Saying Goodbye to a Pet I Love (For a Man I Love)

IMG_2437As he got under the covers last night to snuggle up against me in bed, I couldn’t help wondering if he somehow sensed that our time together was limited. After six and half years together, through laughter and comfort he’s brought me during so many ups and downs in this period of my life, it breaks my heart to know that I soon won’t have him always by my side.

It’s funny how attached you can become to the furry kids in your life. I’ve had my cat Alexei the longest of all my pets. Mindy was the first cat of the family when I was 10. With the typical Siamese attitude, she turned into a major bitch when she had kittens. Overly possessive of me, she became emotionally and physically abusive of Sabrina, the little girl that we kept.

Forced to give Mindy to another home after two years together, I was left to care for the emotionally fragile Sabrina. She stayed mostly in a large cat condo in the garage that my dad built, too afraid to enter the house with the memory of her mother’s threats still casting a dark. So I spent a lot of time in the garage—or as much time as I could, being an adolescent, busy with school, friends and plenty of extra-curricular activities.


One day, I came home to find out that Sabrina was missing. Someone accidentally left the garage door open, and Sabrina had gotten out. We speculated numerous scenarios – she was sick and went looking for a place to die alone; she was curious to see what was outside, and a coyote or fisher cat got her; she got hit by a car; or the least likely of them all, she went wandering for a couple days until a nice person found her and brought Sabrina into their home and family.


Whatever the case was, I called for her outside every day for weeks. I cried guiltily, thinking if I was a better cat mom, she never would have gotten out, gotten sick or even had been subject to as much abuse as Mindy dished out when she was younger. But eventually, I made my peace with it.


I swore that if I ever had another cat again, it would be under my terms and conditions: Living in the house 24/7, sleeping with me if it so chose, and I would make sure I had the time and ability to give it all the love and attention it deserved.


Skip to my mid-20s: My boyfriend at the time saw how much attention I gave to his upstairs tenant’s cat. After we’d been together for a while, the tenant was moving out. So my boyfriend came up with the sweet plan of getting me a cat for my birthday. On top of that, we would get two cats, so they would have a constant buddy.


Our two beautiful cats were very different from one another – one outgoing, affectionate and a Mama’s boy; the other introverted, often sleeping under the bed, only coming out to cuddle at night for bedtime, to play with toys or to eat if she heard the sound of a tuna can opening. I was super content to sleep squeezed between my boy and my girl cats, with my boyfriend less than an arm’s reach away.


Our cats survived a few cross-country trips and moves. They survived house renovations and crazy parties. They survived a temperamental human “dad,” who often made life feel unstable. When I finally made the healthy decision t to leave, I was prepared to take my cats with me. I fed them, cleaned their little box, clipped their nails, brushed them, played with them and brought them to the vet. It was a no-brainer that I should take them with me.


Unfortunately, my boyfriend didn’t agree. Part of him kept them knowing I could never leave my cats, and thus I could never leave them. Part of him kept them because he would be alone in his big, old house, and at least he’d had feline companionship. I went back and forth for several months, shed many tears over the decision, but I couldn’t stay, and he wouldn’t let me leave with the cats.


After I moved, terribly missing my furry family, I made the decision that I could get another cat of the same breed if I accomplished a big creative goal working on my novel. Powered by longing, I found myself trucking through my goal in about a week, instead of a month. That’s when I met the people who had my silver and black-spotted boy.


Alexei curled around me like a scarf when I met him, licking my fingers. He gave kisses on the nose and forehead. Alexei came home with me, and we bonded tremendously from the very beginning.

Mom&AlexeiHe has seen me through rough illnesses and medical treatments. He provides entertainment with his vivid expressiveness, both vocally and with body language. He has encouraged me to keep moving around, being an extremely active cat needing tremendous interaction. We’ve wrestled and played “toss and fetch the mouse,” pull the cat in a plastic bag or paper box, and jump on the twitching feather/piece of paper/finger under a sheet. He’s covered me with his purring body when my own body was trembling uncontrollably. He’s licked at my tears. He snuggles up next to me when I am cold, stiff and achy at night. He bugs watches me while I work, forcing the workaholic to take breaks. When I don’t, he resignedly plops down over my legs for a nap.

I’ve always known at some point that I would probably have to find him another home. In a family that travels frequently, paying for cat care when friends and exes no longer can watch him grows exorbitant and ridiculous, so I wind up staying home. But another reason has come along: I’m most likely moving out in a couple months.

The boyfriend is pet-hesitant at best, averse to the care and presumed mess and odor. As for my cat, we’ll be moving to a much smaller place, when Alexei is used to having a big house, garage and full basement to roam. He’s used to being able to sometimes go on supervised trips outside to sprint around and chew on grass with me by his side. Asking him to give up that freedom and the ability to cuddle at night when he’s very much a social kitty doesn’t seem quite fair for an almost middle age cat (he’s 7.)

He’s been in my life longer than any other cat, and I don’t know how I would deal with the loss. It hurts me just to think about it. But the other side of the coin is thinking about a home with another feline playmate, perhaps, lots of room to play, and for me, starting a new life with a man I love and more freedom to travel whenever desire and resources allow. We’ll see how things actually go, but I’m going to need pep talks to keep accentuating the positive.


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