Two weeks ago my cat Pooping Genius died. I didn’t even know he was sick. When I left for New York he was doing just great, a little skinny because he was getting on in years. Is ten years old getting on in years? And near death? That never entered my mind.
Then a week after I got home from New York Pooping Genius started showing signs of disorientation. Like, he would cry out when I got up and away from him. Or, he would curl up in places where he never did before. Then one day he just stopped eating and crept into an empty drawer. I thought he was just chilling out. The following day, he was still acting lazy, but nothing that showed signs of failing health. He slept most of the day (like most cats do) and then… and then he died at midnight. I found him after a very long and involved phone call with a girlfriend. Poopin’ was lifeless on my bed.
I was stunned, shocked, devastated. I loved Pooping Genius. As a rescue kitty of four weeks, I bottle-fed him and his six littermates. He was the fluffiest, most impish little thing ever. He had imploring eyes and followed me everywhere. When I went near him he would immediately flop over on his back and stretch his exposed throat for me to tickle and give me his paw to shake. Pooping Genius was very loving and gentle but when it came time to take him to adoption days at Pet Express, he would act out, hiss, snarl and claw at the person who was looking to adopt him. I took him several times and ended up taking him home each time. I guess Pooping Genius wanted to live with me.
Anyway, Poopin’ died at midnight. I called the friend who cat-sat for me when I was away and she said to put him in a glad bag, and to think of the glad bag as a shroud. Thanks a lot, friend. Then she said to make a funeral pyre in my yard. What the hell? I guess midnight was the wrong time to call her because I wasn’t loving anything she said to me.
I ended up swaddling Poopin’ in a towel and holding him next to my heart all night. I knew I would have to bring him to the vet for cremation in the morning, but in the meantime, I was going to hold him all night for the last time.
I shut his eyes tight and nudged his mouth closed. I couldn’t take my eyes off him all night praying desperately and weepingly that I could will him back to life. Where did his life-force go? When he was alive Poopin’s energy was vibrant, his body quick and nimble, his eyes sparkly, his meow loud and demanding. I know his heart stopped beating and there were other things that stopped working inside, but where is that which animates… where did it go?
It’s been two weeks now and I just got a call from the vet letting me know that Poopin’s ashes are back. I can’t believe he’s gone. Now I’m holding on tight to Mau, my 14-year-old yellow tabby, and watching vigilantly the rise and fall of his chest, listening for the whisper of his breath, the breath of life...that which animates.