I’ve been wanting to write about Kitty Emeritus for a while now. Kitty Emeritus is one of the many names for our dearly departed cat who died more than two years ago at the ripe old age of 19.
Her real name is Pickles. I almost never called her that; I had 2,051,942 nicknames for her. But it didn’t matter which name I used because she ignored all of them.
Pickles and I met on November 8, 1996, at about 6:00pm. That’s the night I went to the ASPCA to adopt a cat. I was in a room lined with wall-to-wall cages of cats and it felt like it would be impossible to choose just one. Finally, after looking at each cat, I decided on a very sweet male tabby. I was about to tell the ASPCA volunteer that I wanted to adopt him when I had this very strong urge to turn around.
I turned around and my eyes fell upon the center cage in the bottom row on the wall opposite me. Staring at me was a little grey face doing hypno eyes on me. For some reason I hadn’t seen this cat when I looked at all the cats earlier. I walked over to that little grey face and read the tag on the cage. She was a 6-year-old girl, which was perfect because I wanted an older cat. They opened her cage so I could see her better. I picked her up and she just sat there in my arms, purring. And I said, “I’ll take her.” I had no choice. I mean, she had done hypno eyes on me. What else could I do? I had to adopt her. It was as simple as that.
That was the beginning of the best 13 years of my life. She was my little friend, my little companion, my little roommate, my little banshee, my little teddy bear.
She was the smartest cat I’ve ever had, and also the pissiest. Just like me, Pickles was a cranky broad. She was 16 pounds of pure attitude. She had a dead-eye stare that could make the temperature in the room drop about 20 degrees. She didn’t like the smell of people food and it didn’t take much to set her off. Any sort of cooking—even mild foods like toast, scrambled eggs, spaghetti—was enough to get her wailing and crawling under the covers to escape from the noxious fumes. When it was bedtime, she got annoyed if I strayed too far over to her side of the bed. She’d look at me as if to say, “Really? Do you value your life that little?” Once I awoke in the middle of the night to the very peculiar sensation of being shoved by a furry mass. Pickles was using her back feet to brace herself against the side of the bed, trying to push me out of her area. She’d make little snorts and snuffles to express her displeasure with me. When I laughed at her it pissed her off even more.
She was not your typical cat. She didn’t like toys or catnip. Soon after I adopted her I tried to engage her with one of those toys dangling from the end of a string. She swatted it out of her way with a look that said, “Get this annoying thing out of my face.” She couldn’t be bothered with the things that normal cats enjoy. She was above all that juvenile nonsense.
One thing that Pickles loved, though, was men. She tolerated me, of course, but she loved men. Every night I’d let her out of the apartment for her evening constitutional in the hallway (always closely supervised by me). I lived in a walk-up building and over time everyone in my building knew her by name. She always gravitated toward the men. She flirted with them, curling her fluffy tail around their legs. One of my upstairs neighbors, a WWII veteran named Joe, was enthralled with her. Every time I saw him he’d ask, “How’s my furry little girlfriend?” And he knew her name but not mine.
Then there was the night I woke up at about 3am because of a commotion in the hallway. Pickles and I went out to see what was going on. Someone had called the fire department and a bunch of firemen were going up and down the stairs. One of them was standing near my door, talking on his radio. My cat, being a brazen little hussy, marched right over to him and rubbed against his legs. The fireman leaned over and started petting her, all the time still talking on the radio. Pickles was thrilled. To this day I wish I could have taken a photo of that scene.
And then there were the times when she and I would just hang out. We’d zonk out together on the couch. Sometimes she’d sleep on me with her head tucked right under my chin. Sometimes at night she’d lie next to me and rest her head in the palm of my hand. She trusted me. And I’m pretty sure she knew I loved her more than anything in the whole wide world.
When Mr. Weebles entered the picture, Pickles accepted him immediately. That’s how I knew he was a keeper. But Mr. Weebles wasn’t quite sure what to make of her at first. I told him, “Trust me, you’ll like her. She’s very charming.” Sure enough, within a very short time he too was under the spell of Pickles. And when the three of us moved in together, she had no trouble adjusting. Actually, that’s not entirely true—she never did accept the fact that Mr. Weebles was now taking up her side of the bed. That always stuck in her craw. But she loved him anyway.
I still marvel at the fact that she made it to 19; she had more medical problems than any three cats I’ve ever had. But she was a tough old gal, she took a licking and kept on ticking. She never had simple ailments—they were always complicated disorders that cost a fortune to diagnose and another fortune to treat. Fatty liver, bladder stones, pancreatitis, hyperthyroidism, heart murmur, gall bladder problems, tooth infections, kidney insufficiency, special dietary needs . . . if only I could have deducted her and her medical expenses on my tax returns.
Of course the day came—January 12, 2010—when her medical conditions and old age caught up with her and it was time for me to let her go. Mr. Weebles and I were with her until the very end. I have no doubt that it was the right thing to do, at the right time. I think Pickles knew it was right too—I just have that feeling from the interaction between her and me during those last minutes. It felt like she was saying, “It’s okay, it’s time.”
So now she’s in the Great Catnip Patch in the Sky (not sure why I keep calling it that since she didn’t like catnip). I like to think she’s having a wonderful time bossing people around and charming all the gentlemen. We have three other cats now, the Weeblettes. They’re nothing like the sophisticated, redoubtable Pickles—they’re very playful, silly, and catlike. I love them to pieces. But Pickles is and always will be my special girl. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about her and smile. And I will miss her every day for the rest of my life.
I’ve written most of this with tears streaming down my face. I cry because I miss her like crazy, but mostly I cry out of joy. Joy because I had her with me for as long as I did. Joy because she made my life so much better. Joy because I was lucky enough to have such an incredible connection with such an extraordinary creature. And joy because I know that someday I’ll see her again.