For my seventh birthday, my parents got me a present that would stay with me for almost two decades. Huddled at the bottom of a crate was a tiny kitten. She was grey with black stripes and a white nose and paws. I named her Sabot, French for horse hoof (it was the best I could do at seven years old, ok?). We immediately became inseparable. She was perpetually curled up on my lap and insisted on sleeping on my chest under the blankets every night. She was a wonderful companion, always sweet and affectionate.
Over the last couple of years, I noticed a slow decline in her health. She often missed when attempting to jump up on furniture, counters and laps, and she didn’t always land on her feet. Her agility was fading along with her youth. I kept her food on my desk in the spare bedroom. I had to keep it up high so that my 75lb German Sheppard cross couldn’t devour it. I lowered the computer chair as low as it could go so that she could jump up on the chair and then up onto the desk. She lost the ability to retract her claws and was constantly getting stuck in furniture, blankets, and sweaters–only able to be freed with some gentle help. She also became so thin and bony that petting her felt like petting a stegosaurus. You could feel every vertebra. I knew our time together would come to an end sooner rather than later.
On December 23rd, I had some of my best friends over for a small Christmas celebration. There were about nine of us gathered in my living room, catching up over some wine and music. Little Sabot was happy to have extra laps to cuddle on, but she was sometimes unable to jump up on the couch, and when she eventually succeeded, her claws would get stuck in the girls’ pretty sweaters, creating pulls. Though she meant well, I decided to bring her upstairs in the hopes that she would sleep in my room and leave us in peace.
The evening went by and she wasn’t seen again. I didn’t think anything of it, as she spent a great deal of time sleeping nowadays. So when the last guest left around 2am, I went straight to bed. I woke up the morning of Christmas Eve and noticed my clingy companion was still missing. I did a quick scan of my house but couldn’t find her. Finally, I went up to the spare bedroom to see if she was hanging out by her food bowl and what I saw will probably haunt me forever.
I found her half hanging from the computer chair, half laying across the floor. One of the claws on her left paw was stuck in the fabric of the computer chair. It was evident that she was deceased. She hung motionless from her left arm, her head tilted backward exposing her throat and her open mouth. It looked like a scene straight out of a horror film. I gasped and backed out of the room. I knew I couldn’t go back in there, let alone touch her. So I did what every 25-year-old grown woman does when she’s upset: I called my mom. Within the first 20 seconds of our conversation my mom knew something was wrong. When she asked me if I was OK I burst into tears, finally coming out of the shock of the ghastly scene in the next room.
My mom arrived at my house shortly after, prepared the deal with the whole situation for me since I was traumatized and useless and ultimately being a big baby. I tried to prepare her for what she was about to see, warning her that it was a disturbing scene. She bravely put on some gloves and I followed her upstairs. I recoiled to the hallway like a coward as she entered the spare bedroom.
“Oh my god! OH MY GOD!” screamed my mom, as she quickly exited the room. For a moment we just looked at each other, and then inexplicably we both burst out laughing. It must have been the absurdity of the situation. We proceeded to laugh and cry, and cry and laugh in the hallway for about three minutes. “It’s like a scene from a Steven Spielberg movie!” exclaimed my mom, which renewed our fits of laughter/crying. It took about five minutes to recover from our outburst. She finally went into the room (while I continued to hide in the hallway), wrapped Sabot’s tiny body in a blanket and put her in a box. Poor Sabot must have gotten stuck while trying to get to her food bowl and was too weak to free herself. I was distracted with my guests and didn’t hear her distress over the conversation and the music. I couldn’t help but feel guilty.
With that done (absolutely no thanks to me), we discussed how we would break the news to my little sister, Sophie, who is a particularly sensitive soul (my dad once referred to her as having the exterior of a pistachio and the interior of a marshmallow) and had an affinity for my cuddly kitty. “Do we wait until after Christmas to tell her?” we asked ourselves repeatedly. We are stumped. Eventually my mom left after I thanked her profusely for doing what I couldn’t.
I arrive at my parent’s house a few hours later to prepare for Christmas mass. I’m still shaken up. However my dad insisted that telling Sophie now would be better than withholding it until after Christmas. We agree to break it to her gently and to not to go into the details of her death.
“We have something to tell you,” started my mom (I know, I’m completely useless), “Sabot passed away, I’m so sorry hon…” This is when my dad decided to chime in, oh so tactfully. “On Christmas Eve!” he interrupted, “she died ON. CHRISTMAS. EVE!” He thought it was sort of morbidly funny, but my sister did not. She burst into tears and was inconsolable.
If you’ve read some of my previous blog posts (see I Almost Died on my Way to a Funeral), you may already know that my dad moves to the beat of his own drum. And apparently, that drum urged him to bring up my dead cat on the car ride to church, in the middle of the service, immediately after, and sporadically throughout the rest of the Christmas Eve festivities, inciting tears from my poor sister each time. Forget not telling Sophie, we should have not told my dad.
Anyway, it took me a good week and a half before I could go back into the spare bedroom. I am so sorry for the way my poor little kitty had to go. What a horrible, horrible end to almost 20 years of beautiful companionship.
I think it’s safe to say I’ll never get another cat.