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December 27, 2004

A Kitty's Tale

I wasn't looking for a kitten. I had gone into my local pet store, a small non-chain place that was a business of love run by middle-aged couple, to pick up shampoo and chew treats for my German Shepherd, Misty, and fish food for the aquarium. There in the middle of the store was a roomy, fenced in area, with a couple of inches of cedar shavings, litter box and eight balls of fluff that were bouncing, wrestling, and clamboring over a carpeted kitty-cube. A sign hung on the fence, "Free Kittens - 6 weeks old." I watched the antics for a couple of minutes then I walked on to the counter and laid my items to be purchased. I was determined no kitten. As I waited to be rung up, I kept looking over my shoulder at the kittens. Mrs. B at the register smiled at me, "They're free."

I cleared my throat, "I have a dog and fish and kids."

Mrs. B's smile grew "They need a good home. How about a free box of kitten chow to go with one?"

"Umm" I gritted my teeth, eyes stealing back to the pen. I hadn't had a cat in four years, "Well, it's not like I don't miss having a cat ... "

I went home with my doggie shampoo, chew treats, fish food ...

and a kitten and box of kitten chow and litter and litter box and cat toys ...

She was a tiny thing. All grey and white with a few spots of orange. She had impressed me with her kitty bravery, launching herself off the kitten-cube onto her brothers and sisters, straight legged and tiny tail held straight up, a flag proudly waved. She had bright green eyes, a pink nose and huge ears tufted at the tips, twitching to and fro trying not to miss anything.

My girls were immediately impressed, Jennifer taking seriously her duties as oldest sister and admonishing the younger two on being careful on petting. The ball of fluff found Jenn's lap a perfect napping place.

"What shall we call her?" I asked.

After much consultation, Jennifer announced, "Feathers, because she's so tiny and light she's like a ball of feathers."

And so, Feathers became a part of our family.

Marc Anthony & PussyfootNot only a member of the family, but her giant-sized personality encased in a couple of handfuls of fluff soon had her running the house. Children would run at her meows to fulfill her wishes. Misty turned into Marc Anthony, the Looney Tunes dog who both protected and indulged Pussyfoot. Misty would allow Feathers to "stalk" and "attack" her. Feathers was the only one that was allowed near Misty's foodbowl when Misty was eating. There would be times I'd walk through the family room and see Misty laying on the floor, wide awake, but not getting up and moving because Feathers was curled up against her, sound asleep.

Feathers went from pampered princess to benevolent queen within a year or so. An indoor cat, she was perfectly content with a window sill, a square of sun and people to worship her. Though, with kids about the house, she did get outside a couple of times.

And then there were more kittens.

Luckily, I knew enough adults through my girls' schools that finding homes for the kitties wasn't difficult. But we did keep one of the kittens, Tiger, a long-haired orange-striped devil-may-care guy. Where Feathers was royality, who could get what she wanted merely through her presence ... such as sitting by your chair during dinner and staring at you until you gave in and gave her an offering ... Tiger was the court jester. He was a chicken fiend, and if chicken was on the menu for dinner, heaven forfend you having to get up from the table for any reason. Tiger would park himself under the table and you'd see him raise his head, ears held horizontally, just enough so his nose and eyes were just above the edge of the table, surveying. Then he'd duck back down and the next thing you'd see is a questing paw come up over the edge of the table trying to snag a piece of chicken.

About the only one who totally dominated Tiger was his mom, Feathers. She wasn't as big as he was, but she could rock him back on his haunches with a quick slap or two on his nose with her paw. Chagrinned, he would glance around to see if anyone was watching such humiliation.

Even though he was fixed, he still demanded to get out of the house once in a while and would disappear for a week or two, returning fatter and sassier than ever.

Bigamist. He had another family.

The years rolled by. Misty passed away from old age and Feathers and Tiger went around the house for weeks, crying for their old friend. Tiger spent more and more time away from the house until he made the decision to stay with his other family. Feathers became the only queen in the house.

She took her position as her proper due.

