Zeno adopted us more than a year before we agreed to be adopted. A stray, he came to our backyard and tried to befriend our two cats, who were not amused.
He persevered. Soon he would let me get close, even touch him as I offered an occasional bowl of dry cat food. But no, I said, he was not our cat.
On a cold December day in 2010, a bone-thin Zeno wobbled onto the patio. He was so sick he could hardly see. I surrendered; I took him to the vet and I became his human. He lived with us for five way-too-short years. He died this week because we couldn’t get him to the emergency vet in a blizzard. It’s a painful loss, made worse by frustration.
I miss the sight of him on hind legs by my kitchen chair, one white paw looped over the chair arm, head tilted fetchingly to one side, compelling golden gaze fixed on my face. He was irresistible. “Yes, Zeno, whatever you want, I’ll do it.”
I miss his chirrup of greeting when he emerged from under the azaleas, or wherever he was napping or keeping an eye on things. I miss his complaints as he stalked about the house, looking for me. I miss his soft murmur of pleasure when I scratched exactly the right spot.
At fourteen pounds, he was not as big as our other two cats. His head and chest were broad, his ears slightly chewed, and his tail short and thick. He walked like a street tough, with a tiger’s deliberate pace.
Because he was feral for years, he insisted on being outside at least part of the time, unlike our other two who are usually inside. If I was gardening, Zeno would follow me, choosing comfortable spots from which to supervise. Paws under chin, he seemed to be marveling at my strange choice of occupation. Why pull up plants? He himself claimed a particular patch of catnip in the garden by our patio and often lay beside it, grooving on its fragrance and protecting it from all comers.
The friendliest of our cats, he was usually the first one visible to visitors, and the only one who could be coaxed into letting a small child pet him. He’s the only cat I ever had who always came when I called him. Even when he was heading down our driveway to the street, I could call him home and pat my leg, and he would turn and run to me.
Like all cats, he preferred to find water for himself rather than drink from his bowl. He stood on hind legs to lap from the birdbath or bustled into the bathroom after my shower to lick the remaining drops from the tub.
Most of all I miss him in my study. He’d sit by the books, or lie on my desk basking in the warm air flow from the computer’s fan, or keep the big chair warm for me, or lean forward to butt foreheads or rub cheeks, or step down onto my lap, forcing me to type over him. In the late afternoon, we often retreated to our big chair. I miss the warm purr that started as he stepped onto my belly, the confiding warmth of his weight nestling against me, the sense of utter comfort composed of book, tea, and cat in lap.
Rest in peace, sweet boy.
Thank you for this, Cecily. All of us who have lost a beloved cat will treasure your words, as we remember the head butts, the chirps, the companionship. The love. You gave him life by taking him in, and you made it wonderful for him with your love and enjoyment of his presence. Yes indeed, rest in peace, sweet boy.
Thanks, Peggy. The vet thinks he had a cancerous tumor in his chest. He had his regular checkup and rabies shot in mid-December and his heart and lungs were fine then. But he died on Saturday because he couldn’t breathe. Cats are all special but he was more special than most. It’s truly a death in the family. I know you understand! Give Niya a hug for me….
This is exactly what happened to my Ziggy. All of a sudden deep respiratory distress. I managed to get him to Veterinary Referral Associates where they removed masses of fluid from his chest cavity. More the next day. That night he died. I’m so sorry I couldn’t hold him as he went, as I’m sure he was terrified along with everything else. It was a cancerous tumor in his chest. . . . They are definitely members of the family. Zeno does sound more special than most.
Your Ziggy was, too.
A beautiful piece, Cecily, suffused with love…