What My Cat Dying Taught Me About Living


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By Karen Harrison Binette

Animal lover Adrienne Gonzales wrote us the other day after having to say goodbye to a dear longtime companion, saying: “I’ve known BooBoo for half my life, and losing her taught me quite a bit. I’m in rescue and we see death far more often than we should but losing a loyal companion affects us like nothing else.”

She has kindly agreed to share this post.

What My Cat Dying Taught Me About Living

Guest post by Adrienne Gonzalez

September 25, 2013

Early Saturday morning, my cat died. She died peacefully and quietly on the pillow next to me — the place she always slept for the 3+ years we’ve spent together, even if my boyfriend was occupying it.

The cat was my inheritance when my mother died very suddenly at 53 — along with a beat up old Mazda — and as far as inheritances go, I couldn’t have asked for anything better. I’d known BooBoo since I was 16 years old, and she used to lie in wait at the bottom of my mom’s stairs as a kitten, preparing to launch cat doom on my ankles (I would eventually forgive her for this). When my mother died, she was the only creature on the planet who understood the depth of that loss, and I am eternally grateful we had each other during that difficult time for us both.

Lately, she became frail, unkempt and almost checked out. She was diagnosed with early stage kidney failure in April, a common marker of old age in loyal domestic cats. Because I’m surrounded by an army of young cats — some of whom were rescued from the clutches of death at New York City Animal Care & Control — it was easy to see my old friend was becoming more and more ratty as the days went on in comparison to my young, vibrant zoo. But I always thought we’d have more time, as often as I joked that the old girl was on her last life.

People always told me I’d “just know” when it was her time and sure enough, I did. She told me on a Wednesday, and by Saturday just after dawn, she was gone.

Recently, I’ve been struggling with some personal issues, with understanding my purpose on this planet, and with all the other drama that comes with being a 30-something professional troll in this complicated world of ours. Holding my old friend in my arms as she spent her final hours on this temperamental Earth sure brought me back from whatever orbit I’ve been spinning around lately and reminded me that life really is precious and our only task as sentient beings is to keep on living.

Cats don’t fear death like we do. Hell, they don’t even think beyond satisfying their desires in any given moment. We stupid humans spend our lives accumulating things while they can spend an entire afternoon happily tossing around a twist tie. They don’t worry about bills or titles or reputation, they just are. My old companion didn’t care how many Twitter followers I had or how much +K I got for cats, all she knew was that I was a familiar face and I could be counted on to supply crunchies, a warm place to sleep, a chin rub and a nice box to take a shit in.

I’ve learned a few things from this experience and I will share them with you, lest BooBoo have died in vain.

Time flies. I remember spending many a day counting the hours when I had a proper day job and looking back, that seems like such a waste of time. There’s always something to do, always someone to talk to, always work to be done. Whatever it is you’re doing, hurry your ass up and do it because you won’t have forever to put it off. It seems like just yesterday BooBoo and I were young, rude assholes, she the rambunctious tortie kitten and I the smart-assed teenager. But the day she died, I was 32 and she would have been around 82 had she been a human being. When the hell did we both get old?

BooBoo on her 14th birthday, relaxing in my grandparents’ house December 6, 2010


When you’re ready, you’re ready. My grandpa happened to die nearly 6 months to the day after my grandma. He, like BooBoo, was frail in his old age (83) and the last thing he wanted was to waste away in a nursing home with some bitter lady with a mustache wiping his ass for him. I’m sure my grandpa could have stuck it out longer if he wanted but I am convinced he simply did not want to. His lifelong companion was gone, the future was bleak and he was just done. I feel like BooBoo chose this same path; she could have lingered longer, fighting for another few months, but instead she chose to hop up on the bed, look me in the eye and tell me that she was finished. And then she was gone.

Take nothing for granted. The day BooBoo died, I spent the afternoon washing the bedding she’d been using — covered in various bodily fluids an old, sick cat simply does not have control over — and scrubbing her puke stains off my wood floors on my hands and knees. I’ve been cleaning up her puke for as long as I can remember but there was a certain sadness in realizing once those spots were gone, I’d never clean up another one of her puke stains again. I’m not saying you should appreciate puke, but I am saying that you should appreciate everything, which sometimes includes unpleasant things like cat vomit. You are blessed to have the cat, to have nice floors to clean, to have your hands to scrub with, to be able to afford Murphy’s Oil Soap.

When there is nothing left, you have love. God, that sounds cheesy. And it is. But it is true. There are beings put on this planet who you are lucky enough to bump into and damnit, you better appreciate that gift because they are rare and deserve nothing less than your full appreciation. BooBoo and I are both lucky that she died in the home I try so hard to make a sanctuary for myself and my merry band of rescue cats, with me petting her little head until the sun came up and I could no longer keep my eyes open. As far as leaving this Earth goes, she could not have chosen a better way to do it; just us and the noise of the Norfolk Southern railroad outside of our window, the rush of the James River, and the sound of downtown Richmond just starting its Saturday morning as we closed the final chapter of my old friend’s life together.

I’ll miss you, old girl. But you were — are — a good girl, and thank you for being the exceptional creature that you were. See you on the other side someday.


BooBoo doing what BooBoo loved to do in Richfield, MN way back in the day (2000?)


Adrienne Gonzalez lives in Richmond, VA with her rescue cats. She writes on financial and accounting matters and has a passion for animal welfare and rescue.

This post was originally published HEREon September 25 at Medium and is reprinted with the author’s permission.

Posts with Adrienne’s rescues at our site:

March 11, 2013: Justice the Blind Kitten



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4 thoughts on “What My Cat Dying Taught Me About Living”

  1. OMG what a touching story! Booboo os like my loving cat Pinina! It made me cry. I hope she lives long and that I can be with her till God says so. God bless Adrienne for her love and care for Booboo and other cats!
    I wish there were more people like her!

  2. I have a healthy 14 y.o. right now. He is the love of my life. I realize that one day i will be in your shoes, i pray to god to have the presence of mind and fortitude that you have have shared with me. Thank you for your candid insight.

  3. Chloe is sixteen…..I got her as a kitten from my live-in boyfriend….when we split, he kept her….I got her back last year after he died….she is getting older and frailer….and I can really relate to this article. I hope that when it is her time, she will let me know, and that I can be there with her….until that day, I will cherish each pile of cat puke on my own wood floors, and not complain too much about the heat she gives off when she insists on being on my lap. Great article….thank you for writing it.

  4. Hi, sixteen is not young but not ancient! My good friend’s cat Mehitabel lived until nineteen. My former teacher had an eighteen-year-old cat and his twenty-year-old mother! We even know cats who lived until twenty-four. Use supplements that strengthen Chloe’s immune system like Vetri DMG (I do not know whether they have it in the States, I live in Europe, but there must be supplements for cats, ask your vet). They are not inexpensive, but very well worth their price. They do make my cats stronger and healthier.

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