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November, 10th 2015

What I learned from my sweet kitty. RIP Moira.

– Liz Mair

Today, we wished our dear ginger kitty, Moira, our last goodbye. Recently diagnosed with cancer, it was unlikely that with or without our intervention—of any sort—she would make it to the end of the week. Not wanting her to suffer any more, we went ahead and put her to sleep today.

I will miss Moira terribly. She’s the cat who used to lie on my outstretched legs as I sat on the sofa after our son had gone to bed each night and as I finished off work. She’s the cat who loved playing red dot. She’s the cat who slept between us every night. She’s the cat who mourned her adopted out (by people other than us), and much-missed kittens at least one night a week, by rounding up athletic socks, purring at them and licking them, while cuddling them. She’s the cat who was slightly obsessive-compulsive about licking, and sometimes had to be reminded to quit licking the sofa, when she had progressed on from her own body.

I feel terrible about putting her down in many ways, but I do believe it was best to spare her the suffering of the last few days (or maybe even hours) that she had left. Like most pet owners in this situation, I’m sure, I’m trying to focus more on all the wonderful memories that we will have of Moira, and as part of that process, I was thinking earlier today about what I learned by virtue of living with her for nine years.

(Moira, modeling for the 2013 Mair Strategies Holiday card)

So, here’s to Moira, and here’s some of what I think I learned in my time with her—lessons big and small, silly and serious.

1.    Cats’ noses feel like marshmallows

This goes in the silly category, but one of the things that Moira used to love to do was stick her nose up yours. As such, I realized quite quickly how soft and squishy—and not wet—cats’ noses are. I used to enjoy gently pressing on her nose, and she enjoyed it, too.

2.    Pregnancy and feeding your young takes a LOT out of you, and probably won’t leave you looking even close to awesome

When we first met Moira, and were considering adopting her, she was in a foster home and her kittens had all been adopted out. No one wanted her. She was scruffy and skinny and looked like a total mess. This is what pregnancy and becoming a food source does to you. Thankfully, it gets better. It did with Moira, and it does for other mothers, too. This may sound self-evident or even dumb, but the reality is, as someone who was a bit phobic and skeptical about becoming a mother and had never really had much interest in it (but decided to do it anyway), every example and indicator of what to expect helped—even the non-human ones.

3.    Ginger cats really are the friendliest 

I have now owned three ginger cats, and lived next door to another for a year. Moira was the third and she confirmed for me that for whatever reason, ginger cats really do seem to be the friendliest. Moira basically spent her life purring, rubbing, cuddling, and generally saying hello. That’s pretty consistent with the other ginger cats I’ve owned and been close to. Freaky correlation? Probably. But if you want the super-interested-in-you cat that in some respects behaves more like a dog, gingers seem like a pretty good way to go.

4.    Cancer progresses really fast. Really, really fast.

I’m one of the fortune few who has not seen how fast cancer grows and kills up close. I have many, many friends and family members who have died over the years, but thankfully, have only seen two instances of people dying from cancer—one, my grandfather, one, another family member who had previously survived it and beat it, only for it to come back. Both were beyond middle-aged. Several family friends, mentors and others have been diagnosed with and subsequently beat breast cancer, specifically, which is fantastic, but gives you a skewed view relative to many patients’ experiences.

In the last two months, several friends, plus Moira, were diagnosed with cancer. In the case of one friend, and my cat, the cancer appears to have developed in a matter of weeks (or, in Moira’s case, the cat equivalent of human weeks). I consider myself a relatively well-informed (lay)person when it comes to medical matters, but I simply had no idea that in something like six weeks (or the cat equivalent), one could go from being apparently perfectly healthy to very, very, very sick—in Moira’s case, terminally so, and in the case of the friend, hopefully not (helpfully, unlike Moira, she doesn’t have cancer in a place that makes it completely inoperable; helpfully, also unlike Moira, she has treatment options).

In any event, a) fuck cancer and b) fuck any illness that leaves people making life and death decisions when they’ve barely had time to mentally process what they’re dealing with (the latter seems to be quite common where cancer is concerned).

5.    Kittens are indeed adorable, and many need homes. But adopting adult cats is extremely rewarding.

OK, I already knew this—I’ve adopted adult cats before. But in Moira’s case, she clearly had some special needs (people who would be super-understanding about her kitten situation, and would buy tons of athletic socks as well as kitten-sized, shaped and weight stuffed toys for her to love) and seemed especially desperate for love and affection. I’m glad we were able to give her a good, loving home, where her literal crying and pining was understood, accommodated, and where she was loved dearly, til the bitter end. We still have another cat, Isabel (who we also love dearly, though she is very much more a stereotypical cat—independent, somewhat aloof, and a reverse sexist, to boot), but should we get another cat, now or in future, my suspicion is that it will not be a kitten or barely-not-kitten. There’s a lot to be said for giving the cat that’s not the tiny, cute, adorable, baby cat a home, and seeing what they blossom into. Moira died a beautiful, happy cat—far different from what she was when we first met her, but a great companion throughout. 

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