There is no doubt that my cats are an integral part of my life and I have always lavished them with attention, both consciously and subconsciously. The conscious part became especially evident the past few months as I spent nearly every waking moment taking care of the special needs that my 15-year-old Ragdoll, Mr. Jazz, had to ensure his final time with us before crossing to the Bridge recently as comfortable as possible. Now that he has passed on, I find my mind frequently wandering and I wondered if, in my multi-cat household of Harley, Zee, Zoey, Mia, Peanut, Rolz, and Kizmet, I had inadvertently given them less attention than they needed. Or did they not even notice the difference at all?
I came to the conclusion that despite the general preference cats have for routine in their lives, they are also far more intuitive and flexible than they appear on the surface. For what had happened, I now realize, is that they adjusted around my needs with Jazz to suit their own. It was an implied, “We know you love us, but you need to take care of Jazz and we understand that, and we will figure out our own unique ways to spend time with you when we need it.” And mind you, it was not as if I was ignoring them — far from it, but I just wasn’t myself. Yet there they were, right by my side all along.
The past couple of months my mornings began with me opening a special can of moist food just for Jazz. It was imperative I get something into his vanishing body and I would make the other interested cats (i.e., Zee, Peanut, and Harley), wait patiently for Jazz to eat however much or little he wanted before I would let them lick the remains of the feeding dish. Peanut was the most insistent that she partake in this ritual and even though I no longer open up that special can of food, she remains ever hopeful that I will. I appreciate her aspirations and in lieu of the food, I give her extra loving, hugs, and kisses. She enjoys the exclusive attention and I somehow feel more connected to the memory of Jazz.
Jazz would also get a small handful of dry kibble anytime he would wander into the kitchen. Normally we don’t feed the cats on demand, but if Jazz was willing to eat, he was going to get food — end of story. He would stand next to the pantry and howl that he was hungry and that was our signal to drop whatever we were doing to oblige his needs. Rolz keyed into this change of routine pretty quickly because it turns out the only food Jazz would eat was probably akin to buying your kid a McDonald’s Happy Meal. Rolz thought he had won the kitty lottery with that find. We still have some of that food left and Rolz is treated to a few pieces at night as a “snack.” It’s our special little secret and since it makes him happy, it makes me happy.
Mia has made the most interesting evolution. She is slowly emerging from a shy, don’t-pet-me kind of kitty, to a very vocal and loving cat. Her special time for me is when I get out of the shower. I can’t dry myself quickly enough for her; she hears the water shut off in the morning and will meow and chirp incessantly that I must pet her. The catch? We have a hamper in the corner of the bathroom with a flat cover that she jumps onto. That is where our bonding must occur and although it is a tad inconvenient, as I am trying to get ready for work, this ritual means the world to both of us. Now I just get up a few minutes earlier, so I can spend more time with her. Rarely am I allowed this special bonding anywhere else and I find it to be wonderfully awkward and charming — kind of like a teenager who wants to be loved, but as long as it’s not in front of anyone!
Zoey continues to find me when she wants me, so it is not uncommon to find her on my lap when I am on the computer. She religiously sits on my stretched-out legs on the couch every single night when I settle down to watch TV. What is new, however, is how Kizmet has become a part of this. It used to be me, Dan (my fianc├®), Zoey on my legs, Jazz on my chest, Harley on my stomach and Zee behind all of us on the couch. Without Jazz, Kizmet seems to understand there is a void and it is his role to fill it. Ker-plunk. As if dropped from a parachute, he lands next to my legs, settles to my LEFT side and snuggles in as close as he can to Zoey, where he proceeds to groom her with an unbridled vigor. She happens to love the attention and will groom him back, but eventually he will push it too far, causing her to leave in a huff. But until that moment, it is quite endearing.
Zee has made the most compelling adjustment and the dear boy is such a darling that it brings tears to my eyes thinking about it. Somehow he has taken it upon himself that he is responsible for the safety and emotional well-being of Dan and I and has made it his mission to care for us. Never is he out of eyesight of either one of us and when we go to bed, his job really begins. He is so torn with love for both of us that he will take turns snuggling next to us. I wake up to find him curled up at my side with my arm around him. Or sometimes, he is on top of my head. But Dan tells the same story, so I know he goes back and forth all night, making sure we are protected. Years ago he was never a lap cat, yet now, he seems lost if he is not with one of us.
He will also leave throughout the night to bring gifts to us. We will wake up in the morning to a bedroom floor covered with his prized plush toys and I am certain he does it as homage to his love for us. He also talks constantly, almost as if he has to check in with us to make sure we are okay. Poor little guy — I fear we are going to wear him out taking care of us, but his intentions are just so precious. I know it’s his way of acknowledging the painful and emotional journey we went through with Jazz, and he is reassuring us that everything will be okay.
All I know is that the love and appreciation that I have always had for my cats has now reached a level that takes my breath away. My senses have taken on a life of their own and I feel like everything they do, I am seeing for the first time. I am quietly reveling in this rediscovery and the unconditional love they feel for me is returned to them a thousandfold. I miss Jazz every single day, but I also realize that he lives on through the others. For that, I am forever grateful.
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