Thoughts on pets

Facebook reminded me this morning that one year ago today, our cat died. I wrote about it then, and I reflect upon it now. Here's the story, stolen from my Medium page.

What's your opinion on pets? Worth it, or not?

It’s almost always worth it.

Last night, Wrinkly-Crinkly, the cat who decided to live with us, died. He was old, but don’t ask me exactly how old, because I don’t know.

What I know is this: When he decided to go live with my ex-husband, he was already a very adult cat, likely 7 years old or more. He was a wild beast who found an open door one day and climbed up to the tallest nook of a bookshelf and decided to camp there. Attempts to remove him were futile; books and pictures and tchotchke were pushed upon those who tried to extradite him back to the outdoors, and then the claws would come out. He would contort himself into a twisted, furled mess… a wrinkly, crinkly ball of a cat. And there he found his name.

He was never my cat. Year later when my then-husband left me, he left the cat, too. And I’ve never warmed to cats, even in the rare moment among WC’s usual cat-insanity of bouncing of the walls when he would curl up in my lap.

I’ve never liked cats.

He — my ex — left plenty. A life, a family, a cat or two and the dogs he bought me as a present, neither of which I wanted. But I’m a bleeding heart, even for the worst cat, and I dutifully cared for them as best I could, as much as my detester nature for felines would allow me.

And then, despite all of that, the cat has the nerve to die! My oldest child, now 7, has become particularly attached to WC, and he equally smitten with her. He never complained when she would carry him around like a ragdoll, as long as it was her doing it, and no one else.

WC complained about a lot, most of the time, only making me despise him more. His last two weeks of life, though, he never complained, as though to make amends.

The end was near, we knew that. And it came quickly. In his last few days I made sure extra fluffy towels were available for him in his favorite sunning spot on the porch, and a few extra pets were granted each time I walked past, even if I cringed while I did it. Was it worth it, the tens years I’ve spent caring for this cat?

I mean, is it ever worth it when it comes to pets? They are designed to break our hearts, inevitably demanding we upend out lives for them only to die on us one day. That cat was one of the last remaining threads of what my life was once, a marriage that unraveled as soon as it was woven. The death of WC is the fraying of the few final threads. Watching him deteriorate was a reminder of how easily things come and go, and doubting if the effort is ever really worth it.

Except that one time, when I was crying on the couch through my heartbreak, and WC came and snuggled up to me, pressing his head against my chest in a brief detente of our feelings towards one another. A rare tender moment and recognition of the effort I put into being a cat-mom when my other identities were falling away from me.

That’s probably not how WC saw it, but that’s the story I’ll tell myself.

Later today I’ll tell my children the news, watch them cry, show them the spot behind the barn where I turned soil to bury him, shrouded in the same towel he died upon. And I’ll cry with them. Pets are designed to break your heart, but they are almost always worth it.

Even if you don’t like cats. Even if they were never really yours.