It’s been an emotional and busy few weeks, full of highs and lows. Today, we picked up Charlotte’s ashes. The vet gave her only two to three weeks in April when she was diagnosed with feline infectious peritonitis (FIP), an always-fatal condition, but she was such a fighter that she lived more than a month beyond the initial prognosis. We started to make some long-term plans for her, since she was holding steady and we couldn’t leave her alone as she couldn’t move very well. On Memorial Day weekend, we took her to the community garden, where she explored and sniffed the grass and flowers. Fearless as ever, she even tried to check out my friend’s big dog.
After that weekend, however, her mobility and health declined. It seemed like she was in pain, and she would grind her teeth and scratch at her head. When my boyfriend moved her from the couch one day, she gripped his arm tightly, and he knew that she was saying it was time. We had to say goodbye to her on June 7. A fighter until the very end, the vet had to give her two injections to stop her heart.
Charlotte was an exceptional cat from the moment we met her in January, as she played in her cage at a local pet adoption event and tried to steal a toy from the cage of the neighboring cat, who was not amused. We fell in love with Charlotte immediately. She was curious, fearless and kind. She comforted our cat, Maceo, during his last days, and she was a sweet and invaluable companion to me during my weeks of recovery after my Whipple procedure.
My boyfriend had a special bond with her and provided special care for her during the last few months of her life, making sure she had special food and that she was comfortable on the couch. We used the stuffed pancreas that friends gave us as a little body pillow for her so she could prop up her head. Since she couldn’t jump on or off the bed, we moved our mattress to the floor so she could snuggle with us—but she cuddled mainly with him, and I would awake to see her little paw draped across him or her tiny body curled up in the crook of his arm. Charlotte would always look around for him if he strayed too far from her.
Even while she was sick and couldn’t move very well, she would still play as much as she could. She caught a small bug and batted at the cat dancer. Her brother, Ziggy, was twice her size and though we discouraged him from playing rough with her, she could still hold her own. (Ziggy acts tough, but he’s a scaredy cat.) Charlotte was always brave, right until the very end. Because the FIP stunted her growth, she was such a little kitty, but she leaves behind a huge hole in our hearts. Whether it’s 16 years or 6 months, it’s never enough time, but a kitten death is especially sad. She will miss out on so many adventures with our little remaining family of three—there are birds to watch, toys to play with, bugs to eat. I miss seeing the black bottoms of her little paws as she slept on the couch, and her spotted tabby belly and her beautiful whiskers, which were black near her face and then changed to white at the ends.
We were happy to have more time with her, and gradually got used to having to always be home with her and making sure she was OK. The anguish-ridden first weeks after her diagnosis turned to a new, bittersweet normal and her death eventually seemed far-off and unreal until the last week as her condition declined. We didn’t want to see her suffer but we didn’t want to let her go. The day after we said goodbye to Charlotte, I had to travel to Cleveland to help with my mom’s recovery from hip replacement surgery. Getting away helped me put off dealing with the emptiness of the apartment without her. Of course, there’s her brother, Ziggy, who fills the apartment with his big personality, as he runs around full speed, plays fetch with his toy mice, and continues to indulge his fascination with all liquids—poking his head into a glass with ice or running into the bathroom after someone has taken a shower to watch the water droplets on the curtain. The week also had two weddings, and celebrating joyful occasions provided much-needed balance. I feel like I’ve experienced the gamut of emotions within the past few weeks. I hope that my mom’s surgery is the last part of the sickness/death cycle that has been occurring since last September.
Charlotte’s ashes now sit on the shelf along with Maceo’s and Akasha’s ashes. Her place in our hearts is still a raw from her loss, but there is also joy at having known such a fine cat, albeit too briefly. Tonight, we are going to see the Cure at Madison Square Garden, and we hope “Charlotte Sometimes,” the song for which she was named, will be on the setlist tonight.
Charlotte Sometimes, we will miss you always. Rest in peace, sweet kitty.