Tuesday, July 01, 2008
Snugs, a patchwork American Shorthair kitty, was Ed's and my first furry child together. She had been our cat as long as Ed and I have been together thus far; April 2008 marked 16 years that we've been together, and July 3 will mark our fifteenth wedding anniversary.
We had her out of wedlock, bringing her to live with us when we were engaged and happily living in sin. She had an excellent academic pedigree, having been born in the dormitories of the Brooklyn campus of Pratt Institute, which has produced many wonderful photographers, graphic designers, and clothing designers, including, years and years ago, Ed's mother, D., who was a designer of children's clothing in Manhattan back when the majority of American women did not have careers.
Our favorite early memory of her was as a kitten. She loved to attack the fishing-pole-type cat toy that was suction-cupped to our refrigerator door. She'd play so hard with the toy that she'd fall asleep on her back in front of the frig, toy and string in her mouth and cute little kitty belly rising and falling adorably with each breath. In those early years, she had a tendency to nibble on my hair when she was very happy because she was being petted a great deal. When she was still new to us, our bed was a low-to-the-floor futon. My hair, a little shorter than shoulder length, sometimes hung off the end of the futon, and Snugs would wake me up by chewing on my hair.
She moved with us into our first home and learned to deal with there being a dog in the house, because we bought Ed's parents' home from them, and then made an apartment within the home for them to live in, with their dog, while we lived in the main part of the house upstairs. We're still there. Over the years, she dealt with a change of in-laws' dogs (the first one, and then a second, died), the death of two of their cats, the addition of their Maine Coon cat, the moving in and out of my daughter from my first marriage, the birth of Ed's and my two sons, our loss of one pregnancy, the birth of our first grandchild, and the addition of Emily, another American Shorthair, to our household.
First, she was nanny cat to Becky, my daughter, always snuggling up to Becky, who named her, sight unseen, before we brought Snugs home to live with us. Snugs would get so happy that Becky was petting her that she'd drool and get a goofy, sweet look on her face. Then, when Becky was almost 12, our son Neil was born. As Becky grew up and spent less and less time with us, Snugs appointed herself Neil's nanny cat. When my in-laws would follow toddler Neil on the street in front of our home as he learned to ride his tricycle, Snugs would follow them, not sure that these grownups knew which home to take him back to at the end of the journey. Later, when Neil was a preschooler, I'd take him to our neighbors' home a few days a week so that he could play with the children whom the wife baby-sat while I worked. (I started freelancing full time at home when Neil was 2 weeks old.) Often, Snugs would follow me to the neighbors' home and even try to follow me inside as I was dropping Neil off; she seemed to think that maybe she'd better go along and try to rescue him and bring him back home, where she thought he should stay. As Neil headed toward adolescence, she'd sleep in his bed with him at night, and he'd confide in her when he thought that the rest of us weren't listening to him as well as he wanted us to. When Neil was 6, Jared was born, and Snugs had another child to be a nanny to. She'd follow Jared around and make sure that he was being taken care of. Once, when he was lying down asleep as a baby, neither Ed nor I picked him up quickly enough, in Snugs's estimation, so she came and nipped at our ankles. She must have thought we weren't the swiftest of human parents. Anytime any of our children cried, as small children or large, she'd run in to let us know and stare at us to make us do something to fix our human kittens.
She was nicknamed Puma by my mother-in-law because she was a fierce warrior-nanny, very outspoken in caring for our children, and because—and this part, I don't want brickbats for—she was a good hunter. Yes, she was an indoor-outdoor cat.
Snugs was healthy pretty much to the end. Just in the last couple of months, she seemed to start wearing out, bit by bit, wanting less food and less water. She'd become frail-looking, which was sad because she'd always been almost plump. We were keeping her in the house all of the time by then. But by Friday night she couldn't keep any food or water down, and she meowed pitifully, begging and begging to be taken outside. I knew why she wanted to be out there: she knew that it was time for her to go, and she didn't want us to fall apart as she died in the house. So I picked up her very light self gently and she settled easily into my arms. I carried her out the back door, kissed her on the head and called her "Mommy's girl," and set her down on the back landing. It must have been about a half hour later when I checked back, and she wasn't there anymore.
We've spent the last few days looking everywhere to find her body so that we could bury her. But Snugs outsmarted us and found a last hiding place that we can't find. So tonight, Ed, Neil, Jared, and I buried her food bowl and a few small cat toys in the backyard. We just ordered a small stone engraved with her name and birth and death years to mark the spot.
Sweet dreams, Snuggles. We miss you.
Snuggles cat pet death EditorMom
Posted by Katharine O'Moore-Klopf at 9:32 PM