On May 2, 2012, my cat Bug passed away. This is her memorial.
Back in the year 2000, I rescued a kitten that was abandoned by her mother, and we nursed her back to health and hand-fed her until she was weaned and able to eat solid food on her own. We named her Ivanka, and she moved with us to Florida.
On a really stormy and unpleasant night in Panama City, we let the neighborhood stray cat come in for shelter. She was a beautiful long-haired orange and white cat, and the whole apartment complex fed her, so she was a familiar fixture. Gloria had named her Bianca.
The next morning, we found Bianca and Ivanka in the act of coitus, and after no small amount of consternation over this Jaye-Davidson-in-The-Crying-Game twist, we did a collective facepalm and renamed Bianca “Ralph”.
Ivanka gave birth to a litter of kittens some time after that. We couldn’t re-home them until they were weaned, so we had kittens running around underfoot for a while. One of them was the runt of the litter. She was an ungainly, clumsy little thing, a little palm-sized mass of black hair salted with a few white hairs, with huge green eyes. She looked kind of like a little bow-legged Ewok with cartoon pop eyes, and Mrs E named her “Bug”. We weren’t sure that she would live because she looked so unusual.
One day after work, I was sitting in the armchair in the living room. Bug ambled up, climbed up my leg and onto my chest, then put her paws on my face and started licking my nose like it was made of candy. When she got bored with that a few minutes later, she curled up and went to sleep on my chest. I didn’t dare move because she just looked so cute. This became a daily routine. I’d come home from work, plop down in that armchair, and she’d run up to me and climb onto my chest. We’d both pass out for a few hours.
When the time came to re-home the kittens, I didn’t want to let her go. She was my little buddy, and that was that.
As she grew up, the various parts of her caught up to each other in proportion and she finally gained the coordination that she didn’t have as a kitten, and turned into quite the looker. She developed a fondness for bottle caps, and she’d steal them from Mrs E’s Diet Coke bottles and hide them all over the place. She also liked to play fetch with them, which was quite funny. She’d bring us a bottle cap, we’d throw it, and she’d bring it right back, and this would happen over and over again until she got tired and decided it was naptime.
At some point, she apparently figured out that I was deaf. Instead of just meowing at me for attention, she’d politely bat my leg with her paw first, then she’d meow at me after I looked at her. It was hysterical to me because it’s a lot like…well, like a hearing person tapping on a deaf person’s shoulder to get their attention before speaking so the deaf person can read their lips. I know that’s not how the cat mind works, but it’s still hilarious.
She also liked to sit on my thigh and my shoulders while I was at the computer. Once she got too big to do that comfortably, she started napping on the printer next to me instead. We spent a lot of time together like that.
When I got into paper models back in 2002 and 2003, she’d steal little built-up pieces and hide them with her bottle caps. She never stole the uncolored whitebuilds, only the full color prints. It got to the point where I had to start hiding stuff from her long enough to complete and photograph them. We were continually finding hidden caches of bottle caps and crumpled, perforated bits and pieces of paper models all over the place.
I want to mention my wife’s late cat Junior. He was a grizzled old orange and white veteran mouser, and he’d survived everything from dogs to cars to birds of prey. If he had a voice actor, I’d like to think R. Lee Ermey would take that role. Or maybe Danny Trejo, considering how the neighborhood dogs all thought Junior was batshit crazy and they’d clear off the second they saw him swaggering up the sidewalk.
He used to try to teach Bug and Ivanka how to hunt by bringing them lizards, snakes, and whatever little half-finished vermin he’d drag from outside. It was funny, he’d assume the air of a drill instructor around them, and I used to bust out laughing because I’d make up the dialogue in my head while watching them. For him, it was usually sound bites from Full Metal Jacket, An Officer and a Gentleman, and Renaissance Man.
Every single time, the same scenario played out: he’d bring in live prey, both of the girls would be captivated and fascinated by the squirming, wiggling thing on the floor, and then he’d get frustrated and finish off the thing and eat it in an attempt to teach them what to do, and both of them would be like “Yay, do that again!”, and he’d do the feline equivalent of a facepalm. I mention this as background context–normal cats will chase down and eat bugs, lizards, and other small prey items, but not Bug. She wanted to make friends with them and play with them.
