On cats with little X's on their eyes
I'm sorry. I'm so, so sorry.
I can't begin to tell you how sorry I am, cat people.
All these years, I've laughed at you. I've mocked you. I've thought you were moronic idiots for putting so much time and energy into a stinking animal.
"You have to have a cat to understand what it's all about," you'd tell me.
"You have to see the unconditional love a cat gives you," you'd tell me.
"I think you need to get blown or something," I'd tell you back.
I used to tell cat people that if their cats weren't animals, I'd like them a lot more.
Do you know what my favorite kind of a cat used to be? A dog. And I don't particularly like dogs, either.
The thing was, I just hated cats. I never saw the point. Until last Thursday.
I'm so sorry, cat people. I hope you'll forgive me.
You see, last Thursday, on my way home from work, I saw a dead cat carcass torn in half by the side of the road.
For some reason, that dead cat was different than other dead cats I've seen before.
I mean, I've seen a lot of dead cats in my life. But that dead cat carcass torn in half by the side of the road was really dead.
For the first time, I actually thought about cats as living creatures.
Well, cats other than that dead cat.
I thought about that dead cat carcass torn in half by the side of the road and began to wonder about the person who owned it.
Was the person thinking their cute little cat was out for an afternoon stroll? We're they wondering where their adorable little feline was? Or were they thinking, "Hmm, I wonder if my cat was recently introduced to the front left tire of a Chrysler Cordoba."
Normally, I would've just kept driving and not given that dead cat carcass torn in half by the side of the road a second thought. This time was different, though. Even though I did just keep driving, I sincerely felt badly.
I mean, the owner probably really cared a great deal about that dead cat, and now, he had nothing. Although if you want to look on the bright side, the owner started the day with only one living cat and now they have two dead cat halves.
And while I'm sure that the driver of the car that hit that dead cat carcass torn in half by the side of the road didn't do it on purpose, that's probably not going to help tonight when the baby kitties are all sitting around asking, "Mom, where's Dad?"
I'm so sorry that I never felt any sympathy for these dead cats and dead cat owners before.
And while I was hoping to find a way to deal with my pain, it touched me, like a hand from God. The Dead Cat God.
Because a few minutes later, I stopped in a drugstore. As I was looking at the cover of Teen People thinking, "I love you, Mandy Moore," I saw it.
Cat Fancy Magazine.
Cat Fancy Magazine, I found out, is a magazine about cats. There's a picture of a cat on the front, which to me is a good idea if you're going to have a magazine about cats. And all the articles in the magazine are about cats.
While I haven't read a lot of magazines with such a heavy emphasis on cats, I'd have to say that Cat Fancy Magazine is the best cat magazine I've ever seen.
As I thumbed through Cat Fancy Magazine, I saw two articles that gave hope and inspiration for dead cat owners. And people like me who've seen dead cat carcass torn in half by the side of the road.
The first article was titled:
The Need to Grieve: How To Allow Yourself To Experience Your Cat's Loss And Bring Closure, Find Acceptance And Feel Peace.
The second was:
Kept Close at Heart: Cat Owners Share How They Memorialized Their Beloved Cats.
These articles not only gave comfort to dead cat owners, they offered me the strength to go on with my guilt.
And as I read these stories, I came to realize that cats aren't just cats to cat people. They're family.
The part of their family that drinks milk out of a saucer on the floor. And pees in a box.
When Susan Peters came home from work, she expected her beloved Mousehound to greet her at the door as she usually did. To Peters' shock and dismay, she found her 11-year-old domestic shorthair stiff and curled up on the floor. She rushed him to the veterinarian, who pronounced Mousehead dead. Peters whispered to Mousehead she was sorry to see her go and would miss her terribly. She asked the veterinarian to cremate her beloved cat and brought the remains home in a sealed container.
~from "The Need To Grieve," Cat Fancy Magazine
I mean, how could you not be affected after reading that horrible story?
If I was Susan Peters, and I had walked in the house and saw my beloved Mousehound stiff and curled up on the floor, I don't know what I would have done.
Well actually, I probably would've stepped over him, gotten something to eat, made a few phone calls, taken a bath, watched a little TV, thought about what I was going to have for breakfast, check the weather forecast, looked out the window, tried to remember all the songs on ELO's New World Record, and then I suppose I would've thought, "Jesus Christ, what in the hell is that smell?"
Thankfully, Mousehound wasn't my pet, and Susan had the foresight to take her dead cat to the vet.
I felt so badly for her. The love of her life, taken away without a chance to say goodbye.
Plus, she had all that cat food. I mean, how could she not look at that bowl of Meow Mix and think about her dead cat?
At first, the story made me even more sullen than I was before I read it.
Fortunately, however, a quality publication like Cat Fancy Magazine doesn't just tell the sad stories. Cat Fancy Magazine goes that extra step by helping people like Susan and me make it through tough times like this.
