratefully. In cat language, slow blinking means “I’m happy. I’m smiling.”
She could always be counted on to make up her own games. Possum taught us some too, like what we called the stair game, which was kind of like tennis. She would sit halfway up a staircase and bat a toy mouse down at us. Our job was to throw the mouse at her and she’d skilfully lob it back. When she got tired of playing, she’d find unusual places to snooze. One day I arrived home to find her sleeping on a dish draining rack above the kitchen sink.
Possum was the kind of cat who had to be involved in everything going: house renovations (twice), folding bedsheets, sorting cupboards, wrapping gifts, helping me write, making phone calls, or opening boxes. (The box would become her new bed for the following three days, then she would discard it.) We bought a Possum-sized stepladder so she could watch us cook from the end of the kitchen bench.
Our cats were only allowed outside under supervision. But in the chaos of a renovation, one night she slipped out after curfew. I found her on the back porch very early the next morning, looking scruffy and carting around a T-bone that she’d scrounged from a neighbour’s yard. She acted like she’d been abandoned and wandering in the wilderness for weeks instead of hours.
One night a real possum (the marsupial kind) visited our yard. Possum and the possum locked gazes. They seemed to be quite confused but fascinated by one another.
Many people think cats are aloof. But not all of them are snooty. Personable Possum used to run to the front door to greet us when we came home. (That said, she disliked other cats, especially fluffy-tailed ones, and dogs.) As soon as I sat down, Possum would take her rightful place on my lap or my laptop. For a long time, she wanted to sleep in our bed. A photo my husband took of Poss and I asleep side by side even made it into the Awkward Family Pet Photos book. We often joked about getting a baby sling for her because she always wanted to stick close to her humans. I made a silly photo blog for our cats; it was short-lived, but today that blog gave me huge comfort.
Writing this post now, it’s incredibly tough to not have Possum here on my lap, with her white chin on resting my left arm. I already even miss getting clawed (never deliberately). It’s… Yeah, I need some tissues. BRB.
Okay. Do I feel better after writing this post? Marginally. I already miss the way she looked up at us with so much love in her eyes, the way she’d keep me warm when I was sick, keep me company on the couch. I even miss clearing out her litter tray. Weird, I know. We’ve gone from a two-cat household to a zero-cat household in less than a year, and it’s so, so hard to bear.
But as a close friend just said to me, and I hope she won’t mind me repeating it here, “You will never forget her and you will always love her, but day by day, it will get a little easier to bear.” For my own healing, I’ll probably revisit to this post as I remember all the fun things Possum did in her 17 years. And I still have literally hundreds of photos and videos of her. Hundreds. Maybe sorting through those day by day will ease the pain some more.
I’m grateful to the amazing vets and nurses at Sydney Animal Hospitals for taking such good care of Possum for the past 10 years and right to the very end. They kindly sent us a cute bunch of flowers today. Thank you to my friends and family who’ve shared our loss privately. Your words have really meant a lot and given us strength. I want to single out my boss, who isn’t a cat man, but understood the special relationship with Possum and gave me time off in the days leading up to our loss. *Thank you*
Vale, dear Possum, ultimate lapcat, substitute baby, and writing partner. I still can’t believe you’re gone. You brought us joy every single day. I hope you and Pinkie are together once more.
That’s Possum helping me wrap a present I’d bought for a friend from the British Museum.
Eating corn on the cob.