My Cat Mourned the Loss of His Littermate for Eight Months
Cat behavior mirrors human behavior in a lot of ways. Cats mourn the death of their special friends whether it's a favorite humans or a feline friend. It leaves a hole in a cat's heart that only time can heal. Sometimes it takes a long time. Other times, it takes something special to come along to fill the void.
This was the case for my special seal point Siamese, Linus, when he lost his almost coal-black Siamese mix, Tubby. They had been inseparable from birth. That’s how I ended up with both of them.
Linus and Tubby had been abandoned in an empty apartment. A college student had left them behind with only a bag of food and the water from a toilet seat. The landlady found them and took them to the shelter.
When I spotted Linus, it was love at first sight. He had a dark brown coat with black feet, ears, and tail. He had the most beautiful steel blue eyes. The only hitch was that Tubby had to come with him. Except for the slant of his eyes, Tubby had absolutely no resemblance to a Siamese. He had thick black fur with only a few bits of white hair on his chest. His eyes were deep green.
I quickly could see why the shelter wanted them to remain together. They had always been together. And like some humans, they had a special bond with one another.
They would race and chase one another through the house. One would initiate the chase, and then the other would do the same. They spent hours jumping in and out of boxes, sticking their paws and noses out through holes they’d chewed. They’d wrestle by the hour, and where one was, the other followed.
It was not uncommon to have both occupying my lap at once. Linus hung out by my head while Tubby took the space by my feet every night. Then one day, Tubby was nowhere to be found.
Tubby was doing what cats do when they are sick. He was hiding, not letting his humans or feline friends know he was feeling bad. I was frantic. Where was he? Had he sneaked out through the door? It was winter with a lot of snow.
Two days later I was shocked when I saw him trying to walk across the floor in my bedroom. He could hardly walk. He was staggering, and he looked like he’d lost a lot of weight. I thought perhaps he had eaten a bad mouse.
Later that week, Tubby was diagnosed with feline infectious peritonitis, or FIP, a fatal disease with no cure. He became so weak that I carried him up and down stairs. I fed him with a syringe. The only thing I could do was give him steroids twice a day. Initially, there was some improvement. But within two weeks, he had become so weak he couldn’t even crawl up onto the sofa. I concluded that it was time to put him out of his misery.
During this time, Linus had tried to comfort his brother. He’d lick his head trying to make him feel better. He didn’t understand why his brother wouldn’t race around the house with him. He knew something was very, very wrong; he just didn’t know what it was. He stopped playing and stayed by his brother. When he wasn’t by his side, he was watching him from afar.
Linus, too, was hurting. He acted listless. He almost had tears in his eyes. His very vocal loud meows were now dampened with sadness. It was like he knew his brother was dying and going away forever.
When Tubby was gone, Linus and I cried together about the loss of this very special feline friend. Linus would go to the food bowl and circle around, and just stare at it. Occasionally he’d sniff at the food and walk away. He’d look at my older kitty, Smokey Blue, and just walk away. He didn’t want anything to do with her. He wanted his Tubby.
He was grief stricken. He was mourning the loss of his friend who had been by his side since birth. A few weeks later, Linus resumed eating, but he was still listless. He was depressed. He would not play, no matter what I tried.
I knew there was a special connection between the two littermates. I knew that Linus would miss his brother, but I just didn’t realize just how much, or how long.
Cats have a reputation for acting aloof, and sometimes they do, but they are very caring creatures. They develop strong connections with their humans and their special friends. They mourn the loss of their cat friends, and they grieve the losses just like humans do. Their hearts are broken, and that brokenness appears in their actions.
Linus knew his brother was gone. He did not perpetually keep looking for him. Perhaps, they’d said their goodbyes through cat language. Tubby knew he was very sick. He probably knew he was dying, and he probably told Linus somehow that he was crossing the Rainbow Bridge.
My extra attention did not ease his grief. He missed the cat that he’d been with from the day he was born. With time, he became more himself, but he refused to play. That had been something that was reserved for Tubby.
It was February when Tubby died, leaving a big hole in our hearts. The following September, my boss talked me into adopting a long-haired orange tabby Maine Coon mix. He was only 8 weeks old. His human had thrown three kittens out of the house, and they were living in a barn. Winter was coming.
I was really reluctant to adopt a kitten. First of all, they could be very rambunctious. I also knew introducing a new cat, even a kitten, could change the household cat hierarchy and dynamics. There was Smokey, who at 18 was becoming quite frail. There was mom’s cat, Clyde, a true scaredy-cat. Then there was my sweet black kitty with her Pink Collar, and Linus. There was no true love between any of them. It was more that they tolerated each another.
The first night the little kitty came home, the feline brood just kind of looked at him. Afraid they’d be mean to him, I kept him isolated. However, on day two, Linus started playing with little kitty. He’d lick his head and give him baths. He’d chase after him, and wrestle. He was showing him around the house and standing up for him if the other cats came too close. He was back to the old Linus. The two would run and play and jump and wrestle for hours on end.
Linus had been lonely. He had missed his littermate, and the older cats just couldn't fill that role. They weren’t his style. He wanted more action. He wanted a new playmate. When the kitten arrived, he had just that -– there was lots of play, wrestling matches, and races through the house. Linus took the new kitten under his paw, and he adopted him as if he were his own. The kitten proved to be the medicine that Linus needed to move beyond his grief and help him return to his playful self.
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