Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Cat Grief

I'm going to take a break in my regularly scheduled grieving to talk about my cats.

This blog is called The Cat Widow, and yet I haven't mentioned them once. Obviously the point of this blog is to chronicle my own grief, to process through my trials and tribulations, and to make sense of a tragic situation...but my cats are a piece of my life and I've been wanting to talk about them.

The day Rick took his own life, I came home to a suicide note and my female cat Juice pacing back and forth across the threshold to the basement stairs, crying. There is no doubt in my mind that she had been down in the basement with Rick's body before I arrived home, because she often jumped over the baby gate that was at the bottom of those stairs.

The baby gate was always in place to keep my male cat Tumbler out of the basement, because there were too many spaces and opportunities for him to hurt himself due to his disabilities. And so, Juice saw Rick dead...but Tumbler did not.

Therefore, Juice has always understood the finality of our new life without Rick. She was anxious and sad, but she resolutely mourned atop her cat roof. Tumbler, on the other hand, ran to the front door every time someone new showed up at my house, meowing as if to say, "Is it Dad? Is he finally back?"

For days, Tumbler scampered to the door if someone visited, only to be disappointed that Rick was not the one I let inside. He liked my brother-in-law, whose voice is like Rick's...whose laugh is like Rick's.

My friend Lindy said, "I'm sure Juice let Tumbler know about Rick," and I'm sure she did, but I don't think Tumbler really understood. Tumbler waited for Rick to come home. He knew that something was not right, he knew that too many people were coming and going in the normally quiet house, and he missed Rick, but he didn't understand things the way Juice did. What he did understand was that I was sad.

In mid April, we found out that Tumbler had kidney failure at age 4. We began giving him IV fluids daily at home. He was hardly eating. He was more tired than usual. We were told that Tumbler was dying...that he didn't have long. Rick was the one who always gave Tumbler his subcutaneous IV. I had to learn. I had to apologize to my cat for not doing it as well as Rick. After Rick died, I also told Tumbler that he was not allowed to die any time soon, because I simply couldn't handle it.

The very next day after Rick left this world, Tumbler went back to eating a normal amount of food. He chowed down hungrily, drank thirstily, and was patient with me as I learned the IV. I kept waiting for him to become lethargic again... to stop eating again... but he didn't. He hasn't. He eats well every day, twice a day, and sometimes has a snack. It's been 2 months since I was told he didn't have long to live and 1 month (tomorrow) since Rick died. Tumbler persists, obedient to a fault, not dying because I told him I couldn't deal with it. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if Rick had a talk with him before he took his life.

I wear Rick's pajama pants at night and Tumbler proof reads my blog before I post it. Then we comfort each other.

Tumbler takes care of me, but he has his moments of weakness. When I came back from a night in Philadelphia shortly after Rick died, Tumbler searched the whole house, crying for Rick. I think it was because I had been away for a night and came back, so he thought maybe Rick was finally going to be back too. He is extra clingy and has searched every room of the house twice since then, crying a sad little cry.

For about a week after Rick died, I kept the door to the basement stairs closed. Then one night, I braved the basement for the first time with my mom. Without getting too graphic, a crew cleaned my entire basement and it is spotless...but there is a rug directly over the spot where Rick died, to cover a large paint spot that would have been too hard for me to see and know the reason for the paint.

As soon as I opened the door at the top of the basement stairs, after a week of it being closed, Juice ran right down, hopped the baby gate, and I found her in the basement...sitting on that rug.

If I peek in the basement (I don't go down alone), sometimes I find her there, mourning in her own way...understanding that our new situation is final. It breaks my heart...and my heart is already broken.


  1. Arielle, I'm so sorry. I've been a subscriber for many years now and you've helped me immensely through a full and lasting recovery. I'm keeping you close in my thoughts and heart through your recovery through this as well. xoxo

  2. It breaks my heart too, Arielle. I think cats love as deeply as we humans do. I know my cats know me better than anyone else does except maybe my kids. I know that they understand when I'm sad and when I'm happy just by the way they approach me and engage with me. It doesn't surprise me at all that your sweet kitties are grieving right along with you, each in their own way. Take comfort in each other. Rose L


Help me feel less alone.