She followed the sun throughout the house during the day, starting in the master bedroom in the morning (and complaining loudly on cloudy days). Evenings, as soon as we sat down for dinner we would hear the thump overhead as Feathers jumped down from our bed and came downstairs for her worship, sitting quietly by either my or Eric's chair until we gave a piece from our plate.

Earlier this year, Feathers went deaf. It didn't seem to bother her, as her eyes and nose were still keen and it meant she never missed dinner time. Then it got harder and harder for her to get up and down the stairs, so we moved food and litter box upstairs so she could just stay on the second floor. She would sleep on our bed or curl up underneath my desk as I wrote.

And she would still loudly complain on cloudy days.

She stopped eating her kibbles a month ago. Eric and I tempted her with canned food, something she had rarely eaten in the past. She took to sitting next to the bed, staring, and we realized then she needed help getting up on it and she was making her wishes known as she always did, with a royal gesture.

We indulged the dowager.

She was losing weight, walking ever more gingerly, sleeping so soundly I'd catch my breath watching to see if she was breathing at all.

I got up the morning of Christmas eve and couldn't find her. She wasn't upstairs.

Memories must have motivated her to challenge the stairs. I found her curled under the Christmas tree, a favorite spot of years past. She barely moved. I picked up her and she curled in my arms, eyes bright and opened her mouth to meow.

Only a small sigh escaped.

We were losing her. Her time had come.

I called the vet, she made room to see us that morning.

Eric and I did real good, going into the lobby, signing in. Feathers didn't even react to the cacaphony of barks, meows and people chatter. I carried her like a newborn and she just laid her head against my chest and she felt almost as light as she did the first time I carried her home.

We knew this time had been coming, but it didn't make the goodbyes easier. It didn't keep the tears from streaming down my face as we left the vet without Feathers for the last time. Eric and I sat in the car, hugging, crying, trying to tell each other that Feathers was now in a better place where deafness and hunger and cold were banished.

Feathers was gone.

Even this morning, as I slipped into my chair I automatically checked under my desk for her. Even today, I'm weeping as I finish up this post.

Yes, she was just a cat. But she had been a member of the family. A member when Jennifer was seven years old and Siobhan hadn't even been a twinkle in my eye. She had the force of her own unique personality and filled a niche in the ebb and flow of our family dynamics and stories.

Thank you, Feathers, for gracing our lives for almost 19 years.

Feathers ... January 1986 to December 2004.

Posted by Darleen at December 27, 2004 08:18 AM



Posted by: Digger at December 27, 2004 12:40 PM

Yes, they sure can grow on you.

Posted by: mudmarine at December 27, 2004 05:21 PM

I know how easily those little velvet paws can walk into your heart, Darleen. Feathers sounds a lot like my Buffy. Hugs....

Posted by: Trish at December 28, 2004 09:37 AM

sorry to read this, Darlene. Hugs from Alaska

Posted by: barbara at December 28, 2004 08:01 PM


You have my deepest sympathy. Just remember the smiles she brought you.

Posted by: Oyster at December 29, 2004 07:44 AM

I am sorry for your loss. My wife and I lost our oldest cat a few months ago. Never easy to get over. The other cats missed him too. When you bring a pet into your life the last thing you think about is losing them. It sounds like you have fond memories of her.

Posted by: Iceman 1955 at December 30, 2004 03:47 AM

What a beautiful tribute to your beloved family member!
I'm waiting for the same moment for my oldest cat, Mama Cat. I've had her longer than I've known my husband, so I understand your grief. My brother got me a magnet one year for Christmas that says "Husband and Cat missing. Reward for Cat." They provide love that no person can. I am so sorry for your loss.

Posted by: AFSister at December 30, 2004 06:23 AM

We're so sorry for your loss. RIP, Feathers.

Posted by: Sal at December 30, 2004 07:45 AM

I found this doing a search for my favorite warner brothers cartoon - Pussyfoot.

I am truly touched by your words about your furry companion. Even thought their time is short, they never leave you, they are in your heart. My Dad's cat past away when she was 17. We had the same relationship with her. She was awesome.

Posted by: Jennifer at June 27, 2005 11:24 AM