Editor’s note: This item initially ran on the blog Romeo the Cat. We’re republihing it here (with permission) so Catster readers can read and comment on it.
Ten years and five days after he curled up in our hearts, Romeo left for a better place, taking a piece of us with him.
He’d been struggling lately. A couple of years ago he was diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease, a hereditary disorder that causes cysts to grow in a cat’s kidneys and liver and eventually leads to kidney disease and failure. We’ve been on borrowed time, and every day, week, month, and year has been a gift.
But he’d been slowing down. He spent most of the past week by the refrigerator, which puts off a bit of heat from underneath. Once we figured out why he liked it there, we got him a little space heater and a pillow and put them in the corner of the kitchen so he could stay in the middle of the action, where he always wanted to be.
When we realized he was declining fast and there was nothing more we could do for him, our kind vet came to our house and we freed our beloved boy from his pain. While he loved snuggling up next to us, he wasn’t big on being held. But that day he let me hold him against my chest as we cried.
When we met him, it was love at first sight. We’d decided to adopt a cat and my husband, Chris, found Romeo’s photo on the site of a Persian rescue group called Persian Purebred and Purrbaby near his work. “Romeo is a red-and-white, bi-colored Persian who loves to eat,” the description read.
On his lunch hour, Chris went to meet Romeo. Romeo’s interview was a complete disaster. He slunk around the room, not wanting to be picked up or petted. Plus, his permanently cranky expression wasn’t exactly inviting.
“He’s perfect. We want him,” Chris told the rescue group.
He knew there was something special about this boy. And he was so right.
Romeo had been pulled by the rescue from a shelter in Kentucky. Apparently he had been returned there twice. The second time he was covered in fleas and a skin condition. Plus he was deaf in both ears. The rescue group cleaned him up and nursed him through eight surgeries on his ears to correct his hearing issues, leaving one of his ears permanently folded down. Along with his grumpy expression, he looked like a total “badass,” as one of our friends commented.
But nothing could be further from the truth. Once he was settled in, we discovered how appropriate the name “Romeo” was. He was the sweetest, most loving cat one could ever meet. I only heard him hiss one time – when Pugsley came to live with us. Just one hiss to assert his ownership over his domain and then the two boys were best friends for life – Romeo and Pugsley.
Pugsley misses Romeo too. We couldn’t find him for a long time that day and discovered him curled up in a closet where he’d never gone before.
After a couple of years we gave Romeo his first shave and were surprised to discover a heart shaped marking on Romeo’s side. We’ll never know whether that was the true source of his name but it was so appropriate. He was marked with love from the start.
Romeo was with us through so much change over the past 10 years, steadfastly sitting next to us on the couch, patiently observing transition after transition. My husband and I were engaged, married, moved five times in three cities, and brought home two baby girls, a couple of years apart.
When the girls were infants, and I would get up in the middle of the night to feed them, I would rock them back to sleep and Romeo would climb up on the back of the chair and rock along with us, purring.
As the girls grew, Romeo and Pugsley grew to trust and love them. I always knew where I could find Romeo – snuggled up next to a little girl who was watching TV or playing on her iPad.
Having Romeo and Pugsley has been so amazing for our daughters, teaching them how to be gentle and empathetic at a young age. Now, Romeo has helped teach them about love and loss.
He slept partly on my head most nights, eventually squeezing me off the pillow, but I didn’t mind. Then, when he was ready for breakfast he would start his wake-up process, trying different tactics each morning – standing on our chests, meowing, pawing our noses, snuffling in our ears – until my husband or I would heave ourselves out of bed and go downstairs to get the food out, Romeo trotting eagerly behind us.
Because he was such a character, he inspired the blog after my co-workers teased me about putting Romeo on Twitter. I did, and a social media cat was born. From the start, we dedicated his site to raising money for shelters and rescue groups. Since then, my little blog has raised $95,000 for homeless pets. Thank you for supporting our efforts. We’ll continue to honor Romeo’s memory by giving to pets in need.
Romeo has been such a huge part of our lives for more than a decade. Already our home is emptier without his silent meows, the feel of his soft fur, and the sound of his purrs. I keep expecting to turn the corner from the kitchen and see him sleeping on his favorite chair.
We will miss you every day, Romeo.
Until we meet again, sweet boy …
About the author: Caroline Golon is a writer and digital media professional specializing in the pet world. She is ruled by Pugsley the Persian and two small humans. Find her on the web at High Paw Media.