For example, in The Need to Grieve, Wallace Sife, Ph.D. a clinical psychologist and founder of the Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement, cited the five stages of grief one experiences with the loss of a cat:
1. Denial -- "Not my cat. You must be mistaken."
2. Anger -- "How dare my sweet baby be taken away like this?"
3. Bargaining -- "Please God, if you spare my cat, I'll behave differently."
4. Depression -- "I feel numb -- no appetite, I can't sleep…what's the point of going on?"
5. Acceptance -- "I really miss him, but I know he's no longer suffering and I'm beginning to remember the good times as well as the bad."
After reading this, I tried to put myself in the place of someone who had just lost a cat. Or someone who had just seen a dead cat carcass torn in half by the side of the road.
Amazingly, I found myself experiencing a little bit of all of those emotions:
1. Denial -- "There is no way my cat is dead. Look, I'm kicking the crap out of him and he's still moving. Sure he's a little limp and all, but he's still moving."
2. Anger -- "I swear to God, if that friggin' goddamn dead cat stinks up my living room, I'm gonna kill him! Oh wait. He's already dead. Never mind."
3. Bargaining -- "Please God, let me still have my receipt for all that unopened kitty litter from Wal-Mart."
4. Depression -- "I'm so sad. I had to stick his dead body in a brand new garbage bag. They're expensive, too!"
5. Acceptance -- "I really miss whatshisface. He was the best cat a man could have. Hey, look…Spongebob's on!"
They also cited many books that a dead cat owner can read to help them with the grieving process. And while many of these publications were written to help mourn the loss of humans, I'm assuming that all anyone would really need to do is substitute "my dead cat" for "my dead relative" when reading these books.
Ginny Brancato buried her beloved 13-year-old domestic shorthair, Fifi, in her backyard beneath a large stone bearing the words "Mommy's Girl." She also created a memorial pond, stocked with fish and surrounded by flowers and plants. "In Loving Memory of Fifi, 1984-1997" reads a marker near the pond.
Inside their home, Fifi's collar hangs on the edge of a framed photo of the beloved cat.
"I can see my baby's eyes looking at me everyday," says Ginny. Those who say, 'It's just a cat,' have no idea what it's like to have been so blessed with the unconditional love of a fur-child."
~from "Kept Close at Heart," Cat Fancy Magazine
Man oh man. That tugs right at the heartstring.
Even though I personally have never been blessed with the unconditional love of a fur-child, I was nevertheless touched by Ginny's story. I found myself thinking about the family's loss. I found myself thinking about her commitment to keep the memory of Fifi alive. And I found myself thinking how lucky they both were to have had each other.
But mostly I was thinking, "Hey, isn't that large stone going to get in the way when they're cutting the grass? Wouldn't it have been easier to throw her in the dumpster?"
Munchkin had her own chair at Nancy Piper's table. "She had great manners," Piper recalled. When nearly 19-year-old Munchkin died, Piper arranged a proper burial.
Munchkin lay in a little casket during a reading of a eulogy at the Rolling Acres Memorial Garden for Pets. Workers later lowered Munchkin's casket into the ground near 18 other Piper family pets, including Munchkin's great grandfather, Adam Blu.
" My husband and I plan to be buried here at the cemetery with our pets," says Piper.
~from "Kept Close at Heart," Cat Fancy Magazine
This story made me realize that there are people on this earth who are put here for the greater good.
It made me realize that passion knows no bounds when it comes to a cat owner's love for their cat.
And it made me realize that with 18 dead animals to her name, maybe, just maybe, Nancy Piper should get into gardening.
Cherry Pop loved attention and owner Huey Vanek made sure his red Persian got it -- starting with yearly birthday parties held on a Ft. Lauderdale yacht to honor the dignified beauty.
"She was the love of my life -- besides my wife," Vanek says. "It took me about a year to get over the loss. When I think about her, I still get a tear in my eye."
~from "Kept Close at Heart," Cat Fancy Magazine
As I read this, I felt the deep-rooted loss of Huey Vanek.
Not of his cat, Cherry Pop. But of his testicles, when his wife sees that he mentioned the cat before he mentioned her.
Although I bet Cherry Pop never said she had a headache.
As I left the drugstore, a sense of comfort came over me.
After reading the inspirational stories in Cat Fancy Magazine, I came to realize that the dead cat carcass torn in half by the side of the road will never be forgotten.
I took comfort in knowing that someone somewhere will be grieving the loss of their best friend. Their companion. Their soulmate.
If there's one thing I learned, it's that cat people will forever care for their dead cats. Because their dead cats were a treasured part of their lives. A lasting memory.
In much the same way the Pamela Anderson/Tommy Lee video is a lasting memory for me.
So for each and every person who's ever had a dead cat, I apologize. For not caring. For never caring. Until now.
And while I'll probably never have my own cat, thanks to the inspirational stories in Cat Fancy Magazine, I'll know exactly what to think the next time I see a dead cat carcass torn in half by the side of the road.
"Jesus Christ," I'll think, "I hope the guy that hit that damn thing didn't get any cat guts on his car."