We all know what it means to deeply grieve when we lose a loved one. The mourning process can last a very long time until the healing of our hearts finally begins. But that’s a human response. Five years ago, when we lost a precious red ginger cat who we simply adored, his beautiful companion was so devastated, she gave us new insight into the marvelous and mysterious world of cats.
The End and the Beginning
In 2010, both my 17-year-old tabby cats were found to have cancer and had to be put down. My husband and I were pretty devastated. These two had lived with me through my single days, getting married, job transitions, and moves from apartments to a condo to a house…a lot of life together! We both grieved their loss and thanked God for their unique personalities and unflinching friendship through so many seasons.
When we felt ready to fill our home again with more “fuzz faces” as we affectionately call them, we visited several rescue shelters. I found one stunning white female, but the shelter couldn’t find her paperwork! While I sat waiting, I spotted this elegant ginger cat, his front legs stretched straight out, right through the bars of his cage, quietly observing the busy office. Within seconds he was in my lap and melted into my arms. Guess who we took home that day!
A Joyful Dance
We named him Sundance. Full of joy, he would play wildly, leaping high into the air for his toys and then fall asleep draped around our necks like a purring necklace. Because he liked to droop over things, his nickname became Noodles. We simply adored him.
Being quite the extrovert, we soon got him a companion—the white female we’d originally spotted at the shelter! She was an elegant ballerina and we named her Duchess. The day we brought her home, Sundance pounced on her in total delight. Within a week the two were inseparable friends.
Sundance had been the runt of the litter and the caretakers at the shelter never thought he would make it. But, this little ball of red fur had a fighting spirit. He was about 8 months old when we’d brought him home.
Although pint-sized for a male, he ate like a little horse and yet always seemed ravenous. We joked that he had a hollow leg, and assumed it was simply his joy at finally having decent food to eat. But, the real reason was much darker and one for which we were completely unprepared.
It turned out that Sundance had a condition called FIP- Feline Infectious Peritonitis, an incurable fatal disease that strikes young and older cats alike. Though I’d owned cats my whole life, I’d never even heard of it. The disease turns the immune system against itself until the cat just wastes away. It is cruel, unrelenting and there is no cure, at present.
For months, Sundance bravely cooperated with our every attempt to save his life, but he grew more debilitated every day. Our vet had warned us that should he began having seizures, we would have to put him down.
Sundance liked to sleep on our bed. It was 2 a.m., on March 11, 2011 when my husband’s cries awakened me with a jolt. Sundance was having seizures! We both held him helplessly and just sobbed.
A Cruel Morning
At 4 a.m., we carried him into the emergency cat hospital, weeping. It was the same morning the Japanese tsunami had hit the island of Tohoku. Images of death and devastation filled the waiting room television screen. The atmosphere was surreal. It felt as though the whole world was upside down, out of control and full of loss. We returned home feeling depressed and exhausted with empty arms and broken hearts.
Duchess was inconsolable without Sundance. She ran around the house looking for him in every room, hallway and corner. One day, she found his old bed and came up to us crying, looking up frantically as if saying, “Where is he? Can’t you see he’s missing? Why don’t you do something!” It was simply heartwrenching.
About two months later, we adopted a new white cat hoping he would keep her company. We called him Lancelot because he was so affectionate and sweet, but she wanted no part of him.
Determined to cheer her up, we gradually rescued two more males in the hopes for better chemistry with one of them. Duchess remained morose, distant and combative. Normally, playful and feisty, she now fussed over her food and hardly ate. And, she hissed and growled at her three beautiful new companions, especially the youngest tabby called Mischief.
Such was our turbulent pet life at home for the next year.
The Cloud Lifts
After twelve months, almost to the day we lost Sundance, Duchess suddenly snapped out of it. Her whole countenance and demeanor changed. She perked up and became playful again. She decided Lancelot was not so bad after all and they now began to curl up and take naps together.
We marveled at this transformation and asked ourselves: Had she been mourning this whole time? My husband and I think it’s very possible.
Our Lively Quartet
Today, our home is a lively household of four cats. Not a day goes by that they don’t make us laugh and we’re grateful that our home is again filled with these marvelous, intuitive creatures. Duchess has adjusted to the new normal and has made Lancelot her new pal. She mostly tolerates the other two, but in time, I’m hoping they will all become good friends.
We understand that in a fallen world, death and disease are an inevitable part of life. When I nearly lost my husband to cancer in 2012, I was unconsolable, too, but God was merciful and healed him completely.
Since then, we have helped dozens of family, friends and acquaintances also find health and healing through natural and alternative treatments. It has become a ministry for us and one that fills our life with purpose. (You can read our story about how we completely healed from cancer at www.healedhealthyandwhole.com).
We thank God that all trials only last for a season and He does bring new life out of the ashes. Today we rejoice over our four unique and wonderful furry friends. We pray they will live long healthy lives, be as happy as possible, and know that their companionship fills our hearts with joy.
“I love cats because I enjoy my home; and little by little, they become its visible soul.” ~Jean Cocteau