Nineteen years, three months, fifteen days

That’s how long it’s been since the day I brought two ten-week-old kittens home to live with me.  I named them Archy and Mehitabel.

We started out in Los Angeles.  They were born to a little black cat belonging to the roommate of my best friend.  He gave them to me as a gift because I’d just bought a condo, and right around the time they were born, in the late summer of 1988, I’d mentioned to him that now that I was a homeowner I thought maybe I wanted a kitten.

They came home with me on Halloween night, 1988.  I went over to my friend’s house that afternoon and helped him get dressed up for a big Halloween party he was going to.  He went in full-on Glenda the Good Witch drag.  We spent the afternoon shaving his legs and his back and his chest, and I did his hair and makeup and all that.  He was an olive-skinned, extremely masculine Italian-American guy who didn’t look good in drag.  He was hideous.  He was perfect for Halloween.

Once he was all dressed, he put the two kittens in a cardboard box and I took them home.  They were scared, of course — they hadn’t been socialized very well so they were almost feral.  I put them in my bathroom and spent every spare minute of the next two weeks socializing them, until they got over their fear and turned into a couple of adorable, rambunctious, cute kittens.

Well, Mehitabel was all those things, but she was more.  She was a little neurotic, a little needy, a little unwilling to share.  Her whole life I always had the distinct feeling that she would have preferred to be an only cat, which is something she never did get to enjoy being.

She had her share of mishaps over the years.  There was the recurring “Oh, crap, she’s brought home yet another cat” traumas she had to suffer, poor baby.  There was the time when she was still young that I was away for the day and she managed to get into my supply of empty grocery bags and get the handle of one of them wrapped around her stomach.  I came home that night to Archy huddled in one corner looking like a deer in the headlights and Mehitabel running around in a frenzy, banging into walls, trailing a pee-soaked grocery bag after her.  I caught her, cut the bag off of her, gave her a bath and put her to bed, where she fell into an instant, utterly exhausted sleep and stayed that way for the next 12 hours or so.  Poor Archy was scared to go near her for a long time after that misadventure.

There was the time she developed an allergy to her cat food and chewed all the fur off of every part of her body she could reach.  She looked like a scarecrow for months till the fur grew back.

There was the time she and went with me to stay at my brother’s house for a couple of weeks while he was away.  She slipped out the back door and was missing for about 24 hours before I found her hiding under his tool shed in the backyard.  I couldn’t reach her to drag her out so I sat on the ground a few feet from the shed and just talked to her until she worked up the courage to come out on her own, and when she finally did she ran into my arms and wouldn’t let me put her down for hours.

There was the time she suddenly started having seizures.  I took her to the emergency vet and she was hospitalized for three days while they ran tests and observed her.  After three days and a $1500 bill, they sent her home with me having never figured out what was wrong with her.  She got better on her own.

Over the years she moved with me to Northern California, to San Diego, and to Seattle.  She was forced against her better judgment to share me with seven other cats over the years, although not all at once.  She lost her brother Archy four years ago to kidney failure.

In her golden years, she had a bad ticker, kidney failure, hyperthyroidism, and hypertension, but she still ate like a horse and she still liked to play with her peacock feathers and she still jumped up onto  surfaces where she knew perfectly well she was not allowed and she still got incredibly pissed off when any of the other cats presumed to try to sleep in Her Spot On The Bed.  She still wanted to be an only cat, but she did in her final years relent a little, when I adopted Dudley three years ago.  Dudley absolutely adored Mehitabel, and after thinking it over she decided he wasn’t so bad either.  Right up until the end, the two of them voluntarily ate their meals from the same dish every day.

The end came almost without warning.  Yesterday she started breathing laboriously.  I called her vet last night and they said they could see her first thing this morning.  I was there with her when they opened up the office, and they took her right in to assess her condition.

It was the worst possible news.  Her heart was failing.  I had two choices: take drastic measures that would almost certainly destroy what was left of her kidney function, or let her go.

I let her go.  That was two hours ago.

Nineteen years, three months, fifteen days and two hours ago.

Goodbye, my sweet, old, cantankerous, neurotic, needy, loving girl.  I can’t imagine what life without you is going to be like, but I know I’m not going to like it very much.



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  1. My pets are great company for me especially since I work weird shifts, live in a rural area and have a spouse who travels.

    I have always grieved when I lost one. I find people who don’t have them often don’t understand. I will never forget going into work the a few hours after one of my dogs escaped and got hit by a car with no time to grieve and having a hellish night because we were short staffed and busy.

    • Robyn on February 16, 2008 at 00:46

    I’m going to go cuddle with our oldest cat for a bit…in Mehitabel’s honor.

  2. I’m sorry for your loss. It appears that Mehitabel had quite the long, loved, and adventurous life. Even the best of hearts fail in time, but it’s hard to lose an old friend.

    (I’m certain I met her that night…peace to her now.)


    • pfiore8 on February 16, 2008 at 01:07

    very sorry.

    let’s cry okay? a good soaking cry. i just got my boy’s ashes back today. in a nice little tin with a certificate. i put them in the corner where he slept every night.

    i feel your story. please, take care of yourself…

    • kj on February 16, 2008 at 02:02

    for your loss. They break our hearts when they go.  

    • TMC on February 16, 2008 at 02:09

    You have sent her on a journey to a land free from pain. Not because you did not love her but because you loved her too much to force her to stay.

    May the Goddess guide her over the Rainbow Bridge to the Summerlands. May you find Peace. Blessed Be

    • RiaD on February 16, 2008 at 02:27

    a lifetime of wonderful memories she’s left you with….

    • Alma on February 16, 2008 at 17:08

    Because its so hard when you lose them.  


  3. Mehitabel9. Is the 9 for her cat lives? She sounds like she enjoyed all of them. Sometimes the needy cats are the ones who end up giving the most love. What can one say to the loss of a friend, except I’m so sorry.  

    • Edger on February 17, 2008 at 03:47

    I almost wish I hadn’t read it. When Magic decided to quit being a stray and moved in on me I tried for three days to find someone who wanted a cat. I didn’t want one because I knew I wouldn’t be able to resist longer than those three days.

    That was two years ago. Now I’m f’ed… She owns me, and I’m pretty sure I’ll live longer than she will… which sucks.

  4. I couldn’t comment earlier because I’m facing the end with my sweetypie Libby who is a springer spaniel. She’s 18 and has live a long and wonderful life. But I just decided tonight that its time to say goodbye. I know how much it hurts.  

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