Essay: A Grieving cat

We all have different shades of emotion.  We may feel happy, sad, serene or angry, depending on what situation we are in.  Cats also have feelings.  Do you know how a cat expresses its sorrow when it loses its loved one?  I once witnessed my female cat grieving throughout the night for the death of my other cat.

Long ago, I adopted a beautiful male tabby Norwegian Forest Cat when he was just a kitten and named him Taro.  A year later, I brought home a pretty American Shorthair-like female kitten I found at the animal shelter outside my town.  I named her Tomi.  By the time she joined us, Taro was already a full-grown cat with a long beautiful coat and an imposing, furry tail.  As he had been all alone till she came, he was so pleased with a new addition in the family that he looked after her so well. I often saw him licking her forehead.  They were like a big brother and a little sister.  They both stayed healthy with hardly any medical problems for all these years, including the three years we lived in Sri Lanka where they had to adjust to hot and humid climate.

When we came back to Geneva in the middle of a winter, they managed to readjust to the European weather once again with no visible difficulty.  One year after our return, however, Taro suddenly developed respiratory complications and died at a veterinary clinic following a few days of treatment.  He was just a month short of his 9th birthday, which meant that Tomi had lived with him for about eight years.

On the day Taro died, one Friday late in March, I visited him at the clinic early in the morning and saw him in an improved condition.  He was breathing more comfortably than before that the veterinarian thought that I might be able to take him home for the weekend.  So I went back to the clinic after work with a light heart.  However, what awaited me there was shocking news that he had suddenly succumbed to a cardiac arrest in the afternoon.  I naturally burst into tears.

The lifeless body of Taro was lying in a large cage where he had been for the last few days.  I took his body out of it and held it in my arms, still sobbing.  I could still feel a bit of warmth of his body.  The veterinarian had to close his clinic, but waited patiently for me to release the body.  As he said he would arrange for a cremation, I placed Taro’s body back in the cage and went home.

I returned home in great sorrow.  When I found Tomi waiting for me inside the door, I picked her up and held her, telling her in a tearful voice that our dear Taro had left us.  I do not know how much she understood me, but what I witnessed thereafter seemed to indicate that she was fully aware of what had just happened.

The first thing I used to do upon coming home after work was to prepare for my cats’ dinner.  Taro and Tomi would coil their tails around my ankles while waiting for their dishes to be washed and re-filled with a new ration of food and fresh water.  This particular evening, too, after putting Tomi down, I took my jacket off and tossed it onto my bed.  I then went to the kitchen to prepare for her meal.  When it was ready, I called her name.  In the past there had been no need to call them as they waited in the kitchen for their dinner to be served.  This time, however, she did not come into the kitchen no matter how many times I called her name.

Where could Tomi be and what could she be doing?  I walked out of the kitchen to look for her and found her lying on my bed.  In fact, she was crouching on top of my jacket.  She remained in that position all evening as if she was feeling Taro’s presence and enjoying his company there, at least in spirit.

When I was ready to go to sleep, Tomi was still lying on my jacket.  So I removed it from underneath her and put it at the backrest of the chair by the desk at the entrance hall. There was a cushion placed on the chair.  This cushion used to be Taro’s favorite place to nap, but I had never seen Tomi sit there before.  As I went to the toilet in the middle of that night, however, I was very surprised to find her curled up on that cushion with my jacket hanging at the chair.  As far as I know, she remained on that cushion till the next morning.

When we lose someone dear, we usually spend some time in mourning, grieving for the departed soul by repeatedly talking about the person or remembering many wonderful moments shared with him/her.  I believe cats behave almost the same way, though they do not talk as we do.  My Tomi wanted to stay close to my jacket or on the cushion because she found the odor of Taro she could sense there very comforting.  Sitting on the particular cushion helped her reminisce the eight happy years she had spent with him.

Time is usually helpful in healing our sadness and pain.  It seems to work for cats, as well. Tomi appeared sad and lonely for several days, but slowly regained her appetite.

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This entry was posted in animal behavior, Cat, Memoir, Philosophy and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Essay: A Grieving cat

  1. Joyce Perera says:

    Dear Shizue,
    Your story on the “Grieving Cat” is well written. It really makes one pause and contemplate what life is all about and how every simple and good act of a human being or an animal can mark such deep and lasting impressions in our hearts and minds . Your story reminds us that each person, animal and all creation is a unique expression of God’s loving design and how much we must treasure our own lives and that of others and live it to the fullest marking simple but good impressions in our journey on this earth.

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