Here’s a really old and tiny photo of the three of them after trying this for the fifth or sixth time in a row. Junior was in a meat coma, Ivanka got bored, and Bug was still playing with the lizard:
She’d run around following bugs, lizards, or whatever, just sniffing and batting ineffectually at them. The funniest single incident of this type occurred in Del Valle, Texas. Somehow, a giant hairy spider (I don’t mean in the figurative “all spiders become Shelob in the re-telling” sense, this was really some sort of wolf spider about the size of my palm) got in the house, and I happened to look down at Bug when I walked past her. She was just sitting there staring raptly at something on the floor…which turned out to be the aforementioned spider, inches from my foot.
I jumped 3 feet into the air, let out a decidedly unmanly shriek, and proceeded to beat the spider to death with a big Mag-Lite that was sitting on the breakfast bar counter. Her reaction? If she were a person, I suspect it’d translate into something like “Wheee! Do it again!”
Junior passed away when we were living in Gainesville, Florida. He was 19, and he was very much Mrs E’s cat just like Bug was my cat. We buried him on my sister-in-law’s property. He was a very macho and imperious cat, but he had a soft spot for Bug and the two of them frequently napped together on my office chair. Here’s one of the really old and tiny photos we found in our archives:
She also liked to chase laser pointers. I found this old video that I’d taken of her while we were packing up for the move to Texas back in 2007.
As Bug got older, she grew out of some of the things she liked to do as a kitten. She didn’t collect bottlecaps or swipe my paper models anymore, but she still liked to curl up on my desk and side table while I worked. Sometimes she’d even climb onto the back of my office chair and drape herself over my shoulders. When I went to bed, she liked to sleep on top of me, above the covers. When it got cold, she’d burrow under the covers and curl up behind my knees.
She was a very affectionate cat. She’d frequently jump up on me and plant kitty kisses right on my nose. Whenever I sat on the sofa, she’d jump up onto my leg and bat at my goatee or comb it with her claws, and then she’d lay down and nap on my chest like she did as a kitten.
Almost every time I bent over to do something in my office or to kiss Mrs E goodnight when I was about to pull an all-nighter, Bug would jump onto my back and lay down. Sometimes she’d climb up onto my shoulders and let me give her a piggyback ride around the room. It was pretty funny, and she was still doing that a month before she passed away.
She developed an urinary tract infection that rapidly worsened, and we weren’t able to get her to the vet on time. We were just one day late because all the vets we called were booked that day, and the earliest appointment was at 10AM the following morning. One day. Just one day. I’m still beating myself up over that.
I was with her on the sofa, keeping her company, when she passed away. The one small consolation for me was that she wasn’t alone in her last moments.
It was a devastating blow to me emotionally when she passed, and I just totally lost it. I don’t think I stopped crying for hours, and just typing this right now is turning on the waterworks. She was my little girl, and a huge part of my life, and I wasn’t ready for her to die so soon. I had wanted her to be around for at least another 10 years.
I stayed on the sofa for hours, just staring at the box that I had put her body into. I hadn’t closed it. I knew deep down inside that it wasn’t gonna happen, but I just wanted her to climb out, jump onto my lap, kiss me on the nose, and then comb my beard with her claws just one more time.
I wasn’t a cat person before I met her, but she had me well and truly wrapped around her metaphorical little finger. I miss her a lot.
We had her cremated yesterday. We live in a rental property, and I didn’t want to bury her there. I didn’t want to dispose of her like she was garbage either. She meant too much to me for that, and I wanted her to have a better final resting place than that. Today, we’re picking up her ashes, and I’m keeping them until we buy our own home in a few years. That’ll be her final resting place, and I’ll be burying her urn on top of her favorite printer.
This is one of my favorite photos of her. It’s a picture of Bug and Junior on my office chair. I had just walked in, and they were napping together on it. They woke up while I was looking for my camera, and the pose was so cute that I took the photo anyway.
They’re together again. I like to imagine that they’re napping on God’s office chair now, and even though the tears are still there, the thought brings a smile to my face.
Bye, girl. I’ll see you again someday.